Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Adventures In Advertising: Sometimes, Getting Fired Can Be A Good Thing

I heard a great story about a man being fired.

Several years ago, I met a person who told me the story about himself.  I loved it and thought I would share it with you.  I asked permission to identify the candidate, but he refused because he wanted the whole incident to be kept anonymous and confidential.

He was a young, recently graduated assistant account executive (let’s call him Mike).  He worked at a small, independent agency.  He had been there two years without a salary increase and his salary was way below what he could and should be making at any other New York City ad agency. At the time he was hired, the going salary for an assistant account executive just out of school was $32-37k, he was being paid $27k.  He reported directly to the chairman.

Then the agency hired a new director of account management.  The new director evaluated staffing needs and saw one account that could use a full time AAE.  He told the chairman that he wanted to take Mike and put him on an account.  The chairman approved.

When the senior account guy told Mike, he opened up to his new boss.  His family knew the chairman and he got hired during spring break, before his graduation.  It was a small agency with many major brand name accounts. It seems that for the two years he was there, the chairman used him mostly to do personal errands.  He had never been assigned to an account except for an occasional stint on a business to fill in for someone on vacation or to help on a new business pitch. 

It turned out that the account person was excellent, just not aggressive.  The client loved him and everything he did, he did well.  The new head of account management determined that he was better than most of the other juniors at the agency, so he went to the chairman and asked two things, first, why was he never given a raise and, second, he wanted the chairman to approve a $7k raise, to bring him more in line with the salaries paid by other New York agencies.  The chairman said he was hired as a favor to the parents and that everyone at the agency knew it.  He did not want to show any favoritism and would only approve a 5% increase - $1,350.  Apparently, the chairman and the senior account person (who, I was told, was an EVP) had a big argument.

The EVP told the AAE that he could only get him a 5% increase. The AAE was happy about the increase but unhappy about the amount.  So the head of account management, who really liked this account person, told him that he should look for a job in order to make a living wage; he offered to be a reference.  Shortly thereafter, when the assistant was still there, he told his boss that he was not having any luck with his job hunt.  Here is what happened next.

The EVP called a friend of his at a top five agency and told his friend the story.  The friend said he would see the AAE.  When it became clear that he would be getting the job, the EVP fired the account person (with a wink).  He gave the AAE the standard notice plus pay for his vacation.  It came out to about five week’s salary.  The AAE left, took a day off and started work as an account executive on a great account. The original agency never found out what happened.  The EVP apparently resigned shortly thereafter.

Within about seven years became a senior vice president – youngest at that agency – and then became an EVP when he changed jobs after almost twelve years. The candidate said he owed his own career to the EVP at his first agency.

Goes to show you can’t keep a good person down. Besides, if life deals  you lemons, make lemonade.
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