AI Inspired Storytelling

By Raymond Smith

Want A Long Career? Adapt

You might remember way back in Part 2 of this series I talked about persistence. It’s mainly about toughing it out through rough patches along the way and not giving up. But persistence has a friend, and depending on your point of view, he/she might be the more or the less attractive of the pair. That friend is ‘adapt’.

 When I was in my very early days at my first agency, the long-established Vickers & Benson, I was chatting with an old guy who’d been in the business for probably close to 40 years. He was retired, but he still kept a hand in the business and came around the office from time to time. One day he said “Yeah, the first account I ever worked on was for Lux Soap…we did ads for Lux Radio Theatre.” Think about that…radio theatre. That was what you and your family listened to in the evening before television. To my 1997 ears, he may as well have said he worked on the Pony Express account, or on Allied Zeppelin.

But even though radio theatre and Lux soap were long gone, he was still going. Because he adapted. After he did radio, he did TV advertising. Or newspaper and magazine. Or out-of-home. And not for Lux, but for Bank of Montreal…or McDonald’s…or British Airways. He didn’t ground himself in what he used to do, he changed with his clients and his industry overall.

When I started out, I spent hours doing newspaper tear sheets for competitive airline accounts. This involved going through all the daily newspapers and tearing out our competitors’ ads so we knew what they were doing. We put them in cardboard folders and then stored them in big metal filing cabinets. Once a year, we’d throw them all out. Doesn’t that sound delightfully antiquated? Now I do CRM, social, platform and TikTok – none of which existed when I started.

Bill, my next-door neighbour, used to be an in-demand art director in the days when layouts were done by hand…with Exacto knives and glue and Letraset (look it up). He loved his work. But when the industry moved to computers, Bill retired. He took a look at the learning curve ahead of him and decided it wasn’t worth it. He just didn’t feel like adapting.

All of which is a long-winded way to say that if you want to have a long and prosperous career, be comfortable adapting. Whatever you were hired to do last year is highly unlikely to be what you’re doing in 25 years or maybe even 5. More likely you’ll be working in a medium that doesn’t exist yet for a client that isn’t in business yet. But that’s fine. This industry is constantly evolving, and if you learn to be comfortable making small, continuous changes to what you do within it, you’ll survive and thrive.

Advertising channels will continue to change and clients will change and agencies will change. Just roll with it. One day you’ll be telling some young kid that you started out building banner ads and he’ll quietly make a mental note to look up what the hell ‘banner ads’ were when he gets back to his desk.