Counterpoint: What the Fuck Makes You Too Good For Advertising?

So our own Hamilton Nolan took time out today to explain why you should never work in advertising. He is wrong. Like, really fucking wrong. Would you like to see the list of very talented and successful creative people who have worked in the field of advertising? Here's a very small sampling:

• James Joyce
• David Fincher
Joseph Heller
Salman Rushdie
• Augusten Burroughs
• Andy Warhol

There's a reason all of these people flourished after working in advertising:

1. Advertising forces you to get to the fucking point. The rule of billboards is that you get seven words or less. A TV ad gives you thirty seconds to get your story across. A radio ad gives you sixty, if you're lucky. You aren't allowed to run wild with every stupid, self-indulgent concept when you're working on an ad, and that's good. Because I don't want my Snausages ad to turn into a goddamn Franzen novel.

2. Advertising gives you variety. You can work on a serious tampon ad for half your day and then a gonzo comic used car ad for the other half. You work in radio, which is strictly aural. You work in print, which is strictly visual. You work in TV, which is both. You have to work in a variety of different tones: serious, comic, inspirational, sleazy... All of that is good. If all you did was sit around writing shitty heist movie screenplays at home for ten years, guess how much you'll have improved as a shitty heist movie writer?

3. Advertising teaches you persistence. Clients are assholes who take every good idea you've ever had and piss all over them, forcing you to go back to the drawing board and think of even MORE shit. But then, as you're sitting and stewing and telling everyone what an asshole the client is, you usually come up with another idea, and it's often better than what came before. Now, the client will also ending up rejecting THAT idea and reformatting an old Christmas ad instead, but at least you'll have learned that you have a deeper well of creativity than you originally thought, and that your first idea isn't always your best.

4. Advertising teaches you that your creativity isn't so goddamn precious. Take a look again at what Nolan wrote:

Your creativity, as trite as it sounds, is worth more than that corporation will ever pay you. If you are young, you have time to try a lot of things. Try to be a writer. Try to make it with your band. Try to be a working artist.

Yeah no, that's wrong. Your creativity isn't worth anything. In fact, you probably already have a terribly overinflated sense of just how awesome all of your ideas are. "Why do I have to be slave to corporate America, man? Why can't people appreciate, like, the purity of my art?! MY PRECIOUS ART!" It never hurts to work inside a system that knocks you and your bullshit pretension down a peg. You can try to make it with your band or be a novelist in your free time. But during the day, you may as well learn about how to work creatively with other people, and how to accept rejection and outright failure, even if you still think that Verizon catalog copy you wrote was a masterpiece. God forbid you work to please someone other than yourself.

There's also something to be said for the confidence you gain when a corporation DOES pay you to be creative. Do you know how gratifying that is? You wrote some radio ads, and someone was willing to give you money for it! That must mean you're good! In theory.

5. You learn to be a creative professional. You have years and years to write your stupid novel, mostly because no one will read it. Working in advertising teaches you to work quickly, on a schedule, and within a certain budget.

There's a new movie out called Corman's World that deals with legendary B-movie director Roger Corman and the influence he had over former employees such as Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, and many, many more. Corman's movies weren't the greatest movies ever made. But each director who worked under him learned the more practical aspects of making movies, which allowed them to flourish as film directors later in life, directors who were successful both artistically AND commercially.

I worked in advertising for ten years. It's not the greatest job in the universe, and it's an industry as prone to nauseating self-congratulation as any other. The clients are dicks. The creative directors are dicks. The account people are morons (I know because I was one). It's a terribly frustrating job for anyone trying to be an "artist" or whatever the fuck. But that's precisely the point. You're not an artist. You're just a shithead, and it would serve you well to learn how to work within limits, and with other people's creative input. Who says you have nothing left to learn about how to be a writer or a director or a designer? Who says working in an actual job can't help you become better at what you do? WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

Update: Counter-Counterpoint: …Says the Guy Who Got the Fuck Out of the Advertising Industry

[Image via Getty]