14 advertising agencies in 14 months. “What could go wrong?” asks Steve Taylor, of The Great Agency Adventure.
The only thing that has gone wrong, in my opinion, is that Steve only gets paid $12 an hour to work as a copywriter. What’s the catch? He gets to work at a new ad agency every month for 14 months. It’s a crazy idea, but it’s working. At this point, Steve is more than half way through his tour across the country.
This July, he’s moving to a new city- Chicago. He will be there for a month, then he will move again.
It’s kind of genius, what he’s doing with his career. Most of us will never work in 14 different agencies. By now, he has more work experience than most of us will ever have.
There’s one thing we all can do. We can learn from Steve’s adventure. You will soon find out, every agency has a different flavor. Some are big. Some are small. Some make music. Other’s collect weird things.
The point is, when you’re looking for an agency job, don’t send your resume just anywhere. Research the place you’re looking for and find an agency that’s the right fit for you. Sometimes it takes an outsider, like Steve Taylor, to give us some perspective.
How does it feel to be the new guy every month.
It takes a little getting used to because every agency runs differently and people react to me differently. There’s processes that I have to go through when I get there. It’s kind of a challenge but it’s also kinda fun at the same time.
I bet it’s surreal for you. Before you started this, you were just a normal dude, doing normal copywriter stuff and all of a sudden everyone wants to talk with you.
I was living and working in New York City for four years. I had to go back home, to Ohio, to take care of some family business. I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know if I should go back to New York or stay in Ohio. I had discussions with people and somehow it turned into this. At first, I didn’t think anyone would care. I thought, ‘This may never go anywhere. Why not give it a try?’
What’s going to happen when you’re done with this project? You say, on your website, that you want this to be a tool for you and young creatives to get a good feel for different agencies. Do you feel like you’re getting too attached to these places that you can’t criticize them?
The good thing is that I haven’t had many bad experiences. Most of the bad has to do with a particular city or some aspect of the travel. I’m making so many friends along the way. The people I’m meeting are really great and it is hard to leave each place. I am getting attached, in that way.
“I know that this project is going to help me get better. I think what I’m trying to do is speed up the process and get a lot of experience that usually takes years to get.”
What’s the final product going to look like?
I want to take the blog that I’ve been keeping and combine it with all the photos I post on Instagram. I want to organize all the little pieces together and turn it into a book. That will give me a way to talk about things that I haven’t blogged about. There’s tons of stuff I haven’t posted on my blog that I’d like to put into the book.
What is the ad scene like outside Madison Avenue?
A lot of people I know, in New York, love where they work but aren’t fans of New York. I always ask them, ‘Why do you live here?’ They always answer, ‘This is where the good jobs are. This is where the clients go.’ I’m just hoping that people following me see that New York is great, but it’s not the be-all end-all. I just want to show people, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a place where you love to work and live.
Do you feel like you’ve grown creatively by having this experience?
It’s really helped me know where my strengths are. Now that I have some agencies under my belt, I always come in and say, ‘I’m really good at brainstorming big ideas. It’s what I’m good at.’ Or if they say, ‘I need a tag for this’ I can write you a really good tag for that. Before, I knew I could do the job but now I know where my strengths are and where I still need work. I need to work on TV and radio scripts. Those are my weaker points at the moment. Whenever I get a chance to do either, I jump at it, because I won’t get any better if I don’t.
Describe yourself creatively as a copywriter before you started this adventure.
I was really happy at the place I was working at in New York. I love the people I worked with and we were doing good work. But, I always want to be better. On a personal level, I know that this project is going to help me get better. I think what I’m trying to do is speed up the process and get a lot of experience that usually takes years to get. I’m never comfortable where I’m at (talentwise). I always want to win bigger awards, do bigger things for clients, do better work for my bosses… that’s just me and I how I’ve always been. I’m never happy with what I’m doing because I know I could do better.
You have 7 agencies under your belt and you’re only half way done with this adventure. Talk to me about each agency you’ve visited so far.
1. Recess Creative in Cleveland, OH.
What I’ve noticed about the different agencies is that the size determines how they do their creative process. When you get to a place like Recess in Cleveland, with only 15-20 people on staff, it’s more of an all hands on deck creative process. The smaller the agency is, the more hats people have to wear.
4. Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners, Philadelphia
That was a really cool experience. They are a very creative agency. I got to work with a lot of really cool people. They have one of the most unique offices I’ve ever seen. It’s on the top two stories of an old apartment building in Philly. Their conference room was an old living room. They decorated it with lavish tchotchkes. Every client has a dedicated team. It was really cool because they also do a lot of their own production, editing in house. They have a guy named Steve Thompson and his title is ‘the Maker.’ That’s literally his job – to make stuff they need for photo shoots or something cool for a client.
5. BooneOakley – Charlotte
They were the epitome of southern hospitality, to me. Everyone there was super laid back and really nice. They really understand the work-hard, play-hard ethic. Even when I was working really hard, I never felt like I was working because they made the process so fun and engaging. There are so many good ideas coming out of there. They would brainstorm constantly to make sure they came up with the right idea for the client. If there was something you were interested in, even if it’s not for a client you are working on, you were more than welcome to come into a meeting and share ideas. That was really cool.
3. We Are Social, NY
We Are Social is an international agency that just does social media for clients. However, their New York office is not very big. It felt like a startup company. You can feel the excitement every time a new client would come in. It was just one room with a team working together really hard. It was really cool to see everyone collaborate while still getting to know each other.
6. Red Deluxe – Memphis
They had a really cool idea. Whenever you are working on something, you post it outside your workspace. They encouraged everyone to comment and give feedback and ask questions. Even account people, if they had questions about a certain creative, people were really receptive to hear it – which is really unique. Everyone there had input on everything and it was really cool. When I was there, we were working on a campaign for a client and there was this big white wall and they would put tags, headlines and body copy up next to the visuals. We would get together, and discuss it. When people walked by, if they had any questions, they would leave a little note on it like, ‘I had a question about why you used this word. Is there a stronger word you can use against the visual?’
7. Boxing Clever -St. Louis
They have a traditional creative process. The creatives are on one side of the office and the account people are on the other side. They have like 50 people on staff. That’s enough people that they can put a certain team for each client. The cool thing about this agency is that they are starting up book publishing. They also have their own record label which is super awesome. I’ve worked on a couple of spec projects for the agency and for the record label.
I would love to see your resume – before and after. You’re almost going to have to put a giant disclaimer for people who are not familiar with your project. “I didn’t get fired every month.”
I think I will raise some eyebrows and have some questions thrown my way when people look at my resume. I’m turning 30 in October. I was talking to my mom the other day and she said, ‘You have to stop this nonsense and settle down, get a job and go find your self a lady.’ I’ll do that when I’m done.
Steve is currently heading to the windy city, where he will soon begin his tenure at TRIS3CT.
Although I’ve been to Chicago a few times before, I know it has a lot more to offer and I’m excited to take it all in. We’re halfway through this little project of mine and if the second half is anything like the first, we’re going to have a great time together.