The road to hell is paved with good intentions

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Brian Jung spent a decade traveling around the world, working in nearly every ad agency network that would take him in. He is currently a freelance, unemployed Executive Creative Director, writer-director, closet comedian, pro gamer/Twitch streamer, and insatiable foody. He runs a consultancy agency called Inertia that focuses on innovation, creative ideas, and bringing brands into the entertainment and gaming/esports space. He's also working on a gaming startup in the worst time in history to start a gaming startup. He resides in Los Angeles with his fur daughter, Ganjang.

Biggest fuck up

I worked for a mobile tech start up in San Diego in the early 2000s. This had some rockstar founders and was supposed to be a huge thing. I was hired to be their Sr. Web Designer and part of their round one of hires.

I was super excited to get to work there, they had that high energy start up vibe, everyone was cooking and there was a lot of potential. (The stock options helped too.)

Long story short, they had had some bad fallout from consumers on an early product they’d launched in beta. There was a particular forum where people were going on to rant about the company.

Good intentioned as I was, I decided to go on the forums, introduce myself as from the company, and personally guarantee that I’d fix some of the problems with the website. Another employee saw me on the forums (damn open office layouts screwing me over before they were a thing) and told the bosses, who then pretty much fired me on the spot. It was my first week.

I learned then and there that the road to hell is most certainly paved with good intentions, and I needed to put my head down and work and prove myself before worrying about other things.


The superficial, fake nature of people.

I’ve literally had the nicest people who invite me to their house for dinner, then turn around and backstab me and try to get me fired.

I’ve had people make promise after promise straight to my face and just ghost me. I’ve had people who I spent literally every day with for many hours for YEARS not return a text message once I left the agency.

That the fakers and toxic people seem to be the ones who succeed most in this industry infuriates me.

We have created an entire generation of fearful people working in this business who wield passive-aggressive toxicity with the surgical prowess of a guided missile strike.

That so many great ideas are killed because of agency politics and ego, not on the merits of the idea itself. That respect for the creative person and the creative idea is seen as a commodity and a threat to business, not as a powerful force for business.

Another issue is diversity.

I know, I know, it’s what everyone’s talking about all the time. But I just find it so ironic that we consider ourselves to be the most creative industry in the world, yet we only want ideas from one subset, one cultural background of people. How amazing would the ideas be in our industry if we let everyone in?

Right now, it’s all lip service. What I want is actual, real change. It’s not difficult.

Step 1: get POCs in positions of authority and power like CEO and CCO. Imagine if 50% of all the CEO and CCO roles in every agency at IPG, Omnicom, and WPP (to start) were all POCs? But I’m not dying on this hill or any other hill; it’s only advertising and “I’m just a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude”.

Useful advice

PJ Pereira once told me, “Everyone is always one award season from becoming a famous creative and two from no longer being one.”

It’s a reality check, a lot of us live in this bubble of advertising and we sometimes forget that not only is fame and success fleeting but also that the rest of the world doesn’t care.

When I was a young creative, I sacrificed everything to do the work to the best I could. Sleeping under the desk, getting paid peanuts, eating cup ramen for months, driving 2-hour commutes, ghosting friends, break ups, everything.

My career took priority over all else. BTW in Korea and Japan, this is pretty normal. In Korean, we call it the “bbali bbali” mentality. Nearly every CD I worked under was an egotistical asshat, and I thought that’s what it took to succeed in this biz. A real “Devils Wear Prada” kinda of thing, except I was Emily Blunts character.

An ECD once told me that “it’s only advertising; we’re not saving lives here”, and while it was ironic that he said this in between red-faced, spittle-flying fist-pounding rants about stupid clients, back then, it was a real eye-opener.

Nowadays, people use this to absolve themselves from giving a shit. But this made me start to question myself and my POV on the industry.

I left the US in 2009 and spent a decade living and working in Asia, and that opened my eyes even more to other ways of working in the industry. I don’t take it for granted, though, and I am very fortunate to get paid well to come up with ideas. I take a deep breath and repeat this to myself every time I rage internally about a missed creative opportunity shot down by a risk-averse client or CCO.

At the end of the day, the people you work with matter the most, and ironically, where you, as a creative person, can have the most impact. Ideas come and go, agencies come and go, awards come and go, but the people and relationships you make can last for a very long time…so long as they text you back.


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