(Back in 2011, one of the largest ad agencies in the world flew this banner over the hordes at the Cannes ad festival. Note the spelling of "famously".)
Short answer: No. Long answer: FUCK No.
Today’s ad agencies are nothing like Sterling Cooper Draper
Pryce in the 1960s. They’re not even like Crispin Porter + Bogusky in 2005.
If you’re a young creative, you’re not going to be Don Draper or Peggy
Olson or even Stan Rizzo. You’re definitely not going to be Alex Bogusky.
You have no new truly
original ideas in your portfolio. You’re lucky if you have even one mildly
interesting idea amongst all the hackneyed, derivative dogshit. I know this: I’ve seen your portfolio. 100 fucking times.
Ad students have been sending me their portfolios—nearly daily, unsolicited—for 8 years, asking for advice. I never write them back.
This is my mass response.
If you want a “cool” ad agency creative department
job, it’s there, waiting for you (at least at the big mega-merged bloated shops) if you happen to be
one of those few young creatives with one (better, two) of those mildly interesting ideas in
your portfolio. Because agencies these days are as desperate as a virgin male 2nd semester college senior.
If you work at an ad agency, worked at an ad agency, or
especially, if you're planning on working at an ad agency: read it. It is well
worth your time.
This trend of good copywriters, art directors, and designers
bolting or eschewing established ad agencies is not a new one. AdAge published a piece about it back in 2010. But, it is a trend that is gaining
momentum, exponentially. Established creatives are heading to social
start-ups and media websites. More and more brands are hiring these disgruntled
creatives and bringing their ad work in-house.
Meanwhile, as Mutlu says:
"Agencies...are happy to keep trying to live in a world
which is ceasing to exist. Clinging onto the same ideas, tools, and ways of
working with CEOs who are either oblivious to the current mindset or too
frightened to instigate change. It's the perfect storm of increasing
entrepreneurialism, decreasing loyalty and an industry reveling in
Of course, all the creative directors at all of ad agencies
of all sizes will still use the "C" (creative) and "I"
(innovative) words in your interview. If you're a "hotshot" who they're hot to
hire and you've got a good feeling about the place, tell them you'd like to
freelance for a couple of months first. Facades are easy to erect.
Unless you have inside info, it’s hard to tell how “creative”
an ad agency’s work environment is. One clue is to look at is the agency’s own
I've gathered together some recent agency self-promo and recruitment ads/videos/staff press
photos—instances where ad agencies try to show the world just how fucking cool
they really are.
Take a look, and see if these seem like the kind of places
you'd like to spend working 10, 12 (or more, depending on the shop) hours a
The Ungar Group: "No Regrets"
Chicago's Ungar Group aired this spot, locally, during an April episode of last season's Mad Men.
Copy: "If you're looking for an advertising agency and don't meet with The Ungar Group. you will regret it for the rest of your lives."
Why is the man a zombie? I think they were trying to reference the Walking Dead (also on AMC). Why would you give your money to this ad agency? Because you're fucking brain dead. Back in 2007, Ungar created another cracking self-promo video where they threatened a kitten with a .357 Magnum.
SapientNitro "Idea Engineers"
SapientNitro has 37 offices worldwide, and is considered a "hot" "edgy" digital ad agency. What happened here with this auto-tuned "rap" song, I'm educatedly guessing, is one of the upper management guys desperately wanted to show off his guitar "skills".
"We're thinking not sinking..." Idea Engineers...
Planet Earth deserves to be destroyed by the Volgons because of this video.
This is the shop where every young "digital" creative wants to work. Their logo is a unicorn.
From the press note about the ad:
"...we're firm believers in practicing what we preach. And
what we preach is that creating content that intrigues, engages and even
entertains is a much better way of getting noticed than slavishly
manufacturing marketing messages. We also believe in being brave (how quaint) and giving new things a try...Inheritance isn't about who we are, what we do or even what we think
about the world. It is however meant to
be so very us (what?)."
I'm disappointed they didn't slip "storytelling" in there somewhere.
Do you want your two minutes back? Write them, and ask them to get their magical fucking unicorn to make it happen.
How bout some print promo ads.
"JWT Brazil. 76 years (old), so what?"
WHERE IDEAS ARE BORN. SEE, BECAUSE, A "LIGHT BULB" IS THE UNIVERSAL SYMBOL FOR "IDEA". Bloody brilliant.
Now, some staff press photos (click for closer looks).
Press photos from two firms considered "hot" and "creative". L—El Segundo's David & Goliath. GET IT? R—NYC's Sagmeister & Walsh. They're wearing space helmets because they're "explorers". They're naked because they're morons.
Both Philadelphia's Red Tettemer & Partners (L) and BBH NYC (R) go the hadouken route. WHO HAD IT FIRST?
In conclusion: stop sending me your portfolios, and drop out of ad school.