Sunday, November 18, 2012
The Myth That 'It Helps To Have Contacts'
Young creatives are always worrying about how they can 'get in front of' an ECD.
If only they had 'a contact' at Droga5, or 'knew someone' at Saatchi & Saatchi, they could get in there, and get a job.
They view the agency world as some kind of closed society, which if only they could become a member of, they would be set.
This thinking is wrong, and could lead to a dangerous lack of focus on what's really important - doing great work.
I say this even though part of what helped me get an interview for my new job (one week in - and loving it) was a recommendation from a well-known figure in the agency world. But the reason he recommended me was that he liked the work I had done when I spent some time in his agency.
The first job I ever got was via a headhunter calling in books on behalf of a young art director looking for a writer at Saatchi's in London. I didn't know anyone there. My second job, at a small 'youth-focused' agency, was actually advertised in Campaign. The ad read: 'Wanted: Creative Team. No Wankers.' Admittedly, that should have been a warning sign. But nevertheless, the job didn't come through contacts. Next job, at Ogilvy, was again via headhunters collecting books for a CD. Next job, at DDB London, came after my partner and I won something called the Cannes Young Creatives competition, where we represented the UK (failing miserably) at Cannes. One of the judges was the ECD of DDB, and he liked our work. Thereafter, we started winning a few awards and so any job offers came via people knowing our work.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, everything came via doing work that people liked, and not by contacts.
There's an analogous situation in Hollywood. There, young writers are always trying to get an agent, believing that if only they could get in front of one, their career would take off. But agents themselves have an amusing piece of advice for young writers. The advice is: First, write a great screenplay. Then, dig a hole in your garden, bury the screenplay in the hole, and go to bed. When you wake up in the morning, there will be thirty agents waiting outside your house.
In other words, it's all about doing great work.