Eat Ramen Noodles Until Your You’re 30

Wieden’s Mark Fenske, by his own admission, is “out of bounds idealistic.”
We can find evidence of this in the poetry he dedicates to his VCU Adcenter students:
Forget the money.
Pay no attention to it.
Go after what your inside wants–the work.
Love the making.
Screw the mammon.
You can’t eat it.
You can live on work. You’ll see.
“Screw Fenske. He’s an idealist.”
I can hear you think it.
You’re right.
I’m out of bounds idealistic here.
You have to be.
Don’t do this if you aren’t.
I’m an idealistic person, but I can’t say advertising is worthy of these lofty sentiments. If you want to be an artist, then rock on with your bad self. Advertising, on the other hand, is a business, and in business a healthy respect for money can be a good thing. Personally, I’d rather see a peer strive for money, than for something as hollow as an industry award. Sure, the Zen-like among us may find a higher calling in advertising, but for most it’s a way to hone their art and writing skills while getting paid a decent wage.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Then I feel very bad for you.
    Personal Growth ==> Usefulness ==> A bright and successful career

  2. Carl LaFong says:

    Wait a minute. That poem didn’t rhyme. What’s this guy Fenske trying to pull anyway?

  3. David: I can’t agree with you more. Advertising is about business. If you want art, go the art route and really see if you can cut it. If you want to make a living(relatively speaking), go the ad route.
    But have no doubts, you will have to sacrifice your freedom and idealism for the goals of the client. Advertising is not successful based on the merits of how many awards YOU get. It’s successful based on how well you’ve done the job for the client. These are clients with business goals, not your artistic patron. Why is that always so hard to remember?

  4. Milo, please direct your bad feelings elsewhere. I don’t need them.
    Carl, Fenske is trying to pull a rabbit from a hat.
    Ken, it’s not hard at all to remember. 99.9999% of the people who work in the agency business remember that they’re business people first and craftsmen second every morning upon arrival at their desk.

  5. David and supporters,
    I think you’re reading Fenske wrong. I think he’s essentially saying don’t go into it for the money; go because you have passion for the work. Whether you think it’s art or not is semi-irrelevant. I’ve always made similar comments to juniors. They should aim to work first, and the money will follow — provided you’re good. Sally Hogshead and nearly everyone (including non-adpeople) say the same thing. Juniors who get into our business expecting to make a lot of money from jump are kidding themselves. And in this day and age, they may never realize the Fenske-level salaries, as those figures may disappear like the big agencies.
    Or maybe there was more content to the poem that you didn’t post.

  6. Thanks High Jive, but I’m a pretty confident I read Fenske correctly. I agree with his basic sentiment (and yours) that the work should be the highest priority. I’m merely adding some of my own commentary. Which is money is almost always a consideration. People who don’t concern themselves with money tend to stay far away from this field.

  7. OK, David.
    But here’s some food for thought. In Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead, the author conducted a study among over 1,000 Generation X workers. Below are a few related findings, which numerous employment experts have also discovered.
    Which is more important to get from your employer:
    Fat paycheck: 11.2%
    Respect: 88.8%
    Which is your idea of professional hell:
    Long hours: 3.8%
    Low pay: 4.7%
    Being micromanaged: 15.6%
    Disrespectful boss or coworkers: 75.9%
    Which would you choose:
    A job I HATE but make three times the money I do now: 13%
    A job I LOVE and make half the money I do now: 87%
    Power is:
    Fame: 2.8%
    Making a lot of money: 12%
    Access to most important people: 16.3%
    Freedom to say no and walk away: 32.3%
    Having complete control over your schedule: 36.7%
    Anyway, one of my points is that the newer generations of workers bring new attitudes to the game. They don’t want to play like David Ogilvy with his obsession theories or Leo Burnett burning the midnight oil. Fenske may not even realize it, but his don’t-do-it-for-the-money lecture is unnecessary. Young people entering this field realize the jobs are more rare and the money is less attractive. Plus, few of them expect to have a lifelong career in any one field. Most of the younger employees I know have a bunch of side gigs and interests, many of which have nothing to do with advertising — and all are equally important to advertising.

  8. friendlyreminder says:

    But no matter what motivates you, never mistakenly use “your” in place of “you’re” as seen in the headline of this post.

  9. Thanks for the edit.

  10. ohplease says:

    Yes, students, be all about the work.
    You don’t need money. You can live on the work. You’ll see…
    Of course, if you’re me, Mark Fenske, you can also live on a steady stream on voiceover reiduals recieved for being the VO on some pretty shitty tv spots. So from now on, when I say “work” I also mean “voiceover residuals for shitty tv spots”.
    Now then. Where were we?
    Ah yes.
    Be all about the work…