Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 343: My Leo Burnett apple pin

This is my Leo Burnett apple pin.

My first advertising job was at Leo Burnett Advertising. Everyone who works at all the Leo Burnett offices around the world gets an apple pin. We all wear it. It's a pretty cool pin that represents membership in a pretty cool club.

When Leo Burnett created his advertising agency during the Great Depression, he had a bowl of apples in his lobby for employees and visitors. Naysayers said that opening an advertising agency in the middle of the depression was a bad idea. They said he's soon be selling those apples on the street.

Today, Leo Burnett is the 10th largest advertising agency in the world and every Leo Burnett office in the world offers apples at reception. Employees, clients, the FedEx guy, the UPS guy, everyone grabs an apple on their way in or out of the office. Everyone loves free apples.

I ate a lot of apples when I worked at Leo Burnett.

And I really loved being a copywriter. I wore my apple pin with pride.

Since my first apple at Leo Burnett, I've done a lot of copywriting. A dozen years, thousands of campaigns, millions of words.

But somewhere along the line, in all the agencies I've worked at, except for Leo Burnett, something has changed. They've become More More More factories. More ads, more versions, more emails, more mail. More more more. With less budget and less time.

And without adequate recovery time between churning out these ads, my work/life balance went severely off kilter. Monday through Friday became a flurry of work. Saturday became a rest day. Sunday became the weekend. Year after year of this... well, that's no way to live.

So today, I quit my job.

(The sound of applause heard around the world.)

It's not that I just quit my job. I quit advertising.

(I love saying "quit" rather than "resign." It's so much more balls to the walls.) 

In the middle of the depression, Leo Burnett started his dream of becoming a copywriter.

In the middle of a recession, I am starting my dream of a life beyond being a copywriter.

It's not just my experience with my latest agency that has led to this decision. In fact, they gave me everything they could. But what I wanted was work/life balance. And that, in some warped accounting way, is problematic for the bottom line of corporate America.

Other people can do it. They even like it. I'm just not these people. I'm not even from the same planet as these people.

So now, after a rest, I will travel the world and write about it. And I will take nothing with me from my former copywriting life except for one thing: My Leo Burnett pin.

It will remind me to be grateful for what my copywriting career gave me for this next leg of my journey: writing skills and cash.

I'm grateful for all the friends I've made, the writing skills I've developed, and the checks that always cleared.

I'm grateful.

But I'm done.


  1. The not so corner office!December 09, 2010

    <----stands up for a standing ovation! So incredibly happy for you (and a little green with envy that you can do just go!). I'll be right here anxiously awaiting your next blog post (refresh refresh refresh). Will you sign my copy of your book one day?!

  2. Thanks for the standing ovation! Ya, I'm super psyched.

  3. GASP! and YAY! Wonderful news, you brave girl.

    I can't wait to hear about your adventures. And if you ever need a drink or a cookie while passing through Toronto....

  4. Boo! I mean yay! No, I mean "Boo" for me and "Yay" for you.


  5. Yippee!!! That is so awesome! Go you!!

  6. Carla MacLeodDecember 09, 2010

    I'm smiling for you. You just gave yourself the greatest Christmas and birthday present EVER!!!!! You have HUGE balls!!!

  7. well well well well done. fair play to you. YOU ROCK! looking forward to reading all about your new adventure. free apples waiting and ready for you in ireland.

  8. You are an inspiration, fellow squirrel.

    with huge love,

  9. I'm not from that planet either! I'm so excited for you.

  10. Ho-lee COW!!! Janice... this is great news. And I mean, hey -- what could go wrong?

    Seriously... very very happy for you. First stop Italy?

  11. Michael AlbrightDecember 09, 2010

    I'm proud of you. Always have been, but especially now. You're much better than advertising, you know. And I can't wait to read the next chapter. I send much love.

  12. I am so very proud of my sandbox buddy!! You've come a long way - now get out there and build some new castles and travel some new dirt roads - who know where they will lead you...

    Congratulations - big cheers to you tonight!!

  13. Almost ten years ago I quit my teaching job to become a copywriter in an advertising agency. Everyone thought I was nuts. I think it's nuts to think you're chained to one career for your entire life. I'm excited about you and the reinvention of you.

  14. Holy crap. I just saw the empty desk picture on Facebook and knew I needed to high-tail it over here to see what was going on! This is huge news. I'm so excited for you and so excited for me - now I get to read about your travel adventures! Hooray! I'm sure The Agency was heartbroken to see you go. Much much much luck to you as you set out on your non-copy journey. :)

  15. Teri GilbreathDecember 09, 2010

    Okay, ignore my FB message and BRAVO! Can't wait to see your journals from around the world. I loved following Eva on hers.

  16. I can say with great confidence: you've walked through a beautiful gate onto a beautiful path.

  17. Some people think you're simple a stunningly gorgeous woman. True enough—but not hardly, my friend. Turns out, you're a bit of everything for everyone You're the greatest, JM, and as always, I see only greater things in your fabulous life. I present you, through Participaction, The Award of Excellence Plus, for those who are fantastic, yet go even farther.

    A damn big admirer,


  18. Alexis MortonDecember 09, 2010

    I'M SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!!! Congratulations!

  19. I've been waiting for this day. In total support any way you need. $ for travel. Doors swung open. Art galleries. Contacts abroad. Championing. My daughter needs heroes -- I will point to you. Thank you for choosing to love yourself. Blessings, Ray

  20. OH.MY.GOD. I didn't think it would happen this soon! Congratulations my friend! The Kern Organization must be reeling...

  21. There once was a girl named Jan,
    Who was busy hatching an evil plan,
    She quit her job,
    But she has her blog,
    And look how many people are her fans!

  22. Wow - I'm so impressed and so happy for you Blog Mama! I'm a big believer in going at life "balls to the wall" as you said. I've always done it and even when it's all hit the wall somehow things have worked out fantastically. My impromptu trip to LA back in August is an absolutely primo example of that. I look forward to hearing some amazing tales of adventure.

    I wish I had the skills and experience you have so I could take over from you. I'm that desperate for a US visa right now. How ironic the world can be. You throw one away while I'm begging. Ha ha!

    Again - props to you for making a balls-out move that puts truly living life first. xxx

  23. How wonderful. You've shed your skin, Nagini. Dare I hope we'll do some collaborate slithering during the months of adventure to come...?

    By the way, in Jewish tradition, the number 18 is synonymous with the word "hai," meaning "life." To life!! xoxo

  24. Fantastique...celebrate your extraordinary life...a chance to breathe and experience many wonderful adventures...ho'omaika'i...congratulations...

  25. Not sure what the big deal is, people quit jobs all the time.

  26. Wow, I could have written your blog post word for word. I'm a female (ex) copywriter that left the industry for good 2 weeks before you did. I'm in Australia and was working for the biggest ad agency in the country. The industry has changed and now so have I. I've had enough. I'm not sure what's around the corner but I'm excited to find out and I will read your blog to see how you travel in your next adventure as well. If you find yourself in Sydney, post it on the blog and I'll contact you and show you the town. Safe travels, S.


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