In advertising, it is a common occurrence that you will regularly be asked to kiss someone’s ass. Sometimes with good reason and sometimes for no reason. Now because advertising is what it is, no one ever questions the ass kissing; it’s always been done and will always be done. We just do it. Maybe one day Jesus will come and we’ll stop. Or maybe we wont stop who knows. But I digress.
You now know that advertising people are a subservient, obsequious and disgustingly self-loathing bunch of people. But the truth is that it is not all advertising people who are this way. It the client service people. Those are the real ass kissers. Those who most kiss ass eventually have their oral orifices transform into that oval shaped pout now common with most girls on Instagram; you know the one white girls do because they don’t have thick African lips and the one African girls copy from the white girls because, well they don’t know why the white girls do it and are too stupid to see that their thick Africa lips look like a tilapia in rebellion rather than whatever they imagine they are doing.
Again I digress.
These client servicing people over the course of a successful (important to note here) lifetime kiss so much ass they get used to and even start to like the smell of it. However there are people who don’t kiss as much ass; the creatives (but this one I’ll leave to another day). But every once in a while you find some ass that smells good. People who know you have to kiss their ass but take the time to make sure it is clean and scented and they wipe it. Clients who like you. Who think you are the shit [no pun there]. Clients who, you too, incidentally, like. They respect you. They listen to you. They let you do your work. They are honest about their budgets. And they appreciate you when you do good work.
“What?! Whaaaaattttt?!! They exist!!” *in maniacal voice*
The real trauma is that this gentleness and humility has come at the end of a lifetime of hard work and interactions. It is lessons from dealing with thousands of people. The kind of wisdom possessed by an “emperor” (for purposes of this post) and not is tempestuous “heir apparent” (also for the purposes of this post). Which brings us to the heart of this post.
Most people who deal with emperors find them civil, full of leadership, great product knowledge and a great amount of insight about their products or services. They know their customers, they know what they (their customers) want, they know when their products are weak. And so they trust their agencies to lead them to the right place. They also know exactly where they don’t want to go but are open to being surprised on what is possible. They are visionaries. These are the ones with the scented bottoms. You could kiss that ass all day long.
However because this breed are so rare one only encounters a handful in a lifetime of work. Quite often you meet one in your whole advertising career.
And you meet them at the end of theirs. They are either preparing to hand over the empire to the next generation, or to move on to the next great thing. Or if your stars are so badly aligned and you deserve nothing good in this life – they are preparing to hand over to their children.
Why, you ask?
Because anytime a business is successful enough to be handed over, it means there is a lifetime of relationships and lessons to be taught there. A plethora of cautionary tales and an ensemble of adversaries the business has overcome to survive that long. These are things that most emperors try to teach their heirs apparent but most times fail miserably. Why? Because the lessons are time acquired, they are seared in the mind because they are experiences mixed with emotions making them memories. They can’t be forgotten.
In their tutelage, most heirs apparent hear these lessons but brush them off as tales of a time gone by. The prospect of “modernizing” things is so intoxicating that most of them forget why things have remained the same for so long. So they rush into the boardroom and fire everyone. They replace all the casual labour with a capital intensive solution that makes the “casuals” jobless. They are swift to “modernize” the logo and up-end the “brand look and feel”.
“These things are from a long time ago. They all need to change,” they say. “We need to get with the times. Something new and fresh and exciting!”
“Like what were you thinking?” lips firmly placed, you ask.
“ I was checking online and I saw something that I think we should use,” comes the curt retort.
In that process they want their asses kissed so hard and if there is no evidence of sh*t on your face they’ll rub it in for effect. They’ll work you harder. They’ll listen to you less. They’ll disrespect you more. Eventually, when the tally is done they will never let you make as great as they could be. These are the bottoms we all dread. The ones who don’t wipe. They ones who will fart while you are in the middle of your morning ass-kissing ritual and laugh just because they can and there is nothing you can do about it.
But why are they like this? I don’t know so don’t ask me but in my next life I’d like to come back as an heir apparent just to see. But I suspect there are a few reasons why:
As I said above, the emperor is wise and old. He has seen many things and has learnt that he will never really know it all. So he listens. He mulls on things. And appreciates a good idea. He is the emperor. No one can rush him. When he is ready he will act with deftness and blinding speed. The heir apparent doesn’t have that luxury; he has got naysayers, detractors, populists, etc all around him. He must be rushed and decisive. And there is where all the skid marking starts. As they make the wrong decisions and shit their pants in fear, all the ass kisser will find is skid marks when he comes for their ritual ass kissing.
The decided lack of compassion: this lesson is almost as old as itself. Nowhere in the human race is there less compassion than in heirs apparent. They bear an often unmistakable proclivity for mean, spiteful, denigrating behaviour. They’ll end old friendships and relationships, will set fire to the village barn because they haven’t gotten their share of the wheat crop even though the harvest was bad all around. This is perhaps the point where that lesson on absolute power and corruption is derived. I’m reminded that even in the much hailed Holy Bible for all their strength Judges would never become kings. No matter how many Philistine foreskins Samson took, he would never have the grace and empathy of David.
And that leads to my final point; Strength Vs Grace: Ass kissing is all about grace and tact. It’s very difficult for you to kiss ass when you know its ass. The human spirit rebels against that kind of thing. It is revolted by the debasing of the spirit it represents. However if a king passes by and it has been agreed by his subjects that none shall look upon his countenance then it is in unison that they all bow before him and give him respect. That they will let him have the final word. That they will do his bidding even against great personal misgiving. On the other hand, being forced to kiss hard, unscented, unwiped ass on your knees, in chains only makes the ass worse, and the action more vile.
Yet we must and will continue to kiss ass for that is what will light our houses, and warm our loved ones and feed our children. In the end all you can hope for is that you meet an emperor in your lifetime because that experience is truly one worth having had. Just one emperor. Oh such sweet ass.