In the ad biz they say you can't be any good if you haven't been fired. I'm obviously very good.Ad people do get canned more than most so I tried not to take my firings too personally. Nevertheless, four times is a lot and each was a painful experience casting mounting doubts about my talent and career. Unbeknownst to me at the time, those firings set me on course that led to my co-founding an award-winning Madison Avenue ad agency and being honored at The White House.
But after firing number three things weren't looking good. No one, and I mean no one, would talk to me. Even the headhunters wouldn't return my calls. Not getting interviews with the ad agencies I knew, I began going through the phonebook calling those I didn't. One day I made 106 calls and got 104 rejections. One of those calls got me a meeting with an agency exec who said he was extremely impressed with my work.
After several firings and hundreds of rejections I was wary of his flattering words and promise to call when something came up. When weeks turned into months, and the call never came, I wasn't surprised.When the phone rang two years later, and it was the guy calling about a possible project, I almost couldn't believe it. That call led to a meeting, which led to a collaboration, which resulted in some of the most exciting, successful work I'd ever done.
Up to that point my career had been a struggle to keep a job, and now I was part of an exciting campaign that was actually winning awards, attracting the press and building a buzz. It also happened to attract a business guy who was convinced that he and I should team up and start an agency. Intrigued, but not convinced, we began collaborating and within a year had a small shop that began winning business and awards. Who knew.It was during this time that I created one of my best ads ever an anti- child abuse ad that got my partner very excited.
Determined to find an organization to run it we managed to get a meeting with people at the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse who just happened to be planning a visit to New York from Chicago. It was a lucky break since, without a face-to-face meeting, our chances of selling our ad were slim to none. When our big moment came, and we revealed our great ad, the NCPCA folks couldn't have been less excited. They felt it was too controversial.
However, they were excited enough about us to give us a great project: a national TV campaign. I'm proud to say that the campaign we created contributed to a 57% increase in hotline calls, won some major awards, and got some great press.It was shortly thereafter that I received a curious letter with the words, THE WHITE HOUSE as the return address. Considering the many creative job seekers now vying for my attention, I figured it was yet another gimmicky attempt. To my utter amazement, it was an official White House invitation to a gala honoring a select few whose contributions had "made a positive difference".
That experience is something I'll never forget.It's also a story I don't mind sharing. Because if someone had told me (after being fired four times) that I'd have my own award-winning agency and be honored at The White House, I'd have said they were crazy. I've heard it said that hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.
Though I'm not sure how much courage and strength I've have, I've always tried to keep up my hopes -- regardless of the circumstances. Perhaps this story will help you do the same..
(For more Follis marketing facts, see booklet info below.).© 2006 John Follis. All rights reserved.
John Follis is one of the 12 "Best Advertising Minds of New York" as voted by The New York Ad Club. His campaigns are in 3 college textbooks, he has written for ADWEEK, and he has taught at 3 New York universities. Currently, John works on select projects, consults, and speaks. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.For John's booklet: How to Attract and Excite Your Prospects: A Guide for Getting the Best Marketing Results, visit: http://www.
follisinc.com/ booklet.htm.For consulting info, visit: Marketing Therapy: http://www.
follisinc.com/ therapy.htm.For speaking info, visit: Follis Speaking: http://www.follisinc.com/ speaking.
By: John Follis