Advertising agencies and The Little Cake Spiral.

18 Feb

I’ve worked with a few ad agencies in my time. Actually, I’ve pretty much worked with every ad agency in my time. (I mostly have to fire them because I can come up with better ads than they can, and they don’t like that and they call me a dickspanner or a shitbox or whatever and throw things at me. Happens all the time.)

Anyway, I’ve spent enough time in these places to know that they have one significant problem. I call it The Little Cake Spiral.

(That’s right – little cakes. Yesterday it was chronic masturbation, today it’s little fucking cakes. If you have a problem with that, go shit in your hat.)

Ooooh! You got little cakes! Lovely! Is this all there is? Only my last agency also offered frangipane tarts.

I’ll explain.

Ad agencies spend a lot of time being ‘unorthodox’, right? Because they’re creative places where everyone is different and special and not like the rest of us. Now, part of this ‘unorthodoxy’ is doing things that begin with the words ‘Fuck it…’ coming from the mouth of the stuffed shirt who runs the place. ‘Fuck it, let’s get everyone a space hopper.’ ‘Fuck it, let’s go to Valencia for the tomato festival.’ ‘Fuck it, let’s buy a Harley and hang it from the boardroom ceiling.’

These Fuck-Its are all designed to signal to the world that the agency (and the crazy, crazy guy who runs it) is unorthox. After all, what could be a more unorthodox way to run a business than do something that no business in their right mind would do? Because business is all about making big walletfuls of bottom line, right? So what kind of shitcrazy nutball fuckmental wild man would take that bottom line and devote it to…oh, I dunno…taking the entire agency to Miami to watch a solar eclipse?

When there are a lot of Fuck-Its happening at the top of the agency, it permeates throughout the whole company. And it starts with little cakes. Little cakes are required for every meeting. There are always little cakes. Well, there were. Adland, for all its self-appointed pioneering uniquitude (that IS a word), is actually like a class of 30 8-year old girls. When one gets a pink mobile phone, they all get a pink mobile phone. Then one gets a better pink mobile phone, they all get a better pink mobile phone.

So, in a hectic race to both keep up and stay one step ahead, the little cakes were quickly joined by other confectionary. Croissants, for instance. And muffins. And then Fairtrade chocolate truffles, organic hand-made shortbread, artisan breads, fresh fruit, mango juice squeezed between the bristolas of Caribbean courtesans, and so on. Pretty much every meeting I go to these days has a spread on the table like the fucking harvest festival at St Pauls.

We thought we'd make the little cakes in your corporate colour! I KNOW! It IS soooo cute!

Of course, the little cake spiral then spins out of meetings and into other areas of agency life. Go to a shoot and someone will bring you a fucking bento box every fifteen minutes without fail. Go to an edit and you get the bento box PLUS a range of confectionary of sweetshop proportions. Go to a photo shoot and you get the bento boxes, the confectionary and vast, slopping vats of coffee.

Go to an agency on a Friday afternoon and somewhere in the building, a ‘tradition’ involving champagne, treats, nibbles, nice things, lovely bits and bobs, gorgeous whatnots and delectable fancies will be happening. And it always happens, because it’s an agency tradition. Then the agency will head for the juicer, where a company tab will get them all pie-eyed and randy.

(You might think, by the way, that all this Louis XVI-style decadence would breed an industry of clammy doughball fatsos. But the agency folk don’t actually consume any of it. I do. You bet your blue bollockbag I do. It’s FREE FOOD. Personally, I think that if you don’t eat free food, you’ve lost touch with your animal instincts and you have evolved into a different species. You are no longer part of the animal kingdom. You are more akin to a plant, living on fucking water, water, water. Do you think dogs would sniff a free bento box with mild disdain and then take another swig of their 34th bottle of mineral water that day? No. They’d pile in. I’m with the dogs.)

The cost to the agency of The Little Cake Spiral is, obviously, massive. So the cost to the client – ME – is equally exorbitant. I’d say about 97% of the hourly rate of my account director (which at the moment is about £45,900 or something) is down to The Little Cake Spiral. The rest is actual work.

What? This? Oh, this is nothing! This is just a little something to nibble on before we take you to lunch.

But then there’s the effect it has on the work the agencies produce. Is it any surprise that 90% of advertising is wishy-washy happy bullshit that isn’t actually about anything when the people who create it get everything free? Everything’s cool, right? We’ve got little cakes! Let’s make this ad for half-price bog roll about a girl wandering wistfully through a forest thinking about a boy. Because that’s the feeling half-price bog roll gives you! At the end we’ll have the line ‘It is beautiful’ and your logo and ‘Now half-price’ in 5-point type for 4 frames because we don’t want to patronise the audience, do we.  Isn’t it GREAT? The creative guys have really worked hard on this one. And the fact that some coked-rotted creative director at a cooler agency told them they needed more ads with girls wandering through a forest on their reel had nothing to do with the creative route they chose. Pass the client some of those yummy little champagne choc-chocs! No, I won’t thanks.

Luckily, there are mavericks like me around to prick the balloon of pomposity that these fuckers live in. Well, I will prick it once I’ve got through these little cakes. And all this other stuff. Burp. Actually, thinking about it, The Little Cake Spiral is fucking brilliant. Pass the foie gras pasties!

I am Dave Knockles! And I like little cakes!

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2 Responses to “Advertising agencies and The Little Cake Spiral.”

  1. Barrel Bottoms February 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Dave. I can somehow understand that you can’t surpress your animal instincts. What rich successful man can? For you it’s free meals, for me it’s fresh interns. I wouldn’t deny a free lunch, but when it’s attached to a fucking Monday morning prayer full of self congratulatory wank and douchebagery from the creative side, I just quit. Today a skirt came over to my office, asked if I wanted to join in on the lunch with everyone else. It’ll be fun! “I wouldn’t even go if it was on you you boring cuntbag.” I said. What a colourful reply, I’m sure you’d agree. So it is not about the food Dave, it’s about which cuntbucket induced gag reflexes you have to overcome to actually enjoy stuffing your face. Burp.

  2. Richard Crighton February 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    Spot bloody on.

    Toward the end of my “career”, I woke up suddenly at my desk one day and realised:
    ‘if I do have to work for a total arsehole, I might as well just work for myself’.

    That was in 2004 and I haven’t looked back.

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