Proving Yourself

As a junior, especially at a large agency, it can be hard to find opportunities to show everyone what you’re capable of and get on the radar of the people who give out the good assignments. Here are a few paths to getting noticed:

  1. Write radio. Not many people care that much about radio. That’s a good thing for you. It’s one of the rare mediums where you can write an entire campaign, often get it approved without rounds of presentation, then work directly with the talent on production. Some of my favorite campaigns from early in my career were radio campaigns. It’s a writer’s playground. And art directors, you can get in there too.
  2. Offer to work on the most painful client. Every agency has at least one client that is a total pain, for whatever reason. See if you can take on more responsibility with that client. When I first became ACD, I took one of the most difficult clients we had and the agency was happy to let me have it. I learned a ton being thrown in the fire.
  3. Pitches. Get on the pitches. One of the best places to get noticed are those terrible jump-ball pitches where a dozen teams are throwing ideas on the wall. Often, you’ll get late nights, but late nights with creative directors in the room. Throw ideas into the mix and be willing to help out with whatever’s needed.
  4. Manage the interns. A great way to try out creative direction is to take an intern under your wing (or more than one). Years ago, I started the intern program at my agency and brought on six talented students. People would comment on the “small army” that followed me around. In the end, I probably learned more from them than they did from me.
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The Third Shoe

Yesterday I was having lunch with Tracy Urquhart, our awesome creative operations manager, and I was talking about being disappointed when creatives take my direction exactly and bring nothing else to the table.

Tracy said that one of her first jobs was selling shoes for Nine West. When a customer asked to see a shoe in a certain size, she would bring that shoe in the size the customer wanted. She’d also bring a second pair that was similar, maybe a slightly different model or different brand. Then she’d bring a third pair. Something else completely. Something surprising. Something the customer wasn’t asking for at all. But maybe–based on a hunch, something they said, maybe based on their style–something the customer would really love.

This is a perfect metaphor for what we should always be doing. Whether you’re addressing feedback from a creative director or client, bring what was asked for. But don’t stop there. Is there another way to do it? Maybe the direction was to emphasize a point more in the voiceover of a spot, but there’s a better way to solve that same issue visually. What other ways can you solve that specific problem?

But don’t stop there either. What else is there? How can you completely turn the problem on its head? What can you do that’s radical and surprising? What is your gut telling you? It may be completely wrong. That’s fine. You’ve already done what’s asked. But there’s a chance that third shoe just might just be more spectacular, more right than anything.