How to Get Rich In Advertising

monopolyI really don’t have to mention that it has gotten harder to get rich in the advertising, design, digital and PR business. The good old days of the 15% commission are long gone (I lived it and it was glorious – Bordeaux anyone?) But, some agencies and agency workers are winning big accounts and are making big money. There are a some smart paths to get there.

Here are a five get rich ideas:

Be creative. Everyone want some creative. But first, some thoughts on being “creative.” I can’t tell you how many agencies are all about being “creative.” That’s their agency positioning (peruse my agency directory to see what I mean.) The problem with this positioning is that its universal, isn’t distinctive, is way too subjective and well, sorry to say this but most agencies are just not creative enough to live up to the promise. That said, some agencies can pull this off. 72andSunny is one of the current crop of creative agencies and they are making real money. They are helped in highlighting their creativity by showing you work for famous clients, i.e. Samsung on the SuperBowl. And, this points to a key issue. There are lots of creative agencies but because we all need that extra kick that come from having a famous campaign (you know, one that runs nationally) many of the creative efforts fail to get noticed. I know lots of small regional agencies that do creative work but don’t get noticed. So, you smaller agencies, you need to add famous to creative to get the moolah.

Be famous. Wow, this is a tough one and it could be the basis for a Seth Godin book (um, maybe it has been i.e. Purple Cow.) The deal here is that most agencies look and sound like all the other B&W heifers. Despite telling all their clients that they need some brand distinction, most agencies can’t muster this up for themselves. So, how to become famous? You are going to have to pay me for that advice. But, here is what not to do. Have a me-to agency positioning and website. Have a navel gazing agency blog. Tweet about your fun party. Spend heavily on cool offices. Have an on again / off again business development program. Don’t write targeted thought-leadership white papers, SlideShare presentations, blog posts. Don’t create a compelling agency story. Don’t build lists of prospective clients and the press to consistently beat your chest (but be cool and respectful.) Don’t have a really creative Creative Director (yikes, a tough one, Ja?.) Don’t understand the shift to mobile. Don’t work really hard to overcome the Accepted Consumer Belief that lives in the hearts minds of you target CMO audience: They don’t really care all that much about you. Unfortunate, but often very true.

Win a car account. According to Ian Beavis, Nielsen’s EVP, Global Automotive Group and ex-auto CMO: “good luck.” But, some agencies, mostly specialists, can get into the door. Do the right thing (a not me-to thing like JESS3 – see next) and you could actually begin to get awareness for your creativity. Do this specialist work in automotive and WPP just might buy you.

Own a segment. I wrote about JESS3 in February. They became famous – and a winner of famous accounts –  for being focussed:

“JESS3 is a creative interactive agency that specializes in data visualization. JESS3 continues to push the limits of what creativity and storytelling mean, providing services that range from UI / UX, animation, and social media strategy to developing large-scale installations, data visualizations and infographics.”

You could pluck out a specific specialty and go for it. Why not? I’ve been writing about mobile and Vine. But, there are lots more specialties and many hit the big industry pain-points. Hey, why not just forget about winning the Honda account and become the best B-to-B agency. There is more bordeaux in that than in full-service.

Marry up. I’ve seen this one work well.

Then there is just plain hard work. As Yahoo! Finance reported in “Daily Habits of Rich People“:

“If you think becoming rich is about luck, think again. It may have more to do with how you spend your day, beginning with the hour you wake up.

Financial planner Tom Corley spent five years observing more than 350 “rich” and “poor” people, how they live, work and even sleep and captured them all in his book, “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.” He defined “wealthy” as earning at least $160,000 annually and holding at least $3.2 million in assets. “Poor” was income under $30,000 a year and less than $5,000 in assets.”

The article goes on to mention: early risers, no long lunches, calorie counting, no gossiping and (my favorite) limited Internet.

Back to rich.


Yes, you can make a decent living (and have fun) in marketing services. But, if rich (like Internet rich) is what you want then you’ll have to have a plan. A critical element of that plan is to have, guess what, a business development plan. This, for some very hard to understand reason, is something that the great majority of agencies do not have.

I had one (at both Saatchi and my own agency) and Corleone can help you get there.



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