The Interview Series // 14 // PN7 Melbourne Special

jancy

In celebration and preparation for Portfolio Night 7 Melbourne (http://portfolionight NULL.com/7/archives/1901), we got in touch with two of its greatest supporters – Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin of Ogilvy Toronto. Not only are they responsible for Dove’s ‘authentic virals’, Evolution (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=hibyAJOSW8U) and Onslaught (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=321Kb8pBu5s), but they write a column for juniors called ‘Ask Jancy (http://www NULL.ihaveanidea NULL.org/askjancy/)‘ on ihaveanidea.org (http://ihaveanidea NULL.org), and have used the best bits to pen a book aptly titled Pick Me (http://www NULL.ihaveanidea NULL.org/pickme/).

Junior: Hello Nancy and Janet! Thanks for climbing aboard the Portfolio Night 7 Melbourne (http://portfolionight NULL.com/7/archives/1901) special! OK, so first up, what seems to be the greatest and most common failing of juniors who swing by your office?

Janet & Nancy: A poorly edited portfolio would be at the top of the list. It’s really hard to be objective about your own work, so it pays to get people you trust and respect to help you weed out anything that isn’t measuring up to your best work. One so-so idea can drag down a bunch of great. Creative directors worry that the creative person they’d get is really the person who on an average day might deliver that kind of ‘only OK’ idea. Honestly this is true for people at every level — even quite senior people make this mistake. Good editing makes you look better and worth more. It really is the difference between getting the job or not.

Jr: We know you’re big supporters of women in advertising, is there a particular piece of advice you like to give young women on their journey to creative success?

J&N: Authenticity is highly valued in anyone. You don’t need to try to be someone you’re not. Be assertive. Ask for what you want and need to be happy; don’t expect it to just come to you — be cognisant, it’s not a meritocracy. You have to go after what you want in a creative partner, pay, accounts, etc. Be seen (many women let a more confident partner do most of the talking. Big mistake.). Network (women don’t make the time to do it and don’t particularly like to do it. Big mistake.) Find a mentor if they haven’t found you, male or female. Even “big names” are flattered to be asked and are often happy to share their learning. It’s an incredible help up the ladder. Choose the right life partner. Some men won’t be supportive of the creative woman’s long hours, or may actually resent her success. You can’t make it far without an equal partner. That’s really underscored if you have a child.

Jr: You’ve released a book to rave reviews titled Pick Me (http://www NULL.ihaveanidea NULL.org/pickme/). We think it’s the most respectful book to juniors and their plight we’ve come across. What was your experience writing the book while juggling jobs and a personal life?

J&N: It took a year and it was hard to juggle all the balls. Fair to say it put a strain on children, employer and Janet’s husband who helped us with his IT skills. It took every spare moment and considering we took on extra duties like the design it was pretty all-consuming. The really fun bit was enlisting 14 superstars to contribute, and we loved that interaction with them. But rounding up Mr. Droga, et al was like herding cats. It was well worth it and we said well we’re glad that experience is under our belts. Wrote a book, check! Never do that again. In November HarperCollins approached us to write another book, this time not about advertising. We couldn’t say no to that experience so there you go: never say never. How we’re going to fit it in is just a leap of faith. The research itself is pretty fascinating; we’re talking to senior women from many fields about how they’ve made it. It’s an education. One doctor we spoke to said a pig-headed boss refused to approve a deeply needed clinic for women in her hospital. Ultimately one night she literally threw out the gift shop with two other female doctors. Their boss showed up the next day to find them in front of the door with arms linked and Army helmets on. “What are you going to do about it?” A clinic was born. Yes we will find a way to get this book done.

Jr: Your Ask Jancy (http://www NULL.ihaveanidea NULL.org/askjancy/) column for ihaveanidea.org (http://ihaveanidea NULL.org/) has obviously become quite a popular destination for juniors with burning questions. Is it possible to tell us what the most common question you get asked is and what the answer might be?

J&N: “How do I get a job?” kind of sums it up. The answer is right on the cover — be the little red bag among the hundreds of black ones. Stand out. From getting through the gauntlet to see the CD, to how you help him/her remember you and how you follow through will make all the difference. We just brought in a summer intern who charmed us into a job with a song she wrote for us. We would have hired her just from that potentially fatal gimmick. She really pulled it off and in doing that showed she’s a great writer, a born performer (a huge asset when half the job is selling your ideas), an extrovert, gutsy, a risk taker, smart (she really did her homework about us for her lyrics), fun, and incredibly likeable. Yes she had a really strong portfolio but without question the lengths she went to to impress us made the choice a no-brainer. Intelligent kissing-up: it works. Note that this was the opposite of a common mistake: a generic “I really, really want to work for ______.” So many people don’t do their home work before coming in for the interview; they’re showing up with the same pitch for everyone. You get many more points for trying to convince that CD that your agency is THE place you want to work, and why. Of course it helps on the sincerity scale if you actually mean it, but given you will need to see a lot of places to land that elusive opening, well, work hard on faking it convincingly.

Lastly, here are some pointers for all thinking of attending PN7:

– Be prepared to talk about your work.
– Remember it’s the ideas that matter most, you don’t need to run out and buy a fancy folio – heck a sweet PDF on your laptop might do the trick!
– Quality not quantity.
– Bring a pen.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 08/06/2009