Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The Infantilization Factor
Barely a week goes by when we are not treated to another ad agency unveiling their latest variation of the remodeled open office plan. Invariably adorned by reams of PR spin about this being "a communication hubspot of innovation" or "an imagination incubator" or my favorite, "the Idea Campus."
Also without fail, there is the constant claptrap about collaboration and teamwork and my other favorite, "a climate built around growing our culture."
Culture, it seems, is best nurtured in an environment with fluorescent lighting, oversized furniture upholstered in bright primary colors and an abundance of foosball, ping pong and pool tables.
I call it the kindergardening of advertising.
I'm an atheist Jew, so I think I'm a little qualified to speak about culture. My tribe's got 4000 years of it. And I can tell you with a certain amount of confidence that culture cannot be manufactured. Particularly not with decorative throw rugs, gumball machines and purple ottomans.
We didn't get this far on frivolous adornments. Hell, our holiest site is an old brick wall. And we're currently celebrating Passover by chowing down on drywall, jellied fish and fiery hot horseradish to remind us of the hardships of our ancestors.
More agnostically, I had the distinct privilege of working at Chiat/Day when they were at the top of their game. I know this is an old record that you're tired of hearing, but there can be no doubt we also had a culture. Based on a shared belief, a shared commitment to the work and a shared commiseration about the inexcusable paychecks.
I bring all this up, because in an effort to stem the talent departure from our industry, Human Resource folks are furiously cooking up new retention programs. Many of them based on the Kool Aid notion that we can keep people in the biz if we just make it fun. And colorful. And even more Fun.
Months ago, I came across a post on LinkedIn from an unnamed HR pro who was soliciting "ideas" than can help "build the culture."
And there were some doozies:
-- Arrange a Midnight Bowling Excursion
-- A competitive departmental bake sale
-- A field trip to a local art museum
-- Tuesday Trustfalls
-- Secret Santa in June
-- A Paint Your Parking Spot Contest
-- Twinsie Thursdays
I did all I could to refrain from chiming in, but 44 years of Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions would not allow me to remain silent. I explained the secret to Chiat culture...
"We created ads that won lots of awards and then we went out and got fucking drunk."