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So You Want to Start Your Own Advertising Shop
By: Brian Keller
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So, you’re 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 not only sleeping with you but staying with you after they sober up. And they have no personality flaws. You’re an advertising lifer. You wouldn’t have it any other way. Really. 
 
Except…you're just the right guy or girl to run your own agency. 
 
You decide to open your own creative boutique; no account services, no media, just pure creative. You’re pleased with that. So you will become the head of a very cool agency with an uber-office with maybe a pool table, basketball court, and pool.
 
You start your shop at your kitchen table (you’re not David Droga, Alex Bogusky, or any other big shot who can start an agency with millions of dollars in assignments/billings/funding). So, your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/life partner/significant other/roommate stares at you, wondering who pays the healthcare, mortgage, electric, and half the rent as they gave up promising careers as yoga instructors, pastry chefs, actors, triathletes, and podiatrists as you said you would take care of everything. You’re too old to have a roommate, so you don’t care. A Labrador with abandonment issues is the only happy “person” around as you’re making unappetizing phone calls and sending soon-to-be-unanswered emails while petting her.
 
So you contact a cool design shop for your website. You had given them a start while you were an ECD at an international agency. You pick them because they’ll be happy helpers, happily hoping to return your favor. Soon you figure out that people can’t be out to lunch or at meetings for three weeks, so you go to designer(s) two and three. After that, you learn HTML, Cold Fusion, Flash, and Ajax and hire the kid next door to do the rest.
 
Then you try cash out your IRA and find out that the government will be thrilled to keep a nice portion. So you figure you’ll wait until 85.  
 
So then you figure that if you get rolling quickly you’ll have enough money to last for days. With the sale of body parts, you call the phone guy, the Internet guy, the computer guy, the software guys, the production guys, the insurance guys (something could blow up), the banking guys (you may have to put money somewhere), the lawyer guys (if something blows up you’ll need them and you’ll need them to form your LLC, C, Subchapter S, etcetera). If you do all this you’ll need the accountant guys — if you are lucky — to figure out that your money goes to the government and the other guys. So you’ll understand benefits, overhead, monetize, depreciation, above line, below line, and that no money comes to you. You won’t understand how Valium works but will be thankful it does.
 
You’ll need staff. You need people who are affordable like interns, parolees, your mother’s friend’s daughter — “She knows Photo Shop” — and anyone who has a vague idea of how to link LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, your website, Google, Google+, Google Circles, Google Chrome, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Digg, YouTube, Vimeo, etcetera.
 
So then you’ll explain what you are doing to all your friends. They say happily that they have friends who need PR. You tell them that you don’t do PR. Their eyes glaze over.
 
Then you’ll contact everyone you know for business and concurrently look at prices people will pay for plasma.
 
After a while, though you don’t realize it, you’ve been doing a pretty good job and out of the blue you get a call and someone on the other line asks you to undertake their whole brand makeover. You ask if it was the website, your online marketing, your mastery of social media, your proprietary account plan, your connection to a similar type of client, your write up in the paper, or your hysterically funny self-promotion YouTube video. They answer, “No, I talked to your ex-girlfriend who’s married to the cardiologist. We were in St. Barts and I asked if she knew anyone in PR. She mentioned you.” You say, “Do you know my shop does advertising and not PR?” She says: “No, Shelley thinks you’re the cutest.” So you don’t ask a stupid question. You meet with Shelley’s friend after St. Barts. She likes your cuteness factor and your work. You have a new client! She asks you if you do media planning and buying, and do you have strength in account services? Then you say: “Of course; we’re all about media, and account services is our backbone.”
 
Your staff is like you — looking for a shot — so you give them one. They don’t let you down. So you figure you don’t know what to figure except that this is kind of fun. You also figure out that media and account services consist of smart people.
 
So you’re on your way. 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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