The secret to doing well in the creative department? Tend bar and study psychology.

November 7, 2008

images-1“Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? I know just what you need.”

This week and next I have the privilege of speaking at a pair of learning institutions here in Chicago. The first engagement is with an advanced marketing course at DePaul University. The second has me addressing the class at Chicago’s Portfolio School. While the former deals with marketing theory the latter is about getting a job in a creative department. Both very useful and exciting classes and I look forward to helping them. One of my favorite activities is presenting ideas and/or work to students. I never think of it as a homework assignment.

However, preparing for these engagements reminded me, once again, of some advice my father Larry Postaer (Founder, Chief Creative Officer, RPA) once gave me about advertising study.

Number 1: “Know a little about a lot.” The perfect argument for a Liberal Arts education is also applicable to copywriting. We will have hundreds of clients in our careers and few of them from the same fields. Best to have working knowledge in as many areas as possible. This was profoundly good advice before entering college and then the workforce. With technology creating new categories of business every day, the notion has only gotten stronger.

Number 2: “Work in a bar.” Pops believed that attending to customers (particularly in a saloon) would teach one how to understand people’s wants and needs better than any classroom. The drunk and wanna-be-drunk are often hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Figuring out which, and how best to deal with it, is invaluable to an aspiring copywriter.

Given I got this advice during College, my father also recommended taking psychology courses in lieu of marketing ones. The reasons were much the same as for working in a bar. Learn how people think. Learn what makes them tick. Learn how to persuade them.

In his opinion, Psych 101 and creative writing were what made a good copywriter. That and working in a bar. I’d argue to the freshman class of 2009, it’s still a good plan.


7 Responses to “The secret to doing well in the creative department? Tend bar and study psychology.”

  1. I was a psych major and can make the meanest margarita you’ve ever had. How do I send your father my resume?

    Cheers, brilliant advice from your dad… I couldn’t agree with it more.

  2. SRP said

    My Dad’s a fan of this site, so he knows where to find you!

  3. Jason Fox said

    I wish more agencies would take your advice on Number 1. It seems that so many places are looking for someone with specific experience in a given field. Why? I have no real idea. We’re in the business of solving problems creatively and being experts at doing that. We don’t have to be experts about a client’s business to do good work for them. And if you’re worth anything as a creative anyway, you’ll learn what you need to know posthaste. It just gets frustrating. These days, people are all abuzz about social networking. Well, I’m sorry that none of my existing clients have taken the plunge, but I’m pretty sure I could learn everything I need to in about three days and then reel off some sweet ideas.

    Sorry, I’m venting. Fox out.

  4. Steff,
    Never worked as a bartender. But did work in a diaper laundry with attending Texas Tech (proud to be Red Raider). The job as simple. Empty a giant bag of dirty diapers onto a huge table and dig it. Primarily, the

  5. job consisted of opening the used diapers and sorting them into three separate piles…peepee, poopoo, and “gawd awmighty what did this kid eat for dinner.” There us only difference between working in a huge ad agency and working in the diaper laundry. At the diaper laundry, we got to wear a mask.

  6. SRP said

    Didn’t know you went to Tech, Jim.
    Congrats on the season.
    As for being campus “diaper genie,” must’ve been rough, especially deep in Tex/Mex country. Caliente poops!

  7. It was easier than sitting through most of the CRC meetings at Leo Burnett…

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