(Un)realistic expectations


Soon after I first hit Portland, I landed a job as the creative director of a small advertising agency. One of my duties was creating spots for a bunch of local car dealerships. This job carried with it no small amount of stress, often generated by change orders that demanded an immediate modification to a just-produced spot to accommodate a change in price or product availability.

So it was that I placed a call to a local AM station one morning and spoke to the production manager, a talented fellow I’ll call “Jack.” This was in the late 1980s, way pre-digital, so Jack’s job entailed recording spots (often using his own radio-perfect voice) then editing them by hand.

Ever see this old-fashioned editing process? It entailed a razor blade and adhesive tape, plus precision and time. Unfortunately, at this particular radio station time was in short supply, because the sales staff was hitting it out of the park. Jack’s workload was beyond frenetic. The poor guy was careening from one spot to another, slapping down audio tracks, adding generic off-the-shelf music for background, then working his razor-blade magic. About sixteen times a day. He’d become the walking definition of “stress.”

This particular day, one of those dreaded change orders had crossed my desk, so I phoned the direct line into Jack’s studio.

Me: It’s Doug. Do you have time to—“

Jack (screaming): “I’M ON FIRE!!!”

He was soon gone from the station.

Flash forward to now. The razor blade has been replaced by a keyboard and mouse. And what is this “audio tape” you speak of? Given the current technology, certainly the Jack of 2015 would no longer be spontaneously combusting, would be able to handle unrealistic client demands with a smile and savoir faire, right?

Nope. We’d still see steam issuing from Jack’s ears because just as technology has progressed, clients’ expectations have intensified.

Reality check: In 2015, what defines us as media professionals, at least partially, is our ability to satisfy wacky scheduling expectations and to do so cheerfully.

But no matter how crushing the deadline, you must attempt to make a creative contribution that improves your “product.” Be aware: Creativity, like a sense of humor, is highly subjective. What you find creative may in fact be foolish or ho-hum to your client. Hopefully, over time you’ll have the opportunity to gauge your client’s creativity threshold.

A closing note: Take comfort in the fact that we’re all facing the same kind of crazy deadlines. Even your client.

But if I were Jack, I’d still keep a fire extinguisher nearby.




Leave a reply

Recent Posts

Recent Comments