Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Placement Tradition: "nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash."

So Scamp posted about the placement system and as someone who went through it fairly recently I thought I'd get my oar in

For all my foreign readers the placement system is what we use in this country to prevent people who aren't upper middle class from becoming advertising creatives.

It's fiendishly clever.

Firstly, nearly all agencies demand the same kind of portfolio. This is the kind of portfolio that is produced at major advertising MA courses like Bucks, Watford and Falmouth. A book of seven wholly facetious, strategically perverse campaigns mac'd up by someone who really knows what they're doing. People say, no, no, it's all about the idea, draw it on the back of a fag packet, but those people are all shark-eyed liars and probably work at Y&R or something. You want your "Tic-tacs - minty mouse-ear plugs innit?" campaign in a state where some crapulous 43 year old prick can shrug his beer gut and go "Yeah, I could run that tomorrow."

So you can either do an advertising MA, or you can spend a year and a half trying to fake up a book that looks exactly like you've done an advertising MA.

Your call really, but either way, you're bound to incur another massive tranche of debt, to add to the already eye-watering debt you will have accumulated as a budding alcoholic not doing your English degree.

Then the real fun begins, trolling round London's agencies, pestering creative directors to look at your book.

Few creative directors will do this themselves, they're too busy judging advertising awards, typically they will assign the job to a junior creative demeaningly close to your own age who'll demand to meet you at 7.30am to leaf through your book and tell you that it's "a bit ad-dy."

Yeah, almost like a book of adverts isn't it?

Basically you have to give the impression that you won't go away until they give you a placement. Be persistent. Be annoying. (As long as you are more persistent than annoying, they won't actually tell you never to call again, they haven't the spine, and eventually they'll give you a placement just to free up their office line.)

So hurray. You're in an agency, drinking their coffee, eating the production company sushi. But if you were thinking of paying off that massive loan/credit card debt/triad think again. Most agencies will pay you £200 a week, tops. Don't think you can get another job either, because at all but the very best agencies there will be at least one complete cunt who thinks it's funny, seeing you going home at 8.15pm, to shout "Going already?" and this arsehole will take up residence within your own psyche and won't allow you to leave before 10.00pm or at weekends, because then it's like you don't "want it enough" and the received opinion is that "wanting it enough" is at least as important as ability, constituting a kind of talent in itself.

You'll work all the time, become incredibly pallid, humourless and unhealthy and then, once the final drops of native enthusiasm are wrung from your very soul you'll almost certainly be called into the Creative Director's office and told that although you're very popular within the agency and your work is good, they, well, they're not going to take you on.

The Creative Director may actually have a Porsche brochure open on his desk when he does this.

As a system for weeding out all but the most rapacious, thick-skinned and entitled children of the upper middle-classes it has no equal.


Aaron said...

Young creatives in England should simply move to Scandinavia. Especially copywriters. Agencies in Sweden and Denmark have lots of international accounts. They need stuff that works internationally. They need people that can write English.

I tripled my money overnight when I moved to Denmark.

mm said...

just one cunt - you lucky chap.

william said...

Is it like "Hunger" Aaron?

Intergral said...

Marvellous stuff, Mr Comstock.

I asked the wise commenters on Scamp yesterday what I should do to get a gig in advertising if I was already working in PR and couldn't just quit my job. (Mortgage and all that.)

Their answer: Go on a workshop. Get a big fucking loan. Go on placements. Oh, and quit your job. You retarded shit.

For an industry that prides itself on being open to new ways of doing things and creating Big Ideas, that sounded like a Really Fucking Awful Idea to me.

Hopefully, since I'm not in London, I'll manage to get a job without having to completely fuck up everything I've worked and saved up for until now.

If not, there's always journalism. I hear the newspapers are doing well.

Adam said...

One particular joy is learning the subtle nuances of the language the placement system adopts. For example when the person you have been seeing fortnightly at 7.30am for the past 3 months closes your book with an air of approval before muttering the 5 words you've been waiting so long to hear-"we're going to get you in", what he actually means is, "I don't actually have the authority to make such a decision, and, to top it off, having altered your book so that it represents what I like rather than what the creative director likes, I've almost certainly harmed your chances of ‘getting in’. Put another way he means "we're not".

Phil M said...

You forgot, 'Paper, you've just brought me a load of paper, I've got paper'.

william said...

Heady days Phil.