Monday, 29 April 2013

Bye Bye AdGrads, hello AdMISSION...

Bye bye, all. See you at the Ad-Mission...

Hello, everyone.

This is quite a hard post to write. 

I (Will) have written AdGrads for about five and a half years now - and, to get to the point, AdGrads is moving to become part of the IPA's graduate recruitment blog, the AdMission

Initially, AdGrads was begun by the four of us. Myself, Anton Reyniers, Alex Jena and Sam Ismail. The blog was originally meant to stand as a counterpoint to the dearth of Advertising advice out there. The IPA had a good fact file on agencies, but there was nothing out there that *really* showcased what life was like when getting in as a graduate.

The seeds were sown when my blog (‘Confessions of a Wannabe Ad Man’, now living here, and still being updated, happily) and Anton & Sam’s blog (‘Ad Lads’) seemed to have the same, underlying purpose - to document what the first steps in Advertising were really like.

People sometimes asked us, ‘have you ever accepted any money for blogging?’ And, I’m pleased to say that no, no-one at AdGrads has. We have always written and posted help and advice because it was the right thing to do. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the blog has had an obvious upside for us - AdGrads has always believed that by helping people out, it’ll benefit the agency sector and help us out when we’re more senior. More bright people equals better work, which in turn, equals better place/s to work - places that aren’t staffed by nepotism and privilege, which was one of the big driving forces behind AdGrads’ inception.

What’s more, over the past few years, I’m pleased to say the blog’s helped a lot of people and agencies recruit and be recruited - examples that range from helping Leo Burnett with their revamped graduate scheme to writing for The Guardian. Personally, as I’ve become the sole writer of the blog, I’ve met a whole lot of bright, vivacious, interesting people who will be the agency stars of the future. I hope, in some small way, that AdGrads has helped them.

Finally, and most encouragingly, I’m delighted to say that as Sam, Alex, Anton and myself became busier and less able to contribute as much as we did back in 2007, the IPA have really stepped up their efforts to help provide different perspectives about how to get into the business. Recent IPA presidencies have made graduate recruitment a priority, which is utterly brilliant.

With that in mind, the IPA have launched the AdMission. You can read more about it here. I (Will) will be writing there periodically - and it'll use 'the best of AdGrads' to help add to its content; however, more to the point, there will be another generation of AdGrads who will be writing about their adventures in the business. Anton, Alex, Sam and myself are now more removed from graduate experiences, and, given that we have less time, it’s good, right and appropriate for the next generation to step up. I wish them all the luck in the world. 

Read what they have to say here - the Ad-Mission should be your first point of call for graduate recruitment queries.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. The blog won’t be deleted (even if I wanted to delete it, I’m not the admin - Sam is, and I’ve not been in touch with him for a while); it will still provide a useful resource for those searching for ‘AdGrads’. Similarly, the twitter account will remain, but I’d urge those who follow it to follow the IPA/Ad-Mission twitter account.  

P.P.S. If, for some reason or another, you’d like to meet for some graduate advice, I’m more than happy to meet for a coffee before work. Email me at william.humphrey [AT] 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Some practical advice...

Borrowed from here. Usual rules apply. 

I thought that it might be a good idea to talk a little bit about something most graduate schemes (and indeed, the industry) seem to neglect. The practical side.

For those of you who don’t live in the South East of the country, getting into Advertising - (or, at the very least, getting some work experience so you can make your mind up) seems doubly tricky; because a) You don’t know anyone in London or have anyone you can stay with and b) Most of the graduate schemes or work experience programmes are closed/you’ve not heard anything back from those few emails you sent to a general email address most agencies offer.

Before I go on, I do know there are agencies outside of London. Of course. There are many fine agencies in Manchester or Birmingham.  But, given that the bulk of agencies are in London (and London is what I have experience of, as a West Midlander who wanted to work in London), that’s what this blog post will concern itself with. The same, general rules apply for any big city, I think - whether it’s within Blighty or the US.

Right. There are two flavours of practical advice you need to concern yourself with, which I’ll outline below:

1) Proving that you know about/want a career in Advertising

Over the past six odd years, I have met a lot of people who have seemingly done everything right - they have a good degree, have already made in-roads into meeting people in Advertising and may even run their University or College’s Marketing/Advertising student club.

Despite this, they haven’t been able to get in. I’m afraid (and I had to learn this the hard way) that there’s a gap between being academically adept and getting into the industry. This puts a lot of bright people off, chiefly because they’ve been used to getting good marks and simply progressing. ‘Getting in’ is not an empirical thing. There isn’t a magic route. Some people are simply fortunate by getting in via their first interview. Others, like me, have had to have a year or so getting work experience, living at home and saving money before they finally succeeded.

That said (and I don’t wish to hector or belabour the point), there are definitely short cuts you can use.

I did several things to prove that I knew about and really wanted a career in Advertising. I blogged, showcased my situation and my thinking and tried to connect, via twitter, with a wider number of Ad-folk. There wasn’t one magic, ‘eureka’ moment. It all worked together to help me get into the business.

Whilst, I know, more people blog than ever nowadays (at the time, in 2005/6, ad blogs were fairly new, much less a wannabe, graduate blog), not enough grads use Slideshare to showcase their thinking/situation. Consider using it - it’ll help provide an introduction to those potential agency employers when sending those initial emails to agencies.

If you can, email a named person, not just a generic email address. A real person has responsibility. A 'wanttowork' email has very little obligation to get back in touch with you.

2) Getting to, and living in London.

This, for most, will prove to be the biggest stumbling block. You don’t need me to tell you that London is bloody expensive, and if you don’t have family members/friends living here, it seems like a right bloody faff.

It needn’t be. There are ways and means for getting down to the Big Smoke and having somewhere to live. For starters, unless you’re loaded, don’t consider a short term let. The chances are, you’ll need to be in London for a week to about six weeks, depending on what you’ve been able to get (work experience, or a summer school programme; or even just a day of graduate interviews).

Instead, consider youth hostels. Yes, I know. YOUTH HOSTELS?! If you went travelling, you probably last encountered them somewhere halfway round the world, or somewhere to be put up on a school trip. Suffice to say, neither memory is likely to be wholly positive.

I’m pleased to say that the YHA is a brilliant option. I stayed in one when I had work experience at Fallon, DLKW and Saatchi & Saatchi. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly the Ritz, but it’s good value for money and gives you breakfast, which is the important thing.

Yes, London is costly, but if you’re savvy (the Taste Card is a good shout for evening meals) and stay in the right sort of accommodation, it is affordable, no matter who you are. And, personally, it helped spur me on to do my best at my work experience to try and turn it into a full time position.

I hope that little lot helps, all.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The LSU need YOU...

They made this. They make a lot of stuff. Nicked from Almost Always Thinking. Usual rules apply.

Hello gang.

There's a new vacancy going at the LSU (the London Strategy Unit). They've been in touch with us here at AdGrads towers.

Below is the job spec. It's a fairly broad one, so there's every chance you'd be in with a chance if, like a lot of our readers, you have multiple skills and aren't sure if you're a planner, account handler or otherwise:

"We're looking for a couple of researchers, writers or journalist types to help us produce insightful and entertaining content. You'll need to be brand and business savvy as well as having a good knowledge of culture and trends.

Those without a curious mind need not apply.

If this sounds like you, and you're interested - send your CV and no more than 150 words on what makes you the right person for the job to recruitment at"

Sounds fascinating, eh? They have some of the brightest minds in the business working for them, and it would be a great move for several of you.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The final week for the IPA Ad School...

The logo looks like this. Honest.

Hello all.

Not sure if you realised this, but the IPA (the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) have an excellent summer school, and it closes at the end of this week. They've been in touch with AdGrads to get us to let you guys know about it. So, on with the show:

“This is the final week for applications for this year’s IPA Ad School, a fantastic chance to spend your summer in one of the UK’s top agencies. There are three programmes: Client Services & Planning, Creative and Search. Alongside 8 weeks of work experience, you’ll also attend weekly evening sessions from industry luminaries – a great chance to learn, ask questions and network with some seriously senior folk. Client Services & Planning and Creative students will also take part in a group project which is pitched at graduation, while Search students leave the School with two industry-respected qualifications: the IPA Search Certificate and the Google Adwords Certificate.

There are some fantastic agencies lined up – we’ve not released the full list but do a little research and you’ll see that Leo Burnett and Publicis are amongst this year’s crop. Last year over 70% of our students were offered jobs or extended placements so while there’s no guarantee, the odds are definitely in your favour.

This year’s School runs from 1st July-23rd August and is open to second-years and above, including graduates. You needn’t have any prior experience or any kind of portfolio or book; all we want from you is great ideas, bundles of enthusiasm, and lots of hard work.

Upon successful completion of the programme, students receive a prize sum (£800 for Client Services & Planning and Creative and £1,500 for Search). Travel within zones 1-2 is paid.

But don’t just take my word for it – hear from last year’s Ad School graduates.

Whether you’ve always wanted to work in advertising or whether it’s a career you’ve never considered before, the IPA Ad School is the perfect way to try the industry to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Apply now for IPA Ad School 2013; the deadline is 11:59pm on 12th April.

If you’ve any questions please email adschool at or find us on Facebook.

Good luck, all.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Want to work at WCRS?

A range of some of the clients you'll be working on...all being well...

Of course you do...and they've been in touch!

WCRS have a summer work experience program, and have detailed the full shebang below. Have a read, gang:

WCRS Work experience applications now open

"Applications for the WCRS Summer work experience scheme are now open. We are looking to recruit up to 8 outstanding candidates for an account handling placement between June and August. Whether you have recently graduated or are due to graduate this summer, we are keen to hear from you.

With clients ranging from Sky to BMW and Churchill to Warburtons, we will offer successful applicants the opportunity to work on some prestigious accounts and get a hands-on taster of what it’s like to work in a Top 10 integrated creative agency. This is a well-established scheme and previous candidates who have impressed us during their work experience stint have gone on to secure permanent roles here at WCRS.

You could come and work with these lovely people.

Please click here to apply.

You must submit your completed application form by 11.00pm on 19th April 2013. We will be in touch with successful candidates in May to arrange placement dates. Please note: this scheme is intended mainly for people looking to work in account handling or planning.
If you’ve got any questions, please email workexperience at".

UPDATE: It is unpaid. Sorry for not pointing that out.

Good luck, gang.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Graduate Memories & An Exeter Apology...

Me, today.

Hello, Exeter folks (or regular AdGrads student readers).

As you may or may not have noticed, I’m not there speaking today. Sorry about that.

By way of an apology, I’ve decided to write a blog post. Not just any blog post, either. One that, I hope, is helpful for those who are deciding whether a career in communications* (*PR, Advertising in this case) is the right thing for you. It features a bit of my story and some of the lessons I've learned along the way. Read on...

Once upon a time in my first year, I wandered up from Birks (the old one, not the shiny new Birks Grange – this one resembled something like a 1950’s prison) and went to see the careers folks. I was told I should either become a teacher or a solicitor (NB: Exeter's career service is now excellent, but when I was graduating, finding the right job was a bit trickier for the average English student).

Being an English undergrad at the time, both seemed, well, a bit creatively sterile** (**they are creative in their own way, but I was interested in making stuff; y’know, stuff with my own name attached to it in some way – the English student’s creative conceit, I think).

They also, if I'm honest, seemed a bit grown up. And, as a 19 year old man-child who could barely cook for himself, never mind entertain the notion of a ‘proper’ job, I wasn’t overly enthused:

"COULDN’T a job encourage my creative side? DO I have to wear a suit every day, anyway? WHY can't I be paid well for thinking about and helping to create ideas?"

In a way, I was lucky. I knew of one from the start. That was Advertising. I’d been fortunate enough to grow up in a household in the West Midlands where my father was involved with managing an ad agency. I’d been able to find out about the inner-most workings of how ads got made, and the process of talking to clients, conducting research and creating creative work to solve a client’s business problem/s.

Account handlers (account executives when junior, rising through account manager to account director and beyond) were the day to day liaison with the client – the business minded sorts who sold work to the client and generally ensured everything went smoothly. Account planners were the ones who analysed the marketplace, trends and helped some up a defined problem for communications to solve (in the form of a creative brief), assessing the work as/after it was made. Creatives – art directors, copywriters (and even digital/tech developers) were those who came up with the ideas to help clients sell more products or amplify consumer behaviour.

With all of this prior knowledge and career advice bubbling in the background, I got on with the serious*** (***it wasn't that serious – not with my amount of hours) business of getting a degree. And, I got one. And it was lovely, and all that. Mum was very proud.

Knowing what I know now, I should have tried to get some work experience in the holidays. If you’re reading this as a first or second year student, try and do it as soon as you can, even if it's just one stint. Of course, I wasn’t from the South East, and this poses a massive problem for most people – how do you come to a major ad agency (the overwhelming majority of whom are based in London) if you can’t live at home or don’t have friends in the area?**** (**** the answer is ‘stay in a youth hostel’, for those who’re thinking about it).

Anyway, that’s an aside. I applied to lots of ad agency graduate schemes, all of which I found out through the IPA (the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) or through my Dad/googling. And, I was confident. I had a good degree, after all. So, what happened next?

Total rejection.

After the first interview (at Leo Burnett, who run a very fine graduate programme), I was rejected from every other place without an initial chat. You might say it was a bit of a set back.

After completing a few pieces of work experience (at Fallon and DLKW)…with even more rounds of rejection… I had a conversational language. I knew how to speak ‘ad’; I was comfortable when talking about ideas in ads – about what ads were trying to achieve and what they could have been.

I’d urge EVERY person reading this who’s thinking about advertising or comms to practice this, and to ask questions of it – what is the comms trying to say? What do you like about it? Or, better yet, what do you dislike? (NB: Check the AdGrads archives for more information; there's lots about this in there).

Spurred on by this, I started a blog***** (***** back when blogging was a new, fairly useful way of standing out; it’s less useful now, as everyone's doing it.) documenting my adventures in adland. The blog, called ‘Confessions of a Wannabe Ad Man’, can now be found here. All of the archives are there, and I think they helped me when explaining how and why I liked Advertising.

Because of these experiences, I eventually got into account management at Saatchi & Saatchi, where I was a fairly terrible account handler. Happily, I was a better planner. I have worked at Lowe, Edelman, Anomaly and M+C Saatchi/LIDA. I’m still at the latter.

That’s my story.

After going through this experience, I've picked up the odd lesson. I hope these are useful:
  1. Mentors are the most important part of communications (and indeed, any job). With a good one, you learn exponentially and have someone to test things on. Without one, you are prone to free wheeling.
  2. Start big, get smaller. The bigger agencies have the time and resource to train you properly. The small ones, though you learn a lot through doing, you un the risk of not learning properly. You can always work at that sexy small agency. Far better to work there when you know the basics well. 
  3. Think about how you communicate. It’s a bit wanky to say ‘you’re a brand’, but you must be able to prove why you like communications, and be able to be found. If I googled you, would I find you and your opinions/interests? No? Then why do you want to work in communications?
  4. Keep track of your favourite on your lateral thinking. What’s the best example of thinking you’ve seen to solve a problem? It can be non comms led (ideally it would be marketing-based), an ad, something you’ve done or so on – but it must show a clever lateral thought to solve an associated problem. Keep a log of your favourites. They’ll help when demonstrating how you think about the world in an interview.
  5. Don’t get disheartened. Rejection is part and parcel of the game. Before every relevant job or decision, I have been rejected far more than I’ve been accepted. The trick is to use it to spur you on. After all, Advertising is a trade, not a profession. There’s rarely one way to solve a problem, or indeed, one straightforward way to get in.
Exeter folks, I’ll try to be there next time. Honest.

Feel free to email me on William.Humphrey at if you have any further questions.

Good luck to any student reading this.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Junior Planner gig at Razorfish/Digitas...

I doubt you'll actually be working with a REAL one....although...

Hello, gang.

Bit of a random one, this, as it's further flung than our usual remit. However, given the odd email we receive from around the world, I hope it helps someone who's based abroad.

Razorfish/Digitas in Hong Kong are looking for a Junior Planner to join their team, working into the wise chap Ben De Castella (you can read his blog here or his twitter here).

More can be found below:

"We’re looking for a Planner here in Hong Kong to work on regional accounts across Asia Pacific – integrated creative campaigns as well as digital stuff. You might have a year or two's experience in a digital or ATL agency, either as a planner or someone who’s keen to become one. 

As it’s a junior role, we don’t expect you to have all the answers on day one - but fluent spoken and written English is essential. Cantonese, Mandarin or another Asian language is also highly valued - so we’re especially keen to hear from local candidates."

You can find out even more information here.

Good luck, gang.