Company Spotlight: Jessica O’Brien and Erin Eby

Company: Berman Creative

Interviewees: Jessica O’Brien and Erin Eby

Interviewer: Brianna Gammons

A few words from Brianna Gammons; a BUMKC member

Berman Creative is a small agency that focuses on brand strategy, design, and marketing. I met with Berman Creative’s Account Manager Jessica O’Brien and Art Director Erin Eby. Through speaking with Jessica and Erin, I learned just how important connections are. Building relationships with professors, mentors, coworkers, and clients is the essence of getting ahead, not only in the advertising world, but in life.

Brianna: What is each of your college majors and how did you get from that into what you’re doing now?

Jessica: Broadcast Communications with an art minor. I actually started as a forensics major and took a side class in Broadcast Communications, just to see what it was like. From there I joined the TV station and got very much into video editing. When I moved to Boston and got my first internship and job, it was in a DRTV company with lots of video editing interns. There, we got to explore different fields within the company and I started to become interested in Account Management. It translated into this job, which is print, media, and marketing. Video editing brought me into marketing and Account Management brought me into the world of Advertising.

Erin: I was an Advertising major. When I was little, I used to watch the show, Bewitched, and the main character’s husband is an “ad guy.” Ever since I was really little, I thought, “that’s the job that I want to do.” I think my parents always thought that I would grow out of it, but I never did. When it was time to go to school, I applied to be an ad major and once I got into the ad program, I knew I wanted to do creative.

Brianna: What’s the setup of the company?

Jessica: It’s so nice to work in such a small, intimate type company. Jeff, who is our Principal, is also our Creative Director. He and I have offices right next to each other and since I’m the Project Manager we talk a lot, trying to coordinate projects. When it comes to concepting, Erin, our art director and lead designer, is in the same room as our copywriter. Concepting sessions are usually done between the two of them. When they have an idea that’s semi-formed, that’s when they start bringing in Jeff. They come together as a team and pick what ideas they think would really work for what campaign we’re going for at the time. From there, I step in and bring in the client’s perspective, things that need to be in the campaign such as certain logos or looks are required. And from there we all coordinate together.

Erin: Everyone has their specialty, but I feel like with the size company that we are everyone has to share jobs, contribute the best way that they can, and pick what step is the best for them to come in on.

Brianna: What types of campaigns do you do for clients?

Erin: We have clients with a broad range of products, all the way from people who are just creating their products right now to established brands. It’s an exciting time for new companies because they’re developing who they are and translating that into persuasive messages, logos, and tag lines. We have other clients who already know who they are and they have set brand guidelines and marketing history. They just might be looking for a new campaign direction or a change.

Brianna: Do you find it hard to work with clients sometimes, especially when they’re really set in their ways creatively?

Jessica: Absolutely not. At the end of the day, you’re doing their marketing and they’re going to be protective of their brand, and they should be. They trust us to come up with creative concepts, but it should be their representation of what’s being put out there.

Erin: We haven’t done our job if the idea doesn’t work. We both have the same goals in mind: that we want the campaign to be successful, to make them more money, and to reflect well on us as an agency. It’s a relationship.

Jessica: We have a very intimate relationship with all of our clients where we receive great feedback that often brings something new to the table. It’s important to have that relationship.

Erin: It can be a tug of war sometimes between what they think is right and what we think is right, but’s a matter of compromise. We strive to do the best work possible.

Brianna: Do you have any advice for people who are trying to get into advertising or marketing?

Erin: There are a million things I wish people had told me. Read a lot. It doesn’t have to be advertising related, but know what’s going on in the world. So much of our job is about understanding what’s current and what’s happening and trying not to get outdated. Reading industry magazines helps. Talking to people who are in the industry is helpful. Informational interviews are helpful. Getting experience, whether or not you’re getting paid for it is huge. A lot of people that I’ve spoken with won’t take an internship unless it’s paid and I think that’s crazy. Anytime you can get a foot in the door, people will look at that experience positively.

Jessica: My advice is to know your professors. My first internship was at VH1 in New York City when I was twenty-two. I would never have gotten that internship if I wasn’t close with my professor and worked at the TV station. He had an old student from years back who worked at VH1 and he contacted him to help me get an internship. It’s not just about where professors can take you, you can learn so much from them. They can give you advice, can connect you with past students, and open you up to the world. Sometimes that’s hard to do at a bigger university, so you have to take that next step. Go to their office hours. Get their attention because the benefits outweigh the effort it takes.

Erin: Have mentors—even when you’re out of school. That’s one of the most important things to look for in your first job. You can either and somewhere and be on your own or you can land somewhere and really grow in that position. Learn from people that you admire and respect. The past 2 years have been hard for people coming out of school to get jobs in this industry in particular. If you have a real passion and conviction that this is what you want to do, don’t change jobs just to get a job. Get a foot in the door somewhere in that field. I know a lot of people who are working in another field that they don’t feel as strongly about and it’s difficult to jump across industries. Try to find a way to do what you love.

Brianna: Have you learned a lot from working here? I know your roles here are a little different from what you did in the past.

Erin: Immediately before this I lived in Switzerland for five years and had my own agency where I was a partner. I had an agency about this size where I was performing a little of a creative director/art director role. Every agency you go to is completely new and so is every client that you work on. We work on campaigns for companies that are in completely different fields and we learn more from each one. When you switch clients, you learn that world and learn things you never would have learned otherwise.

Jessica: It’s not just a learning experience, it’s a growing experience. Especially in small agencies, you grow up together. When you expand, you all expand together. You take on new responsibilities. I’ve never worked in such a small company before and I’ve learned to wear many hats. That’s something you might not get in bigger agencies.

Brianna: Is there anything else you want to add?

Jessica: Don’t be intimidated by sending your resume out. Learn how to write an email to a company. Learn how to be engaging. Use proper grammar and speak formally. Learn how to write an engaging resume and cover letter.

Erin: Send your resume to people in the industry and ask— is this going to get me a job or is this going to get me laughed at?

Jessica: Practice being on the phone. Some people sound so nervous. The ones that stand out are the ones where they just say, “I’m just checking up on my application and introducing myself. If a position is available, I’m interested.”

Erin: Go on informational interviews too. If someone tells you they don’t have a job right now, tell them that you’re still really interested in the company and see if you can meet with them to talk about what they do. Even if they don’t have a position open, they might remember you for a future position. Or if they have friends at other agencies that are looking to fill a position, they might recommend you.

Jessica: I know that sounds farfetched but my last agency, the account manager had interviewed and had an informational meeting with the boss five years earlier. He had a position open for another company and he remembered her and contacted her and she got the job.  You have to put yourself out there. It’s something a lot of universities don’t teach.

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