The Dalai Lama once said, “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” This became easy to understand as I reflect on my career in advertising over the past 25 years. An advertising agency was the very last place I envisioned myself working but when you graduate college during a recession, you take what you can get, which was a temp job at an advertising agency. And what a stroke of luck that was to be inducted into this inspiring, innovative, albeit crazy, business. Like the mafia (hey, I’m from NJ), it pulled me in, and I could never get out. Sadly I joined the industry post-Mad Men days, never imbibing the three martini lunches. Clearly things are always changing in the advertising world and here a few of the biggest changes that I’ve seen since my beginnings…
Parties: Where did these go? Agencies used to have killer shindigs; ad club events were the hottest ticket in town, and the media – their bashes were over the top. In the mid-90’s we were rubbing elbows with TV stars at the legendary premiere parties at Trump Plaza – even the Donald was there. I mean, it was huge! I think when they started limiting two drink coupons on Addy award night, it was all downhill.
Assholes: Unfortunately, they did not fade away like the parties. In fact, they have multiplied. I’ve met way too many charlatans over the years. Nowadays I try to abide by a “no assholes” policy – not employees, not vendors and not clients. No time for that. While we’re at it, we also need to bring more honesty back in advertising – maybe not quite as literal as “Crazy People” - remember “Volvo: they’re boxy, but they’re good”?
Technology: When I began in 1991, the World Wide Web was only in infancy, so I would actually have to talk with people. Yes, talk. On the phone. A lot. Sometimes in person! Eventually email, software, and cell phones (I’m skipping right over pagers) made our jobs easier. Now in the 21st century, technology has infiltrated the way we market as well. We’re running advertising that targets demographically, geographically, behaviorally, and contextually. If that doesn’t work, then we can retarget them or reach them with non-skippable pre-roll or maybe with big fat mobile rich-media interstitials. Don’t even get me started on native and cross-device tactics.
People: Aside from the aforementioned a-holes, there really are some remarkable and exciting people in the ad world. Over the years I’ve been lucky to work with them as my co-workers, clients, agency partners, industry peers – you know who you are! And while the faces may change, it will always be a client-focused, team-collaborating, people-driving results industry where there is no simple formula, digital equation, or cookie-cutter solution. Despite all of the technology we encounter, it’s still people coming up with outstanding ideas.
So while fate may have chosen the agency life for me, I’ll continue to embrace it and do my best to enhance it where I can, even if that’s just by throwing some damn fine parties.