Have you ever watched a commercial and said:
“I can do better than that!”
If so, you may very well be considering a career in advertising. But how do you know if this career is right for you? Read on, and see if these elements line up with your personality.
People working in the advertising would say that their industry is “where the money is,” since many companies invest a lot on promoting their products and services. Advertising agencies vary from global powerhouses to local-oriented offices. Either way, all agencies have the same basic structure.
There are six major departments in any advertising agency. These can be split into several sub-departments or given other names, but the main frame is still the same.
Account Planning and Service – This department is responsible for liaising with the agency’s clients, serving as a link between almost all departments within their company and the corporations they advertise for. Agents working in Account Services develop creative briefs, which are advertising campaigns with focus on the desired results rather than the aesthetics. While planning is responsible for research and strategic thinking. The Account Planning Department provides consumer insights, strategic direction, research, focus group discussions, and other important data that would help keep advertising campaigns targeted and consistent with the branding.
Creative – Often considered as the heart of an advertising agency, the Creative Department is responsible for developing advertisements we see on the media. Clients often judge advertising agencies by the creativity of the ads they put out.
Finance and Accounts – This department handles the money coming in and out of the agency. It hands out payment of salaries, benefits, vendor costs, travel, day-to-day business costs, and all other activities needed to do business.
Media Buying – The Media Buying Department procures when and where the advertisement appears. This covers all ads that can be placed for a free, including on television, radio, outdoors, magazines, newspapers, and websites.
Production – During the creative process, the Production Department is consulted whether certain ideas can be executed. This department also collaborates with the creative and account teams as the advertisement is being developed, making sure that the campaign is within the budget. Its activities include producing photographs or illustrations for print ads, hiring typographers and TV directors, editing the commercials, adding special effects among others. The Production Department also works with the Media Department, which provides specifications of the ads and the deadline for the jobs. Some advertising agencies have their own production departments, while there are also independent production companies that provide services to agencies.
Working in advertising is both rewarding and challenging. But for many people just starting out, the challenge seems to be getting their foot into an ad agency’s door. However, there are many ways you can overcome that barrier and land a job at an advertising agency.
- Intern at an Agency
Agencies look at interns as potential employees. If you have the opportunity to intern, by all means, you should.
Interning will help you get an “in” to the agency, but you’ll also be able to work in various areas you wouldn’t otherwise. Speak up and let the agency know you’re eager and willing to learn to get the most out of your internship. The experience you gain as an intern is invaluable and could lead to a permanent position.
- Take an Entry Level Position
It would be nice to walk right into a corner office with a view, plop down in your leather chair and start working with big name clients. Of course, it doesn’t work that way in the real world.
Many people have successfully started their career in advertising by taking ANY job in an agency, and then working their way up. Don’t be afraid to work outside of your job description. Get in there and learn everything you can. If you’re unable to move up within that particular agency, you can still use that experience to get you a job somewhere else.
- Do Freelance Work
If you’re interested in being a copywriter or graphic designer, consider freelancing as a way to get into the business. Coming up with your own rates, your own campaign to advertise yourself, and approaching small businesses and even agencies are all tools you can use in your agency job hunt.
You should have an online portfolio ready to go, and be available to network like crazy.
- Create Spec Ads
SPEC ADS take two forms. First, they can simply be your version, or recreation, of a published ad. You might think that you can do better than a major automaker’s print ads running in your favorite magazine. Or your local barber shop’s newspaper adsmight need some reworking. So, you do it again, but better. You can also do something completely off the wall, for products and brands that don’t even exist. The purpose of spec work is to show your creativity, and how you solve problems.
- Contact Radio and Television Stations
Many radio and TV stations have employees who specifically write commercials. They may also produce certain types of shows for the station. This is a great opportunity for you to get started in the business.Since most radio and TV stations don’t pay very much for these types of positions, there’s both
a high turnover and an opportunity for people with little or no experience to break into the field.
- Get an Advertising Education
Getting an education in advertising doesn’t just apply to college students. If you’re serious about working in an agency, you can learn a lot by taking a course. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pack up and move to your closest advertising school. The Internet has given so many people the opportunity to learn about advertising and what it takes to make it in the business from the comfort of their own home.
- Introduce Yourself to Key People
If you’re looking for a position on the creative side of advertising, send an email or write a letter to the Creative Director. Introduce yourself in a friendly, professional tone and give a brief bio. You may even go as far as creating your own social media campaign, or viral video.
Be sure you find out who the Creative Director is and not just address your letter: “To Whom It May Concern.” You want to approach this person just as you would a friend so get their name and the spelling right. You can follow up in a few weeks with an additional letter or you can give the Creative Director a call. Just don’t cold call them first. Anyone in an agency is going to be busy and especially someone in a management position who is juggling many projects at once.
- Network. Network. Network.
This is one of those businesses that live by the rule, “it’s not just what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Sometimes, all that separates two very talented people is an association with someone in the agency. Don’t be the one left behind because you don’t know the right people.
Look for opportunities to meet with people in your area that are actively working in the industry. Many cities have local advertising clubs that sponsor special events, educational seminars and professional workshops. Get out there and meet the people who could be your next potential employer.
- Try Working In Sales
It’s not exactly the same. There’s a big difference between advertising and sales, but being an account executive at a car dealership, for example, can help you bridge the gap between no experience and working in an agency. It’s also a good way to meet people, improve your selling techniques, and find out your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Be Very Enthusiastic
Are you passionate about working in advertising? Really passionate? Are you a hard worker that’s willing to commit to the job, even when that means you’re working well past the typical 9-5?
These are just some of the questions you have to really evaluate if you want to pursue a career in advertising. If you can honestly say, “Yes, absolutely,” then you need to convey that to a potential employer. Even in this day and age of hustle and bustle, employers are excited to see someone with genuine passion and enthusiasm. There’s a reason they got into the field and your energy is a reminder of that.
People with a lot of experience have been beaten out of the job by someone with less experience but a lot of heart. Personality goes a long way.
Finally, Siimon Reynolds, one of Australia’s most well-known advertising gurus and former creative director of ad agency Love offers three key pieces of advice for anyone intent on pursuing a career in advertising. ‘The first thing is, don’t give up. The second is, become an expert. And the third is, learn time management. There are so many people in the industry who are intelligent but don’t get much done during the day because their time management technique’s poor.’
You also have to be prepared to take any role in an agency that you can get. You’ll see how the business works, learn a lot from observation, meet the key players and be well-positioned to move into other roles when they come up. Consider doing work experience, network and get tips and advice from as many people as you can, and do your research so you’ll be well-informed about the business and any agencies you approach.
And don’t forget that passion and enthusiasm will get you far. As Brahe advises, ‘Approach even the most mundane task with passion and vigour. This is definitely the kind of career in which you want to be labelled as “The Passionate One”.’