Wednesday, July 23, 2008

P.A.'s


Maggie Gyllenhaal in the film 'Secretary'

When I was starting out, every creative department had several P.A.'s, who typed the Creatives' scripts and kept track of their whereabouts.

Now that Creatives have computers and mobiles, the role of departmental P.A. has all but disappeared. But the 'executive' P.A. - who manages creative directors' diaries - remains. And in my view, it's an essential role. A top creative director's time is pretty expensive, therefore it makes sense for an Agency to get the most out of it.

But what's your view of P.A.s? Do you agree with me that they are vital, or do you have a less flattering view? Any particularly good or bad experiences to report? Is it important for Creatives to get on with P.A.'s?

No obscenity.

49 comments:

Penny said...

It's important for creatives to get on with everybody.

Mostly because none of us have any excuse to be dicks. If we were curing cancer, I'd say go ahead and be a prize asshole. But we're not. We write ads, people.

Secondly, and this is mostly for juniors, if an ECD's pa likes you, she/he might be more motivated to find time in their bosses diary for you.

Bottom line, it never hurts to be nice. This is a tiny industry and it gets a lot smaller if you have a reputation for being rude.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me the number of my colleagues who treat PAs like servants rather than as any other colleague.

Mainly because it makes me think they're not very nice people (it's not hard to be nice), but also because they are clearly stupid - it all gets reported back to the director in question, which never does their reputation with management any good.

It's also worth getting on with good PAs as they often have all the best gossip about what's happening internally.

Anonymous said...

Have you confused this blog with Lunar's?

That's where the don't be an arsehole conversation is going on.

Anonymous said...

head over to lunar. that's where it's at. they're nice people over there

Anonymous said...

In the 3 letters that make up today's blog title, Scamp, you have managed to make one grammatical error. Standards, old chap.

Anonymous said...

Word of advice. If you stick it in an ECD's PA, probably not the best idea to let them find out. Swear her to secrecy, dump her naked corpse in a shallow grave, you know the drill...

Anonymous said...

Word of advice. If you stick it in an ECD's PA, probably not the best idea to let them find out. Swear her to secrecy, dump her naked corpse in a shallow grave, you know the drill...

Anonymous said...

Twice is nice.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Penny - are you a PA?

Barry Norman said...

Secretary's quite an odd film which they really undersold with that image.

It's much more interesting than Maggie Gyllenhaal crawling around with paper in her mouth getting spanked by James Spader.

Anonymous said...

russell ramsey hides behind his PA

Anonymous said...

PA's are absolutely essential from where I'm sitting (a production company). They help me out greatly when calling in to agencies to try and get in to see people. On the other hand, they are also very good at fending off my unsolicited calls - which obviously can be good for the CD/ECD and the agency.
Definitely a big asset.

Anonymous said...

Penny 1:07

do you know just how many times people have written an email exactly the same as yours. most creatives are nice ane well behaved these days. just like mummy wants eh?

Most of the PA's i've met are rude and act like they're Gods because they KNOW you have to be nice to them and not upset them.

take your blinkers off.

Paul said...

Many PAs - like many secretaries and receptionists - have a nasty habit of getting a bit jumped up about what they actually do. Just because they are near to the top person, they often believe this gives them the right to behave as if they, too, were at the top. That these PAs are often dizzy birds who know nothing about the actual industry they work in makes this attitude all the more annoying.

A few, however, are fine.

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of time for PA's, especially top CD's PA's. I'll tell you why...

About 6 years ago, myself & old skool partner (not working with her anymore) were promised a job trial at TBWA by Bill Bungay (Trevor Beattie's partner). When we turned up it turned out to be a stinking placement! We hadn't received a brief for 3 days and after asking everyone who didn't have one for us, we found one in the photocopier so proactively worked on it. Cheekily we handed the work into a senior team there who loved it and presented it to the client. They liked it too and were wanting to move ahead with the idea. But as soon as the team in charge of placements (S&S) found out that we weren't meant to work on it they freaked out and pulled us into their office and told us 'Who the f***k do you think you are?' They wanted us to leave after 2 weeks as Trevor had a philosophy of hire placements if a big project goes through so they ended up going with a 2nd rate idea from an 'employed' team there. Knobheads!

Anyway, an old A.D partner of mine was seeing Trevor's PA at the time and thought it was a bit harsh what happened to us so when we left, she sent an email from Bill Bungay to the whole of TBWA to my friend who then forwarded it on to me. Small world as they say! It read along the lines of:
With regards to placement teams who think they can get a job while working on actual briefs, I've decided to give all future placements old or made up briefs.

Well I was well pissed off as you can imagine and a big thanks to the PA who sent me that email.

And to think, we didn't want a poxy placement in the first place!

Anonymous said...

Was that PA Jo Dix?

She was brill.

China Blue said...

I worked as a PA (am a creative now) for most of last year, and found myself working for the MD and CEO of a big agency, as well as top people in PR and TV. I didn't stay long enough to be privy to internal gossip, but I will say that PAs wield a great deal of power. They're the gatekeeper you butter up before asking if the honcho can grant you an audience, and we have the unique privilege of having to deal with all their shite.

Before becoming a PA, I failed to see the point of the job - it mostly involves booking restaurants and playing Tetris with items on Outlook. But I quickly saw that even 'bottom scratching: 5 min' needed to be scheduled, and that PAs are indeed necessary. That coffee doesn't get itself... :-)

To answer the question: yes, Creatives need to get along with PAs. They aren't obligated to do anyone but their master/mistress any favours, so if you want top top person's time, you have to play nice - end of.

the golden oracle of truth said...

take your knob out, put it in her hand and cry.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:52

thanks for sharing that story. i could tell a few more similar ones re the people you mention.

disgraceful behaviour from people who should know better.

Anonymous said...

5:23

get a new line.

chas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JP said...

Our first ever placement was at BBH. We were still at Uni and had no idea how things were done.

We got no briefs. Our time was almost up.

Matt and Dave very kindly helped us out and gave us an old brief.

A PA (can't remember her name) passed us in the corridor and asked how we were getting on. We told her we had no briefs, had taken an old one and was working on it. As it was an old one we were going to show Matt and Dave.

The next day, without us asking, the PA had arranged for us to see John O'Keefe for a review of the work we'd done.

We learnt loads from that review.

We're very grateful to that PA. She could have let us slip out of BBH unnoticed. We realise now how lucky we were to get a one on one with an ECD especially as a placement team working on an old brief.

Mike said...

In my opinion, it doesn't hurt to be nice - In my short spell i've noticed that they can do a hell of a lot for you. I'd imagine getting on the wrong side of one would equally just cause agro.

Most PAs where we have experienced have been real nice - saved us a lot of hassle in the long run.

Anonymous said...
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brake dollinge said...

getting your scripts typed out. jaysus, mary and joseph, I remember that. that, you could smoke in your office, and anything thought of in the afternoon under the influence of less than a hogshead of bad lager could get out and walk. happy days.

but don't fuck with PAs, people. ours is terrifying, wonderful, a make-or-break genius, a perfect mixture of cerberus and houdini and worth ten of anyone who makes the mistake of speaking before she's quite finished.

mind you, there are some right mongs about.

Anonymous said...

brake dollinge,

not sure why but that was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think the best writing in advertising now happens on this blog and LUnar's? I mean the comments more than the blogs (although they're good too).

Thank God.

Anonymous said...

I wished getting along with people came easier to me. I'm very much the introverted nerd kind of person who others will end up thinking is just a snooty ass. so hey, if penny has pointers, bring'em on...

as far as pa's go, nobody has mentioned the most crucial part of their job when you're a junior or mid-level team: they can get you face time with the ECD. they are the ones who can give you a quick call when he's around, they are the ones who can pencil you into the planner. ECD's tend to forget.

Anonymous said...

Beattie's PA doubles as a bodyguard.

Max Mosley said...

I'm going to spend my pay-out on a new P.A. or two.

Anonymous said...

creatives have every excuse to be dicks. we live in a world of uncertainty and are constantly hunting something down in our minds. to be civil takes a lot of effort and means you have to snap out of your train of thought.

the secret of keeping creatives civil is not to fucking annoy them all the time. simple as that.

Anonymous said...

11.42

Get your head out of your A R S E

Cunt P.A. said...

During all these years I've found annoying creatives is best done hitting them in the face with chicken escalopes and wrapping their balls with sellotape.

Either that or sending a planner to the editing suite.

Anonymous said...

Fuck this week's been incredibly boring here, Scamp. You're lost without the F word.

I can't believe I'm writing this but but Lunar's is a better read these days. Even Wal's has a few jokes worth reading.

Anonymous said...

***********************************
Joke taken from Wal's blog
***********************************

Anonymous Peter said...

W+K creative here.
Hope you guys don't mind me sharing some of the stuff you've done for us. I was particularly impressed by the last one.

http://url.moosaico.com/4633
http://url.moosaico.com/4634
http://url.moosaico.com/4635

Keepy uppy.

**********************************
Sorry, I couldn't resist, it cracked me up.
**********************************

Scamp said...

Anon 12.40 - the truth is, Lunar's blog has been better than mine for some time now. Fair play to him.

Anonymous said...

No need to do that, Scamp.
Want to get more readers?
I've got two words for you:
Lucy Pinder.

Anonymous said...

Scamp.
Your blog is always better than Lunar's.
And you're better looking than those freaky Lunar loonies.
They give me the creeps.

Anonymous said...

http://i9.photobucket.com/albums/a59/onoitsa143/pinder2.jpg

p ping tom said...

Anon 2:08

I once stalked Lucy Pinder in Primark in Southampton.

Her nose is a bit weird up close.

Great tits though! (that one's for you campaign)

Anonymous said...

Urgh what were you doing in Southampton?

p ping tom said...

Er, stalking Lucy Pinder

Anonymous said...

3:52

Still that's no excuse! dirty dirty scummers

Anonymous said...

how can anyone even notice lucy pinder's nose is beyond me.

p ping tom said...

It was right next to her greatest assets.

Think she was wearing a wonderbra...

Or maybe not.

Dylan said...

In November 2000 my partner and I started a placement at BMPDDB. After a month or two, Kerry the Creative Secretary asked the Creative Director wether or not he was going to give us a job.

He said he'd heard good things about us and probably would, but joked he'd string us along for six months or so to save some money.

Fuming, the next morning she rushed into his office and proclaimed that Richard and Andy at Fallon had heard there was a hot new placement team at BMP and was going to hire us that very day. He promptly walked into our office and offered us a job on the spot.

It was a complete fabrication on her part and we had no idea until days later. But suffice to say we owe no less than our first job in advertising to the Creative Secretary.

Why did she do it? Because she was from the old school. She brooded over the creative department like a mother hen, looking after teams with a healthy mix of professionalism and TLC. And when faced with our plight, an imbalance of power between a vulnerable, fledging creative team and the highly paid Creative Director, she kicked ass.

They don't make them like that anymore.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

They always have the CD's credit card when it needs to be placed behind a bar. Worth every penny.