sheraShera Lee Eshmade is a Group Account Director at Ogilvy Johannesburg. She loves traveling and hates cooking. Even this late in the year when everyone’s suffering from Novemberitis, she’s still excited about creating awesome every day. Here’s why:

I have a friend who works at the JSE. Let’s call said friend “Stanley”. Stanley subscribes to the uniform of visible-but-not-too-loud pinstripes, distinguished silk tie, double cuffed shirt and expensive Italian leather shoes. All day. Every day.

Life for Stanley consists of serious-not-allowed-to-smile meetings. These meetings include the stuff of great world triumphs… like analytical reporting, using stochastic calculus and Black-Scholes calculations (Look it up. I had to).

Stanley gets to advise clients on the use of derivatives to reduce risk in their investment portfolios. A revered expert at guiding portfolio managers to effectively value financial instruments. Stanley does not get frowned upon for speaking in a monotone; he’s expected to. Stanley will never need botox. Ever.

Everyone wants to know a Stanley. No-one wants to be a Stanley.

I’m assuming you can guess where this is going: We have bloody awesome careers. We just forget sometimes. We have diverse opportunities in a largely happy environment. How often do you feel a tad chuffed when someone asks what you do and you get to say “I work in advertising”? The proverbial pause is critical, allowing their inevitable thought process of wild parties, crazy hairstyles and creative genius.

Suddenly to the banker, teacher, software developer or engineer you are instantly interesting and clearly at the forefront of all that is awesome. How often do you get told, “Oh yes that makes sense – you ‘look’ like an advertising person”. That’s right, Stanley. Yes I do.

Far too often we get caught up in the chaos of deadlines, timing plans, job bags and the client exercising (with misguided enthusiasm) their non-existant creative muscle. Take that all away for a moment if you will. What’s left? Wild parties, crazy hairstyles and creative genius, of course.

It’s more than that though – we are left with people who chose jobs where smiling is a daily requirement. Where creative solutions are not an alternative, but a necessity. Where thinking is not mandated to stiff chairs and grey boardrooms. Where the sound of peacocks mating accompanies the sound of ideas forming. There are mad moments. There are challenging moments. There are beautiful moments. But there is never, ever a dull moment.

You get to make a noise at any given time. Nobody flinches at the sound of a vuvuzela or a newly shot ad ringing throughout the building. You get to stick inappropriate pictures up and are issued with chalk so you can write on the walls like kids. We can wear shorts and slops to work and literally run around the agency wearing stick on moustaches for our company Christmas card.

Best of all, we genuinely like each other. We have built friendships far beyond professional politeness. We get to proudly say “I did that” when we are watching TV or driving on the highway. We get to be at the forefront of change and shape new thinking.

We get to define awesome.

Every week there is change around us. We have new departments, new teams, new technologies and new ways of communicating to keep track of. We can’t be good, we have to be great. Greatness comes at the cost of remaining an eternal intern, of choosing to be the student and accepting change instead of avoiding it.

It doesn’t matter if you know all the principals of doing the perfect billboard if you don’t know how to now design a web banner. It doesn’t matter if you can write the perfect six page brief if you do not know how to bring in the right people to do it. It doesn’t matter if you can lead a team, for it will mean nothing if you do not protect them and fight for their ideas.

We forget and get bogged down too easily. We get stuck behind our desks and have forgotten we even have ducks. We allow our assumptions to guide us rather than our curiosity.

Every single day we get to create the world. We make art come to life. We get to debate and fight for ideas we believe in and we get the support to make them happen. We get to do that by believing we can. By choosing to smile. By caring. By listening. By adjusting.

By loving what we do, we will be better at it. So smile and remember we work in advertising, baby. That’s pretty much the coolest career out there… just ask Stanley.

Leave a Reply