• Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #26: Blake Ebel

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    Dear young me,

    24 years ago, you were given this advice by a great creative director named Steve Turner.

    It was more of a creative philosophy of sorts, but I think it still it applies today. So re-read it and get back to work.

    1. everything you need.

    A pencil. A piece of paper. A kitchen table. That’s it.

    2. there is a difference.

    The real difference between one creative shop
    and another is not the size,
    nor the accounts, and certainly not the location.
    It is the quality of the people inside.
    For me, the people and the values
    they subscribe to are the heart and soul of the agency.
    Their commitment to each other
    and to the work makes the difference.

    3. why are we here?

    Great advertising sells product.
    More importantly it sells ideas.
    It moves people to do something
    or to feel some way they haven’t before.
    We have the rare ability
    to change people’s opinion.
    The way they act.
    The way they feel and sometimes even the way they speak.

    4. courage.

    Someone once said, “any idiot can kill a good idea.
    But it takes a real genius to recognize a good idea.”
    This business of advertising is such a fragile one.
    Big ideas are often intangible.
    We must have the compassion and the
    capacity to hear ideas and more importantly,
    the courage to run with a great one.
    We can’t afford to do safe, quiet advertising.
    We just won’t be heard in today’s market.
    Be safe and the only thing you will hear
    is the sound of your client’s market share


    5. do the work.

    Do good work.
    All the negative day-to-day jibberish goes away.
    Do good work.
    Forget about the politics of making ads and simply make ads.
    Do good work.
    You’ll feel better at the end of the day. So will everybody else.
    Do good work.
    You will actually earn your day’s pay.
    Do great work.
    And you will never have to look back and say
    you should have done it differently.

    6. you’re only as good as your last ad.

    This business has a short memory.
    That’s a good thing.
    It keeps us reaching,
    and stretching and fighting for the next great idea.
    The day you believe you have it all figured out
    is the first day of the end of your career.

    7. God is in the details.

    Details separate good from great.

    8. say no.

    Say no to nay-sayers.

    Make believers out of them.

    9. don’t give your clients what they ask for, give them what they never dreamed possible.

    Isn’t that why clients come to us in the first place?

    10. be nice.

    Creatives will respect you.
    Account people will help you.
    Clients will request you.
    And people will be nice back.

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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #25: Holly Menges

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    Dear Younger Holly,

    I know it doesn't seem worth it. Getting up at 6 am packing your work clothes into your backpack and riding your bike from Allston into Boston every effing hot and humid morning all summer long for a job in the basement mailroom that you're not even getting paid for. On the bright side, everybody's smoking upstairs, so it's healthier down there. Though I am sorry there weren't any internships available in the creative department, I know that's what you wanted.

    When you get to work and the sweat dries and you change in the bathroom into your professional clothes, which on some days include pink silk wide-legged hi-waisted knee-length shorts, don't bother to fix your helmet hair. It's the 90s, there's no saving it. Just give up. Later, when it’s time for your shift at the Greek-run, No Name restaurant out on the pier that is possibly an illegal establishment, you're going to put your hair up anyway. Nobody wants hair in their fried clams.

    What you don't know yet is that delivering faxes from the one fax machine in the basement of that big advertising building to the appropriate recipients, and pulling the tear sheets from all the newspapers and magazines, is way better than working at the donut place like your roommate Melanie. She has to get up at 4 am. Granted, she's now Executive Vice President, Group Head and Director of Operations for the world's largest public relations firm, but still, ok that’s not the best example. My point is your patience will pay off. It’s just time in the game.

    The guy upstairs on the top floor who, when he is in, sits at the drafting table outside of the creative director's office because there's no proper place for him to sit and nobody cares because he's just the copywriter intern, is going to get fired. Yes, unpaid interns can get fired for not showing up for work and for showing up for work still wasted from the night before.

    That's right. He's sitting in your spot. The spot where you write your first print ad that gets printed in an actual newspaper that some other sad intern will pull the tear sheet for. It's for a charity hike to raises money for cancer research. It has an illustration of a hiking boot. And your headline reads, "Give cancer the boot." It's brilliant. This is also the spot where you write your first radio script that says, "As long as you're living under my roof you'll do as I say". And it's for a roofing company. Brilliant again. And when you hear it for the first time on the radio you scream so loud Melanie nearly runs her car into the ditch (don’t worry, you eventually get a car, too.) It’s all so much better than the hungover guy could ever do.

    Side note— the senior writer will try to convince you that he'll give you better projects if you sleep with him, but don't do it. You're going to get the good projects anyway. Because you are good. I know you don’t believe it but please try. Try to believe in yourself. And if you want to go to that Tom Petty concert with him and smoke pot with his old-fart 28-year-old friends I’ll tell you that it won’t ruin your life so have at it.

    Keep working hard, keep showing up sober, keep devouring the creative stuff you admire that also makes you jealous, keep surrounding yourself with great talent even if they're kind of creepy just keep saying no, keep doing all of those things and eventually you won't have to keep that No Name waitressing job.

    Maybe think about not keeping those pink silk shorts, either.

    Hang in there, Younger Holly, and know that I believe in you.

    Much love,
    Older Holly

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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #24: Monte Mead

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    Dear 1987 Monte,

    As you start out in advertising, remember you will work comfortably indoors in an ergonomic chair for the rest of your career. You will go to award shows and be patted on the back. You will get to travel to exotic locations with all your expenses paid. You'll get to go out to lunch almost every day.

    Remember how you got here. Luck and talent will have less to do with it than lessons learned while working with your dad. He took great pride in his work as a bricklayer. He focused on getting it right, one brick, one stone, one block at a time. He worked outside every day, ate out of a lunchbox while sitting on a stack of concrete blocks. It was hard. He didn’t care. He cared about the work.

    Keep those lessons in mind. Think back often on mixing concrete and keeping the brick stocked for him to lay. Remember carrying the heavy 5-gallon bucket of concrete up the scaffolding. Remember how cold and hard the work was. Remember it was important to get the basics right.

    Never forget the time you were cleaning out the cement mixer at the end of the day. You were not doing a good job at it. You were tired and your hands were scraped up and sore. Your dad came by, took the trowel out of your hand, reached in the mixer and knocked out a generous amount of concrete that you had missed. He handed you back the trowel and said, “Monte. Clean out all of today’s. And some of yesterday’s."

    Allow this simple truth about hard work to come back to you. Especially after he’s passed away. You'll wish you spent more time listening to him. And appreciating him. Live your life by following his simple yet profound example, and you’ll find that, after awhile, you won’t have any “yesterday’s mistakes" to clean up.


    2013 Monte

    P.S. Minnesota Twins in seven.

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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #23: Noah Clark

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    Dear, Noah ~

    First off, congrats on your first day as an advertising professional. Despite the fact you wore a tie to your interview and felt like a douchebag after being interviewed by the fourth consecutive person in flip flops and T-shirt, you got the gig! And nice work in dodging the account management bullet. I know had Court Crandall not called you, you’d be an assistant account coordinator on the Honda direct mail business at RPA right now. Trust me when I say you’ll have more to thank Court for than helping you land in a creative department over account services. Really, you should hug him today and every day after. You will owe him everything.

    I know you’re anxious. I know you’re doubting your skillset. And I know you think you’re going to be copywriter. But all those things, I promise, will come to pass.

    My biggest piece of advice? Embrace your youth. It’s not the blemish you think it is. Rather, it is your greatest strength. More than anything, you should know that you’re allowed to not know everything. You’re allowed to be 22 and not know a lick of Photoshop, Quark, what a proof is, what a lightbox is, what a photography loupe is. Knowledge will come. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, your preoccupation with your age will hurt your ability to learn until you stop pretending like you know more than you do.

    Two more things.

    First, don’t go drinking with your ESPN clients the night before a shoot. Ever.

    And second, lose the blonde highlights and puka shell necklace. Pronto. Contrary to what you think, those will not get you laid. And they will likely delay your new coworker and future wife from entertaining the idea of becoming your future wife by at least three years.

    Good luck today, kid. I’m rooting for you.


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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #22: Josh Wills

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    Hey brother,

    It’s you from the future . . . or . . . me from the future? Whatever. Grammatically this letter is going to be a train wreck. Hand your ticket to the conductor, smoke some of that shitty dirt weed you got stashed and fasten your seat belt.

    I’ve been asked to write a letter to you on the first day of our professional career. That’s right, you devil, you are indeed a ‘professional’. The days of loading freight trucks, unions and working in warehouses are behind us for now.

    It’s been a while since we went separate ways. More things have changed than stayed the same. Your three-year-old son is now a freshman in high school and growing into a solid young man. The daughter growing inside of your wife’s belly will also be a teenager here in a year or two, she’s caring, ambitious, and already smarter than both you and Tran. We didn’t quit there, we’ve done seeded two more hellions . . . Breathe . . . all is good. We’ve still got a full head of hair.

    Here is the thing. Most letters like this urge the younger version of ourselves to alter the past — to do, look, and react to things differently. The only thing I ask of you is to follow your heart and let the fire in your belly light the way. Chances are you’ll make a lot of the same choices and decisions, there is also a solid chance you’ll do a few things differently.

    Truth be told, shit is about to go south. I have no idea how I would react or what I would do differently put in some of the same situations just ahead of you. In a few months from now, you’ll get laid off and be out of work for over a year. Your one and only family car will be repossessed, you’ll pick up hours working as a clerk at a gas station and you’ll receive your first student loan bill from Sallie Mae. This is beyond humbling, it’s humiliating and for the first time since you took this leap, you realize what a huge gamble we’ve asked Tran to take with us. Stay with me, dude . . . I promise for all the lows there are even more highs.

    We are still paying off school loans but things have definitely turned around a bit. You eventually do land some gigs as a designer, then as an art director, and guess what, you broken little bastard… you eventually become a creative director. We’ve walked on 4 of the 7 continents, worked with Olympians, Surf Legends and even the great grand daughter of Jacque Cousteau. We’ve had the privilege of working side by side with some incredibly talented people whose passion easily equals, if not out paces, our own.

    There is one person in particular that has done this more so than anyone else in our life. Your wife. She continues to surprise and inspire us. There isn’t another person that we’ve met who can chase dreams and shape the world around them as quite as beautifully and as passionately as she does.

    Together you’ll open a small business or six. Through this you get a chance to apply everything you’ve learned in the professional world to your personal life and vice versa. Regardless of your current job or title, design and creativity for us is exactly what you hoped it would be, a way of life.

    By no means are we complacent, we are far from perfect and there is still a lot left to learn and accomplish in front of us. Our past is riddled with mistakes and plenty of fuck ups. But honestly given the chance I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. I wear our scars with pride. Life’s Peaks & Valleys™ have shaped who we are. So my one piece of advice to you is this . . . run towards the darkness so that you can learn to savor the light. Enjoy the ride.


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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #20: Greg Cotten

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    Dear Butthead,

    Congrats on breaking into the business. Now I know you’re itching to make like a tree and get to work. And win a bunch of awards. And show your CD you’re worth the relocation package. But I gotta break it to you – you still have much to learn. To help you out, I’ve put together some advice from the future. Stay true to these principles and you’ll never lose. Well, almost never. Which is still pretty good.

    1. Don’t be a dick. Even to other dicks. You end up in a circle jerk with everyone in this business sooner or later.

    2. You’re in sales. You may not wear suits or even carry business cards, but you’re selling your ideas, your clients’ products and yourself. Learn to do it well.

    3. Write and concept in the morning. It’s when you’re sharpest.

    4. Learn to kill your babies. The time you spend fighting for a dead idea is time you could be coming up with the winning one.

    5. National agencies respect regional work when it’s done well. Just look at what Sukle has done with Denver Water.

    6. Take pride in every project. The smallest ones can have the biggest impact.

    7. Stay away from unicorn jokes. They’re going to hit their peak in about 2011 and won’t age well in your book.

    8. If you comment on the Egotist, own it. If it’s too negative to own, there’s probably a better way to say it.

    9. But always give it one last lookover before hitting Post. Same goes for Emails, Uploads and Tweets.

    10. Marry Sarah Stock. Who am I kidding? You’ll know that immediately.

    11. Pander to the woman in your life.

    12. Only put your best work in your book. Even if your book feels light at first.

    13. Embrace social media. Learn it all. Well, except for MySpace. In fact, delete your MySpace account altogether.

    Now, Butthead, I know you’re too high to grasp all of this right now. So if you need a refresher, here’s my advice - make friends with Jim Glynn. He knows this stuff better than anyone and can state it a lot more eloquently than me. Or you. Or whatever.

    Good luck, kid. Make us proud.

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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #19: Mandy Stevens

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    When I look back on my first day in advertising, it’s pretty hilarious actually. My art director partner and I were a Chicago start-up’s first hires (they’re still in business). Fresh out of Portfolio Center in Atlanta, we had no idea what to expect and, boy, were we in for a rude awakening. It would take the agency about six months before they could afford to lease proper office space. We commuted out to the suburbs of Chicago and cranked out campaign after campaign while sitting at wobbly folding card tables haphazardly situated in a tract house basement lit by blinding incandescent bulbs. That was my beginning. Full of “you can’t write this stuff” kind of stories. We lasted there almost a year before we hopped on the big agency bandwagon for a while. Here are a few things I would tell my junior copywriter self if I was just starting out on what I hope continues to be a long, interesting advertising road ahead.

    Here’s the most important thing to figure out.

    Always do work you’re proud to put your name on.

    Here’s what you need to ignore.

    What everyone else is saying.

    Here’s what you need to pay attention to.

    What everyone else is doing.

    Here’s what you need to work on most.

    Learn to start a project without overthinking it. A thought-starter doesn’t have to be perfect. Come back to it again and again and again. Whatever you write will eventually become exactly what it needs to be.

    Here’s what you need to embrace.

    The pressure never goes away.

    Here’s what will get easier.

    Your confidence in your craft.

    Here’s what won’t get better (so get used to it).

    Your first pass at something will never be approved as is.

    Here’s what’s pretty cool.

    Every project is a chance to impress yourself with what you’re capable of creating.

    Here’s what fear will go away.

    Do I have what it takes to make it in this industry?

    Here’s what fear won’t go away.

    Do I have what it takes to continue to make it in this industry?

    Here’s what should motivate you.

    Everything everyone is doing inside, but more importantly, outside of advertising.

    Here’s what will get you into trouble and hold you back at times.

    Stupid integrity.

    Here’s what will allow you to sleep at night.

    Integrity that’s not so stupid after all.

    Here’s the most important thing you’ll realize 15 years from now.

    Be open to every opportunity you have to learn something.
    Open your eyes.
    Open your heart.
    Open your mouth.
    And the rest will follow.

    Wishing everyone a great 2014!

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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #18: Norm Shearer

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

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #17: Christopher Cox

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    Dear younger self on your first day in this upside down world,

    You thought you were hot shit in college but the next 14 years is going to be a succession of personality beatdowns that will both humble and harden you. Starting with nearly losing your only brother in a car accident the year you graduate it’s going to be a long road to finding yourself spiritually and creatively. Every time you try to climb up on your egotistical high horse you will get knocked down.

    If I can tell you one thing and one thing only it is not to be afraid. Do not approach things with fear. Banish it if you can. It will always be a challenge and it is even now, but try not to start with fear as the motivation for your decision-making. It’s okay to work for yourself. Not everyone was born to work the same job their entire life no matter what your parents say. But there are two sides to that equation, and the other is to not be afraid to commit. Don’t be afraid to commit to the people who love you. Don’t be afraid to commit being a good husband, father and friend. And yes being a father is amazing. You’ll put it off forever because you are being a self-centered douche bag but when you finally throw caution to the wind it will be the best decision you ever made. I’d tell you to do it earlier but you act like a spoiled kid for a long time so it’s probably best that you wait anyway.

    If someone needs you then be there for them. Part of working to banish fear is banishing expectations. And banishing expectations of others is almost harder than banishing your fear. If someone is using you though, or you suspect they are then move on. Don’t be afraid to say no and on the other side of the coin don’t be afraid to say I’m sorry.

    Be nicer to your wife. She’s actually even more of a beautiful person than you initially thought. Way more beautiful. She approaches and handles nearly everything in her life with an innate grace. Learn from her. And listen to her. She deserves it.

    Don’t be afraid to change. This is part of banishing fear-based decision making. Actually you are going to have to change. A lot. The first 10 years is pretty much a succession of admitting wrong doing and being an overbearing jerk. Sure you mean well but it doesn’t come off that way. It’s going to take a while before you learn to project positivity even when you feel your negative upbringing tugging at your pant leg. You will lose people along the way and have to admit you were wrong many times. Choose to be self-aware as much as possible. Self-help books exist for a reason. Read them.

    Don’t be afraid of time. It doesn’t exist. Everything is in flux. It seemed like things were changing back when you were handy in Flash, but you would not believe what’s happening now. It’s too weird to even describe. It’s hard to even know what advertising is anymore or if marketing is actually effective at all. The entire experience of it has changed so much in the past 15 years that it would sound like science fiction to you now. Two things do remain constant though and that is good design and old-fashioned artistic talent. You can always come back to that. When those two elements combine they are still capable of solving many problems.

    Oh and please write more. Write as much as you can. Even if you aren’t great at it it’s one of the best ways to learn how to develop your ideas. And pick up the pencil before the mouse (or the Stylus pen (but you don’t even know what that is yet). You may not like hearing this but clients will pay more if you think before you act. Brain always trumps brawn in this industry. It makes the art direction side a challenge and puts a moving target in front of you but just remember to think before you act whenever possible.

    But overall, just don’t be afraid. This industry is even stranger than you could have imagined. A lot of people will try to fill your head with bullshit but it always boils down to the simplest ingredients. It’s about relationships. You gotta work at that, kid. Hard. Just keep trying to get better at it. People will put you down. There’s nothing you can do about it. It will hurt. It always does. Learn what you need to from the criticism but don’t let it slow you down. You can always improve yourself despite the odds. You’ll have to work at it every day but it’s the only thing that will make your career move forward. You can always start over and will have to many times.

    Just remember to choose at the start of every day not to be afraid. And smile when you do. There is love in every moment of life if you look for it.

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

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