Nov 23, 2010

A funny thing happened on my way back to my College.

I tried to contain myself.

Honestly. I tried.

This is what happens when you have worked at advertising for way too long, when you have refused to drink the Kool Aid, when you realized that this business "does not cure cancer" (meaning that it's just an ad) and when you really think that your job is just a tool to make money so you can enjoy life...

You suddenly need to tell the truth about it. Bad part is: you do it to eager young students.

Holy Mother of Chiat. I scared the shit out of them, and it wasn't my intention. Or, so it seems. Let's back track a bit so I can tell you what happened.

I receive this email from a dear college professor. "Hey Me! Long time no see, hope you are doing well, yada yada yada. Listen, I need you to come to talk to our art students, 10 minute gig. You basically tell them the story of your life, what have you done since you graduated, blah blah blah."

It was like someone had lit the wick for a huge explosion without even knowing the sheer damage of what was coming.

"Are you sure you want me to do it?" I asked back. "You know how I feel about advertising and how people give students a unrealistic idea of what is coming", I said. I wanted my cool professor to know that if I was to attend this conference, I was talking only truth and nothing but the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly.

He said to come and give them my best shot.

Gird your loins. Fasten your seatbelts. This will be a very, very fucked up and bumpy ride! Well students, here I come to tell you what it's really like.

So there we are. We're five returning classmates from different years. There was the chick that graduated almost 2 years ago. There was the guy that graduated 10 years ago... you do the math. And then, there's me. And I don't get to start. The professors decide to do it in order or recent graduations. So, for some strange reason, I'm third in line. Perfect!

First two chats are just what I imagined that would happen. Bull-shit. Life is so wonderful. Here is my pseudo portfolio. Here's what I did for this client and for that client. Advertising is always fun. Thank you.

And all the time I'm sitting there, quietly drinking my water and looking calm and collected, all I'm thinking is...

WHAT THE... WHY ARE YOU GIVING YOUR RESUME TO PEOPLE THAT DON'T NEED IT?! THESE ARE STUDENTS, for God's sake! Give them a clue! Tell them what THEY need to do in order to get a job! Give them honest recommendations on how to be great, how to decide what they want to do! Don't whip out your goddamn portfolio! WHO CARES WHAT YOU DID A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO!

I smiled. This is going to be fun, I thought. I'm going to give the speech of a lifetime.

Damn how fun it was! I started an even balanced speech that got them looking at me like a train was coming straight at them but they couldn't look away. All I remember is that my professors made a double take and shifted nervously at first in their seats as I proceeded to tell it like it truly is - to students who were really grateful that at least I didn't come there to bullshit them.

I told them how fun it can be, how much you can grow, how different things are from this job to any other. You can dress wacky if you want to. You can be weird. Writing is a joy. So is designing. You get to meet, I said, the most important friends you will ever have in your life. Advertising, when it wants to, can be extremely cool to be part of.

But I also said the bad parts - and you had to see the huge eyes looking at me, silently saying "please go on". I told about the long hours. The extremely ridiculous changes. The fact that to be happy you really must not take it personal. That you will probably miss at least three important moments of either your life or your family's life. That sometimes getting a job means knowing someone inside. And that there are a bunch of douches that you will have to deal, mainly because Advertising is full of people with huge egos.

All I remember is that my time went way too fast. The students looked at me at the end with weird faces. The people that went after me tried to bullshit them a little but I guess I laid the line so well in the sand that they felt it was a diservice to them to start giving them a sugar-coated version of what our job was.

What happened at the end? Were my old professors out to kill me for what I did? Nope mein friends. They actually thanked me. Well, after seeing a bunch of the students eagerly asking me questions about more hardcore stuff, they knew I did the right thing.

I'm not against people working in this business. In fact, the 80% of the time I actually enjoy what I do. But I cannot sit there in front of hundreds of students and tell them about a job that is simply sort of true. I want them to know what's coming so they get prepared. So they know if they are cut up to do this or they want to do something else.

Why? Because I've WORKED with people who should not have kept studying advertising. I've worked with people who should have been lawyers or some other profession. And for some reason, some colleges out there saw their mediocre work and decided they would pass instead of telling them straight out - this job is not for you. I've also worked with people with a shitload of talent but they cannot tolerate the hours, the egos, the weird people and the bureaucracy. They are, for example, natural writers or artists and for some reason they stumbled on this job.

So that's why I felt like I needed to say the truth to those young scared people. And I believe I did the right thing. At the end, most of them came and thanked me, wanted to chat a little bit more, wanted my email and even wanted to work for us as interns. Very cool!

But all I really wanted was that at some point in their advertising life, when it's a Saturday and they are working on a shit campaign at 2am with a cold pizza in hand... that they smile and say "It's ok. Me warned me about it".

The truth shall set you free.


RestrictionsApply said...


Joker said...

Kudos and then some. I have also been invited to give chats and after one, I never got a call back. It was about doing their portfolio and I worked in some ad hatred just so they saw it wasn't all peaches and cream. In my case, I was massively duped. By professors, friends, industry people and myself. I at one time insisted that my job was worth it... fastforward a short time ahead, and I got my ass handed to me in so many agencies that I can't help but be jaded. As you, I also got emails from students asking me for pointers, etc.

But alas, many thought I was an isolated case and that advertising really is a nice as some people make it out to be... and I saw myself reflected lol.

At least I've been able to get true friends out of it all, so that pays the price of admission and then some.

Dear said...

Beautiful!!! That's what it's all about. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
When I was a student, I LOVED the speakers who would tell us the dark side of the business. I knew they wouldn't lie if we asked more questions. I've seen students change majors after that, it was awesome! I kept thinking: yep. if you can't handle this. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
Thanks for this awesome post.

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