Metropilizing Advertising: The Underground Workers of the Creative Advertising Industry

As I read through the different chapters of ‘Media Work’ by Mark Deuze, it became clear: the creative industries aren’t producing creativity, but taking away creativity, or the ability to be creative. The more I read, the more I couldn’t help but think of the film Metropolis (1927) for reasons such as powerlessness, lack of individualism and change due to technology.

For those who haven’t seen Metropolis, the plot takes place in a stylized, futuristic city, divided sharply between the working class and the city planners (upper class). Here, the son of the city’s initiator falls for a working class prophet, who predicts that a savior will come to mediate the differences between the two classes.

Metropolis-workersIn the beginning of the film, we see underground workers walking in unison with their heads down. When looking at this image paralleled to modern creative industries in advertising, it can be read as the workers being powerless to the small ruling class. The upper class, or in this case advertisement companies, are able to act leisurely, benefiting from the power that they possess over the workers. As Deuze explains, ‘a key motive for advertising professionals to break away from holding firms of large network companies such as Leo Burnett is their real (or perceived) lack of creative freedom in pursuing different, innovative or experimental forms of advertising’ (Deuze, 123). Professionals in not only advertising, but film production as well, as not being given the power to create new things, but are simply told what needs to be done.

Metropolis-Freder-_Fritz-Lang-1927Playing on the physicality of the underground workers in Metropolis, the workers all wore the same uniform and had the same haircuts. There was no way to determine who was who. In advertisement, ‘(the authors) tend to be quite anonymous when compared to their colleagues in print journalism’ (Deuze, 113). Whenever an ad is seen, whether it be online or on a billboard on the side of the road, the only name on the poster is the name of the brand, such as McDonalds for example. In film production, there are credits at the end, in journalism, the author’s names are published in the beginning of their piece, but advertisement is lacking individualism in this sense.

In Metropolis, the machine (or technology in creative industries today) is seen as a monster; this could parallel to employee’s feelings about jobs in advertisement. As Deuze explains, ‘the production of advertising-particularly the work of art departments, creatives, brand managers and strategists-is changing because of the new technologies too, as the internet increasingly becomes integrated in all kinds of networked devices, ranging from the desktop computer to a refrigerator, from a cell phone to your television set’ (Deuze, 126). The machine was seen as destructive to the people, threatening their wellness, and ultimately bringing chaos into their lives. Of course, the technology in Metropolis and the advertisement industry may not be the same, but it still incorporates a threat; they are taking away the worth of the individual.

People-Holding-Question-Marks-In-Front-Of-FacesBut after all of this, I ask the question: Is it possible to be an individual in a creative industry? Coming into college, I knew I wanted to be part of a major that involved creativity, and film fit that role perfectly. Being given the tools and the opportunity to create films that were so personal to me really helped me to build a vision, but college in this sense will most likely be the most creative time in my life. Going into the world, I’m not so sure if my brand will be the same. Companies may at some point take the ideas that I have, but turn them into a something completely different and call it their own. That may just be how it is. My hope, none-the-less, is to one day make a name for myself in the film industry, but until then, I’ll be content just finding a job that will pay my bills.

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