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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Free Advice: Freshman Guidelines

Creative Director Mack Simpson at Adverb lists some hard-won lessons he's learned—and offers good advise for the freshmen creatives pouring out of schools and into agencies. I would think such advise shouldn't have to be exclusive to "creatives".

1) Don’t play politics
There’s an element of politics in advertising just like in all things. There are egos to be stroked, tits for tats and angles to play—usually involving dealings with your clients. That’s fine, but avoid being sucked into internal agency politics. Those who play the bitch and gossip game are oftentimes compensating for their own lack of value added and are looking for allies to cover them. Don’t.

2) Fund your 401-(k)
Or whatever retirement plan your agency offers. When I talk to creatives, I am constantly amazed at how few do this. Look around your agency. How many grey-hairs do you see? Right. Unless your name is on the door, you won’t be doing this forever. Start off deducting a small percentage of your pay—say five percent—and add to your retirement plan every time you receive a salary increase. Get an eight percent raise? Toss three percent of it into your retirement and take home the other five. Step, repeat. You won’t miss the three percent you never saw and you’ll appreciate yourself for doing so later. Adding to your retirement plan is you paying yourself.

3) Don’t be late
To meetings, to recording sessions, to anything. It’s a matter of money and respect. Constantly being five, ten, fifteen minutes late is a trend I’ve seen on the up-tick with young creatives. Don’t do it. Not even to internal meetings with your Account Service teams. I’ve fired session talent, on the spot, for being late. Tardiness costs my clients money. I’ll fire you, too. It’s the same pool of cash and is disrespectful to boot.

4) Don’t be an ass, dickhead—you ain’t all that
Congratulations. You’ve won an award and, if you’re very talented and very lucky, it’s a Big One. Don’t let it go to your head. No one likes working with assholes, you included—especially if you’re simply an ass for ass’ sake. Karma’s a bitch. Remember, there’s a reason hubris is the most tragic of Greek Flaws.

5) Learn mechanics
Here’s another one that’s on the up-tick. Today’s portfolio schools teach screen-ready art. That’s great for your portfolio but learn print production technique so it becomes press-ready; the difference in Pantone sets, mechanical production, and even common sense things like naming your individual Photoshop layers. There was a time when everyone knew how to cut Rubylith (and if you know what that is you’re old like me). Now, no one knows how to make sense of your muddled, sixty-meg, thirty-filter Photoshop file, including you.

6) Think twice, speak once
There are a lot of very bold, bright people working in advertising, people who hold strong opinions and feelings about the work. Boldness is a virtue so, in meetings, you’ll be tempted to chime in with your own two-cents regarding whatever point is being discussed. This is a good thing, but be sure to speak only after you’ve thought about what’s being said—after really digesting the comments and analyzing them fully—and not just speaking “from the gut.” Your words will match your intelligence and someone might actually listen to what you have to say.

7) Don’t be afraid to stay
Much has been said about jumping jobs in order to climb the salary ladder. I have friends who change jobs almost yearly. That’s all fine and dandy, but if you find someplace where you’re doing good work, are rewarded for what you do and feel at home with your fellow ad monkeys, don’t be afraid to stay. There’s more to life than moving boxes.

8) Concept on the fly
I learned this one from an old boss of mine, Jim Hradecky, and it has paid off in spades. If you are able, in a client meeting, to brainstorm on the fly and throw out breathtaking ideas that leave the clients nodding their heads, by all means, do so. You will shock and awe them in amazing ways, and buy-in on the back end will become amazingly easy. If, instead, the ideas you toss out amount to “make the starburst fifteen percent larger,” I may slap you myself in the meeting.

9) Learn the business of advertising
We work in a business, people. A business. Learn what your agency’s profit centers are. Hell, learn what a profit center is. Know how your agency really makes money—media, production, billable time—and work (and think about how) to maximize it. Your bonus check will reflect your efforts—and might lead to your owning a successful shop someday.

10) Help someone else
If you’ve found a job in advertising, I’m Ivory Soap-certain you owe your position, at least in part, to employed ad monkeys who helped you along the way. Pay it back. Look at student books. Offer feedback and advice. Pass out phone numbers and keep your ears open to who’s hiring. Help out up-and-coming juniors who, just like you once did, need encouragement and direction. You won’t regret it and those you help won’t forget it. I know I haven’t.

via Adverb

1 comment:

everysandwich said...

Those all sound good, but number seven I might debate, having been poisoned with personal experience. With so many agencies sucked into giant, clueless conglomerates, you can work a decade with no one knowing who you are or what you've contributed, especially if the client is also a giant conglomerate. You can end up staying through cycle after cycle of mobile management on both sides. Loyalty ain't what it used to be.