Thursday, 30 August 2007

Networking – a warning

Well, essentially, don’t do it. It’s weak, it’s ugly, it’s transparent and if you want to be a ‘nice’ person (though I cringe at the very thought) it’s something you do naturally and isn't forced.

I’ve written about this truly disgusting faux pas before and because it is probably the most truly horrid thing I encounter I can’t help but point and expose it again to those coming into advertising.

Now, having contacts is different, why? Because you come into contact with them on a purely mutual-benefit basis where each party cuts through the bullshit

“Have you got X, Y or Z?”
“Well fuck off then”

“Have you got X, Y or Z?”
“Yes, Z”
“Great, you can have A if I can have Z”
“Nice one”

..and everyone is happy and no false friends who are utter tools have been made. However, networking is a whole different kettle of fish. Networking is usually at these over priced conferences or dos which 9/10 times spout utter common sense about something totally irrelevant at a bunch of pen and paper scribbling zombies.

I’m being really harsh today, apologies, I’m trying to get a meeting sorted and someone can’t make this time, and the other can’t make that time…anyway, it’s pissing me off.

So, where was I? Ah yes, the slime. So at these events which you may or may not attend and you may or may not enjoy due to the content being either semi interesting or just plain mundane (I hasten to add that there are 2 I know of which are great – out of about a zillion) you’ll break for lunch and THAT is the ‘networking que’.

You’ll spot the speakers being swarmed with fake smiles, nodding heads and sycophantic praise. You’ll see business cards being dealt and I bet most of the time people are getting dodgy hands. You’ll see the young running around desperate to speak to that famous blogger, that award winning creative or just anyone who looks like they’re kinda employed. Don’t do it, it’s not cool, big and certainly not clever.

Why not? It’s a social industry? It’s about meeting new people isn’t it? It’s about you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours? Well, no, I’m sorry it isn’t in my humble opinion. Please don’t think I’m placing any score by my advice being richer than the next, you can choose to take it or dismiss it, I’m simply ranting here as this is my assigned place to do so and I’ve been asked to give you my honest views. I don’t claim either to be seriously senior or command decades of experience, what I do have however is experience from where you’ve come from and where I am now, 3 years in over 5 agencies. That and I’m not exactly the most cheerful of online personalities so as before, all with a pinch. Jesus that was a rationalisation and a half, so back to the point of why it isn’t all that hand shaking, false smiles, friends for 30mins and arse licking crap. Well, no one cares anymore about who you know, what names you can drop, the shoulders you’ve brushed or the conferences you’ve attended. What they care about is you. You and your ability. You and your ambition and capacity to deliver great ideas to make your clients look great through great work. That’s it. I never attend these things without a close friend who is my friend or I attend alone and spend lunch time smoking outside rather than chit chatting crap to people I have not even a vague interest in. That’s not to say you can’t meet people at such events, nothing is impossible after all, but if you’re transparent in your motives, you appear desperately in need of help, it just, well, doesn’t look good. Just be you, if you have a scathing personality unleash it, if you like to recruit friends as if you’re looking for a new family then do it I guess, but never bend or distort who you are and build phoney bridges to get ahead, because they usually amount to zero.

Furthermore, last time I looked I was here to work in a commercial industry not a social networking one. I always harp back to Richard Huntington’s post, but it’s true. No one gives two shits if you’re a nice person who has more bloggers as friends on your facebook than you can sling tripe at. What people care about, again, is your ability and that within a work environment. Look at it like this, girls always prefer the bad boy, the darker one, the different one. Don’t be a social sheep.

On that note, who wants to organise a get together eh?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Walking The Walk

Because JB expressed..ahem..skepticism at my claim that we had had 1000+ hits since we started, I took a screen grab of the Statcounter page to help convince him:

And in less petty (!) news, Brand Republic have very kindly invited us to write a featured blog on their site about the trials and tribulations of breaking into the industry. We'll be sure to let you know when we go live...

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Omnicom and Facebook and University Career Services

Kind of like Sesame Street. Which is still Awesome.

I've got 3 things to say. Firstly I'm going to be at Omnicom's Summer School from Thursday, so if you're going I'll see you there (say hi, I swear I've had my shots) but if you're not - fear not as I'll be blogging about everything that goes down right here later on.

Secondly, we've had a gazillion emails (okay more like -4) asking about Facebook - whether we're going to set up a group or something like that. Well we're not. The main reason being Musa Tariq (who works at JWT) has set up a group already (which you can find here) and it's coming along well, so to start a new group would be pointless. So join the group.

Finally, we've had some contact from universities and students about coming to talk to you guys come term time. If you think you'd want to hear us talk a little about the ad industry, the different job roles, application form technique and all the rest of it, fire me an email and I'll get the ball rolling.

That's pretty much it for now, we've been online for just about two weeks and have over 1000 hits. So thank you guys. Seriously. It's been awesome hearing from so many of you, and there's definitely more to come, so stick with us.

Social Intercourse

Yes it’s a cringe worthy neologism but it gets the point across and often raises a smile yet leaves me looking like a right filthy basstad.

Anyway, being a socialite; liked by many and good to be around can be a valuable skill for any walk of life, but especially so in Media Planning and to a great extent in Account Handling.

As a graduate you are likely to be entering at an assistant level and it’s been mentioned here countless times of how we can not lose sight of that ghastly A-word.

Assistants Assist. Fact. Please do not lose sight of this!

Whether it means you have one manager to get bitched around by or you end up being spread over various accounts, the likelihood is that you will come into contact with a whole roster of agency staff – from the meeting room co-ordinator to the Eastern European cleaners that, if you keep smitten will promise to keep your monitor extra dust-free (shout to my man Gustav)

And as your career progresses you will be liaising with the Media Agency, the Digital Agency, the Experiential Agency, the print supplier, the PR agency etc etc … and of course the greater lord him/herself THE CLIENT.

So what I’m trying to say here is that Adland is a very people-person job. Being Nice is an essential pre-requisite (as Will has talked about below) but being a social, out-going person is perhaps the second most important trait to master after the polite manners, firm hand shakes and good eye-contact.

Sure, you may not be in an agency yet, you may not have even started applying. But it’s definitely worth keeping this in mind now as it will help you in your first stages of contact with agencies and as you progress through the krypton factor that is the telephone interview, psychometric/aptitude test (media) and grad assessment day. Simple things such as tone of voice used in the initial telephone call, just imagine how many grads have called through to the HR team about work experience or placements – (Empathy!) it will be easy for them to spot who’s just had 6 rejections and have now just completely given up just from a 18 second telephone conversation.

The Grad assessment day is a topic we will cover in much more detail very soon, but as cliché as it sounds the usual body language, projection and tone of voice, and ability to be-friend that 2:2 Bournemouth grad that currently works at Weatherspoons as well as the Oxbridge toff who doesn’t really trust anyone that isn’t into rugby really does matter in these situations and even more so in real actual life.

Now, there is no need to get to caught up about how socially perfect you are, its not a matter of how many Facebook friends you have, nor is it worth evaluating how popular you are. Leave the sixth-form leavers book on that Ikea shelf.

But you do need to consider a few things for account handling roles;

- How confident am I?

- Am I an introverted person?

- Do I get on well with others and am I open to a range of types of peoples horizontally and vertically?

- How well do I carry myself when presenting?

- Do I need to stuff a gram up each blow hole in order to be interesting?

These might seem very obvious things to think about but do you really know the answers to these yourself? What would your friends say..honestly!?

Who's up for a pint then?

It's Nice to be Nice...

Football's 'Mr Nice Guy'

Or, 'Why being an arsehole gets you nowhere'.

Picture the scene. You've managed to get into the industry, at long long last. And (quite rightly), you are dead chuffed.

Now, there are usually two reactions to this. You either 1) Become very humble, yet confident about your place in the industry or 2) Start acting like a little Hitler, believing that other people who haven't gotten in are inferior, and that you somehow have a God given right to preach mantras at others.

It's pretty obvious that the latter is only practiced by toss pieces. And I'm sure whoever that's reading this is thinking 'oh no, I've never acted like that'. Rubbish. We all have our little Hitler moments, when the ego's a little overinflated. The trick is to keep them to a minimum, helped out by recognising that we don't, in fact, know everything, and advertising is, after all, just a career, one of many - no more right or wrong than anything else.

But (and the reason for this post), you, Mr or Ms potential grad recruit, you should never ever act like option two before you get into the business. No, no acting like you know it all from the outset. You really don't know why that ad isn't very good - and why would you? It could have been client conflict or some form of agency self interest.

Be a pleasant person. There was an agency grad form of a few years ago which had a question about 'being on a train with someone', and how you'd keep fellow agency folk interested. Well, I'm not prescribing being the most 'interesting' person in the world, because God knows, enough supposed trendier agencies will make the mistake of equating trendy with good at your job. No, you'll be interesting by being a nice guy or gal, and by talking about what you're interested in - whether it's the Norwegian Leather Industry or the Gold Standard, or your Skydiving at the weekends.

And, God knows, this industry is small enough. I'm meeting people who interviewed me a year or so ago now; it's a damned echo chamber. Chances are, you'll end up working with those people. So be nice. It's always worth it in the long run.

NB: Being nice doesn't mean being boring though - be engaging, for God's sake. You don't want to get to interview and just nod and smile without getting your interviewer/s to talk. That's the worst thing in the world.

Your Greatest Weapon

My rejection letter from Saatchis.

Right. I'm totally wired right now and Firefox just crashed so I've lost what I wrote. So as I try to remember what it was that got me to write something in the first place I'll apologize because this post might make less sense than usual.

Your greatest weapon in trying to break into this industry is people telling you that you can't. It's that simple. So you can quit reading this now. Still here? Well then I better tell you a story about how I got to this conclusion.

Earlier this summer I applied for the Saatchi summer scheme. I had a totally rockingly awesome idea for the application. Note how I didn't say 'I think I had' because I know my idea was awesome. Like feel-it-in-my-bones-at-4am-even-though-I'm-totally-tired-and-wired-and-I'm-writing-this-for-the-second-time know. The sob story is here and here, but what I'm trying to tell you is that when I got the letter in the picture above I was pretty much devastated. Like I'd been kicked in the gut. By a horse. But it was the best thing that's happened to me. Honestly. Failure and rejection makes you question yourself. And the one thing most people (and I'm talking about in general here) lack is a true measure of what they're about.

Failure makes you look in the damn mirror and ask yourself 'Am I really, positively sure this is what I want to do?'. Agencies will often ask, in their application forms for a lot of effort from you. And you'll get the standard letter with your name and address mail-merged in if they don't like what you do. It's pretty soul-destroying at first. But what you need to do when it happens - and chances are it will happen to each and every one of us at some point on this graduate recruitment trail, is really use it as opportunity to re-focus. Think about why you want to do this. Why you're choosing to pursue a career in advertising. It won't be the money at this stage, no chance. Not the hours either. But each and everyone of us has a reason they want to do this. Find that reason and harness it. And use that rejection to make you a little more determined.

The people that apply to grad recruitment schemes are by and large, shit. Sorry but they are, agency staff will tell you and Campaign will tell you. That's why you'll see mostly the same faces doing the rounds come interview time. It's the truth, ask Anton and Will and JB. The people who really want careers in this industry are the ones who get them ultimately. Not the people who think having champagne for lunch in Cannes is a career because (and write this down) it's not what advertising is about now, in 2007. You might have champagne for lunch in Cannes but only after having busted your ass to get into an agency and then busted it some more to convince finance and your boss that you're worthy of blowing some cash on.

The ad industry in 2007 is, in some agencies still fighting the future and in all cases trying to figure out how to grab the attention of the person on the street in this maze of communication that is modern life. You have to want to be there.

Ultimately experience, degree subject and a thousand other things are just branches of the 'applicant desirability' tree, the trunk of that baby is desire. You have to want it. And if you do, then that pile of rejection letters will become your muse, it will drive you on. And you'll feel like writing a reply to every single one, saying 'Thank you, you've made me realize how much I want a job in this industry, how good I am going to be, and how wrong you are for not taking me on because I don't tick your boxes. Thank you'

Grad season is about to begin. When you get those rejection letters remember why you want a career in advertising. And remember, all it takes is one agency to say yes, and it won't matter how many letters you had telling you that you weren't good enough, because you'll have proved them all wrong.

Friday, 24 August 2007

If You Ain't Got Grit, You Won't Add Up To Shit

Probably one of my worst attempts at a rhyme but lets move on. Will covered off the nice stuff on empathy but lets get to the nitty gritty of getting you in. You first of all have to love to compete and more to the point love to compete when you’re confident that you’ll win, why else bother? Remember that this is all about you, your future career will take about 70% of your life away from everything else so it has to be right. Also, don't you dare be intimidated by ad agencies whether it's calling them for an internship, having an interview or just thinking you're not good enough. In Paul Arden's words you're as good as you want to be so it'll be survival of the hunger (and witty). Also, ad agencies like a bit of attitude, it's what creative people generally have in advertising, don't be an all out know it all wanker (like I am) as you'll get slapped down very quickly, but it's okay to be playfully cocky which I'll come to later. This post really is about a level of self confidence, having a total disregard for the competition when trying to get into advertising and (although not really mentioned in this post) also when you do get in don't you ever let anyone talk to you like a piece of shit ever ever ever no matter what you've done or forgotten to do. Pick your fights wisely but at the same time don't allow some insecure twat to take out their inferiority on you. Sorry about that, was getting a bit ranty.

When applying for your grad schemes there will be approx 5 places for new grads. There will be on average about 300 initial applications. You would think that most of these will be at a high standard, wrong, the majority of applications I’ve sifted through are nothing short of being proper shit. However, that’s no excuse for you to take this as notion of comfort. Oh no, this is really an opportunity that can’t be missed. While your counterparts will be answering questions regarding their favourite ads with examples such a Transformers for Citroen or of course Sony Balls you have to think, maybe I should be different. Why not go back in time to some of the classics, Hamlet advertising for example or Iguana for Benson & Hedges, YouTube it, then google it and research it, get a few insights, facts into how they were made, what they did and then bullshit a rationale as to why you love it. You may of course like them in reality but this is application time so will require some verbal sugar around it. Always, always think of what the chump in front of you will be saying and working out how you can come across smarter.

Have any of you read Paul Arden’s 2nd book? ‘It’s Not How Good You Are It’s How Good You Want To Be’ was his first book but his second is ‘Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite’. I don’t care what anyone says about Arden claiming the obvious, the guy is a fucking genius and is so right on pretty much every page. You should get a read of it really if for no other reason that it’s quite motivating.

Anyway, back to the original idea of this post and my next comment may sound quite controversial so apologies in advanced. I really don’t believe you will have that much success in advertising unless you have (or harder to do, but develop) a slightly dark and cynical side to you. For one thing it allows you to cope with the everyday knocks and falls you have when you’re a grad. Secondly, it’s the currency of banter in the upper circles of ad agencies. The guy or girl with the slightly sick sense of humour seems to either have better ideas or gets more laughs and either of those two are what essentially advances your career. I don’t subscribe to a twee, lovely, sweet and oh so joyous outlook on life (like some of those famous for blogging do) and prefer to think of the inappropriate. I wont insist that you do this, it has gotten me into trouble more times than I care to remember. The very very very very long winded point I’m trying to make is that humour and colloquial verbalisation of natural thought are often key in this industry. It’s okay for you to maybe have fun in a dark way with some of your questions in applications, remember, these are colourful people, they have to sift through 299 other applications that usually say the most mundane tripe in a really dire way. Like a planner think of your audience, think of what state your reviewer will be in when they read your application, usually pissed off they've been given this job, hating the guy from Cambridge who thought it would be creative to write everything upside down, more than likely looking at emails whilst trying to care what you've written. So take artistic license, this isn’t an exam and this isn’t a job at a bank, enjoy writing them. Listen to nasty electro while you write them, whatever it takes. Anyway, I’m off, sicko night at Turnmills awaits. Speak soon.

Empathy - The Greatest Trait

It certainly is. Picture via LastExit. Usual rules apply.

Whether you are a high flying agency exec, a D&AD pencil winning creative, or a grad trying to get into the business, there's one thing which everyone needs to be aware of.

We all need to be hugely empathetic. That is, we need to be able to sympathise with others, and be able to put ourselves in other people's shoes.

The notion, for example, that planning has to be 'the voice of the consumer', is short sighted. But you do have to realise what people's thought processes are rooted in. This is perhaps most marked at the graduate recruitment stage.

Let's say you get an interview (no mean feat in itself). You more than likely have 30 minutes to meet two people (usually an account director and a planner) and talk about why you are right for advertising, etc etc. Now, I imagine these chaps hear a lot of stock answers to things, so put yourself in their shoes? Would YOU hire that person who was technically excellent, but you can't really remember who he or she was?

No, of course not. And it's this kind of thing which separates the wheat from the chaff, those who have done their research (though not too much - don't want to come across as an 'ad nerd', as I'm sure I did) and are, above all, interesting and engaging people.

It is, of course, difficult to legislate for just how well things go, or what kind of interviewer you'll have (everyone is different, and not all people click in half an hour), and just what the dynamic is between the interviewers - some do good cop, bad cop, some are just both smiling intently (I always found that more troubling, to be honest - Sharks do the same thing).

And yes, you can still not get in, even if you interview brilliantly, due to cultural reasons or other candidates just being bloody good/better than you. But having a sense of empathy will stand you in a damn good stead.

I Am Sam

Target market. That's what I'd say I am in two words. In relation to this blog that is. I am the type of person that we're all trying to help. The desperate, poor student that yearns for a job in the glamorific world of advertising. Or something like that.

I'm just about to start my final year at university and am standing on the edge of the real world hoping adland is the place for me. I stumbled upon advertising as a career choice 3 or 4 years ago (the truth being I can't remember exactly when) with Andrea Neidle's How to get into advertising and the old Brand Republic forums. It was there I first met Anton and JB, the meeting with Anton ultimately responsible for The AdLads, but it's important to remember (for me at least) that we're friends before bloggers - I don't know why it's worth saying, but it is.

So I read the book and I liked it, and I thought now what? Need some of that work experience. My first place (which I won't name) they tried to make me do PR stuff. So I did the foolish thing and didn't bother going back after one day. I had the problem of not going to university in London as well as the fact that vacation time is often spent in the Lone Star State so I had to be well organised and lucky to try and get a couple of placements lined up.

I applied to BBH's work experience scheme twice and got the standard rejection letter, which annoyed me no end. So I decided to ask why I wasn't getting anywhere with them, and within an hour of sending the 'why not' email, I had a week secured. Bingo. I spent a week there with the Audi and Levis teams, doing work experience stuff but trying to soak everything in, I talked to a couple of planners and pretty much made my mind up right there that adland was it for me.

The next vacation time I had, I had a week at Saatchis and a fortnight at Leith London. Saatchis was good because I actually semi-knew the account director I was with, in that she had gone to the same university as me, I got my hands dirty with designing the application process that Will completed for his scholarship and generally had a pretty good time. The fortnight I had at Leith was probably the most valuable thing I did, because it's such a small agency that you really get the chance to see what goes on everywhere, creative / production / accounts / planning etc. They had just lost the Carling account so it was a place in crisis as well and you all know that crises really tell you about people / organizations.

My ultimate goal with the work experience stuff was to get a years placement (because I was doing one as part of my degree), I got close but the agency that offered me one was going through the blender money-wise and I heard no more from them. So I took the offer that I had on the table, from one of the top 3 car makers in the world and spent a year in their digital marketing department, learning about this internet thing.

While the year client side was good, I felt disconnected from adland and thought I should apply for summer schemes to get back in the groove of things (at this point Anton and I had started to write AdLads as well). The Saatchi Summer Scheme application ended up being my secret weapon, as I created a fake eBay listing for the job (with, as the song goes, a little help from my friends), which got me into Campaign but eventually got me a rejection letter as well. But the silver lining was that I met a ton of cool people over the course of the next few months, and eventually I got myself onto a summer school type thing (Omnicom's), which I'll be at next week (if you are as well drop me an email).

So I talk too much, sleep too little, have an unhealthy obsession with the Dallas Cowboys, Superman/Smallville and Heroes, use the word 'awesome' too much and am pretty much totally crazy. And I'll see a lot of you come grad recruitment season in the Fall (yes I call it Fall, in real life). I'm Sam.

A razor and the light is what I seek

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Jack wisely started some FAQs yesterday that we're gonna put on the wiki by the end of next week. As September begins, the wiki will be fully operational. So keep checking back here.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Reality vs Fantasy

Yes, sometimes clients will do this to you...

Or otherwise known as 'shattering those illusions'.

There's a helluva lot of a discrepancy between what a lot of graduate schemes will tell you, and what the job is really like. If this blog does nothing else, it should help wise you all up about what the job is really like - short of properly experiencing it.

The first job, if you are able to get onto a grad scheme, will undoubtedly be in account management. Now, personally (and again, due to my upbringing - dad's a suit, y'see), I thought the job would have incorporate a helluva lot of strategy from the very beginning. Wrong.

You'll be binding, checking, photocopying and client pleasing, spending an awful lot of time on PowerPoint as you go (though the latter never really leaves you, I won't lie). The pace of life gets really quick, really fast. No dicking about, this is a job, not an extended University booze cruise. Along the way, you do have a lot of fun - you get to have (some) long lunches with the client and the senior agency management, the odd random and fun day out and generally experience a lot of different things.

It's a good thing, really - because it helps you realise just what the meat and drink of the job is straight away, and what each of the different departments in an ad agency do - there's a danger that if you have your heart set on being a planner at first, you'll never really find out what the art buying department, account handlers or production do on a daily basis. No, you get to experience it all, which is great for your learning.

You also begin to realise why a lot of junior account handlers either move into planning or drop out of the industry - it's just not like the land of academia they knew, or the picture painted by the agency.

Now, the job does change. You become more senior, the strategic element of the job gets greater, and it becomes a lot more cerebral. Which is great for some people, but not for everyone - it's why the likes of Anton and myself became planners - plainly, we didn't feel that the job was for us, but we liked the strategic element.

You may have an idea of what you'd like to do now - plainly, a lot of you who are more academic will be thinking either 'planning sounds great' or 'oo err, maybe advertising's not for me - it sounds like a slog'. But you have to experience it to realise where your strengths lie and where you fit in.

Just don't get taken in by fantasy, that's all...

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth

So I guess it’s my (Anton’s) turn to write something, not that I mind writing or that I consider myself ‘too busy’ to do so, just an insecurity that I’ll bore you really.

So I won't fuck around or try and bullshit about advertising being great, spew lies about lunches, intellectualise what a planner’s role is or hide from you the fact that the first year or two is quite demoralising. Sorry, that’s all bit rank really isn’t it, but it’s honest. So what is there to celebrate about thinking of a career in advertising? Well for me what is really key are the people. Sounds quite twee actually, but harps back to my original declaration, it’s honest. The people I’ve crossed paths with in advertising are (Sandstorm by Cast has just come on and I can’t help but recognise that it’s a class tune, anyway) funny, dull, clever, shit, fantastic, egocentric, generous, inspirational, de-motivating, helpful, harmful, indulgent, bullies, grateful…I could go on, my point being is that no where else in a work environment have I come across such a colourful group of people.

So yeah, you have friends who provide all these things but what you want is a rock solid career I guess. Well, the thing is, in my humble opinion, unless you have an intrinsic interest in people you’re going to be pretty shit in advertising. Further to that if you have an issue with being honest you’re going to (despite popular belief) have an even greater issue with a career in advertising. The only way I can think of communicating an analogy for this right now, due to a fuzzy head (another good thing: in no other work place are you celebrated for rocking in looking like you had a nastier evening than the other guy/girl) is when you were a kid and lying to your parents would come out all incoherent, disjointed and generally transparent as opposed to being a teenager when you believed in your angst driven convictions and could argue and argue and argue…because essentially you believed you were right. My long winded point being that by being honest and presenting the truth as you see it is a pre-requisite; the day of the bull shitter is long gone. Having said that I’ve managed to escape Account Management and now work in utopia that is strategic planning which essentially is based on understanding humans and being honest so my view is most certainly skewed, however, it makes me look better if you share it obviously.

I need some water, a sandwich and 2 ibuprofen so I’m going to cut this short. Umm, yeah I love it really, I love the people I work with, I love how I respect/aspire to be my bosses and don’t think they’re dumb c*nts, I love learning about people and how they behave and how they click with products and I love the fact I’m paid to do so. I’ll write more intelligibly next time I promise.....and it’s okay by the way to romanticise working in advertising (if you're passionate about the above) along as you aren’t out to network, I hate networking and the future of this industry depends on you to hate it in its traditional form also.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Anton, Unmasked

Anton started out at the funky hot shop that was Leonardo for part of his university placement year. After which he went on to experience life at Leo Burnett working on McDonald’s loving the return to his home town, Newcastle and getting into arguments with ‘alternative’ friends in fields on the topic of global fast food brands. When not holding a shield with a phat yellow M on it he was contributing to the launch of Salads Plus and Maccy Dee’s Euro 2004 Sponsorship.

Wanting to finish his placement year on a high note Anton applied to the Saatchi & Saatchi Summer Scholarship Scheme. Not happy with his brief to take an A4 poster with ‘Nothing is Impossible’ and put it somewhere ‘interesting’ he and two friends convinced the industry that they had hacked M&C Saatchi’s website and animated the poster over its homepage. Anton attracted attention from M&C’s lawyers, a Gold DMA Award (2004) and a place on Saatchi’s Summer scheme working on Visa. Returning to University for a finale of studying and indulgent abuse he applied to numerous agencies for graduate recruitment, accepted 1 of the 3 offered for reasons such as ‘greater training’ and ‘a more integrated approach to a heavily fragmented media space’ but we all know it’s because they offered him more money.

Anton is now a Planner getting filthy in traditional and non traditional media, can’t stand networking but loves to bore those who he finds natural and good with his visions of how to fuse TV with digital and theories of restructuring agencies.

Monday, 13 August 2007

You aren't the University you went to..

Books you'll never have to read again (maybe). Thanks to muppetspanker. Usual rules apply.

This is going to be a post that can be split in half, so bear with me.

Sparked by a debate on the Brand Republic forums, I thought I should have a stab at debating the 'Which University' topic here.

Right, first and foremost, I'll briefly explain my University background. I went to Exeter, a fairly good red brick University, and did English Literature, doing pretty well.

Like a good deal of grads, I'd wager, I thought that my marks at University and at A Level (coupled with my father's experiences) would automatically get me a plum job on the grad schemes. I got an interview with Leo Burnett, then systematically bugger all afterwards.

So, lesson one for potential grads - doing well at University does NOT mean you'll automatically get in to a massive agency, and live the life of milk and honey. No way. You need to prove your thinking, and get a little lucky (anyone can just not hit it off with their interviewer on the day).

Let's flip this around, and imagine you went to a University which did advertising as a course, or maybe business. You know (or you think you know) how the industry is run, what's going to happen, and again, think you deserve a passage in. That's also bollocks, and let me explain why.

Knowing the theory behind something doesn't mean you can actually do it. I'm sure there will be a lot of marketing/advertising/business grads, come December, having been rejected from each grad scheme, asking why...

Well, it's fairly simple - you need to be able to point to something (whether you chose a more traditional academic subject, or the more vocational subjects in the case of the latter) that proves you can actually DO the job. Work experience is nice, but even multiple work experience placements doesn't guarantee you can actually do the job - especially as work experience tends to be doing simple work, or being shown the glamourous side of things. To be honest, if someone had a lot of placements, I'd question why they hadn't gotten in yet - surely one of them would have hired that person?

Let's imagine a third scenario. You went to Oxford or Cambridge, and are in the nation's elite when it comes to intelligence at your chosen subject. From my experiences, you're pretty likely to make the first round cull, and get to an interview - in fact, much more likely than those who either went to a red brick or an ex-polytechnic, in my experience.

But then, you bugger up the interview, despite seeming to know this is what you want to doesn't seem to make sense, does it?

Well, let's take all of this 'Which University did you go to' thinking and chalk up a few truisms (and a few warnings):

1) If you went to Oxford or Cambridge you are more likely to get through the process.

It doesn't seem fair to those who applied from non-Oxbridge outfits, but think about it...if you are a HR person or an agency person who has to divvy up thousands of applications, how'd you do it? By University? Well, probably not just that, but it'll surely be a factor (and why not - you want the best and brightest to help win you business).

2) Advertising or more vocational courses don't guarantee you interviews.

Of course they don't. Advertising has always been about variety - if I'm interviewing you, I want to know about your life outside of advertising, not just that you have a vague notion of what a brand key is or somesuch. They are useful to help you get over early hurdles and to help you have an idea that this is what you want to do - but, speaking personally, I know agency people who actively distrust them; they could, after all, lead to rigid, 'course based' ways of thinking about business or branding problems. That said, knowing the business (to a point) IS important.

3) Work experience and knowing about the business helps a lot.

It proves you are keen, regardless of University. But it doesn't negate your University experiences or course; it's just another tick in your favour, and proves you have begun to get your hands dirty. But it's not everything, oh no. People who have an idea about where the business is going, what they'd recommend for certain clients (and can back it up), those people have the aces in the hole, regardless of the work experience they may or may not have accrued.

Right, I hope that was helpful. Ultimately, the graduate recruitment process is a bit of a duck hunt - sometimes you get lucky, and lots of offers; but sometimes your face doesn't fit, or you have a bad interview, or circumstances change beyond your control, regardless of seeming to do everything right. It's not fair, but for God's sake, don't blame anything. Just pick yourself up, and keep trying. And no bitching about your University.

About The Wiki..

...we had it planned, and you asked for it as well, so a wiki is on the way. We'll stash our guest contributors' stories on how they got into adland there along with a meaty reading list, graduate recruitment deadlines and whatever else you guys put on it. Remember, this site and its content are yours, so keep telling us what you want.

Just give us some time to make the wiki look cool.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Jack Bauer? How did you get in here?

I HAVE DEVOTED MY WHOLE LIFE TO PROTECTING MILLIONS OF AMERI - okay thats about all the Jack Bauer you're gonna get here I'm afraid.

I'll get the ball rolling with my entrance into adland as its easily the least glamorous of all of us.

Present: I'm fast approaching my first year at a Media Agency... Lets keep it at that. It is major one though, one of the top5 - lots of new business, lots of awards, lots of krispy kremes. I'm on the comms planning team working on a major Automotive client, an FMCG and until recently I was working on a major high street bank advertiser.

I got in on the grad scheme after an interview, aptitude test and grad assessment day (more on these later). I reckon most of it was knowledge and talent - rest was the agency needing to fill their ethnic minority staff quota!

Past: Prior to this I had a month experience at a small content creation agency in Brixton called Ramp (now Up-comms). Although it was unpaid, the work was good and I was involved in some tidy projects such as Channel 4's UK Tribes, Guardian's Digital Nation and Puma's Adopt a German campaign - all of which gave me sound understanding of 'yoof' and exposure to the rise of new media.

Future?: Media is where I am now but who knows if it will be where I end up.

And that's about it for an introduction... I've plenty to share on getting into adland and keen to help anyone.


My Story...

Yes, I've always looked this confused, unfortunately (photo courtesy of Sam).

Right then, let's have a stab at this... ahem. So, my journey in Ad Land..

It could be argued that my journey into advertising happened from birth, to be honest. My father is a 'suit'. He's an account handler, and the MD of a Cheltenham agency (after stints at Cogent and as a marketing manager of Kays catalogue). I must hasten to add that he knows bugger all people in London, before cries of 'nepotism' are heard.

So I've always been aware of the wider ad world; he'd come home, complain about certain clients, and revel when a pitch went well. As someone who's always been interested in English (both reading and writing), I thought I'd become a copywriter when I grew up.

All of this was forgotten when I went to University to read English, right up until the second year. I then began to realise that perhaps a career as a self financing author wouldn't be that financially lucrative. So it was time to look around.

Having the world's crappest careers library, I took to the t'internet. As well as Advertising, I considered Publishing (not well paid enough, potentially very dull), Law (sign your life away for a £60k starting salary), Journalism (having to start at the very very bottom didn't really appeal) or Editing (snore).

So Advertising it was. I'm a bit lucky; because of my Dad, I was given access to Campaign each week. Visions of long lunches and massive accounts began to form in my mind - I was going to be an account handler, and a bloody good one.

I only applied to two schemes in 2005 (Grey and the WPP Fellowship) in my final year, preferring to concentrate on getting a good final mark - which, I'm happy to say, worked out. I was a bit put off by Grey's process; it was all about making a DVD of yourself, going to a party in London, and THEN make an ad. Seemed like a lot of work, but it was fun...sadly, I didn't get in. The WPP scheme, by contrast, seemed like a golden ticket, the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory of the ad world. Got to a first round interview there, but sadly no further...

Regardless, my appetite was whetted. I needed to find out some more. I thought to myself that I could do with some work experience - not being from London, I had no funds to get myself down, nor people to stay with. So I took a temp job at home to pay for my excursions - and did a bit of account handling/the odd competitive review at Fallon and DLKW. The advantage of all of this was that it helped me figure out just where I'd fit in..or at least gave me some idea.

At this point, I decided to write a blog, after reading Russell's, Noisy Decent Graphics (who later wrote a very nice post about me here) & Adliterate. I didn't have much to say, but I thought that it'd be a useful in showcasing how I thought, and how I'd be a useful addition to the agency world.

Come summer time, I was able to successfully get onto the Saatchi & Saatchi Summer Scholarship (after doing an online account management task or three, a phone interview and the infamous final task). All of that, plus my experiences beforehand, and my blog, convinced them to allow me on.

Sadly, I was a rubbish, rubbish account man. Working at SaatchiX, I basically found out that looking after the minutae of an account (at least as a junior) was really not for me - this wasn't the constant client meeting or strategising that my father did. No, it was very admininstrative, with what seemed like constant demands..and it really wasn't playing to my strengths.

Throughly chastened, I finished the scheme and buggered off back home to do some more temping, and some more thinking. Maybe Advertising wasn't for me? Well...after briefly reconsidering Law, and being abused by the locals at the local council, I came to a conclusion. What did I enjoy the most? Strategy. Helping work out business problems, and solving them. It was under my nose the whole time.

Yep, I was a planner. I tried to convince various agency grad schemes that was the case, but wasn't able to do it. However, various conversations with Richard Huntington at United (the writer of Adliterate) were occuring in the whole process, and I went up to London to meet him. We got on like a house on fire, and I was hired in March 2007 as a junior planner.

After some enjoyable months, the agency was touted as merging (after losing £75m worth of SKY business) with Grey. Sadly, we didn't, and selected staff members from United joined up with them. Still, it was enough for me to know I was a planner - I'd assisted on a lot of the agency's business, and was told I got on really well.

But it could have been back to square, happily, it wasn't. I made a book of all my planning thinking and work (along with various brand positionings of my own), and went around various agencies, picking up some useful advice, and some freelance positions.

And here I am today, freelancing and writing this blog and 'Confessions of a Wannabe Ad Man'. Phew, I hope that was useful for someone...

The Road Ahead

Right it's August. And grad applications don't open until say mid-September. So until then, we plan on getting an all-star cast together and letting them tell you their own stories of how they got into the advertising industry. If you have any requests for people you'd really like to hear from, put 'em in the comments box and we'll do our best to oblige.

And yes, we'll have a reading list as well.

Baby Steps

So on a strangely summer-like Friday morning we begin. This blog will be, (we hope) the start of some collaborative career related goodness for all of you out there applying for graduate recruitment places for September 2008.

We plan on getting an all star cast of adland together to share their experiences of getting into advertising, as well as giving you tips on interviews, application questions, keeping you up to date with agency deadlines and anything else you want.

A Facebook group will also be set up (who doesn't these days) but the bulk of the good stuff will be here, so check back often.

You guys will drive the content we put up, so any requests, questions, abuse or freebies are welcome.

And good luck to you all.