Careers can be had in Adland but almost certainly not at the same company. Whether one resides on the client side of marketing or plies his craft at an agency, transiency is a fact of life. People come and people go, some egregiously, but most harmoniously. Such is the ebb and flow between marketing’s coral reefs. Few denizens stick around.
Back in the day, a new employee may have entered into a marketing position, say at Kraft Foods or Leo Burnett, envisioning a full career spent in service to his company. That was during the time of gold anniversary watches and company pension plans. Alas, these and most other markers of solidarity are gone. Long gone.
Looking back I can safely say I was among the last rookie classes that actually believed it possible to stay at one company for an entire career. For a long while it appeared I just might. I remained at the Leo Burnett Company for over 15 years (happily, I might add), entering as a junior copywriter exiting as the Chief Creative Officer of an agency within that agency, LBWorks. During that time I even sat among the company’s board of directors. Heady stuff.
But then I took another job. And then another…
I’ve been in my current position as ECD of gyro, San Francisco for almost two years. If you compare that to my marathon tenure at LBCO, it is but a short sprint. However, compared to my fellow colleagues not only am I not considered new I am probably more tenured that half of them! Said another way, since I began my job a dozen or more folks have joined us and about that many have left.
Welcome to Adland, circa 2014. Turnover is commonplace, even normal. Not necessarily indicative of toxicity or any other malady, the myriad species of marketing fish merely change reefs when something shiny distracts them. Why stay? With no equity to be had, or long-term promises to be kept, both employee and employer are part of an ever-changing and fluid ecosystem. Nowadays, and for some time really, we have become so accustomed to transiency that even thinking about a 5-year plan makes us cross eyed.
I don’t believe in reminiscing and I won’t do it here. There are pros and cons to this new world order. But make no mistake it is our reality. Like professional sports, our teams change every season. To remain competitive, one must adapt.
For one thing that means taking it all in stride. Do not look at departures as grave warning signs unless they are part of a mass exodus, which, we must note, are typically referred to as lay-offs. When people do quit, HR still conducts exit interviews, searching for reasons why.
Well here’s one I actually heard: “They offered me a few more bucks and some new things to work on. I figured it might be fun. If it doesn’t work out I’ll come back or try somewhere else.”
How the f**k do you counter that? Why even try? A better move is to thank the man for his great service, sincerely wish him good luck and then offer someone else a few more bucks and some new things to work on. The good news is your mother was right. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Johnking1956, The Man who would be King is a new blog worthy of our attention. Without breaking his anonymity, John King is the pseudonym of an AD/Creative Director, who used to work at a big ad agency in Chicago before getting laid off and moving to Reno to ply his trade at a resort casino. That alone makes for an interesting tale, right? I mean the creative department of a casino sounds more like the set a reality TV show than a job.
But then the recession hit, clobbering the real estate and gaming industry, nowhere worse than second tier markets like Reno. King found himself out of work. Again. Adding injury to insult, severe back problems, first encountered while working in Hong Kong, came back with a vengeance, filling King’s days with debilitating pain and copious amounts of morphine. He wears a plastic girdle-like brace to keep his spine true and may have to install a morphine pump into his body.
It’s not pretty or easy being King. However, he is still determined to find work. His blog is about that journey, a journey that begins each morning with more pain than you and I, God forbid, will ever know. What makes the story utterly compelling in the man’s bracing optimism in the face of these hardships.
This is one of those stories that breaks your heart but can lift your spirit as well. King’s tale reminds me of Mickey Rourke’s Oscar winning turn in The Wrestler. It’s that painful. That poignant. That good. You cringe but endlessly root for him.
King is talented and deserves another shot. But he is a hard hit man in a hard hit industry and place. Recovery for him or it is far from certain.
And yet, he’s chosen to blog about it.
Not to sound like a film trailer, but if you need to be reminded of the strength of the human spirit this holiday season, consider The Man who would be King: Johnking1956.tumblr.com
I just returned from my stint at Portfolio Night –the 6th annual meet and critique for advertising students set up by IHaveAnIdea. In a format not unlike speed dating, old “pros” like myself review aspiring creative persons and their books, one after another, for about three hours. The event takes place every year in various cities around the world. For the second year in a row DDB served as host in Chicago.
First: Kudos to DDB.
Hosting Portfolio Night is a costly, time-consuming distraction for a busy ad agency -especially one that has weathered such difficult times. As with a lot of Chicago agencies, business has not been booming. More devastatingly, just months ago, DDB’s Chief Creative Officer, Paul Tilley committed suicide. Last year, that same man stood before a similar group welcoming us to Portfolio Night.
How easy it would have been for DDB to beg off. Justifiable too. But the show must go on. In the end it was affirming seeing all these young faces, their lives still in front of them. Yes, one creative light had gone out. But now countless others were looking for a spark.
Unfortunate then, the mean-spiritedness I discovered online. One blogger deemed Portfolio Night an excuse for leering, lechery and drinking. Not true. Not fair. Not good. If any cynics were present, DDB’s Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Bob Scarpelli offered simple marching orders. In a video address, he asked we professionals to remember who’d helped us when we were green and vulnerable.
On a more professional note, I have to comment on the work. Not so much on the quality (a mixed bag) but on the content itself. Of the eight people I reviewed, I saw virtually no integrated campaigns. Just about every portfolio consisted of posters and print ads. One or two had a banner ad or a piece of guerrilla work. But I saw no DM, promotional work or interactive materials. None. Where were the tricked out microsites and new media? Where was the “branded content” and multimedia designs? Hell, where was the TV?
2008 and these were the newest generation of adults -the so-called “millennials.” Yet, in some cases, I might as well have been looking at turn-of-the-century circus posters! Now I happen to love print and posters. But I’m old school. For me, that’s familiar media. That’s what my spec book looked like. Indeed, I dug into these beginners with gusto: This is a good headline. Did you try putting the product here? And so on…
It wasn’t until the cab ride home I realized how old-fashioned their books were. Made me smile. If, according to just about everyone, the advertising business is in the midst of a sea change then why wasn’t it evident in any of the books I looked at? It’s easy (though often incorrect) to point at big agencies and say we don’t get it. What about the Facebook generation? If they don’t get it, who does?