How to get a job in... advertising

How to get a job in... advertising

Want to work for BBH, Blink or M&C Saatchi? 5 golden tips to help get you there


Are you mad about Mad Men? Do you love the idea of working in a fast-paced, creative industry where you can make some very good money? Thought so. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one – sorry! As you probably know the advertising industry is seriously competitive, so to give you a head start we’ve grilled our contacts in “adland” and found five golden tips to help you on your way. 

DO love adverts

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? But loving the Beyoncé Pepsi advert, or thinking the Dance Pony Dance virals (that’s ad speak for online ads) are a work of genius, isn’t going to cut it. Ad people are obsessed with ads – and they expect you to be too. You’ll need to know and understand advertising campaigns. So don't just watch TV (although do that too!), but read industry mags like Campaign and Brand Republic, follow advertising blogs and check out the latest winners of the D&AD awards – otherwise known as the “yellow pencil awards” which are the industry’s equivalent to the Oscars. 

DON’T expect Mad Men

This isn't the 1960s. We have colour TV, you can’t smoke indoors and work isn't one long party! Advertising has come a long way since the sixties (the era when the TV series Mad Men is set), and our insiders tell us things have changed – a lot. They work long hours – often very late into the night as well as weekends – and, thankfully, women now hold as many senior roles as men. 

DO your time as a runner

Action: Find out more about becoming a runner

Running is a rite of passage in adland. Whether it’s directing, producing, planning, editing, art directing, researching – you name it, having experience as a runner will help you run to success. There are plenty of advertising degrees out there, but insiders tell us that often it’s by running that you really learn the business. And remember, you don’t always need a degree to be a runner.

Once you’ve landed your running job, try not to get intimidated – lots of the people around you, no matter how senior, will have started out as runners. One ex-runner (who is now a celebrated copywriter) told us that the first shoot she ran on was a terrifying experience: “We were shooting a campaign for Weight Watchers in the US. The budget was huge and the crew was massive – but I had no idea what I was doing! I soon noticed the bins kept overflowing so made it my mission to keep them empty and to generally keep the set very clean and tidy – oh, and I didn't sit down once throughout. At the end of the shoot the first AD [that’s the first assistant director, and the person who runs the shoot and someone you need to impress] said I was brilliant and requested that I always ran on his shoots!”

DON’T expect things to happen overnight

There are no hard and fast rules to getting a job in advertising – but determination, common sense and a can-do attitude will get you somewhere. One insider told us how it was only after bombarding one particular production company with emails and letters asking for (unpaid) work experience that eventually he was offered a two-week stint helping the runners out. In that time he managed to impress his colleagues so much that when the company’s receptionist left he was offered the job. He did his time on reception (around 18 months) before gradually climbing the ranks and is now an executive producer.

The same applies for creative teams (that’s the art director and advertising copywriter duos who think up concepts for adverts) when looking for their first job. It’s not uncommon for creatives to work in non-ad jobs while they build up their portfolios in their spare time. Building up portfolios and doing the rounds presenting your ideas to agency execs is just part and parcel of the process  – and can take, literally, years before you get offered a job. The good news is that starting salaries are quite high (usually around £20-£25,000 a year) and if you prove yourself you should be promoted quickly. 

DO learn the lingo

Don’t know your PPM from your CPC to your second AD? All industries have jargon – and advertising’s no different. Go online, read blogs, read the magazines and familiarise yourself with the terminology. Here’s a few to get you started:

PPM = pre-production meeting
PPC/CPC = pay per click/cost per click (refers to online adverts – the client pays each time an advert is clicked)
Second AD = Second assistant director and is the person who assists the first AD. Really big shoots will have a third AD and sometimes even a fourth AD.

Now go forth and conquer! Find out more about advertising, marketing & PR on Plotr.

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