A story of my AD-hawk romance and why it never worked out

[TLTR ALERT]

For some time I was surrounded by so many “enthusiastic” people working in that industry, it always made me feel as if I should beat myself up for not being able to enjoy it as much as they supposedly do. However, it took couple of years to realise that it was never me. Also, it wasn’t the people, nor the companies I worked for. There is simply no need to point fingers, because our Worlds, expectations and mindsets differ in so many ways. Still, I had a good excuse for staying in “my own hell”.

Having in mind that by the time I started ‘swimming in these seas’ I was already skilled in many fields – finding a full-time job, was always a piece of cake. Staying in it however… was one of the greatest professional battles I have ever battled. In that battle I won and nobody really lost. 

If I wanted to live abroad, staying in advertising agencies was the fastest option to get Visa approved, I was very aware of that. But being aware of it didn’t change the fact that I had to break some parts of my brain body in order to submit to certain rules of the way this industry is forced to operate under and the reason I make this sound so harsh, is because for me staying was really painful, for one big reason:

I simply started out my career as something that is popular today and wasn’t so popular back then:

Freelancing. Back in the 2005, freelancing was another name for “oh…you’re just jobless”. We came out of a generation of parents who got full-time job after finishing their universities, and that was expected from us as well. I got my first paid project at the age of 16, I already had a good client, doing illustrations for MENSA (Serbia). Quickly after that portfolio grew, getting me more work, now even worldwide. It was good small amount of month cashflow at that age.  By the age of 19 I won an award for the best poster for Music Festival organised by my city and realised I could really live off my career, without sitting in an office. After I finished one of biggest jobs at that time, I got hired for 2 more festivals, where I was the only creative, so everything depended on me, which is really bad for your cortisol levels, but good for your teenage self-confidence.

Naturally – making a living out of something I always loved, brought an adrenaline rush, but also I started to love the lifestyle around it. Living in an organised mess for me was like a drug. I would wait for the meeting early on workdays and watch people rush to work, I had a cup of coffee in my hand and I wasn’t part of that 9-5 World. It was pleasure realising that. Sometimes my days looked all the same, but it was always in my power to change that.
This continued, when I was hired to do apps for USA market, then app games came in… Back then when there was not so many app designers, not so much info available on the internet,  I was accepting jobs I don’t even know how to do (yes, fuck it). I’d go to bed tired, but happy.

My first touch with the advertising, was in 2012, it was the agency in Vienna my husband Dusan was working at. I was hired by them to do this and that as a graphic designer / illustrator. As with every client, it was a challenge, but the agency was pretty relaxed about the way things are done as long as they are delivered at great quality and on time. My false thinking that this is the way every ad agency works everywhere, made me sure I wanna give it a chance. Without even realising it, I soon became that 9-5 running person myself and I was that person until 2017.

By the time I reached my fourth agency…I was ticking bomb ready to go off. All of them had a pattern.

Nine to five 

which is fiiiiine when you haven’t started out as a freelancer and been it for 5 years. It’s fine when you get out of the University where you’re sitting all the time, which was not the case with the schools I went to. It’s fine if you grew up influenced by the thought you should get a full time job, get a bank loan, have kids, get a car, steady income and all that social pressure shit. It’s perfectly fine if you just wanna work and go home, shut the doors and be with your family. Not fine for me, simply it isn’t. We’re all different.

Filling in the timesheet – 

having scheduled “brainstorming” for two hours placed in the timesheet and in a certain office called “Bahamas” – I really don’t know what’s more ironic, the fact that someone has planned out the time to “shoot the awesome idea out of your ass within these two hours and four walls”, or the four walls named after the country in Lucayan Archipelago. Both things make you wanna laugh and cry at the same time, because you’re there, you’re not looking from the outside.

Getting up to 5 different brands 

to handle micro-jobs for, within those 8hrs. Three fine, but five, meant zero time to nicely dedicate getting to know each brand. Half-assing the shit out of everything because there’s no time to spend on a brand, I understand how and why this business works, but – no.

Working in teams with talented people 

yes, big plus. But it was not the case in every agency, there were agencies everyone was sitting at their desk and that’s about well…it. That was really weird.

The Award Engine 

I call it an engine because it works like an engine. Always starts the same – ends the same way. Wherever you live, advertising is doing the same thing. Half of the people who have barely touched the project with their ass, get signed on that same project sent for an award. But why complain, it’s not the worse unfair thing in the world. 

I am truly, even today, admiring people who stay in this, I don’t believe anyone is more or less creative for doing so, but most of the times these enterprises and studios felt like Emergency Health Centres, where absolutely nothing can be allowed to go other direction then the one they’re used to – no matter which type of client (wtf). And if it did, the amount of stress in this that was transferring from the account departments to creatives, was – Jesus people calm the fuck down.  Is this really someone considers successful handling of a business? Could you at least make some effort and wrap it in a better Christmas paper? I was sick of seeing the same people happy on instagram hashtaging #advertisinglife, while at the same time I know they’re resizing 100 banners a day, while they could really be doing something fucking cool with their skills. Their choice of course.

In order not to explode, I temporarily numbed another brain part. I had to/was smart enough to do so. Because for this job I get visa, that was one big fucking drive and there was a couple of worth-pissing-my-bosses-off projects that I used in my future after that. Regarding the type of jobs, sometimes my colleagues would say “I was so lucky to very often get the “nicest” job”. However, I never considered it as luck, it’s just hard work and hybrid knowledge being rewarded.Besides, the brief didn’t look as nice as the finish product, I probably made it nice and it’s what anyone can do with any brief. It’s only creative business and anyone can really do it, you just have to want to do it.

At the end of the day – this was no longer advertising, this is a production company with no other standard but ‘if the client wants/says so.. we’re gonna do it like that’. And it’s ok for the company that wants to work this way. I understand, even better now when I have my own business to take care of, but is that the only way? I also know it’s not.

I had my breaking points when it comes to advertising, but I was never creatively blocked which my portfolio can prove. By the time I was “stuck” in this industry, I worked on really various projects and learned game design, UX design, character design, strategy writing, pushed my branding skills a bit further…etc. I just placed that negative energy in working on side projects for various clients, working on getting the papers in line and getting me out of the EU visa system, so I can stop complaining on the inside and do what I do best – mind my own business. Now you see… I started as my own account, my own time-manager, my own everything – naturally it was very hard for me to adapt to “it’s okay for the client, he’s used to worse” way of doing things. I was cursed in a way that I don’t starve for making new friends at work, meeting people is very nice but it’s not why I’m in. I don’t believe team-buildings connect people, good teamwork with big responsibilities and less micro-managing does. I don’t drink/do drugs – long past that phase (try growing up on Balkan). I’m not into filling out timesheets or legal stuff instead of HR, I’m into well-thought design, making business, 1:1 talks with friends/contacts, collecting magazines, playing games.

Some time passed and in December 2016, EU papers came in – I could have shut the doors of advertising with my ass, but what’s the point in that? Naturally I didn’t scram out of advertising like someone was chasing me. There was a big positive change in a way I would agree to the position. I could choose slowly and wisely now the company I am about to sign contract with. But before all that, I made a strategy with only one aim – make my bed comfy and then lay in it. I opened my own company Fuchs+Dachs, employed myself there and then hired a lawyer who drafted an unique contract for me with all the details of  what my work for another company means. Good beginning of an ending hm? Well you learn from your mistakes.

Signing collaboration with Ogilvy One was one of the most beautiful and elegant decisions in my life. I thought I am going to stay there for 6 months…After a year and a half of our collaboration, I exited advertising through the front door, with a big project behind myself,  a smile on my face and no negative feelings. And I left it because Dusan & I worked so hard on those ‘side projects’, our studio was now able to support both of us.

On the bright side, this industry taught me some of the most valuable life and business lessons, I wouldn’t learn anywhere else. As I aged, this benefit was growing with me unnoticed. These lessons were prefix to all decisions we made for our business. So even if it fails, I know I didn’t sit with my legs crossed in a glass office 8+ hours per day, wondering what if I had it my way. . And having your way is not easy, but how priceless is to feel like that 19 year old kid at the age of 30? How many of us have it today?

That’s the thing with the opportunity, you don’t just get it, you build each one for yourself through hard work and failures after which you still keep pushing forward. And as I have mentioned before, we are not all the same. Thanks to advertising, I was finally able to do some insight of myself:
I simply am not into titles, it means shit to me if I ain’t doing the work I love and I constantly had to please the client, regardless of their expertise on the subject. Not into awards, if I know it wasn’t my idea at the end of the day that won. Tapping on the shoulder doesn’t arouse me, if I know I broke myself into pieces to deliver the project and in the end it looks like thousand people worked on it.  I am no longer into beating myself for feeling and saying all this out loud, because it’s simply equal to having sex for hours without ever reaching an orgasm, fuck that.

My romance with Advertising world was always, ironically said, “AD-hawk” and since there were always reservations from my side, I was able to act and see stuff with no emotions. It made a bigger damage on daily basis, but it pushed me very far at a very early age. I also realised I would maybe be a more interesting person to the people around me if I was someone who was more outgoing, less business oriented and more into other people’s lives – the path would be probably even much easier for me. However, I was never that kid, nor will I ever be, therefore I’ll keep breaking myself, but – only for myself.

Thanks for reading.

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