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So, What Do You Do?: A Career in Advertising
By: Brian Keller
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Well, you’ve been fired, laid off, moved from one job to another for a chance to do something great. Doing something great usually means not doing what you were hired to do.

You’ve written “Final Days,” “Ends Monday,” and the mind-boggling “Absolutely Ends Monday” for dumb TV commercials done for miserable little places disguised as ad agencies. You’ve art directed “Final Days,” “Ends Monday,” and the mind-boggling “Absolutely Ends Monday” for miserable little places disguised as ad agencies.

You’ve been yelled at by the clients.
 
Your good humor and skill breaks through and you get your a shot at a national agency. Your “TV” gets picked in your first “Shoot Out” and during the pre-production you get called to another agency. After six months of working on “national” newspaper inserts for supermarkets, and wireless carriers, you move to digital, where you do banners for supermarkets and wireless carriers.
 
Then you get another break six months later and go back to the agency where you won your first “Shoot Out.” They’re still working on producing it and you get to rewrite it for someone who was in portfolio school when you and your partner did it originally.
 
You sit in a corridor of offices with no windows. There are offices on either side of the corridor. It’s called death row. You spend free time looking for windows. But, you’re not at a cubicle.
 
You spend a number of years doing this all over the country. You buy plastic furniture so the next time you get fired, get promoted, or start your own shop for the third time in your own home town, you just throw it in the truck and go.
 
You spend an inordinate amount of time telling your friends what you do for a living. Most of your friends know the basics of brain surgery but don’t understand that you don’t work at a TV station. You begin to tell people you work the overnight in a convenience store rather than trying to explain your job.
 
You hear this many times: “How much? I don’t pay my lawyer that much.” You’ve said this many times: “Well, let us look at it, and I’m sure we can get the impact you want by removing a few things and jiggering it around. You want to say: “We should get paid as much as your lawyer. We’re responsible for your entire brand and how it plays to the public. Your lawyer just bribes government officials.”

You take a concept and jigger it around. You watch your concept die a horrible death. You lose that piece of business.
 
You do some great work and watch others pick the production company and get to go to Miami in February while you go to press checks in Maine for the only client in the world who doesn’t work digitally.
 
You never win the softball league championship because your Group Head bats clean up and the South African Executive Creative Director pitches. You design the agency softball shirt. The Group Head and the South African Executive Creative Director get the award for agency promotion. They also get no hits and give up many runs.

You don’t have enough digital. You don’t know what UX is. You don’t have enough print. You don’t know what an SMM operative is. You don’t know what an engagement operative is.  You only know digital. You don’t have traditional. You don’t know what a press check is and there are some fine clients who don’t do digital. You don’t have enough awards. You are not a superstar. You have too much experience for the job. You don’t have enough experience for the job.

You are always too old. You are always too young. Your ex partner just got a job in San Diego. You are in a fight for a job in Ft. Wayne. You have never slept with anyone who looks either like John Hamm or January Jones. Lately you have not slept with anything other than a Labrador Retriever with abandonment issues, and the only person who has decided to stay with you.
 
If this “horribleness” doesn’t seem horrible or doesn’t resonate with you at all, then you need to know that you’re in advertising. It’s one of the neatest occupations in the world, as you are always using your brain even if you don’t like what your brain is doing. Others don’t know what you do and think you’re glamorous. You can lie about your title and no one checks.  You travel. You meet interesting people. And you are always one word away, one concept away, one design away from just the right age, just the right experience, just the right budget, just the right client, just the right agency and just the right job in just the right place where you will find someone who looks like January Jones or John Hamm and they’re interested in staying with you and have no personality flaws. You’re an advertising lifer.
 
You wouldn’t have it any other way. Really. 


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About the Author
Brian Keller is the Creative Director at teeny agency in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Maryland (English), went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies), & attends University of Baltimore School of Law.

Brian's been working primarily in the digital space for years but enjoys all communications avenues.

He has built the creative departments at two agencies.

He likes skateboarding with his son. He also falls off his skateboard and amuses his son. When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence.

Find him online here and at www.teenyagency.com.
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