April 26, 2009

Having a life in advertising

Me over at Why Advertising Sucks? just wrote a great post about getting wallopped out of nowhere by the big B: Baby. As in me want. As in me suddenly looking at babies, babies everywhere and turning to the other half with a half-desperate smile.

For a long time, I wondered how well advertising and babies mixed. The first agency I worked at, all those years ago (when, lord help me, I knew absolutely bubkus), was one of the big-wigs with a fierce attitude. I was intimidated from the get go, partly because I was a junior, partly because I was lost, and partly because that was how the agency rolled. The hours were long, the praise was faint and the expectations were always tuned to high. It wasn't that you couldn't have a life, it's that your first priority was the agency. The rest of your life was meant to be a distraction.

So having babies, to my scared-out-of-my-wits eyes, looked like a career death sentence.

There was the story of the VP who flipped upon hearing his manager was having a second child. There was pressure to attend every work function, even if someone couldn't get a babysitter. There was a strict no-spouses-allowed party policy. I even remember coming in early one morning to see my 8-month's-pregnant colleague, bags under her eyes, just wrapping up one rush of a 22-hour shift. She was smiling bravely and still, still not sure whether she could finally home.

A lifetime later I find myself in a whole new boat. I somehow stumbled upon an agency where hard work is the norm, and having a life is the priority. No shareholders means no pressure to make arbitrary numbers, and the policy of hiring hard-working, human employees--and not advertising robots--makes for a little piece of heaven on earth. And with little bump on the way, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

My advice to you wanting a life in advertising: look to the top. An agency is made in the reflection of the people in charge. It's run on the attitude and the principles of the ones who pay your salary. If their families come first, it's safe to say they'll understand if you need to skip a meeting if junior didn't sleep the night. But if they work 'till 10 and miss birthday parties and ask the nanny to pass the phone to junior, well... you take your chances.

Anyone out there an advertising parent? How did you manage to find a balance and have a life?

(With a tip of the hat to Jane!)


  1. Oh come on!! Nothing in advertising is that important that it would require an 8 month pregnant woman to work an 22 hour shift!

  2. My best guess is that, for her to have gone home, someone in the pecking order above her would have had to stay. So of course no one volunteered...