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Dear Creatives, We Have Shitty Days, But Let’s Not Be Shitty People
Advertising Agency
San Francisco, USA
INFLUENCER: Six tips to help others feel appreciated when they’re having a particularly challenging day, from DDB San Francisco's Michelle Sjöberg

In advertising, there’s no doubt that we work hard. We’ve all heard the, “work hard, play hard” line, but it’s very true in our industry. We spend a lot of time at the office and working “nine to five” isn’t really a thing for most. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, quite the opposite in fact. There’s a reason why, even when we’ve been working days and nights, week-on-week straight, on a big project, we return, and even though we may grumble every now and then, the creatives I know, wouldn’t dream of actually choosing another industry. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, because we genuinely love what we do. That old Confucius guy had a point when he said, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The second reason we keep coming back is – the people. At DDB San Francisco, where I work as an Associate Creative Director, one of the agency’s core beliefs when recruiting is finding people who are ‘talented and nice’ and it’s definitely true from where I sit. I’m pretty fortunate to be a young, half-Swedish, half-Thai female who works as a creative in advertising, yet I am always incredibly supported and respected by my team and peers – which is increasingly important in our industry. 

But, let’s face it, some days are sunshine and unicorns, and some days aren’t that great. In fact, they can be down-right shitty. Every now and then, the lows, the confidence knocks, the challenges and the set-backs can feel overwhelming and we have moments where we might think to ourselves, “why am I doing this?”. But we know why and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

So, here are six things I try to remember and do to help others feel appreciated when they’re having a particularly challenging day. It’s designed for creatives, from a creative, but may also apply to the wider ad-land. 


1. Begin your day with, “Good morning”

No, it’s not overrated. It’s essential. It’s Monday morning, you haven’t had coffee, you’re in the elevator and the door is closing – until someone puts their hand in to stop the door. Now you’re not alone to wallow and mourn the weekend on your own. Do you ignore them and ride up in silence? No. Suck it up and say, “Good morning”. Ask how their weekend was. It may feel disingenuous but then something magical usually happens – you have a normal, human conversation, make a connection and realise your day is going to be ok.  


2. If you notice someone moping in the corner

The chances are they’re not having the best day. It’s important to first analyse the situation closely because this person may just need a little space to get over their hump (they obviously didn’t suck it up in the elevator on the way in this morning, amateur). However, if eye contact is made this is your best signal to move in and console (still approach with caution). Ask something pretty open, like, “Hey, how’s your day going?”, and this might be the opening to a conversation. As much as we can feel like moping every now and then, feeling like we’ve been noticed can actually help us get over a mood. 


3. Your idea baby just died a terrible death

It happens and it doesn’t get any easier the further along in your career you go. You may’ve been working on the idea for weeks or even months, and have been obsessing about it, dreaming about it, imagining it on billboards city-wide, only for it to be shut down in a 30-minute meeting. We’re taught to ‘suck-it-up’ and move on. But, as most creatives can sympathise, it isn’t always that easy and it’s not uncommon to fall into a bad mood post-shut down. This is a hard one to ‘cure’. You may just need a little time and space to get over it (see point 2). Personally, I like to offer up the ‘let’s go for a walk’ talk. Taking it outside of the office can open up a different mindset and offer a different perspective on the situation. Hopefully, once you’ve returned to the office, it may suck a little less and the fresh air may have cleared some things up. If all else fails, meet a friend or colleague after work for a ‘drink and a debrief’. (Note: allow yourself 10 minutes tops to rant and then move the conversation on!).

4. Creatives care about creatives 

We’re constantly putting ourselves in the spotlight, ready to be interrogated and chewed up by anyone willing to listen to what we have to say. Sometimes people (*cough, clients, colleagues, the CCO) won’t agree with your point of view and you end up losing the battle, but that’s ok because it’s good to be challenged! It’s important to remember that being a part of an agency means you’re part of a team. We’re all in this together and feeling the support of your teammates is a valuable attribute. So, creatives, back up your fellow creatives!


5. You’ve worked four weekends in a row and tonight’s going to be another late one

This is where traditional work hours are dictated by you. We work in an industry that doesn’t sleep, but that doesn’t mean we need to push aside our ability to live outside of work too, regardless of the hours we’re pulling. Take time to get out and do your thing, whatever it may be, even if for five minutes. Don’t start hating your job because you don’t like who you’ve become (deep down you know you’d be miserable in a more corporate role. Finance? Yuck!). We’re pretty lucky to work in an industry that embraces individuality and diversity, that isn’t corporate, that doesn’t care if you turn up with piercings, tattoos and ripped jeans; but with those perks, we have a responsibility to be passionate about what we produce which means working hard. Besides, balance is important – for you and for the work!


6. Check in with people, genuinely

We can get lost in a busy days’ worth of work. I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves waiting to get in to a conference room staring at our phone screen not saying a single word or engaging in eye contact (what did we just talk about with the elevator, guys). Let’s not forget that we’re in an industry where relationships are paramount. Where caring about people is important – be it a colleague, a client or a hypothetical ‘customer’ we’re creating work for. Empathy is often the key to really insightful work so, if you still ignored the lady in the lift, start with that guy in the conference room who’s running three minutes late. 

Michelle Sjöberg is Associate Creative Director, DDB San Francisco

Work from DDB San Francisco