How To Work in Advertising Without Losing Your Soul

3 min read

2016 Indianapolis Prize Winner Carl Jones
Advertising can be joyless work when your clients don’t care about the world. But when you contribute to projects like The Indianapolis Prize, it can be inspiring, moving, and even life-changing.

The knock on advertising as a vocation (one of many) is that it’s mercenary work done by buzzword-spouting, jeans-and-sportscoat-wearing dolts who spend all day looking for the latest ways to manipulate (ahem, “influence”) people.

Is there a pixel-sized kernel of truth to that? Probably. But it’s far from the whole truth.

I’ve worked at Well Done for six years—twice as long as I’ve worked anywhere else. And I’ve stuck around because Well Done is driven by principles as much as by profit.

Principled marketing firms tend to find principled partners. That explains our relationship with Matt Mays and his company, Mays Entertainment, which has shot and directed countless videos and TV spots for us over the years.

Often, we’re the ones hiring Mays Entertainment. But occasionally, they hire us. That happened earlier this year when they asked us to pen a couple of scripts for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize gala.

The Indianapolis Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious conservation award. It’s really kind of remarkable that it takes place here in Indianapolis. Every two years, The Prize is awarded to a world-renowned animal conservationist who has demonstrated “extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts.”

“Extraordinary” puts it far too mildly. Take this year’s winner, Carl Jones, who single-handedly brought a rare bird back from the brink of extinction. When Jones started saving the Mauritius kestrel, there were only four of them left in the world. Ten years later, there were nearly 400.

Jones and five other equally exceptional finalists were recognized at the 2016 Indianapolis Prize Gala on Saturday, October 15, at the JW Marriott Hotel. The Prize also honored actress and environmental activist Sigourney Weaver as its 2016 Global Wildlife Ambassador.

The Gala opened with a video we wrote, Mays Entertainment shot and produced, and Ms. Weaver narrated.

Later in the evening came another video starring the great Sir David Attenborough. Matt Mays and his crew flew to Mr. Attenborough’s home in the English countryside for the shoot. We were pleased to learn afterward that Mr. Attenborough—sharp as ever at age 90—found the script, which we wrote, to his liking.

An even greater source of pride, though, is having played a part, however small, in the 2016 Indianapolis Prize Gala. The contributions of its finalists to conservation are nothing short of monumental. These people have literally changed the world. And they continue to change it, making it a safer, more hospitable place for the non-human species who live alongside us.

If you’ve ever doubted the importance of the kind of work they do, I invite you to watch this Mays Entertainment-produced video about Carl Jones. We didn’t write it, but we were certainly inspired by it. Maybe you will be, too.

Yes, working in marketing and advertising has the potential to be soul-draining. But when you work at the right kind of agency, for the right kind of people, on the right kind of projects, it can actually nurture your soul—and even change how you see the world.