An Open Letter to Santa From an Ad Man

A Short List of Things Agencies Really Need

By Published on .

Derek Walker
Derek Walker
Dear Santa,

Others say you don't exist but I know you do! They're just being smarty-pants, thinking they know everything. I believe in you, Santa, I know you can help me. We're hurting pretty bad here in advertising land; all the joy is gone out of advertising, no one laughs anymore. No one believes anymore -- we're too smart, too sophisticated or too cool to believe. The "meanies" are trying to kill advertising!

I'm trying to be good Santa, I ain't whooped them upside their heads the way I want cause that would put me on the naughty list. And I don't want to be on that list, again.

I hope you can help cause I don't know how long I can hold out before I have to deal with the "meanies," and they aren't going to like it when I get mean (Santa, I really don't want to catch a case).

Here is my list of wishes for advertising that I know you can help us with. Pretty please!

We're afraid of our own shadows. We need some heart to not only to be creative and innovative but to confront the issues facing our industry with an honesty and determination to make things right.

Once we become fearless again, we can become everything we should be -- more respectful, honest, artful, ethical and purposeful.

A lot of us could use a nice set of brass ones.

Before anyone can respect advertising, we have to respect ourselves.

We have to respect our industry and our craft -- they can't be separated. When we do what we do well, it's really magical. The power of what we do should not be taken lightly or taken advantage of.

We need to focus more on the work and less on the money. If we do better work, the money will come. The better we become at our craft, the more clients will recognize what we have to offer. Then we can spend more time creating and less time defending our costs, justifying our time and breaking our necks to meet artificial mandates and deadlines.

Clients and consumers are not our enemies, and they are not dumber than us. We have to stop talking at them or down to them.

Our work must show an appreciation for consumers allowing us into their lives; our presence is a privilege not a right.

To get respect, we must show respect.

Enough of the "bull dookie" (I have to keep it clean, you're Santa after all)! The reason the advertising industry is hated or mistrusted as much as lawyers or car salesman is because we haven't always been truthful. It is our fault; we don't seem to recognize that there's no defense against the truth.

It's about being honest with our clients too. No clients should wonder which half of their ad budget is wasted. They should be able to trust that the advice we are providing is what is best for what they are trying to accomplish.

There is so much work being produced that we all can recognize that it is being phoned in. Yes, we are a business but we are also an art form.

What we ultimately produce in advertising is a creative expression. This true expression must be handcrafted, cared for, developed, shared and set free to create it's own meaning -- like all good art. Too many people in advertising have lost sight of how to handcraft things.

I'm not against technology, in fact I think technology is great when we have the skills and training to get the most from it, and that only happens when we are passionate, hungry to be the best that we can be.

We make a living off of our passion, it is in everything we do or it should be. Please, give us back our passion to be the best. The industry suffers from its absence.

This one is personal for me.

For all those talented people of color stuck on the outside looking in, please give them a real chance.

I have seen so many people smarter and more talented than me walk away from this industry because there has been no opportunity for them. This is our dirty little secret, Santa, and it is time we change.

Opportunity also means sharing what we know with those who will replace us. We once mentored and groomed people to fill the positions we hold, but budget cuts and running lean means we have let this fall by the wayside, and advertising has suffered for it.

I know I'm asking for a lot but we need everything I asked for and more.

And to be totally honest with you, Santa, I had some help from a great group of elves on this list. I would like to thank: Gwen, Pepper, Barry, Hadji, Chris, Harry, Craig, Marvin, Hal and Steve.

If you can't get it all for us, then can you pass along the things you can't get to that New Years baby in the diaper so he can bring them to us?


P.S. I'm leaving you a peach cheesecake instead of cookies for all the trouble.

Derek Walker is the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising, based in Columbia, S.C.
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