taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Friday, February 11, 2005

I often wish I had a nice, easy-to-explain job title, like doctor, or mail lady, or teacher, or lawyer. Instead, my poor child has to wrap her head around "advertising account manager," and she's clearly confused. With her dad, she can say (with evident pride) "My dad makes video games!" But with me? She's flummoxed.

I'm sure it doesn't help that since birth, we've inculcated her to be super-critical of advertising. Not that advertising doesn't work on her--oh, quite the contrary. She seems particularly susceptible to direct response, so that my entire house is covered in little slips of paper with 1-800 numbers written on them. In fact, we recently saw a commercial for a special motorized scrubber and we were both enthralled. We stared at the teevee, unbelieving, as the scrubber removed mildew from bathroom tiles and baked-on oven grease. "Mumma!" she exclaimed, "that's what we need!" And I agreed.

And yet on some level she knows that Advertising Is Bad, so that when she hands me a slip of paper with an 800 number on it, she says, "Listen, I know I saw this on an ad, but really, the super hair beader is just amazing. You should really look into it. It's NOT because of the ad!"

So I know she's confused when she asks me, over an over, "So what is it that you do?" When she comes across boards I've left in the car, she'll say "So did you MAKE this ad or what?" It's bad enough that I work in advertising, source of all evil outside of the George W. Bush White House. But what's even more perplexing, I think, is that I don't actually MAKE anything. I merely facilitate.

One day when she asked me this question, about what I do, I said, "Well, you know, I have clients. That's my main job, having clients." And she said, "So what do you do with clients?" I said, "OK, you pretend you're me, and I will be the client. Draw something on the patio with sidewalk chalk, and I'll be your client."

So she drew a little picture of a girl, in purple.

"No! Make it blue," I said, you know, being the Client.

She scowled at me. "Blue? It can't be blue, it's purple."

"I want it blue," I replied. "And I want it blue NOW. And I want it smaller."

"But it can't be smaller, Mumma!" she wailed. "And I hate clients!"

It's entirely possible I delivered a terrible lesson that day, but I don't think so. When I was a kid, my Dad had clients too. And I didn't understand at all what his job was, my mother told me simply "he's an executive vice president." Which made me think he was more important than maybe he actually was. But I also knew that he had Clients, and that they paid for things like dinners out and trips to New York. So I grew up thinking that Clients were benificent creatures, only interested in the well-being of families everywhere, and found myself here, today, tormented by the fickle will of marketing departments.

Far better that she know, now, that it's much simpler to be a firefighter or doctor or lawyer. If you can't describe your job in one word, maybe it's not worth doing.


At 7:39 PM, Blogger The Cybrarian said...

Just tell her you're helping entities achieve new benchmarks of quality service by optimizing their messages to achieve buy-in.


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