For graduating ad students: Two things from GSD&M GCD, Ryan Carroll.

Ryan_Portrait_color-1024x679(Previously published post, reprinted for those gearing up to go interview or take an internship/job.)

People? Quiet, people. Okay, your substitute teacher today is Mr. Carroll.

You remember Mr. Carroll. He visited us in January? I expect you to give him the same respect you give me. … People? Settle down, people.

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Some thoughts on what CDs are looking for in new hires:

Have a T-shaped skillset. I hate using this term since it’s so overplayed, but the truth behind the word is important. As a CD, I don’t want just a strong writer; I want a writer that can flex other muscles – shoot and edit content, or write code, or who are DJs at night, or write for McSweeney’s. I need to be able to lean on you for other skill sets beyond advertising writing or art direction.

Any given day, we may be building prototypes for clients, shooting and editing stop-motion videos for Instagram; we even develop new products. There isn’t a “Miscellaneous” department at the agency that handles this work. It’s up to our creatives to execute.

And beyond the tactical value of having these skill sets in the building, when you have skills beyond your core craft, it shows me you’re a hard worker. It shows me you’re a well-rounded thinker and you have a curiosity that pushes you to discover new things.

Show me you have some serious side hustle. I love juniors who have entrepreneurial drive or at the very least have built a their own brand. When I see an art director who has 20,000 followers on Instagram, it shows me they understand branding. When I see a junior writer who built an online Queso business, it shows me she thinks like a businessperson.

It’s this kind of junior who intuitively understands the realities our clients live and breathe every day. Combine this side hustle with the other things I [wrote for this blog two posts ago] and you’ll be an unstoppable force. The days of “crazy creatives” with crazy ideas are gone. Budgets are smaller, problems are aplenty and it’s nearly impossible to find a client who will gamble on an idea that isn’t directly tied to solving an actual business problem. That’s not to say audacious ballsy ideas aren’t still needed. But when they’re tied to a solid strategy and solve a business problem, they aren’t audacious anymore. They’re just smart.

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There’s lots of other advice for recent grads and juniors on [email protected]

Oh, and here’s Ryan’s bio: Hello. I am a Group Creative Director at GSD&M. My work has been recognized by Cannes, The One Show, Communication Arts, The Webbys, FWA, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Early Show on CBS (which made my Mom proud) and Maxim magazine (which made my Dad proud).  I like tacos. Follow me @digiryan

Examples of Work –

To all those CDs, Recruiters, and Teachers Working Out Childhood Issues on Students and Juniors.

you-suck-thats-sad-happy-bunny-19616140-350-523Upfront, I need to make clear, this isn’t about most CDs and recruiters. It’s about that minority who, for some sad weird reason, take a sort of pleasure in belittling young ad people and enjoy making students feel bad about themselves and their work.

I wouldn’t be writing today if I didn’t frequently hear about this problem. And it happens pretty much like this:

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(We open on an interview taking place in some meeting room, maybe at an agency, a school, or a career fair.)

STUDENT: (Nervously) Hi, thanks for seeing me. I’m Cheryl F…

RECRUITER/CD WITH ISSUES: Yeah, great. Show me your work. (Sits down, doesn’t look at young person, appears bored, important, and douchey.)

STUDENT: Oh, okay. … Well, here’s my home page and…

ISSUES MAN: What’s this? (Pointing to screen.) I don’t get it.

STUDENT: It’s just my “About Me” page, where I…

ISSUES MAN: C’mon, get to the work. (Looks at his phone.)

STUDENT: Uhhh, okay. So … here’s my first campaign. (Clicks to new page.) It’s Maxwell House and our strategy was….

ISSUES MAN: Just be quiet. Lemme read. If I don’t get it, consumers won’t get it. Okay???

(Awkward silence. Ticking clock.)

ISSUES MAN: What?? Are you kidding me? This … this won’t work. (Rolls eyes, clicks to the next campaign.)


ISSUES MAN: Christ, and now this second thing? It’s boring. Seriously? You thought this was good??…. (Clicks to the next campaign.)

(Room sounds fade as we close in on student’s head. Cut to dream sequence where the student jabs the mean person’s neck with the sharp edge of her computer tablet, crushing his windpipe. As his mocha-latte-with-cinnamon-sprinkles tumbles in slow motion to the floor, bring up audience applause track. Fade to black.)

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 I’m not making this up. And I’m not exaggerating. (Well, I threw in the crushed windpipe part.)

You may actually have one of these CDs or recruiters working for your agency. But you’ll never know it because students and juniors looking for jobs? They’re way too scared to report this kind of abuse. And it is indeed abuse.

The very people you hope are attracting talent to your agency are actually chasing them away. They’re anti-recruiters. Students and juniors leave these interviews feeling angry and sad. When they tell friends about this bad experience, it’s not about your agency’s recruiter or CD, but about your agency. (“Man, they hired him so they must suck.”)

My advice to students: You’ll know very quickly if the recruiter or CD you’re meeting with is working out issues from when he was given wedgies in science lab. Stand up, say, “Thank you just the same, but this doesn’t feel right.” Walk out and later on send an email to somebody at the agency. Tell ‘em they have an anti-recruiter poisoning their good name.

And to you CDs and recruiters working out your issues on juniors and students? Remember, there are two kinds of hell. Regular and Extra-Krispy. Guess which one’s reserved for those who prey upon the weak?

Ad agencies aren’t the only creative game in town anymore.

This week at the Savannah College of Art & Design we held our annual Career Fair.

As a professor, I had the privilege of watching our smart kids fine tune their books, fret over their resumes, and gossip in the hallways about which agencies they were going to rush. I watched as several thousand creative kids stayed awake pretty much all week, and then threw on their Sunday best to lurch across the bridge towards the convention center and the futures that lay there.

CAS_Career-Fair-2014_MN-96In the hangar-like building, recruiters from 151 blue-chip corporations awaited the students’ arrival, in booths set up to attract the next generation of copywriters, art directors, animators, designers and coders. Hundreds of tables were spread out like a Turkish bazaar of free pencils, thumb drives, and branded schwag, defended by only a thin line of recruiters who, when the doors burst open at 10am, were quickly overrun by the unemployed hordes.

There they were: 151 real companies, from Nickelodeon to Amazon to Abercrombie & Fitch, all bearing tickets to real jobs that paid real money. (I thought about inquiring if “Fitch” was in attendance, but the line was too long.)

The thing is, fairs like this – and schools like SCAD – simply didn’t exist when I went to college. Me? I graduated with a nearly useless liberal arts degree. Well, I suppose it is possible I would’ve been snapped up, had there been any companies looking for skinny chain-smokers to write term papers on 17th-century Russian poetry. But these kids? They came armed with real skills. With the ability not only to think creatively, but to make stuff; to actually do stuff.

Companies still want people with ideas, yes, but the days of “I’m just an Idea Guy” (two finger guns pointing) are gone. Making your idea get up and walk around the room, that’s the ticket. And it’s a ticket that’s getting kids into more and more places these days, and not just the usual line-up of ad agencies.

“We’re no longer competing just with other advertising agencies,” says Bob Jeffrey, of J. Walter Thompson. “Now there’s also Facebook, Google, Vice, Maker Studios and a whole bunch of other content players we compete with.” Amy Hoover, president of recruitment company Talent Zoo, says almost half the creative jobs out there today are not at agencies. They’re at big Silicon Valley powerhouses and cool little start-ups. They’re also at in-house agencies at the big-box companies; your Home Depots, your Targets, your Staples. Their money’s just as green as any agency’s and people have long, happy, wonderful careers in the in-house industry.

I know it for a fact. Recently I gave a day-long seminar at Lowe’s in-house agency up in Mooresville, North Carolina. My host was ECD, Brad Stephens, who left an agency career (Mullen, most recently) to oversee a huge team of creatives in a little town on the shore of Lake Norman. Yeah, the town’s small, but Brad’s job description on his LinkedIn isn’t.

Currently, I’m managing multiple creative teams and several agencies as we create and manage the various aspects of the Lowe’s brand. Recent accomplishments include relaunch of Lowe’s private decor brand, allen + roth, and a successful storewide wayfinding & communication signage redesign. Key responsibilities include oversight of national consumer, store associate, public relations and recruitment communications, as well as development of retail seasonal campaigns.

A huge brand in a small town. In fact, I could hear birdsong at lunch in the company’s outdoor cafeteria.

Adam’s Outdoor Advertising is another good example of great places to work outside the usual list of agencies. Todd Turner, their corporate CD, in from Charleston, South Carolina, was recruiting for several open positions. “Our teams are small, so my hires have to do it all – production, writing, design, art direction. And not a day goes by there isn’t at least one meaty conceptual project to work on.”

Fig6.16OopsManning the booth with Todd was Jon Riley, a SCAD ad graduate who showed me some recent work from Adams. One was this OBIE award winner for a divorce attorney. Nice.

Bottom line is this. The job market isn’t just ad agencies anymore. For kids who know how to think creatively, and who know how to make stuff, it’s much much bigger.


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Luke Sullivan

Author, speaker, and ad veteran available to recharge, reinvigorate, and refocus marketing, advertising, and branding firms.

I give a hugely energetic series of presentations on innovation, creativity, branding, and marketing. I spent 32 years in the trenches of advertising (at agencies like Martin, GSD&M, and Fallon) and I’ve put everything I learned into my book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. But for me nothing beats taking the message out and speaking to living breathing audiences at clients, agencies, and conferences. You can book me on the button below.