On Wednesday, January 6, Mat Zucker joined us live over Zoom to take part in our Insighter Series: weekly conversations between creative professionals and young, aspiring creatives looking to advance.
Take a look at Mat’s presentation below.
If you’d like to read more from Mat, you can read his new book, Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a Creative Career in Marketing. As a combination of memoir and career guidance, inside you’ll find tips for building brands, relationships, and your career.
Introduction from Stephanie Grendzinski:
Well, David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but it won’t be boring.” I’m telling you, Mat Zucker’s journey too is definitely not boring. He likens himself to Peter Parker leading a double life. At college, was part of a creative writing program, but he snuck into communication classes and worked for the student-run PR and advertising firm.
Throughout his journey, Mat has been known as an expert and is a pioneer in digital marketing, sales practices and disruptive technology trends. Mat is currently a partner at Prophet, a global consultancy. He has had leadership positions at highly respected companies and has made a huge impact in marketing. He and his husband created a podcast about their move from this city to a small town. It’s called Cidiot. It’s on Spotify. Check it out.
Over the last few years, they have documented their adventures and celebrated their lovely community. He is an accomplished author of numerous blog posts and articles everything from resume writing to you name it. And his latest accomplishment is a book called Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a Creative Career in Marketing. It is absolutely chock-full of incredible insights and advice. It’s a must-read.
I think Mat’s going to tell you a little bit about it later. Check it out for sure. Today, we are so fortunate that Mat is going to spend some time with us and give us lessons from his illustrative 30-year creative career. As you can see from Mat’s journey or tell from Mat’s journey, we may not know where he’s going from here, but it won’t be boring. Get ready. Listen up. Please, give a warm welcome to Mat Zucker.
Thank you, folks. Thank you. That was a fun intro.
What I thought I would do is tell you a little bit about my journey because my book is all about the story of what I’ve learned along the way and every job I think has revealed something different not just about the work, but about managing your career in marketing. I really was in advertising and digital agencies. I didn’t go to portfolio school. I couldn’t get a job as a copywriter. Everybody else had these great portfolios, and mine sucked, but I did get into FCB/Leber Katz in New York as an assistant, as a creative assistant.
Those roles were great because you were like an apprentice and a slave. You pasted up storyboards, and you did whatever they wanted. They gave you writing assignments. I’ll talk a little bit about that and about getting ahead and getting what you want early in your career. I eventually got promoted. I’ll tell you how.
I got laid off really early. It’s very normal in advertising. It’s just very, very common. It’s not a big deal. It happens all the time.
I wasn’t really young to get laid off. My work was a little hard to get work on the street. Fortunately, I got into digital so early, and no one else wanted to do it. I got a lot of work in digital. A really big reason I got so good at digital marketing is because no one else wanted to do it at the time. I built a really good portfolio. Even though I wanted to do TV and radio, I got to build it in digital which turned out to be really lucky later on.
The goal was always to become a creative director because creative directors are the thing. That’s the goal right. I have to tell you it’s partially true. It’s partially worth it. There’s a lot of different kinds of creative directors. First, I wanted a small agency, and I was in a big agency. I was a group head. There’s so many different flavors of them. I think I could have gone my whole career as one.
Eventually though, you, unfortunately, get promoted. I got into management. It’s a lot less creative. The only good thing is you can do things like bring in Miami Ad School and start a greenhouse because you think it’s a good idea, and people fund it, but you do have the burden of being the taste master, being someone getting on juries and stuff and hopefully doing a little bit of work along the way which I always kept a hand in.
I think most creative directors (even if they’re leadership), they still keep an account or two for themselves. They stay involved. That’s why we got into the business. Become really good executives and do less creative.
That’s cool too. At some point, though, I got a little bored. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to be the same person I was. One, I was curious if I could have a second chapter in my life. I actually looked around a lot of my friends who actually stayed in the advertising business and also wanted to go into product development or something else or go to startups or do something else with their career. And some very successfully navigated to other kinds of jobs, and some didn’t.
I was really interested in that too. Luckily, I stayed in touch with a lot of my old bosses. He had gone into management consulting. I was like, “What was that, the logo people, like the branding firms? What is that?” They do segmentation. 10 years ago, they were the last to get digital. Identity folks were just gorgeous work, just stunning, smart, thoughtful, strategic work.
But they were just not very digital now. It’s changed a bit now. It’s a little more hip, but I was a little suspicious, but he wanted to build a digital practice. I followed my old boss to Prophet which is a management consultancy which started as a branding firm. I’ve been there the last six and a half years.
Now, I run marketing. I run content too. I keep my hand in the creative business by doing a tiny bit of advertising when we have it. We acquired an agency in Austin called Springbox. I don’t know if you know them. And I built a content practice which is super fun for me because it’s like I’m a writer, and it’s creative. It’s sort of marketing. It ties into brands.
That’s sort of my story. It’s a winding path and makes sense, but I enjoy thinking about what I got out of it. These are the types of places I’ve worked at. What’s funny is when I look at them and you probably recognize some of the names, some of them don’t exist anymore. That’s really weird because you build this equity up and the experience and the brand. Then, like, “What if it doesn’t exist?”
RGA, which I think is still a pretty well established and respected firm, I joined when it was really red-hot like perfect time. I didn’t get to work on Nike. I worked on Johnson & Johnson. They always gave me the uncool brands, but I loved it. They’re still around, but what if one day that doesn’t exist? I can no longer strut and be proud of where I work.
But some places like Ogilvy, they’re somehow surviving, the fallout. FCB’s back. They’ve changed their name 10 times. They’re back to FCB. The logo is a little bit different. Razorfish just got bolded, but they were cool for a time. It’s just kind of funny to look at different firms that you work at and see who still exists.
My 10 lessons are based in all real experience. Maybe, as I go, if there’s a lesson you wanted to hear more about, I’ll go back to it, but I might try to go back, go through them fast, so we leave time for chit chat if that’s okay.
My first one is I think no stranger to the way you’re taught and the culture and math. I think it’s very much up your alley. I had to learn it the hard way though that in the work you do, one trick or one technique is I think of what the press release is going to be.
If you do something that’s the first or the biggest or the best or the craziest, it’s usually a good idea. It usually can help build your career. My first one was actually while I was still in college, the Defino Pasta company had a no-boil lasagna that was so easy to make you could make the world’s largest lasagna. We decided to do this. We did this at my college, Cornell. The idea was to get in the Guinness Book Of World Records. But the logo I created was like a giant fork. It was my first impression of the scale and the idea of doing something just big like press-worthy, noisy that still would result in sales, that still reinforce the product.
This may be obvious to you in how you work, but it was news to me. I’ve used this throughout my career. Every now and then, I know there’s a killer idea in it. For QDOBA, we were doing a campaign called Free The Flavor. QDOBA is like a chipotle. And the idea was they’re going to give flat right pricing, flat one fee for all your toppings on top of whatever you’re going to eat.
The idea is you’d no longer be nickeled and dimed for guacamole which everyone loved. They hated paying extra for. Our idea was to give back a million nickels and dimes to the public. We actually got a million nickels and dimes, had a truck drive up, donated back to the public and filmed the whole thing. It punctuated our campaign which was Free The Flavor. Different times in the campaign, I tried to do these large-scale stunts.
They usually won awards. They usually don’t sell a lot of products. They’re really great for your careers. They’re really fun to do. I encourage them. It may already be up here up your alley, but I learned it really early on. I’ve repeated that trick whenever I can, whenever it’s relevant too.
The second one is more about your career management. I was a secretary trying to become a copywriter. I had an okay portfolio. I was taking classes at night at school of visual arts. I had to wait for my break and stuff, but I told everyone I wanted to be a writer. I told everyone to give me writing assignments when they could. I worked for six creative directors. What’s funny is about two of them did. And four of them said they would and they didn’t.
Of course, I would serve them all, but I would really, really honor and love and try to come through with the two that would give me assignments. I found you had to do it all the time. You really have to always be really, really clear about what you want. I want to do this. I want to learn management. I want to run my own agency one day. I want to do this now and then build products, but if you tell people what you want, they can help you. You don’t have it all worked out, but you need some goals.
If you can’t figure out your next job, maybe you figure out your two jobs for now, what you want to do maybe later. I think then people can help you because I have a really hard time when people reach out to me to help that they want help. I’m not sure what they need. Do they need a sounding board? Do they need a connection? Do they need to introduce them to people?
I met a really great designer who didn’t go to portfolio school who knows basically no one in the design world. I figured out I should introduce her to designers. That’s what I should do. It’s not about getting her job. It’s introducing her to a culture that she’s not in. Anyway, that’s my advice.
The story here is that I sent out a lot of packets just to get attention so people would want to look at my portfolio. I got really a lot of rejections.
This was the example. I was like, “I want to write for you. Only 5% of people read body copy…I want to write it anyway. I just showed my commitment to wanting to become a copywriter’
What was funny was I sent it to, I’ll say I think it’s Hill Holiday or another agency in Boston. What I got back anonymously this little piece of paper and some schmuck with a red pen circled in my “I” everywhere, like, I’m an egomaniac, like I’m total narcissist and sent it back to me
I felt horrible about myself. Now, he’s the only person that did that, but it scarred me, but it didn’t deter me from stating what I wanted. I’m not sure if this is too egocentric the way I did it, but I found it worked, but I thought there’s sometimes a backlash. You got to put it to the side. Not everyone is going to be nice. That’s okay because he’s a jerk.
When I did want to get promoted and I wanted to get noticed by my executive creative director because I was secretary and he thought my name was Mark by the way which was like dressed in cowboy boots and was super cool, but he thought my name was Mark. I was one of seven secretaries, and everyone else knew I wanted to be a writer, but I saw an opportunity. One that was that professional secretary’s day which I think is called Executive Assistant Day now. It’s in April every year.
It was coming up. I’m like, “Okay.” My stunt at the office was I put together an ad campaign about a secretary, so not about myself. I tried to lay on an issue which would benefit me. That morning, and my concept, there was famous secretaries, and famous secretaries at the time. The woman on the left is Susan Ruttan from L.A. Law which was an old TV show. She was like a secretary.
Henry Kissinger was the secretary of state. Cap Weinberger was just in trouble with the Iran–Contra affair. The famous secretaries. The one on the right is secretary of the horse, a famous racehorse who had conveniently just died the week before. The timing was perfect. That’s where the line, “What does it take for a secretary to get a flower?”
In the morning, the agency woke up and especially Ted on his walk from the elevator to his office to posters basically all along about famous secretaries. I got a call into Ted’s office. As I get closer, the head of HR was there. I’m like, “Am I in trouble? Did I…” The head of HR was like, “Listen, people are upset about. The secretarial pool’s not happy about this. They don’t bring attention to themselves.”
I just waited because I’m like, “Am I going to get fired? Do you know?” Ted just said… He held up one of them. He’s like, “Is this yours?” I’m like, “Yes,” because. It’s funny. We looked at the HR. I was like, “I think we should be encouraging this.” I don’t think it’s so awful and …”
I was like, “Oh, thank…” It backfired right.” I’m sure people get fired all the time for terrible things, but it was a risk, I guess, of mine. I didn’t realize how risky it was and Ted fortunately who I got just got back in touch with is on the right side of history. But I brought attention not just to me, but to something relevant to me. That’s my lesson too if you are trying to get attention for yourself.
Pippa, you were just hinting at it about those project opportunities too, is about finding something important to you and build that into your portfolio. I think a lot of us are wired this way. We want to work on things that matter to us as well as whatever products we need to sell. At one point in my career, I realized I was interested in this idea of career wisdom, and I knew a lot of good people that could teach lessons to other folks either coming into the business or trying to get promoted, so producer director, and I created the Hindsight Project which is a series of videos. I think they still might be up or they’re on my YouTube channel or some of them are.
We got different people from the creative directors and designers and George Lewis, a really famous art director, I met him and just interesting folks across the industry to give a one piece of advice. It’s based on a story. They’re each like two or three minute videos. I got into New York Times. I got a lot of press. It just was a beautiful… I just felt great to create something like this. I think it laid the groundwork for other projects I wanted to do later on, but it was that me finding kind of a cause and doing something about it.
The next lesson is about combining some of these things altogether. One of my favorite things I ever did that was award-worthy. It wasn’t actually for a client that was a regular client, but it was for my own agency. I was at Ogilvy twice: as a creative director, and then I came back as the head creative for OgilvyOne.
(OgilvyOne in digital marketing really was in the shadow of the advertising agency, but we were in a recession then.)
Everyone was talking about brand building, brand building, but the world was in a mess (like now). People want to sell stuff. David Ogilvy was always about “we sell…or else”. We were looking for an idea to get Ogilvy back on the map. Unfortunately, YouTube wanted to know what we wanted to do with our Ogilvy channel.
So we pitched the executive board, my friend in communications and I, on doing a contest to bring salesmanship back to the culture.
Who better than OgilvyOne want to do this? We had this contest. (Cannes. This is for Cannes.)
The premise was we were going to do a call for entries. If you could sell a red brick, you could sell anything.
Anyone around the world or 12 markets could audition with video clips of selling a brick, a red brick. Ogilvy was red. And we’d vote on them. Clients would vote on them. We would narrow it down. We’d do an essay contest and stuff. The prize is was a job at OgilvyOne which was kind of hip because it would be like, “Come work with us on the sales guide for the future,” and people wanted to do job then.
The second was we’ll fly to Cannes to compete so free trip to France, and then, the title of the world’s greatest salesperson. We did this. We did this about 12 different markets. It was very expensive. I didn’t plan this out at all budget-wise. But Ogilvy was so into it, they didn’t care.
At the time, they had like just endless buckets of money. It was great. We got a huge press for it. We got huge interest. It said to our clients, “We’re here for sales, not just brand building,” which is noble, but wasn’t practical in the culture at the point. We cared about both.
The sales community liked it and hated it. They respected it, but they were worried we were dumbing it down, so we had to deal with that, but it’s really exciting four-month process. We flew the three finalists to Cannes. We took one of our clients Motorola, gave him a phone that the people pitch on stage for the phone. The Cannes audience voted. Then, me and two other judges, Rory Sutherland from Ogilvy London and a client judge from Motorola ended up awarding Todd Herman who’s actually amazing person, Canadian, but lives in New York won the contest.
Then, we hired him for six months. We put together a report on what salesmanship should look like. Then, we presented it at the direct marketing conference in October in San Francisco. It was a really cool program and a really sick. We saw a lift in sales, by the way, of Ogilvy offices in the world where we ran the market revenue at Ogilvy when tipped up during that period.
That was pretty cool. We spent a lot of money, and we made some money, and we got a lot of good clippings. I’m really, really proud of this work. Because of this work and I didn’t have a lot of awards to my name especially while I was ECD because we just weren’t cracking the code yet. A year later, we did a little better, but I got a judging spot on the Cannes directory because of this.
One way to get on a jury is to win awards, so they want you. Another way is to do a stunt that gets people’s attention that makes your application interesting.
It’s almost like a side door in, but I was a Cannes juror the following year which was an incredible experience because I’ve been a juror on many award shows, but nothing as like Cannes.
The level of sophistication of the work, what you see around the world. So, definitely enter that future Cannes competition because there’s other great shows to be in. There’s probably… We used to tier shows. There’s the top five and Cannes one of them. There are other good ones, but I think it’s really a special thing.
The last, I would say, this is a quote from David Ogilvy, and I’m very influenced by my nine years there. I’ve worked at other places, but I think it’s really gotten into my skin. That is we did our creative collective at Ogilvy’s chateau in France. We just went all out. I met Herta Ogilvy, his third wife was the most amazing person on the planet.
I think the way we behave matters, I think I learned from some agencies to work with kind of class and some were kind of crass. I think you’ve got to find your own temperature of the type of person you want to be.
I think it’s very true that different agencies, just like different client companies have different cultures. There might be nothing wrong with one, but you may not fit into certain cultures or you may not want to, or you may not want to stand out in a certain culture that you don’t like.
I’ll give an example of two great places. One, it was RGA was super cool. When I came from Ogilvy, I was not. I was smart. I thought I was good, but they were just cooler than me, but I wanted to be cool. I wanted to, but I had something to bring them. I got to bring them brand level advertising. I got to bring sophisticated problem solving. They didn’t have like a lot of writers then. I got to bring Ogilvy-like writing.
I had something to bring into that environment. It was a really good fit. In fact, I should have stayed longer. Ogilvy was just solely a very classy place, but a lot of highly creative people. When I was first their, design wasn’t respected as much. Now, it is. A lot of people recently have built up a really good design reputation. Designers actually had a hard time fitting in because they didn’t feel valued. The writers were so dominant.
I think that’s very much very changed now. Razorfish which was a cutting-edge digital agency, very cool. When I was there, I totally hated it like everyone else loved it. They all stayed there for 10 years. I just didn’t fit in. They would all go like bike riding together. They wake up early and go… I don’t know. It just was a different kind of club. I hated it.
I left pretty quickly. They’re a great place, but I just didn’t… It wasn’t for me. When I came to Prophet, they liked having a creative person join this brand consultancy. At first, I started to fit in too much. I was like buying suits and stuff and trying to become a consultant which cost me a fortune.
Then, one of the partners reminds me like, “Wait a second. You’re becoming one of us. Don’t do that. We hired you because you’re you. Please, be you, because that’s why you’re here.” I was like, “Oh, I didn’t realize.” That was a good reminder. Anyway, that’s my lesson there. I’m going to pick up the pace a little bit if that’s good because I’m starting to ramble.
The seventh one is celebrity. At different times in your career, you get to work with celebrities. I’m not one of the people that does it all the time. For me, it’s really, really special. Mike Strahan, I don’t know if you know him. He’s done a talk show type newscaster now, but he really started as a football player. I shot some snickers commercials with him. Tip, if you’re going to see Mike Strahan and everyone else is so excited because they’re all like sports fanatics, learn sports or at least find something to talk about.
I was like, “I had nothing to say.” They’re all asking about different stuff. I knew nothing about football. I was completely unprepared. I’m with him for like a full day trying to shoot all the stuff. I was a creative director. The team was all having fun with him. I’m like, “I’m not even in the picture.”
The other thing was that Alicia Keys was the in-house creative director at BlackBerry while I was the agency creative director for BlackBerry. That was really cool because we’re going to do stuff together, but celebrities don’t really tell you the truth to your face. They’re like “Oh, yeah. That’s a really good idea.” It doesn’t mean that that is a good idea. It means they have their own idea, and they’re going to call you later from Buenos Aires after their concert and tell you what their ideas.
Then, that idea, you’re not actually going to produce on time or on budget. Actually, that video, we never even produced. Some of my touches with fame didn’t manifest itself, but I did get some good Alicia story, Alicia Keys stories, and she’s a lovely, lovely person.
Tiki Barber, football player, famous, became an entrepreneur when I did some stuff with him. Fortunately, he had become an entrepreneur. We got to talk about his business. I could avoid all conversation about football.
George Lois, advertising celebrity, really funny, really wise, read his books. They’re hilarious. He’s got some great stories. My video clip with him is pretty good too on Hindsight. I recommend that too, but I encourage your touches with celebrity because it’s the stories that everyone cares about although they’re always hard to work with. Okay.
The other is (okay, this is my portfolio advice). I developed a policy very early on which I don’t know if you’ll all agree with:
My goal every year is to update my portfolio. You have to cycle things out and add things in. Your spec work has to drop. Then, you release it with real work, and you can keep some things around for a while, but at some point, you can’t put everything in.
Two pieces a year or two campaigns a year or two things a year. My goal was always to one’s great, like one’s crazy like world’s greatest sales person, a BlackBerry campaign with Alicia Keys or something. And just another good thing, me on that level, but pretty good like another good thing because two things a year. Think about it every year. That’s enough.
If you do more, that’s great, but you don’t have to have 30 things a year. You can focus. By the end of the year, you realize, “Oh my god, I’ve created nothing. I’ve created nothing worthwhile except a bunch of junk.” It’s a good trigger to be like, “Oh, let’s go do that side project. Let me go shoot that quick film with a friend or do that stunt about it too.” I thought it was a good refresher to make sure my portfolio always stayed fresh. If it didn’t, it was a good trigger to start to do that. That was that one.
This one is really about diversifying what you are capable of. You may not be good at it, but I have found it especially in this world where we’re creating so much across so many different channels and there’s so many opportunities. You might change your mind honestly about what you want to do. That me just being a writer was probably not enough especially after I figured out journalism wasn’t for me.
I started learning a little bit about analytics which I think really helped me not be an analytics person because my math is terrible, but talk to clients about what performs, and what’s good. They helped me later as a leader and definitely as a consultant.
Design’s always been dicey for me because I never properly learned it. It was one of the biggest reasons I left Ogilvy to go to RGA, was to beef that up. I ended up working for a really good designer when I had Ogilvy as well who taught me to appreciate design. I think you should be great. You don’t have to be well-rounded. You just have to figure out what you want to be good at. I’ve learned other stuff like coms planning, how search works.
I just think everything’s really interesting. I found understanding how PR works I found probably because I’m a narcissist, and I like to see my name in print and things like that. Project management, getting stuff done is important.
No one likes to create a professional that’s a flake. That whole myth of creative people, “Oh, they’re too genius to be on time.” That doesn’t work. That doesn’t work in their career. I don’t even think real artists that make money work like that. I think that’s a myth. Try to always be on time.
Okay. The last lesson is I’ve never stopped making stuff. Part of the danger of becoming like a consultant like I have was I lost touch with being a creative person even though I was in a fairly creative environment, but my job was to be more of a strategist, and I wasn’t making things.
I keep a lot of projects going like those things like Hindsight, my podcast. The satisfaction of making has never left me. I learned about publishing, and I’m pitching articles to press. I like that. Whatever your side hustle is or your creative gigs or other interests, keep those going no matter what you do. Sometimes, that’s enough. You don’t need to make your full-time job being a starving artist, but I did learn that especially when I stopped doing it.
Right now with my podcast, I’ve got two going. It’s become 20% of my time. Then, I do it, but my personal projects, they’re usually related to work, by the way. My podcast on marketing is obviously helping the image of the firm. My podcast on Cidiot is funny. It’s a side gig but it’s helping me learn the craft of podcasting which is a marketing tool, so also relevant to my career. I think a lot of my personal projects are related to it too.
Writing for large publications is to start with small publications. I took a journalism class from Susan Shapiro in New York who runs these online classes five Instant Gratification Is Not Fast Enough. She teaches you how to publish in different magazines and blogs. She always teaches you to get the clips. You’ll get published in a few places even for free. Then, you can pitch larger publications which take longer, but there’s a lot of interest out there, so you can message me separately if you want.
Depending on what you want to write about, I might have ideas on where to pitch, but having a track record of that is good or just published on medium to start, but I don’t think that counts or is what you mean. What advice would you give to someone who would take a few years off and wants to come back into the industry? It’s really amazing. I think that the industry is better set up now for people coming back in and out.
I just see much more of it, places like Jill Cusick who was a writer at agency.com and true story. She was on my team, and she wasn’t a very good writer. I told her, and so she quit. She went into HR, and she’s really good. She thanked me for it.
It was just embarrassing right because she’s like, “You changed my life.” I’m like, “I thought it was terrible what I did,” but she told me about a program they have at NBC which is the Welcome Back to Work program.
Some companies intentionally have programs for folks. I would go for that. I think if you’re going to take years off, but want to come back, if you’re a strategist, you have to stay sharp about trends and keep a hand in it whether it’s through a blog or trends. I don’t think you can be completely out of the action, but you could be out of the industry for sure.
If you’re creative person, maybe there’s a way to still keep your portfolio not too dated and have one or two things that keep it interesting or something relevant, but I’m not that experienced in coming and going out of the industry. If I wanted to go back into creative agency, I don’t know if I could get my old job back as head of creative. I think I have to go back as a planner because I’m closer to that now, and my portfolio is too dusty by now or I don’t have enough fresh stuff.
Advice about shyness. Yeah, public speaking and presenting. I’m not the right person because I’m an advocate for being out there and people buying you and finding your voice. If you’re shy, I’m not a great person. There’s probably better people to give you advice. What I can tell you is if you’re not a great presenter, I’ve learned a lot of really good tricks that make people more comfortable.
I’ve helped art directors do this because art directors, when they explain layouts or design, are usually terrible at it. Clients who are not trained in the design do not understand the word you’re saying. It’s really funny, but what I teach art directors to do and writers too, but writers don’t have the same problem, is number what you’re going to say on your layout. Organize your thoughts in advance what you’re going to talk about like from the bottom to the top or from the left to the right or what you see first and then what you see.
Organize in advance and write down your notes and believe me especially with so much I’ve done on the phone now, a lot of your [inaudible 00:42:21] will go away because you’re going to know where you’re staying. You’re going to know where you’re going next. It’s a really good presentation trick. It really, I think, works very well because a lot of us fill weird gaps because we don’t know where we’re going next, but if you organize your conversation thread, and it won’t be robotic. It really works.
I’ve seen people that are not very normally good presenters be very good presenters. It boosts their confidence. The shyness, I’m not sure what to do except don’t be shy. No, I’m kidding. Have someone else be your voice. I don’t know. There’s probably better people to give that advice.
Let’s see what else. The most important thing to look for when you’re finding your first opportunity or building in your career long term, I don’t know if everyone will agree with this, but the network has really worked for me. And working at big places, famous places, I think was a good idea for me. Ogilvy is a prestigious quality firm, but I don’t know if I would have gotten in there right away.
FBB is better now. This won Agency of the Year, but believe me in 1992, they were not. FCB California was great. They were doing cool work for Levi’s and stuff and Bank of America. It was beautiful. They were winning awards. FCB New York was this clunky weird old school with like Winston cigarettes and Nabisco cookies. Oreo was fine. That was some funny work, but not a great shop right, but it was a well-known shop.
It was one of the biggest ad agencies in the country. It had a certain flair. I think working at places that people recognize was really good. My favorite is mother liked agency.com when I joined there because she couldn’t remember the name. She liked that one. But I guess I’m an advocate for places people know try to work on brands they’ve heard of. I think category gets tricky for creatives. It’s like if you do too much… If you did too much healthcare, you would normally do healthcare. It was hard to navigate out. I’m not sure that’s true anymore.
Healthcare is cooler now because there’s like biotech, and it’s important in the culture. It’s not just icky pharma. There’s a lot. It’s a lot more interesting. Some of my best clients are pharmaceuticals right now. We do some beautiful work for them. It’s really kind of stunning, but I don’t think in ’92, it was the same thing.
I like the variety. Financial services too, you get too good at financial services. Then, it’s hard to relate to other things. I think creative people like to come in and out of categories more. Maybe the business lead wants to be a little more specialized. I would go for variety. You can try out different things. Try B2B. There’s a lot of highly paid jobs and quality jobs and better job security when you sell software and you sell B2B than just going after retail B2C stuff or Nike stuff.
There’s a million of us that want to work on Nike, but back at RGA, I was the only one that wanted to work on Johnson & Johnson. I had a pretty good job.
About the M.AD Insighters Series
Each week, we host a different practicing creative professional as they share insights and inspiration from their career. In the past, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting famous names like Jayanta Jenkins, David Butler, Steven Heller, and more. We take pride in sharing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of creatives from a variety of industries (and with a wide variety of viewpoints). It’s all part of our commitment to developing and encouraging young, creative minds.
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