Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #4: Jeff Graham

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Dear Me,

This is the 43-year-old you writing to the 21-year-old punk I used to be — to offer a word or two of advice as you start your journey into the wonderful world of advertising.

Here’s the thing. What you learned about agency account service in college centered around big, traditional, corporate-style agencies located in the usual places like New York and Chicago. What they didn’t tell you is there’s an entirely different way to be an agency account person — in smaller creative shops, located in places where ad agencies aren’t supposed to succeed. Places that will allow you to be a ‘creative account guy’ of sorts. A partner in the process with your creative counterparts; and with a genuine sense of ownership in the creative product that happens on your watch.

One day soon, a creative director you work with will hand you a stack of One Show annuals and CAs, and you’ll wonder why. He’ll tell you to study them and have a point-of-view about what you like, what you don’t, and why. You’ll see it as a challenge; but it’s actually an invitation. Take it. It’s what will start you down this alternative path of account service; and change the trajectory of your career in ways you can’t imagine now.

‘The work is all that matters’ — make this your new motto. Be the only account guy you know who carries a book — just like any writer or art director. Sweat the two big things you can actually control each day — how hard you work, and the attitude you bring to it. Keep your head down, dig your ditch, and let your work do the talking for you. Approach all of it with passion and tenacity. Oh, and don’t be a dick to anyone. Ever. This business is rife with insufferable jerks who might look successful to you now; but they’ll soon be unemployable washouts. This is a very small industry. Be humble. Be nice. Do your job in service of these simple principles, and you’ll find a lot of other stuff will naturally fall into place.

And while this advice will help you do a good job at work — don’t forget to do a good job at life too. Don’t let work steal away the moments that really matter with your family and friends — this line of work has a way of doing that. You’ll just regret it later. Remember, we’re not curing cancer here — it’s only advertising.

Always Be Closing,

Jeff Graham

To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.


nice. lots of solid stuff in there.

Jeff's the shit.

good good egg Jeff Graham is.

Oh, and don’t be a dick to anyone. Ever.

Well said, Jeff. Couldn't agree more.


Jeff: This is a great piece! I'm loving reading these all... If only I had gotten this thread of advice 20 years ago...

So, if you're 20-something and reading these - take it as someone slipping you the other team's playbook. There's gold in them thar hills.


That's the Jeff Graham I know and loved working with. Be nice, work hard, ABC. Maybe show this to 21 year old me, too.

JG is one of the good ones. All of us at Grenadier are lucky to have him in our tent.

Rock on Jeff, couldn't agree more. -r

Very inspiring read. Great stuff, Jeff.

This is a framer. Thanks, Jeff.

I wish we had more account guys like you.

Great perspective. Love it. Giving us "account guys" a good name. Nice work Jeff.

Thank you for sharing this. You have exactly identified my goal as an account person.

"Don't be a dick to anyone. Ever." A quote for your workspace.

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