My parents have this word they use to describe people: Hi-fi.
When I was a teenager, girls who wore shorts to college were hi-fi. Boys who smoked Marlboro Lights were hi-fi. Hi-fi people were too modern, too liberal, too rich, too… everything. They were my dad’s greatest problem with me becoming a copywriter. Because the ad industry, it seems, was full of hi-fi people. Who were into drugs and alcohol and (gasp!) casual sex. How could he possibly let his daughter enter such a brazenly depraved field?
I had pooh-poohed him at the time. What? I was at an age when you didn’t take someone seriously if they didn’t have a favourite Backstreet Boy.
And then, a few months into my first job, I heard the stories. Of coke being snorted off conference-room tables. Of client meetings attended in the company of a hangover. Of nights filled with pot smoke and headlines. It was all industry legend. And it was happening all around. Still is. And for all the wrong reasons. With all the wrong people doing it.
Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen, twenty-year-old junior writers puffing on a joint and talking about how they need something to cut the deadline pressure. Exhibit B, kids who’re two years into the industry, going on about how hash helps them get really wild ideas.
For the deadline guys, I’d like to bring your attention to a minor detail. YOU’RE NOT PERFORMING OPEN-HEART SURGERY HERE. It’s a two-page leaflet they want you to copy-check! Get over it.
As for the idea-seekers: that reason is the biggest pile of bull-droppings I’ve heard since Rakhi Sawant last opened her mouth. If a doobie or a bottle of Old Monk was going to be the surefire way to get an idea, we’d have vending machines full of them in agencies. Sure, they’d still charge us for them, but hey, you take what you can get, right?
I can see you pursing your lips and calling me an aunty. What you or I do to get high and why (I swear, I didn’t mean to rhyme, it just happened) is nobody’s business. But if the only way you can come up with a half-decent idea is with a head full of smoke and a liver full of Smirnoff, then it becomes the business of the people you work for, with or around. Which sooner or later, given the miniscule size of our industry, will include me.
So go on, light up. Take a swig of your favourite poison. Get all the hits you want. But don’t tell me you’re doing it for the sake of the Big Idea or to make the Big Deadline. Because not even Jon Hamm in full Don Draper regalia, can sell me that load of crock.
Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.