Tim Praetzel

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Tim Praetzel. I graduated from The University of Montana in 2012, and today I am Senior Designer at PREACHER .

What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?

How about two? Sounds good.

There are two lessons that I would consider pivotal in my career. The first, is that action drives inspiration—not only the other way around. As someone in a creative role, we tend to find ourselves in “ruts” fairly often. Early in my career, I would sit around waiting for a moment of inspiration to strike and get me rolling again. It was frustrating and ineffective. I later found if I forced myself to keep going, make things that I knew were mediocre, even garbage ideas, I would eventually come out on the other side with some unexpected discoveries that sparked further inspiration. Once that moment happens, you find yourself in a beautiful cycle yielding good results and productivity.

The second, were words my old creative directors spoke to me. I was whining about not getting a raise and working too many hours, and he asked me “how are you a go-to person at this company?” It took a bit of work and self awareness but it’s now something I habitually ask myself every day. How are you helping others around you, and what knowledge can you gain TODAY that will be useful to the people around you tomorrow? That approach, mixed with some hustle, humility, and graciousness, will make you absolutely irreplaceable to an employer.

What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.

My favorite mistake was when I got fired from my very first job out of school. I’m still not sure which mistake I made, but I’m glad I made it. It taught me a few things:

1. To manage my money early in my career. I was offered $34k out of school to be a junior designer. $34k is not as much as it sounds coming out of school. And in case you guys didn’t know, you actually make a lot less than $34k when you have no job at all.

2. Bust ass at everything. When I was unemployed and “freelancing” as a 22 year old, I worked longer and harder than I ever did in a job. I wanted to will myself into a better situation. If I didn’t have a paid project going on, I still worked a normal day and put the same amount of effort into side projects that I could share and gain exposure. Those are the projects that eventually landed me at another agency and got me on my way.

Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?

Besides shifting to a more digital-focus and using shinier machines, advertising works essentially the same as it did 70 years ago. I’m hoping, rather than predicting, that there will be more rules and regulations around advertising in the next decade. Data sharing has positioned advertisers as people who listen to your conversations, search histories, and behavior. That, mixed with the sheer quantity of ads we have to filter through daily, puts advertising at a disadvantage when facing consumers.

The opportunity that comes from this, is we can find success putting out work that is honest, purposeful and made with great craft and care. The companies and agencies that partner on marketing campaigns of this nature will always flourish (see all the biggest campaigns of the past few years i.e. Nike, Patagonia, REI, etc.)

What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I hear a lot of bad peer-to-peer advice between creative professions. Most of it attempting to justify why we (the artists) are always right when met with feedback and critique. This is the crucial difference between marketers and artists: marketing is a service industry. It is our job to come up with creative solutions to client problems, not just a fun idea to satisfy creative desire. You have to carefully pick your battles and look at creative work objectively in what is usually a subjective world. When it comes to certain decisions, this means that you actually can’t trust your gut. Those decisions warrant data and research to make informed choices and yield positive results… not JUST badass looking websites and billboards.

In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Change. Change can be great. I lived in 4 states in 5 years out of college trying to get every bit of experience I could — but I’ve come to learn the there is equity in longevity. I was at my last company for 4 years—it was a 50 person agency and I bet I watched 30 people either come or go. The result of that was an arsenal of knowledge on the agency and past working relationships with our clientele that not many others had. When you’re not having to ask questions about the past, it allows you to focus on making great work for the future, rooted in context and understanding. That said, I just switched jobs so everything I’ve said my whole life up to this point is probably a lie.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

Ogilvy on Advertising. That’s a bit expected, but it always blows my socks off that the founding principles of advertising still hold true today. If you can look past some of the 1963 misogyny, it provides a really solid foundational understanding of why advertising works, and more importantly why some of it doesn’t.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

I’ll drop a few nugs for the kids:

1. Apply to 100 places because 90 of them won’t ever see your application.
 It doesn’t mean you are trash (see No. 2). If you know someone at a company that you want to work at, send THEM your resume, not the application system.

2. After an interview/sending a resume, follow up a few days later if you don’t hear back. It’s not personal, we are just so so busy. Maybe we wouldn’t be so so busy if we hired you.

3. Don’t ask about work-life balance in an entry level interview. I know it’s a fair question, but it will make people question your drive. Ask HR about general benefits including vacation and time-off policies instead, in a private email setting.

Things to ignore:
People who say things like “go work at that unpaid internship to get your foot in the door.” Go get paid young blood, student loans are no joke.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

“When Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.”

– Clark Griswold, Christmas Vacation (1989)

Okay hear me out:
First, this quote once helped land me a job. Second, this scene in the movie occurs after a long stream of mayhem and chaos has concluded at the Griswold home. But Clark—a man of great strength, perseverance, and Christmas spirit—powers through. His positivity and tenacity are what people around him rally behind. I have always rallied behind theses type of people in my own work settings, and as my role has become more senior and leadership-focused, I try to become more and more like my main man Clark.