With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the agency holiday season is now in full-swing, accompanied by much corporate-sponsored merriment. Banner Ad Confidential offers this Holiday Guide for Passive-Aggressive Career Management to help enrich yourself and/or enhance your career prospects.
Gift Baskets: When vendors drop off gift baskets, your first instinct will be to be to keep the good stuff for yourself. You know, stash the split of Veuve Cliquot and Godiva chocolates in your desk, then bring the dregs out to the common area pronouncing, “Hey everyone, come get your Weather Channel frisbees before they’re all gone!”
Note that this is only fool-proof if you run your group. If you’re a junior-ish type person, beware of the possible ramifications of depriving a greedy Media/Account/Creative Director of her God-given right to holiday booze and munchies. Do expect said grizzly-bear-of-a-group leader to darken your cube “door,” glare at you with her hungry kodiak eyes and growl, “Gimme the chocoloate!”
An alternative, pre-emptive strategy is to take her a little booty (the sweets and champagne, not your actual booty…unless you’re into that kind of thing) before someone else snatches it.
“Hey, I know you’ve already got a closetful of AOL visors, so I wanted to make sure you got some of the good stuff before Bob takes it…” will ingratiate you and make Bob look bad by comparison. Think of it as paying respect to the mob bosses – it’ll keep you from getting whacked in the new year.
Vendor Dinners: Are you the guy who thinks of this as part of your compensation? Do you drink way too much or order two entrees like a giant D-bag? Do you have your roommate (who isn’t even in the ad business) meet up with you guys so you can both drink on the vendor’s tab? No sir. You party just enough, but you are graceful and appreciative because you understand that the $25,000 your client spent with her this year is barely enough to keep her employed. More importantly, you know you’re going to want a job on the sell-side someday and you’ll need reps like her to vouch for your coolness.
Corollary for Reps Who Entertain: Don’t Assume that spending $550 from your T&E on a group dinner at a mediocre restaurant entitles you to participate in every campaign the client activates over the next 24 months. When you miss a buy, don’t whine loudly with veiled references to how close you all have become through the outings you’ve financed. Nobody wants to hang with or buy from a whiny baby.
HOLIDAY PARTIES DO’s and DONT’s
Don’t: Start too quickly. Pace yourself and leverage the NASCAR concept of drafting – that’s where you conserve your fuel by following the other guy who works harder to break through the air’s resistance. Here’s what HowStuffWorks says about the technique:
“Good drafting can turn a humdrum race into a real humdinger and a bumper-to-bumper slugfest into high-speed chess and produce the kinds of races that are talked about for years afterward.”
That’s how you should think about your holiday party! If you manage the race right, people will be talking about it for years. In other words, let the other guy be THAT GUY.
Many of your colleagues will come out of the blocks aggressively, only to have their careers headed south by 9:00 p.m. Not you, my friend. You will ease out, sip on a Coke Zero, and let your colleagues burn their fuel and career prospects, one tequila shot at a time.
Feel free to start drinking when you hear your first slurred word or catty insult (about 2 or 3 drinks in). “Deborah’s dressh sure looks shlutty…” is your cue to holler, “Barkeep, Daddy’s thristy!”
Do: Take the time to socialize with your colleagues and their spouses (assuming they’re invited). Try to avoid phrases like, “That’s your husband? No wonder you’re always in a bad mood.” Or do say it. On some level, she’ll appreciate the acknowledgement that she should have done better in the spouse-getting department. It’s not like she doesn’t know.
Do: Casually check hallways and supply closets periodically throughout the night. It is a holiday tradition for some drunk (married) partner who thinks he’s Don Draper to get all smooshy-faced with a young, delusional admirer. It’s not just a plot-line from Love Actually, it is your opportunity to gather career-making data.
Do: Drop passive-aggressive half-truths about your colleagues to your increasingly-tipsy boss. “I can’t believe Tony would be gunning for your job like that,” you say as she chokes on her chardonnay. “Well I’m gonna get some more of them swedish meatballs. See ya.”
Do: Stay late. I’ve often said that I’ve never left a party too early, but that doesn’t apply for office holiday parties. Because “late” is when it gets good. “Late” is the inflection point of many a career.
By staying late at holiday parties, I have seen/heard the following dropped: trousers, drinks (by interns onto senior partners) and – most memorably – the N-word (with career-ending nonchalance).
Look, I’m not saying any of this was positive, like in a life-affirming way. But it sure was interesting!
Here’s a tip for knowing where the good stuff is gonna go down: when the open bar closes, listen for whoever protests the loudest. Then hang near them and document, document, document (see next item re. social media).
Do Do Do Leverage Social Media: Posting a few select compromising photos of your colleagues to your favorite social media platform memorializes their idiocy. At that point, the party isn’t just a bad memory (or lack thereof) – it’s a part of their HR file! Thus eliminating the competition for that next promotion. Don’t worry that it also makes you a huge dick. This is business.
Don’t: Drink Amstel Light wrapped in a cocktail napkin. No other beverage says “amateur drinker ” like this Dutch embarrassment. It might seem counter-intuitive, but professional drinkers start with Bud Light or Miller Lite so they can drink 22 in an evening and still be upright. Amstel Light is a monthly-drinker’s attempt to look sophisticated, but only serves to confirm their Nancy Boy status in the eyes of the senior folk.
Do: Sip brown liquor. Especially you, young professional woman! It may be a relic from the Mad Men era, but it is no less true – older men respect younger people who drink brown liquor…especially younger women people (go figure).
So picture this – you find yourself at the bar, next to one of the senior dudes. You know he doesn’t know your name, but he nods, smiles and says, “Hey…youuu – how’s it going?”
You reply with just enough enthusiasm to let him know you know who he is but that you are only mildly impressed.
The bartender comes over, and you have your drink order ready.”Pappy 18. Neat.” you say, referring to 18 yr old Pappy Van Winkle (it’s bourbon and it’s hard to find…but you knew that).
The bartender will tell you that’s not on the pour-list, and you’ll need to put down a credit card. You do so without hesitation because drinking anything else would be a waste of time.
“Holy shit. Nice!” says the partner. And when the bartender turns to ask him for his order, he’ll have no choice but to reply, “What she’s having.” …at which point you own him.
A few caveats:
- Don’t pull this move if you’re in a hotel ballroom, because they won’t be pouring anything better than Jack Daniels or Kirkland’s single barrel (which actually isn’t bad at all).
- If the boss asks you why you like the 18 year old, don’t get specific – say something like, “it just suits my mouth chemistry, I suppose.” Not only is this a very fair – if non-committal – answer, but it gets the boss thinking about your mouth (as if he wasn’t already).
- If your boss is from Connecticut and/or super into his country club, ask if they have Goslings Black Seal and order a Dark n’ Stormy. He’ll think you’re a swell egg, and tell you all about the multiple trips his family took to Bermuda when he was a kid (until his dad got busted sleeping with the secretary and his folks got divorced…but then he’ll cry a little bit, and you guys can bond).
Here’s the bigger point: brown liquor sends the message that you are an adult with specific and sophisticated tastes. You are not to be taken lightly. You are worthy of representing the firm in front of senior clients, managing inferior/less-ambitious agency personnel, and making lots and lots of money (or so they’ll lead you to believe).
If, in that same situation, you had ordered a cosmopolitan, you would have been saying to Mr. Big Shot, “Heyyyyy, have you heard the new Ke$ha single?! It’s so awesome! Btw (said actually as b-t-w), I’m an idiot and you should never promote me!”
But you power-ordered and now you’re sipping tasty bourbon with the Head Cheese. Now you’re on your way. Just remember – sip that liquor drank, so’s you don’t end up puking on the big guy’s Gucci loafers…or making out with him in the supply closet.
Happy Holidays, Upwardly-mobile Ad Professional!