There are times when I feel obliged to give something back to advertising, an industry that has given me so little.
Last week was one of those times.
I don't remember (which is not all surprising these days) who had asked me to sit on a panel at Santa Monica High School's Career Day, but for some unknown reason they did. Conveniently ignoring the fact that technically, as a freelancer, I am unemployed.
I have been unemployed for close to a dozen years.
Nevertheless, if someone was going to giving me my own souvenir name badge, a snazzy lanyard and my own Vikings-emblazed sippy cup, who was I turn down such swag?
My initial inclination was to ironically show up for Career Day sporting a T-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops. To show these kids that you could make a decent living in the business world in attire that was very un-businesslike. My wife dissuaded me of this notion. And I slapped on some monkey clothes.
However, upon my arrival I was greeted my buddy, Paul, who is an English teacher at Samohi. He was wearing a t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops.
As I pushed my way through the crowded hallways, before the 3rd period panel, I was naturally reminded of my own days in high school -- a messy collage of good times, bad times, laughter, sadness, adolescent confusion, drug experimentation, and enough unused testosterone to fuel two penises.
In other words, typical.
I mention this because as I looked over the 30-40 kids in the room, I spotted the same neuroses.
Sadly, my fellow panelists did not. Their understanding of what a Career Day at a high school is, differed greatly than mine.
The woman seated next to me, a branding, PR consultant officer with multiple degrees in finance and marketing, took the time to prepare a robust Powerpoint presentation. Fortunately, the hour time limit prevented her from abusing us all with that little gem. But she was able to monopolize the discussion and when it came time to inspire these kids, she never failed to fail.
"Has anybody here ever heard of metric analytics? Well, I've done a little research on your behalf, and you'll be happy to know that in the next 10 years there will be 1.5 million excellent jobs in the field of metric analytics."
Are you kidding me?
When I was able to wedge in a word, I made sure to give them the flip side to her enticing tales of Big Data, bell curves and pie charts.
I told them how much fun it was to travel in Business Class, stay in fancy hotels, and raid the mini-bar starting with the $12 Toblerone Chocolates and working your way through the Jack Daniels airplane bottles all the way to the $22 jar of Deluxe Mixed Nuts.
I talked about having celebrities act out your jokes on film, playing golf on the company dime, flying in private jets and sitting in the booth next to Johnny Carson at Chaya Playa.
They'd never heard of Johnny Carson.
The point is, these were 16-year-old kids. They needed to be shown some razzle dazzle. I put myself in their shoes, the same shoes I was walking in just 28 years ago. I wanted to keep it light on industry specifics and heavy on boondoggles, graft and free alcohol.
Ms. Battaan Death Powerpoint wanted to babble on about analytics, segmentation and PR crisis management. Oh, for christ's sake.
I could tell you the students were bored. But the best indication came at 11:34 when the bell rang. There was no applause, no thanks, no students lingering on to ask questions and maybe dig in a little further into the exciting world of emerging social media demographics. They simply swiveled around in their plastic desk/chair and bolted for their next class.
I had to get to work. So, on the way back to my car and still fuming over this colossal waste of time, I walked by the career day greeting area that had been set up for the panelists. There, and without the least bit of guilt, I helped myself to an additional blue Samohi Career Day sippy cup.
Which means some well-intentioned fireman or astronaut went home with none.
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