Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Worlds

Over the past twenty-seven years I've spent hundreds of hours, maybe thousands, behind two-way mirrors listening to people talk about their lives and about the products, concepts, and advertising we wanted to "make meaningful to them." I always loved the focus group. It's anthropology. You learn so much about people and why they buy what they do; why they do the things they do. The consumers on the other side of the mirror are smart and stupid, funny, boring, crazy, weird, amusing; which ever, you always learn something.

Now six days a week I get to be immersed into this totally new, and until now, foreign culture. It's as if I get on a plane and travel across the world every morning, but I'm only four minutes from my house. I've been thinking about what it is that makes this beauty school culture so different. Is it an age thing? A Black thing? A Woman thing? It's somewhat of an age thing. Like the twenty-somethings taking over the ad world, these women are transparent (they'll talk about personal stuff you can't believe), they're freakin' funny (not as funny as my ad-friends Seb and Aaron but close), and they spend a lot of energy on men/dating (trying to get laid -- just like their age cohort in ad world.) There's definitely a Black thing -- but that is so far out of my purview, at this point I need "table" it. Even with the "Black thing" what is really different for me is the Woman thing. Until now I have NEVER been in an environment with all women. Hell, I went to an all boys high school! Have always worked in groups managed and directed by men. Even the women I worked for were men -- in management style. You have to be. It is SO different in girl land. Girl land is vertical -- everyone has a "say." Everyone has feelings, and stories, and offers advice. There's consensus, discussion. In man land there are decisions and actions and people take charge. I'm trying to sit back and observe it -- like the focus group. To understand it and maybe even embrace it. But I can't help thinking to myself things like "could you get on with the freakin' story?" "Why are we STILL talking about this?" "When are we going to get back to the lesson?" OMG -- they go on, and on, and on. Some years ago I was considering a career move into the world of non-profits -- I was warned that people from the for-profit, corporate world do not do well there. Especially people from advertising. It's too "touchy-feely." So for now I'm observing, trying not be be frustrated but what I can't help thinking of as "all this nonsense", and waiting for the next hilarious quip.

No comments: