A young artist starting out in the demanding advertising world; challenged through trials.
| Fall had settled over the San Francisco Bay area like a cold wet blanket. Jen, who normally dressed in long sleeves, found herself reaching for her black camel hair coat on the way out the door. She walked with a quick stride in the brisk wind, on this crystal clear day, to the cable car stop. As she walked, she pulled the two sides of her coat together and cinched her belt. Soon she found herself standing at the cable car stop, humming the tune “You Lift Me Up” from the music they had practiced at church the night before. It was a new song, but one that had a catchy tune.
Jen loved these cold mornings and enjoyed just standing there while she pondered on personal and work related problems. It also, gave Jen a chance to praise God for the beauty he had created around her and pray to him about everything. She knew if she prayed before starting her day, then her day would work out a lot smoother with God’s guidance.
The cable car arrived and Jen climbed on board. As usual, Jonah was already sitting down and motioned for her to join him. Though she would like to continue in her private musings, she did not want to seem rude, so she walked over and sat down next to him. She hadn’t seen him very much recently, due to her heavier than normal work schedule and him being out of town on business.
After a few uncomfortable moments, Jen broke the ice.
“So, tell me, how one from Texas comes to be a senior partner in an advertising agency, in such a short amount of time.”
“I grew up in the Houston area and then went to the University of Texas, where I got my Bachelors of Fine Arts. I loved the advertising classes so much; I decided to stay two more years and get my masters, even though I had several offers from ad agencies around the country. While I worked on my masters, I did work for a small ad agency there in Austin. Just before I graduated with my masters, I went to a job fair and the rest, you can say is history.”
“Where in Houston did you grow up?”
“Just outside of Houston in a small town called Sugar Land. My dad is a business executive in downtown Houston and my mom stays at home, but she keeps herself busy with several different clubs, playing tennis and volunteering for a child advocacy group,” Jonah expounded, “Now tell me more about you…I know you are from Napa Valley and you have three brothers. Tell me more about the bed and breakfast your family runs and the restaurant your dad owns.”
“Wow, you remembered all of that?” Jen stated, very impressed,”The bed and breakfast is in Napa. It is a large old Victorian house with the restaurant next door and an in-door pool and spa at the back of the house. It has one of the largest wineries in the area within walking distance. My mom and one of my brothers, Mark, run the B&B. My dad and other two brothers, Jim and Rob, run the restaurant. The restaurant has culinary delights from the northern part of California as well as a very well stocked wine cellar. My brother, Jim, is not only helping with the restaurant, but he is working on putting together his first cooking show for TV. He has already written several cookbooks.”
“You sound like you have a very talented family.” Jonah stated as he smiled.
“I like to think so. What about your brothers, what do they do?” Jen asked with a mild amount of curiosity.
“Steven is an engineer for NASA and Michael is a lawyer. He is currently running for judge and hopefully he will be elected in the November election.”
“Your brothers sound pretty impressive, too.” Jen stated hoping she didn’t sound overly impressed.
“We have all been known to be overachievers.” Jonah stated.
Jen and Jonah reached their destination and hopped off the cable car. They continued to chat as they entered the building and went to their respectful floors to begin their day’s work.
“Was that Mr. Stevenson I saw you get off the cable car with this morning, Jen?” asked Cindy, one of Jen’s co-workers.
“Yes, Cindy, it was. He must live somewhere close to where I live, because he is quite frequently on the same cable car as I am.” Jen stated innocently.
“Oh, I see.” Cindy appraised.
“Don’t read anything into this Cindy; I don’t make it a habit to date bosses.”
Cindy smiled and went on to her office.
Later that morning Jen sat in her office, taking a break and sipping a cup of tea. She pondered the reason God had put Jonah in her path.
“God, am I just a stepping stone for you to bring Jonah to you, or do you have other plans for Jonah?” Jen whispered.
Jen knew this was a question that might take time to be answered.
Jen looked up startled from her musings to find Mica leaning against her door frame.
“So, what has preoccupied your mind this morning?” Mica asked.
“I was just thinking about some personal matters.”
“Anything you wish to share, Jen?”
“It’s not important,” Jen quickly brushed the subject off, “Did you need me for anything?”
“Yes, I wanted to discuss the MacIntyre account with you.”
“What about it? I’ve been working hard on it and it should be ready to present by next Thursday.”
“Jen, it doesn’t have enough pizazz in it. It needs to be spiced up some, if you know what I mean?”
“No, Mica, I don’t know what you mean,” Jen stated somewhat frustrated with the insinuation.
“Jen, you need to put some sex appeal into it or MacIntyre won’t find it up to his high standard of what he demands from our agency.
“Mica, I will not use sex to sell a product. It goes against my moral beliefs and I will not lower myself to the standard of some other advertisers. I can sell a product and a client without involving sexual content in the ad.”
“Jen, I know you can, but the higher-ups are clamoring for more sex and less ‘goody-two-shoes’ kind of advertising…please don’t shoot me; I’m just the messenger in this case,” Mica stated as she cringed over having to talk to her friend in this managerial way.
“I knew this would happen sooner or later,” Jen sighed, “Mica, I cannot turn my back on my beliefs or morals just to make those above me happy. If I need to go talk to someone about it, then I will. I will not lower my standards.”
“Then, you will need to go talk to the partner in charge, Jonah Stevenson.”
Jen cringed. She knew that this would be an awkward fight, but she just couldn’t do what they were asking.
Jen exited the elevator on the thirty-second floor and took a deep cleansing breath as she walked up to Mr. Stevenson’s secretary.
“May I please see Mr. Stevenson, Lucy?” Jen addressed Jonah’s secretary.
“He’s on the phone, but I will let him know you are here,” Lucy replied nonchalantly.
Jen took a seat in the waiting area and flipped through a magazine thoughtlessly as she prayed for the right words to say.
“Lord, you know that I am yours and that I will not lower my standards or change my morals just because I have this job. Please help me to show Mr. Stevenson that this ad can be done without selling sex. If I can’t, then, I pray you will show me what you want me to do. I will give up this job if it means sacrificing my Christian beliefs and standards. Please guide me. Amen.”
Just then the tall mahogany doors opened and Jonah stepped into the waiting room.
“Jennalyn, to what do I owe this visit? Come on in to my office where we can talk.” Jonah asked with a lopsided grin on his face.
Jen followed Jonah into his large well-appointed office. He had a mahogany desk with a credenza and bookcases to match. A small sitting area which included, a brown leather couch and two brown leather chairs; around a large square rose granite topped coffee table. Even though the office spoke of city life the leather furniture and decorative western ornaments definitely brought in a hint of a Texan atmosphere. There were a couple of sofa size western paintings on two walls and a smaller collection of Texas Hill Country Bluebonnet paintings on another wall. The last wall was solid glass, which overlooked the city and bay facing north.
Seeing the low hills that were off in the direction of Napa Valley, gave her a feeling of comfort.
“Sit down, sit down,” Jonah stated, “Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you,” Jen smiled meekly, but with the assurance that God was with her.
Jen chose to sit in one of the chairs, rather than the couch so that she could have a feeling of support.
“So, tell me, why have you come to see me?”
“I’ve come to speak with you about the MacIntyre account.”
“Oh? Is there some sort of problem?”
“Mr. Stevenson,” Jen started.
“Jonah, call me Jonah.” Jonah stated with a mild amount of frustration over Jen’s formalities.
Jen hesitated for a moment and then decided to just jump in and express how she felt. “Okay, Jonah, when your firm hired me, I made it clear that I would not compromise my standards. I was hired because of my high values and how I would use them to advertise for clients. I have been told that this client wants to use sex to sell his ad. I have not, nor will I begin lowering my moral standards to sell products with sex. I know that is the general trend, but I will not do it. My work here has been top notch and very well received. I have not to this day used sex to sell any of the ads I have worked on. If you feel that my only choice is to do what the client has asked, then you can either fire me or reassign me to another client. If you agree with my standards, then I will need you to back me as I come up with a dynamite ad that will sell the product, but not with sex. It is your decision. If you can’t back me, then you will have my resignation within the hour.”
Jonah sat there for a minute thinking and letting what she had just said sink in.
“Jen, you are right that you have done an extremely good job of designing ads that sell the products without using sex. You are one of our best designers and I agree that you should not have to lower your convictions to sell the product. Before I decide what to do about this problem, I would like to see what you are proposing. Just remember, whatever it is has to be way out there, when it comes to knocking me and the client off our feet. Why don’t you bring me what you have and I will determine whether it will fly or whether I need to put someone else on this ad. I don’t want to lose you to another ad agency. You are, too good at what you do and we need you on our team. Why don’t you bring me what you’ve done by this afternoon and we will discuss what to do about this problem then.” Jonah instructed.
“Thank you, Jonah. I will be back around three, if that is okay?”
“That will be perfect.”
Jen left his office feeling temporarily relieved. She still had to go back and polish as much as she could before three o’clock in the afternoon.
As three o’clock was nearing, Jen felt that familiar pressure to meet the deadline.
Mica appeared in Jen’s doorway.
“You need any help?” Mica offered.
“Thanks, but I’m just about done.” Jen stated as she continued to work.
“I still can’t believe you walked into Mr. Stevenson’s office and told him you wouldn’t do it. When you told me at lunch I was dumbfounded. I still don’t get how you can do that without being fired.” Mica questioned.
“Mica, I told you, I prayed about it and left it in God’s hands. I promised God when I took this job that I would not allow the lowering morals and standards of the advertising industry to bring mine down as well. I asked God to guide me as I worked in this industry so that I can make a real difference. So far, God has blessed me and guided me to put out my best efforts. He hasn’t let me down, so far, so I know he won’t let me down now. That’s my only explanation.” Jen explained without looking up from her computer.
“Well, if God can do that for you, then maybe I’ll have to take a look or at least listen to what you have to say about God.” Mica stated with a sense of interest.
“I’ll hold you to that, Mica. Now, if you will excuse me, I have just one more thing to do and then I am ready.”
“Let me know what happens.”
“You can count on that,” was Jen’s reply.
Jen finished the ad and then picked up everything she needed and caught the elevator to the thirty-second floor. Once again, she found herself walking into Jonah’s office. She quickly set up her presentation boards and computer presentation.
Jonah watched with rapt attention as she expertly presented the product. Jen was quite polished with how to present her ads. She had no trouble capturing Jonah’s attention and his vote to move forward with the client. Jonah told Jen that he would set up a lunch date and meet with Mr. MacIntyre to try and convince him to listen to the presentation.
A week later, Jen found herself pacing in the back of the conference room as one of the members of the sells team, Larry, presented her final product to Mr. MacIntyre. She normally wouldn’t be there, but this ad was so important to her; she asked if she could attend the presentation. Mr. MacIntyre had agreed to view the presentation and wait to hold judgment after he had seen the ad.
Jen had used the last few days to polish the ad and commercial that she had come up with. Jonah had overwhelmingly approved of what she had done. Even to the point of saying it was the best work he had seen her do thus far.
Larry presented the jewelry ad flawlessly and then sat down to wait for Mr. MacIntyre’s reaction.
Mr. MacIntyre was not a man to easily read. He sat for quite a few minutes just thinking about what he had seen. Then, he broke into a smile.
“Larry, Jonah, I am not a man to make my mind up and then change it.”
Jen shifted nervously, not knowing where he was going with this.
“Jennalyn, you have definitely put together a great ad. One of the best I’ve seen. Jennalyn, I really did want you to put sexual content into this ad, because that is the way most ads are going now-a-days. But…when it comes down to it, you have designed an ad for my product beautifully and the fact that there is no sex involved makes it more intriguing. Larry, Jonah, you have sold me on this ad. It will definitely stand out because there is no sexual content. Thank you for a job well done. I look forward to seeing the ads on TV and on the billboards, in newspapers and magazines.
Jen left the room feeling completely relieved. She quickly whispered a prayer thanking God for his blessings and guidance.
Jonah quickly gathered up his work and stuffed it into his briefcase, with the hopes that he could catch up with Jen and convey his gratefulness.
Jen was standing outside the building speaking with Mica, when Jonah walked up.
“Hello, Mr. Stevenson,” Mica spoke as he approached, “Jen, I need to get home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Mica quickly moved down the street to catch her bus. She knew that Mr. Stevenson would want to speak to Jen privately.
“Well, Jen, you pulled off another incredible ad. That was one of our biggest clients and I want you to know I was a little more than just nervous. I put my neck on the line for you and you didn’t let me down. Thank you for sticking to your convictions. May I take you to dinner to thank you for landing this ad?”
“I’m sorry, Jonah, I can’t. I already have plans to eat dinner with my parents and then go home to spend a quiet night at home.” Jen stated, hoping she didn’t hurt his feelings.
Jen and Jonah climbed onto the cable car and rode in silence to their stops.
Jen met her parents in Sausalito for a quiet dinner to celebrate her finishing the MacIntyre account without compromising her standards. Jen explained to her parents how she had stuck to her beliefs and how Mr. Stevenson had backed her.
“Jen, Mr. Stevenson sounds like a wonderful man. Not every employer would be as gracious as he has been to your demanding terms.” Jen’s dad stated from a businessman’s point of view.
“I know, Dad, I appreciate all he has done for me.”
“Jen, just don’t put yourself in a bad situation.” Jen’s dad stated with an edge of concern in his voice.
“Dad, I don’t know what you mean?” Jen asked in a somewhat confused, yet innocent state of mind.
“Jen, you have been protected from a lot of the worldly ideas as you were growing up, but you need to know that there are some men out there that would expect something in return for supporting you and giving you that kind of break.” Jen’s dad said, concern written all over his face.
“Dad, I don’t think Jonah is that kind of man. Anyway, I know how to handle myself around men, who, as you say, want more for what they have done.” Jen stated with more bravado than she was feeling.
“I just want you to be careful.”
“I will, Dad.” Jen assured him.
Jen and her parents enjoyed a seafood dinner as they watched the sailboats coming into their slips for the night.
After dinner, Jen and her parents walked around Sausalito for a while as they talked about the B&B and more about Jen’s job.
Jen returned home and began getting ready for the next day when she heard a knock at her door. Jen peered out the door peep hole and saw a man standing there holding a bouquet of flowers. Jen opened the door as far as the chain would allow and asked if she could help the man who stood there. The man handed her a clipboard with a receipt on it for her to sign that showed she had received the flowers. She signed the receipt and then closed the door and took the chain off the hook, so she could open the door farther. The man handed her the vase of flowers and turned to go back to his car. Jen closed the door and anxiously looked for the card to find who the flowers were from. When she found the card, she stood there in shock as she read:
A job well done! It was signed, Jonah.
Jen stood there shocked, but happy that she had been appreciated.
The next morning, Jen crawled onto the cable car and sat down next to Jonah.
“Thank you for the flowers, but you didn’t have to do that.” Jen stated.
“Yes, I did. I couldn’t take you to dinner to show you my appreciation, so I had to send you flowers,” Jonah stated, feeling pleased with himself.
Jen sat there thinking about what her father had said the night before. She hadn’t expected Jonah to do anything, especially not send her flowers.
“Jonah, look, I appreciate you sending me the flowers, but I don’t think that you should do that again. I was just doing my job.” Jen said, hoping that she didn’t offend him.
“Jen, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated what you did. That was all. I am not the kind of guy to expect anything else. I would still like to take you out to dinner sometime, but if that makes you uncomfortable then I won’t push you.” Jonah stated sincerely.
Jen sat there and quietly nodded, not knowing what else to say.
As they rode the rest of the way to work, Jen prayed.
“Father, I don’t know what to say. There is something about Jonah that is different than any other man I have ever met. Please help me know what to do. I don’t want to put myself in a bad situation. I don’t think Jonah means to harass me, but I don’t know how to handle his desire to take me to dinner. Please help me sort out these feelings I have. I thank you for giving me a boss that supports my morals and ideas. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”