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Don't Be Stupid; It Could Be Your Career
By: Brian Keller
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If you work in an ad agency, have been in an ad agency, have worked in an ad agency, have walked by an agency, or live in a state where they have a city that may have an ad agency, you have gotten calls or notes like this: “Hi, I’d like to get a job in an agency. I’ve sent resumes to at least one hundred agencies. I’ve applied for every job I can apply for, I’ve contacted people through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, BeBo, Orkut, Google, Instagram, J-Date, Match.com, and my mother’s friend’s son’s girlfriend who buys something (I think it’s media). I can’t catch a break. It’s this closed little club and I know I can do it. I got your name from one of your classmates at Aaron Burr High. I went there too, class of 2006. I think I would be good at making up the ads.

So you, being a good citizen and not enormously bright, decide to lend a helping hand. You write back.
 
Hi Frankie:
This Violet Rutherford and I’m a Group Creative Director at Marcus Bailey World Wide. I work on most of our internal cleansing products and Angel Paste Toothpaste (plutonium white). I got your note and would like to try and help. What kind of spot are you looking for?
 
And you get:

Hi Violet,
Thanks so much for writing. I’ve really gotten frustrated hunting for a job in agency. Are you an agency? I really don’t know what Marcus Bailey World Wide does. What kind of advertising does Marcus Bailey World Wide do? What is a Group Creative Director? I really don’t care what I do. I’ll start anywhere. What kind of group do you creative direct for?
 
Hi Frankie,
I’m an Art Director and my partner and Co-Creative Director (Lars Ulrich) are pretty much responsible for the creative output of our group. Now how can I help you with your quest for work?
 
Hi Violet,
Well, I still don’t quite know what I want to do, but I’ll start anywhere.
 
Hi Frankie,
I’m sure you would start anywhere. But you need to know what you are aspiring to do.
 
Hi Violet,
That’s easy! I’d like to work in an ad agency, or maybe on the client side. But I’d like to do TV commercials and print ads, and radio, maybe. Maybe I’d like to be the one who comes up with the ideas. I mean I know I’m creative but I can’t get anyone to help me. I like those caveman commercials. I know I could come up with something like that.
 
Hi Frankie,
Well, I don’t have positions now for folks who don’t really know what they want to do. I really need you to help me with that.
 
Hi Violet
That’s what I mean. I just can’t get anyone to give me a break. Maybe I should do digital or maybe interactive, and then I would go into advertising. Is digital interactive? Does interactive have to be digital? I’ve heard that digital is big now and so is interactive. I can also Facebook. What do you think? 

Hi Frankie,
I wish you the best of luck.
 
It’s very interesting that no one you know would call a family friend and ask for a job as a doctor. Think about it. And realize: it’s not easy to get your first job in an ad agency. But yes, you can get a job if you go about it in a professional manner.
 
Agencies are paid for their intellect. Use your intellect to figure out what an agency does. Use your intellect to figure out and explore the client/agency relationship. What does a client do? What does a brand represent? What are the different mediums that agencies work in? What are the departments in an agency and how do they complement each other? Be sure that you know that advertising is a serious business and the stakes are very high.
 
Figure out which part of your intellect will fit what discipline in an agency. Come to your job search prepared with an idea of what you want to do, what you can do, and what you can offer.
 
When you get that one call, that one returned email, that one phone call, make sure you can at least answer this one question: “What do you want to do in an agency?" Figure it out before you send that letter or make that call. Someone will get back to you if you’re tenacious. Don’t waste the tenacity with ignorance.
 
Many of us in this business are familiar with some books that illustrate the business very well. They are not new but they are evergreen. If you have no idea of what we do but want to do what we do, you could try (in no order) reading:
  1. The Other Guy Blinked
  2. Soap Opera
  3. Inventing Desire
  4. Where The Suckers Moon
Yes, they are all non-fiction. Yes, we know the names of the authors. We know you can find them. Happy hunting.


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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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