We’ve all heard the story of the guy who bit into a KFC chicken breast and discovered he was eating rat. We’ve all heard the one about the girl who accidentally left a bagged up turd and a thank you note on a guy’s kitchen table after a passionate night of bumping uglies. You might have even heard the one about the couple who blamed an elderly dog for the mess on their parents’ cream sofa after their anal antics, which resulted in the poor thing being put to sleep. All urban legends that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend.
But urban legends aren’t just pub fodder for you and your mates to laugh about as you dip pork scratchings into your pint. There are lessons you can learn from them. Well, the advertising ones anyway, because the industry is full of tales of people doing extraordinary things to get their first job.
There’s the one about Graham Fink who was turned down for a role at an agency because he wasn’t experienced enough. Legend has it that he turned up the next day dressed as an old man (more experienced – get it?) and was given the job straight away.
There’s the one about the guy who packaged himself up in a box addressed to the Droga5 mailroom on a Friday afternoon, only for the post to be delivered later than usual. By the time they found him on Monday, he was starving hungry, covered in piss and severely de-hydrated. But at least he got his folio into the agency.
There’s the one about the cunning young London creative who was desperate to work at BMB. He faked a copy of Trevor Beattie’s driving license, put it inside a wallet with a very small copy of his portfolio and left it in the toilet of the agency. When the receptionist ‘returned’ it to Trevor, he was so impressed with the cheeky little otter that he hired him on the spot.
My personal favourite is the one about Ogilvy London. Apparently somebody has been sending in a single brick every week for over 4 years. The general consensus at Canary Wharf was that the gag would be something along the lines of ‘if you don’t have room for me, I’ll build an extra one’. Sorry for the spoiler.
And brick sender isn’t alone. For every toilet wallet, there are a million pun-based attempts. The stomach knotting, “They’ll definitely hire me if I send in a shoe with a ‘now that my foot’s in the door’ note”. Or the classic, “we’ll stand outside the agency and give a cuppa to every bastard that goes in, whether they’re a creative or not”.
My way in had nothing on Graham Fink’s disguise but it was far from traditional. I couldn’t afford to do the placement circuit in London and, on top of that, my course wasn’t a ‘creative course’ so I didn’t know what a portfolio was, let alone have one. So, I lied. I booked a flight to Delhi and went straight to Ogilvy and claimed that I’d been sent by Rory Sutherland for a job. They helped me find a house to live in (with a house boy, if you’re asking) and had me writing copy for Absolut Vodka, Yahoo! and KFC that afternoon without ever asking to see my book. I haven’t told many people this story so, Rory, I’m sorry and I owe you a pint.
These urban legends teach us that there are other ways to get your first job. You don’t have to slave away for months at an agency you have no intention of working at. You shouldn’t have to spend weeks worrying whether you’re going to be replaced by another team who must be good because “they did 2 weeks at Mother”. You can’t spend your time wondering how you’ll pay the rent because you work until midnight every night and too many weekends to work in Starbucks.
Don’t do what everyone else is doing. If you can’t get in the door, go in through the window and please, please, please, stop sending in shoes.