Why You Need an Attitude to Survive in Advertising

First off, let’s dismiss the notion that having an attitude is automatically a bad thing. The word tends to get a lot of negative slack, which is not fair. In the world of marketing, having an attitude is what will set you apart. To be clear, my definition of an attitude is having an opinion, and knowing how to express it. In my view, having an attitude is what separates marketing folk from accounting folk. I have a theory: People who work in accounting are typically not disturbers of the peace. They like rules, and they like following them. As such, they spend many years training to specifically work under a set of rules that easily define right and wrong, yes from no (I take comfort in making this statement as I live with an accountant).

Marketing people, on the other hand are feisty. They like to raise questions, challenge things, and react to situations with great passion. Sometimes, they will an express an attitude that can be interpreted as too loud, impolite, or too direct and that’s just how it is.


Don Draper owns an alpha-male, unapologetic ego in Mad Men. Img Source

Allow me to elaborate.

If you want to work in advertising, you will work with a daily onslaught of opinions (and attitudes). This will come at you from every angle. From your clients, to your coworkers and contractors passion and emotion will be in abundance. There are going to be days when it feels like everyone is taking things out on you. People come in tired, grumpy because of the weather, stressed due to work overload and this filters in everything they do for the next eight hours. If you want to work on the accounts team, you will need to navigate around a sea of opinions and skillfully sort out the ones that really matter.  There will be times where you literally want to yell at someone to get a point across but you have to force yourself to take the higher road. If you learn to communicate how you feel with in a positive, constructive manner, then you will have conquered one of the most challenging parts of working in this industry.

When I first started in advertising, I did not have an attitude. In many ways, I inherited from my mother (the kindest, sweetest woman in the world) a persistent need to please everyone around me. In a work situation, this translates into being a “yes” person. In short, I never challenged anyone’s direction, or opinion. I always did what I was told and assumed other people knew best. I was a pushover. When you’re junior, this is the only route to take because you’ll want so badly to leave a positive impression. But very quickly you will learn, in order to survive you’ll have to grow a backbone and along with it an attitude you can own.

This doesn’t mean you need to adopt an uncompromising or stubborn point of view. It simply means you have to have a solid perspective on how you want to handle things. As you get more senior the more your opinion will count and, the more you will be criticized for it. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s very good. People want to be challenged, because that’s how great work is created. Without a doubt, you will piss some people off. You will never be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s why you need to own your attitude. Now this comes with fair warning, depending on what department you work in, the tolerance for an attitude tends to change. If you’re a creative person, people tend to dismiss your emotional reaction to everything as part of your trade. If you’re on the account person, you will be expected to have more control. In the role of an account person, you will need your attitude to challenge status quo ideas. You will need an attitude to carry you through long, tiring debates. You will need your attitude to consult with your client in a way that shows you care.  And at all times, you’ll have to watch how it affects your team and those around you. Take a positive approach, and practice getting to the point.  It will have a profound impact on your success in advertising.

Otherwise, you might want to reacquaint yourself with double entry bookkeeping.


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