UT-Austin alumnus James Lamon applies liberal arts education to advertising world at BuzzFeed UK

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of James Lamon | Daily Texan Staff

A degree, a résumé and unwavering resolve.

This is all English, philosophy and government alumnus James Lamon had to his name when he stepped into his BuzzFeed interview in 2012. After securing an interview with the media company, Lamon immediately sold all his possessions, gathered some savings and bought a one-way ticket to New York.

“I had spent time looking at the job market (here in Austin) and felt like it wasn’t a good fit for me,” Lamon said. “I had this desire to see more of the world.”

Little did he know that this bold move would be the first step toward becoming creative director of BuzzFeed UK. As creative director, Lamon now oversees a department of designers, writers and other creatives behind the platform’s quirky, yet addictive, advertising content in London.

Although safe and secure in his position now, Lamon’s journey toward BuzzFeed was initially one of uncertainty. Having not used his undergraduate years to explore future careers, Lamon used his emotions to guide him toward a suitable occupation.

“I had all of this energy and passion and (wanted to be) doing something and working somewhere that was exciting,” Lamon said. “Everyone I knew was sort of trying to be academic and working odd jobs on the side, whereas I just wanted to be a part of a team.”

A New York Magazine article about BuzzFeed’s utilization of native advertising, the process by which advertisers tailor ads to fit the platform they appear on, ended Lamon’s search for employment. Although he lacked advertising experience, Lamon applied for BuzzFeed’s fellowship.

“The thing that’s fun about advertising is that a brand presents you with a challenge, and your job is to come up with the solution,” Lamon said. “And I love that. It really ties together so many of the things I like.”

Lamon finished his fellowship and kicked off his career at BuzzFeed as a junior creative in September 2012 and has produced around 300 to 400 BuzzFeed posts since his hiring. Despite having hundreds of posts to his name, Lamon also said that the advertising industry has rejected hundreds more in a heartbreaking process he dubs as “kill(ing) your darlings.”

“Most of your darlings are going to die — the vast majority of them,” Lamon said. “I’m hesitant to say that’s the worst part of my job, though. Because it’s those moments of sadness and disappointment that make the moments of victory so sweet anyway.”

Lamon celebrated more victories as he worked up the company’s hierarchy, filling the creative director position this January. However, Lamon said these promotions also come with difficult adjustments, such as moving to London and taking on a growing list of responsibilities.

“You begin to feel as though you’re a plate spinner,” Lamon said. “There’re so many things going on and a bunch of people working on different (projects).”

In a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. workday, Lamon works with clients to pitch concepts to brands and oversees his department’s wide array of editorial content while producing his own work. Lamon said a liberal arts degree has enabled him to find clarity in communication in the advertising world.

“Just being a good writer, being able to clearly articulate your thoughts is absolutely essential (in the working world),” Lamon said. “If you can’t explain them clearly, you’re clearly out of luck.”

Lamon encourages anyone hoping to fill his shoes to broaden their horizons, setting their job prospects past the borders of the Lone Star State.

“Texas is a very sticky place because it’s big,” Lamon said. “Dive into sort of a bigger pool. You never know what life will bring you, and you will never regret the experience of venturing out and taking yourself out of your comfort zone.”