May 7, 2015 smz-blog

A Bill of sale: advice from a newly retired ad pro

Bill Muir

A few of us recently checked in with retired SMZ Executive Vice President Bill Muir.  Not surprisingly Bill hasn’t slowed down a bit.  He’s remodeling his kitchen (we really miss his baked goods around here), continuing his woodworking projects—the ones he’s built for his grandchildren are to-die-for cute and he has lots of travel planned.  As an aside, Bill says shopping at Costco on a Monday or Tuesday is heavenly and they STILL have the free food samples!  Here are a few more thoughts from Bill who enjoyed over 40 years in the ad business.

What advice would you give young folks considering a career in marketing?

Get a part-time job selling while you’re going to school. I don’t care whether it’s shoes or vinyl siding. If you can’t sell your marketing ideas what good is a marketing career either as an account executive or on the creative side?  Selling helps you learn how to convey the features and benefits of products and services.  When you think about it, “selling” is a part of every job.

What advice do you have for those that have been in the business a while?

Don’t just be an expert in marketing.  Keep up to date on pop culture and world events. You have to know what’s going on the world.  As you get older, your clients tend to get younger and you have to keep up.  Plus, you never know where a good idea will come from, what will inspire you and those around you.

Tell us some things you loved about being in the ad business.

Lunch!  Especially in the early years!  It wasn’t quite like Mad Men portrays but it was along those lines and usually led to some great ideas and creative thinking with treasured clients.

You’re always looking forward. Some businesses are always analyzing the past.  But right now I’m sure ad agencies are working on back to school or even Christmas promotions.

The ad business attracts smart people. However this business can chew you up and spit you out.  Those who are able to survive in the high-pressure environment are the absolute smartest. They’re brilliant and fun people to work with.

How did the ad business change over the years?

Computers have made the ad business more difficult.  It used to be easier to discuss concepts presented in pencil or markers.  Now computer layouts look so finished that people can get hung up on a stock photo or font and don’t give a great concept enough strategic consideration. People on both sides of the table should be willing to talk through a concept versus emailing it for consideration.  Get back to conceptualizing and planning versus expecting a perfect ad from the get-go.

What did your favorite clients all have in common?

They recognized good work and weren’t afraid of it.  They also understood that agencies need to make a profit too!

Bottom line about the ad business?

It’s fun.  It’s hard work and stressful.  But it’s a ton of fun.

Ann McGee, SVP/GM



Comment (1)

  1. Adaptability, curiosity, perspective and an appreciation of face time — Bill just sealed the deal with another sucessful pitch.

    Heed his words, next-gen careerists.

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