The few, the proud

And by that I mean those who stick to their convictions, even at great personal cost. My friend Dave Awl, performance artist extraordinaire, alarmingly between writing/editing projects in Chicago, just sent me the following email:
Just wanted to share a war story from the job hunt. Literally, as it turns out.

I got a call on Friday afternoon from one of the SEVEN staffing agencies I have now listed myself with. I was out running an errand when the call came, so the rep left a message and said she had a three-day position at an ad agency writing banner ads for Web sites, and I just needed to call and confirm that I was still available.

I'm saved! I thought. Finally a way to pay my rent this month. Whatever it is, wherever I have to go, I'll take it, I thought.

She did say in the message that I would need to be able to write in a "tough guy" tone of voice. That gave me a little pause, me being me, but I've had to do it a couple of times before. In August I had to write copy about Sears Craftsman tools for a NASCAR tie-in, so it was all this "winners never quit" stuff and I'd logged some experience trying to fake the sound of testosterone.

So I called the rep as quick as I could dial and told her I was still available.

That's great, she said. So, it starts on Monday. It's on-site work, writing banner ads for Web sites, and the client is ... wait for it ... the U.S. Marines.

Long pause while I beat my head against the desk. Then I explained as diplomatically as I could that I wasn't a good fit for this particular job, and thanks for thinking of me, etc.

And that's the only concrete offer of work I've had since we last talked.

I do have the consolation of knowing I'm not the only one who has turned this gig down. Yesterday I interviewed at yet another staffing agency, and the rep and I clicked pretty well, so we had a nice conversation. And I wound up telling her the story about the Marines job.

As soon as I said the words, "tough-guy tone of voice," her eyes got wide and she said, "I have that exact same posting!" She said that the ad agency hadn't been able to fill the position because no one would take it.

So at least it's nice to know that right now there aren't a lot of Chicago writers who want to convince teenagers to go get shot at in Iraq.

What a long way we've come since Sept. 11.
If you or anyone you know is looking for freelance writing, editing, or proofreading, check out his portfolio site. We go back a long way. He is a hilarious poet, raconteur, and real professional.


Jane said...

Wow. Good for him.

We had an interesting, semi-similar experience at the agency I work with, a few years back when the gays in the military debate was a big topic. (around 97 or 98?)

Time magazine was doing a story on how the Navy was having trouble getting new recruits, and asked several ad agencies what they would do to help. Ours was the only agency who gave our hypothetical ad a political twist. The headline was: "Don't Ask. Don't Tell. We can't handle the truth."

As a copywriter, I find it's not always as easy to draw those lines, though. Turning down the Marines or cigarettes or the Republican Party would be fairly easy calls. But, for example, I've been working on annual reports and ads for a predominantly conservative law firm based in DC. They represent News Corporation (Rupert Murdoch's company) for example. But they also do great pro-bono work for the NAACP and the Red Cross. Am I dealing with the devil to write their brochure? I'm not sure...

Brando said...

I've written copy to sell Sunday School textbooks. I did have to think about it, but ultimately when you work in marketing or advertising, you probably can find some moral dilemma if you dig deep enough into your clients' backgrounds. Hell, it was more honorable than writing copy for the credit card companies like I used to. But I would draw the line at promoting the Corps (or the Army), or any pro-GOP work.

A friend of mine who's a financial planner faced a similar decision. He specializes in helping families manage their finances for long-term care. He had entered into a partnership with USA Next, an anti-AARP group. He knew they were conservative, but then they ran this ad and he immediately walked away.

bihari said...

Good for your friend; that's impressive.

The Tall Doc and I were hanging out at the bank recently, doing college-funds-for-little-boys activities, and I realized as I looked at the list of places our money (all $3.50 of it) is invested that we need to rethink where we put our dough. It's unnerving to look at the size of some of these companies and realize how many OTHER companies they control, and it makes me want to put my money elsewhere, into places which actually need investment to do active good. I mean, hoorah for Ronald McDonald House and all, but still...

My word verification for today is Ubbaaz. An Iranian department store? An Egyptian Alka-Seltzer? A seedy nightclub in Minsk?