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Media Guy Mailbag: How Can New Agency Employees Make Themselves Invaluable?

Dumenco Has Answers on Hachette vs. Amazon and Agency Life

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U.S. goalie Tim Howard: invaluable. Are you?
U.S. goalie Tim Howard: invaluable. Are you?

Each Friday I'm answering reader questions about media, marketing, pop culture, kittens, kitchen remodeling on a budget -- anything! So send me an email with your question and "Media Guy Mailbag" in the subject line. More details below.

Welcome to Vol. 3 of the Media Guy Mailbag, a sort of AMA (ask me anything) on media and pop culture.

In Vol. 2, I offered some reader feedback to a question posed by in Vol. 1: "What do you believe is an agency's biggest pet peeve for an entry-level millennial who is just starting their career in media/advertising?" (An entry-level millenial employee was asking.)

I'm still getting responses, and I can't resist quoting another. This is from Rebecca Broughton:

"I have no pet peeves about them, I think they are adorable! So bright-eyed and eager! It is a great reminder of how optimistic we all were when we started. They remind me to not act so jaded."

Rebecca adds that, "My lack of pet peeves might be due to my geographical bias (Midwestern), and reminds me of Ogilvy's observation that still rings true: 'I am particularly interested in those which come from the Middle West. I would rather hire an ambitious young man from Des Moines than a high-priced fugitive from a fashionable agency on Madison Avenue.'"

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Reader Rob Reagan asks, "Whose side are you on in the Amazon vs. Hachette battle?"

Rob, I'm on Stephen Colbert's side. (For those readers who haven't been following the saga closely, this "Colbert Report" clip will give you some of the background you need.)

I'll add that it's annoying that the details of the stalled negotiations between the two conglomerates have not been publicly revealed. It's hard to make a definitive judgment call without knowing the underlying economics. But I do think Amazon has been playing dirty.

And Amazon's "offer" this week -- to give affected Hachette authors 100% of the royalties on their e-books while negotiations drag on -- is disingenuous. It's like saying, "Mommy and Daddy are fighting, here's some money -- go get yourself a Happy Meal at McDonald's, sweetheart."

I like and appreciate the response to Amazon's "offer" that Richard Russo of the Authors Guild issued in a letter to its members yesterday: "Because it is the writing life itself we seek to defend, we're not interested in a short-term windfall to some of the writers we represent."

* * *

Reader Kelsea Wilhelm writes, "I'm in my third-ish month at my first agency job out of college. Through all the learning and observing I've been doing to try and get a feel for agency life, I've noticed a question forming in my mind: What qualities make someone invaluable at an agency?"

Kelsea then rephrased the question, writing, "What qualities make someone invaluable at an agency? I mean, dang, advertising is rapidly changing. Change or die, right? I don't want to die."

I won't quote her full email, but I'll note here that she closed with, "Thank you for your time and consideration. Have a wonderful day, and if there is ever anything someone like me can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask. I am always happy to help."

Damn, Kelsea, I like your attitude! You already seem pretty invaluable to me.

As I've noted before, I've never worked at an agency -- as Ad Age's media columnist, my background is in digital and traditional media/publishing -- so I'm going to do what I did in Vol. 1 of Media Guy Mailbag: Refer the question to readers at agencies.

So, agency folks: What's your advice for Kelsea and other entry-level employees? Send me an email with "Becoming invaluable" in the subject line and I'll share some of the best responses in a future column.

* * *

THIS WEEK'S SWAG: I'm giving Rebecca, Rob and Kelsea $15 gift certificates to Powell's Books -- yes, the non-Amazon independent bookstore featured in the Colbert clip above -- as thanks for writing in.

* * *

For next time: Send me an email with "Media Guy Mailbag:" and a few words alluding to your question in the subject line, along with the question itself in the body of your email. Each Friday I'll choose one or more questions to answer, and if yours is published I'll send you some media swag as thanks.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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