Young media planners gunning for their first big job should follow the same advice that applies before a big new-business pitch, said Antony Young, CEO at Mindshare North America, in our latest Basics Q&A with a media agency leader.
He also identified the career mistake he sees too many people making -- and four lessons of his own mistakes.
Advertising Age: How did you get your first job?
Antony Young: I started my career in New Zealand, and advertising found me, so I guess advertising does work. It was a well-written classified ad that got me intrigued about working in advertising. The ad sold the job well and it was obviously written by one of the copywriters and it explained what a media planner and buyer does and it did it in a way that pulled me in.
Ad Age : Had you planned to work in advertising?
Mr. Young: Before that , I hadn't thought seriously about advertising, but I did remember walking past a building and seeing a whole bunch of luxury European cars and BMWs parked outside and I thought, "I don't know what they do in that company but I wouldn't mind getting a job there," and it later turned out it was an ad agency.
Maybe if you live in New York or New Jersey advertising is more on your radar, but in New Zealand it wasn't the first thing that came up. I sort of fell into the ad business, and I assumed everyone was similar, but now in college there are students who want to end up in advertising. I lecture a bit at Syracuse University at the Newhouse School of Public Communications and when I did my last lecture I said, "You probably don't know what a media agency is ," but they all did.
Ad Age : How have people responded over the years when you say what you do for a living?
Mr. Young: After I'd been working in the business for a year, I was at a party and someone asked what do you do for a living. I said I worked in advertising, and he said, "You're one of those unscrupulous people who sells products to people that they don't need." I said, "Yes, what do you do?" He said, "I'm a lawyer."
Ad Age : Is the perception of advertising different now?
Mr. Young: A lot of people come in because they are attracted to the media business, because media is this cross section between pop culture and technology and business, and it's constantly being talked about even at a young age. Media has become more accessible and it touches your regular life a lot more.
Ad Age : What advice would you give to media planners trying to get their first big job?
Mr. Young: I would give them the same advice I would give myself in preparing for a big pitch. I tell myself three things when we are pitching for an account. First, make sure you are super-prepared. Second, figure out what makes you different and interesting and spend time discussing what makes you stand out. Lastly, say something memorable in your interview.
For my first job, the media director at the time asked me what did I think made me right to be in media department, and I said, "I'm Chinese, I've got to be good with numbers." He said, "That's a bit of a silly response." But at least they saw that it was a real response.
Ad Age : What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?
Mr. Young: When people talk about experience, it usually means you have made a lot of mistakes. I've made plenty in the past months, let alone my career. Here are four things I've learned that have come from mistakes. The first is : Don't raise issues, present solutions. Everyone appreciates a problem solver. The second thing is : Don't just present numbers, but offer an insight. The third is : Never reply to an annoying email immediately. Always save it in the drafts for a day. And never miss a deadline. No matter what, you will have underdelivered.
Ad Age : What mistakes do you see young media planners and buyers making?
Mr. Young: This is not just young people, but we see all people struggle to delegate. You almost think it's a good thing to make yourself indispensable or irreplaceable. But don't. I've been lucky about being promoted, in part because people realize there is someone who can take over. Develop your team. If you haven't groomed someone to take over, that can limit you.