Sara Grunden, '04 Adcenter grad and one of the few privileged women we know who gets to work on beer, shares some of her experiences and thoughts on the business.
Tell us how the vibe was starting at Martin as a junior female writer.
When I first started, I didn't feel like I was a "female" writer, so
much as I felt like a general newbie to the whole agency world. A great
thing about Martin is that they don't look at a new hire as someone who is
at the bottom of the totem pole. The creative directors here recognize that
someone fresh out of ad school brings a new perspective to the game. At the
same time, no one is going to hold your hand or baby you, so you have to
prove to them that they made a great hire. It's a lot of pressure, but it's
Chicks working on a beer account doesn't seem too common. Was it tough to
get yourself on Miller and to be respected as a writer on it?
Actually, when I was hired, my creative directors were in charge of
Miller, so that was one of the first things I worked on. It unfortunately
wasn't produced, and I moved on other clients. Then last May I got the
opportunity to work on Miller Genuine Draft with two great guys as partners.
It was never a problem to get respect within the agency, but it has been
more difficult to get it from the client. However, that really falls on me.
Being a relatively quiet person working with a group of boisterous men, I
have to push myself to speak up and be heard. It can be a struggle
sometimes, but I think I'm making progress. Some people don't expect a woman
to be able to speak to the beer target, so it's hard work to change their
What was the biggest adjustment going from ad school to ad agency life?
The biggest adjustment that I noticed was learning to deal with the
realities of having clients. In school, you are basically given absolute
freedom to go as far out as you want, and the work is extremely creative and
imaginative because of that. Once you get to an agency, you still want to do
that, but you have to be prepared for clients to rein you in. When I first
started, I got very frustrated and disheartened by that reality. But you
have to be able to keep the work creative and still keep in mind that you
have to sell product as well.
What advice do you have for juniors about to start their first jobs in
Make your presence known as soon as possible. Opportunities don't
just fall into your lap; you have to go out and find them. When a great
project comes up, you want to be in the forefront of peoples' minds so that
you'll get that assignment. I think that if you don't do some good work
right away (whether it's produced or not) then people make up their mind
about you, and it'll be much more difficult to fight that preconceived
notion down the road.
What differences do you see between working with men vs. working with women?
The biggest difference in my opinion is just that guys are a lot
more blunt. Often times with women, it seems as if we don't want to hurt
each other's feelings, so if we think an idea isn't quite up to par, we tend
to kind of skirt around it. The men I have worked with will just tell you
outright that it's not good and move on. It can sting a little at first, but
in the end, it's a lot more efficient. I'm trying to learn from that.