Something about advertising fascinates Hollywood script writers.
Tinseltown’s latest take on the advertising world stars comic Robin Williams as the head of a Chicago agency in the appropriately titled “The Crazy Ones.” It follows the success of “Mad Men,” a TV show about the advertising scene in the 1960s. Other shows that have featured advertising industry storylines include the drama “thirtysomething” (1987-91) and the sitcoms “Bosom Buddies” (1980-82) and “Bewitched” (1964-72).
And most of them get a thumbs-down from local ad executives.
“That’s really not what it’s like,” said William M. Collins, principal at Travers Collins. “It’s not wild, wacky and whimsical. Clients are entrusting us with their resources to help them accomplish business goals – that’s serious stuff.”
Bill Paterson, vice president of creative operations for Gelia, whose four offices are located in New York, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, offered this take on how the advertising business is portrayed:
“I’ll tell you what’s funny about TV and movies,” said Paterson, who is based at the company’s Amherst headquarters. “Sometimes they get it right. But a lot of times they combine into one person’s job what four or five people would do.
“It takes a lot of people doing different roles to get there,” he said.
At the very core of creative teams are copywriters and designers/art directors. But there also are public relations and digital specialists, account managers, media directors and production managers.
And, of course, the clients.
“How far you push it depends on their comfort level,” said Tom Peters, creative director at Travers Collins.
“Every member of the team comes back with what they can contribute,” explained Paterson. “It kind of becomes an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing.”
He said one thing is right in how television portrays the industry: “Creative people are a little wacky. You kind of have to be.”
Tom Merrick, executive creative director at Eric Mower + Associates, agrees. He oversees seven offices in New York, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina.
“For whatever reason, their brains are wired differently,” Merrick said. “They see things that most people don’t see. That’s what enables them to come up with clever headlines, clever visuals.”
Contributing to that creative thinking are office environments where business casual is the dress code standard and work schedules are flexible.
That’s whether the office is located in the hip Larkin at Exchange building, where Travers Collins has a suite; the corporate Key Tower at Fountain Plaza, where Eric Mower + Associates soon will move from their 10th-floor suite into a new, open-concept space three floors up; or Gelia’s sleek offices in a newer Amherst office park.
“At the surface, it looks pretty much business,” Peters said of Travers Collins. However, it’s not unusual to have an employee’s child or family pet visit the office, and around Easter, employees compete in a Peep-eating contest.
Paterson said that most major holidays bring out good-natured competition among staffers at Gelia, whether it’s for best costume, side dish or office decorations – even ugliest sweater.
At Eric Mower, there’s something called “The Cart of Goodness” that makes its way around the floor from time to time, dispensing everything from candy to mimosas.
“That’s just something you don’t see in every industry. There is a sense of fun and freedom,” Merrick said.
“It doesn’t make for great TV, but I will tell you it makes for a great place to work.”