Valencia Gayles '88: "Think Different"
Next time you see one of Apple's "Think Different" ads, think of Valencia Gayles '88, management supervisor of the company's advertising account at TBWA/ Chiat/Day in Los Angeles.
As account manager, Gayles serves as liaison between Apple and the ad agency. She coordinates the various teams, including planning, strategy, media, traffic, production, and creative. "We're not overly structured. Everyone gets in and gets their hands dirty," she said.
One of the reasons she likes advertising is the broad involvement. "You need to know everything about the company, their product, who they want to reach and how they're going to do that," Gayles explained.
Part of the job includes brainstorming who might be the next "Think Different" poster person. The campaign that features notable free-thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon, Rosa Parks, Miles Davis and Jim Henson, among others, has been a hit except for one choice that backfired: Dalai Lama ads were withdrawn after protests (that was before Gayles was hired last year).
Valencia Gayles '88 in
The agency works out of a factory in Playa del Rey that has been converted into a zippy, open, anti-office space meant to foster a creative and collaborative environment. The creative department works out of open-sided train cars stacked in the center of the building.
There are very few offices, and instead of cubicles work is done at specially designed, different colored desks called nestlings. File cabinets have been replaced by multi-purpose storage tables on wheels called hatchlings.
TBWA/Chiat/Day indulges employees with an indoor basketball court where Tae Bo classes are held, a surf bar made out of surf boards for happy hours, and an atrium dubbed Central Park where employees may go to unwind.Gayles sometimes brings her two dogs, Ruby and Lucy, to work. "They don't encourage everyone to bring one every day, but nobody's ever surprised to see a dog walking around," she said. "At one point we talked about having doggie daycare. But they drew the line at that one."
A decade ago, dogcare wasn't on any priority list as Gayles worried where she was going to spend her days. After graduating from Columbia, she decided New York was too pricey so she moved to California, where she felt out the film business by trying to get a job as a scriptwriter. During that discouraging process, it dawned on her that while making films is a tortuous process that often gets dropped altogether before there is a final product, "They make commercials every day -- I'll go make them!"
But she found the advertising business also wasn't very sympathetic to English majors fresh out of school. She started at Team One on the Lexus account -- as a secretary. "It was a complete blow to my ego," she said. "I thought coming out of Columbia that the world was waiting for me, and they were like, 'We're waiting for you -- to type our memos and get our coffee.'"
Gayles emerged from Team One five years later as a senior account executive, then left for jobs in San Diego and San Francisco before returning to L.A. She recently has settled into a house she bought in Silverlake and has become a snowboarding devotee.
Expanding upon the work she did while a student, recruiting minority students from California schools, she interviews prospective College students and helps organize local alumni events. The gatherings get students and recent grads together with more experienced alums to socialize, network, and talk shop. To get involved, e-mail Roger Lehecka at email@example.com or call (212) 854-2940.