My toast to the Media Ghosts

Just moments ago, I read a tweet from a friend who’s currently working as a copywriter. She felt sad that nobody really reads what she writes and that she felt like people were just passing her by.

Yesterday, my friend told me that a group of  people have set up a group to bash people working in the industry. He used to work as a journalist, and felt enraged by the actions of these stuck-ups who think they know better.

Back when I was still working in a well established advertising agency, I’ve got to witness first hand the kind of abuse the workers had to go through everyday. They were all overworked and exhausted. Clients would call screaming over the phone, expecting and demanding so many things to be done within a short frame of time. To them, it’s just a few sentences made in an e-mail, most likely in the late afternoon just before they end their work: “Make these copy changes, move the logo to the right by 1cm, change the colour of the borders, move the globe slightly higher, I don’t like the colour of the rocks, can we do something about that and oh, I don’t know, maybe reduce the opacity of the background just to see how it looks. I expect the revised visuals when I open my mailbox tomorrow morning.” All it takes is probably an e-mail to do the job, but for the creatives working on this, it meant hours of staring in the computer until the wee hours of the night to make sure that visual is in their mailboxes the next morning. And clients never thank us: because we pay you to jolly well do what we say and do your job right.

I mean, I have known all along that there is no perfect job and that you’ve got to make sure that your passion is enough to sustain you. But at that time, it was like harsh reality had smack me extremely hard on my face. You never really know how bad it could be until you’ve experienced it for yourself. It shot through my body and weighed me down like a ball and chain. Almost towards the end of that period, I remembered I survived the week laughing and crying. One moment, I’d still be smiling at one of the creatives as she vented her frustrations on me, then breaking down in tears the next in the last cubicle of the female’s toilet. At that time, I felt like some part of me changed and I was, quite frankly, never quite the same again.

For a while, I’ve thought hard about what I most would like to do next in my life, I mean, besides doing media and communications. Questions like: Will I be able to adapt well  if I continued on with media? What else can I do besides this? Do I love anything more than media and communications? popped in my head.

I weighed my options. And for a while, I tried them out. But ultimately, I made the decision to go back to studying media and communications. People around me scoffed and belittled me whenever I tell them I’m studying the course, throwing all sorts of discouraging comments like they know any better.

Oh, it’s easy to score. That’s why you chose it right? It’s super easy to study for it.

What can you do with that kind of a degree? You can’t make it big.

Why do you want to study in that course for? Anyone can do it.

I’m not going to lie. There are certain degrees of truth to all of it. But I am even more saddened at the fact that this is exactly the kind of attitudes people hold towards people within the industry. Let’s face it. Nobody will really understand the blood, tears and sweat that goes behind every word in an article, every pixels or second of an advertisement, or every detail of a PR event. Nobody. Not unless you’re immersed in it yourself. Nobody appreciates what we do, and certainly nobody outside the industry will thank us for doing our jobs well.

From the PR side, we’re seen as propaganda. We’re like the ghouls whispering the devil’s words to the gatekeepers, who are no better as they would then translate and distribute these words to the masses. Or the devil itself that gives people the illusion of free choice. From the advertising side, we’re seen as annoying salespeople who leverage on people’s psychological weaknesses to sell products and services that people might not even need. From the journalistic side, we’re seen as puppets to make the people think what the puppetmasters want them to think. On top of that, most people would think the people working within the industry have no moral ethics or have poor characters.

So why?

Why do we do the job anyway, knowing people aren’t going to thank us for it?

For money? You’d be surprised to know how little the people in the industry are paid for the amount of work they do.

For prestige? Heck, no. Probably only within the industry itself.

For recognition? I never knew that one of my ex-colleagues won a Clio award for an advertising campaign until I was searching on the Clio website for academic research. That’s just about the amount of recognition you’d get. And it was only because he was an ex-colleague of mine that I recognised his name. Not even a picture to remember him by.

… then for what?

We have no other choice but to do it? Maybe it’s one of the reasons.

But as cliche as it may sound, i think for most of us, we actually like what we do, and this passion is what sustains us more than the money. It was something I could tell whenever I ask them what they like about their job. Simply put, they love what they do even though they probably will never gain any recognition or appreciation for a good job well done. Will I be able to keep holding on?

“… So,” I asked one of the creatives over lunch, “…why are you still sticking around?” I asked.

“… it’s damn annoying for the most part. But… I don’t know, everyday, there’s always something new. I get to work with other creatives, one of the bosses is a brilliant guy full of ideas, brainstorming and coming up with ideas that clients approve of is like hitting the jackpot, and oh, bitching about our clients together…”

At that time, I thought I saw a sparkle lit up in the corner of his tired eyes.

_________________________________________________________

p.s: I’ve renamed the title, courtesy of Sufian, a title very appropriate for this post. Let us celebrate. All of us. You know who you are out there. (:

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