When I was youngster at BMP, I was thinking about how to progress my career.
As a writer I knew I was good, but I wasn’t great.
I knew I couldn’t just rely on my talent to get famous.
I’d have to think of another way.
Well how do other people do it?
I knew, lots of them wrote articles and gave speeches.
This gave them a fame beyond their talent.
Okay, I can do that.
I need to start by writing an article.
So I called campaign and asked them what sort of article I could write.
They said, what’s different about you?
I said, well I see all the students because no one else is interested.
They said, okay write an article about students in advertising.
So I did.
I wrote an article saying you shouldn’t pull a student’s book apart unless you were prepared to help them put it back together.
Don’t just destroy their confidence to boost your own ego.
If you’re not prepared to help them do a new book, just give them a list of bad agencies where you think they stand some chance of getting a job with the book they’ve got.
Anyway, this ran in Campaign and I pinned it to my wall.
Then one evening a scruffy student came in to show me his book.
It was dreadful.
I thought I really don’t have the energy to help him put a new one together.
So I went out to get a list of sub-prime agencies for him.
While I was out, he read the article on the wall.
When I returned he looked at the list of agencies and said, “I’ve read your article and I think you ought to make the effort to help me put a new book together.”
Effectively, he embarrassed me into giving him a placement at BMP.
He was there a month and worked hard and put a much better book together.
Fast forward about 18 months.
I’ve opened my own agency and the same guy pops in for a coffee.
He says, “Dave, I don’t know what to do. I’ve been taking my book around for nearly two years. Everyone says it’s good, but no one’s given me a job. What should I do?”
I said, “The best advice I can give you is to panic.”
Of course, he asked me what I meant.
Because, all through your life everyone tells you not to panic.
So I said something like, “Being reasonable is what’s kept you unemployed. Being quiet and calm has caused you to accept a situation you hate. It’s time to do whatever it takes to change that situation. It’s time to go beyond embarrassment. This will involve getting out of your comfort zone. The fuel for that is panic.”
At his next interview, they said his book was very good, but they were looking for someone older, someone more experienced.
So he went straight out to an Oxfam shop.
He bought a long scruffy overcoat, a tatty old trilby hat, and a long straggly beard.
Then he went back to the same agency, with the same book.
He made them laugh, but he also embarrassed them into giving him the job.
The agency was CDP, the greatest of all the UK ad agencies.
The student was Graham Fink.
Since then he’s worked with some of the best people in the business.
He’s won tons of awards (if you’re into that).
And he’s creative head of the third biggest agency in the UK.
So when I say it’s not just about your book full of ads, that’s what I mean.