Advertising, it’s a dog’s life.

In Wannabe CEO on July 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

Our family dog used to look just like the picture above. A faithful border collie. My father got it from the farm down the road in leafy Buckinghamshire where I was brought up. He asked us children to come up with a name. I can’t remember what my three older sisters suggested (other than that their efforts were soppy nonsense) but I know I felt very proud when my proposal of Glen won through. It summed up the dog’s natural habitat with a bit of country-and-western singer thrown in.

I’ve never forgotten my Glen experience and I want to share with you now two truths about the advertising business that I can trace back to that dog. First of all, naming Glen (it was sadly one of the few things that I ever did right in the eyes of my father) gave me confidence to pursue my dream from an early age. I used to sit in front of our television set transfixed by the advertisements. I wanted to make those funny commercials. Somebody was doing it. Why couldn’t it be me? I’d named a dog. I could name a dog food. I could write a TV ad to persuade dog owners the length and breadth of the country to eat my dog food. I held onto that dream like Glen used to hold onto my mother’s slipper. Neither of us would let go. And look where that tenacity has got me. Wannabe advertising CEOs, you crave the top job? Have you identified your Glen moment that shows you’ve got what it takes to occupy the big seat? Have you got the drive to see it through? Are you gripping that pink fluffy slipper with tightly clenched teeth? Nothing less will do.

Back to my father and dog insight number two. He always wanted me to become a lawyer and angrily dismissed my assertion that it was him picking Glen that set me off down that slippery slope to Soho. He was no fool though. When I confessed that I was joining an ad agency, he told me that, apart from embarking on a career of utter superfluity, my tenure would be measured in dog years. Whereas a top barrister could continue well into his sixties, perhaps sharpening his technique and persuasive powers as he grew in experience and renown, the showy adman would be burnt out by the time he’s forty, devoid of fresh ideas and wallowing in his new-found sense of purposelessness.

Now that I’m in my forties, I don’t quite cut the forlorn figure described above although the pressure doesn’t get any easier. But who wants to work till they’re sixty anyway? The canine moral of this story is: if you’re going to make it in advertising, make it quick and make it big like I have. Then get out. Early retirement to write one’s memoirs in Provence is a lot better than being shipped off to Battersea Dogs Home.


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