Want to Survive Agencies? Tips from Vets

Breaking into the advertising industry as a young person isn’t easy. That’s why we asked some seasoned agency execs to share some words of wisdom with advertising’s incoming freshmen — advice they wish they had gotten themselves when they were first starting off in their careers.

From finding mentors to picking the right agency and learning coding, see what execs from agencies like 360i, Deutsch LA and BBH New York have to say to you young’uns about making it in advertising.

Winston Binch, partner and chief digital officer, Deutsch LA
Don’t sit at your desk or in your office all day. Advertising is a physical sport. Get up and talk to people. Share a laugh or something personal, get a beer, go out to lunch, catch a movie, grab breakfast, play sports or ride bikes together. I don’t care how smart you are. Don’t be a hard-working asshole. Be a smart, hard worker who people want to be around. You’ll get a lot further, faster.

Bryan Wiener, chairman & CEO, 360i
Volunteer for tough assignments, exceed expectations and seek out mentors where you can soak up their knowledge. The marketplace is undergoing tremendous disruption that presents challenges and opportunities for businesses and careers. Embrace the chaos as it presents great opportunities for smart, high energy, optimistic young workers.

Sarah Watson, Chief Strategy Officer, BBH New York
Our education system values the finished product of an essay/exam/project, regardless of how it was produced. It can be hard to make the wholesale switch to a world where the most valuable people are not the silent, solitary perfectionists but the ones who enthusiastically throw themselves into every single challenge, no matter how mundane. These are the people who bring a transformative light and energy to organizations — and go far, quickly.

Chris Colborn EVP Global Chief Experience Officer, R/GA
“What do you wish you’d know?” is perhaps the most asked advice at the start of something new. The funny thing is, that’s everyday in digital. I wished I’d known about YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. I wished I’d experienced smartphones and smart TVs. But they didn’t exist. I embraced them and adapted. How will wearables, digital wallets and next-gen AI impact consumer behavior? No one can say, but you will need new skills each and every year. So remain open, think holistically, experiment often and continue to learn.

David Armano, managing director, Edelman Digital Chicago
Choose your agency, don’t let it choose you. There are not a ton of differences in agency models. Agencies make money on their people and time. What is different are the cultures. Find one that’s right for you. Ask yourself if you really know why you want to be in an agency setting. Understand the meaning of professional services. All agencies fall under this category of business. It means you provide a service to your clients. This isn’t for everyone. Sometimes you need to please. Sometimes you need to push them. But regardless, you have to be motivated by putting your clients needs ahead of your own. Their success is your success.

Pierre Lipton, chief creative officer, M&C Saatchi NY
Work harder than anyone else, work with people you think are better than you and find a mentor.

Aaron Shapiro, CEO, Huge
Learn coding, even if it’s just basics. Having a strong grasp on how technology works will be advantageous to anyone starting in an agency, whether it is to understand how to manage developers, or learn the timeline of building out a project.

Chris Graves, chief creative officer, Team One
It’s important to learn how to distill complex business problems into simple, powerful ideas that can capture the imagination and ultimately travel across platforms. The advertising world is starved for people who can do this, and fortunately most young creatives are fluent in digital and social culture.

David Slayden, executive director, BDW
My third week into my first job in advertising, I had my first client meeting. Purpose? Not communicated. With pen and notebook in a slim leather case, I joined our account director in a fast-paced Q&A about the creative rationale. All questions were directed at me. The account guy told me later: Whoever carries the least is assumed to be in charge. I also heard this advice (from someone I don’t remember): “Don’t complain. Don’t explain. Don’t talk when you can listen.” Not easy to do, really, but it’s never failed me.

Image via Flickr