Monday, August 20, 2007

Day 5: What I Learned at an Ad Agency

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- I spent one week in an advertising agency.

I watched. I listened. I interviewed people from different job areas. I talked to creatives. I talked to brand strategists. I talked to account executives.

They were all great. I have a lot to tell students.

"When people ask about this experience, what are you going to tell them?" asked agency head Jack Buchanan.

That is a difficult question.

Mostly, I am going to tell them that it so very important to be happy where you work.

Jobs are jobs. We all get that. We go because we get paid. Although some days are exceptions, even great jobs are not our hobbies. If we were not getting paid, we would be somewhere else.

Given that, work should still be a happy, fun place most of the time. Within the advertising world, most people are familiar with the stereotype of people working in the creative department. This is where you find lava lamps, beads hanging on doorways, and lots of interesting sounding books on anything but advertising.

We expect that of the creative types. They're different. They need to free their brains.

This is true at Buchanan&associates, but it is true for everyone who works there. One whole part of the agency is devoted to loosening up the thoughts.

My favorite is the beanbag toss, known as "cornhole" in Ohio. Above you can seen brand strategist and former communication and cognition lab member Tim Laubacher throw toward the opposite goal.

There are jigsaw puzzles. Hundreds of interesting books. More stuff than I even had time to look at.

And there is no time clock. There is no one jotting down when you come and go. Although there are no hallways to walk, there is still no one walking them to take attendance.

So if you need to walk down by the river to get an idea, so be it. Even if you're an account executive and not a copywriter.

As my department chair, Dr. Don Jugenheimer, often says, every job in advertising is creative.

If you river walk too much, you won't get your work done, and I assume that there would be problems. There was no evidence of that. With freedom comes responsibility, it seems.

There will be more insights that filter out from this experience over coming days and weeks. But this seems most important: leadership and motivation and crucial.

You can assemble great people, but you also need to foster an environment that makes them feel like great people. If you can do that, you will rarely be disappointed by the outcome.

I wish that every story had a poignant end. I suppose that this one did, too. But there was a detour along the way.

I woke up Sunday morning in a hotel in Springfield, Mo. A quick flip of the Weather Channel brought up a picture similar to this one, courtesy of

Tropical Storm Erin was sitting over Oklahoma, exactly where I had to drive to get home. Winds were in excess of 80 mph, and Oklahoma City was looking at a day-long tornado watch.

Not exactly my idea of fun driving. So it took a 120-mile detour up through Kansas to avoid the beast. Thirteen and a half hours after leaving Springfield -- and more than two hours behind schedule -- we finally arrived home.

Much like there is no crying in baseball, there should be no hurricanes in Oklahoma unless the University of Miami is visiting!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job!

7:18 PM  

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