What if …

Have you ever wondered what you’d be doing if you’d chosen a different path? I never have in the past, but I do think about it occasionally now.

For me it was easy. I was about 12 years old when I decided I wanted to work in advertising. Originally I wanted to be an art director and I did go to art school after high school. My mother wasn’t surprised because she used to say I was always doodling, that I didn’t have a notebook or school book that didn’t have sketches in it.

When I graduated from art school my first interview was with the creative director of a large Canadian agency, McKim. I’ll never forget him, because even though he’d told me when I called that he had no jobs available he was still willing to meet; and he spent more than an hour with me. He went through every single page of my portfolio, talking to me about each piece.

At the end of the interview, he asked me who’d written all the copy. When I told him I had, he asked if I’d ever considered becoming a copywriter. I hadn’t. He suggested I give it some thought. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask why, so I’ll never know if he thought my art direction skills left a lot to be desired  or if he thought there’d be more opportunities for me, as a writer. Years later I discovered that, at that time, there was only one female art director in Montreal and she only worked on detergents and feminine hygiene products.

Don’t get me started on that.

To make a long story short, that night I discussed the interview with my parents. I remember my dad asking me if I was disappointed. I wasn’t, actually and decided that I’d take the advice seriously. The next day I had another interview, and when the creative director asked what I wanted to do, I said “copywriter.”

He hired me, although not as a writer. I was a “go-fer” in the creative department. You know, “go for coffee, go for lunch, go for my laundry, etc.” But I didn’t care, I was thrilled to bits. I had a job, in an ad agency, in a creative department. And from time to time they let me write something or letraset a headline. And it was there I got my first taste of glory.

They were working on a big assignment for one of their clients, Penmans. They were introducing a revolutionary design of women’s hosiery — nylon stockings without a reinforced heel.

What really made them revolutionary, was the fact that they were as strong as those with a reinforced heel (so you could wear them all day, and into the night, without risking a run in them). And obviously they were perfect for wearing sling-back shoes, which were becoming the rage.

One of the art directors working on the campaign had asked me to get him some breakfast. When I walked into his office the walls were covered with concepts (no computers back then, we still used paper) for outdoor billboards.

After handing him his bagel and coffee I stood in the middle of his office staring at the walls. “What do you think?” he asked. If nothing else, I was the target audience.

Having balls even way back then, without hesitation I said something to the effect of “they’re not working for me.” Those aren’t the exact words, but you get the gist. “Well, he said,” slightly miffed, “do you have a better idea?”

Immediately I said: “The go-go stockings with the gone-gone heel.” Those were the days of discos and go-go dancers. And, of course, they were also meant for women on the go.

To be honest, I don’t know where I pulled that out from. But he just stared at me with his mouth hanging open and then he started to laugh — an out-of-the-mouths-of-babes type of laugh.

“Tell you what,” he said. “I’m going to work that up and take it into the presentation. I can’t say it’s yours but I promise if the client buys it I’ll get you a printed sample.” I was a mere baby, it was my first job, but even then I knew he’d be taking credit for someone else’s work and that was not cool.

Out of all the ideas presented, that was the one the client liked. The asshole never got me the sample.

Needless to say, despite that experience, I never regretted my decision to work in advertising. Still don’t, but I do wonder, from time to time, what would have happened if I’d opened door number two or three, instead of door number one. Investigative journalist, foreign correspondent, story editor, and book store or beachside cafe owner come to mind.

Maybe in my next life. What about you?



22 thoughts on “What if …

  1. Love your story! You sho9uld be proud of yo9urself for your accomplishments despite the obstacles you faced.
    I should have been a writer from Day One, but in those days, it wasn’t a career option for girls. Teaching, nursing, clerking, typing. That was about it. As you9 say – in another life …

  2. I started as a secretary in a pr office in London and ended up doing all the work(writing client releases, articles etc) for my boss, who went out drinking at lunch time and often never came back. When he did he was useless. When I asked for a raise explaining I was doing all the work, I got fired! And ended up at Woman’s Own as one of the beauty editors… my start ~~~

    • Wow, you just never know, do you. I had a boss like yours at one of my jobs. Went to the men-only pub next door to the office every single day at lunch and also rarely returned to the office. When he did he reeked of beer and staggered around until he could go back to the pub at 5.

  3. Oh! How I love this blog! Those long ago times..but if truth be told, judging by the Me,Too! Movement, attitudes changing are slow to come by! Of course, you did not get proper credit..this would have made powers that be feel lesser! You have a way with words that is both clear and concise but same time strikes right to the heart (And soul)!

    No I never wanted to be writer despite my great love of reading..I tried as a child but found I could visualize better with crayon,pen, paper! After winning several lst places in art contests I was told I could not compete any longer as I always won…I was heart broken but decided in my child’s mind..” the hell with them..I can still see! ”thus began the life long quest better known as being crazy with myself to look for perfection,balance,innovation etc in all forms of art,garden,Architecture, clothing etcetc..and looking for the new! It is who I am..and being older does not help…I still keep looking and filing in my mind,and colour choosing, etcetc…too late to change ! I have been true to myself!xoxo, Barb


    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks Barbara. You are so right — changing attitudes are slow to come by. Drives me crazy. I’m impatient for change. You are SO visual and have a great eye and I love how open you are to”the new.” Most people aren’t you know. It keeps you young and current among many other things, which is very important. You have been true to yourself, so have I. It’s the best gift we can give ourselves. Takes guts and grit.

  4. My mother thought the ideal career choice for me would be to marry a millionaire, just so she could have my ‘mucky minks and cast-of diamonds’.My carrer path led me a very long way from that idea… and I would not change the poverty-striken, Bohemian lifestyle for anything. Not even minks and diamonds 🙂

  5. I was a doodler from way back, too. I became a nurse! (a decision I never regretted), but never explored the artistic side of me until about 10 years ago.

    Great post, Fransi. I connect to your writing.

    • Thanks Terry. It’s so interesting to think about the choices we make, why and what else we might have chosen. It’s great that you have reconnected with your artistic side.

  6. You clearly went into the right job but something tells me you would have made a success of anything! There are so many things I wish I had or hadn’t done so I’m glad you’re happy with what you ended up doing even if you wonder what else could have been sometimes!

    • Thanks so much. I’m just surprised I knew when I was so young what I wanted to do and never changed my mind. Especially as I’d had no exposure to advertising other than the commercials I saw on Tv and the ads I saw in magazines. I am lucky, that’s for sure.

  7. A wonderful article Fransi. You are such a good writer and I love reading your blog.

    • Thanks so much Christine. I’m so happy you enjoy it. And yes I agree, life does unfold as it should — the Universe taking care of us.

  8. Love this story Fransi! I don’t beleive that there are wrong choices in the art of opening those doors.The castro revolution changed what would have been my choices and put some other people in charge to make them for me.but I’ve been too busy living the life in front of me to feel less than grateful for the fruits of that life, and, if I didn’t become the big shot journalist I wanted to be, I never lost my love for the craft and all that has to do with the written word. I recently unretired out of necessity and am finding myself re newed and revitilized by this choice as well as valued and encouraged to enjoy a new level of success I thought lost. The thing I think, at least for me, is to say yes which, I must confess wasn’t always the case. But, after all is said and done, I don’t beleive there’s one of us who doesn’t wonder “what if?”I would have turned left instead of right.

    • Thanks Daisy. Yours is also an interesting story, despite not being the one you had planned. I don’t feel I made the wrong choice at all, not my intention for that to be the take away from this post. It was all about curiosity — we all have so many choices to make during our lifetimes and Sometimes I amuse myself wondering what might have happened if I’d made the other choice. What would be different about my life — not better — just different. It’s like watching a movie with 3 different endings.

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