Jamie Silverman is one of the coolest people we’ve ever fucking met.
Not because she directs creative work at an agency with a division called “Girl Brands Do It Better,” or because she just led a 2019 partnership between Secret Deodorant and the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. And it’s not because she writes a weekly blog about a cat with one eye for an animal clinic in Brooklyn, NY, either.
It’s because from her start in the industry, she’s been “annoyingly persistent” that her creative work pushes the world a step forward.
But believe it or not, her start in advertising didn’t happen right out of college. Rather, it happened right out of a law firm.
After graduating from Bates College with a degree in Art History and Religion, Jamie’s sights were set on intellectual property communication (very thankful there are people who want to take care of that stuff). So she became a paralegal, but one year later realized it wasn’t really her thang. In full, talking to people > talking to federal agencies.
So she looked back on an internship she had at Ogilvy while she was in high school and reached out to a womxn she met there who was still at the agency. Her former coworker got her a new gig back at Ogilvy as a creative assistant, and in her first six months she sold a campaign that went all the way to production(!).
Above: One of Jamie's three spots for Secret's collab with the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, leading to the brand's $23,000 donation per player to help close the unjust wage gap.
Because she got into advertising through unconventional means, Jamie didn’t have a ~formal portfolio~ from a ~fancy ad school~, which made it a repeated challenge getting to each next level of her career.
“People were like, ‘Oh, you’re never going to get a full-time job as a writer because people are going to think of you as an assistant,’” Jamie told Adspire. “And then I took a job in healthcare advertising, and people were like, ‘Oh, you’re not going to get a job outside of healthcare advertising, because people are going to pigeonhole you as a healthcare writer.’
“I basically never took that stuff to heart, and just through intense determination and ambition, never let anybody tell me no. And managed to get to where I am now.”
You might have seen earlier that we referred to Jamie as annoyingly persistent - that’s how she describes her relentless push toward getting what she wants done.
This came through when she founded a sweeping womxn’s initiative at Publicis, when she transformed a print ad and a t-shirt into a massive, life-of-its-own project for Pride for Citi Bank, and when she successfully pitched and became creative director of pro bono advertising for GEMS, an organization working to eradicate commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of young girls.
“I’ve always really been drawn to the idea of combining my personal and professional endeavors,” Jamie shared. “You know advertising isn’t necessarily the most altruistic of industries, but the idea of being able to actually do something that’s beneficial to other people, was always really appealing to me, and I was fortunate enough that I worked at agencies that let me do that.”
Publicis was one of those agencies. Her womxn’s initiative wasn’t just making a club for the agency’s female employees - it was the groundwork for a whole line of projects that even disrupted the company’s infrastructure.
“My relationship with my CCO at Publicis was 100 percent why I got a chance to do the things that I did,” Jamie shared. "We had a great relationship because he knew that if he gave me something to do, I’d get it done.
“As I said, I was a pain in the ass and he called me annoyingly persistent, but he trusted me."
The idea for a womxn’s initiative was a brainchild from the 3% Conference that led Jamie and another coworker to take a deep dive into where the agency stood with womxn leadership. This raveled into an all-womxn’s creative town hall, the naming of a new female executive creative director, a partnership with the 4A’s, and an International Womxn’s Day open brief,
where employees could help create ads to represent the agency, and loads more.
Left: The open brief Jamie wrote
for International Women's Day led to
an internal campaign at Publicis,
which emphasized that "Overlooking Women's Achievements is History."
There was one main reason Jamie got to do all this crazy shit: her relationships. Her main tip for young advertisers who want to set themselves apart in the industry is getting to know the right people.
Jamie added that those relationships are what will ultimately get you your jobs. If there’s a brand you want to work on, go and talk to the executive creative director (ECD) and make sure that they know your name, see your portfolio and remember your work. Go talk to the account team because they’re the people who are going to advocate for you. And:
“Go and sit at the damn table.”
There’s a good chance that some of these execs are going to be men, and you’ve got to meet them at their level. Whether that means you’re 5’7” and wearing heels to literally meet their eye level (Jamie may or may not have... ok she definitely did this), or speaking up and sitting at the damn conference table.
“Even to this day, I’ll go into meetings and see there’s six seats in a table, and I’ll see the guy who goes and sits down when he doesn’t deserve to be there, when he hasn’t even contributed to the work,” Jamie said. “But he just sits with such a sense of entitlement at the table, and I see the womxn who actually put the work in sitting on the windowsills, and I’m like, ‘Go and sit at the damn table.’”
Below: Jamie headed creative work for Citi's campaign honoring its LGBTQ members.
Jamie found all her tables through a strategic approach to her career and personal growth. There are two main causes for her constant advancement: 1) her tireless pursuit of what she wants, and 2) her decision to move on when she wasn’t getting what she wanted at an agency, or felt like she’d outgrown her role and didn’t see a clear path towards advancement.
This meant working at about eight companies in heaps of different roles as she found projects that appealed to her and hustled to take hold of new opportunities. And then whatever projects she wasn’t getting assigned to work on, she created for herself.
“My rule of thumb for people who are just starting out is to really take stock every year.”
“I think people end up getting really complacent and it’s easy to. Job searching sucks - but you have to do it,” Jamie said. “My rule of thumb for people who are just starting out is to really take stock every year. Make sure that you’re getting the work that you want on your portfolio and that you’re getting the opportunities that you want, and if you’re not, then you gotta leave.”
As menial as it can sometimes be, Jamie urges incoming womxn to keep refreshing their portfolios and growing their versatility, because that’s how you do the most important thing in advertising: build a way for yourself.
Right: Jamie won AIG's business for Women's British Open partnership that came to life through multiple broadcast spots, winning creative work of the week upon its airing.
Nonetheless, moving to a new agency or role means a lot of change. One key change you’ll likely be shooting for is that greeeeeeeeeen (aka a happier payday).
Jamie has some key steps for negotiating salary and fighting for what you deserve:
1. Poke around and ask other creatives in comparable places what they’re making.
Obviously, you’ll get more money at a company with 3,000 employees than one with 30, so do a lot of research company on size and people’s years of experience too.
“Womxn sharing salaries is one of the most invaluable things we can do for one another, and I don’t think people recognize the importance of it, but it’s huge," Jamie said. "We need to hear what we’re making so we can recognize when we’re being short-changed.”
2. Give a range when asked how much you’re looking for.
Anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000 is good when you’re starting off, and you always want to range on the higher side, because they’re going to want to take you for as cheap as you’ll come.
“It’s so awkward," Jamie said. "Asking for more money is the most awkward thing... but it's still making a statement about how I’m worth more than what you’re offering me, so give me more if you want me. It’s about having confidence that they want you. They’re not doing this for their wealth - ultimately, they want you. So play the game.”
3. Negotiate outside the box.
There’s a whole slew of different conversations you can have if you’re not able to get the salary you want immediately:
“You can negotiate for things other than salary," Jamie said. "You can negotiate for the opportunity to work from home once a week, you can negotiate more days of vacation, you can say you want a signing bonus.”
“It’s just about recognizing your own merit and recognizing your own value and being comfortable with that.”
When it comes to advice Jamie has for womxn entering the industry, she says it’s our time to shine and we oughta milk it for all it’s worth.
“Lean into that and use the fact that we’re womxn and that people want womxn working for them as much as you can - because why not?” Jamie said. “Men have been using it for years.”
Dig into more of Jamie's coolest fucking work here.