Today I threw away my dinner jacket. Well, that’s not strictly true, having manfully tried to squeeze into it and failed, I donated it to St Vincent’s. By any account it was a rather handsome suit, bought in the first flush of youthful enthusiasm from Moss Brothers of Covent Garden. It will now, no doubt, sit in the “Vintage Clothing” rack until a scavenging youth from Surry Hills picks it up for a song in order to throw up down it.
I admit to some nostalgia. It was bought in the early eighties when every young advertising executive had to own black tie, partly because that indicated that you were a ‘regular’ on the Formal Ball circuit, but more importantly that you were optimistically awaiting the call to attend the D&AD dinner at the Royal Albert Hall. As a planner one would never actually ascend the stairs to receive a coveted pencil of course, but one could take some vicarious pleasure in beaming alongside the recipient later, whilst trying to strike a “but for me…” pose of nonchalant intellectual superiority.
How very different those London presentation ceremonies were. We felt advertising was a serious business back then, and it was. We were confident in our ability to walk two paths simultaneously – purveyors of popular entertainment and builders of commerce. Television viewers asserted that the commercials were often more entertaining that the programmes they interrupted. There was seriousness about those events that flagged the seriousness with which we took our industry. It was worthy of respect – worthy of a prestigious venue, worthy of an MC that brought gravitas to the occasion, and worthy enough to get even the most hardened creative into a black tie.
In the ensuing years my DJ has collected dust as have I collected kilos. I still attend award ceremonies but now I’m a passive judge on a freebie ticket, not the excited participant of days gone by. And as I sit through Will Anderson proving adlibs are best scripted, I wonder if we haven’t rather lost something in the pervasive informality, the jeans that meander nonchalantly onto stage, the rush from one trendy venue to another for the after-party.
It strikes me that if we don’t take our own industry very seriously any more, why should anyone else?
Philip Sheldon is the founder of Storymining and a Legends & Leaders mentor in the Strategy/Planning module.