6 Advertising Veterans Offer Their Single Best Piece of Advice for Young Creatives Today

Tips from Margaret Johnson, William Gelner, Tiffany Rolfe and more

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Earlier this week, in part one of a new video series, we asked top creative directors about the best advice they ever got in their careers. Today, we debut a companion series, also focused on career advice. This time, we ask top creatives to share the advice they give young people just starting out in advertising.

We begin with Margaret Johnson, Brent Choi, William Gelner, Patrick Scissons, Tiffany Rolfe and Joaquín Mollá. Check out the video above to hear their advice, and see selected excerpts below.

Both of these advice series will continue with more videos in the coming weeks.

Here’s what six top creatives had to say to young people in advertising today:

“Draw your inspiration from everywhere but advertising.”

—Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

“Go to museums, go to movies, watch documentary films,” Johnson says. “Just pull from lots of different places. Read books.”

“Do more.”

—Brent Choi, chief creative officer, J. Walter Thompson New York

“This business is just so hard. And if you don’t have that fight in you to come back the next day even stronger, you’re not going to make it in this business,” says Choi. “I continue to challenge [young creatives] to really think about what they can do even more, because just doing the job isn’t good enough. You have to find a way to do more, not for the brand or the client or our company, but for themselves. To be really successful, they’ve got to outwork and outthink everyone around them.”

“Find a mentor. And go somewhere where you can do your best work of your career.”

—William Gelner, chief creative officer, 180 LA

“Buy into the mentors, and buy into the agency and the people within the agency that are going to mentor you and make you better, that you can learn from,” Gelner says. Also, “we’re all going to work long hours, we’re going to have to work weekends, we’re going to miss certain occasions—make sure it’s worth it. Make sure you’re making the best work of your career.”

“Express yourself and hone your craft.”

—Patrick Scissons, global chief creative officer, KBS

“With all of the shiny objects and tools that are at play, I think sometimes what gets lost is the importance of being able to express yourself as a writer, or as a creative, and resale hone your craft,” says Scissons. “It’s something that I think is going to be the single most important differentiator regardless of all the other things that are happening.”

“Be a maker.”

—Tiffany Rolfe, chief content officer, Co:collective

“Now more than ever, you can’t come up with an idea and expect someone else to make it,” Rolfe says. “You have to be a maker. You know how to execute the thing that you want made, and consistently be practicing and trying the new technologies that you’re building for—for it to really be authentic. Continuing to learn and experiment is also really important.”

“Don’t leave the craft behind.”

—Joaquín Mollá, co-founder and chief creative officer, The Community

“The art of writing, the art of art directing—there’s a lot to be said about that,” says Mollá. “Obviously I first love ideas, but the way they are crafted is what makes them great. The craft’s [taken] for granted a lot of times.”

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.