AAAFFF Award Ceremony Coverage

Announcing the winner of the Anti-Advertising Agency Foundation For Freedom Award; Sarah Gibble!

Read Sarah’s tale of how she was sucked into the advertising industry vortex and how she escaped!

Sarah Gibble’s Application Letter

I never wanted to be in the advertising industry. Let’s face it, who does? Yet I somehow found myself among the myriad of NYC ad slaves, waking up in the morning, throwing my phone against the wall because my alarm, that dreadful thing, was screaming at me to get up, put on stuffy clothes, and jump through hoops for nine hours. A countless number of days were spent reminding myself to drop my shoulders that now seemed permanently tensed and trying to figure out how the hell I got myself into this predicament.

I’ll tell you exactly how it started. I wasn’t paying attention. My major in college was sports and entertainment media. After taking an Introduction to Media Production class during my sophomore year, I fell in love with the audio aspect of it. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a rock star (or an actress or pediatrician…ever the Gemini, I hadn’t quite decided). I had a fake microphone with these wicked strobe lights that blared in my face when I stepped on the pedal, and really accented my wig made out of brightly colored bicycle streamers. I was fully convinced that Cyndi Lauper had nothing on me as I did my best impressions for an audience of 2-4 (always my parents, sometimes my brother and sister). When I was 9 I started playing the flute. That hobby has stayed with me ever since and I was and still am quite good at it, yet sadly my adolescent dreams of living in New York working as an usher in a Broadway theater only to be discovered singing on stage while no one was there and forced into overcoming my stagefright because the production just –had- to have me; never quite came true. This brings me back to the Media Production class. When we got to the audio aspect of it, I learned that I was able to leave my creative mark without having to be in the spotlight: through recording, editing, and sound design. I quickly decided that I would minor in Audio Production, to make sure this was really what I hoped it would be. Fast forward to my senior year, totally engrossed Audio, and realizing I still have to do an internship for my major…sports…as a last minute effort I was able to get this gig with a basketball team at a neighboring school…doing ad sales for the games. “Whatever” I thought. “I’m going to do audio anyways, as long as I fulfill this requirement, who cares.

I graduated and quickly came to the cruel reality that I, with my fresh new degree and mile-long list of student loans, had to move back home until I found a job. I looked everywhere. Every job involving music or sports I looked at. 2 months went by and the reality that I was still working at Auntie Annes sunk deep with in the worry-folds of my mind. I became less specific in my job search and more eager to take anything that would get me out of my house and into the “real” world. When I finally got the call in mid October asking if I would come for an interview ad an advertising sales company in NYC, I nearly fell out of my seat. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t want to do this for a living,” I thought. “This is a great way to get me to New York so I can have a career in audio, so what the hell.” I got the job packed my bags kissed mom and dad goodbye and was on my way.

Nearly three years later, I have still been here at the same company telling myself “this is only temporary.” I never thought I would be in this job 8 months, let alone 3 years.

What I hate most about the advertising industry is the extreme amount of fear that prevails throughout the company and drives it to push harder harder harder. Not in the good, Olympic athlete in training if I just stretch my legs pump my arms faster harder I’ll shave 3 seconds off my time and win the gold, harder. Moreso the oh my god what the hell am I going to do if I don’t find a media buyer who is available to go to this dinner with me and my bosses boss I am going to look like a complete buffoon so I must sit here with a list of names to call pretending each one I call was the first and only person I wanted to come with me, harder. It’s the carotid artery about to burst yet never does, fully. It’s the nervous leg shake and completely gray head of hair at 32 that my boss has acquired. It’s the need to put women down to feel powerful and speak in unnecessary volumes into a headset that is worn at all times, even in the bathroom that my other boss has acquired. It’s those tense shoulders, the impatient sighs and the hurried walk I have acquired knowing that if I swipe my building id a minute late, they will know, because they get a monthly chart of my swipe in times, eager to find a flaw.

Sadly the three years I have spent in this industry have not produced many accolades. I started of as an executive assistant and was promoted within 7 months to a slightly loftier title, a 1% raise, and the luxury of having two new bosses instead of the one I had before. The only real show of my talents are the hundreds of powerpoint presentations I had made to show our clients how wonderful our company is. This was the only area in which I was allowed to add some of my creative input, and even though my work was praised heavily by clients and coworkers alike, I was still reminded that my work was insignificant and would most certainly be glazed over. “Remember, you’re painting a wall, Sarah; not a Picasso.” This was a daily reminder from my employers not to take too much time doing anything I actually enjoy.

Because I was in advertising sales and not the agency side, Neither I nor my colleagues ever worked on campaigns, so I unfortunately cannot begin to describe the sleaziest. However, I have been witness to and have heard stories of some unspeakable things account executives and sales managers will do to and for media buyers to close a sale. There have been those who, in fear of losing their job due to budget cuts or lack of talent, would go to higher levels of the corporate beast and offer themselves sexually to those who could secure their employment. There are those who will travel hundreds of miles to treat their clients to a night of fine dining, tons of alcohol, and a hotel room blow-job on the company dime. These are obviously some of the more extreme cases. On a regular basis however, a different kind of corporate barter system occurs. Expensive gifts are sent at whim, and shame no longer exists. I have actually heard an employee say “ I would roll over like a dog for that money”. It’s no wonder I felt like I was losing a little part of myself more and more each day.

Yet for some reason I continued to work there, and work hard for this company. I was frequently at the office long after everyone else had gone home, hoping that in the end, my hard work would pay off somehow. At the very least I hoped that those who I slaved for would stand up for me should my work or work ethic ever be called into question. This hope came crashing down the day I was told I would not be receiving my quarterly bonus, due to a “miscommunication error” on my bosses part. They had forgotten to mention something I needed to do as a requirement to receive my bonus, and did not fight HR to get me the stipend that I greatly depended on and that they looked at as pocket change. Visibly angry, I went to HR myself and was able to salvage half of the bonus, yet the little confidence I had in my employers was gone forever. Seeing how angry I was, they apologized for the “misunderstanding” and gave me a speech advising me not to walk around with a chip on my shoulder but rather to look inside myself to see what I could have done differently. “Sarah, you are a square peg and this company is a round hole. When that situation occurs, you need to conform to fit the image of the company if you want to succeed here.”

That night, I sent out a heartfelt cover letter and resume attachment to 100 different post production audio houses in New York. It took me all night, but the events of the day had given me the push I needed to put my passion in front of my obligation. I realized that I didn’t want to round myself off to fit the shape of the company. I needed a square company, and the urgency of my creative needs could no longer be ignored. I wanted to be doing audio, and I was tired of having to wait until I returned from my day job to pursue my passion. I was tired of having to muster up the motivation to work creatively when my eyelids were fighting sleep. I wanted to work creatively all day.

When I got an email back from one of the post production houses, I knew this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I went on the interview and immediately felt a comfortable connection with the owners. I am now happy to report I have taken a job with this company, I no longer have to groan, roll my eyes, and say with exasperation, “I work in advertising sales” when people ask me what I do for a living. Nowadays when people ask me what I do, I light up and gush, “I’m the studio director for a post production audio house. I’m making a lot less money and I had to go on my boyfriend’s insurance plan to make it work, and I’m loving every second of it.” I never realized how unhappy I was in advertising until I freed myself from it. Like a bad relationship, I had forgotten who I was, and was so used to my current situation that I was afraid to try anything else. And now that I’m out of it, I can’t imagine ever going back.

Suck it, Ad Industry.

– Sarah Gibble

This entry was posted in Agency Projects, Foundation For Freedom and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.