Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a torture dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you’d look through the bars of your little window and think, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not out in that.”
–From “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.”
I remember a time early in my career when I had serious “Fallon McElligott envy.”
Nowadays, of course, there are other kinds of envy – take your pick: Crispin envy; Wieden envy. For me, back in the early ‘80s, it was Fallon envy. This condition made me kind of a pain in the ass to be around, because I would bring up my admiration for that agency at pretty much every opportunity.
It was worst on days when things weren’t going my way. If an ad of mine didn’t sell, I’d whine, “Man, I bet they woulda sold it at Fallon.” If I saw a great Fallon campaign in a magazine, I’d flog my own agency by saying, “Man, there’s no way we coulda sold that ad at this agency.” If I was put on some little low-budget job, this too was cause for keening, “Man, if I was at Fallon I wouldn’t have to work on stupid crap like this.”
It has been said that whining is simply anger coming through a very small hole. As much as I hate to admit it, I was once a whiner. (But I had to, don’t you see? Because everything sucked except me. Clients sucked. Research sucked. Account people sucked. Right? Am I right?)
There are a lot of whiners in the agency business. I’m not sure why this is so but that’s my take on it anyway. Here’s the thing: can you imagine if agency whiners started turning up in other lines of work?
CUT TO WHINER DOING SURGERY IN AN OPERATING ROOM.
“Man, if I were at the Mayo Clinic, I’d be doin’ something besides these stupid fibrosarcomas.”
CUT TO WHINING NUCLEAR PHYSICIST.
“Man, the particle beam accelerator over at MIT is so much better than this piece of crap.”
CUT TO A WHINER AT A SHOE STORE.
“Man, I should get a job over at Foot Locker. Those guys are so good. This place sucks.”
My guess is that if we overheard whiners in other lines of work goin’ on like this, we’d just slap ‘em into next Tuesday. We’d wanna yell, “Then quit, you knucklehead. No one’s holdin’ a gun at your head.”
In my defense, I don’t whine as much these days. Part of what cured me is that eventually I did land a job at Fallon and worked there for ten years. To my horror I discovered there was stupid crap to deal with at Fallon, just like everywhere else. And so it goes. Even today, I have friends at Crispin who, in hushed whispers over the phone, tell me “Man, this place is so screwed up.”
Maybe what makes advertising such a perfect storm for the creation of whining is this: I read somewhere that every company in the world is broken in some way; basic faults run through every company that make working there way harder than it has to be. Which means our problem in advertising is we work in a broken company for another broken company. Like tectonic plates crushing against each other, these pressures result in volcanoes and earthquakes but of the whining variety.
You probably know a whiner. I encourage you to keep your distance because their effect is fairly poisonous. It’s hard enough to keep your spirits up in this business. Having someone draped over the chair in your office whining about how bad things are, it’s not good for the spirit.
(This article sucks. I bet if I wrote for Mashable’s blog I’d be writing really good stuff.)