Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Version Suicides

What I hate about my job right now, what I hate about advertising in general, is the distinct lack of originality. You know, it's not even that, because originality is savored and appreciated. What's missing is the encouragement of original thought, on a day-to-day level as well as on a strategic planning of brand messaging.

For instance, most of my work is composed of a) versioning and b) adapting (which you could argue is a kind of versioning). So what is versioning, you may well ask, chickens? Versioning is a simple, innocuous enough task that a trained monkey with simple writing skills (for example, me) can do. It consists of taking an ad from another region, say the midwest, changing the tone to suit, say, the New York region. If there are phone numbers, these have to change as well. If there are references to MidWestern landmarks, local hangouts or customs, these have to change to.

There are other kinds of versioning too, besides geographical. For instance, we direct mail piece to a letter to a lawyer, trying to sell him/ her a Business DSL plan. Later, we have to version this letter out to Doctors, Accountants, Financial analysts, pimps, jizz-moppers and sanitation workers. We change the word we use for their business from "Practice" to "Firm" to "agency" to "whore house" as well as changing the benefits they can expect from buying our product/ service: "helps you create drafts in seconds, instead of minutes" becomes "allows you to access patient charts online, in a matter of minutes, which frees you up for the more important things". Presumably, a round of very expensive golf with your other asshole doctor friends. Versioning, my dear Holmes, can be applied to any segment of the market.

The reason we're asked to do versioning is because a) the ad worked in another market, so the assumption is that it'll work again in all markets, and b) economics.

If you ever have the misfortune to work in the corporate world and you hear the words "Leverage" or "Synergies" or "Applicable Model" or "Becoming more efficient", run a mile. All they mean is "We're going to stop coming up with original advertising and start versioning so we can save money - not because we need to or to save you having to work this hard, rather because we want to make a tidy profit so the board members can realise bigger dividends at the end of the year, which will drive up company stock that you will never own". So, our work becomes more homogenized, in step with the vanillafication of the rest of society. We contribute to it and it contributes to us. It's Adorno's 'Culture Industry' to a nightmarish degree and it is disgusting.

If you've never seen the short Truth in Advertising, watch it now. It's the reality of life in the ad business, and I'm not even a player. If I get this much crap at my level, how much worse is it at the top? I shudder at the thought.


Blogger N said...

I always thought advertising was the most fun job, colors and ideas and brain storming sessions... sounds alot like my job now :s

2:36 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

It used to be fun. Not anymore..

6:14 PM  

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