3,500 miles and 18 years after I got into advertising, I recently happened across the man who introduced me to the business. I had originally met Kevin at around 2:00 a.m.during the after-hours "lock-in" of a crusty old English pub. At the time I had no contacts in the industry, no one who could house me if I interned in London, and on top of it all, I came from a family of teachers for whom the idea of an office job was entirely alien.
But Kevin quietly gave me the guidance I needed. He pointed me toward planning, for a start, and probably saved me years of wrong turns and heartbreak by taking the time to give me a glimpse of how I needed to think, speak and prepare if I were to get that first break in advertising. I wouldn’t be here without him, but I never saw him again until our coincidental meeting.
This industry has many famous figures; it's the natural home of the self-publicist creator. But there is a whole army of unsung nurturers like Kevin who keep the business constantly refreshed with new talent by quietly going the extra mile to help young strangers they may never see again.
One of those people was our friend and colleague, Griffin Farley (pictured left), whom we sadly lost in February to Mesothelioma. Of all the things the team at BBH New York loved about him, the unanimous memory we all have is how generous he was in helping those setting out on the foothills of their careers. Since his death, the sheer volume of tributes speak for themselves; there are so many who simply wouldn’t have found a job without his investment and belief in them.
We have been thinking for a while about how to honor Griffin in an appropriate way; fitting of how modest, understated and unpretentious he was. We wanted to do something in the space of young planning talent. When a creative team came up with the idea of the "Griffin Farley Search for Beautiful Minds," we knew we had something that captured the spirit of Griffin’s warm and generous approach.
Today we are calling on the advertising community to join with us to call for entries for this new hot-house training program. Over one weekend this summer, 30 young, aspiring planners will join mentors -- top strategists from all over the industry (we’re calling for volunteers too!) -- to answer a challenge. >
The best will be selected to present to a distinguished panel of industry luminaries in front of department heads and recruiters from across the industry. The idea is that this will become an annual fixture for those looking to break into advertising and those looking to hire them.
In 2013 it is even harder to get that first break than it was in my day. Everyone seems to want strategists and planners -- eventually -- but very few can afford to train and nurture them at the junior level. I also shudder to think of how I would fare now in the increasingly professionalized world where the competition is those who found tens of thousands of dollars on top of their undergraduate fees to go to one of the ever-dominant ad schools. It can only mean another step even further away from the diversity the industry so badly lacks.
Please sign up, pass on the word and join us in celebrating Griffin’s life, as we continue his legacy for the benefit of the whole industry. To learn how to get involved, please visit www.griffinfarleysbeautifulminds.com
Sarah Watson is Chief Strategy Officer at BBH New York.