There is an Ivy League in advertising. That is, there is a small group of shops that if you happen to get a job at one you will be shopping that experience and using it to open doors the rest of your career.
The Ivy League group does change from time to time as shops fade and upstarts blow past the competition, but a shop’s reputation counts for a lot and even if it’s fallen on hard times it still means something to say “I was at Fallon when Pat Fallon was there (or, even better, when Tom McElligott was).”
My number one piece of advice to newbies, be they creative, planning or account, is to get an Ivy League shop on your CV.
The advertising Ivy League is a lot like Premier League soccer in that there is relegation – poor performance and you will be replaced – and a lot of people who start to hate you if you’re on top of your game for too long.
The current Ivy League is:
This agency is so hot, they could take a crap, wrap it in a ’64 Beetle, put a German accent over it and sell it to Volkswagen as advertising. Which they just did.
Adweek’s Agency of the Year has a long history of top drawer work, San Francisco is a great location and when I was last there everyone seemed to drive a Mercedes. So…yeah.
Lee Clow, the work for Apple and a bunch of really good looking employees sort of sum up the positives of this Ivy Leaguer.
Best known for their Nike work and for Dan Wieden’s principled refusal to join the 4A’s, they have faced recent encroachment on their key account by CP+B but are still a place with “wow” factor.
This may be a contentious one (and they are in danger of falling out of the Ivy League) because of the recent account losses and other upheaval…but Fallon is still a place that opens doors because of its history of greatness.
There are a lot of agencies that are hanging around just on the outside of this select group. Shops like Arnold (which was recently in the Ivy League on the strength of their better-than-Crispin VW work), The Martin Agency and Butler, Shine, Stern need only that iconic campaign to be in with a shout while other, larger places like your DDBs and BBDOs are places where you can collect awards and do great work…they just don’t have the same cachet.
Though, to be fair, a Pencil looks good no matter which shop you won it at.