Monday, February 02, 2009
I can hear the snow, faintly falling through the universe.
On Friday afternoon I strode into my creative director's office and gave it to him straight.
Look, I said, I'm going to have to make you redundant.
It took him a moment to respond.
But you're a junior copywriter here, he said, You can't make me redundant. I own this company. It's my name above the door.
I didn't think he'd quite got the message.
Yeah, I said slowly, that's the economic downturn you see. Biggest recession since the war - don't you read the news? We're going to have to cut back and I've decided, as the closest thing to a representative of youthful creativity in this building, that it makes more sense for you to go. You, after all, have had a good crack at this advertising lark and, ok, you made some nice ads in the 80s, but frankly you've been too scared to move on creatively since then.
He seemed to be choking in some way.
You're surprised, and I can understand that. No doubt you'd envisaged spending your dotage sitting there in your big leather chair quietly running the company into the ground - it seems almost inevitable doesn't it? But if you look at the way the agency's fortunes have declined over the past few years I think you'll agree that it's actually your penchant for micromanagement and inability to move with the times, all born out of terrible craven fear of the truly new (which in essence boils down to a denial of the reality of your own inevitable demise and death), that have been holding us back. I think you've got to face the facts and recognise it's time to move on. I'm sure with your reputation there will be hundreds of DM agencies that would be pleased to have you on board. Or you can just tend to your garden and watch the football and I'll send you a massive dividends cheque every quarter. We'll be able to invest your salary in hiring all the best young talent out there, building a fearless, world-class creative department - this story of your selfless behaviour in the pursuit of creative excellence, will attract exactly the type of people we're after. Anyway, it's not like all this cash ever made you happy, you only spend it on Saville Row suits and beach holidays that you obviously believe are one of the enviable trappings of wealth but in fact sound terribly, terribly bleak and make me pity you in a way that I have been, heretonow, unable to express.
He was clearly impressed, not just by my forthright tone, but my grasp of the realities of the problem. He started to mouth some words, of admiration no doubt, but by this point I was in full flow.
You must see though, that unless we do this, it exposes the whole thing as a sad pantomime, this agency as an old man's plaything. Like some sort of ghastly lathe, only drawing into its spinning parts the bodies of young people whose capacity for happiness and self-expression it is a heinous crime to waste for reasons that you could only ever admit to yourself, in the small hours of the morning, when you wake up from a bad dream, frightened and seeking comfort, only to realise that you are totally alone in the silence.
Anyway, just put all your things in this box, I said, I'm having this office now.
Then I turned to his art director.
Look, I'm afraid I'm going to have to fire you too. Not for financial reasons as such, just because you're so miserable you don't even realise that you're miserable any more. Trust me, leaving this agency will be the best thing that ever happened to you. I'll give you some cash so you can learn a recession-proof trade like plumbing - people always need plumbers and the Poles are on their way out. Once you've shaken off the cloying glue of sycophancy and you'll soon realise that you're actually a fairly likeable person, just totally ill-suited to any kind of managerial role.
It wasn't long after that, although I can't remember exactly, that I was asked to leave the building.
I've decided to keep blogging for the timebeing, as a cathartic bridge-burning exercise. I will be leaving the country quite soon, to write a book about murder, but in the meantime I'm going to see just what they mean when they say "hugely crowded at the moment, many more freelancers than there is work to go round".
If you're a creative director who'd like to hire a death-fixated freelance copywriter please do get in touch on the electronic mail. As Paul Arden said, "if you've never been sacked, you're probably not very good," which must make me one of the best copywriters ever to have walked this benighted earth. My itinerant career pattern means I'm familiar with exactly every aspect of advertising: DM, web, radio, TV, press, posters and mobile (oh yeah, I was about to get on to mobile).
For complex reasons the Art Director and I have decided to go our separate ways, so I come like a lone wolf, ripping the guts out of whatever briefs you've got going. I'm 28 and nothing if not buoyantly cheerful.
My girlfriend and I were also delighted to be woken by a burglar in our bedroom on Friday morning. An out of work stockbroker no doubt. So what with the intruders, the unemployment and the snow it's all starting to feel a bit like a depressing French arthouse film.
PS: We seem to have established that Friday's anonymous shitposter is a female art director. I put her at an childish 27, perhaps infantilised by a dominant parent. She lapses from a mannered Daily Express tone into archaic East London cockney abuse when enraged. Now, who could that be?