Personality Market Mashup

If the advertising work place is a “personality market,” then what happens when you create a Web/Advertising mashup?

I did quite a bit of research about working in a Web-influenced place for my Master’s thesis on online journalists and their work. I found then that journalist-meets-web is a strange cultural fusion of “freedom of speech” and “cool” — but online journalists found incomplete commitments to both in their actual work places.

So what happens when advertising goes onto the Web? Last week’s post on the “personality market” tells you a bit about the advertising space. The Web is about “fun” but hours and hours of hard work. Web workers are supposed to be slavishly commited to their craft, but to have fun doing it. Consider this quote about Yahoo! back in the early days of dot-co from BusinessWeek:

[Yahoo! CEO Andrew Koogle] ever the businessman, he partakes in few of the zaniest antics. For example, before the company went public in 1996, founders Jerry Yang and David Filo took on the titles of Chief Yahoos. But Koogle steadfastly refused pleas to become the Chief Chief Yahoo. He hasn’t tattooed the company logo on his rear end, either, as has another executive. And he declined a request from this publication to spray-paint his wavy, graying mane in Yahoo’s trademark purple and yellow colors.

And this description about the contrast between dot-com and “real business”:

Stock options vs. country-club memberships. Sevenday (sic) workweeks vs. nine-to-five. Eddie Bauer vs. Brooks Brothers. Sega vs. secretaries. The cultural gulf between the newmedia boys and the old-media men is vast-and the chances of bridging it are slim.

Working on the Web was constructed as “zany” and “fun” but also, 7-day work weeks, sleeping on the couch beside your desk, and, of course, nerf gun wars (I myself engaged in regular nerf gun wars back when I worked at Sympatico.ca).

What kind of mashup is dot-com-plus-advertising? A personality market that prizes long hours, creativity, and “fun.” But there is also a paradox: bottom-line business of advertising runs headlong into “fun” of dot-com. How does this contradiction play out?

It doesn’t.

Here’s an example from Digitas’s careers Web site. The company “rewards creative thinkers who are passionate about delivering results for our clients.”

In other words, interactive agencies are caught in a perpetual contradiction: they are supposed to be “fun” but they are are supposed to be about business. This contradiction has an inevitable impact on time spent at work.

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