AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Everything is your fault

Yep, it's advice time. Hurrah! Now, I'm not going to proffer advice on how to get into the industry, partly because that's already expertly dealt with elsewhere, but mostly because I fluked it meself. But we all have to start somewhere - yes, even me. One recurring element of this blog will be quick posts on 'things I wish I'd known before I made myself look a tit in front of the Chairmen'. (I was going to call it that, but 'Everything Is Your Fault' was snappier.)

1. Everything is your fault. Yep, everything. When, in a meeting with the senior client, the DVD that you checked doesn't play on the equipment that you checked, it is your fault. When the cab that you booked doesn't turn up, it is your fault. When Traffic fail to deliver the work that you've chased them on every day for the last week, it is your fault. If you fuck up, it is, obviously enough, your fault. If you remember that everything is your fault, all things will pretty much fall into place.

2. Always have at least £50 in your wallet. Someone once told me that Grey enforced the JAMP system - Junior Account Man Pays. That's unlikely to be the case if you're lunching at Joel Robuchon (unless your boss is what I like to call 'an absolute bastard') but in pretty much every other situation (cabs, bars, pubs, coke/strippers for clients, etc.) you should be the first to reach for your pocket. Whilst it will sometimes be acceptable for your AD (or higher) to pay, it is never acceptable for the Client.

3. Make sure you've got numbers for cab companies in your phone. I still think less of an AM with whom I work because of a time when she didn't know how to call cabs at the end of a client Christmas do. That was three years ago.

4. Status reports matter. Accept that.

5. Make friends with the PAs, the guys in studio and the guys in the AV Suite. At its most basic level, your job is to get stuff done, and these are the people that can help you with that. It's great to be matey with the CEO, but he's not going to help you jump the queue to get DVD before the last overnight courier goes.

6. Check everything before you send it out - from start to finish. A former colleague of mine once, in a hurry, checked the first 20" of an ad on a Umatic (who remembers them?) before it went to client – all good, in the post. It turned out the Soho edit suite they were using doubled as a production house for hard core pornography overnight - which was what greeted the senior client when he sat down to watch his new ad, with his family, on the weekend. If senior Suits can occasionally appear obsessive with their checking, it's for a reason.

7. Do the boring stuff, and do it well. I know it's frustrating, but I can promise you that you are not the first Suit to come out of university and find you have to spend most of your time fixing photocopiers, making DVDs, organising meeting rooms and booking couriers. We've all done it, and it will pass - and only once it's passed will you realise how important those jobs are and how much difference it makes to people when they're done well. You should also never forget those skills. In years to come, you might be the CEO of an Agency, but if the photocopier jams five minutes before a meeting and there are no other Suits around, you're the one who's going to have to un-jam it. Why? Because, as I may have mentioned, it's your fault if the photocopier's jammed.

That's all for now, but there will be more. The job of a Suit is wonderful and varied, which is why I love it. Any thoughts from readers will be hugely appreciated in the comments.


Copybot said...

Why would the junior AM pay? That seems a bit unfair. The SAMs and ADs are on so much more money, shouldn't they be footing the bill?

When I was an AE (and a terrible one at that), no one let me pay for drinks because they all knew I got paid fuck-all. Which seemed fair to me.

AdLand Suit said...

I'm not suggesting the Junior AM should pay - just that they should be prepared to. At the end of the day, the Agency/Clients are footing the bill - if credit cards aren't an option then learn to play the cash advance system. It's not your money you're spending ultimately, so there's no real reason why it should be initially either.

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating the JAMP rule - that's a Grey anachronism. (And possibly apocryphal.) What I am saying though is that an account man should, wherever possible, be prepared and able to pick up the tab at any time - it doesn't require massive funds, it just requires forethought and organisation.

Andrea said...

Woah, this is a great post, hats off to you sir. I remember when I was first hired (not as a JAM) as a junior, some friends of mine were accounts for the same agency. We'd spend a lot of time (ahem, drinking) together and most of the whinging came from having to pay for everyone's stuff. It was only after a few months I realised why they were all asking me for some cash during lunch breaks before they were off to meetings, only to give it back the next day.

On a sidenote, most of these were also women so if any ladies are reading this take some advice from the PR guys and their 'PR Bag' concept I read about a while ago - spare tights, spare flats, spare plain white tshirt and everything else locked up in a drawer in the office. We had it pretty easy with no dress code (in the creative department) but if anything, this is what my friends went through.

Again, great, honest article. Work hard to play hard..very later on!

Chandni said...

Thank you Mr.Suit for those precious words. I'm still looking for a job as an AE...but u know what...that post of yours just re-enforced a belief in me---that AEs/AMs should NOT be considered like the hem of a suit...(i've been getting that a lot these days from my Creative friends)...they are in fact the colour of the suit...the face of the agency, and business depends on them to a great extent.

AdLand Suit said...

Andrea, Chadni - very glad you've found your way here, and even more so that you've found something of use on arrival. And Chadni, good Suits are the heart and soul of an Agency - don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Daisy said...

Where was this post 10 months ago before I applied for an AE position? It's amazing how on point you are with your advice. I especially agree with the points made on checking ahead & everything being your fault. Thanks for posting this valuable piece of info for the future generation!

...I'm also thanking my stars I'm switching to account planning :)

Anonymous said...

Two more for starting AE's:

Be in before anyone else. You want to be refilling your coffee in the kitchen while everyone else is starting their first cup. People will notice it - even without you calling attention to yourself (so don't be a twat). However, that works both ways. If a creative (or a planner) (or your boss) is in before you are, you'll not hear the end of it, and your reputation will suffer.

Meeting notes are incredibly, incredibly important. You should never have to be asked to write them - get your pen out the instant you sit down. Get your boss to check them and have them emailed out to all attendees within 24 hours.

AdLand Suit's tips are all great. This really is required reading...

Anonymous said...

@CopyBot: Jr AM's should always offer to pay. Even if the drinks aren't getting expensed (say, you're out with workmates in different departments), get your rounds in early and often.

Having your card behind the bar is a privilaged gesture. It says that you're the one taking care of everyone. That's being a good suit in a nutshell.

Just save enough for rent. And the occasional meal.

Anonymous said...

Hell, one more:

Subscribe to Squaremeal. It is more valuable reading than Campaign and Marketing combined. Plus, free.

AdLand Suit said...

The Anonymous comments here are as relevant and important as anything I've written - so much so that I'll be repeating them in a future 'Everything Is Your Fault' post. Thank you, whoever you are, for the input.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. When you do, could you correct my spelling of "privileged"? That's humiliating.

Andrea Nastase said...

Wow, you guys have it really hard, at least from my non-suit perspective obviously. But it sounds like one of those kinky things that you really need to try once in your lifetime.

I love this blog! :)