The Ad Exec Turned Music Pro Turned Ad ExecOctober 12, 2017
By Melissa Bertling, VP Account Services
I love advertising. I always knew I wanted to work in the field. Once, I tried to do something different and I missed the industry, so I came back. And I plan to work in advertising for a long time to come…
I started my career with internships at agencies, like most people do. I was studying advertising at the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, and I interned the summer of my sophomore year at an agency in downtown St. Louis doing small tasks, lots of research and just simply taking it all in. I liked what I saw.
The summer before my senior year, I got an internship because my dad sat next to a woman on a plane who worked in marketing at Lifetime Television and she gave him her card to pass along to me. I called her, and before I knew it, NYC was my home for the summer. I advertised upcoming Lifetime movies specials. I loved it. I still have a signed Dolly Parton poster hanging in my home office from a movie that I worked on while I was there.
My senior year, I interned at a local shop called Bernstein Rein, through contacts I made as the president of the Advertising Club at school. I would intern during long weekends and on small traveling projects just to further getting my feet wet. It was fantastic.
When I graduated, I knew what I wanted to do. I moved to Kansas City to work at an agency called Valentine Radford. My first account was Sprint, a local client, and I remember hating that I wasn’t at the agency of record. I didn’t like that someone else was building the brand strategy. I didn’t like that someone else was handing me a brand style guide. All the good stuff was coming from a fancy NYC agency, so I decided that’s where I needed to be. I quit my job and moved to New York with my sister, who had just graduated and had landed herself a job in the city at a media agency.
I spent my first two weeks in NYC looking for a job like it was my job. Every day at 10:00 and 2:00 I interviewed. And with some magic, luck and good timing, I landed a job at Saatchi & Saatchi working on Old Spice. We led that account and worked late and worked hard and it was oh-so-fulfilling.
From there, my account director moved to LA and told me I should follow her. I thought LA was simply the place where you go to shoot TV spots, not a place to live, but after flying out for an interview I was hooked. I accepted the offer and called TBWA\Chiat\Day my home for the next four years working on Uncle Ben’s, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean and Ballpark. I made some of the best friends of my life at that shop. I learned how to surf; adopted my dog, Lobster, who came to work with me every day; and dated a longshoreman, a photographer and a professional poker player (not all at the same time).
One day while at the office I received a call from an old magazine rep asking me if I was interested in joining her as the director of global strategic partnerships at Interscope Universal Music because she remembered how much I loved music. I hung up, went to the bathroom to cry tears of joy and I resigned the next day. I had never wanted a job more… or hated a job more. I have stories. Stories of NYFW with Marc Jacobs and Lady Gaga, stories of spilling red wine on Will.I.Am’s white suit, stories of backstage antics — but it never felt like home. I missed advertising.
During that time, I reconnected with my high-school sweetheart, who lived in Minneapolis. We decided we wanted to give it a go, so I called up some old college friends who lived up north, and a month later Fallon was moving me up to the Twin Cities to work on their Purina account. I am still grateful to Fallon for relocating me to a city I now lovingly call home.
After Fallon, I accepted a job at Colle+McVoy. That was a pivotal moment in my career as I had spent so much of it focused on being at the biggest agencies, working on the biggest clients with the biggest budgets. I now was going to be the Account director on Caribou Coffee — a regional brand with modest budgets. But it was a chance to suddenly begin creating work touching digital, engaging with PR, managing social, developing in-store experiences all while rocking the brand strategy. And I loved it.
All those experiences created the perfect storm that brought me to Fast Horse. I feel like my entire career led me to where I am today. When I first sat down with Jörg to discuss leading the General Mills account, I couldn’t get over how beautifully my past set me up for a brilliant future.
Fast Horse is an agency like no other.
The ideas are some of the best in the business.
The people are ones you will fall madly in love with.
And the office is so damn cool.
I feel blessed to be able to call myself a Pony and every day be reminded that… I love advertising.