Monday, 10 December 2007

The Month of Destiny

Almost there.

For those of you final round-ing this week and next, we wish you well (I still don't know what to do for my presentation at AMV). We have a couple of posts lined up before the holidays, but they'll have to wait for a few more days.

Waiting for agencies to get back to you after final rounds is agonising..

Oh and our 2nd round post is here.

Finally (last thing I promise), Bernard is back with his latest post about life in the grad recruitment blender. Check it out at AdGrads Brand Republic.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

A Segway

We're still here guys, but super busy, I'm at DDB today at 11 and TBWA tomorrow, but will write something up over the weekend I promise.

Hope you guys are all getting good news.


Monday, 3 December 2007

Make Time For A Moustache

I'm pretty sure you don't need any words right here.

Alex is growin a tache, a mo, some face get the picture. Not cause he wants to (well he may want to, but I'm gonna go with the he doesn't want to slant), but because he's a giving a kinda guy. He's doing it for The Prostrate Cancer Charity and started growing that bad boy a month ago. Now I know from first hand experience that getting your handlebar on is no easy thing, so I'm asking all y'all (cause he's too nice to) to help make sure that his efforts are not in vain.

Head over to Movember and give to a great cause, click on 'sponsor a mo bro' and enter our brave soul's donor number: 120394.

Thanks everyone.

Friday, 30 November 2007

When What You Want Isn't What You're Getting

Grad recruitment isn't the be all and end all

We've all been quiet over the last week but in our defense we do have good excuses. Anton has (as usual) high-tailed it out to the Middle East for some winter sun, Alex is growing a classy tache (which you'll hear more about) and Will has been waist deep in the art of planning.

What about me? Well like a lot of us, I've had some first round interviews this week, I had JWT on Monday, M&C Saatchi on Wednesday and AMV on Thursday. I think they all went ok, but as is the nature of the beast, you only know how it went when you're told. And waiting is a big pain.

A lot of you have asked us for a post about other ways into the industry, and it's something that we'll go a little bit deeper into in the early part of next year, but as a starter, I hope this is useful.


There are nothing but rejection letters on your desk and in your inbox, your friends are asking in lectures how the interviews went, you have a dissertation to do and feel deflated or all you can see is another year ahead without a grad training job as you’ve held out for the previous round with no joy.

Well, it doesn’t have to be so shit. Firstly if you’re still at uni you will need to drag yourself up to focus on your finals, without a 2:1 it’ll be hard to find a grad training scheme anyway. If you’ve finished uni there is still a boat to catch.
There is an emerging trend where agencies don’t actually practice the usual grad recruitment which is the usual 2 stage interview process. Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Publicis now use their Summer Schools as grounds to recruit for their grad training schemes, so keep a close eye on their websites.

Also there is the other way which isn’t the traditional grad route. It’s to join an agency as a junior account exec. This is where you pretty much feel like you’re on work experience, don’t receive the training the grads get and usually paid a little less. But it is actually one of the best ways to enter the industry.

While the grads get pampered with training, you, as an account assistant, are thrown into the thick of it where you’re expected to be a strong support line to your account team. You’ll learn quicker than the grads and you’ll be under more pressure than the grads. If you’re worried that you’ll do twice as much work as the grads and not get promoted like they are think again. Agencies are very prude when making promotions and it usually is made on merit especially at the more junior levels so this is still a great chance to enter and climb the ladder of the ad industry.

So how do you go about becoming an account assistant if you’ve missed the grad recruitment boat? Well, firstly you need to have some kind of experience within agencies. Account assistants are usually hired because they were a close choice to being on the grad rounds and usually its experience that speaks volumes. So if you don’t have any get on the blower to some agencies and organise the odd 1 or 2 week stint or apply to the summer schools as you could still make a grad scheme. Once you have the experience and a paper reference from it, you can start approaching agencies.

Start by finding out which agencies have just won large accounts and jump on them straight away (large wins are usually screamed about in Campaign and at BrandRepublic). What usually happens with a large account win is that the agency will start to organise moving key people off other accounts to front the new one, it’s pretty much all hands on deck - a perfect opportunity for a budding account assistant who rings the agency, tells them they are ready to go to work and help out where needed. Don’t be disappointed if the first few say ‘no thank you’, like all things it’s a trail and error process. If you really want it you’ll come across an agency that is looking.

Sign up with some recruitment agencies (eg. Pathfinders), Google for the ones who specialise in advertising/marketing and be prepared to go with an agency in digital, marketing services, DM as well as the large networks.
The point being is that just because you didn’t get into a grad recruitment scheme it doesn’t have to mean that advertising isn’t for you. It could have been a number of things that just were not in your favour on the day and how can a lifelong career be judged simply off an interview that lasted maybe 30 mins?
Well….it can’t so if you really want it go about making it yours through whatever means necessary!

And don't give up.

Monday, 26 November 2007

The difference between.....

So what’s the difference to working in a branding agency (TV, Press and Print) to a marketing services agency (DM, POS, Digital etc) to a content marketing agency (TV programming, Events and Publishing )?

Well, quite a considerable amount. Whilst in a traditional ATL setup you’ll find that rigorous data that substantiates an agency’s recommendations is quite hard to obtain and manipulate in order to stand up in court. As a result creative recommendations are based on research such as forums where ad concepts are tested on a small group of consumers in order to gauge a positive or negative reaction. This is usually conducted by a research agency which have been instructed and overseen by an ATL planner. Results are summarised and then feedback to the client with the agency’s point of view on how such concepts will create a particular image for the brand. However, client’s are now starting to view ATL agencies more as production houses where original ideas are then amended by the client in order to meet how they wish the advertising should look and feel. Some argue this is right considering that the client knows their brand better than any other and others feel this is wrong whereby the agency is the creative consultant and understands how the science of advertising works on consumers that and at the end of the day what agency wants to produce creative that doesn’t work? Therefore the work in ATL agencies is heavily reliant on ideas based outside of data and then are tested.

In terms of the work what you’ll find in the marketing services/BTL agency is that you micro manage projects. There is significantly more detail to cover and much more data to comprehend which is far more reliable when substantiating an agency’s recommendations. What I mean by this is that when on an account such as one in the retail sector your team is not only working towards creating new campaigns based on a client’s brief (pro active servicing) but you are also managing day to day client’s needs (re active servicing) such as maintenance of your client’s website which mainly consists of copy changes. The plus for the client is that they can brief an agency to change the copy on their homepage and this can be updated within a matter of hours. Outside of this you naturally gain a closer understanding of your client’s consumer and this is through heaps of data from footfall stats, to offer redemption stats to website traffic stats. So whilst it is therefore only natural that whilst going through the motions of your day to day activity you pick up a sharper picture of a client’s business along with the environment in which they touch consumers – the retail experience and what kind of POS they use i.e. where purchases are actually made.

The new trend of content marketing is quite an exciting industry sensation right now. With heavy restrictions on TV advertising and the risk of ill targeted BTL mediums (blanket DM drops, pop up digital banners) brands are now considering developing their own media platforms. What better way to get closer to your consumer than providing them with entertainment and have that media platform pay for itself? To elaborate, lets take publishing. You advise your client Levis to develop a monthly magazine. You bring in writers for articles in your magazine that are close to the brand so you develop content based around fashion, music and other youth trends. You can then approach other brands in line with yours (Apple for i-pod, Peugeot for the 206, The Tate Modern for innovative art etc) so they have an opportunity to advertising in your magazine….and they pay for the media space in exchange for your distribution channels of that magazine. So after printing and distribution you have a business model that not only creates a new platform for your brand (Levis magazine) but also it pays for itself through media sales. Furthermore, you control the access to your media platform so only brands that have a positive association are used in your magazine, this also means keeping your competitors out. If done right this is pretty much a huge area to exploit in the marketing service tool box. In terms of working, it’s creative, it’s entrepreneurial and it requires you to have your ear to the ground to what consumers are doing in their day to day life and where their interests lie. Other examples of content are events such as Innocent smoothies holding Fruit Stock in Regent’s Park.

So there is vast difference in what these agencies do and how they do it. The question now faced is how do you bring these together? How do you tie this offering under one roof and hand a client over the table a fully stitched together proposal of recommendations on every level. Will the agency of the future have account handlers, planners and creatives that are able to converse in all these mediums rather than having a specialist over here and another over there?
Anton xxx

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Gut Feeling..

Not mine, happily.

Post of that gut aside, this is a thought about you and your instincts.

Just say, in next week's interview chaos, you get to an agency you like and admire. You've seen their TV, their print makes you want to be a better person, and the online work is the reason Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet.

That is, until you sit in reception. You look around and notice just how worried all the agency's staffers look. Surely, this wasn't in the brochure? And, lo and behold, you get a feeling that this place might not be for you.

It's even worse if you meet and interview with people who don't inspire you (though bear in mind that you are more than likely the 40th odd person they've seen today), and leave with an bad taste in your mouth.

Some occasions will be like this, and (most of the time, in my experience) your gut feeling about a place will be right. Just don't be too quick to prejudge; I've interviewed at the same place, years apart, and gotten a thoroughly different opinion of it, depending on who was doing the work.

Finally - for God's sake, don't let the creative quality of an agency blind you. Some of the most fun places to work in adland may not necessarily have the best output at the moment. And who's to say that's down to the agency? As the old saying goes, clients get the work they deserve - it may be this, or it could be a whole raft of reasons.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Taking A Blind Corner

There was going to be a cool caption here, but I'm too tired now..

Today is kind of like the rounding the first corner of a road that is totally unknown to you. As of about 6pm tonight, there will be a handful of agencies left for us all to apply to, and many of them haven't started their respective processes yet. Off the top of my head, only DAS and Iris are open right now, with Leo Burnett, Publicis, Ogilvy and DraftFCB yet to show their hands.

I feel relieved. Out of all the applications, the only one I didn't do was BMB, because at some point I felt I had to give my degree some time before it's too late.

I think next week is chock full of interviews, so I'm hoping everyone does well in all the ones they have. As a reminder, interview advice is here and here.

Also if you haven't heard anything good from the places you've applied to, don't worry because throughout the year and the summer there will be formal and informal opportunities to get your foot in the door, we'll cover some of these in future posts.

Application season might be turning into interview season, but we're not done yet. For tonight though, I am.


Thursday, 22 November 2007

You're only human after all

Hi all, hope all is going well with interviews etc. Do let us know either here or on Facebook. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about different agencies and their different approaches to advertising. I had lunch yesterday with the extremely clever Paul Edwards and discussed the opposite ends of the spectrum. At one end you have the very logical, very academic and very craftsmanship agencies. They usually produce some great work but it takes them a long time to get there. You then have the young energetic agencies at the other end who work quicker, with more excitement and base their work on instincts and gut feelings. These usually operate in the very creative realms. You then have some that fall in the middle, have little identity and struggle to be one or the other. They produce safe, uninspiring and vanilla advertising. Isn’t it strange that considering agencies are meant to be the master of branding that some are actually pretty poor at it. However, one thing that will mark your success in either of these places is the fact that you’re human.

Being a consciously aware human that craves collecting cultural references I think is very important for those moving into advertising. Your job is essentially to understand other humans so the more you observe people interacting with one another, brands, events, music, art, travel everything and anything. Whatever agency ‘type’ you decide to go with the one criteria that I think will unite you all is your love of people watching. I’m also a big believer that the simplest strategies are the most potent and engaging. Therefore understanding what turns you on, your friends is great material for entering ad agencies. So, after this long winded brain dump I would encourage you to keep your thinking as honest, simple and articulate when you start having your interviews.

Good luck

Anton xxx

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Lowering The Boom On Round 2

Always, always, always..

Raineys round 2 is tomorrow, and I couldn't leave y'all out in the cold without a post. So, with some help from Anton here's a flavor of what to expect in final round interviews. And we have a post about other ways into the industry sitting on my laptop waiting to be unleashed, so don't worry - it's time will come.


So you’ve made it through to round two. You’re wondering what it’s going to be like, what’s going to be expected of you and what is the competition going to be like. Well, if there is one word that sums up how agencies frame the second round it’s teamwork.

The thing about these final round assessment days, is that you'll all encounter people off the charts in the try-hard factor, they'll wanna tell you every joke they've heard, every strategic idea they've ever had, and get the picture.

Get some decent shut eye before you go into the bear-pit of showmanship. Don't let anyone intimidate you into not saying anything, make sure that you do yourself justice and put your personality and thinking on show, they picked you for being you at round 1, so stick the to your guns. If you're crazy stay crazy, if you're not then don't try to be, it gets messy. Man that must sound boring us going on about being yourself, but it's true. If you fit in then you fit in, it’s really that simple and there isn’t really that much you can do to prepare for this type other than keep reading up on the industry from Brand Republic, visit4info and Campaign. And the agency's website, look for the ways they describe themselves, the way their offices look, the colors on their website, this is all their personality, so study it well.

Some you'll be successful at, others you won't. So what kind of things do you have to do?
  • Together build a bridge from this point to that point using these materials.
  • In a group present to us the perfect Graduate Trainee.
  • You’re given 30 items listed, pick 15 you would take with you to a desert island and why and tell us why you dropped the remaining 15.
  • Speed interviewing (this is when you’re all in a line sat opposite a member of the agency, you then have 3 minutes to answer a question and then whistle is blown and you rotate to the next, much like speed dating).

The standard diet of individual questions will come at you as well, so read up on our first interview post, and re-read your application form as well.

You get the picture. Once you’re over the guard up phase and you all collectively realise you’re all in the same boat it can actually be good banter, especially if you feel you’ve done well. We highly recommend spending time with your counterparts afterwards as these could be the people you spend the next year training with….

All in all, keep calm, be yourself and always be witty and reasonable, which I’m sure most of you are anyway.

Watchy'all think about that?

Saturday, 17 November 2007

I Got Some Bad News..

Even though you know it's bound to happen, it still stings..

9:25am Friday morning, and the email account I've reserved for all things application-flavored gives the little squeaky sound effect. You got mail. I open up the mail and it's the first rejection of the year from McCann. And despite the fact that I knew this was definitely going to happen with some of my applications, I felt miserable.

But the 'thanks but no thanks' message will no doubt be given to the grand majority of us applying at some point, and the best thing is to pick yourself up and get back to it. I'm a big fan of the groups on Facebook that allow us to let everyone know who's heard what from where. Yeah it's not going to change any decisions that are made, but it's easier to take waiting when you know others are waiting.

I really believe we're all in this together, it's not easy to get into advertising and I really believe that everyone who wants it enough will get in. I don't see the point and think it's so petty to sit in a corner and not share what's happening with others. If you're confident in yourself (which we all should be) then telling someone who's got an interview a day after yours what the format was isn't a big deal. One thing that's very noticeable is that people in advertising are very open to giving out advice and sharing experiences with others, our star stories are a testament to that. And all us applicants are by and large, sharing our experiences with forms and interviews, which I think is awesome.

I realise that this post has turned into a bit of a rant, because of a message I got from someone who asked what was the point in telling people about what format my RKCR interview took. Rather than send a sarcasm-laden message back to that person about how they needed to grow up, it's all come out here. I hope it kinda makes sense.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Bernard At Raineys

Bernard moves in the shadows. Is this him? Maybe..

Bernard has written of his experience interviewing at Raineys. Check it out at AdGrads Brand Republic.

Star Stories: Dave Birss

Taking a break from the frantic pace of application/wait until the date agencies said they'd get back to you/wait some more/post on Facebook asking if anyone else has heard/wait some more and so on, we've got a really inspiring star story from Dave Birss.

Dave will take up the role of creative director at Poke London in December and has won a London International gold, a D&AD silver nomination and a bunch of other awards for Fingerskilz. He's worked ATL, BTL and on the line (or online) in equal measure and has been a copywriter and an art director. He also tells us that he can't dance.

Dave's blog is here.


By Dave Birss

I guess I should start at the beginning before advertising entered my life. And before male pattern baldness finally got the better of my mullet. I went through a few jobs. So many I can’t actually remember them all. A brief summary would include: farm labourer, veterinary assistant, dishwasher, busker, university lecturer, radio traffic bulletin broadcaster, guitar teacher, session musician, recording engineer, stand-up comedian, nude model, marketing manager and complaints line operator. None of them stuck. I augmented these with a degree in computer programming and advanced mathematics, a postgraduate in marketing, a certificate in lawnmower maintenance and a diploma in typography. And then I was kind of awestruck when someone told me that people got paid to write ads for a living. I was dumbfounded. It was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. And I wanted to do it.

But I didn’t have a portfolio. I didn’t know you needed one. And I hadn’t a clue how to get into the industry. Then one day my mother saw an advertisement in a Glasgow newspaper with the headline “Advertising Creatives Wanted”. I’ve never seen such a thing since. I applied by sending them a congratulations card, a cassette of my application song, an introductory letter etched on a wooden spoon and some biscuits by way of bribery. They thought this was just so ridiculous that they had to see who had sent it. They liked me and - even although I didn’t have a portfolio of concepts – they set me a test brief and ended up giving me the job. I liked to think it was because I dazzled them - but I look back now and realise that it’s because I was young, cheap and willing to write crappy recruitment ads in their basement. I had made it onto the first rung of the advertising ladder. Woohoo!

Nine months later I fell off.

Redundancy is cruel. But – as I’ve found a couple of times since - it was the best thing. To be honest with you, even although I’d moved upstairs to the ‘proper’ ‘advertising’ ‘department’, I still didn’t have the remotest idea about the job. But I had a few bits of work and I knew that I wanted to stay in this industry.

I hawked my portfolio around the other agencies in Glasgow. Creative Directors took the time to see me, looked through my portfolio, smiled politely and said they’d call if anything came up. Then I went to see a Creative Director who told me the truth.

“It’s crap. There’s nothing decent in there. You need a whole new portfolio that actually has concepts in it. Come back to me when you’ve got one.”

So I swatted up on every award annual that I’d stolen out of the agency to try to work out what a concept was. Nobody had told me. I started building my portfolio, painstakingly drawing every visual and hand-rendering every headline. Then, with my head held high, I made a return visit to the Creative Director.

“It’s still crap. You’ve got it all wrong. You need to find a proposition and make sure you communicate it clearly in your ad. That’s the whole point of doing an ad, after all.” He took the time to go through every piece of work and tell me very specifically why it didn’t work and how I could have done it better. I thanked him and returned home.

I immediately took his advice, ripped everything out of my portfolio and started again. I refused to give up and returned again and again and again. To cut a long story short, he eventually gave me a placement. That meant that I worked for absolutely nothing except travel expenses.

After my first month, he called me into his office and told me that I’d have to go. He had mistakenly thought that I’d had potential but I’d failed to show it. I told him that I didn’t want to leave. I had it in me. Just give me another month. He reluctantly agreed.

After the second month, he called me into his office, told me that he was still disappointed and asked me to go. This time I begged him to let me stay for another month and even more reluctantly he caved in.

I was determined to show him how wrong he was. I worked until after midnight every night. I worked weekends. And at the end of the third month, I went into his office and told him that I’d found a job that was willing to pay me more than travel expenses. And this time he asked me not to go. I’d proved myself and had come up with my first batch of decent ads. So I left and went where the money was.

After 3 weeks in my new paid job, I got an even better offer. Not financially better, creatively better. I was now doing several radio ads a week, a couple of TV ads a month and a load of press and poster ads. This is what I wanted.

I was an Art Director at this time and my Copywriter left. I then decided that I’d give Copywriting a bash and recruited a supposedly hotshot Art Director to work with me. He was a wanker. He said “no” to everything I suggested until I couldn’t suggest anything any more. I started to hate my job. Then something wonderful happened: I was fired.

I was thrown out of the office in the morning and was touting my portfolio about in the afternoon. That’s when I picked up my first proper freelance gig. I found out that I could still come up with ideas and started to build a decent freelance business.

I then threw this in and came to work in London. Since then I’ve worked for countless ad agencies, DM agencies and a handful of digital places. Now, fifteen years after I started, I’m about to start at one of the most exciting and creative agencies in London as a Creative Director.

And I still can’t believe that people get paid to do this stuff!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


Weird - I just typed good luck into everybody's favorite search engine and this came up on the first page of images! *post ammended - was previously an image of a coin that had a particular right-wing symbol on it*

Anywho - Just a wish of luck to our Sam who is at a very important interview today. Despite his confidence and borderline ADHD inability to sit still I am sure the butterflies will settle and he will be fine, but good luck nonetheless.

How about you lot then? Anyone had any interviews recently that they would like to share with us?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The 1st Conversation

Would you hire this guy? Probably not...(weird eyes courtesy of bad red-eye reduction)

Something I say quite often is every first conversation is an interview. Now I don't know where I got that from but we are now officially in interview season with Raineys interviewing people as I type this up (in the middle of a finance lecture).

So you have an interview, how do you prepare? Let's talk about some general things first, like appearance. More specifically, what do you wear? For guys a safe bet is either the suit/shirt look or a combo of trousers/blazer (and shirt please). But we'd say no ties, this ain't a banking interview y'all. Girls have it easier (or harder, depending on who you ask) with the general 'look smart' mantra.

Now we know how you look, what's it going to be like? Generally first round interviews will be conducted by 2 members of the agency and they'll last between 30 minutes and an hour. You might get a good cop / bad cop routine, you might get no cops or you might get we'renotreallysurewearecopssolet'sseewhatthisfoolknows. But you can't control that.

What you can control is your research. This is where I go to numbers:
  1. Read your application form at least enough times for you to virtually memorise what you wrote. And remember why you wrote what you did.
  2. Have some answers to these questions ready
    • Why do you want to get into advertising?
    • What's the coolest / most iconic thing in your world and why?
    • What advertising do you admire and why?
    • Which brand's ads aren't doing it justice?
    • How do you see the futures of TV and digital advertising?
    • What is a brand?
  3. Be ready to have to sell an ad to your interviewers, think about:
    • What the brand is trying to say, what are they trying to achieve with the ad?
    • Who they should be talking to? Are they talking to them?
    • How effective is their conversation with the person paying attention?
    • Why does it work? Is it funny? Is it totally removed from the competition?
    • Is the idea transferable across different channels?
    • How will it build upon where the client is right now business-wise? Do they want to create market share? steal market share or maintain their lead?
  4. Watch their showreel on their site, soak in as much as you can about their site and head over to visit4info to watch ads they've created that may not be on their showreel.
  5. Give yourself an hour's margin when traveling long distance, it gives you time to compose yourself when you get there, rather than crapping yourself that you're late.
  6. Have some questions for them. But don't ask questions for things that are on their website or you'll get shot down. Ask them about what they think about one of their questions, or about how they see advertising changing in the future. Having a well thought question could be the thing that makes you stick in their minds when it's time to make the cuts (Thanks to Alex for this point).
And finally, the most important, crucial and underlying thing that will dictate your success in your interviews is being yourself. Try to relax and answer the non-advertising questions as normally as possible (obviously there are some boundaries, if you swear like a sailor put a sock in it, or use replacement words). And be yourself. Be confident that being yourself will get you the job. Seriously.

It’s well known that individual agencies have individual cultures etc, but that by no means means (how many times can I use means in this sentence?) that you should try and conform to a type. Go in and do your best. Chances are if you’re well informed, enthusiastic about ads and able to back up your opinions you’ll get through.

And if you don’t? It's the agency’s loss. So don’t mope around, ring them up and ask for feedback, if it’s something wrong with the way you delivered your answers, you can fix it. But if they say you're not the right type, move on. Don’t try to be their type - because eventually you'll find out it's hurting you and them.

This is the part where I'd like to end up on something profound. But I'll defer to Anton who told me a while back: 'Don't be a lemming'. That pretty much says it all.

As always comments/criticism/abuse are welcome.


Monday, 12 November 2007

The USP (evil) is dead, long live emotional engagement (good)

The revolution has started ladies and gentlemen. Well, it started many moons ago before I was even born but recently the marketing new thinkers have started to kill off old school thinking, approaches and frameworks. It's like the Rebel Alliance vs The Empire - the young free thinking liberals against the dark, structured orderly conservatives. Never before has the movement towards emotional engagement been so strong. We've just had the Sony trilogy - ending with Bunnies (which yes of course isn’t as good as ‘Balls’ or maybe ‘Paint’ – but the very fact that people are arguing about it is a sensation in itself). We’ve just had Cadbury Gorilla which everyone says has had its day and that it’s cliché to discuss. Far from it. It is a milestone in a new movement to change the creative format for which we work in. Then we have Sony Music Pieces (below).

A true gem and echoes Honda Cog. All of this great stuff, none of it selling you a rational reason to purchase with a clumsy USP rammed in there to keep a client happy. What it does do is creates a level of enjoyment, engagement and positive values, all attached to a logo, whether it be concious or subconsious. A far stronger lever towards a brand than any hard sell messaging will achieve. I think the faster we break down the rationale that all work must be based on a rational reason to buy the quicker we can start doing our jobs better.

Of course, there are exceptions to the emotional engagement trend, FMCGs you might argue must be based on USPs, how else will you shift medicine for example. Well, a very successful example is Andrex. It’s USPs are that it’s strong and long. So, what the hell has a puppy got to do with anything?

But….it works, and Andrex now commands the greatest market share and share of mind in its sector. So you can apply the emotional leverage to FMCGs and it’ll work.

Now a bad example, one from the old school of thinking that is a dying out, British Airways

A brand that you could really go to town with in terms of leveraging the engagement levels and based to a degree on a product truth (once upon a time). Now however we see a bunch of people walking around Sydney handing stuff out because……well……that’s what the lovely people of BA do and make you feel like you’ve upgraded. Firstly it’s a very poorly produced piece of film, secondly the idea is really lame and undifferentiating and thirdly it’s a promise that isn’t delivered by the customer experience - when I'm sat in economy being a lowly 'young' planner - I don't feel like I've upgraded at all, I feel like the sooner I can afford to fly with Emirates or Singapore Airways I will. Surely it would be a better job for the agency to advise BA on how to innovate itself before running off to create seriously vanilla advertising.

The above is surely a case to stay well away from such a clinical, structured and frame worked ways of working. We’re talking to human beings who don’t process in rational ways, don’t consume TV footage in rational ways and don’t buy in rational ways. If that’s the case why the hell are we trying to shove rational communication through the medium of TV? Surely that’s a job for online and print where people have actively flagged an interest in information (not that online and print shouldn’t be emotionally engaging - but is the perfect platform to elaborate on a brand image).

Apologies for the long winded and incoherent rant, I just feel that a few agencies have their finger firmly on the pulse right now by actively understanding how human beings work and have a fantastic creative talent. The combination fuses and creates what we’re seeing now which is a colourful revolution against functional and structured advertising.

Start thinking about which ads fall into which camp, it could be an interesting debate in your interviews.

Anton xx

Saturday, 10 November 2007

How I'd Sell Coal To Eskimos..

Some of the good stuff

I'd show them a fistful of diamonds and a handful of coal. I'd tell them 'One day, all this coal will be just like this..". Then I'd fly away and never, ever visit them again.

Friday, 9 November 2007

BBH Deadline Extended To Monday 12 November

David Murray from BBH writes: Due to the fact that between 400-500 people tried to post their forms at the same time this evening, the BBH website had a little wobble about an hour or two ago.
In light of this, we have extended the application deadline to Monday 12th November.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

And now...the time has come....and so I face...

So filling out countless application forms is now done, you’ve been knocked back a few times but you’ve managed to get through to the first round at one or a few of your chosen agencies. Firstly, you feel over orgasmic and then you feel a cold cloud of fear come over you as you try and work out what this interview will be like. To be honest, they’re all different but there are certain steps you can take to making it go much more smoothly than if you sit back and smoke a phat cigar contemplating your first gram of coke off the board room table – which are usually sticky surfaces anyway.

Preparation, preparation, preparation is your new mantra. Firstly it’s certainly a good idea to let your tutors know especially the head of your dept. For one think it’s a great brown nose tactic and makes you look like the kind of student who should get a good degree (it’s now in their interest you pass and go on to work at a prestigious ad agency as this will in turn reflect on their tutoring so you may find your grades being boosted somewhat) and secondly it could be invaluable to buy you some extra time with assignments etc to desk research, prepare and then attend the interview.

Now that’s out of the way you need to know what the fuck you’re talking about….clearly. You’ve more than likely researched the agency’s website in order to help your application but re-visit it…actually no….live it. Learn their reel off by heart, think of where the strategies have come from which some of our earlier posts will help with. Think of giving creative critique to some of their work which some of our earlier posts go over. Then start thinking about the competition to their clients, for example if Strongbow are doing X it may help to inform your opinion that Magners is doing z.

Read, read, read. You need to get up to speed with the current climate in the industry. Saturate yourself in Brand Republic, Campaign…and of course our blog..and maybe a few others. Buy some current advertising literature (certainly not the text books rammed to you from tutors) like Herd by Mark Earls or The Brand Innovation Manifesto by John Grant. Start forming views, if you feel digital is just another medium and not God’s gift to marketing then fine, but have a well structured, intellectual and business orientated support as to why.

Also, chill the fuck out. Whilst being nervous is a great natural drug it can also cripple you. This should be exciting not terrifying and at the end of the day it’s not a job at NASA, it’s a job to work at selling stuff…it’s more than that obviously but put it into perspective.

Other tips when in an interview – drink water, keep eye contact, smile and laugh (but not in a scary way), be smart both in your rapport and in your dress (Will likes to wear ties I think they are horrible nooses – whatever you’re comfortable in), polish your shoes, show your sense of humour (this is advertising not banking), don’t name drop unless prompted and steal stationary.

Questions you should have answers to before you walk in:

So why advertising?

What is the most iconic thing in the world and why?

What advertising do you admire and why?

What is the future for TV?

What is the future of digital?

Take this ad and sell it to me
(you can prepare a selling structure based on an earlier post on creative critique)

What is a brand?

A client has said they want to pull the account, how would you save it?
(this is an example of lateral thinking questions they’ll ask you)

Etc etc

We’ll post more on interviews moving forward but the above should help as start. Good luck


p.s. There has been mentions to us about the possibility of writing a book, the next text in how to get into advertising. You're our audience so what do you think? Would it be worthwhile or do we remain as a blog? What would you prefer to see more of or less of? All your feedback is much appreciated


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Form Of Forms

Just a reminder to everyone that this week is pretty busy application deadline-wise. JWT's deadline is in the morrow (Wednesday the 7th), with M&C, AMV, BBH and DLKW all due on Friday the 9th (DLKW by noon that day) - perfectly arranged so you can mosy on down to The Green Man on Berwick Street in the evening for some AdGrads themed catharsis.

Links to applications are in the sidebar. Get them in!

And part 2 of Diary of An Applicant is live on AdGrads Brand Republic, it's from someone we'll call Bernard who's very kindly contributed some thoughts on his experiences so far. As always, email me if you want to write for future editions.

Peace out...


Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Sausage Not the Sizzle

Advanced apologies regarding the analogy, I’ll explain. I’ve recently just come out of what can only be described as one of the most enlightening meetings with a planning mentor.

We tend to discuss advertising (well I do) here on blogs in very conceptual, consumer interacting ways which is obviously the sexy part of advertising theory and debate. I indulge in this past time a lot and I worryingly force those not in the advertising industry to engage in such debates also (which isn’t always the best way to make friends). However, I was stopped in my tracks today and asked to in a very thorough and logical way to express my understanding on how certain campaigns came to the fruition. So I started using a VW example which is the new print executions about their new fold down roof and the way it works with the consumer, visually it……. No no no Anton, what did the agency actually do to get there?

I think when discussing advertising it’s very easy for us to get lost in the sizzle, by that I mean how the ad looks, how it sounds, how it is reacted to. When really this should maybe become a luxury conversation that comes after we’ve been credited with discussing the sausage by providing a solid and practical discussion on how the strategy was arrived at, translated into a brief and then passed on to creatives. Was this a brutal and simple USP or product benefit that when tested on audiences, responded well to and as a result developed into a strategy i.e. a sports car with greater leg room for passengers for greater comfort. Was there an insight discovered about how the product was used which was then crucial to building a creative strategy and how was it discovered i.e. how people consume Cadbury Cream Eggs and practical research techniques into the phenomenon on how it is physically consumed hence ‘How do you do it’.

I dissed rigid strategic frameworks but at the same time celebrated their importance in previous posts which I can understand must seem confusing. What I was trying to express is that arriving at a strategy can’t be the same in every instance…which is obvious, obviously, hence we can’t apply the same way of arriving at a strategy every time you are tasked with writing a creative brief. A different brand and product will require a different methodology in getting there. So maybe to build the really important part of a career in advertising is to understand and discuss the very beginning of advertising strategy and think about the practical ways the agency got to that pretty picture – sales and market data, consumer habits, well structured research groups, factory visits, interviews with industrial opinion leaders and product designers - all the really important steps that were taken to get there. In some cases I said that some advertising was created off the back of a strategy ‘make it look cool’, and quoted ipod. Whilst I still believe that to be true I’d like to note that the luxury of such instances are rarer than a blue steak and can’t be a rule of thumb.

Ramble over, just a thought or a critique of oneself.

Anton xx

Diary of An Applicant.. now live on AdGrads Brand Republic.

Check it out here.

Thanks to all who have contributed so far, I'm working on future entries in betwix studying. And if you're interested in contributing, fire me an email.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

An AdGrads Meetup

Photo courtesy of the photographer

We finally got round to organising a get-together type thing. It's gonna go down next Friday (November 9th) - like the movie, at 7pm at The Green Man on Berwick Street (just off Oxford Street) in London. All are welcome.
We're calling it Gradsphere - inspiration courtesy of Faris.

The Facebook event page thing is here.

We'll see y'all there. If more than like 10 people show up I'll be really impressed - I still can't believe you guys read our stuff!

Opinion or Fiction?

I’ve just come out of a reader’s block and it feels really refreshing. Trying to learn about planning I’ve been cramming the latest APG Creative Effectiveness Awards volumes and lately Herd by Mark Earls which is fantastic.

However, I found myself becoming quite unmotivated to read at all as all I seemed to consume was marketing theories to the point of saturation.

Before I left for my recent holiday I was thinking of which new marketing book to read and the thought seemed to almost get me down a bit. So when whizzing through Heathrow I picked this up, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall, the first fiction I’ve read in ages and MY GOD it feels good to get wrapped in a fictional world again. That and the book is as addictive as Garland’s Beach (before the film came out and everyone under the sun had read it). It’s a truly fantastic read which whips you into a mad psychologically tricky place.

The point I’m trying to make stems from a Paul Arden comment (in his career advice books) that some of the best books to read about advertising aren’t about advertising i.e. I now intend to keep my nose firmly in both current marketing books and the world of fantasy and fiction, just so I keep a healthy balance and a fresh perspective when thinking about whatever I’m thinking about.

All above books I thoroughly recommend. Rambling over.

Anton xx

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Diary Of An Applicant

Ok guys, this is the part where I need your help. We know we have readers, because statcounter tells us so, and I've come up with an idea for a regular column/post thing over at our Brand Republic spot. It's ingeniously called the Diary of an Applicant. I could write it myself, and chronicle how the whole grad recruitment process goes, but I'd rather everyone contributes a bit, because that'll make it infinitely more interesting and a ton more readable.

So what I'm after is this: a couple of lines about how it's all going so far, which agencies you've been to see on open days, recruitment events etc, what your impressions have been of the agencies, of the staff, of the application forms..what you like, what you don't and all that. You can email them to me here. And if you don't want to me to use your name/names of people who you really didn't like, let me know and I promise I won't use them in the BR blog.

I really think this could be a really cool thing to get going, I plan on hopefully getting a new post up every Wednesday, I've done the 1st one, but am hoping to get some more good stuff before I put it up on the BR blog tomorrow.

Hope applications are going ok and as always ask us questions if you have any..

Peace out..


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Messing With The Look

Agency application deadlines are now in an easier to spot position. Seems obvious, but I didn't do it until now. There's a lesson in there somewhere for me, like don't put Levi Roots' Fiery Guava Sauce on everything you eat..

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Open Day Time

Everyone loves a rainbow, or so Will tells me. Copyright moi.

I'll be at JWT's open day tomorrow, if you're gonna be around say what's up. I'll be the one looking tired cause I'm up late typing this..

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Likemind and Deadlines

A bunch of deadlines are coming up, and as well as putting them up on the AdGrads and Advertising Applicants 08 Facebook groups, I thought I'd whack 'em up here as well so y'all know when to get stuff done by:

RCKR: 22nd October
McCann: 4th November - Noon
AMV: 5th November
JWT: 7th November
BBH: 9th November
M&C Saatchi: 9th November
DLKW: 9th November - Noon
WPP: 21st November
DDB: 23rd November

Also I'm going to be at Likemind in Birmingham tomorrow (October 19) from around 8am (!), if you're around come say hi.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

busy as fck

Meh, I can not wait until this month is over. In Media Land October is synonymous with planning for the first quarter of the next year. True, it is possibly the most exciting time to be at work, money (client's) is flying around left right and centre, creative media brainstorm sessions all over the place, new media opportunities and following the September intake of grads there may even be some new faces around (Yes I have looked up the grad that I'm getting next week but there are too many under his/her name)..but it is definately the busiest.

As before, not the one to ask what times are like in the fluffy side of things, but the agencies I work with AMV, Publicis, WCRS all seemed to rammed with never-ending-to-do-lists. I'm surprised I'm getting away with posting here to be honest.

So what does this mean for you guys that have pressed send, licked the stamp or signed the cheque for your applications? Time of entering the industry is important.

Personally, I think now (September - November) is a very interesting time to enter. The place has an evident buzz about it, you would be able to get stuck into things right away - thrown in right at the deep end if you like. Which is important for learning fast. Your team will get to see what you are like when under pressure - let's face it, most of the time you are going to be under pressure.

When I joined we did have the option to defer our start date, but I made the right choice entering at September. You get to see how the planning forms and just how much it can change in such a short space of time before things get booked too. Socially - it's a crucial time to mingle with the adfolk in the run up to the agency Christmas party. Make some fucking friends.

And while October and the start of November may be completely manic, the jollies and parties come flooding in at around week 47. The Ivy, Cavas de Gaucho, The Fat Duck, Hakisan, Nobu - the choice will be yours as the media owners (usually Outdoor) thank you for the business you have provided them over the year.

So keep this little piece of info in mind and do not join in August. Adland just shuts down.

Monday, 15 October 2007

This Mad Season

I feel stupid, but I know it won't last for long,
And I've been guessing, and I coulda been guessing wrong,
You don't know me now, I kinda thought that you should somehow,
Does that whole Mad Season got you down?

The first verse of Matchbox Twenty's song Mad Season sums up how I feel right now having ploughed through a variety of agency graduate recruitment applications over the last week or so.

I personally get into a groove with these things and find I can get them done in quick succession if I'm in the mood, but then if I'm not it's useless even opening them up because questions like 'How to sell coal to an eskimo' bounce around the inside of my head and exit rapidly.

And what I and the rest of the guys all agree on is that one of the most important things you can do when filling out these applications is to let your personality shine through. Now that is infinitely easier said than done I agree, but it's crucial to you getting noticed in the piles of applications that will cross any given agency's desk.

So how do you do it? There's no magical silver bullet I'm afraid; if there was someone would be filthy-rich by now by patenting it, so it boils down to this: be you. Personality is something unique to you so don't try to find it in someone else. I would advise against typing 'How to sell coal to an Eskimo' into google and trying to use anything you find as the basis of your answer. To see how other's have attacked the question is of course, great to do. But your answer has to be all about you. Which is what will make you get an invitation to interview as well. So when it asks for your favorite song lyric think of your favorite song, why you like it and leave it all on the page (that's my way of saying that the more personal the answer the better). If you wear your heart on your sleeve in real life do the same on your form, and conversely don't try and be something you're not. Your application forms, CVs and all the rest of it should be extensions of yourself - recognisable as you.

Another thing that could be useful to keep in mind is that when faced with the blank spaces of application forms - especially the questions at the end (like 'is there anything else we should know about you?'), continuous prose may not be the best way to go about a particular question. I'm not saying do the whole thing in bullet points, but think about how to visually differentiate yourself within a written answer. Maybe do a flowchart, a mindmap, a cartoon, graffiti, a picture, maybe import a digital picture, maybe string a couple together to do a montage. Think of how you want to make it you. Graduate application forms should be something that you know you're ready to send off because you're happy you've indelibly stamped them with your personality. A friend should be able to read through your answers and know it's you who wrote it without seeing the name on the top of it.

The 'anything else' or 'use this box as you like' sections on applications are the best sections - they let you give the reader a flavor of what you're like, don't waste them.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Beauty In Everyday Things..

The finest ale in the land.

Or, 'It's the little differences that matter'.'ve read some books on advertising, checked out what the billings and comings and goings are at in the agency world. You read Campaign, and know about the creative process (that is to say, how good and bad ads come about).

Yet, you are still missing a valuable weapon. Particularly if you have designs on becoming more than someone who does admin and nothing else.

That weapon is an appreciation (cue the American Beauty soundtrack) of how little things make experiences more worthwhile. The picture above is a little ticket which was apologising for the lack of the distinctive bottles that the ale usually comes in (another reason to love it).

Now, knowing about the little differences may not get you a job (you still have to do the leg work). But imagine, if after discussing your favourite ad and whatever, you drop in that your favourite brand has done something to make you happy - whether it's a clever piece of ambient or an inspired bit of DM. It's something which means you are thinking (much as I hate the term) holistically - about how experiences, not 30 second TV spots, necessarily, help build brands.

Be careful not to overstate though. The clever tag above was charming, but only because I have drunk the beer before - how would my reaction have changed if I'd never tried the stuff before? (Probably not a lot in this case, as I loved the ale). And it's a tiny tiny thing in the world of the brand - but these real life, experential devices are growing in popularity, and you should be aware of them.

What brands have affected you in this way? If not, what could your favourite brands do?

For those who are interested - that pint was from the St Peters Brewery, served at a pub called Jerusalem; surely one of London's finest.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Application Form Cool

A really good question from Gemma on the AdGrads Facebook group about application form questions got me thinking. So I wrote this over at AdLads but thought it may be pertinent to put it here as well.

How To Be Cool

A bit of an ambitious title huh? Yeah I think so too. But see, I’ve been thinking a lot about cool; not the word, maybe not even the concept, but the connotation. What is cool? It’s all so subjective right? But I think cool is pretty closely related to confidence. They even go together well in a sentence; cool and confident..see? I may be onto something. And you can make an argument about creativity being very closely related to cool and confident, maybe like first cousin-close. And then it’s pretty clear that cool, is well for want of a better expression, pretty damn cool.

What has really got me thinking about all this is the mad season that is graduate recruitment. I’m trawling through applications that ask me questions like ‘How do you sell coal to an eskimo?’ or ‘Which superhero would you be?’ and thinking ‘What the hell do I write here?’. That combined with something my main main Richy B said a while back, something along the lines of ‘We get along because we know cool when we see it’ got me thinking about what cool is and how you can be cool.It’s simple really, cool is inside every single one of us. Really. It’s about being self-aware, and being self-aware is something I go on about a lot to Anton, Will, Alex, all y’all who read the blog and pretty much everyone I know. But I’ll say it again, being self-aware, and really knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not is one of the most powerful tools you can have in your life, forget about career type things. So you’re self-aware and you know what you’re good at. Be confident in it, like really really confident. Ooze that stuff.

Confidence is one of those things that is really easy to see through if it’s false bravado, and confidence masked with arrogance is like me on a Sunday night in front of the TV watching the NFL: right in your face. So real confidence is easily spotted and comes naturally, because that’s what it’s the product of, being naturally at ease with something you know you’re good at. And that’s where creativity comes in. Think of everything you’ve seen that you consider to be creative. Was it forced? Awkwardly out of place? Not at all. It was really at ease with itself, natural even.

At this point I’m sitting here smiling because I think this post is coming together now, it’s a load of psycho-babble maybe, probably even. But I think it makes sense. And it’s right at this point where I can get to the crux of the matter, when y’all are sitting there trying to figure out a way to be creative and cool and original when answering a question on an application form / coming up with an idea for something at work / for anything at all, remember

  • The things that come easiest to you are the things that are natural. No matter how people will try and put you into boxes ‘numerate’ ‘orator’ etc, everyone is creative, every single one of us. So be natural and take yourself out of the boxes that you’ve been put into, sit outside, sit on your bed, sit on a couch, sit in the bath with a notebook - wherever you feel at ease is where you’ll be in the most natural frame of mind. Go to that place (be it mental, physical or both) and just zone. And you’ll find (and trust me, every single one of us will) that you’ll be more creative than you thought you could be.
  • Natural is confident, confidence is natural and both of them are pretty damn sexy.
  • Natural, creative and confidence are so intertwined it’s not a coincidence, they all stem from the same thing; being at ease with yourself.
  • Find out what it is about yourself that makes you without question you, like patent-pending you, what about your life has made you who you are? That’s your gold-mine and that is where you need to be knee deep in sifting for the nuggest of the good stuff, because that’s where you’ll be most confident, most unique, most effortless, most cool and most you.
  • Take this feeling of confidence outside the box of ‘work’ and things will seem almost effortless compared to what they were before.

So take it from someone who used to be so uptight about things I used to work myself into a frenzy about how to be original. All you have to do is be the thing that comes most naturally to you. I’m no good at being anything but me. To everyone that matters and in everything that matters, that’s always more than enough. And that is pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Brand Republic Ahoy

This picture may have nothing to do with the post. But I took it and think it's damn cool.

After much procrastination on my part, the first post for the Brand Republic edition of AdGrads is up. I'll put the first post up here but for future posts we'll whack the links here for you guys to go check it out over there. That made sense when I wrote it, I swear.

W1, We Have a Problem..

When thinking about what to write about as a first blog post on Brand Republic, I toyed with a few ideas. Maybe a bit about each of us and why we started the AdGrads blog in the first place? Or perhaps we should let one our stars tell their stories about how they got into the industry?

But what swayed me was something that happened today. I walked back into university for the second day of my final year, and was guided to the careers service, where I was informed that this week was finalist career week - and over 100 companies would be giving sessions about their companies to students from Warwick, Aston and Birmingham universities.

After a quick question to one of the staff members, I was told that the number of final year students in these three universities was in excess of 10,000, all who had been emailed details of the week and (hopefully) a good chunk of them interested in what life after university entails.

And guess what? Not one piece of literature, not one prospective employer, not one reference to advertising. 10,000 finalists, more than a hundred companies, and nothing from the advertising industry.

In a nutshell, that is why Will, Anton and Alex and myself set up AdGrads, because as hard as it is for anyone to hear the brutal truth about themselves, the industry is not doing nearly enough to help themselves find the best graduates. Not nearly enough, and today was another example of that. There is a gap in the market for educating students about how amazing the advertising industry is as a career choice and why the often obtuse application forms are worthy of their time and effort. If there wasn't a gap, then to be honest, this blog probably wouldn't exist. We are here because there is a problem.

The reality of the situation now is that the advertising industry is not on a level playing field. Banking, consultancy, accountancy et al are a good way ahead in communicating, educating and ultimately recruiting the cream of the graduate crop. Advertising as an industry now has to try and kick start their drive to get the best talent, and that means doing the things they can do the best: getting creative.

Both individual agencies and the industry as a whole have to ask themselves one question: Do we really want to attract the best? If the answer is yes, then go in wholeheartedly and do it. Utilise all the tools at your disposal and get the word out there.

Brand Republic's online careers fair is a great example of how to get things started, as it acknowledges that the internet and all things digital are media that we have grown up with. As we live and we breathe it everyday, adopting these channels to get to us is a wise move. Agencies; use your talent in creating innovative solutions to your clients' problems to help create a solution to your biggest problem, because the gap will only get bigger if things keep going as they are. That may be a bitter pill to swallow for the industry.

But the truth sometimes is.

"Early to bed, early to rise.....

c’mon kids, let’s advertise” or so the cheddar saying goes, thing is I can remember the early rise bit just not the early to bed bit. Having said that the myths of the chronic hours or the sweat shop mentality which are whispered in university corridors or in the reception of agencies between rival applicants are somewhat blown out of proportion. It is most certainly true that some agencies in particular are worse than others and will work you hard as they can but the majority fall within the humanitarian side of 2007.

However, it mustn’t be sugar coated. There is certainly sometimes the need when you start to be prepared to stay that bit later than most, to stick with the guys in studio who are doing the run outs over night which are to be presented tomorrow, to work on sourcing images for research projects, so that in the morning you can hand them to your planner instead of struggle through the day. What this really boils down to is distraction and not necessarily the extent of work that you are loaded up with. For example I have quite a large project going on which involves the whole account team and senior clients, if I were spared a clear day I could storm it, but other requests keep coming in – a European office needing UK market analysis, the research side of my client requiring competitive positioning analysis, the other account I work on needing me in a brain storm (not being able to make it so having to write up some thoughts). The point being that the only time I can get some space to sit down and focus on one task is when the clock strikes a time that everyone is out of the office and it’s just me and a non ringing phone.

So, whilst time management is essential sometimes you won’t be able to escape the inevitable which is to put in some dark hours to get through your work load. It’s not that bad, there is a sense of achievement leaving late knowing you got everything done lined up for the next day rather than leave feeling that little bit shit about your day and lack of completion. Some say that it’s bad to be seen working late….I’m sure none of you would be there if you didn’t have to be so those wise words can fck right off, do what you have to and don’t be too alarmed that some say advertising is a slave trade. It’s just a hard working trade for hard working people, the upside is that the people in advertising generally like to let their hair down more than most... and I’d rather work late and enjoy their company than say work late and hang out with those in the finance world…..urgh.

Anton xx

The IPA's Essential Graduate Reading

Statcounter's trusty referrals feature has informed me that the IPA have released a newsletter that has all sorts of advertising related reading for y'all to catch up on.

It should be here.

And yeah, we're on there as well. That is damn cool.

My First Year in Media (MKII)

So after our entertaining, fast speaking Wii fest round Anton's on Saturday it became apparent that I had started this but not finished just about sums up how busy things can get when you 'inside'. Nah just kidding, media agencies aren't really like prisons. Plus I have no internet at home and suddenly everyone has realised how to activate the wireless WPA security setting. rubbish.

It's been nearly 13 months since I set foot in Adland and I reckon its been very 50:50. 28 weeks of feeling on top of the world, learning about New Media opportunities, opening numerous gifts from media owners in the post, gobbling the odd doughnut and of course - L U N C H.
But rolling back to back with 28 weeks of standard, business as usual, media-schedule-tennis and autopilot mode, but hey, that's work and the odds are you will get that in most jobs.

So I thought I could shed some light on what being a Media Planner is all about and offer an honest view of the discipline. Let's not hide around any towels here people - In an ideal world I would have jumped straight into creative. What induced my consideration of media planning was actually my fascination of guerrilla/ambient/experiential campaigns. You've probably seen the emails with various global stunts or flicked through Guerilla Advertising in Magma stores, - yep, im a big fan. The low cost, the outdoorness (get used to new words just being pulled out of the air), the standout, the viral/chat factor, the piggy-back PR when Metro pick up on it. It ticks most boxes in my opinion. Anyway I was informed that it is media agencies that plan and think about these and was also advised that with today's fragmented media landscape and growing relevance of ROI, (pffft sorry!) Media will be a more interesting and exciting place to work than it ever has been.

Which to a certain extent is true. I have been lucky with the nature of the clients that I am working on and we have dabbled in some exciting outdoor projection formats and there have been talks of bringing FunHouse back. Shhh don't get too excited.
We do also need to develop and study consumer insights (big shout to Anton for the definition), perhaps not as in-depth as creative agencies but just as important. These are then considered for the overall media strategy and aimed to be supported with research - media agencies love research tools, they may invest millions in developing their own or buying existing systems but they all require patience, analytical skills and close attention to detail.

Working closely with various media departments allows you to really grasp how each channel works and in what context, I guess when factoring in the target audience, becomes very useful to determining what client you want to be on the creative team for. All very well having the big name Agency on your CV but how interested will you be with a client that spends 80% of their budget on doordrops and inserts??

Another positive of media planning is the level of creative input you get. When you meet the A(dgrad) Team you will realise that we are all bursting with ideas - and hopefully you guys are too. To be honest, I've no idea of the level of creative input in the different roles at creative agencies. Most Grad roles are in account handling or planning - planning is the most obvious, but at such a junior level are you really going to have a significant input? Perhaps Anton could enlighten us on the first year of planning??
Media is different. The output of channel planning may seem like common sense to a lot of you and essentially it is. New Hybrid Lawnmower? (fck what a good idea!)... obviously want a full colour page in BBC Gardener's World Magazine. Both agency and client may already have in mind some particular programming that needs to be cherry picked.
The excitement begins with the brainstorms about the extra/unallocated/experiemntal (?) budget and how it should be spent. Here I've been to several create sessions where ideas are thrown left right and centre, role play, touch and taste sensations, mind mapping. And sometimes your idea will actually get to a proposed schedule... quite a good tingly gooey feeling.

So it can be interesting, trust me. Just keep in mind that (and this may seem condescending but HR did tell us of grads that aren't aware of it) WE DON'T MAKE THE ADS!!
As a cheddar G.I Joe analogy - creatives make the missiles, we aim and fire them. Yes sometimes perfectly good missiles are fired into the sea but more often than not the missile will hit but not be damaging enough. Capishe?

I think I'm going to stop here. Instead of a cons of media planning as promised I'd rather do a 'what to watch out for' type post for all of you. Feel free to ignore, pass around or comment on.

Tonight? Salmon and Arsenal.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Something From The Weekend

Here we are.

We spent the day of rest at Anton's love shack in the East End, where he served up some rockin' salmon and played the part of the host like a pro.
In betwix the conversation and videogame themed shenanigans, we managed to record a podcast, with some (very basic) pointers on all things application forms. That podcast will be edited and whacked up here very soon. We hope.

Also we're planning an AdGrads shindig on Saturday, November 3 - it will be half work and all play, so book that day off. We're hoping to make it really useful for all of you guys. 

And finally, we've set up a Facebook group for you guys to give us some feedback on the podcast, the forthcoming (we haven't forgotten it) wiki and all things AdGrads related. 
It's a closed group and we're going to keep it totally on topic, so no spamming action will be had. 

Join it here and tell all your application-type friends.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Idea Thinking...

An idea, yesterday. Picture via Julienne! Usual rules apply.

Rightyho. As promised in the last post, I thought I'd help by attempting to explain the difference between three notions of what an 'idea' is. Anyone who is reading this and wants to disagree, feel free - some of them are open to debate.

1) Executional Ideas

This one should be relatively straightforward. Basically, it's a one-off ad, which builds upon the overall campaign message. So say one of the BT ads with Kris Marshall does something different (say they meet his step-kids father, and the ad advertises new technology), it can be seen to be an executional idea.

Now, this can all be critiqued if the executional idea doesn't seem to fit into a brand line of thinking - say the ad had no resemblence to the ad before it, and jarred with the previous executions/campaigns. Now, if you wanted to criticise a piece of work in your interview/application form, I'd suggest stating that you thought the ad was 'just an executional idea' - that is, it's a one off which jars with any strategic thinking/campaign thoughts of previous work.

In theory, every new ad is an executional idea to an extent, so it needn't be a criticism. But it's a useful piece of terminology to pull out in an interview (particularly if you are interviewed by a planner - they love that stuff, for the most part). Of course, you'll have to explain why..

2) Campaign Ideas

A campaign idea then...I see campaign ideas as being longer term than an executional idea (natch), but not necessarily the full blown 'this is our longest term strategy, which will go on for 20+ years'. Most strategies fall into this category, especially with the quick turn over of new technologies/marketing directors/pricing plans (although work for the latter can just be simply an executional idea - it depends on the range of ads).

This is not to say that they aren't worthwhile, and bloody successful. Often, a really good piece of thinking/planning/creative on a Campaign idea will go on to form the basis of a brand idea - say 'Have a Break, Have a Kit-Kat' - giving people a reason to eat Kit-Kats by making it a little reward for their hard work. It may have once been a short term campaign thought to boost sales, but over time, it has become their big brand idea. (No, I wasn't about in 1957 when they thought it up, so I really don't know for sure).

A modern day example could be, ooh, the majority of ads out there - just be sure you know WHY it's a campaign idea and not an overall brand idea, otherwise you could be left open in interview.

3) Brand Ideas

The legendary ideas. Those that shape a company's thinking for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. Examples of this could be the Avis work 'We're Number 2, so we try harder', which has been running since 1962, the Economist print work from AMV BBDO and Guinness's transition from being 'Good for You' to making a virtue of the product taking a long time to pour, and how this impacts on things being worth waiting for - a genius bit of thinking.

Now, the industry is obsessed with 'big brand ideas', and the above three, I think it's safe to say, are examples of them. They are great and (usually) long lasting because they provide a new way of viewing the product, maybe turning a negative into a positive, but always, always reframing how we see things.

And, of course, they allow agencies to keep ahold of clients for a very long time. Which is great.

Essentially, if you start to talk about any big brand ideas, or any ads, be aware that if you can suss out the 'idea behind the ad', as cliched as that sounds, you'll do very well. It's very easy to say that you like Sony Balls because it's a fantastic piece of film; but what about the overriding message? Have you begun to decode what 'Like No Other' is implying, and how it may well become a great brand idea.

That said, when it comes to talking about other people's ideas, pick one which is likely to be a bit more original - EVERYONE will talk about Sony Balls, Gorilla, Skoda Cake or Citroen's Robot. Be smart, and pick something which isn't obvious - what about the new Brylcreem work? And by all means, say there are bits you don't like/understand etc, if needs be. How you respond initially is every bit as important as deciding which of the three categories the ad fits into - after all, you are viewing it as a potential consumer, and not a planner (yet..).

And for goodness sake, don't mindlessly slag off the ideas at the agency you are interviewing at. You can say you didn't understand things/don't agree with this and that, but be prepared to back it up - and realise that a lot of bad ads come about from poor agency/client relations; there will be a lot going on behind the work that you don't know about - politics and so forth. So be careful..

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The Real Planning School of The Web Part 2: What is a consumer insight?

Okay, let's use some useful terminology which will get you into a higher level of conversation in your interviews rather than discussing some trivial definitions of marketing and advertising speak.

The first definition we’ll cover is Consumer Insight. Yup, I’m sighing while writing it as it’s really quite basic so apologies for wasting your time with this one. However, understanding the thorough meaning of a Consumer Insight is key to getting into planning …and then writing briefs….and then briefing creatives…..and then writing APG Creative Award papers. What’s more is that people tend to define a Consumer Insight as an observation.

This is wrong wrong wrong….kind of.

So, a Consumer Insight is a brutal truth of how a human behaves, interacts or responds to a product, brand, task or object. Therefore a Consumer Insight could be that joggers like listening to music when out running because it motivates their pace (hence the Nike ipod), or that people didn’t try Dr Pepper simply because they were complacent to give it a go and always chose their default can of Coca Cola or Pepsi (hence ‘Dr Pepper what’s the worst that can happen?’) or that when calling your bank you become quite pissed off because a) you can’t speak to someone in the UK and your call is being handled in a cheaper call centre based in India and that b) your bank has no sense of close customer relationship and you therefore you feel negative towards it (hence NatWest mocking the management of banks who make selfish decisions).

How is that different to an observation? Well, an observation can be misleading simply because it’s only observing WHAT a person does. A Consumer Insight is a conclusion based on WHAT someone does and then WHY they do it. That’s it. It’s not rocket science or anything and is almost so trivial it’s not worth writing about, but it’s the kind of question you’ll get in an interview:

Q. “What would you say was the consumer insight in the Cadbury’s Gorilla ad?”

A. I would say the consumer insight is based upon the fact that when people eat a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk they feel overwhelmed with pleasure, joy, freedom (from behaving with a diet etc) and that was dramatised by the total random but enjoyable visual/audio ‘feast’ that is the Gorilla ad

Q. “What would you say is the difference between an observation and a consumer insight?”

A. An observationwould be that I have observed that you are using a gold plated moleskin notepad to take notes in my interview. A consumer insight would be that I have observed (WHAT) you are using a gold plated moleskin and have the insight (WHY) that you are totally insecure with your position, status and therefore ability in your role and therefore use what is essentially a wanky pad to give off an air of false achievement in the dire hope someone will think you're paid relatively well to afford such a pointless luxury - that or your parents bought you it and are therefore a spoilt bitch helping to explain your lack of personality due to the middle class cotton wool existence that is your world.

I’ll hire anyone who has the balls to say that or something along those lines in an interview.

Anyway, these are the kind of things that will come up and therefore I thought it important you know some definitions in order to converse fully about them.

Hope that helps

Anton xx