How Robin Fitzgerald of BBDO Atlanta Gets Creative
It's hard to describe a typical day in a creative's life. Part of the reason we like our jobs is we’re not sure what each day will bring. But here's a stab.
My alarm goes off. I like odd numbers. Depending on how late I’m up the night before (I'm a night owl), I've been known to push snooze three times.
My husband cooks breakfast for our 9-year-old daughter and drops her at school. I'm the second shift, waking up our 12-year-old son, fixing him breakfast and packing his lunch. He's in 6th grade and likes to act tough, but I recently found a stash of my handwritten napkin notes he secretly saved. So, I let him keep up his act.
After he heads to the bus stop, I get ready. Breakfast is a runny egg and toast, or whatever the kids didn't eat. I answer emails, read industry news or do calls over breakfast until about 9:30 a.m. (unless I have an early meeting or a flight), and then I drive into work. This cuts my commute time in half, and I arrive at the office around 10 with a head start on the day. I’ll listen to NPR on the way in, except on pitch or big-meeting mornings, when I somehow become a hip-hop artist from the '90s and deliver the most amazing musical performance my dashboard has ever seen.
90 percent conference room
On Tuesdays, I meet with all the account leads for an hour. We go high level on each project. Are we on track? Did the clients have feedback? Who is following up with them? Do I need to call or write a note? I don't have a desk in my office. It's a couch and some chairs with a coffee table in the middle. A semi-recreation of my living room setup at home. My office is 90 percent conference room, 10 percent my office. It encourages conversation versus heads-down, reactionary answers.
Working the wall
We usually have three or four walls going for different clients. One might be a pitch. One might be a live event integrated with a social campaign. One might be a new look and feel for a brand. It's all out in the open, so creatives and planners and account people who might not work on the account can plus-up an idea or call out an issue. The team can have blind spots. One of our creative techs walked by the other day, saw an idea he liked, and started building a prototype to test it. I like an environment where everyone feels like they should be making all the time.
The rest of my day is a schizophrenic advertising montage. Meet with creative teams. Pop into an edit. Lay down a scratch voiceover for a pitch video. Check in with the exec committee. Conference calls. Meet with a client. Lunch is usually a pit stop at the building cafeteria downstairs. A club sandwich or chicken tenders, then back to the montage. If it’s a weekend day or school unexpectedly closes, I’ll sometimes bring one of the kids into the office. My daughter can skate for hours on the polished concrete.
Most nights, I leave between 7 or 7:30. I listen to Terry Gross on the way home, or call somebody, or listen to a podcast. Right now, I'm listening to S-Town (yes, I know it's a year old). That gets me home at 7:45 or 8.
Usually everyone has eaten, and there's a foil-wrapped plate in the fridge. My husband is a great cook. At least once a week, a late soccer practice means everyone is around the table at the same time. We go through homework, clean up the dishes, and then the kids watch an episode of a show. Lately it’s The Goldbergs. I verify all the '80s stuff is real. "Yes, I had a Caboodle." "Yes, I started a Debbie Gibson-like band with my best friend." "Yes, my mom took me to get a perm at the mall."
I leave my phone downstairs and tuck in the kids. I shoot for 15 minutes of distraction-free one-on-one time with each of them. Lights off for them is 9:30 p.m. I head back downstairs, wincing a bit at how little patience I have for my daughter's meandering story about that day's recess drama, yet I readily devote a full hour to working through a half-baked idea from a creative team.
I head to the couch, open up my laptop and get back to the emails I didn’t get to that day. If I'm still hungry, I'll have a bowl of cereal. Cinnamon Life or Golden Grahams. Luckily, my kids and I have similar appetites. Some nights my husband joins me on the couch for a while. He'll turn on Samantha Bee or John Oliver, and I'll catch bits and pieces of it behind my screen.
I may subject him to rough cuts of something we just made. "What's the difference?" he'll ask. Oh, let me count the ways. Or he'll turn on Westworld, and I'll have no choice but to close my laptop, submit to entertainment and resume when he goes to bed. He is not a night owl.
I tie up loose ends and let our new puppy out one more time before heading upstairs. It's around midnight. I plug my phone into the bathroom outlet, so I'll have to physically get out of bed to turn off the alarm or push snooze in the morning. The rain sounds are already playing on our sound machine.
—Robin Fitzgerald is chief creative officer at BBDO Atlanta.
About our 'Work/Life' series
Tell us about the balance between your work life and your personal life, and how each feeds the other. Email pitches to email@example.com.