Posted originally on Medium.
2017 update. This post seems to be attracting some attention again (many thanks to those of you who have rediscovered and shared it). In the interest of fairness, I also wrote something for the aged working in the industry which you can find here.
If you’re young and work in advertising, marketing or PR, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to be slightly irritating to people of my age who work in advertising, marketing or PR. Here are some tips for you.
Respect for the industry — have respect for the work.
Have a little respect for the industry that you have decided to become a part of. It is an industry with a heritage: some extraordinary people have worked in this industry and produced some remarkable work. Do your homework and find out who these people are and what the work was. The industry for its part respects the fact that you have a premium Spotify account, a four figure following on Twitter and a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Communications or a Diploma from Macromedia. It isn’t interested in these things, but it respects them. For heaven’s sake respect the work; understand the job at hand – if you don’t, then find ways of learning how to. Listen carefully to those with more senior than you, those with more experience: listen to people who have actually done the work time and time again.
Everything you learned at university was wrong.
Everything you learned at university was valid. It was important that you learned it. Those days are over. It is now wrong.
Your taste in music is irrelevant, as is your T-Shirt.
Concentrate on the work, not on the playlist or your koi carp tattoo.
Your salary is OK.
Seriously, your salary is OK. If you’ve just started out upon your journey down the road of grown up life, trust me, your salary is OK. You’ve probably not spent the time to think about what you do on a day-to-day basis and compare it to the work of doctors, police officers, nurses, hairdressers, cleaners or caretakers. If you did, well then you would discover that your salary is more than OK, especially when you consider what you are being asked to do and that…
… You know nothing of the industry you have just become a part of.
Have no fear because no one expects you to. The problem is, a lot of you think that you know it all. Trust me; you don’t. I don’t care if you can program a computer (or a video recorder), but it really does matter to me if you don’t know what Number 2ism is or know that you’ve been Tangoed. The problem that I see (and I know I’m not alone thinking this) is a desperate lack of hunger to find out how all of this stuff works, let alone dig into the vast heritage of what it is we do. For people my age and older it just feels like you really can’t be bothered. Listen, arrogance is OK but you kind of have to earn it, and the only way you earn it in our industry is to work really hard, love and respect the work you’re doing. Arrogance is something that you have to earn.
Stop bragging. Stop oversharing. Stop being a pain. If you leave an agency, thank them for having you and always talk fondly about them should you have to talk about them at all. Don’t slag them off at industry events, meet-ups, tweet-ups or conferences because (and I find it remarkable that I have to say this at all) it is a small world in which we live and work.
Procurement is king.
Our industry is the only industry that calls itself a “creative industry”, which is something that I’ve always found rather amusing. The fact of the matter is the industry part has gained more traction, and the procurement directors are the kings and queens of all of the spreadsheets they see. These are people who purchase coffee, toilet paper, desks and office chairs as well as the biscuits that you ate while pitching your fantastic idea to their colleagues. You really need to understand this: you really need to understand that all of the Mad Men are dead (except for old George Parker, have you bought his book yet? No? Thought as much). you need to understand that you need to make an idea work creatively and commercially which also means that…
… Someone somewhere is messing with the rate card.
Have you noticed how the senior account people, creative directors and managing directors of your agency sometimes disappear into a corner office for hours on end? They go there to have a cry because a procurement director has just taken a blowtorch to the agency rate card, put a profit cap on the account and increased the expected hourly terms of service, while you, just a mere six months into your very first job, have made your fourth pay raise demand because “you know that you are really that good.”
I read an article a couple of months ago (I really can’t remember where which is a shame because it was excellent) that nailed the problem the industry is suffering from at the moment. If you want to tell stories, then write a book or write a television show or a film. If you want to make a game, then apply for a job at Ubisoft for heaven’s sake. This is the advertising industry, and although things are now a little bit more complicated (interactive and digital), it is still advertising. Understand this. Please, understand this.
It’s only advertising, and nobody gets shot.
Find yourself a mentor. Someone you can trust. Find that person and then learn as much from that person as possible. My mentor was Richard, and he taught me the ropes. I learned more from that man in two years than in the sixteen years since. I’ve always tried to pass on the things Richard taught me down to the people who have worked for me. Richard once told me (I had a massive diva-drama-moment) that “Marcus, it’s only advertising and nobody gets shot”. It’s something I’ve never forgotten, and it’s something that now hangs on the wall of the last agency I worked for before setting up my own business. I didn’t put it there, the team did.
Be nice to people who don’t work in the industry.
Be nice to your neighbours, the person at the corner shop, and the barman at the pub. Be nice to your mum and dad, your girl or boyfriend and the people you share your flat with and your old friends because, at some point down the line, when your life goes pear shaped you’re going to need them. Don’t be an arrogant idiot while things are going well, otherwise, you will find yourself one very lonely person.
Be nice to the people who love you.