What's New?
Search This Site
« Sleepless in Seattle | Main | Packing is such sweet sorrow »

Scenes from an ad agency

I get asked a lot about my previous career, which (pausing for reflection) was in advertising, first as an art director, then later as a writer and creative director. Think Mad Men, but without the smoking and chronic womanizing.

Advertising is like this parallel world of mainstream, corporate creativity. Where Fortune 500 companies regularly entrust their multi-million dollar marketing budgets to twenty-something kids, who might otherwise be plying their genius in the design of a better beer-bong. Or as Don Draper of Sterling-Cooper put it, “This place has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.”

While I’m waxing nostalgic on my former career, I thought I’d share a few of the highlights and lowlights, so you know where the scars came from.

Love At First Sight. Walking into my first ad agency as a college intern and watching the creative director and senior writer play racquetball in an empty glass office. (The CD won). I knew I had found a home.

The Sausage-Grinder of Capitalism. Being told that the airline ad I had worked all night on would be cancelled because the competition just lowered their pricing structure. The full-page ad in the LA Times was non-refundable. I watched my client flush the equivalent of my yearly salary down a blue-watered airline privy.  This happened again and again, until the airline went bankrupt.

The Glory Years. Realizing that specializing in tourism marketing would enable me to experience some pretty cool places. My favorite was a 10-day photo-shoot on Kauai. When a helicopter picked us up on the golf course, I knew we were in for a good time. (I’m so glad I didn’t specialize in biotech, which would have enabled me to experience some pretty cool catheters).

The Sadness. Waiting in an empty recording studio for the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. His health was failing and he couldn’t make it. And never did. His songs would later find their way onto movie soundtracks and other commercial recordings.

The Client That Needed Medication. One high-strung, Nancy Reaganesque client would regularly call and ask for an immediate team meeting, at, oh say… 9:00pm on a Friday. During one memorable gathering she leapt across the conference table, shielding confidential papers with her elfin body. She was wildly paranoid of corporate spying and had just seen the janitor walk by. I thought she was having a grand mal.

The Sterling-Cooper Moments. Having a male client tell me that we couldn’t use a certain model in a photo shoot because she wasn’t busty enough. Okay, I’m sugarcoating his words, and he used more hand-gestures, but you get the idea.

Having a female client tell me that a male swimsuit model wasn’t endowed enough. I broke the news to the photographer, who broke the news to the poor, emasculated model, who stuffed something down there, so the shoot could continue.

Going Over The Wall. Signing with my agent on a Thursday, and leaving my post as agency prez the next day––and aside from this nostalgic moment, I rarely look back.

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.