The not-so subtle art of selling yourself in advertising 

Contagious speaks to people who have applied the principle of creative bravery to themselves to get ahead in advertising.

Advertising creatives are expected to produce ideas that shake things up, get people talking and, most importantly, sell. And they do this day in and day out, for clients. But what happens to creatives or agencies when they use their powers of persuasion to further their own cause? We’ve interviewed people who have pulled off ambitious stunts to either win jobs or clients, asking them how it has impacted their career.

Jade Delaney: The golden girl

In May 2018 Jade Delaney decided to quite literally take the bull by the horns in an effort to land her first job as a creative.

‘I was going to book crits, I was going to events,’ she says. ‘I was a year out of Uni and I was really getting quite desperate. I’m a small person in front of a big industry: how do I break through?’.

Delaney decided to execute an idea that struck her while working the fitting rooms at Outfit, a department store in Bristol, England: she hired a professional make-up artist to help transform her into the Fearless Girl statue created by McCann WorldGroup for State Street Global Advisors.

Delaney then stood outside McCann’s Bristol office, posing like the Fearless Girl, and handed out CVs. ‘Within 10 minutes of being there, the managing and creative director approached to ask me what I was doing there and what I wanted. I was offered a placement on the spot, which I did for two months before being offered a full-time job for a year.’

Delaney says she gained the courage to pull off the stunt after suffering an injury at university, ‘I had an accident that resulted in me fracturing my scull in two places… I almost died. I was fearless in that moment and I was fearless with this, too. This is what I really wanted as a career and nothing was going to get in the way’.

Her advice for other advertising job seekers who wish to stand out is, ‘to believe in yourself and be confident that you can do it. If you’ve got an idea, just go for it. Don’t worry about what people think, what have you got to lose?’

Josh Thompson: The last laugh

Josh Thompson, part time stand-up comic and creative, had nothing to lose. In September 2018, Thompson received an ominous email from his employer, FCB New Zealand, suggesting that he and his creative partner were about to face redundancy. In the email, Thompson was encouraged to bring along a person for support. But rather than choose a close family member or friend Thompson says, ‘I went on my computer and Googled “clowns for hire” and found a guy called Joe. He had done some children’s parties in the past, but this was his first redundancy.’

Thompson brought the clown along to the meeting and he proceeded to create balloon animals in the corner of the room and react in tandem with Thompson to the news that was breaking. ‘I just kind of thought of the idea on the spot. It was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t expect it to go as viral as it did, but part of me did think it wouldn’t hurt as a story for the future’.

Thompson’s story didn’t go viral until after he was employed at his new position at DDB Aukland almost a year later, but the stunt did come up in the interview. ‘I’m glad this story has gotten out there, because the kind of work we want to create is in line with the tone and attitude of this stunt’. But high-profile stunts can have unintended consequences, ‘I’ve had a few people refer to me as “clown boy”, but honestly not much has changed outside of that’. Thompson shares that being a successful creative is more than ‘just loving advertising and spending every night reading D&AD annuals. That stuff is important, but it doesn’t hurt to have something more interesting about you’.

Chase Zreet: A spritely application

Chase Zreet had four years’ experience in the industry when he set himself an ambitious goal: get a job on the Sprite account at Wieden+Kennedy. Zreet decided he had to write and film himself performing a rap about why he decided he deserved the job, and he calls it ‘the dumbest and most successful thing I’ve ever made’.

But despite his efforts, the rap didn’t immediately land him a job. ‘The creative directors saw it and told me that nothing was available at the time,’ he says. ‘I then decided to post the video on Reddit, with the video starting with 150 views at 10am and exploding to half a million by 5pm, it made the front page and just took off on its own’.

It was then that Wieden+Kennedy took notice. Zreet was hired by the agency and is still there today, but not where he expected: ‘I never actually wrote for Sprite. But I’m okay with that. Every opportunity is a good opportunity at Wieden+Kennedy,’ he says.

Zreet confesses that the idea was born out of desperation. ‘At the time it was Weiden+Kennedy or bust. I had worked in the industry for four years at this point and the application was not an overnight success story, it was a cry for help. I said, if this doesn’t work, I’m out’.

Now Zreet wants to put the video behind him. ‘I am happy it happened, but it was a way to get a job, a job that I am now doing. I’m doing everything I can to no longer be the Sprite guy,’ says Zreet. ‘Wieden+Kennedy is also the kind of place where everybody is talented. What I did was probably one of the corniest things that ever worked to get a job here. I don’t want to be defined by this thing, I’m glad it’s now over’.

Stream & Tough Guy: The press is right

Portuguese admen João Ribeiro and Miguel Durão used guerilla self-promotion tactics to attract clients to their new agency. Managing partner Ribeiro went on the Portuguese version of The Price Is Right and used the segment where guests usually send a message to loved ones watching at home, to woo potential clients.

Ribeiro made it to the final stage of the game, taking away a new TV and a set of floral printed bed linens, which his mother now has on her bed at home. But not everyone in his family was happy, ‘We were not expecting for it to be broadcast live as they record 3 shows a day, so when I got home my grandmother was annoyed that I didn’t say I was going to be on TV, sending kisses to all these strangers and not her’ says Ribeiro.

After the episode aired, the pair uploaded the video to LinkedIn, tagging the leaders Ribeiro name-checked, from Santander, Securitas, airbnb, Coca-Cola and Seat. Although none of those companies has yet given Ribeiro’s agency any business, the video has helped Stream & Tough Guy network with industry contacts, and it has resulting in a brief from Portuguese children’s clothes brand Zippy.

‘Every time a brand communicates it is a precious opportunity to stand out from the rest. It pains us to see so many wasted opportunities to be relevant and to truly stand out creatively’ says Durão. ‘We had our doubts before we started this idea, but we basically thought: how can we ask our clients to be brave if we are not willing to be brave ourselves?

‘Trust your guts, have a good idea formed with a well-designed strategy and then take a risk. No one is going to die, it’s only advertising.’

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