Creativity Looks Good On You:
How 3 Creatives Went From Odd Jobs to Advertising Careers
Written by Katherine Pendrill
Photographs by Andrew Pieroni
There are a million things that you could do as a career. But if you spent your school days doodling on textbooks or writing Harry Potter fan fiction, you might be a little lost on how to channel your talents into a career. Fortunately, advertising fills that void and provides a space for creatives to not only do what they love, but also get paid for it.
To find out how to make the leap (and how to gather the courage to do it), we sat down with three creatives at different stages of their careers and asked them to share their journeys.
Kohl Forsberg – Copywriter, Associate Creative Director at john st.
Kohl Forsberg’s career started with a Gender Studies degree which he wasn’t quite sure what to do with. As Kohl explains, “I had spent so much time just trying to get a degree, that I’d never actually thought about what would happen after that.” The “after” it seems, was becoming a door-to-door salesman, which (fortunately) he was terrible at it. However, the experience forced him to consider what he actually wanted to do and what Kohl actually wanted was “just a job where I could sit down.” As it happens, advertising fit that criteria.
Kohl made his way to advertising school where he realized that “ads aren’t all bad” and that he wanted “to be one of the people making the good stuff.” He also noticed that unlike school, working in advertising never felt like work because he actually cared about what he was doing. And after more than five years doing what he cares about at john st., he’s learned some surprising lessons about what advertising actually is:
- It’s cool places and cool people (like interviewing a 104-year-old Japanese woman who still goes to work every day).
- It’s telling stories that matter to you (like creating a short film for a community sports charity).
- It’s making super dumb stuff (like engineering a fold-out pizza box that allows you to eat a slice of za in bed).
- It’s trying to get the internet’s attention (like getting kids to read mean tweets to raise awareness about cyberbullying).
- It’s real life business grownups listening to you (like when you pitch to powerful people who make time to hear what you have to say).
- But most importantly, it’s getting a voice (like when you get to make something you care about and people actually get to see it).
With that said, Kohl knows that advertising can seem intimidating, especially if you don’t really think of yourself as a creative person. But at the end of the day, really “all you need to succeed in advertising is an opinion.”
Jordan Darnbrough – Copywriter at Rethink
For Jordan Darnbrough, it all started with a 9 to 5 job selling lawn sprinklers with his dad. While the job meant a steady income, Jordan says the experience “cemented why I needed to get into a creative career” because it was, in his words, “soul sucking.”
However, the job did give Jordan time to pick up extra skills such as coding and Adobe creative suite, which helped him get into school for advertising. And for a kid who wrote stories about Lance Bass (yes, that Lance Bass) in his spare time, this seemed only natural. After spending time at Havas and McCann, he eventually worked his way to his current position as a Copywriter at Rethink. Of course, Jordan never forgets the odd jobs that got him there, which is why he stresses the need to constantly feed your curiosity.
Jordan’s also learned that one of the benefits of a career in advertising is working with awesome people like photographer Justin Poulsen, whom he collaborate with on the Graffiti Alley Instatour—an Instagram account featuring the largest photo of graffiti in the world. While projects like these might sound complicated, Jordan says it all boils down to this: “Make shit and have fun making shit.” It’s that simple.
Natalie Mathers – Art Director at Leo Burnett
Natalie Mathers originally had her heart set on fashion school. The problem was, as she puts it, “I’m not a fashionable person.” This fashion school dropout quickly re-enrolled in an advertising program and luckily, Art Direction came naturally. From there Natalie has spent the past eight years working for agencies such as Crispin Porter, Anomaly, Public, Cossette, and now Leo Burnett, where she works under some “badass women.” And she’s done some great work along the way, including the McCafé x Tiff Bean Scenes, Pizza Pops’ Weird Good campaign, and Public Mobile’s first ad ever, Less for Less.
However, the project Natalie is most proud of is a poster campaign she did for Easy Period, which helped reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation. The work went viral and sparked a debate in Toronto surrounding how men and women think about periods—a conversation that Natalie couldn’t be more proud to be a part of. As she explains, making ads that start real conversations “means you’re cutting through the ad blogs and getting into the real world where the people you are talking to actually are.” In other words, campaigns like this one demonstrate how ads can truly change the world.
For Natalie, being an Art Director all boils down to her desire to make things, despite not quite feeling like an artist. She’s also a bit of a jack-of-all-trades who’s constantly “thirsty for new skills and knowledge,” and deeply connected to the local creative community. If this sounds like you, it might be time to consider a career in advertising.
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