"Where's the ad? This is it? What else have you got? Nothing?"
When I first became an associate creative director, I was worried my group might let me down. What if they didn't come through? I'd better have something of my own in reserve, in my top drawer, just in case.
It was rarely needed. When you work for a living, something serious comes over you. The possibility of being fired was never lost on my writers and art directors. Plus they knew there are always 10 more people in line to take their places.
Over the years, I've had a lot of interesting people working for me. The guy who never came back from lunch, but always left a note on his door about which bar he'd be at in case I needed him. The guy who always came back from lunch, even though I told him not to. (One Thursday afternoon he came back so smashed that he threw all the potted plants from the lobby down an elevator chute.) The writer who always had twenty ideas for every assignment but could never decide which one was good. The other writer who cut off an art director's new tie because he wouldn't do the ad the way she envisioned it. And the art director who cried at meetings when the client rejected her ideas. (He couldn't take the guilt and changed agencies.)
It takes all types, and there's room for them in the ad agency business. But please know that the real ad-makers --- the ones who do the funniest, craziest, most mind-changing ads and commercials --- always meet the deadlines, always show up for meetings, always are respectful. Their talent is inside of them, and they protect it.
Jerry Della Femina said that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I agree. But it's hard work and you're given a lot of freedom for a reason. People are counting on you and you have to deliver.
That's why even today I always try to have some ideas in my back pocket.