“My understanding of the advertising world comes from Mad Men,” I tell Courtney as we sit down for a chat. Courtney Burns is an Account Executive working at Blue Chip in Chicago. “Have you ever smoked a cigarette or drank scotch at work?” I continue. She laughs, “Absolutely not.”
For those of you who don’t know, Mad Men was a series that ran for seven seasons featuring John Hamm as the dashing Donald Draper, a creative director of an advertising firm, who was taking the marketing world by storm. The Emmy and Golden Globe winning series depicted the advertising world of the 60s, which translates to misogyny, affairs, and chain smoking.
Courtney tells me what’s really going on in her world: “It’s not like Mad Men. It is male heavy, but things have changed tremendously, especially in the past 5 to 10 years. There are a lot more women in creative roles and there is a big move away from male centered advertising. Men aren’t the target audience anymore. A lot of my clients are women. Women are dominating the brand field.”
“Women are dominating the brand field”
As an Account Executive, Courtney spends her work hours doing project and client management. When a client comes to her with a problem, Courtney looks to her team in order to find a solution. She creates timelines and production schedules, anticipating the costs for different projects and ensuring that things are completed to schedule. She works at an agency, which means that at any time, she’s overseeing multiple client projects, each project having at least 10 different people working on it. This requires a special finesse of organization and collaboration.
“You have to be a people person. My job requires talking to people all day long. Customer service basically. A client comes to you with a problem and you say alright, let’s get this figured out!”
Sounds easy enough, right? Don’t be fooled. Courtney’s job requires extensive multitasking, research, and decision-making.
It started with an internship the summer before her senior year of college. Courtney was eager to work in Chicago and her cousin told her about an internship opportunity at Blue Chip. She loved her time there so much that upon graduating from the University of Arizona, Courtney applied for an entry-level job hoping they’d want her back. She’s been there ever since.
“The hardest part is definitely getting your foot in the door,” Courtney tells me. “Advertising is such a coveted field, especially for college graduates. After that you can get anywhere if you work hard and you are able to back yourself up with your experience.”
“So what are tips, tricks, and tools that you use to stay on top of things?” I ask.
“I never skip commercials,” she explains. I look at her like she’s an alien. “I don’t have ad blocker on my computer and I subscribe to the email lists of brands I like in order to check out their marketing.” This means she receives over 600 emails a day. Courtney goes on to explain the importance of knowing the competition and what else is out there. “It’s part of the job, I have to educate myself.”
Courtney describes her favorite advertising campaigns as consistent. She provides Amazon as an example, explaining that when an Amazon ad comes on, right away you know what it is. “I love ads that come from legacy brands. You know exactly what they’re selling without needing to see the logo.”
I ask Courtney what she hopes for the future and what her dream job looks like. She explains to me that she’d love to continue her work at the agency. “There’s so much variety! I’m getting so much experience working on different projects and with different clients. Right now, I enjoy the unpredictability.” Courtney tells me that eventually she would like to work on the client side. “I would want to find a brand that I really connect with and help grow it. Whether that means brand manager or in-house advertising. I don’t care about the title, it’s about being challenged and loving what you do.”
Courtney epitomizes hard work and dedication. It’s apparent by how fervently she talks about her job. I can’t help but ask, “How do you maintain work life balance?”
“I don’t!” She jokes, “I’ll work like crazy for a while and get everything done. Once things settle down, I take advantage of my time off. Friday nights I stay home and enjoy myself. I read, watch TV, and make sure I relax.”
“Do you still watch the commercials then?”
She laughs, “Of course!”
Other advertising newsletters Courtney recommended: