Whew! I just spent my spring break traveling around New York City, getting a behind-the-scenes, inside look at some of the top advertising agencies in the Big Apple. We saw everything: traditional agencies, digital agencies, media agencies and even some NON advertising agencies. It was an awesome experience to visit some of these places. Here’s my overview of each company we visited:
Obviously, Google’s office in NYC is absolutely amazing! They have game rooms, multiple cafeterias (even with a food truck INSIDE) and these awesome treadmills so employees can complete their work while walking and exercising. While Google isn’t really an advertising agency, they still have creative designers, strategists and marketing people, just like any agency. Their work focuses on the cross between technology and creativity.
During their presentation, they showed us a video from Google Creative Lab’s Robert Wong about the Future of Storytelling, which inspired me, and the rest of the students, to remember that advertising, and communication in general, is all about telling a story. And even though we grow older, people still enjoy hearing stories, just like they did as children.
This advertising agency has an interesting history. Founded in 1977 by two brothers, R/GA was originally a design agency that focused on video production, motion-graphics and live-action film. Back in the day, they were most famously known for working on the opening title sequence of the 1978 movie Superman. Since then, the company has transitioned into an advertising agency with a digital focus and an emphasis on product innovation.
R/GA has produced some really amazing work, like Nike’s FuelBand, Windows Time Square Takeover, and the Dr. Dre Beats commercials. The biggest take-away I got from our time visiting this agency was that everything is incredibly fast-paced in agency life, especially compared to the work pace in the classroom. Instead of having a month to work on a project, deliverables get produced in a matter of weeks in ad agencies! While that might seem intimidating to some students, I find it incredibly exhilarating!
This agency is filled with BU alumni (how awesome is that?) and is run by two incredible ladies, (girl power!) CEO and Chief Creative Officer Linda Kaplan Thaler and President Robin Koval (who together, published a book called The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness). They have some pretty incredible work, like Crest and Oral-B, the Aflac Duck, Wendy’s, Charmin’s Sit or Squat app and CitiBank’s CitiBike.
During the tour, we had a Q&A session with recent alumni, who discussed the differences between school projects and life in the real-world (longer hours and more pressure were the most popular differences). They also talked about how to adjust to agency life. It was so helpful to get a firsthand look from people who were in my shoes just under a year ago!
Grey, the agency behind the eTrade Baby, the infamous Cialis commercials, and Easy, Breezy, Beautiful CoverGirl, won AdAge’s prestigious “Agency of the Year,” a really incredible feat considering all the amazing agencies out there. Grey focuses on creating work that is both famous & effective, and they’ve succeed with some of their brilliant commercials and print advertisements.
What I learned at Grey was something really interesting about being in an account role. It’s almost like being a point guard, because your job is to provide scoring opportunities for your team. I think that’s a really great, inspiring way to look at the account management side of advertising. We also learned about the importance of having impressive presentation skills. Grey got me really inspired to work in the field.
This small shop (around 100 people) has gained some traction with their work for Uniqlo (on Pinterest) and Rolex. The president of Firstborn (a BU graduate) has helped this agency grow into a business that produces some creative, out-of-the-box and award-winning work.
The most important thing I learned while chatting with the sharp minds at Firstborn was that creativity can come from anywhere. Creative ideas don’t just come from copywriters, art directors or designers. They can come from anyone who is passionate about the project. Their emphasis on collaboration and teamwork definitely showed me the perks and advantages of working for a smaller agency.
Giant Spoon is a start-up founded by some of the former senior team members of Omnicom’s OMD unit (aka some BU COM alumni!). This media agency “humanizes” media buying, and comes up with ideas that attract advertisers and agencies to use social news publishers and new, creative media placement. Their strategic, creative focus greatly differs from other media companies that are rather robotic in the way they buy media. Some of Giant Spoon’s clients include NBC Universal, GE (on Jimmy Fallon!) and Buzzfeed.
Best insight I got from Giant Spoon?- how exciting start-ups can be! The founders taught us that we shouldn’t be afraid to take risks, and follow great ideas. They knew they could change the way media was bought, and they had the courage to leave their jobs and start a company all on their own. Both of them seemed incredibly passionate and proud of their work, which left the students feeling completely energized and motivated.
This trip was the perfect way for me to spend my last spring break! Special thanks to BU’s College of Communication, Tobe Berkovitz, Carolyn Clark, Allison Hoyt and Ms. Livingston and Mr. Levin for making the tour possible!