I've been in the advertising business 64 and 3/4 years or 42 years, depending on how you tally things. Because my father was in the business, I can rightfully say I grew up hearing the stories of the business and commercial breaks in my parents' tilted suburban home weren't times to grab a snack. They were times to listen up.
In fact, I was in two television commercials in 1962, as a platinum blond four-year-old. But the 42-year figure is the one I'll go with because that's when I started writing for a living. Or at least banging on a keyboard if you don't want to lower yourself and say that advertising writing is writing.
Counting that I've had 42 years in the business, I spent 39 of them not realizing one of the most important aspects of the business.
In my first agency job, my very wise partner, Craig said to me, you never stop working on your portfolio.
After 39 years in the business, I finally realized you never stop pitching.
Maybe, if you think about it, working on your portfolio and pitching are essentially one and the same.
What I mean is this:
Whether you're a giant advertising conglomerate or a one-person shop or you're working for somebody else's shop, you have to be on the hunt, always for business, whether it's new business or growth from existing clients.
It doesn't matter if you're already at your capacity. You have to be hunting for more. Simply because the more you do the more of a chance you have to do something great.
What's more, every post you make, every innocuous LinkedIn bon mot, is a prospecting call. Every phoneme you utter, every word you write, is a part of the composite that makes you. And you are always creating, always improving, always growing and always selling you.
I've always had a preference when it comes to the agency business. I hated agency names that tried to show how forceful and energetic they are. So names like Vector, Agitation and Spearhead, were never on my consideration list.
I've also always despised names that were meant to convey how unorthodox, quirky and creative places were. I dislike names like Purple Proboscis, Desiccated Piscine and Dangling Earlobe.
Finally, I'm offended by agencies that are named after people when they've done everything in their holding company's power to distance themselves from the founders' viewpoints and taste and ethics. Those agencies are too numerous, and it would be too impolitic for me to mention them all here. Besides you know who they are. They're all the big agencies, now smallerized via shareholder legerdemain.
When I finally was forced into starting my own place having been fired for making Ogilvy too much money and doing work that was too well-liked by giant clients no longer considered cool in the new economy where social currency outweighs intrinsic value, a friend said "what will you call your agency?"
I hadn't chosen a name, but in less time than it takes to fire a zip gun, I said, "GeorgeCo. Clients will come for me and clients will know they're getting me, not some ersatz GLO (George-like-object.)
Whether you're working for an agency or yourself you've got the same job.
You have to build YouCo.
Every day, you have to build YouCo.
You build YouCo with your work ethic.
You build YouCo with your work.
You build YouCo with your network and your friends.
You build YouCo with your clients.
You build YouCo with your reputation.
You build YouCo every time you work with an editor, a sound guy, a photographer, a planner, a media person, an executive, a stranger.
Building YouCo, whether you know it or not is what you've been doing every day of your life.
Which brings me up to the very opening of this piece.
We're all working for YouCo.
Usually long before we learn it.