From the Trenches, A New Series From ExecutiveWomen2.0

Shown the door
Heads Rolling
Laid Off
Let Go
Involuntary separation from employer

Anybody recognize any of the above terms for that horrific day when the boss calls you into his office and tells you to close the door and take a seat. It’s happened to me. And it was the worst / best day of my life.

I was in advertising at the time. TV Producer. 15 years. I was told by my boss, head of Broadcast Production at the LA office of an international ad agency, that, according to our client, I simply didn’t “love the Suzie Cutesy doll enough”.  This client, at that agency at that time, was the bread and butter account, so I was out. Now the good news is I was hired back immediately to work on better, more fun accounts.  But that’s beside the point. That day, though I was not escorted out by security guards (my ex-husband was once), I was made to feel like I’d done something really really bad. If that were true, how could I have been doing that very job for nearly 2 years? But I digress. Smiling and seeming happy in your work is critical to a clients’ equilibrium and that’s something I learned the hard way.

My own experience saw me launch a search of my own for a turn around. The research – on myself for a change – led me to a new career in hi tech which, at that very pivotal time, witnessed the launch of the commercial Internet. I became one of those crazy “pioneers on the bleeding edge” and never looked back. One of the precepts that propelled me was that I nearly always found advertising to have become a safe, research-based, non-creative work environment. One that had, when I first started out in that business, was being led by some of the most ferociously creative people to every populate an industry. Bill Bernbach and Mac Dane were still coming to work every day. The Agency, then known as Doyle Dane Bernbach, boasted talent like Executive Creative Directors Roy Grace, Marvin Honig, John Noble, Helmut Krone, Phyllis Robinson and the legendary Bob Gage. We were free to be as zany as ad agencies were portrayed in the movies and it was  a blast to go to work every day.  There was a lot of money, we worked insane hours with very little complaining and clients gave the agency free reign to do what it paid those guys astronomical fees for doing. Turning out great ads.

When things changed and conglomerates were formed, the entire business went to hell. Fear and research were decision drivers and good people were cheated out of great potential talent in exchange for “the way we’ve always done it in the past”.  Hearing that phrase day after day, I knew it was time for me to go. I was too scared to leave on my own, so I guess, looking back, I bit the hand that fed me.

Now, 20 years later and counting, I’ve reinvented myself more than a few times. Left the narrow pigeon hole of agency life (once a producer always a producer) and became an Digital Entrepreneur (for better or for worse), a published journalist in the Interactive Media field and a few other things along the way, none of which I would be embarrassed to tell you about if you asked!

Today, I wonder once in a long while, what my life would be like if I’d stayed in the “Agency business”, or so we used to call it. I know some who did. They are a lot richer than I am, no doubt about that. But not more daring!