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articles / advertising know-how and fearless opinions


Posted on January 16, 2013 and read 2,454 times

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Amadeusheadshot 20/20 HINDSIGHTAmadeus Henhapl
BSUR Amsterdam

I remember when I first stumbled over IHAVEANIDEA a few years ago, when I was just starting out with advertising. Back then I had some vague idea from college, read everything about and from the industry, and watched lots of Mad Men. Over the past four years of going to ad-school and (still) having my first job I’ve found out a few things. For example, my job is much more like Peggy Olson’s than Don Draper’s. But that wasn’t the only revelation that has made my professional life easier. I’d like to share some of the more profound ones with my four-years-younger self and anyone else in the same position.

Some might see parallels to a fantastic book by fellow Austrian Stefan Sagmeister: “Things I have learned in my life so far”. They’re right. This brings me to my first point:

Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal.

Good that you didn’t stop reading. I’m not saying to go around and copy stuff from 2001 awards books. But looking at great past work with an eye on the techniques, tricks and trains of thought they used might help you out when you’re stuck. Awards books should never be your sole inspiration though. Ever. Go to the museum, read a book, watch a French movie…you know the drill.

Set the Stupid Box on Fire.

In case your briefs do not already come in the form of a box, here’s an easy folding guide:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Now go to your backyard and ritually burn it. This might seem dramatic, but is absolutely necessary for the learning process. Afterwards you can stop worrying from which side to think about that box.

Good briefs don’t come in boxes. They can be reduced to one thought that’s interesting and gets you, as a creative, to think differently about a brand or product. Concise, yet open. Ask for that. If you don’t get it, ask for matches. Then go write it yourself!

Don’t Forget Your Book.

As you start out in an agency everything’s pretty exciting and you’ll be doing lots of work for lots of brands and spend lots of time on that. Which is great, that’s what you signed up for. But be aware that most of those things will probably never be produced. And chances are pretty high, that the things which will, might never make in your book.

So don’t forget about what really interests you and sets you apart as a creative. Maybe you write poems, photograph or make silly videos. Whatever it is: keep it alive and use it to add punch to your portfolio.

I have to admit that’s a point I’m struggling with myself. I could say that I don’t have time for that. But that’s just one of those stupid excuses you have to stop making if you want to get it done. Someone who doesn’t make excuses is my former Creative Director, Gen Hoey, who also wrote a great article on that topic for IHAVEANIDEA.

Don’t Get Frustrated…

… it’s just advertising. I know it’s an old chestnut, but it’s a true one. In the real world, things take much longer than you think and that’s normally not a good sign. Ideas will die and you’ll have to get used to it. Get a punching bag and a big paper-bin. Or just fill the punching bag up with old concepts and go Rocky on it.

Whatever you do, don’t worry. You will learn to kill your babies and not cry over them. The good ones will survive, at least in your mind. They might even be the exact right thing for a different client somewhere down the road. Happens all the time.

Stick Around.

I remember talking to a friend of mine who works as an Art Director here in Amsterdam. He’s a very talented guy and has been at great agencies throughout his career, but always jumped ship whenever they started to go down. As soon as he arrived at a new one, that one did badly. Ditto for the next one, and the one he’s working for now. But this time, he says, he’ll be sitting it out to be around when they’re back on top. There’s a possibility that he’s simply poison for any agency, but I don’t think so. I think he’s got a point: for most agencies, success comes and goes in phases. Sometimes it helps to stay loyal to also be part of more fortunate times.

Don’t Get Scared.

If you did stick around, or you’re just one lucky and smart bastard to begin with, you’ll probably get more responsibility soon. We’re all glad for every chance we get to prove ourselves, but diving right in can sometimes be scary. I remember how lost I was when I had to write my first big and important sounding manifesto for a brand spot. Then I got one of the simplest, yet best pieces of advice ever: just start. Simply write down anything smart you can think of and don’t worry about structure or sense. Afterwards you pick out the nuggets and take it from there.

Lastly, never forget the greatest things about our job and learn something new every day. Then go and share your thoughts with others. I hope mine were a help to some people out there who are just beginning their careers. I think my 22-year-old self would’ve been one of them.




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