Like all the best cliches, it happens to be true: America is a big place. Look at a map if you don't believe me. It's immense.
Just how big America is can take some getting used to. If you've ever wondered why Americans can sometimes appear so insular, so unaware of world events, if you've ever watched American news and thought "what happened to the rest of the world?", or wondered why they don't know the name of our Prime Minister, here's the reason: they just don't have the time to care.
Their own backyard is too big to manage. What you do is your business. Americans care about America. And Iraq. But mostly America. Sixty-five per cent of them have no passport. Why would they need one? This country has beaches, mountains, cities, valleys and deserts of its own. There are four Eiffel Towers in the US, and nine Londons.
Of course, my creative partner, Rachel Le Feuvre, and I knew this before we arrived; but we hadn't really considered it. Not until, grounded by an ear infection but keen to reach the West Coast for a shoot, we made the error of hopping on a Greyhound bus at New York's Port Authority.
We were still considering the country's vastness three days later, as we rolled along Arizona's vast, empty highways. From Manhattan's towering skyscrapers to the sprawling slums of Los Angeles, America is not just big, it's vast, gigantic, epic and, in several places, totally unknowable. Breakdown outside Tucumcari, New Mexico, and no-one's going to find you for hours (guess where our bus broke down?). In fact, it's only once you start working here that you begin to realise the scale of what you're embarking on.
Clients here have budgets that, for UK clients, would seem like winning the lottery. And for creatives it feels the same. But size isn't everything, is it? Well, actually, it is. Americans truly believe in advertising. It's part of the culture. They invest in it. So, suddenly you have the money to do things properly, to put love, time and craft into the idea you've created. It helps.
One commercial here for a national account can reach tens of millions. One Super Bowl ad and the eyes of the entire nation are on you. TV is still king here, the quickest way of reaching the most people, even with 200 channels. Of course, that necessitates a budget big enough to advertise on all of them. A campaign is seven spots, not two.
Fortunately, the brands at BBDO are in that bracket. It's an advantage of working at a big agency. Among 400 other creative teams, in an 80-storey skyscraper. Yup, whichever way you cut the numbers, America is a big place.
Realising all this can make you feel small. Luckily, they believe in big job titles, too.
- Dan Gorlov, formerly of TBWA\London, is an associate creative director at BBDO in New York.