Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Will to live sapped? Check!

There are two words that strike fear into the all-but-empty chest cavity of the half-hearted hack: advertising feature. Gahh! Nooooo! (Whimpering noises, rocking and drooling reflex engaged.)

Oh, it's OK now. I've had a large measure of Appleton Estate for my nerves and it's all fine. Really. Sunshine, lollypops...

Recently, I did a stint on ad features for my sins (which are obviously many and varied and will one day see me sunk in a pit of sulphur, vomit and Boney M Christmas albums).

For the (happily) unitiated, ad features are those things you never read in newspapers and magazines. They are also known as ad supplements, but they differ in a way that I have yet to grasp fully from the true advertorial. Depending on where they appear, ad features are usually given to people who buy ads. Simple, yeah? The people who buy the ads often just write the words and send them in. He/she of the shattered spirit (on this occasion, me) takes said words and makes them into something grammatically correct and, hopefully, eye-catching enough for you to be arsed reading it. There is always a contact number and possibly an address at the end of an ad feature. It sounds just like an advertorial, doesn't it? Nothing of the sort, apparently. Ad features involve Editorial Independence. You'd think that EI would mean that if it were crap, it wouldn't get a run, right? Pffft. As far as I can ascertain, it actually means that if there's no room, or the picture is bollocks - or worse still, there's no picture - then it doesn't get a run. Welcome to the sad and tragic world of ad features.

I still don't understand why they need a journalist for this job. Perhaps it's to make the advertisers feel more important. Whatever the reason, it does nothing for the morale of the poor sods who have to write the stuff. I don't know how journos do this day in, day out and remain sane. One week in, I found myself dangerously close to an alcoholic coma. "But why did you agree to do this?" I hear you cry. Well, I didn't have anything else to do at the time and it kept me in gas bills. And I'm just a gal who cain't say no, pity upon me.

I think my lowest moment came when I had to write (for "write" read "retype") the words, "Are you worried about unwanted hair this summer?" No matter how low the hack goes after this, even if she ends up being a spin doctor for a petrochemical company, being forced to tell people why fairy penguins are happier covered in deisel sludge, nothing will ever be as bad as that moment.

Unwanted. Hair.

I had to think about kittens and Hugh Laurie and Haigh's peppermint truffle bars to keep that sentence from sapping all of my will to live. Harry Potter fans, you know that moment in the movie version of The Prisoner of Azkaban when the unpleasantness of Dementors flies in and starts sucking Harry and Sirius's faces off? Yup, you got it.

Never. A-fucking-gain.

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17 Comments:

At 11:05 pm, December 12, 2006, Anonymous MikeFitz said...

Deisel sludge = Bad. Unwanted hair = Worse. The target audience for unwanted hair ads = Unspeakable. That subset of the target audience that actually goes on to read the accompanying article = ???

Ooh, Redcap, I bet it's a hoot getting into their minds.

 
At 11:33 pm, December 12, 2006, Blogger londongirl said...

gold star to you for being able to actually write it! I think I'd sit in front of a blank screen for hours wondering how on earth I could continue a feature that started with that phrase.

Good luck with it... (and you've just confirmed why, although I like the idea of being a journo, I think the practice would be rather different).

 
At 11:44 am, December 13, 2006, Anonymous Teddy said...

In the words of the late and great Maxwell Smart, you "missed by that much"----the point, that is----
Here we are, the rest of us out in this big wide world, needing or at least wanting a drink but we have no excuse----and YOU---you have a boss who gives you a job that gives you a reason----how ungrateful can one person be.

Oh, and we all love a girl who cant say no

 
At 7:57 pm, December 13, 2006, Blogger Scorpy said...

I always dreamt that the worst job would be those guys/gals that had to write the Washing Detergent Ads for TV. Whiter than white? Please shoot me now LOL

 
At 8:49 pm, December 13, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Mike, I just counted myself lucky when I managed to sneak in something for a charity in a Christmas shopping special.

LG, don't worry, news journalists and writers of serious features have a far more meaningful life. Nothing beats the buzz when you're chasing down witnesses to a shark attack or up to your thighs in floodwater :)

Ted, yes, I'm exceptionally ungrateful. Bartender, bring me a double!

Scorpy, I think the two are on a par in nastiness. The whiter than white guys probably need better vocabularies, though. After all, how many words for "white" are there?

 
At 12:04 am, December 14, 2006, Blogger MadameBoffin said...

Just dig deep and find your inner chi :) And maybe a few "serenity now" mantras? ;)

 
At 9:32 am, December 14, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Boff, newspapers ate my inner chi. All that's left is my inner vodka fiend ;)

 
At 10:26 am, December 14, 2006, Anonymous Kate said...

I've done a fair few of these in my time, though usually for electronics products, which has the added bonus of requiring you to do research so you actually know what all the thungummybobs and shit do. Explain to me again why I wanted to be a journo? (And how did I end up in electronics magazines?)

 
At 10:42 am, December 14, 2006, Blogger killerrabbit said...

But redcap what do we do with unwanted hair?

 
At 11:20 am, December 14, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Kate, at least electronics are kind of cool and you have to do research (and interviews?). But I know what you mean. I wrote a story about sheets the other day and thought, "And this is expanding the world's knowledge how?"

Killer, sob, you shoot it with a lasery thing :( By the way, I haven't abandoned your blog - Blogger hates me at the moment and won't let me comment on yours and a few others.

 
At 12:42 pm, December 14, 2006, Blogger Ariel said...

Oh, RC, my commiserations. I'm feeling your pain. Hey, speaking of pain, at least you don't have to research those hair-zapping laser thingies ...

You also wonder why you decided to be a journalist when you take on three extra articles in one week to do 'on the side' of your full-time job. In case you don't get offered more work when you actually have time to do it. Aaargh!

 
At 10:19 am, December 15, 2006, Blogger Javatari said...

Really? I love ad features! (Just kidding) I'll keep an eye out for your work though. ;-)

 
At 3:04 pm, December 15, 2006, Blogger Jo said...

I've just invented something that might come in handy: Hair Goggles.

 
At 8:18 pm, December 16, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Ariel, I've done that too. I've had full-time magazine work for a couple of weeks, but other things have come up at the same time. You have to do it, or you might not be asked next time. Such is the freelance life, I'm afraid.

Javatari, really, don't bother. You'd want to pull out your own finger nails after the first two sentences.

Jo, hair goggles? Do tell!

 
At 8:01 am, December 18, 2006, Blogger Jo said...

Hair goggles - I exaggerated, really. I've only invented the phrase so far - prototype is still in workshopping stage.
In theory, like beer goggles, they make things (like advertorials and the like) look better than they are.
Bless alcohol.
Bless it like a fox.

 
At 10:25 am, December 18, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Wow, Jo - those hair goggles must be pretty powerful ;)

 
At 5:49 pm, June 22, 2007, Blogger River said...

I personally love the Boney M christmas cd. Also Haighs peppermint truffle bars, but I think their cappucino bars are better.

 

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