My greatest achievement in advertising is and probably always will be nutmegging legendary art director Dave Dye while on placement at Mother. He had no idea who I was and still doesn’t. But after the ball went through his legs and he cynically kicked me as I was getting away, I knew I had his respect on the football pitch. And he had mine. A professional foul from a seasoned pro – gotta respect that.
Dye is one of my heroes and someone I was desperate to learn from, or at least get a fleeting “hi” from in the corridor. But outside the lines of the football pitch, I wasn’t as confident.
All you want to do when you’re a student or new creative is impress. But often you put everyone who you think is good on a pedestal – Greg and I did, at least. Then we got too scared to talk to them. When we did pluck up the courage, after doing recon on their desk for hours and then finally deciding to walk over and say, “Hello, erm… er… can we have a brief, please?” someone else would beat us to it and we’d pretend to go somewhere else (but always walking with purpose – Creature chief creative officer Stu Outhwaite-Noel taught us that).
Here is the advertising industry’s biggest secret: No-one is that cool. Get past those names you see on all those awards entries and they’re not some crazy loons in whacky shoes (some are). Most of those heroes you idolise are just people – with mortgages and kids and often the same miserable commute.
Sometimes they even get meal deals.
One of the untold truths about being a creative in advertising is that most other people struggled to get into the industry, too. There is no “posh twat club” with a Latin name where it’s crucial who you know. To be a creative in a decent agency, you have to be good enough and nice enough. There is nowhere to hide at 3am on a pitch. Everyone has to work hard to get in and stay in.
The biggest thing that Greg and I have learned and love about the industry in which we work is that almost everyone wants to help you get a job – because someone helped them, too.
So now – especially now – don’t be shy. Email the people whose work you admire and tell them that you want to learn from them. Odds are they won’t reply because they’re rammed – everyone is. But try again once a week (never twice a week, stalker) and know that they don’t not want to email you back. They’re just busy.
If advertising had a horrible time of things in 2020, then those who are trying to break into the industry in 2021 are attempting to board the Titanic from the bottom deck. Most places aren’t taking on placements, let alone offering jobs. It’s hard to bring people in as people are being asked to leave.
But if you’re a student or new creative, you can use this period to speak to the people you’re normally scared of approaching. Use this weird time to get better at getting to know the people you want to know, but would usually be too shy to contact. That’s the advice we wish someone had given us when we were starting out.
So… Dave Dye, fancy a cup of tea or a kick about?
Thomas Worthington and Greg Ormrod are creatives at Havas London