A brief silence persisted in the car while our conversation attempted to find its footing as it transitioned into a new topic. My voice cut through the silence before my mind could even realize I was the one initiating.
“How was working at McCann,” I blurted out.
“How was working at McCann,” he repeated back with a laugh that hinted at the loaded answer to come. Roger Hurni (Off Madison Ave’s CCO/Managing Partner) and I were on our way to grab a quick bite to eat at the lovely America’s Taco Shop with my fellow intern Elizabeth. Maybe work wasn’t the best choice of conversation considering we were out of the office, but my curiosity had gotten the best of me. After all, McCann Erickson was the largest ad agency in the world during his time there and, it must have been quite the experience working for them.
After a pause, his smile drifted into a form of self-reflection and he said: working at large agencies like McCann, I got to work on a lot of really exciting projects.
One of which still blows my mind. Get this, once when he was working on a commercial during his time at Chiat/Day, he said it should contain a simplified version of some song he had heard in passing. His team agreed and when he later entered the recording studio, who else was there but Ray Charles ready to remake his own song.
But McCann in particular was so large, he continued, that everything was siloed to sh*t. He expounded upon this by noting that he wasn’t even able to set up his own shoots. For example, he may have picked out the perfect director, but some “Person of Setting Up Shoots” from Production would have to go through and look at all of the different options and make their own decision.
So while you may have knowledge and expertise beyond your job description, you were still relegated to a particular role due to the sheer size and complexity of the organization. He further ruminated that as a result of this, he learned more in his time at Phillips-Ramsey (an agency much closer in size to our mid-sized group here at Off Madison Ave), than he ever did at McCann.
That’s a pretty significant statement. One might do a double-take and ask how McCann, once again THE world’s largest advertising agency at the time, somehow came second.
And while Roger saying that he didn’t learn as much at McCann might raise a few eyebrows, it makes sense when you consider how the size of a company impacts what is required of its employees. With an increased company size comes greater economies of scale, but that’s often at the expense of team collaboration and employee versatility. It’s a balance that’s heavily nuanced and hard to strike, but thankfully Off Madison Ave positions itself to do just that.
When looking for a company to work, or intern, with, it’s important to find a company that provides you with not only the tools to succeed but also the tools to continue to grow. The truly great companies know how to pull this off, and it’s one of the reasons why I am so grateful to be here.
In just the last four months, I have learned more than my previous 14 years of schooling could ever hope to teach me. That’s not a knock against my scholastics, but more a testament to how great the opportunity to develop is here. This is attributable to our team’s inherently collaborative nature. It’s at the heart of what we do, and why you won’t see any private offices when you come visit.
For example, while I am a Client Services Intern, I’ve worked not only with our Accounts team, but also our Media, Public Relations/Social Media, and Interactive and Digital Services Teams. Getting to create real client-facing work with and for the various functions in the agency offers a new invaluable lesson every day.
Similarly, submitting a piece of work here not only garners praise for a job well done but also sparks conversations which lead to further questions and a search for more answers. It’s a great feeling to be constantly encouraged to look deeper, and it’s why I’ve never felt as though my development, as both a person and an advertiser, has stagnated while working here.
At Off Madison Ave, each day is unique and you have the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with, everyone around you. To me, nothing encapsulates that point more than Roger, Elizabeth, and I discussing everything from politics and personal lives to advertising and work over an impromptu lunch of tacos and quesadillas.
Trent Teixeira is a Digital and Integrated Marketing Communications Major entering his third year at Arizona State University. He believes finger guns are a lost art in America and has been to Baked Bear more times in the last year and a half than there are episodes in Game of Thrones.