Interviewing for the first time? You’re more than a bunch of ads.
August 8, 2008
An editor requested I write a brief story about how I got my first job in Advertising. They will be publishing it, and others like it, over the next few months. Here’s a advanced copy of mine:
I put my book together the old-fashioned way: with markers and tape. An art director from my dad’s office scribbled me some quick drawings and I markered in the headlines. I got 3 offers in one week. Took the one at Leo Burnett. I still remember the number: $19,500 a year. And that was $1,500 dollars more than the offer I got at JWT (then called J. Walter Thompson).
Beyond the better salary, LBCO promised me a chance at working with a rising star they’d just hired from Doyle Dane Bernbach. They still called it that. My new boss did anyway. His name was Ted Bell. He had a partner, John Eding. The two of them, I was told, were cut from a different cloth than the TV-centric majority at Leo Burnett. They cherished print and were good at it. The duo had actually created some of the more famous print campaigns of their time. Chivas Regal being one of them. (Look it up.)
Anyway, I took my book into Ted’s new office and came out with a job. How’d I do it? To this day, I know it wasn’t just on account of my book. I had that right mix of awe, enthusiasm and confidence. I was able to sell him on myself. I remember showing stories I’d written for my university newspaper. I kid you not. I had my own music column in Madison, Wisconsin. Highlights from that foray into journalism include a review of a sparsely attended saloon gig by the Replacements (“These guys are going places.”) as well as coverage of the Violent Femmes. I don’t think Ted knew who either act was but he liked that I was a writer. I may have even shown him some song lyrics I wrote. You laugh, but I got the job.
Of course my book had ads in it. Three campaigns consisting of three or more print ads. I had a couple TV scripts but Ted didn’t read them. He did, however, read the body copy. Like I said, Ted loved words. FYI, he’s a best-selling author now.
Three campaigns of three or more ads. The Rule of 3. I still tell creative candidates that this is your price of entry.
One line of mine from that fateful interview I’ll never forget (partly because Ted always liked to remind me) was when I told him “with the right art director I could sell venereal disease.” I knew he would laugh, get it, and get me. I had a sense of him. I read the room. A gift I have since embraced as something from God. We all have such gifts. Nice to know what they are before interviewing!