by Dave McGinn
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Alec Brownstein landed his dream job with creativity and $6. And the Google Job Experiment, as he calls it, has made the 29-year-old advertising copywriter the most famous job seeker of the moment.
Already working as a copywriter, but looking to move up in the world, Mr. Brownstein went on to Google AdWords and bought the names of five of the top creative directors at ad agencies in New York. Whenever one of those people Googled themselves, they found a link to Mr. Brownstein’s website, alecbrownstein.com, and this message: “Hey [creative director’s name]: Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too.”
The bold move landed Mr. Brownstein calls from all but one of the creative directors, two advertising awards and, most importantly, two job offers, one of which he accepted. He’s now a senior copywriter at Young & Rubicam.
Mr. Brownstein and his boss, Scott Vitrone, spoke to The Globe and Mail.
Alec, where did you get the idea for this from?
Alec Brownstein: As someone who Googles myself on occasion, I realized that if someone were to put a message to me in the sponsored result in the top hit, I would take notice of that. So that’s what I did.
How much did the whole thing cost?
AB: Google AdWords is a sort of bidding system. So if want to take out an ad and get the top spot for something like “pharmacy” or “doctor” or “lawyer,” you’ve got to pay a lot for that top spot. But when you’re dealing with something that’s a bit more abstract that a lot of people aren’t bidding, like a name … if nobody else is bidding, you can get the top spot for about 15 cents a click, and that’s what I did.
Scott, how did you come across the ad?
Scott Vitrone: My partner, Ian Reichenthal, and I got a call from a friend who works in the industry. He said, “Have you guys Googled yourselves recently?” And we were like, “No.” And he said, “Well you should check it out because I think there’s someone out there who’s trying to talk to you.” So we did, and obviously Alec’s ad came up. We thought it was just beautifully simple. So we called him up and brought him in for an interview.
Alec, why did you write the ad the way you did?
AB: I wanted it to be relevant to what the occasion was. I was assuming the occasion was they were Googling themselves. So I kind of wanted them to know, hey, I Google myself too, and that’s an okay thing.
Did you ever worry this would freak out the creative directors you were going after?
AB: There’s a fine line between flattery and creepiness and stalking. I put it out there, I figured if they were the type of people who I wanted to work for, who I thought did the type of work I loved, that they might find it kind of cheeky as opposed to creepy.
Scott, at the very least you must have been intrigued?
SV: That’s exactly how we took it. We thought it was fun. We thought it was smart. The biggest thing was, Alec on his part did what we try to do for our clients every day. We’re trying to engage the consumer in that very way. He was really kind of displaying what we want our people to do here every day.
And obviously Alec had a solid resume. He didn’t just get the job because of the gimmick.
SV: Definitely. That got him in the door, and Alec had the work to back up the Google ad.
Alec, your co-workers must know how you got your foot in the door. How has it gone over in the office?
AB: I think when they first heard about what I did they thought it was pretty clever. But now that it’s sort of been getting some press they’re probably pretty sick of it.
What advice do you have for people out there looking for a job?
AB: My advice is to be targeted, to decide who you want to work for and where you want to work, and then don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in an interesting way to communicate with those people and with that place. Because it’s not like they can fire you. You don’t work for them yet.