Thursday, April 14, 2011

Creative Advertising and Egomania

When I was an undergrad, I majored in Advertising.  This came under the heading of Communications, which housed Telecommunications and Journalism.  Advertising was easily the red-headed stepchild of the group.

If you had a focus (we didn't even warrant our own major at UK) in Advertising you were required to take a Statistics/Research, a Creative, and a Presentation class to fulfill your major.

The Stats class was a research-based class that was virtually impossible.  Almost everyone got a D or an F on every test.  It was one of those classes where they used the Bell curve all of the time, rather than adjust it's curriculum to accommodate the students who were fresh out of Kentucky public schools.  To say the least, I developed a reputation in the department as an underachieving procrastinator who somehow managed to make good grades.  I managed to mess up the Bell curve on every test.  The astonishment in the classroom each time tests scores were given out was palpable.  No one, however, was more surprised than me.  I literally wrote down every word the woman said and (the night before, of course) memorized what I could retain and then put the information in response form on the impossible essay tests that Ms. Bitchy was famous for. 

Our instructor, Ms. Bitchy , was very strict.  She did not put up with any bullshit, whatsoever, and if she thought you were stupid, she would tell you directly in front of the entire class.  She walked with a limp and a cane, due to some life-threatening illness she survived when she was a child.  She neither referred to her disability, nor gave an explanation for it.  She was one of those teachers who intimidated the shit out of every student in the room, and half of the staff.

But everyone has that soft spot, and apparently, for her, it was her husband, who was also on staff in the Communications program.  I would be positively mesmerized when her husband would enter the classroom during one of her lectures for whatever reason and her entire demeanor would change.  This was a woman who was in love with her husband and it showed, in every pore of her body.

She became my mentor, of sorts, and recommended me for a prime internship at a one man Advertising Agency.  Actually, all the "star" advertising students got internships at the one major advertising firm in town, but I was lucky to get this one.  This was Lexington in the 90's, people.  Outside of the one major ad firm in town at the time, all there were, were basically "consulting firms" made up of people who had been fired from the major firm, those who were branching out on their own after college, and people like my guy, who had in his words, "carved out a niche for himself" in the industry. 

Mr. A ( I am not protecting his identity.  I can't remember his name.) was a large man with a full head of white hair and he wore impossibly "creative" suits with colored suspenders, as was the fashion of Advertising Executives at the time.  His catchy firm's name was "Creative Advertising".  He worked in a partially vacated strip mall, well actually, an office above that strip mall, that housed the DMV and a Dress Barn that continues to amaze me when it opens it's doors each morning.  He smoked cigars nonstop while he pontificated about his long career and occasionally gave me insight into what it was like to pay child support and live in a condo with a pub that offered a "community friendly atmosphere."

He required that I be at his office three days per week at 8am - a virtual death sentence to a Senior in college.  I cannot tell you how many times I would drag myself in there after a late night with my friends or Brad, reeking of draft beer and mouthwash.  I would enter his smoke filled shithole of an office and try to appear as if I was as on board with one of his mundane advertising ideas, as he was.  He considered himself a very big deal and there is nothing I enjoy more than a person who takes themselves too seriously, and genuinely regards themselves in high esteem.

He fit the bill perfectly.  He made me wear a suit, instead of my usual boyfriend ripped up jeans with a ribbon belt, which he indicated in our interview as being unprofessional "if I intended to have others view me as a serious (unpaid) assistant to him, that lit his cigars and dumped his ashtrays and endured his unending bullshit.  No prob.  I know someone in the sorority house that dresses like her mom, I thought, she will lend me her Dress Barn clearance rack ensembles.

I was stuck.  Even though I am fond of quitting anything, I was indebted to my teacher for going out on a limb to get me this internship.  I was getting college credit, and I was in it for the long haul.  I had no choice but to show up at his place three mornings a week and serve my sentence.

We finally arrive at the dealership and he slams the handle sticking out of the steering wheel in park, stabs his cigar out in the overflowing ashtray and exclaims, "We're here. Watch and learn."  I don't remember the exact schpeal of the commercial, but it went something like this, "Saturn, (bang the car with a rubber mallet) you just can't imagine the resilience." or something lame like that.  

There was a  camera man, and an impossibly sleazy actor I had helped him pick out of a folder of pictures.  (I had actually chosen someone else which he overrided  in a previous hellish internship session earlier that week) He introduces me as his assistant ("She's here learning the ropes from a pro."), and we go into the showroom that housed a brand new, candy apple red, Saturn convertible.

He keeps demanding take after take from the sleazy local actor ( I mean, almost porn star nasty) because apparently the actor is being too gentle on the car with the sledgehammer.  He grabs the mallet out of Dirk Diggler's hand and goes, "Let me demonstrate."  He then drapes himself over the the stool, says the line, rears back the mallet and slams it into the panel of the car next to the front tire.

To the horror of the manager, and everyone else (except me, natch) the panel buckles and does not recover. He has dented the shit out of the new convertible.  A collective gasp fills the showroom, as the "major benefit" of the new Saturn vehicles apparently do not have the ability to withstand repetitive blasts from a blunt object.

Mr. A draws in a big breath as he reaches for the cigar pack in his shirt pocket and exclaims, "  That's a wrap. I guess we'll use one of the earlier takes.  Are you ready to watch the playbacks?" I would have felt for him if he weren't such a horse's ass, but in that moment I realized that there was a God, and divine intervention had obviously just taken place in the Saturn showroom.

I don't know if he had to pay for the car or what.  I never saw the commercial air, (he told me it went to other markets. Riiiiggggghhhht.)  Outside of this tidbit of information he offered up, I never inquired about the details of the account after that, and he never gave me any "pointers" as to what to do when you make a total ass of yourself.  He didn't have to.  I know from experience what you do.  You push it way deep down to that dark place that you don't want to revisit again.  That is, until someone writes a blog about you and your gigantic, misguided ego.

My advice to you today is to never take yourself too seriously because if you do, life will always come back to bite you in the ass - every time.

I've attached the video that I was secretly working on during my internship at Creative Advertising. I hope you enjoy it.

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