The Ingenious Stunt That Landed This Ad Veteran Her First Agency Gig

Why creative directors couldn't resist calling Tuesday Poliak

Headshot of Katie Richards

Today’s graduates are hungry for agency jobs, and they’re coming up with some pretty insane ways to get noticed. It makes perfect sense in the creative business, but it turns out this trend of outlandish stunts isn’t new. Tuesday Poliak, currently evp, chief creative officer of Wunderman D.C., was winning the creative job stunt game before going viral on the internet was even a thing.

Poliak developed a brilliant idea to get her portfolio into the hands of every major creative director—from Lee Clow to Jeff Goodby—without spending a ton of money on multiple big-budget portfolios. She landed a call back from every single creative director, and the stunt eventually led to her first art director gig at TBWA/Chiat/Day Venice.

So why go to such great lengths to get her portfolio in front of every creative director that she wanted to work for?

At the time, when Poliak graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., in 1994, there were no digital portfolios. Everything was printed (a costly process which meant many students could only afford to put together one or two portfolios) and sent to each agency. That usually meant a candidate’s portfolio “would go and sit in some back room until somebody was ready to look at them,” Poliak said.

“I thought to myself, I really don’t want to go through that process and I actually don’t physically have the time to wait to go through the process. I really wanted to find out if the creative directors I wanted to work for had a job for me and I didn’t mind if they didn’t, I just needed to know,” she added.

Poliak’s clever idea was to shrink her portfolio down to wallet size. Then, she ingeniously customized 11 wallets to look like it belonged to one of the top creatives in the business. For the final piece of her brilliant plan, she took each wallet into an agency, coming up with a clever story to get past the front desk in order to drop the wallet somewhere for someone to find and return to the creative director.

The sheer amount of time Poliak put into hand making each and every wallet showed her determination to find a job. Every creative director she targeted couldn’t resist calling her back and roughly half offered her a job.

“Back then it wasn’t like you could go online and find a photo of [the creative directors]. You had to find a photo of Jeff Goodby or Lee Clow and scan it. It was hard to find some of these photos. I made everything look so real. At the front of the wallet, when you opened it, it really did look like Jeff Goodby’s wallet or Rich Silverstein’s wallet or Lee Clow’s wallet,” she said.

So it would seem that sometimes it pays to put in the long hours and hard work in the name of a brilliant, creative idea.

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.