One production company's Directors' Rep gets honest about the rights and wrongs of the advertising industry.
When I was asked to spill the beans on the advertising industry from my perspective with a promise of anonymity, apart from the obvious cathartic effect bitching tends to achieve, I thought it could also be a good opportunity to try to set a few misconceptions straight about directors' reps and our role in the industry.
Let's get into it then. Respect. Most of the reps I know have nothing but admiration and respect for almost everyone in the industry. I'm honoured to have met some of the most creative, friendly and sociable people on the planet. If a rep doesn't love their job - even the cold calling bit - they should get a new job! I think I've got one of the best jobs in the industry.
The best reps love the industry, they love creativity and their passion lies somewhere on the commercial side of production. We gain satisfaction from helping to visualise often vague descriptions and developing 'hair-brained' ideas; pairing up boards with the perfect talent; seeing a job on delivery day with the satisfaction and knowledge that the end product is partly down to our initial creative thinking, our match making and our ability to respond to a brief.
We love to help agency producers. When I show my reels to a single producer or a room full of hungry creatives I take pride in my offering of knowledge and hope our work can help inspire or solve their next creative brief. Of course, there's the more glamorous social side too: events and lunches, Cannes and trips to Amsterdam. I could do without the trips to Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh, but even these trips can be eventful and a warm change from the sometimes abrupt and overly stressed London agencies.
Sadly respect isn't always reciprocated. One doesn't expect respect for nothing but, not being given the chance to earn respect – indeed, to be lied to, or worse, strung along by a busy producer that has lost their basic skills of communication and common courtesy – is something that is all too common.
The classic is: “call back next week”, knowing full well they're on holiday or on a three-month shoot in Siberia. That’s nothing though, I’ve had three meetings cancelled by the same producer while I’ve been waiting in their reception after I’ve confirmed with them that morning that we’re still on! Perhaps they've had a bad experience with a rep in the past and think this is acceptable. Well it's not. In fact, whoever you are, it is just plain rude to waste people’s time like that and karma has a funny way of turning up and biting you in the arse.
Don't forget, reps know a lot of creative directors and heads of TV. We love to chinwag, we love hearing the dirt and we love dishing the dirt (like did ya hear about the Freelance Creative that pissed all over the wall at the [redacted] party?) Let's hope that dirt isn't you (Don’t worry we don’t make shit up. There’s way too much good shit to talk about).
Oh yeah, reps love to gossip. You can guarantee we hear about who's leaving where and who's sleeping with who before Campaign (or their wives) have a Scooby. Always makes me laugh when I have to sign an NDA for some 'top secret', usually not-that-great campaign – like who am I going to tell? I should be signing NDAs before lunches.
Here's how to avoid the 'dirt': Just tell us you're not looking for anything, you're up against it, or your boss is shit and has told you to stop seeing new work, even if it is award winning and may be the key to sending your next campaign stratospheric. Or “I'm sorry, I JUST DONT HAVE TIME!” The truth will definitely earn you respect and that rep will do whatever you ask. They will trust you. We're here to help you too, we're a fun lovin' creative resource that can take you out for lunch and gossip with you about the industry.
Give me the script please...
I know this isn't always possible but, getting a beyond vague description of what you're looking for is a monumental waste of everyone's time. Think about what you want, work out ways to describe it and maybe try and throw in a reference – if you don't have a script.
Oh and if you ask for a reel please watch it. We spend time crafting the right work in the right order to try and help you find a match. Thanks to modern technology we know when you haven’t!
It's not the fucking Oscars! OK, I admit it, the ability to influence millions of people is a hell of a gift. I'll hand it to the best creative teams, sometimes the way you guys think is so on the money, so obviously brilliant, the rest of us kick ourselves for not being able to think like that. But let's remember something, for the most part we’re helping the rich get richer. We aim to manipulate behaviour and thought, often not for the greater good. Sometimes it is for the greater good and that's admirable (reps love to get those scripts in!).
We're not exactly an industry of saints though. One thing that disturbs me greatly in our industry is the extent to which excess is flaunted so crudely, at Cannes particularly, and often lots of the awards ceremonies and events across the year. I think it’s boring to pinpoint certain people’s behaviour around such events because often it is so utterly vulgar I am ashamed to write about it. For the record I try to stay sober, so I remember everything. The only thing I will say is just because you won a Cannes Lions Gold does not mean you are a god who everyone will sleep with.
On a very serious note. Vanity projects are destroying production companies. There are occasions where we’ve spent days or weeks crafting a pitch, sometimes spending thousands of pounds, only to find out the client hasn’t bought the idea. Should we start charging agencies or ego driven creatives for this costly inconvenience? It might not seem like a problem to some of you, but if you don’t tell us it’s a “crazy idea the client hasn’t signed off” that’s not exactly fair as it drains our resources for a real pitch we for a real job. We may not spend as much money on it too for a start. And it will help your credibility when you come to us with a real script for a real job. I’m not saying don’t come to us with creative ideas, I’m just saying be honest please.
I don’t really enjoy ‘dishing the dirt’. It’s making me depressed (not a good trait in a rep). So I will end on this: This IS a fabulous industry full of talented people. There are a few bad’uns but there are a few bad reps too. My name’s ‘The Anonymous Rep’. If you’re still reading this I apologise for any offence I may have caused and suggest you go to bed.
Goodnight, sweet dreams and RESPECT.