Words of Ernie, Part II: Big vs. Small Agencies

Here's another Ernie Schenck e-mail. This one was in response to my question about big vs. small agencies. It's a question I'm sure you'll face sometime. Do you want to go to a small place under the assumption that you'll get more opportunities? Or will a bigger shop let you do national work sooner? There's no right answer. Either way, it all comes down to the work. Here's how Ernie put it:

Here's the thing. Yes, there are some terrific small shops out there obviously. I'm really heartened to hear you mention Vitro/Robertson. I love those guys. I met Vitro in Maui for the One Show and told him so. There are others like them. Now, on the one hand, if you're really good, those little shops might want to grab you. Especially if you're willing to work for next to nothing and put in the time. They don't have much to pay, you see. Or do they? At your stage, just getting a chance to do some great work and win some awards is payment enough. If it were me, I'd be willing to work for nothing if I knew I could build an awesome book with a hot shop. It's kind of the browser model, you know? I mean, you give it away for free knowing the rewards will come later. Ever heard of Dylan Lee? Dylan got his first job with John Doyle. He later went to Pagano Schenck & Kay and later Mullen where he did all that fantastic Swiss Army stuff [see the CA 1999 Ad Annual]. Now he's at Wieden. Just a huge talent. On the other hand, you can go the big agency route. Not such a bad move depending on the agency. You'll make more money. But you will have to accept a lot of shit work for a time. What you'll need to do is be visible and be great. Get in the line of fire of the CD's. I don't mean politics. That'll kill you. I mean keep your head down and focus on the work. You'll get what you want eventually. Don't whine. Don't bitch and moan. Just do whatever's thrown at you. Look at every job as an opportunity. Turn it into something. I'm telling you, there's opportunity in everything. Will you get noticed faster in a small shop? Yes, of course. Look at Kara Goodrich. Kara spent a lot of time at Leonard Monahan. While she was there, she was more productive than any creative I've ever known. Turned out one incredible ad after another. So, again, if you are really good, you can really accomplish a lot in a little place, but the place has to be wonderful, too. Really, if you've got the talent of a Dylan Lee or a Kara Goodrich, you're going to be a star in ANY agency. If you're not quite that good, well then, you need to give it some thought. Of course, in your case, you're in the former group, correct? Anyway, that's my take.

--Ernie Schenck