An Ad Guy’s Life

Drooling over Jack Lalanne, drinking giant cups of coffee and snickering at bad advertising. It’s just another day in the life of Echo founder Mike Schaffer. Read the full interview below.

Why did you decide to go into advertising?
Originally, I went into photography because people told me I was good at it. I worked my way into advertising photography, mostly because I really didn’t enjoy any other kind of photography (I hated weddings, landscapes, editorial, etc.). Once I opened my studio, it took me about a year to decide that what I really wanted to do was have an ad agency and work on creating the entire ad campaign, not just the photos. I hated the way my work turned out when I would shoot for other ad agencies. I just thought I could do it better.
You’re on the account side. What does a day in the life of Mike look like?
In the office, we call the “account side,” the party side. But, I don’t really think there should be much of a distinction between the account side and the creative side. Our clients hire us for our creativity, not because we’re good account executives. That’s why everyone in our agency is creative; we’re just as likely to get a good idea from an admin as we are a designer or copywriter.

I start every day with a giant cup of coffee that everyone says I don’t finish. Then, it’s emails with clients and going through our internal project management to make sure my projects are moving along. I follow this up by walking around the agency and offering my opinion on creative work for both the projects I manage as well as the ones I don’t. The creative team acts like they don’t appreciate my comments, but I know deep down they love it, especially Dea (EF Creative Director). Depending on the day, I might have a client meeting or a photoshoot. Around 4 p.m., is when I finish my coffee that I supposedly don’t finish.  Then I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that before another round of emails and phone calls.
What’s the best part about working with clients? What’s the worst?
The best part is showing clients the work we’ve created. Before a client meeting, I get really anxious and excited; I always hope that they like what we’ve done. The worst part is dealing with budgets and contracts.
Name some of your favorite ad campaigns.
There are tons that I can’t think of right now, but car dealer license plate frames are my current favorite. People buy a car, then advertise for the dealership for as long as they own the car. It’s genius.
What makes you like an ad campaign? 
I usually like ad campaigns that are so bad that I can’t believe someone is running it.  Then, I’ll think of ways they could make the existing campaign better or come up with ideas for a completely new campaign. It’s kind of a sick game I play in my head.
If you could invite any ad man or woman to dinner, who would it be?
Jack LaLanne. Who doesn’t want a juicer after watching his infomercials?
If you could only pick one way to promote a company, what would it be?
Word-of-mouth. It’s the most-effective form of advertising, and the hardest to make happen.
At a bar, what are you drinking?
Blue Moon or whatever hefe they have on tap.
What advice would you give someone looking for a job in advertising?
Make sure you’re prepared to put your heart and soul into a project for hours/days/ weeks only to hear that it’s horrible, and to start over. You have to be able to put your heart and soul into the project again until you get it right.