‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through Soho House, ad folk were moaning that they hadn’t seen their spouse.
Christmas is an exhausting time for people in the industry, both agency and client side. As well as end of year reviews, new KPIs, budgets and staff appraisals, there’s also the social side of Christmas with client, agency and intermediary drinks. Not that any of us are expecting sympathy or tiny violins – but it means that when the break finally comes it’s all the sweeter.
But much like the famed snow in Africa, there won’t be respite for everyone this Christmas time – the greatest gift they’ll get this year is a snatched pizza at the desk as they work on completing RFIs for pitches.
This year the British Airways owner International Airline Groups has shown that if work doesn’t stop for Christmas in the airline business, then it shouldn’t necessarily do the same in advertising.
It has drawn up a grueling schedule for its media and advertising pitch, for which it wants RFIs by Tuesday, price submissions barely three weeks after everyone gets back in the office, and full pitches for shortlisted agencies in a little over a month. This has contributed to some of those Soho House gripes.
Of course, the wheels of business should never stop – and a glance at the Pitch Update shows how vibrant the industry is – but this means that further pressure is put on trying to organize Christmas at home, with pitches running from this week well into January.
It’s the lot of new business directors to corral and motivate their teams to apply themselves, no matter what the circumstances. And, in fairness, for most people in the industry, there’s an acknowledgment that working long hours and on days off is part of an implicit part of working in advertising – those "Weekend & Kennedy" and "72 & Sunday" jokes are usually just that, rather than a widespread dissatisfaction with our lot.
However, with costing grids and creative concepts to be filled and fleshed out (as well as those press releases for work that breaks on Boxing Day), sometimes, just sometimes, singing Ding Dong Merrily On High while quaffing a snatched glass of mulled wine at the desk doesn't quite cut it.
A real life Santa gifting people in adland a little more time would make everything a little better. Maybe an extra hour in the day to polish off that RFI so we can give our long-suffering partners the attention they deserve at what should be a family time.
Or perhaps a bit more time to sleep off the client-entertaining-induced hangover so we can actually be productive on their account the next day. Or an extra hour in the day to spend looking after our children in whichever way that manifests itself, from being around to cook or put them to bed or give them a bath or just give them a hug.
Despite being a handy marketing conceit, it’s a shame Mr. Claus is not real. On the upside, at least we know we are absolute pros at multi-tasking, working long hours, juggling clients and Christmas turkeys and finger painting and carols and pitches and parents and... everything else.
Otherwise we wouldn't be in this business. But it’s important to try and find some peace on earth to enjoy a mince pie once in a while. Let’s make this our big New Year’s, new business, resolution for a happy and successful 2017.
Cat Davis is chief growth officer for UK & Europe at Cheil London