Terri Meyer is the CEO and Co-Founder of Terri & Sandy -- a strategic and creative advertising boutique bringing clients big agency expertise faster, smarter and more cost-effectively.
That’s marketing speak for “Damn straight these two women are killing it so good they recently made the Top 3 most effective independent agencies and top honors at Ad Age's Small Agency of the Year, 2017."
See also: Sandy Greenberg
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s? Your 40s?
No, because truthfully there were more people of age in the agencies I worked for. Many people that I was fortunate to learn from that most likely wouldn’t be there in those roles today.
However, I thought of it when I first got in the business (in my 20’s) because, honestly how were you supposed to get experience if no one was willing to hire you? I used to look in the back of AdWeek and all the job postings were 2-4 years experience. I thought I’d never get there. I was fortunate and didn’t know it at the time. It took me 6 weeks to find a job and it felt like eternity.
Is ageism something that’s affected you? What are some of the challenges you faced as a person who was getting older in the business? Do tell.
Honestly, in retrospect, I think sexism was more of an issue than age until the very end of my tour in the big agency world. I hadn’t even realized that until it was so blatantly obvious that I couldn’t look away any longer. In the last few years in the big agency, digital was becoming the hot new thing and I was made to feel like a dinosaur because I didn’t know digital. Truthfully no one did, but comments were being made about needing to hire younger people who spoke the tech language and that we were virtually becoming extinct in agency world. Thankfully, it made us leave and reinvent ourselves.
But, I must admit, it was very discouraging after helping to bring in a lot of business and keep it running smoothly in the big agency for over a decade.
Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
Yes. After spending 25+ years in the big agency world and loving it, I realized that it was no longer the place it had been. Money was tight and senior leadership was jockeying for position and looking to take as much business for themselves as possible to secure their roles. At the time, it was very disheartening, but now I want to write them all a thank you note. It forced me (and my writer partner Sandy Greenberg) to go out on our own and start our own agency. I am grateful everyday to not be party to sexism or ageism.
"After spending 25+ years in the big agency world and loving it, I realized that it was no longer the place it had been."
What are your thoughts on where you are now, as you look back on your creative journey?
Again, I feel blessed. We’ve had our business for 8 ½ years and it’s great to be able to create a culture of diversity and do things the way you believe they should be done. We’re not perfect, but our hearts are in the right place and we try to do the right thing. It feels good to not be caught up in all the politics and not be in an environment that belittles its people in order to keep them in their place. And that allows more time to work on the work and not navigate the BS that always got in the way of everything.
What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?
It’s funny. Sandy and I read a book when we started our business called “The Power of Who” by Bob Beaudine and there is a quote in it:
“Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.” This is the best advice ever. Don’t feel that you have to stay somewhere because it will look bad if you leave. If you are somewhere and are unappreciated or overlooked, find a place where you can be celebrated. If you stay for whatever reason, it erodes your self-confidence and makes you view yourself as they see you, not as who you are.
"'Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.' This is the best advice ever."
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
Make sure that you understand you need the flexibility to reinvent yourself. The industry is changing all the time and if you don’t stay relevant, you won’t have a role. Also, make sure to build close client relationships. That is the best job security. It might not save you forever, but those clients will be loyal your whole career. It’s why we have a business.
How are you approaching the next 10 years? What does your future hold?
To keep pushing. The business has gotten harder and harder. Who would’ve ever thought that J Walter Thompson would be no more. Clients want to pay 50% less for 50% more work. It’s harder than ever to make money and the competition is crazy. I hope to keep a culture that respects one another and have a roster of clients who believe in advertising and partnership.
What’s one thing the industry could do to make you think they are taking combating ageism seriously?
Hire more people of age. Walk the walk. Not just talk the talk. And stop diminishing people who have experience and talent to share and making the world feel that advertising is for young people.
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
Knowing that I made it on my own. The big agency world is not a place for the faint of heart.
To have survived that and been able to start and run an agency has been a gift in itself. Every day I am grateful for the autonomy and the experience that has allowed me to be in this situation. And what else is interesting is success on your own terms is the best revenge and proof of talent against all odds.
"...success on your own terms is the best revenge and proof of talent against all odds."
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Our people. It is amazing to cultivate and galvanize a group of people who are in the game to help the agency grow. It has been a great ride and we’ve been fortunate to have many talented people on the team who take the agency to new heights.