What Elvis can teach junior creatives
See that photo above? That was Elvis in his prime. During the Jailhouse Rock years. That photo above is also the definition of foreshadowing: A performer who performs in a prison.
See, Elvis Presley is more famous for dying on the toilet than his beginnings as one of the inventors of a country/rock-a-billy/RnB/gospel hybrid called rock n’ roll.
So let’s go back to 1956 when Elvis had mostly natural energy. Even though his band mates all said he had it and urged him to quit after eighteen takes, Elvis recorded "Hound Dog" 30 times before he felt he nailed it at take 28. In those first few years, he took the acetates of his recordings home with him and kept listening. And listening. And listening. Until he felt he nailed it.
So what happened?
Colonel Tom Parker happened. Elvis' manager for life who launched his career, gave him untold riches while shackling him with golden handcuffs. The master micro-manager steered film to music choices, and licensed Elvis' face on everything from 8X10 glossies to ashtrays and lunch boxes. He became Elvis™ instead of the truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi. Contrary to what a lot of social media experts are saying, adding a ™ to your name isn't a modern way of doing things, nor is it particularly smart. In fact. it's just as pathetic today as it was back then.
See Elvis already had a reason for being on the planet before someone handed him a boat load of money at the expense of his dignity. And then he traded it in, perhaps out of gullibility, but still.
He forgot who he was, and why he loved music. And it showed. The cash and the fame and the lifestyle was more important.
In some ways, Elvis was the original sell out. The more Elvis gained, the less he had. The more he produced, the less he cared. The dude endured stupid songs and acting in dozens of shitastic movies before finally shaking it off for a 1968 comeback special that was perhaps the last time anyone considered him a musician instead of an icon at best or a mainstay Vegas has been at worst.
This is the part in a typical “blog,” post where the “blogger,” asks these dumb questions like “Do you have a Colonel Tom Parker in your advertising career? What is really guiding you? And are you going to wait until it’s time for a comeback to remember why you got into the business in the first place?”
But I’m not a “blogger.” I’m a copywriter who also writes for adland and I'm not particularly fond of that convention as it seems smarmy. All I'll say is this to all the junior adgrunts out there:
If you’re just starting out, even if you're completely desperate to break in, now is the best time to say no to any and all too-good-to-be-true offers, because they’ll end up being just that. Don’t chase the money or you’ll end up doing everything for the money. Don't give up relationships and partnerships with good creatives for those awards, because you should know that at the end of the day, the more of them you win, the more people will shit talk you. Don’t work for loud mouthed motherfuckers who backstabbed their way up to the top of the rung; they’ll never give you the respect you deserve and you'd know they'd be lying if they acted otherwise anyway. If you give in to Colonel Tom Parker's of advertising-- whatever they may be-- you’ll either walk away from shop to shop in frustration, give up the very reason you got into this business which was to make cool shit with cool people, or the biggest tragedy of all, become toxic poison that makes us hate this business so much.
Now don't mind me but I'm gonna put on The Sun Sessions.
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