Monday, June 7, 2010
This is the part of the show where I share love with the students out there. Some snark, some serious, some whatever. Call it stuff I wish someone had told me to watch out for, since it’s easier to sidestep landmines when you have a map. An all-inclusive list it’s not, so add your two cents in the comments.
1) It’s the best/worst time to enter the business. Good agencies have closed and layoffs have decimated a large part of the industry. The good part? You have access to technology now that only industry pros had 20 years ago, allowing you to facilitate the creation of almost any idea you can think of.
2) Account execs. At some point, one of them will find their way into your office and complain about *their* client, their love life, or last night’s episode of (insert hit show you hate).
3) Pick your battles. Speaking of, the account exec will email you to say the client agrees with her that red would be a better background color than what you wanted. Your CD will tell you that headline needs work. The developer can’t make the layout match your Photoshop comp. Sweating the details is good—throwing tantrums because you didn’t get your way is not.
4) This is a business. You sell, or *help* sell... stuff, agendas, causes, and so on. Whatever cool *this or that* you come up with will always be in service of commerce. The thing that a company creates gets bought and sold, which keeps people employed. You are part of that process, so this is not about your agenda—it’s about the client’s, and to a large extent, the customer’s.
5) Clients don’t have to like you. School gives you a nurturing environment to learn and fail in. Business doesn’t. An agency can do great work, move product off the shelves and increase sales—and still be fired tomorrow. Why? Because the new marketing director wants to use their agency from a previous assignment. Yes, it often comes down to that.
6) Don’t give up. Ever.
7) Think small. You may not end up at a big shop. So what. There are a lot of smaller shops in different markets doing good shit. If you can find a place where the people are cool, that offers a decent salary, has clients that are known, and the place is winning some awards? There are worse situations to end up in, trust. And by small I mean in the 20 person range. Anything north of 50-75 gets complicated as the vibe changes. Enjoy the small while you can.
8) Nepotism. This is the husband and wife team who owns the shop, or maybe it’s the owner’s spawn who couldn’t find a job anywhere else. Could even be the offshoot of this dreaded disease called the office romance. Or three degrees of separation, the ECD nobody likes who was brought in by the agency head. Regardless, at the end of the day, those relationships will poison the agency dynamic. More importantly, those relationships will always come first—and you will not. Run. Better yet, turn down the offer.
9) Be responsible for your own career. Dan Balser raised this point and the American Copywriter dudes mentioned it relative to money: Take care of yo’ shit, because nobody else will. Don’t stay in a place for two years doing the same thing, wondering why someone else is being promoted and you’re not. Evaluate your situation every so often, adjust accordingly. Often, it’s as simple as asking to be considered for a new role.
10) The hack and the genius. At some point, you will work for, work with, or hire either one.
11) Eye candy. The execution needs to not only look great, but has to be right for the problem at hand. Take some time to learn about your client beyond what the brief says and learn about their industry. Don’t just rely on the insights and *learnings* from planners or the account side either. Fret not, learning you some business won’t rob your creativity none.
12) Focus. The 5-9 all-niter world of school is at odds with clients who live 9-5. While not impossible to get away with, it’s harder to waste all day in an agency trying to find inspiration to finish a project. Deadlines come at all hours, so just lose the excuses and jam.
13) Silos. For all the talk about how the business wants brilliant minds and creative generalists, it still wants them to fit specific positions: Designer. Planner. Senior copywriter. ACD. This can be frustrating when you like to do a lot of different things. HR though needs its specific titles because it makes it easier to define you.
14) Be nice. Like, Dalton nice. It’ll be real hard at times given what you will encounter, but try. And don’t a burn a bridge when *nice* doesn’t work out and you leave a place. I give them shit, but the one account exec you actually liked could end up working for a brand tomorrow, right when you decide to leave the agency to start your own thing. Hello Karma.
15) Kill it. Writer, designer, whatever you do, design or write the hell out of everything that gets put in front of you.
Posted 12:55 AM