Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Agency Life-so far

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite art directors, Meagan Tosch. She alone (out of many) graduated with me, and she too has just begun her career. The following is an email I intended to write to her, but soon realized was too long. Enjoy!

Poop! Two days down. Your career has officially begun. I'm actually jealous because my job is still temporary. Though it has been amazing here, there are starting to be things about it that have reduced my level of extreme elation. Don't get me wrong, I am supremely fortunate to have landed this gig. I am getting a crash course in agency life, which include the perks, and the pitfalls.

I worked 21 hours this weekend editing video. Sure I spent some time playing Xbox, and I did drink a bunch of whiskey, but the fact of the matter is that I was away from my family all weekend. (Except for the two hours where they visited me. Kirk played lego Batman and Ronnie loved jumping into the giant bean bags) But I was mostly away. This is time I won't get paid for. Which is fine. A deadline is a deadline, and you do what you have to. That is true agency experience.

When we finally showed our work on Monday morning people seemed to like it. It was great. We at least met and possibly exceeded expectations. Still we were continually hassled to get it into a presentable form for the client. We did that. Then the client came back with suggestions. Ha! You know what's coming next. They want more of the boring bullshit that sucks and a little less of the awesome creative stuff that is well, awesome. But its not that bad, the fixes are pretty easy and shouldn't take too long, and at least they didn't piss all over our entire concept. Right?

Still the quick fixes are fine if we have time to work on them, but we keep getting new junk to do on other things, and people are wondering what is taking so long on some of the previous projects we had been working on. The CD laughed when I talked to him about it over a beer. He laughed because he loves the fact that we as interns are truly getting the feel of agency life because that was the goal all along.

I did voice over work today. I sat in a room with the other copywriters and read lines to be put on a flash animation presentation to the client's vendors. It was cool. But while I was in the edit room with them they started to bitch about things. Three weeks ago these were the two people I interviewed with. These are the two people who I was frightened of, and now I am just one of the boys who gets to be in on the gossip. I loved it. I loved it because it was real life experience the type you can't get in school.

This email is too long. It should be a blog post. Sorry. I just need a sounding board to get this stuff out. I absolutely love this job. It's amazing, but I'm starting to see how working in advertising is a job, and not just the fantasy I had while in school. I knew it would be like this, but I now know how it really feels. There are times when I have no work to do and I'm looking for an assignment so I don't seem like a lazy douche intern, and then the next second I will be inundated with work which will make me have to miss my bus and have no chance to have supper with my family. And it's way worse for the designer. Everyone wants to drop work on his lap so he can do flash animation, make a powerpoint look good, or just photoshop products in different colors. Production slave. At least he's useful. I don't know how to use most programs, so I feel like I don't have as much to offer.

Anyway. This career in my experience is totally fun, awesome, and worth all the time we put into getting here. But it is still a job. I would love to stay where I am because I don't have the energy to go looking for another gig, and I think this agency has a lot going for it. Looking for work sucks. Still I have to keep on top of my game. I have to keep networking and showing my portfolio anywhere I can.

I'm sure we will have lots and lots and lots of these experiences to share in the ensuing decades as we build our careers. Lets stay in touch. Who knows, maybe we will work together again sometime. Lets do it somewhere fun though. My family would love to spend time in England.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Lazy Blogger/I got a job in advertising

I have been bad. When I quit my cube job to become a stay at home dad I was under the strange delusion that I would have so much more time to document my life in blog form. I soon discovered that being at home did not mean I would have lots of extra time to do my own thing. The primary role of the stay at home dad is...well, being a dad. Those kids demanded a lot of my time. It was fun. We had great times. Lots of visits to parks, and trips to gymnastics, bike rides to the bowling alley. We had a ball. Throughout it all I still had to go to school, and actually try to get my career off the ground. Time ticked away, and my blog suffered.

Now it has been more than a year since I began that phase of my life, and I am beginning a new one. School for me is over. My portfolio is ready to show. Kirk is in Kindergarten, and we have just put Ronnie back into daycare. This all has been part of the plan all along. As for my career, the intention was that at this point I would either get a job in advertising or go back to temping until I found a job in advertising.

The best part is that I got a job in advertising! And thank god for that. I was fretting about it. I was out showing my book to whoever would look at it, visiting various agencies, meeting with every contact I have ever come across in the past two years trying to drum up something. I was scared. Ronnie had a place in daycare waiting for her. I needed to get work somewhere in order to pay for it. As a family we had been going into the red every month for longer than I would like to admit, and the credit was running out. We were in a pinch. Something had to break. It broke. I felt like a man diving into a tank of sharks who instead of being ripped apart at impact suddenly found himself swimming with dolphins. Or maybe mermaids.

With almost perfect timing I was asked to come in to interview for an internship position at an agency I had applied to while still in school. I had my wife's parents look after the kids so I could go to the interview. I troubled myself over what to wear. I knew I shouldn't show up in a full suit, because ad peeps aren't like that anymore, but I wanted to show respect for the interview. I ended up wearing new jeans I bought for the occasion, a simple button up shirt, and my chuck taylors. I threw on a suit jacket as an offering of respect. I have heard horror stories of people showing up overdressed for ad gigs, and I didn't want to be the next.

Before arriving to the interview I was terrified. The shop I was going into does a lot of digital work, and my book is mostly traditional print media. I practiced the night before by familiarizing myself with all of their clients. I came up with questions they might ask and practiced answers I might give. I was also hoping they wouldn't think I was too old. Not because I think I am too old, or that I have ever heard of that being a problem in this business, but because I was scared, and realized that I might not be as enthusiastic about "revolutionizing the industry" as someone in their 20's might do. I went into the convenience store and bought a 5 hour energy drink before I went in. I figured the dose of vitamins would get me to 25 year old levels of enthusiasm at least.

When I got off the elevator and saw the agencies' sign all I said to myself was, "groovy." The space was at the top floor of a hundred year old building right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. It was open, spacious, well lighted from every angle by large windows and skylights, and there were stylish benches near the windows for me to sit on while I waited. I very much dug it there. I had been to lots of agencies in Minneapolis, Chicago, and LA. I like ad agencies because they set out for a visual aesthetic. It's one of the reasons I want to be there and not in a regular corporate cube farm. When I was still working at Wells Fargo while going to school, I would sometimes have class in the teacher's agency, and I was always jealous first at how much more the actual space was designed for awesomeness than regular cube jobs, and second by the fact that there were always free sodas and beers in the fridge.

When I went into this interview I was thinking I had a small chance at maybe getting the gig, but once I actually sat down with the copywriters who were interviewing me, I suddenly felt like I was already the guy they wanted. It was amazing. When I think back on it, this was my first real interview that had a job on the other side of it. I have been to tons of informational interviews, or portfolio reviews, but this was the first real job interview in advertising I had ever had. I had my book ready to show, but it never came up. They had already seen my work and my resume, and they just wanted to get a bead on who I was, and if I could be someone to work with for three months. One of the copywriters had done driving jobs just like I had. He also played bass, just like me. He too wanted to write comics. The other copywriter was older, and had spent time as a stay at home dad. He too got into this business later in life and felt that writers need a strong background in life. Both of them found my experience in rock and roll to be an asset.

I was completely at ease for the entire interview. I almost felt like the job was mine. I got the tour of the agency and it was everything I always love about ad agencies. Kiss pinball, ping-pong, booze, nice furniture, places to work that are hip, fun, and functional. Everything about the place was great. The fact that I had no experience in digital didn't matter. They liked my portfolio as it was and assured me that new media solutions could be taught. I was on top of the world.

It must be noted that while I was touring the agency, I took time out to call my attorney. I called him because his office is across the street from where I was. He could see me from his office waving at him. He said, "You have to get this gig, so we can have lunches together." This was perfect. If I was in charge, I would have said, "Yes, I'll take this job."

It was all too good. I had to wait 2 days for an answer, and the amount of anxiety and second guessing that went on during that period could fill volumes. This was the perfect gig for me. It was perfect for my family. It was perfect in every way. It was only a three month paid internship, but it was a job in advertising. You need to remember that I was also trying to get jobs through the temp agencies. I had been to their offices recently, wearing a suit, tie, and uncomfortably nice shoes. I took tests. They were ready to put me back to work at Wells Fargo as a temp for the same amount of money that the internship provided. I waited and worried.

Then happiness burst into my world. It was like the birth of a new child. I got the job. I wanted to scream my elation from the rooftops. I wanted everyone to know. My mom, dad, and brother all got calls. I was so happy, yet I was a little worried about telling some of my school peers. I didn't want to come off douchey, but I still wanted them to know I had made it into an agency.

I managed to get a job in advertising. For three months at least. It is a great opportunity. It is up to me to make it pay off. I feel that my career is finally off the ground. I am ready to become Chris Hill-copywriter. My excitement and happiness at this point is a state I need to ride, like a surfer. I may crash, but I may also ride that wave to a future I haven't yet dreamed of.

Now for the hard part. Agency life?