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Opinion and Insight

Buddha and an Intern Walk into an Agency…

Gabriel Schmitt, executive creative director at FCB New York, shares advice for aspiring advertising creatives

Buddha and an Intern Walk into an Agency…

This is not a cheap self-help article about how to succeed in advertising (it might be a cheap article, but hopefully it’s not a self-help one). These words are here to encourage the 20-something students out there who are in doubt about whether or not to embark on this amazing and horribly hard profession to hold their breath, close their eyes and, you know, jump. Not for the Mad Men-era perks (I’ve had very few whiskies at 2pm), but for the mere fact that the ones who decide to enter advertising, and endure it, can end up having a very fulfilling life. A life full of memorable battles, a few amazing victories and, hopefully, some good money in the bank.

Cool, but what does Buddhism have to do with that? From my point of view, the path to see the Light in advertising passes by one of the main pillars our friend Buddha taught us about:

Impermanence.

Impermanence is the idea that things change all the time. Like the weather, like everyone’s mood, or like the way human beings communicate. If you think about it, few things have evolved faster than how we communicate with each other. A few years ago, you would have used a cell phone to contact someone. Today, if you call a person, you are either in trouble or you work in telemarketing.

And if advertising is the way brands communicate with the world, it’s only natural that some things that felt critical yesterday will be mercilessly replaced by new things today. And then get trendy again. And then go away.

Ad people (the all-around Enlightened) learn in the very early stages that we need to not only embrace change but – and this can be even harder – promote it. From the way we approach the work, to the way we staff an agency, to even the question of whether we need agencies at all. 

I’ve been in this industry for almost 15 years and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard: “The times are changing. The industry is not the same. Oh my God, what are we doing?! How are we going to make money? Consultancies, ugh!” Probably more than in any other industry, the only certainty in advertising is that things are forever uncertain. And yes, walking on eggshells is nerve-racking, but once you get used to it, it teaches you to think on your feet and to be a more decisive person.

So, if you want to come on board, our arms are open. Just don’t forget to bring Buddha along. He would have been a crazy-good ad guy.
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