Well not really, but I had a lot. Last week, I was in Chicago and I got the opportunity to meet with an awesome planner, AJ Livsey, from Element 79, a mid-sized ad agency. She is the planner on one of E79’s biggest accounts, Harris Bank. The agency is located in the AON Center, just a couple floors below ad giant, DDB. As the elevator doors opened, I walked out into a gold-themed lobby and let the receptionist know I had an appointment. After sitting there for a 5 or 10 minutes, a guy ran out a said “Hey! Are you Brian?” Awkwardly I told him yes, and he had me follow him around the corner. We came to a group of people doing a video shoot, as AJ was lacing up a pair of 1970’s style roller skates. Evidently it was part of new business pitch, but it was interesting to get a glimpse of the agency culture at E79.
After AJ finished her roller skating video, she showed me around the agency. It really wasn’t what I was expected as it looked more like a law office than an ad agency. AJ informed me that the office was built like that before they moved there so they didn’t have much to work with from the beginning. However there were flurries of creativity throughout the agency for example in the hallway completely covered with graffiti tags as well as the conference room with chalk boards as walls with colorful, inspired drawings covering it.
After getting Starbucks, we headed to a quiet spot to talk. She asked me about my projects at MASE and I asked her about her work at E79. Evidently, there are only 4 planners in the entire agency (not a very strategically minded agency), and she works solely on the Harris Bank account. She explained how they have branded the bank as “help”, and how she works with the creatives to create campaigns to express the brand.
We had a great talk about planning, getting a job, and advertising in general. Evidently, she has a roommate that is also a planner who has experience at Wieden as well as Y+R, but has been jobless for the last 7 months. It was kind of a blow to my optimism, but she gave the advice that a lot of smaller agencies don’t get people from ad schools so maybe that would be a good route to go.