I don’t know why I’m writing about ad agency life — I haven’t been an agency employee since 2014.
Oh yeah, I remember why I’m writing this. 'Cause I miss it.
Sure, we all like to complain about the day-to-day stuff.
“The client just doesn’t get it!”
“We have like zero budget!”
“How do we sell THAT?!?”
But there are like a billion less-fun and less-cool ways to make a living.
Here are a few awesome things about ad agency life that should make you
grateful to be employed by an agency (or make you want to go work for
1 — Dat culture tho.
T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. (Or at least jeans and sneakers.) Fridges full of soft drinks, cabinets full of snacks. Beer on Fridays, and probably a lot of other days too. Some sort of foosball/ping pong/air hockey/pinball/arcade game in the breakroom. Long lunches.
Basically, all of those things that “cool companies” are now doing to attract and keep employees — they’ve been commonplace at ad agencies for decades. The biz knows how to take care of its own.
2 — Brainstorming.
It’s not always as glamorous as you might think — especially if you’re on a urinal cake account. Actually, strike that. That would probably be REALLY fun to work on.
But seriously, one of the great joys of my professional life has been going into a conference room or empty office with an art director to throw all of our bad ideas at each other, in the hopes of coming up with those magical two or three concepts that we’ll fall in love with.
Yes, some of the time is spent talking about anything but the project. Significant others, kids, colleagues, sports, “who wore it better,” etc. But creativity doesn’t just plop onto the page when you sit down at a desk. Sometimes you’ll get those great ideas in 15 minutes. There are, however, times when it takes 15 hours. Regardless of how long it takes, brainstorming helps you keep the creative juices flowing, helps you bond with your colleagues, and can be super-fun.
3 — Success stories.
While the fellas and dames on “Mad Men” never had to deal with ROI, site visits, open rates and clickthroughs, they also had no way to tell how effective their work was (if it was at all). They could always try to take credit for increased sales, but they had no way to verify it. (I guess that’s why they kept buying drinks for their clients.)
It can be both stressful and a pain in the rear to be so dependent on “the numbers.” However, there’s something really cool about being able to point to your client’s successes and know that your efforts have directly helped to achieve them. Almost like you’re fulfilling your role as a cog in the grand machine of capitalism. Or at least helping an entrepreneur achieve their >version of the American Dream. Which is pretty cool.
4 — Creative expression.
There’s something amazing about getting paid to be creative. The idea that your words, art or designs have value to others is a huge ego boost. (Especially if you’re paid well.) And while clashes between those people with larger egos (not me, of course, I’m far too smart and talented to get caught up in that) are almost inevitable, the upside to working with other agency pros is that when it all goes well, everybody wins. Happy agency, happy client, happy customers.
Ah, agency life. Would love to get back in if I could.
Or maybe...just maybe...I start my own? Stay tuned...
You’ve got opinions on this, I just know it. What are your favorite things about agency life? Share in the comments below!
With 20+ years of experience — both at agencies and "on the client side" — Harley David Rubin has enjoyed many challenges and opportunities in his career. He's currently freelancing, with an eye toward starting his own creative communications company. And he loves to share the stories and "wisdom" he's accumulated over the years. (Because what writer doesn't love talking about himself?) He's truly thankful for the opportunity to write for TalentZoo.com, and he's happy to connect via LinkedIn or even on Twitter at @hdrubin.