Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What I do for a living

It's always uncomfortable when someone tries to boil down effectively what you do. I was at a house party the other day and everyone seemed to be telling me that their job was very important and involved 'strategy' and other managerial sounding words.
I could go for the generic explanation of what I do. It would involve words like 'strategy', 'clients', 'direction' and many other buzz words. I could probably put the '2.0' suffix onto any of them to make myself sound even more grand.
Explaining my job to people who don't work in the industry is always difficult because it hasn't existed for a very long time and the definitions of what we do haven't really filtered down to most other people. Most people probably don't really care about what it is that I do.
They might notice the adverts on their screens while they're surfing the internet, but they probably don't appreciate the time and effort put into making them move their mouse to hit the 'close' button.
My favourite explanations are below:

"I make the Internet free"

Obviously this isn't entirely true, but it does have more than a couple of grains of truth. Adverts from my company appear in front of almost every person who goes online in the UK. I don't think many of those people paid the sites which provided the free content they were looking at.
There's a huge number of online services beyond news which are funded by the advertising we place - social networking, webmail, RSS readers, search engines...
Without the ads we place most people wouldn't be able to find a single useful things on the web. We'd be stuck with the BBC's website and whatever people are willing to write and pay to host.
We're capitalism's friendly face and probably the people who've allowed some of the most life changing technology into your world.

"I make rich men richer"

I think anyone who isn't a doctor or self-employed does this for a living. In my case, I work for a company which is owned by a group of people who I see on occasion. They are all men and I have seen figures which show exactly how much richer I've made them.
Even civil servants help by making the whole system work and therefore maintaining the framework which allows these rich people to get richer. I don't mind because one day I hope to join their number. However, there's a huge number of people who also have a similar plan...

"I get poor people to buy things they don't need with money they don't have"

Unfortunately one of the problems with advertising is that the most susceptible people to it are the poor. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, people who were rich make themselves poor by buying all the things advertising tells them to. Secondly, poor people are easier to sell hope to. Give them a loan and they'll find many things to spend it on.
As many a social worker will tell you, it isn't usually spent on things they actually need. More often than non it'll be things that the telly told them they wanted.
Luckily, most poor people haven't invested in getting themselves the internet so most of the things we sell are for slightly more upmarket consumers.

Ultimately, I really enjoy my job and I think one of the things that would make a job less interesting is being able to explain it. I think the thing I can take away is that every now and then I get to do something new. Something no-one else has done before and something other people will copy at some point relatively soon.

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