Two Days Simply Weren’t Enough

This post was written by Anila Ademi about her experience on the Mayborn in London trip. It originally appeared on her blog on June 17, 2016.

As a part of our course requirements, we were asked to find an agency to visit and job shadow during our time in London.

As soon as I found out about this requirement in March, I started freaking out on whether or not I’d be able to find an agency that would be so gracious as to let me do this. I immediately went and sought out advice from my trusted professor, Dr. B. She told me that I should look into Mother, and that I might make a good fit there. Her advice was the launching pad for my interest in the agency.

I began looking at their work and immediately fell in love with it. This agency was creating work that was relevant, fresh and most importantly (to me, at least) hilarious. I started out by emailing a general careers e-mail and after a few days and no response, I realized I needed to find a person that would let me follow them around for a couple of hours.

I went through Mother’s art directors on their website, while simultaneously looking them up on LinkedIn and looking for their portfolios online. I eventually found the website of creative team Pauline Ashford and Mike Kennedy. While I was looking through their work, two campaigns really caught my eye and made me realize that I absolutely HAD to get in touch with them. I got their contact information and emailed them, and then I waited. I knew that this was somewhere that I wanted, nay, needed, to be. Luckily for me, I got a response within a few days.

After corresponding for a few weeks over e-mail, I was offered two days at Mother. Seeing as I had only expected a few hours, I was ecstatic.

Mother is located in Shoreditch, a hip artsy borough in East London. Most of the sides of buildings are covered in wall art and there are eccentric stores lining the streets.

My first day started as you would expect.

I gave myself nearly an hour to get to there (GoogleMaps said it would only take 30 minutes) and I took a wrong turn at the Underground station and got lost. When I finally found the area I was supposed to be in, I walked laps around the building for 10 minutes trying to find the entrance. I found it, in case you were wondering, and just in the nick of time.

When I walked through the tinted glass doors I was greeted warmly by everyone in arms reach. The entrance floor was this massive open space that had art covering nearly every inch of the walls. On one side of the room was a full kitchen, armed with chefs cooking the daily free lunch and rows of simple red tables. Employees were scattered around the tables eating their breakfast in front of their laptops. The wall facing this table read, “Graffiti is advertising to me”.

In the middle of the room, was a massive concrete staircase leading up to the employee workspace. On the wall facing the staircase some sort of movie about knights was being projected. On a loft area to right, three walls were completely lined with framed photos of the staff’s mother’s. I checked in with the receptionist and was told to have a seat while she called down Pauline and Mike. I took a seat in leather armchair facing what can only be described as a full size robot(seen in the bottom left corner of the above picture).

Pauline and Mike came down, greeted me, and gave me a tour of the space. At the top of the concrete staircase were most of the Mother staff. The space was completely open, free of any desks and walls. A continuous concrete bar across the span of the area served as desk space. Hardly any of the hip, casually dressed employees were sitting at their desks, they were instead sprawled across a series of old leather sectionals and couch sets that were situated at various points in the office. Music was being played over a loud speaker and conversation filled the air. Sadly, I can’t include photos of the upstairs because of the secret work that happens there.

The second I reached the top of the concrete staircase, I realized that this is the kind of agency culture I want to be a part of.

I sat down with Pauline and Mark and they told me about how they met and became a creative team and asked me about what I wanted to learn. I had no clear answer for them, I told them I wanted to learn everything (everything I could learn over the course of two days, at least). They immediately began listing people I could meet with and setting up appointments for me to be able have a one-on-one with nearly every discipline in the agency. My entire first day was spent chatting with people around the agency and learning about their job positions and how they got to be in advertising.

Almost everyone I talked to didn’t start in advertising, but fell into it. This is so interesting to me because I’m in the same boat. There was no point in my life where I said, “I would love to make ads!”, sure I liked ads just fine, and looking back at it I probably watched more commercials online than is normal for a preteen but I never considered it as a profession. I applied to UNT as a Marketing major but before orientation even rolled around I realized I hated math. I switched my major to Comm Design because I had always loved to create. I spent a semester in the Comm Design program, realized it wasn’t my calling and was left wondering what to do next. A couple of friends that were in the advertising program told me that advertising was way more than just creating infomercials, so I started researching. After just a few short days, I realized that this was it, this is what I wanted to do. I always felt like, at only 18, I took too long to figure it out, but these young successful people did the same thing I did and they’re doing better than fine.

I got a lot of great advice from a variety of characters. One consistency that I noticed with every person I talked to was that they all loved their jobs. Mother is set up differently than a lot of agencies. They’ve completely cut out Account positions and replaced them with “Mothers” (account directors) and “Nannies” (account managers and executives). I learned that they cut out the account positions in order to make the entire team more accessible to the client. Creatives present their own work to clients, which is something that doesn’t happen at most agencies.

Another thing that’s handled much differently at Mother is the creation of the creative brief. Instead of the strategists coming up with it all on their own, they come up with the direction they want to go, bring the entire team that was assigned to the client together and come up with the brief as team. This brief isn’t your traditional one-page formulaic brief – it’s a big idea with a few words of inspiration.

Day two was spent a bit differently.

I spent most of the morning helping an art director on deadline and spent the midday watching the England vs Wales game downstairs with the rest of the staff. In the afternoon I got to sit in on a creative review between and art director, a strategist and two creative directors and spent the remaining hours talking to Pauline and Mike about their past, current and future projects. The creative review was informal. It was held on couches instead of a meeting room and was a conversation between the creatives as opposed to a critique.

I spent some time talking to a creative team that were in the middle of their placement (placement being essentially an internship). I chatted with them and told them about my worries of not going into the field with a polished portfolio and the told me that it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the ideas. It was in that moment I realized something I should’ve already known, ideas are what make people great, and I have chosen a career path where I can have ideas. I have allowed myself to be great.

I loved every minute I spent at Mother. The culture, people, and work were all amazing. I was so impressed by the insane level of creativity and sheer talent of every person housed in the Biscuit Building. Two days simply weren’t enough.

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