Mentorship in Advertising

Yesterday’s post was about the lack of the 50+ perspective and the glaring absence of 50+ staff in advertising agencies.

For those who don’t know, we’re talking Baby Boomers.

My way-back-when-colleague, Jeff commented “…the notion of mentorship, seems to have evaporated in this worship of youth culture.”

Damn! I forgot completely about mentorship.

That’s because I have seen it so rarely in the past 20 years. Is anyone mentoring these days?

In a Google search with the words Advertising and Mentorship, I turned up one – only one – agency on the first page.

Barkley ding! ding! ding! you get the prize. And the word is in the page address: However, at first read, it does look like an internship…

For me, mentorship is different from internship, though. Mentorship goes well beyond Summer Break. It lasts throughout your career, then you, kiddo, get to pass it along.

So for those who hire recent grads, please don’t stick them in a cube and give them crap to file, or do data entry. Guide them.

Partner them with someone who knows the ins-and-outs of advertising and agency life. By the way, this goes without saying, but put them with someone who isn’t jaded and just doing time.


Rookies need to understand the business of advertising. Client relationships – which requires finesse, like not saying yes; getting shit done – not passing off something half-done because it is late; creative – because there is logic behind it; strategy – because there is reason behind it; getting coffee – no it isn’t a one-hour, off-site venture; partying – there’s a right time and wrong time to partake. Paying attention to budgets and timelines. Culture in the context of camaraderie.

And please, foosball tables, dogs-at-work, and Beer Fridays do not constitute culture. That’s just slop shots, poo in the hall and a Saturday of Regret.

So this is about mentorship. If you’ve only worked in advertising for, say, three to five years, you may have won all sorts of accolades for your digital stuff. Did anyone mentor you, or did you follow the hype about The Next Big Thing?

Mentorship is about thoughtful consideration of your work; how you approached your strategy, how you executed your creative – through the eyes of someone who has made the mistakes and celebrated the successes. Those folks, who have been in the trenches for the better part of a quarter-of-a-century – or more – will share amazing things with you.

This world has gone digital, and in that wake has drunk the Kool-Aid of youth.

And I’ll bet Gen X and Y don’t know anything about Kool-Aid other than a euphemism.