Everyone loves a Cinderella story. What can be more romantic than a beautiful damsel in distress getting swept off her feet by the dashing prince who carries her off into the sunset, right? That is why so many romantic comedies follow this narrative. While Ever After and Ella Enchanted emulates the original rags-to-riches tale rather closely, movies such as Miss Congeniality and What a Girl Wants put their own original spins on the classic. Although there have been countless movies in this genre, it is safe to say that Pretty Woman still reigns supreme in the hearts of many.
Nearly three decades ago (yes, it’s been that long!), Julia Roberts and Richard Gere made everyone believe in fairytale endings again. The unlikely romance between an L.A. hooker, Vivian, and a wealthy businessman, Edward, enchanted millions across the world, and continues to do so to this day.
It is no wonder, then, that so many of us (especially in the ad industry) suffer from what I like to call Vivian Delusions.
Vivian Delusions would have us believe that the longer we stand on the corner peddling our wares, the higher our chances of getting picked up by a wealthy businessman and falling madly in love are.
And there we stand, in our red heels and red lips, flaunting every possible bit of skin and smiling desperately at anyone who looks our way.
So, what does all this have to do with advertising? If you’ve ever been involved in a pitch, you already know the answer. Agencies spend weeks putting their best faces and sexiest outfits on before parading in front of clients in the hope that they will get picked. If that’s not akin to prostitution, I don’t know what is. And they don’t do it because it’s a way to make money – you actually lose money on pitches – it’s because each and every agency that walks into that pitch has Pretty Woman in the back of their heads. The Vivian Delusion. The beautiful allure of “what if they choose us, and we live happily ever after?”
We put on our red heels and red lips and parade ourselves around – and then we are surprised when we get fucked.
ETIKET recently found itself standing on a particularly dodgy corner hoping to get chosen. We didn’t. Walking back home with our heels in our hands and our lipstick smeared across our faces, we had an epiphany: it sucks to be a hooker. And that’s why we’ve decided to stop.
We will not stand around hoping to get noticed by Prince Charming – we will go out and find him. The kind of guys you meet on the side of the road tend to be less than charming anyway. We will not flaunt our flesh for free anymore – providing concept and creative for no payment is a no-go. If you want a piece of this, you better pony up. We will not put on red heels and lipstick anymore – we are who we are. If you like us, great! Let’s have some tequila. If you don’t, no hard feelings. And last, but not least, we will start respecting ourselves, and our industry at large. Because people only treat you the way you let them treat you.
We aren’t chasing that Pretty Woman moment any more. We are creating our own.
With thanks and apologies to Janhendrik Oosthuizen for the comment that inspired this blog.