A grateful ad mom - McKinney

A grateful ad mom

May 17, 2016

By Janet Northen

On May 17, I will no longer be the mother of teenagers. After 13 years of smelling breath and clothing, checking necks for hickeys and backpacks for bud (both cans and cannabis), I can say thank you to my husband, friends, but, most importantly, my industry. I am a grateful ad mom.

In spite of the recent hubbub around the racist and sexist behavior in our industry and the fact that executive salaries are often not discussed by my fellow execs when I enter the room, I believe there is not an industry in the world that would have given me what I wanted most: a kickass leadership position that also offered the flexibility to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. Maybe it’s because motherhood came late in my career. By that time, I had written a thousand news releases and provided PR counsel to some of the best CEOs in the business. But as Prissy bemoaned in Gone With the Wind, I didn’t “know nuthin’ about birthin’ babies.” So getting the mom thing right was as important to me as scoring a big story.

I chose a business that allows for creative time management. Agency Communications is 24/7 brand reputation management. When you have kids, that means you and your kids are available all the time. So when a New York Times reporter calls on deadline and you have a backseat full of 5-year-old ballerinas, explain they’ll be scattered all over Highway 62 if you don’t call back in five as soon as they are safely delivered. Crisis averted and story saved.

I chose a business that encourages artful truth telling. Agency Communications means you can find yourself being interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter who wants to know what a busy PR professional has in her briefcase/mom bag. You admit to the dead McDonald’s French fries and the dirty diaper but how to explain the used tampon? (Who would believe it stopped a nosebleed in a carpool line?)

I chose a business that forgives time out of the office, particularly when your office is the back of the minivan or the shade tree by the soccer field. When I learned that our agency’s president would be appointed the new CMO of a certain Big Box retailer, I wrote and delivered the news release on the floor of the ladies’ room in the Georgia Dome. I could handle the lousy Wi-Fi three subterrestrial floors below, the “Oh, my God”-squealing volleyball girls and my eye-level view of their tight Lycra shorts. (What mother lets their daughter out of the house in those things? Wait, I am one of those mothers.) I can handle it all so long as I don’t miss my girl’s digs and dives on the court.

Most importantly, I chose a business that has agencies like the ones I called home. Fallon gave me full maternity leave and then some for my international adoption, even though I had only been at the agency for a few months. The Martin Agency let me live in Charleston and commute to Richmond because they knew what was best for my family was best for the agency. And for 17 years, McKinney has treated me like an adult who happens to be a mother and very good at both.

My three kids interrupted meetings. They splashed Stuart Elliott in the Ritz Carlton pool at the 4A’s. (Don’t try it.) And they watched me kiss my sister for the last time and, 30 minutes later, hop on a conference call to prep for a big interview.

But they’ve also seen me get teary over Super Bowl ads and even more tearful when we’ve lost a pitch, said goodbye to a client or hello to a new one. They know my agency is my family, too.

And that is why I am a grateful ad mom.