This piece was originally published in Above the Noise, Burness’ Medium publication. Check it out here.
Since the tender age of 15, I’ve longed to be in the business of selling things. Not actually selling them, mind you, because being a salesperson in the flesh is high up in my top ten list of nightmare scenarios, right after public speaking and careers involving math problems. No, I dreamed of selling things through the noble cause of advertising. Before I could legally drive, I crafted my first storyboard for a car commercial and decided to pursue a career as a creative in the advertising industry.
Thanks to my artsy maternal genes, I ended up on the path to becoming an art director. I steadily built a career as a designer — first designing brochures and reports for public utilities and transportation agencies, and then later, ads and promotions for burgers and fries. I worked in marketing for a fast food brand, and for the first time saw my work on a national stage and left my fingerprints on a recognizable brand name.
I also had the unique opportunity to design menus that complied with various state calorie count laws. As I typed each staggering (often 4-digit) number for a combo meal — paired with a 30-ounce liquid sugar bomb — my heart sank and my excitement began to wane.
An internal struggle was brewing. Part of me cheered on my burgeoning career making cool stuff for big brands, and the other part was ashamed at my complicity in our nation’s obesity epidemic and consumption addiction. A queasy feeling came with being the person behind the shiny signs shouting, “Buy me, I’m delicious!”
I looked for a new gig — one that would let me sleep better at night. Ironically, I landed at a branding agency that specialized in the food and beverage industry. I graduated from selling burgers and shakes to steaks and beer.
I convinced myself this was step in the right direction. It wasn’t fast food, I told myself, so it would be different.
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