A True Story of Wine and Cheese
The brie spun gracefully before it struck the CEO firmly on the head.
It probably wasn’t the worst thing to have ever hit him, but the shock registered in his face: this was most likely the first time he’d ever been cheesed in a professional context. He stared at the dented white wheel lying between his legs as the agency gaped at him. What the fark had just happened?
The Saturday evening review of the pitch creative hadn’t gone well. His comments had been direct, and though swearing had been kept to a minimum he had made it clear in no uncertain terms to the ECD, creative department and the rest of the agency that we were no closer to netting the $15m business. So the ECD brie-ed him.
It had been a long Saturday.
It was going to be a long weekend.
It was a good job there was plenty left to drink.
The agency had snuck onto this pitch a week before, up against some serious international big wigs. We needed special sauce and Dutch courage in equal, plentiful measure.
The beer fridge had been restocked immediately, along with the wine cupboard, sherry lounge and vodka nook.
A week of intense consumption followed—supplies were restocked at least once a day. Who minds putting in late nights and early mornings when drink is provided so generously? And that was the spirit in which it was intended. Generosity. “Ok we’re going to have to work hard here, but let’s make sure it’s fun.”
It wasn’t like there was executive booze exclusively for the partners—all alcohol was available to all comers, from the cheese-chucking ECD to the intern. Three months into his advertising career, this guy was grinning from ear to ear, convinced that he had stumbled through the gates of heaven. I heard him on the phone to his mate: “We’re drinking at our desks. How good is that?”
Most agencies have an open-bar booze policy, this one was just a little more generous and egalitarian than most.
The booze-at-work thing is an industry-wide phenomenon. But it’s a peculiarity of advertising alone.
Ask around. Talk to a lawyer, banker or management consultant about the beer fridge that you consider a standard perk and they roll their eyes and give you that look: “Oh you crazy creative types. You’re just like Don Draper. But not as sexy.”
There must be some kind of connection between drink and creativity, right?
Just ask the Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, Joni Mitchel, Lord Byron, Lou Reed, Mary or Percy Shelley. Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if they are the exceptions that prove the rule. They knocked out some awesome creative but things didn’t always work out well for them.
It’s possible that the best ideas happen in the pub. But is that to do with the alcohol?
Pubs are sanctuaries from interruption. There are no computers. No traffic managers. People put their phones away. You sit at tables where you are forced to look at and listen to each other. This is what art director and copywriter are meant to do. Sit down and have a conversation about ideas. It’s the pub’s physical environment that gets the creativity flowing. Not the delicious booze. And how many times have you been onto something awesome at the pub, before it all starts to go a bit wobbly as more drink is drunk?
A wise man once told me that the ancient Greek god of wine, Dionysius, was also the god of creativity. Recently, I have discovered that this is complete bollocks.
He must have made it up when he was pissed. Dionysius is actually the god of wine, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre. But this seems to expose an even deeper truth, if we’re going to get all Jungian on advertising’s ass.
I can tell you from first-hand experience, pitch reviews that end in a cheesing really do feel a bit mad. I won’t say whether we won the business. It was a cracking good shot though. Alcohol may or may not improve creativity, but it definitely improves your aim when throwing brie.