I took my son to a video shoot. Now he really doesn’t want to go into advertising.

Author: Mike Hayward

My son Tyson is a high school senior and has never really experienced what I do for a living. So when I found myself on shoot a few blocks from his school, I (sheepishly) asked our clients if he could stop by for a bit.

Our clients kindly said yes. Tyson was excited. I was excited.

He showed up, walked onto set and said “Whoa, you need this many people for a shoot!?!” Yes kid, it takes a (video) village.

He sat down and watched the monitor with us. And he also watched us watch the monitor. Each take we made small tweaks to improve performances, alter the camera movement, fix an actor’s wayward hair, and so on.

At one point panicked direction was given to pare back the cilantro garnish because the dish “looks like a cilantro salad!”

Because of the tight quarters and shoot schedule, Tyson couldn’t leave until we moved to the next shot, which took about 90 minutes. At that point my son thanked the client and left.

At dinner that night I asked him “So any interest in going into advertising now?”

“No way,” he answered far too quickly.

I was a bit shocked. He went to a shoot! That’s when you’re making the thing. It’s one of the most interesting parts of the business. Or so I thought.

His reason though reinforced what I love about what I do.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like the idea of coming up with ideas for a living. And he can certainly be creative when he wants to be. It was the minutia and tedium he’d experienced at the shoot that he didn’t like. What did it matter if there was an extra piece of cilantro, or an actor smiled too much or too little?

It matters a whole hell of a lot, I thought to myself.

That’s when it struck me how unique this business is, and what it takes to be good at it.

You’ve got to be wildly creative but incredibly disciplined.

Artistic, sure, but without the need for complete and total freedom – our “art” is created for a purpose defined by strategists and CMOs. And most of our canvases are media spaces and social platforms with clearly defined borders, rules and time constraints. It’s a very focused creative pursuit with set KPIs that need to be hit.

You have to love and nurture an idea even when it’s not your first love.

A fellow creative once described presenting ideas this way: “You have to care as much as humanly possible, then not care at all.” Meaning if your favorite idea dies in front of you, you fall in the love with the idea that was chosen and dedicate yourself to making it great. Or go back to the drawing board and come up with something even better. Ad greats are wired like that. There’s zero time to waste whining about an idea that didn’t make the cut.

You have to enjoy being both Willy Wonka and an Oompa Loompa.

It takes a team of people working hard collectively inside and outside an agency to figure out how the heck what’s in the deck gets made in real life. There’s no one magical figure, creative or otherwise, who loudly proclaims what they want done and others make it so. We have to be both the creative visionaries and the people doing the hard work to bring it to fruition. While balancing budgets and resources throughout.

You need to sweat the details.

To that minutia my son referred to, comedy, drama, romance, anything that stirs the heart or lights up the good parts of our brain happens because of the care that’s given to create a world, a story or a moment. Watch any successful comedian, like Nate Bargatze or Jenny Slate, and note everything that goes into getting a laugh – the body language, the facial expressions, the pregnant pauses, the inflections in their voices. And each word has been carefully chosen through years of honing. Take away any piece of it and it falls flat.

So yes, my dear son, if what it takes to be good at advertising sounds bad to you, you’re best to choose a different career path than your ol’ dad.

Also, on the shoot Tyson politely passed on any food or drinks at craft services. That’s how I really know advertising’s not for him.