For a few years, there has been a non-stop media stream of how the current ad agency model is dead. These articles say the “smart ones” are leaving for opportunities with tech platforms such as Facebook, Google, Netflix, and the likes. The “talented ones” are putting their creative juices to more high profile careers, like directing. The “thick skinned ones” are going to the “other” side and becoming clients, while the “entrepreneurial ones” are starting awesome things on their own. The ones left behind are networking anyway possible with the above-mentioned in hopes of jumping ship the moment the opportunity arises. Within a month or less of being in their new role, all these types take every opportunity to slam the ad industry. They complain about the long hours, moan about the lack of creative freedom as well as fellow colleagues.
Upon my arrival to RPA, these articles were weighing heavy on my mind. I consider myself one of the “smart ones”, so why had I moved to another agency when many other options were available? This was a huge question in my mind, and I wanted an answer. To my amazement, RPA, while still using the same agency model that has been under constant fire by the media for the last few years, is a performing better now than ever before. Why this is the case at RPA was still not clear to me. I became determined to find out what was so different here, so I began to reflect on all my previous agency lives.
I started my career in advertising straight out of college, and I have worked in the industry for 21 years. Did I have my share of unreasonable clients, ego driven creative directors, mean spirited account people and nasty producers? Of course, yes. Did I do more work for agencies that expected my entire life be devoted to my client base? For sure! Did I spend my weekends checking contracts and Friday nights waiting for client approvals? Did 16-hour shoot days happen? On more occasions than I care to remember. However, I am still so happy that I landed my first creative advertising job as an Assistant Art Buyer. Thank you Amy Moorman! Most of the good things in my life, including my current job as an Associate Director of Business Affairs, have all been thanks to landing that first opportunity.
This reflection led me to see the awesome things that my career in advertising offered me:
Cursory Knowledge of Everything
Working in agencies involves working on various accounts. From Insurance to Video Games, and Tech to Automotive, you need to learn as much about each industry you work in within a few days. This allows you the ability to absorb material very quickly and learn to appreciate varying viewpoints while still have your own point of view. You learn to listen to problems and offer solutions that no one has ever considered before. You acquire the art of distilling complex, lengthy, briefs into branded content, social posts or calls to action in digital or broadcast executions, and understand the difference between the three.
Whether it’s keeping cool while in a crisis (which in this world can mean the client wanting “another round of testing” a week before launch, a celebrity spokesperson getting arrested, or finding the contract you spent months executing is missing a key point), You have mastered dealing with anything. So when your landlord informs you about his plan to sell your apartment building the day before he does it, you don’t freak like most people. You take action, by putting your acquired resourcefulness to good use, and find the most kick-ass apartment ever.
After a few years in advertising, you to begin to understand the importance of words and visuals and the impact that can be created when they come together. You constantly strive to make things better. You are surrounded by bright, creative people who will challenge (and often infuriate you), but never bore you. If you are looking for a way to feel young forever, work in advertising.
With the exception of my childhood friends, all of my close of my friends are from the industry. Some of my dearest friends are the ones who I started my advertising career with, and over the years the respect has grown into lifelong friendships. Creatives, Planners, fellow Business Affairs people, Project Managers and even Clients, you name it and they are all on my Facebook news feed. Not just Facebook friends, but true friends. We share a similar sense of the world. Whether it’s the jokes, the love of pop culture or exchanging stories of our latest and greatest work, there is no one like an advertising friend.
After 21 years of being fed what culture was supposed to be, sitting in meetings about branding/culture of which ever agency I was employed at the time. Then I worked like crazy to instill these new culture points. I had grown tired and frankly jaded. My first day at RPA I was led thru the RPA culture and brand, as I had been many times in previous agencies. I went home, and could not stop the feelings of hope and ambition flooding my mind. Could it be that I had found the one agency that truly does have a real culture of “People First” and have humanity behind their brand? This simple concept I have many times tried to instill in previous agencies, but never moved the needle. I have and always will believe any agency is only as good as the people that work there. Never previously was a culture shift made, making all my previous efforts futile. Over the next few months I studied the interactions of the people at RPA, only to realize that this culture of “People First” is not a branding tool, it is the RPA mission. RPA creative executions always have humanity. This further supports the culture of “People First”. Everyone at RPA cares not only for the job they are doing, but for each other. Going home before dark is not looked upon as leaving early, it is encouraged. We are encouraged to have lives outside the office. The old saying of “put your money where your mouth is” happens to ring very true here at RPA. RPA never sold out to a holding company, staying true to the mission of “People First”. I believe this extremely kind and brave choice of staying independent is what has insured that the simple culture of “People First” is not only alive but flourishing at RPA in each of us.