I recently finished the book Adland, by former copywriter and creative director James Othmer. In it, he actually asks Fenske this very question. Is advertising art? He gets a gruff snort from Fenske. Then, after some consideration, Othmer gives what I think is the most insightful answer to the question I've ever heard:
"It doesn't matter whether I think advertising is art. What matters is whether its creator does."
Anyone who watches Mad Men saw Don Draper issue a similar statement this season when he took out a letter stating that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce would not work for cigarette accounts. Setting aside the moral dubiousness of being the Lucky Strike agency one moment, then taking a moral stand the next, Don essentially put a stake in the ground and said, “this is the kind of agency we are. Take it or leave it.” (Apparently, Jay Chiat, among others, ran similar ads on tobacco back in the day.)
As Greg has pointed out, “Look at the ABOUT US section on most agency sites and it will say, ‘We are a full-service marketing communications agency, specializing in broadcast advertising, digital media, corporate branding and public relations.’” The same is true of most agency videos. They’ll talk about changing media (duh), the need to make lasting, meaningful relationships with consumers (no kidding), and that social media has shifted conversations blah blah blah blah. We rarely do a good job of distinguishing our own agencies from all the others out there (ironic, since building memorable brands is our job).
Here’s a video from Firstborn that says pretty much everything most agency websites say (client roster, quick portfolio of work, importance of technology, a sense of the agency’s culture).
It conveys all of this without the use of a narrator or flashy titles. I think it does a pretty good job. At the very least, it makes me feel something about the agency (isn’t that what we try to do with most of our work—get someone to feel something?).
What do you think?
So make mistakes. Just don’t be sloppy.
Maybe it’s wanting to shed a label you think no longer applies. Maybe it’s wanting more of the creative opportunities that usually go to the senior creatives. Maybe it’s just about ego. Whatever the reason, getting people to see you as something more than a junior creative can be harder than it should be.
Here are a few ways you can stop being a junior. With two caveats:
- This has nothing to do with politics, brown-nosing, or acting like someone you’re not. That stuff will get you nowhere.
- Reasons for advancing vary from agency to agency. The size of the shop and your relationship to the people in it have a lot to do with it.
Duh. If you produce great work, it will be recognized. By your bosses. Your peers. Headhunters and other agencies. Just make sure you don’t confuse working hard with treading water.
Stay at the same place for a long time.
Some places may promote you eventually. This requires patience and the afore mentioned “hard work.” But when you’re not only invested in the company’s culture, but you’ve helped maintain and build it, you should be bumped up eventually.
Ask for a promotion.
Tell your CDs that you want to advance. That you want to spearhead a pitch. Or have more facetime with the client. Don’t expect it to happen immediately. But let them know where you see yourself in five years. Then do what it takes to put yourself there.
You have so little control over this, it’s almost not worth mentioning. But there it is.
Get another job.
This is probably the most effective way for junior creatives to become non-junior creatives. New agency. New faces. Suddenly no one knows you as a junior. It's also probably the most effective way to increase your salary. Just remember, the better your work, the better chance you have of getting the job and opportunities you want. It always comes back to the work.