Advertising. And Howe
By Karen Howe
Advertising is the coolest job in the world – it opens doors to truly extraordinary experiences, whether it is shooting a commercial on the top of the Andes or drinking beside Yoko Ono
I was sitting in the quiet garden bar of the famous Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. It was a sunny, late February afternoon. Our recording session had wrapped up early, so we were having a quiet glass of post-work vino. The bar was almost deserted. As we chatted I happened to gaze idly over at the couple beside us. I almost spit my Chardonnay across the table. It was Yoko Ono. She was quietly nibbling a salad with a friend.
She was sitting so close to me that I couldn’t even phone my husband to shriek, “I am sitting beside Yoko Ono!!!!” After I promised myself that I would not accuse her of breaking up the Beatles, I once again pinched myself and intoned: I have the coolest job in the world.
I’ve worked in L.A. countless times, and celebrity sightings are not uncommon. But they are still a thrill. I have jostled yogurts in a fridge with Seth Rogan. Toasted bagels with Chris Noth. Eyed Matt Dillon’s footwear. I’ve shared the smoking patio with a sullen, battered Kiefer Sutherland. I’ve exchanged pleasantries with Forest Whitaker. Dined at the table beside John Cusak. Had Britney Spears wander across the lobby of my hotel in fluffy slippers. I’ve been in an airport lounge with an optimistically satin-shorts clad Richard Simmons, mid-winter. I’ve run into Jerry Stiller (Ben Stiller’s dad) in a bathrobe. Twice. It was alarming.
And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Reba McEntire.
My job has also provided the opportunity to work with celebrities like Kevin Bacon and Bob Newhart. Not together, that’d just be weird.
My point being that a career in advertising is one that opens doors to truly extraordinary experiences.
I’ve been lucky enough to shoot commercials around the world from New York, Vancouver and Los Angeles to Chile. From underwater to the top of the Andes at sunrise. One assignment for Foster Parents Plan (now Plan International) sent me to Bolivia for 10 days.
There are so many reasons to love this business. You are paid to create. To be original. It is intellectually stimulating because it is that ideal intersection of art and commerce.
You help build business through ideas that could ultimately mean millions of dollars for a company. You can change lives for the better by creating ideas that fundraise for great causes. On a strictly personal level, if you author a campaign that your peers admire, you amass global recognition for your cleverness. So it can be enormously satisfying.
But a career in advertising commands its price. There is no question that it demands long hours. It simply isn’t a 9-to-5 gig. You will be working nights, on weekends, and sometimes rescheduling holidays.
You’ll need to make sure you’re the type of person who doesn’t crack under the unrelenting stress of impossible deadlines – often many at once. There is also the constant pressure of being unique on demand. How many times have you been asked, “How do you come up with all those ideas?” Sometimes at 4:00 a.m. you’ll be asking yourself, “How will come up with ANY ideas?” A successful career in advertising also means being able to handle a cascade of input on your ideas from all and sundry, with grace.
It can be daunting.
But when you hit a rough patch, a bleak day, or a time when your campaign seems to suffering what I call “death by a thousand paper cuts,” it really pays to be able to stand back and take the longer view. Keep it all in perspective. It will get better.
When I think of this business I always remember the words of ad icon Jerry Della Famina. He really summed it up best when he said: “Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
So button up.
Karen Howe is senior vice-president, creative director of Due North Communications in Toronto. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 22, 2012 10:19 AM
I see you are young and female. I am old and female and have been on the graphic and illustration side of advertising for 30 plus years, mostly working in LA. And I am still going strong.
If you can, squeeze in a family. Its the most fun you will have with your clothes on and off.
Sounds like doing the impossible right? Yes.
March 15, 2012 07:24 AM
I think part of the problem now is that eopple think that just because of the success of using social media to sell products that they don't really need to think too hard about the fundamental points of selling something (target market/brand/literature/etc).Just because something is a lot cheaper to market globally now doesn't mean you should also skimp costs in other areas.