I studied advertising at art school in New York.
When I came back to London I didn’t know anything about English advertising.
Or anyone in it.
So the first thing to do is find out if there are any jobs.
If you don’t want to traipse around the tube having interviews, you use what you know.
Advertising, mass media.
Obviously you can’t afford traditional mass media, so you have to create some.
Start with a brief.
There are roughly 200 advertising agencies, that’s your market.
So, use what you’ve got.
I was working in a bank in St Pauls and my mates were all messengers.
Which meant I could use the photocopiers and postage for free.
So, direct mail.
I started making copies of my portfolio and mailing them out to the advertising agencies I found in Yellow Pages.
I mailed out fifty and had about a dozen replies.
I got three interviews, from people and agencies I didn’t know.
The first interview was with a creative director called Len Weinreich.
I didn’t know who Len Weinreich was then, but he gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever had.
Len said, “I haven’t got a job here, but who are your other two interviews with?”
I said they were with Peter Mayle at BBDO, and John Webster at BMP.
Neither of whom I knew anything about.
Len said “Okay, BBDO is mainly a press agency and BMP is mainly a TV agency. As a junior, your portfolio is mainly press, so where should you concentrate on getting in?”
I said the press agency obviously.
Len said “I wouldn’t.”
I said “Why is that? I’m good at press, it’s what I do best.”
Len said “Precisely, that’s why you shouldn’t go to BBDO.
They’re a press agency and all the heavyweight creatives will be fighting for all the press briefs. There’ll be very little left for a junior to work on, you’ll only get the scraps.
But if you go to BMP, they’re a TV agency.
All the heavyweight creatives will be fighting for TV briefs, press will be seen as the poor relation. So there’ll be plenty of press briefs lying around for you to have your pick from.
That’s why, as a junior press writer, you should pick the TV agency.”
What a brilliant piece of advice.
And what a great piece of predatory thinking.
Getting upstream and changing the context of the question.
Not “Which agency does more press ads?”
But “Where will I have less competition for press ads?”
And Len was right.
I went to BMP and worked for John Webster.
I did all the press ads that the heavyweights didn’t want to do.
Whole pages, double page spreads, trade ads, posters, everything.
All the print I could get my hands on.
And just by doing that amount of work I regularly got my name in D&AD each year.
Not because I was good, but because I was prolific.
Meanwhile, I learned from John Webster how to write commercials.
The press ads were paying my wages and building my portfolio.
And I was getting a free education in how to write TV ads.
Luckily for me I met Len.
He helped me make the right choice, but something even more important.
He gave me an early education in creative/predatory thinking.