By Phil Le Brun
A FEARLESS FOOT IN THE DOOR.
‘I’m passionate, hard-working and have great ideas’ – said every young person in advertising ever.
In a sea of talent, is it enough just to have these qualities? In short, probably not.
Catching an employer’s attention is difficult, even if you’re coming from a top flight ad school, have awards coming out of your ears and maybe even some placements under your belt.
We work in an inherently creative industry, so it’s not surprising that people try to circumvent the hiring process with stunts. This isn’t a new phenomenon. When Peter Souter was a young copywriter he stood outside of David Abbott’s house for days on end recreating his famous Volvo Hitchhiker ad. Eventually Abbott picked him up and the rest is history. There are stories of an Australian creative team who turned up at a London agency with bags saying they’d flown all that way just to see the ECD. It was impossible to turn them away.
This month Jade Delaney’s Fearless Girl stunt got her a placement at McCann Bristol. Jade painted her clothes, shoes and skin gold and mimicked the pose of the New York statue.
This was widely received as a genius example of self promotion. But it was also met with some negativity and bitterness. Weary tweets saying it’s sad that this is what it takes to get a job now. Despite what you may think of this kind of thing, it was undeniably effective. Flattering, targeted, packed with purpose and physically unavoidable it was an ingenious way to land a placement. All the best to her and hats off. But some aren’t so successful. Some stunts stray into the realm of gimmickry and send the wrong message.
It’s crucial that your stunt says something about you. It should be an expression of your ideas. How you think and who you are. It should feel authentic and real. From 10 seconds of Chase Zreet’s ‘Write of Sprite’ video which got him a job at Wieden + Kennedy NY, you know who he is, what his skills are and his sense of humour. A homemade cake with the ECD’s face on it, sadly doesn’t do that.
As with any campaign it’s crucial to know your audience. When Alec Brownstein was searching for a new job, he found an unlikely opportunity for self-promotion.
After doing some research on who he wanted to work for, he noticed when he Googled their names, that there were no sponsored links at the top. So he bought the ad space, knowing that Creative Directors would Google their names and find his portfolio.
There are dozens of examples of people going to extraordinary lengths just to get into agencies. Dressing up as Deliveroo drivers, pretending to fix photocopiers or masquerading as members of staff. Although admirable, it’s important some of these examples can fall short and just become an inconvenience or even a security concern. But when done well, this kind of stunt can be effective. A couple of years ago August Lausten contacted Swedish agencies pretending to be a new client, calling his fictional firm EMERIH (Yes that’s “Hire Me” spelled backwards), and set up a website revealing his true intentions as a job seeker.
Hire me stunts can be a killer way to get noticed and it’s just as important to spend time building your own brand as your book. The great Mark Denton said the best brand to work on is your own. Truly a master of self promotion he has built equity and value from his own characters, style and unique creations. Trying to get noticed is a perfect opportunity to showcase your thinking.
So let’s be fearless with our self-promotion, but keep our integrity intact and back it up with some creative chops. It’s all very well getting a foot in the door, just make sure there’s a body with a brain full of ideas attached to that foot.