What I learned this year: 2018 by GSP Associate Creative Director Caroline Cappelli

By thesanfranciscoegotist / /

Welcome back to the work week. We’ll try and make your Monday a bit better with the latest “What I learned this year” from Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ Associate Creative Director Caroline Cappelli. She learned a few things while taking a 3-month break from advertising. 

This year, I did something a little bit unconventional. I took a three-month break from advertising to travel around the western United States in a van. I know. I am a millennial cliché. But the heart wants what the heart wants. And my heart desperately wanted a little bit of adventure. 

So with GS&P’s blessing (THANK YOU AGAIN, GUYS. REALLY.) I took three months’ unpaid leave and hit the dusty trail from my home base in SF up through Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and down through Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. 

I cut myself off completely from all things advertising during this stretch of time—no emails, no regroups, no circling back of any kind. Along the way I had a few revelations that I hope will help me now that I’m back in the ad saddle. Maybe they will help you too. 

1) Grizzly bears are like Rich Silverstein.

When backpacking in Montana, you are supposed to carry “bear mace” with you at all times. What is bear mace, you might ask? It’s basically a small fire extinguisher that you strap to your chest in the event that a grizzly bear charges you and you have to pepper-spray it in the face. Preferably before you soil your pants. 

Dangerous run-ins with grizzlies usually happen when you’re hiking around sharp corners or bends. You never want to surprise them. And if you do, you best not be empty-handed.  

At some point, I realized it’s no different than encountering Rich Silverstein.

At GS&P, Rich moves nimbly around the office, appearing suddenly around corners to demand groundbreaking new ideas.

My experience preparing for bear country taught me how to better prepare for any tough creative director: always carry one good idea, locked and loaded, ready to spray them right in the eyes if need be. 

2) Fly fishermen put strategists to shame.

And here I thought agency strategists were the most obsessive people on the planet when it comes to understanding an audience. Then I met some fly fishermen (and fisherwomen). 

With fly-fishing, it’s all about choosing precisely the right fly. And there are about 1 million different options to choose from. Dry flies, wet flies, mayflies, streamers, poppers, larvae, grasshoppers—it’s insane. You have to know what real flies reside in that lake or river area, when their hatching season is, what time of day it is, what the fish are currently biting on, what kind of fish you’re trying to hook. It seems excessive, but knowing these intricate details is the difference between catching dinner or not. 

It reminded me that specificity is key. You want to reach a very particular audience or person? You can’t fish with a broad idea that appeals to everyone. Then no one will bite.

3) There are a surprising number of survivalists living in Idaho. Most of them look like Jeff Goodby.

4) What we do is way more fun than most jobs. 

During my travels, I met all kinds of characters with different professions and odd jobs. And it reminded me of the simple fact that I get to come up with ideas for a living. Not to mention I get to work with some of my best friends. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that between tough client calls and endless feedback.  

5) My dog hates taking pictures with me.

6) I don’t actually have chronic lower-back pain.

As it turns out, my body just rejects sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day. I imagine that most people’s bodies do. So now I have one of those nifty standing desks. Another millennial cliché. But a highly-recommended millennial cliché, nonetheless. 

7) When you eat enough freeze-dried camping food, suddenly that day-old meeting food left in the 1st-floor kitchen doesn’t look so bad.

Day-old falafels from La Med? Sure! 

8) Listen to the quietest person in the room.

While at a small lodge and hot springs, I was at the register talking to one of the employees. I was telling her about the trip and the places we were planning to go. In the corner sat an elderly man who appeared to be about 147 years old. I’m not kidding. He was ancient. 

Then this old man quietly murmured something. The employee ignored him and kept jabbering away about the nearby towns and sights. The old man quietly murmured something again. So we walked over and bent down close to hear him. He was saying “French Creek Road.” 

A few miles outside the hot springs, we stumbled upon the road and decided to take it. It turned out to be the longest, most stunningly beautiful winding road of the entire 4,000+ mile trip.

The moral of the story here is that sometimes the quietest person in the room has the most important thing to say. The next time you’re in a meeting, and all the usual suspects are basking in the sweet sounds of their own voices, ask the quietest person what they think. You might be surprised. 

9)  I am incredibly grateful. 

I know this kind of thing is rare. This year, I learned just how lucky I am to work at a place that truly values their employees’ mental well-being. I learned that having that kind of support is priceless, and makes you want to show up and go to bat for them every day. I also learned that it certainly helped to have a creative partner who held down the fort while I was gone and who only mildly hates me now (HI, RYAN!).

Happy Holidays, everyone.








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