Rapid Fire Tough Advise

Back in the day, an aspiring copywriter or art director had to call creative directors on the phone and beg for 20 minutes of their time. Thanks to ihaveanidea’s Portfolio Night, aspirants may now pay a fee and see a bunch of CDs in one place.
Here’s how the New York Times describes it:

There are not a lot of job openings on the highly coveted creative side of advertising agencies, but there are lots of hopefuls desperate to land one.
So desperate that nearly 75 aspiring young creative types paid $35 each, and in many cases traveled across the country, to attend Portfolio Night, an industry-sponsored event last Thursday that put attendees face-to-face with their professional idols: creative directors and copywriters.
“At the end of the day, there’s 5,000 young people in America looking for one copywriter job,” said Scott Goodson, the chief executive and chief creative officer of StrawberryFrog, an advertising agency in New York.

It is hard to get your first big break in the ad industry, but I don’t know about the numbers Goodson’s spouting. Maybe that’s what it looks like from his Henry Miller chair. However, I think it’s natural for ad people to inflate their importance, much in the way elite college grads, or certain fraternity brothers, might.

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. egoincheck says:

    I give credit to the young creatives who showed up (I was one of those reviewing books). Receiving a sudden dose of cold water, as many of them did, isn’t easy.
    Likewise, I’m sure it wasn’t good to see what kind of people many creative leaders become when presented with an open bar.
    During the introductory happy hour, few CDs talked to the students, instead glad-handing one another. Those who did greet students seemed to be older men talking with the most attractive, young girls.
    During the opening comments, the well-lubricated creatives refused to halt their own conversations. It was impossible to hear what was said, even with the sound system. We professionals might have heard it all before, but those paying $35 haven’t.
    Drinking continued as books were reviewed. A young creative later told me one CD was too wasted to read headlines. I overheard another group of attendees saying how a drunken reviewer “accidently” groped one of them. He then asked for the girl’s number. She felt she couldn’t say “no” without burning a bridge to a possible job.
    I believe this program offers useful feedback. Most professionals do a good job. The inclusion of alcohol, however, does little more than showcase the worst of our self-absorbed, substance abuse-filled professional.

  2. Wow, thanks for the first-hand report. I didn’t realize the casting couch routine was so plainly evident, particularly in public. Lame!

  3. Carl LaFong says:

    What is it about this business that seems to attract so many power-crazed divas, raging egomaniacs and all-around scumbags?
    Or is advertising no different than any other industry?

  4. egoincheck says:

    Oh, we’re worse than many industries, if nothing else in the vast, fertilizer spread of our ego-fed rediculousness.
    We are craftsmen at best. Salesmen, more honestly. We may “build” million-dollar commercials, but they’re nothing more than disposable sales pitches. We are no different than the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman of the 1960s. (Rent the Maysles Bro.’s film “Salesmen” and see if you don’t recognize your ad agency brethren.)
    When was the last time you heard anyone with a senior title in an agency creative department admit to being either a crafstman or a door-to-door salesman? Much less say they’re proud of being such?
    Sure, there are a few. A rare few. But they’re far outnumbered by those who’d rather discuss how they were upgraded at the hottest, new hotel in LA and dined next to Michael Douglas at Georgio Baldi. You know…he’s shorter than you’d think.

  5. Salesman. Yeah! Craftsman. Yeah!
    btw, it’s spelled Giorgiobaldi i think. the one in Malibu right?

  6. It’s funny you should say we’re craftsmen; I’ve always felt we’re working in the highest paid apprentice craft in the world.
    Kids coming into the industry (myself included, way back when), while well intentioned are essentially clueless about the craft, especially if you’re talking about the aforementioned million-dollar broadcast productions.
    I’ve dealt with a hundred fresh-out-of-portfolio-school whiz kids that become put off at the fact you won’t give them free reign to play romper room on-set or in post, not realizing that, if you do, you’ll double your production budget fixing all their fuck-ups (“What do you mean I blew the whites out and what does the colorist mean when he says there’s “no information” on the film?”)
    The only way to learn the business is to do it—under the wing of someone who trusts you just enough to give you your own highly supervised sandbox to play in.
    That’s how I did it, and that’s called an apprenticeship—and it’s certainly a craft.
    It’s too bad the drunk fucks at the portfolio screening forgot whatever “sacred contract” they made when they themselves learned from someone who was willing to teach.
    Someone responsible and willing has to show you the way, just like someone has to show you how to smooth-talk your way into a suite at the Mondrian.

  7. egoincheck says:

    And to think I call myself a “craftsman”. Yes, veedub, it’s Giorgio Baldo, not my badly mangled and “Americanized” spelling. I guess I haven’t dined there often enough to know better.

  8. Can anyone confirm the accusations made by egoincheck? If the event indeed featured drunken and lecherous cds, I think at least two things should happen: 1. The students receive a refund of their money; 2. The allegedly unprofessional creative directors get called out in a more public forum.
    I’d love to hear commentary from someone at ihaveanidea.

  9. egoincheck says:

    I would happily name-check, but the most grevious behavior came from a well known and powerful ECD. My fear is this – each of us reviewed only a handful of books. If this guy was called out, he could easily get the names of those he reviewed and blackball them. He has many, old friends in other shops. A bad word from him could do serious damage.
    Silence is golden in this industry. The youngsters who were trying to get a foot in the door don’t deserve to have it slammed shut on their toes. (To be quite honest? I don’t doubt my career would be torpedoed were my identity to come out.
    In an effort to be fair, I ran what I’d heard past a couple ad veterans who know all the skeletons. They rolled their eyes and said this man is known for getting hammered and “too friendly” at ad functions.