Friday, March 13, 2009

New York City Agency Trip: Where Shit Got Real.

Two professors from my school took about a dozen of us advertising kids for a 3-day tour of some of the best agencies in the city. We also did some meet-and-greets with alums and had the chance to network like a bunch of crazy fools.

I got in Sunday night and met Katie at our hotel. We headed over to Williamsburg to do some thrifting (sold a dress and got a $20 pair of cowboy boots) and get liquored up for the next day. A bit of a pubcrawl ensued, and we managed to fit in quite well, I think.

Monday morning, 9:15 AM sharp, we rolled into the lobby of Publicis. I interned at Publicis Groupe in Paris last year, so I was interested to see their New York office. They laid out an amazing breakfast spread, gave us free shirts, and let us talk to one of the new Creative Directors after a looong presentation. As a copywriter, I have little to no interest in hearing about the account side and dealing with a client, but I suppose it's a good reference point. The presenters were great speakers and it was a beautiful conference room on the roof of the building.

Katie and I got locked into the stairwell on the way out, so we tripped down about 12 floors of stairs and somehow got out to the street level. Eesh.

The next agency was Kirschenbaum Bond and Partners downtown. We made a quick stop for fish and chips at A Salt and Battery first. I rushed into the place and must have a seemed a bit frantic, because the guy doing the fish frying called me "love" in his perfect accent and calmed me down.

Katie's fish and chips

I also got some roast chicken crisps and Hula Hoops to tide me over until... something. I don't know the next time I'll have more.

KBP was really, really cool-- it's the sort of agency you imagine when you hear "advertising," I think. The walls were bright neon colors, beanbags were scattered around, and everyone was in their 20s. John Bond, one of the partners, actually came in to answer questions and talk to us. It was pretty surreal to hear him describing the business.

At the end, one of the Art Directors stuck around to critique the creatives' books.

That night was a reunion/meet-and-greet sort of dealie in midtown. I ended up meeting a lot of alums who are or were at amazing places, like JWT, BBH, Ogilvy, and Atmosphere BBDO.

Tuesday morning was Cline Davis. I frankly didn't expect to like it because it's a pharmaceutical ad agency, but it was the best presentation of the trip and everyone seemed to really love working there. The creative work is beautiful and the physical agency is very cool-looking. One of the ADs brought us over to do a quick tutorial on their thought process and handed out little BU postcards she made us. Everything was personalized and they made an effort to make us feel welcome and understand their culture.

Pret for lunch (w00t!!) and then uptown to BBDO. Katie and I were shitting ourselves, frankly, because BBDO is one of the oldest, biggest, and most prestigious agencies around. The conference room was filled with these gorgeous, comfortable chairs and free stuff. The lady who hosted us came into the room last, and was telling us to "grab m&ms, some water, make yourself at home--" when she realized we already had.

"College kids!"

Conference Room

The best part was having the creatives come in from both Atmosphere (the digital wing of BBDO which is now Proximity) and BBDO to answer questions. Atmosphere's done some truly amazing stuff over the past year or so, and it was so cool to hear first-hand where it all came from.

There was also a production guy who gave an insane presentation about his job. I know Katie and I are both also really interested in production, so hearing about and seeing his most bizarre and challenging work was an opportunity we hadn't expected.

After the presentation, they took us straight to the world-famous BBDO bar, Central Filing. Being BU kids, we immediately sidled up to the bar and started ordering: it was open bar for us, and they served their clients' products (BudLight, Guinness, Red Stripe).

Over the next few hours, we met the CEO (who came in with a group of clients), Skip the lawyer (who apparently lives in the bar every day after 4 PM), and a few other important heads of state at the company. There was drinking, Guitar Hero-playing, and drunken Twitter discussions.

Aforementioned Wii-playing

We closed down the bar and ended up with kebabs on the street in front of Radio City.

The next morning, we saw Kaplan Thaler, another Publicis Groupe-owned company. I distinctly remember calling KTG while I was working at Publicis Groupe, trying to get an update on their employee number or something. Whoever put them into the internal directory had accidentally included Linda Kaplan Thaler's direct line, so I called her without realizing and then had a very nice conversation about the weather in Paris and the theater strike in New York. Linda came into our presentation to say hi and left us all feeling inspired. She's really an amazing lady.

Our last stop of the trip? TBWA/Chiat/Day. Which. Was... phew.

They're probably the best known for their creative of the places we visited. A BU album who does new business for TBWA WW talked to us about pitches and their recent Pepsi work. They also brought in some junior creatives to talk to us about our books and how to approach work. The copywriter is a woman, and she is doing a Survivor-style program right now-- she's not even a permanent employee. She told me it's definitely a situation where you have to prove yourself, as a female creative.

The scary thing is, nearly all of the creatives I met over the trip went to portfolio school for 2 years. I really can't imagine doing that now, because it's expensive and another 2 years where I'd be out of work. I did get some great tips for my portfolio, so I'll be working really hard to get it good enough to show to the TBWAs of the world.

Themes of the trip? Finding your first job is the hardest part. It seems nearly everyone got lucky and used their contacts to get their books seen. Once a CD approves you for an interview, it's all about proving you're a real person with hobbies and an interesting story.


That's where I'm at right now. I'm hopeful about talking to a few people in particular, and I'm doing a copy test for another place. My professor at BU is amazing for taking us, and I already feel better prepared. I'm also very stressed out, but that's how it's going to be until I can get hired.
Me, sad because TBWA didn't hire me on the spot.


Anonymous said...

bbdo might have a great rep but don't work there. Atmosphere too.

-former atmosphere creative

Emily Marie said...

You interned at what agency within Publicis Groupe last year? I was at Publicis Consultants...weird!

Emily Marie said...

and I meant to also say in Paris...on the Champs-Elysées.

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