Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So That’s WTF I Was Thinking!

By: Olivia Errasti / Account Executive 
       Here I am – over a year after my WTF Was I Thinking post – and dear Lord have I learned more lessons than a newbie that’s mistakenly found them self on the men4men section of craigslist. Those never stop, apparently; the lessons that is. One year and eight months in, one promotion down, two office moves completed, and dozens of client meetings later, I feel like my eyes have been opened to a world that is nothing like the Never-never Land I tried to stay in before my career started. The learning continues every day, and here I was thinking school was over – crap. 
   And I love it. It turns out becoming a working adult (emphasis on BECOMING) in the advertising realm is not scary and boring. Yes, we work plenty of long hours, and yes we have to fulfill some routine tasks, but life at VSBrooks is challenging, engaging, and best of all, fun. Every day is different than the next. So different that it’d make the models of a United Colors of Benetton ad jealous.
   Now, as Account Executive at VSBrooks Advertising, I present some ::Insert British accent here:: Pearls of Wisdom, that I have acquired over the last year.

 1)    Don’t trash ANYTHING

I get a sense of gratification and relief by throwing things out. Let’s put it this way, I have a mini basketball hoop over my trash bin. Contrary to what counselors on Hoarders will tell you, throwing away some unassuming pieces can hurt you down the road, in a big way. Take it from me…

We needed to come up with a company name and logo for a new client. This client came to a meeting with a one-page description of what the company does and what areas it specializes in. This solitary paper is what our agency was using to draw inspiration from for a company name – essentially, square one of creating a brand. I took a copy of that paper home, jotted notes, highlighted the crap out of it, came into work the next day, typed all my thoughts, and trashed the paper.

I threw that paper out for three reasons: 1) I had chicken scratched all over it with the penmanship of a doctor; 2) some one else had the original paper; they had to. Why would they ever throw it out? 3) I WAS DONE, and thus ran to the garbage can with the conviction of a politician whose party is not in office.

It turns out that my ideas were received about as well as the Gap’s attempt at updating their logo (Industry humor – picked that lesson up somewhere along the line), and I found myself back at square one. But I had thrown that paper out, and the original paper was lost. Fu…dge.

Moral: That may not have been the first time I’d thrown something out that I didn’t realize I was going to need later, but it sure was the last. Here in the office we keep binders upon binders of materials for our reference if ever in the future we need inspiration or information. Now I get why! After all, those binders are like my little cousins – I use the crap out of them when I need to find something.

 2) Keep ya damn trap shut!

            This one you can learn firsthand, or from watching those around you. I have a complex about coming off as an idiot, so at times I’m quiet if I’m not sure what the right answer is. But I’ve had a few foot-in-mouth situations where I’ve promised the client a deadline that I swear would make the old guy in the Dos Equis ads say, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I smash the empty bottles over account executives’ heads.”

Moral: “I’ll get back to you” and “Let me discuss this with my team” should be just about the only phrases in your lexicon for what’s an acceptable answer when a client says, “how soon can we get this?” Otherwise, you’re going to have quite a few pissed off people back in the office (read: creatives and media people). And it might help to remember that a beer bottle doesn’t break with slight force.

 3) Clients are people, too

            I’m still grappling with this one. It was somehow so obvious during my first few months in the industry. And then I lost sight of that after a client woke me up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning. I now actively remind myself before every client meeting, phone call, or interaction, that I’m about to talk to an actual other human being with a family and life, not a machine that’s just going to mercilessly throw another thing on my plate. “It might be nice if they were a machine, though,” I think to myself sometimes. My job would certainly be less stressful. But then again it wouldn’t be as exciting and challenging, and I wouldn’t have work TO DO.
            Clients are people, too. That also means that you have to connect with them on a personal level. I’m not talking about telling them your darkest fears, but tidbits here and there about yourself help ease the stiff feeling that often comes with business meetings. It also communicates your genuine sense and trust that may allow the client to reciprocate. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but more often than not you’ll have the client feeling comfortable. So comfortable, even, that they might say or do something that actually makes YOU uncomfortable – like licking your face. True story.

Moral: If you’re new in the ad world (any working world, really) and are intimidated by client meetings, take the client off that pedestal. If you think “Ay Dios mio, la hora llego!” even before your conference call, like any grandmother watching the news that thinks it’s all going to hell, stop. You may come to realize that just because they give you more work or present a new problem, that “problem” is actually an opportunity.