CELEBRATING AND INVESTING IN CREATIVITY
 

2015 Creative LIAisons

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Johnny Michael

Junior Copywriter
Commonwealth // McCann
Detroit
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The big question for me is this: Do I want to be in advertising for the rest of my career?

Well, I’m here now and I’m grateful. I get to play with words and make sentences to earn a living. I got here and I’m proud of myself. My parents are proud. My friends think it’s kinda cool. And I work for some really smart people who kinda believe in me too.

But brace yourself, here comes the harsh honesty; some days I’m not so chipper as I roll out of bed and head to work. When my idea is completely dictated by a client, when it’s nitpicked through three rounds of opposing opinions from creative directors — at times I feel like nothing I work on matters. Luke Sullivan said there’d be days like this. Millions of dollars are spent as we film for hours, edit, color, bicker and banter over 15 seconds of film that will air as background noise before and in between what people really want to watch. We make the most overlooked and rejected form of content. I would be lying if I said I feel creatively fulfilled at the end of each day. Then there are the people, the power struggles, the social clicks, the competition, the childish insecurities and overgrown envy. As a junior writer, I’ve learned very quickly that not everyone wants to see you do better. All this corporate drama makes my head spin.

Thankfully there’s always a bright side. There are good people and there are enough of them to keep me coming back. They help me stay calm and centered. These are the ones I stick to like glue, learn from their golden souls as well as the funny people who inspire me to work hard to become a better human being.

At LIA Creative LIAisons, I found more. Of all the speakers, Ralph van Dijk, Chris Smith, Ted Royer and John Mescall made the biggest impact on me. Each of them stood out as a great example.

Ralph consistently made me laugh and told a story about a radio campaign for Strepsils cough drops where people called in, coughed and said over and over,  “Man, I need to pop a Strepsil.” I’ll never forget that one. Chris convinced me I need to get involved with improv comedy and wisely advised me that I don’t always need to be the funny one. Ted reassured me that advertising is going to get better and that if I stick with it I’ll have the power to change it. And John reminded me to say hello to people, sit on the floor and be myself.

The most inspiring people I met were the Creative LIAsions attendees; the bright young men and women from all over the world. I learned a lot from them too; little worldly things like, a fun way to say the word “cool” in a Swedish accent, a few dance moves from an Argentinian and a casual winking lesson from a Brazilian. My winks are coming along famously ;-). In just a few short days I met good people from New Zealand, Hong Kong, Israel, Germany, England, Dubai, Canada, Korea. I shouldn’t have started this list – there’s too many to name.

The common thread between all of us made the world seem smaller, and credit goes to the LIA for bringing us all together (and for that we say, Thank you, Barbara).

Sitting in on the judging session during Statue Discussions, I picked up one really strong idea; that awards are the north stars of our industry, the guiding light, if you will. They mean something beyond a prize and a case for a pay raise. They become the compass, the magnetic north for all other work to follow. And the best part is that there are intelligent people who care enough about this business to spend time deciding where we need to go.

After all, the journey made me want to create work that matters, whether it’s something as simple as laughter or solving a real-world problem. It reminded me that our jobs could be purposeful. It reminded me that I have the power to be a good example. That I can create work that influences and inspires other people. Furthermore, that I can actually be good at my job and be a good person too.

Will I be in advertising for the rest of my career? Who knows, they might fire me tomorrow for writing this. What LIA did is reassure me I’m in the right place. I know I’m happy here and I’m going to stick it out. Wherever I end up, I’m along the right path and I’m moving along with great people.

Giddy up.

Celebrating and investing
in creativity