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So I’ve been doing this advertising lark since 1989.
NINETEEN EIGHTY NINE.
The thing is, I never really wanted to be in adland – not because I didn’t like it, but because I never had considered it and the only reason I got in is because an opportunity fell into my lap … thanks to being very, very, very cheap.
Very, very gullible.
Anyway, despite all that, I’ve done OK and while I hope there are new adventures and experiences ahead, there are some ‘lessons’ that I’ve learnt over the years that I wish I’d known when I first stepped in to the industry … and because I am soooooooooooo generous I am going to pass 5 of them on to you, to do with whatever you wish.
Which is probably ignore them.
Which is probably right.
Anyway, here we go …
1. NOT ON THE SAME PAGE:
At some point you’ll work with people – colleagues and/or clients – whose definition of ‘common sense’ won’t be anywhere near yours.
You’ll find yourself in a situation where the response to your ideas make you literally question your sanity, intelligence and experience.
OK, so sometimes that will be because you haven’t thought something through – or you’ve just been an idiot – and when that happens, you should learn from the experience so you don’t make the same mistake next time – however there will be occasions where you realise the person you’re dealing with is a total idiot and while it would be tempting to smash them in the face, there are 3 ways you can go:
[A] Walk away in the knowledge they’re going to get what they deserve.
[B] Keep reframing how you state your point of view so it kind of fits within their feedback.
[C] Go and do it with another client/colleague/agency and make them regret their decision. Even if they are too stupid to realise what you’ve done, you’ll know … and if you’re a petty little shit like me, you’ll appreciate success is the best form of revenge.
2. CONVERSATIONAL PARALYSIS:
You will experience some of the most superfluous, pointless conversations and meetings in your life … where some of the most flowery, pretentious and pointless language you’ve ever heard will be used.
While it is a great opportunity to play Bullshit Bingo, DO NOT BECOME A PART OF IT.
You might think saying words like “synergy” and “brand onion” will help you fit in, but it will also suck you away from reality and to be any good at this job, understanding of what’s going on in the real world – rather than the marketing world – is a necessity not, as the ad industry seems to like to believe, “novel”.
3. TEMPORARY ROCKSTAR.
If you’re lucky, there will be at least one point in your career where you are part of something that achieves incredible success. You will feel like a star because you’ll have people wanting to talk to you and – potentially – hire you.
Don’t believe it.
By all means bask in the glow of praise for a while, but don’t think it’s real.
Adland is a shallow industry where people will pass praise on anyone who has achieved a modicum of success … then bitch you out as soon as your back is turned.
The people who have the right to act like God’s are the ones who’ve consistently produced great, powerful, effective and meaningful things … and the funny thing is, the people who have achieved that are generally the most humble, kindest of guys.
Remember that, because it’s people like Dan Wieden and John Hegarty who you should be looking at, not the guys who created the latest ad that’s got adland panties wet.
4. THERE IS RARELY A WRONG WAY.
Adland loves to talk about methodologies. They love to say stuff as if there is irrefutable evidence that their way is the right way. They come up with fancy terms and proprietary tools … but it’s all bollocks.
Well, not bollocks, but all open to debate.
For every successful approach, there’s a counter successful approach.
The thing with adland is that there are so many variables that what works once, might not work again. Or what once failed might become an overnight sensation. Seriously, if you want proof, just look at Fallon’s Cadbury’s campaign.
But in all seriousness, the reality is there are lots and lots and lots of ways to approach challenges and very rarely will something be totally wrong. It might not work as well as another approach [emphasis on ‘might’] but don’t fall into the trap of believing there is only one way to do things because anyone in adland who say’s that is either a deluded twat or someone who is responsible for their agencies proprietary tool.
5. HAVE A LAUGH
Advertising is a business. I know it doesn’t always act like it is, but it is. And while it doesn’t cure cancer or stop famine, it does play a role – albeit small – in society and industry.
Now contrary to popular belief, it’s always been this way … except in the last 10 or so years, adland has decided that it’s better to dress, speak and act like their clients rather than do things that their clients actually want – like helping their business be better.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work for agencies – and bosses – who appreciated clients pay us for what we do for them, not how we look and talk in meetings with them … so while we have to produce work to the highest of standards and approach every challenge with a sense of purpose and professionalism, don’t forget part of the reason we’re hired is because we have different ways of looking at things and that is a strength, not a weakness.
So be true to yourself and enjoy the madness … because this industry needs personalities as much as it does talent.
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