}

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Visible Tattoos, Weird Hair Color and Nose Rings On People In Advertising



tattoos photo: tattoos tattoos.jpg
A few weeks ago I saw a terrific young man who had his sleeves rolled up and he had tattoos on both forearms.  I was very much taken aback.  That same week I saw a discussion somewhere on the internet  where someone asked recruiters about sending out people with tattoos.

These two things are the genesis of this post.

I realized after I saw this account person, that in all my years of recruiting, I had never seen a man with visible tattoos.  I have seen a few account men with earring holes (they generally take them off when they see me, but not always) and a few women with small, innocuous tattoos on their ankles, but never a guy.  I advised the person I met to keep his sleeves rolled down, just as I advise men with earrings to take them off for their interviews (a sharp interviewer will see the pierce holes, anyway).

Account and creative people have to deal with clients.  Some clients are pretty loose.  Some are conservative.  An account person always should make his clients feel and look good, and I am sure that a tattoo on a man’s arms is not socially acceptable with all clients.  I suspect that is why most advertising account people don’t have them, at least those that show easily.  Somehow, it is more acceptable for a woman to have a small tattoo on a foot, which most people don’t notice, anyway.

I remember years ago meeting an account executive who had dyed her hair bright purple. She was looking for a job for a long time and found that she had to remove the dye before she could get a new job.  Some months later, I happened to be talking to the person who hired her (not through me). By the time she interviewed for that job, she had gotten rid of the purple color.  However, he told me that in her references, although people liked her and her work ethic, the subject of her hair color was brought up by everyone.  She was told in her new job not to dye her hair again.

Most creative people don't have outrageous hair color.  I have seen some who do, but these are, for the most part, not people who have a lot of client contact or, they have become so successful that they can get away with it.

We also don't see too many people with nose rings,  pierced lips or the like.  Although we occasionally see an innocuous nose stud on women.  Guys with ear rings occasionally show up, but rarely on successful account people.

It could be argued that what people do with their bodies is no one’s business, but most ad agencies, no matter how creative or innovative their product is, are basically socially conservative.  People who don’t have client contact are more likely to be acceptable with body art, purple hair and nose rings.  But I have walked the halls at many agencies and I just don’t see too many advertising people who have these things.

18 comments:

  1. As a ex-wardrobe stylist I always say-if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's usually a duck. Plus, there is something called "central casting". And yes, unfortunately, some people still stereotype.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rather certain that agencies with highly regarded strategy and creative reputations would give a toss about someone with tattoos. Possible in the US, but certainly not in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. correction, 'wouldn't give a toss.'

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your comment, "Unknown". I can't speak for Europe, but with apparently one third of the population between 18-35 with tattoos, how come we don't see more of them in advertising executives? Agencies still need to deal with clients and most clients are conservative.

      Delete
  3. Hm...this might be a generational issue.

    I'm not sure when you last stepped into the creative department of any ad agency or digital agency. At all levels, you will see nose rings and plenty of visible tattoos (on women and men). Especially as you get to the Gen Y/Millenials it's no longer counter-culture. It's in HR, it's in account service--I even had clients with major arm tattoos.

    I think it's only a problem if you are going to a conservative agency and/or have a conservative client. If your client is MTV or Google or Smashbox Cosmetics or Atlantic Records, or nearly any young start-up it's different.

    I agree however that it does limit your options. That's the bigger issue. Your suggestion to your candidate to cover his arms is a smart one.

    Here's another interesting discussion about it:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelhennessey/2013/02/27/having-a-tattoo-and-a-job/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Point well taken, Mom. I work with account people all day long, every day. And having seen, literally, thousands of them over time, this is the first time in nearly thirty years that I saw an account person with visible, large tattoos.

      While I don't particularly like them, I have learned not to let a tattoo color my judgement. My only concern for people with them is, as you point out, it does limit options.

      Delete
  4. As a former "creative" person, I'm guessing that the low incidence of tats in todays creative people is a matter of taste and design. Some of the scenic stuff that is themed and covers large pieces of the epidermis is truly epic. But much as I've been tempted to get a small / invisible one, the whole thing seems to be in tacky taste.
    I did have an earring once :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've tried to communicate that to my 23 year old niece. She has a huge tat on her shoulder, one on her inner forearm and one on her thigh above her knee. She is now starting to at least cover them up when she goes on job interviews, but I still believe she is limiting her prospects long term.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Family is tough because you only want the best for them. It all depends on what your niece wants.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've found that, depending on the industry, this can matter less/more. Hair color is much more acceptable; facial piercings are still frowned upon, though multiple ear piercings can be acceptable as long as there is not an overload. Small tattoos seem to be generally accepted however neck/hand/full sleeve tattoos are still job killers. I work in the Interior Design Industry in LA and we are corp, so I'm aware that this does not float for all cities/job situations.

    My hair is currently about 3 colors, but I pull it off because my attire is tasteful, fashionable and professional, so the hair comes across as 'edgy' and not inappropriate. Many clients even find it refreshing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Anon: I fully agree with you. But taste is a matter of perception. I am sure some industries, and even some jobs within those industries, are more liberal than others. When someone works at a company they can pretty much determine what is tolerated. However, the woman I referred to with the purple hair was tolerated, but could not get promoted.

      Delete
    2. Purple is a strong color, indeed.

      Delete
  8. I spent 30 years in advertising as a copywriter and consider myself fairly open minded but I hate visible tattoos. And editorial in the L.A. Times summed it up nicely:
    People with these visible tattoos don't think: They don't think about their future and how their tastes will evolve. They don't look back to see how what they liked as a child is not as important as it once was. In fact, they might even think they don't have a future.

    I would add that visible tattoos let others predict a future event for that tattooed individual. That event will be when the person looks in the mirror and says to him or herself, "Hmmm, maybe that was wasn't my best decision."

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've spent 30 years in advertising and I have tattoos. They all have very special meaning. I look in the mirror and love the decision. As an industry which is supposed to be able to market to the variety that is the masses, we are stunningly conformist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But, as I recall from another discussion, your tattoos are not immediately visible.

      i fully agree that advertising is overly conformist.

      Delete
  10. I know this is an old thread but thought I'd revive it for just one thought. Having worked as a publicist for a number of musicians and writers, I can say that most artists who are successful don't do the whole extreme appearance thing; perhaps they are just too interested in their craft and/or they let their creations identify them.

    I've had conversations with musicians who try to capture the rebel/outlaw vibe by getting tattoos. I remind them that a lot of the real "outlaws" they grew up idolizing never had any. "If you need tattoos to capture that market segment" I tell them, "what you really need are better songs."

    ReplyDelete

I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

 
Creative Commons License
.