The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Breaking In: Advice from 100 Advertising Rockstars

It’s a tumultuous and uncertain age for many industries and cultural facets as we grapple with difficult questions about the future of publishing, education, art and many other aspects of humanity. Media and advertising are among the industries most deeply unsettled by “the digital age” and all the new modalities of social communication. But if the industry itself is shaken by a profound identity crisis, unsure of what creative merit means anymore, what’s left for those hungry and wide-eyed young guns looking for a dream job in that industry? That’s exactly what Breaking In, an ambitious new anthology by William Burks Spencer, explores through over 100 interviews with advertising insiders, who share experience-tested, credibility-stamped insights on building an exceptional portfolio that will get you hired.

The project took over four years to complete and, though certainly a boys’ club, features a formidable roster of agency rockstars the likes of Dan Wieden, Gerry Graf, David Droga, Bob Greenberg, and Ari Merkin.

What a lot of people are looking for these days is 360-degree thinking. So I’m looking for someone who is not bound by medium but bound by the idea, and media is there to support that idea.” ~ Ji Lee, Creative Director, Google Creative Lab, New York

If the writing is absolutely brilliant, people will forgive anything. We all hear stories of this great guy that was discovered by writing concepts on a napkin, and I think that’s awesome. I actually know that great guy. But that’s probably in keeping with the rest of his or her personality, naturally. It can happen, but if you’re one of those people you probably already know it, and you’re not reading this.” ~ Monica Taylor, Creative Director, Wieden+Kennedy, Portland

It’s an interesting time. The industry has changed so much, but clearly, the principles in the industry are still very much the same. But there are so many different influences now. We can influence so many different industries and collaborate with more industries. I think it makes it more exciting.” ~ David Droga, Founder & Creative Chairman, Droga5, New York

Ideas are really important, but the way that the traditional side of the business values “the big idea” is completely out of balance with the way that you actually produce work in the digital space. I say all the time, ‘The Greatest idea in the world, unproduced, has no value whatsoever. A mediocre idea, produced, has some incremental value.’ So why is the value always placed on the big idea when getting this into the world is so important?” ~ Michael Lebowitz, Founder & CEO, Big Spaceship, New York

(Sound familiar?)

These are strange days for our business. Massive shifts are taking place and nobody is entirely sure what the agency of the future will look like. I imagine there’s a ton of pressure on students to demonstrate their ability to keep up with everything new. But proceed with caution here. Sometimes, the best idea isn’t about new media, it’s simply a new idea. There’s no substitute for a smart human insight.” ~ Ari Merkin, Executive Creative Director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami

Breaking In comes with a fantastic companion site, where interview excerpts and award-winning work by the interviewees are being posted daily.

Published April 28, 2011




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