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

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The Rebel Sell

Has anyone read this book before?

t’s not particularly ground breaking however it’s a great account of the history of how rebellion has become fashionable and I recommend you get a copy as some of the points made can get you into some quite interesting arguments with the trustafarians of this world.

Anyway, the reason for making note of it is because I’ve started to notice that this fashionable or stylish kind of rebellion is becoming more and more apparent. If a brand does it then they become a ‘challenger brand’ such as Apple vs IBM and achieve instant credentials for sticking it to the system. If someone does it at work they are heralded for being an innovator, a successful rogue trader or not being afraid to challenge the set structure.

Having said that, there are quite strict boundaries to rebellion that sells or is considered fashionable or stylish (essentially if you’re just a pure cocky c*nt you’ll run into trouble – I have this problem you see, but reversely there are those who I think are cocky c*unts so it’s the circle of life really, just don’t be stupidly arrogant).

What seems apparent is that in order for this kind of rebellion to be considered quite acceptable is that it must be fighting for a clear benefit (e.g. to provide an alternative product to a megalomaniac monopoly) Essentially there is no revelation in the theory of revolution/rebellion that has changed (see very basic chart below).

But what has changed is the attraction in how we consume products that gain kudos from such soft rebellion or people who strive to evolve current systems via soft revolution and where successful clearly gain respect.

This truly is one of my long winded points…and I shall endeavour to make it somehow relevant. When entering into your career in advertising you are not there to simply tow a line and play by someone else’s book, you can but you’ll end up like much ad agency grey matter. This is a creative based industry that is meant to keep up with how humans behave, interact with the world around them and understand what levers to pull them on …….like humans there are no set way of doing things. Now don’t take that as a green light to cave the face in of the first snot nosed Account Director who asks you to photocopy their tedious documents or challenge a creative director because you think he’s a coke fiend with less creativity than a retarded newt. Play the game, keep focused, remain hard working, pick fights wisely but don’t be afraid to challenge the norms and the established if you see a benefit for the ‘work’ in it – just like the brands which people love for their revolutionary nature…….and don’t network too much….it’s for cun…..

Anton xxx

Monday, 24 September 2007

Star Stories: Eaon Pritchard

Our sixth star story comes courtesy of Eaon Pritchard, a creative at Weapon7, an interactive ad agency, which has done some very interesting work for Xbox and Smirnoff (the 'Triple Distilled' spot in particular) amongst others. Eaon's blog can be found here.


by Eaon Pritchard


It's 1992 and I'm in the back office of the record shop in Aberdeen that I manage.

I'm clutching a brown cardboard envelope containing an Italian white label 12" record that's been mailed to me by one of the specialist importer/distributers I buy from. The note attached tells me they are hopeful of doing some business with this record and what did i think? It will be available as an import in about 3 weeks.

On the blank white label the words Glam Hell's Party are scribbled in black marker.

I dump the record onto the turntable and drop the needle on. Its a full on Euro house/disco stomper that samples Curtis Mayfield from 'If theres a Hell Below..'

On first listen, I'm thinking that I could probably shift about 20-25 of these on import before any UK release and decide to give it a whirl at one of my dj engagements at the weekend.

Over the next few weeks I play it at every gig and everywhere it drops the roof goes off. It's a monster tune. When the labelled copies are finally available I end up selling over 250 12" on import over the following couple of months before it's picked up by Sony in the UK, remixed and released for a stab at the charts.

The Sony rep calls me to sell in his new releases and offers it as a 1 in 3 deal (ie buy 3 get one free) expecting a big order. I buy 6. Ive already sold 250 on import so I'm done with it, now it's time for HMV or whatever to takeover.

The Long Tail and the Tipping Point in action before anyone had properly coined those phrases.


The distributer gave me one of the few white labels know in my history of being able to sell decent numbers of Italian imports. I'm also a reasonably well-known dj in Scotland. An influencer in my niche.

I play the record at the clubs I'm booked at (the small ones that are full of the clued-up kids - the influencers in their towns) - the cool kids love it and want it. When it's available they are the first to have it and play it at there own parties. The idea spreads. The specialist shops sell shed loads on import.

Sony cool detectors pick up the record for mass market - its in all the chains and hits the top 40.

It's hit the early and late majority.

It was round about this time I realised that I was destined for marketing because, without any formal training or anything, I just understood this stuff.


It's now 2007.

I'm working as a creative technical strategist with Weapon7, a specialist digital advertising agency in London, using basically the same principles to develop digital marketing campaigns for global brands. It's come full circle again as traditional mass interruption advertising is no longer as effective as it was in the pre-digital age, with word of mouth - this time accelerated by networked connectivity on an unprecedented scale. An evolved (fuzzy) role (geek marketer? T-shaped creative? Job 2.0? – delete as appropriate) with an evolved agency.

I quit the music industry around ’96 after helping launch a group of indie labels. We released about 15 records a month for 3 or 4 years. No big hits but the Long Tail kept us ticking over – we could sell about 2,000 of any release so it made sense to release loads rather than look for one big hit.

I then picked up my crayons again (I had hardly drawn anything since leaving Art School in 89 with a fine art degree) and spent a year or so learning how to work a mac on the job at the local newspaper setting ads.

Next stop was a small design and comms agency based in Aberdeen where we worked with the oil companies on everything from brochures, intranets and safety videos. The big lesson there was – never say no to a job. If we didn’t know how to do it we’d just go and figure it out. Try, fail and learn.

Decamping to London in 2000 I had the idea that interactive tv was going to be the next big thing, post dot com crash. After about 18 months at Sky I realised that probably wasn’t my smartest move (fail and learn, again) and then became Creative Director with Littlewoods Gaming, an old fashioned company looking to launch its gambling products into the 21st century and a market dominated by young pretenders like

Around this time, I had my next epiphany when I was given a copy of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. It seemed like everything I had been thinking but unable to articulate properly was encapsulated in those pages.

‘Pouring off every page like it was written in my soul’ as Bobby D would say – that’s maybe a bit dramatic but you get where I’m coming from.

My advice for grads making their first tentative steps into industry?

Well, if you are clever enough to be reading this blog and participating in these conversations you don’t need much from me. You already realise the power of community and dialogue in modern marketing. You are smarter than the average bear already.

Your potential employers and clients are desperate for new thinking, fresh approaches and innovation that’s going to keep their products/services and marketing relevant – beyond 30 second spots, no matter how smarty pants (I’m thinking drumming gorillas here…)

Be fuzzy, poke your nose in where its not wanted, challenge the status quo, don’t ask permission for anything and be prepared to fail and learn.

That’s about it.

Friday, 21 September 2007

This is how recruitment should be done..

Well done BBH.

It's why I chose advertising at any rate - to have a good time and be paid a good salary. The insight is spot on. The little lad even has a fine pair of planner glasses, as well.

I'd love to know if this viral film has had any influence on where potential grads would like to work..comments, anyone?

Being Yourself and Grad Apps..

Was this you at 5? It wasn't me. Via SlideShowMom. Usual rules apply.

Well, I thought I should write something on Ad Grads, especially after the dissection of how to answer the 'proper' ad questions yesterday. This post relates to personality, and how that, in turn, relates to graduate applications.

Essentially, a lot of the more peculiar questions on the grad apps are personality tests. What flavour sandwich filling you'd be, for example, is just a way of seeing if you think laterally and just how skilful you are at explaining yourself.

After meeting a lot of graduates/people looking to get into advertising at the 'Don't Tell My Mum' event last night, something became clear - people wanted to have an idea of just how to conduct themselves in these interviews, and essentially, how best to go about answering questions on the application forms.

And it goes - do you try to be 'wacky' on these forms, or not? Well, it really depends on your rationale. If you can pull off humour in these forms (not everyone can, so be careful), then go for it. One thing I would say is to identify which questions you think they want silly (but thoughtful) answers to.

You can get bitten on the arse if you take the mick on a question they think should be serious. Ultimately, answer the questions as you see fit, to help people see just what the 'real' you is like (obviously with the odd embellishment when answering the sillier questions). And be on your guard; you don't want to come across as straight laced person on paper, and then be a bit crazy in real life - it's not a fair reflection of who you are (unless ad agencies value schizophrenics, which they didn't, the last time I checked).

One thing which is evident is that people who write well, and see the 'question behind the question' that Anton identifies, will usually get to interview. So if you don't think you write that well, spend a bit of time poring over the application questions.

If it all goes to plan, you get to have a face-to-face interview.

Then the real games begin, and you begin to realise the lottery element of it all (and why, sometimes, the most talented people slip through the net). But don't give up - if this is going to be your career, you shouldn't compromise on what you want to do.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Real Planning School of the Web: Part 1 creative critique

Never heard of this film before......looks worth a box of popcorn though....anyway it’s grad recruitment time. The applications are out there and you’re mulling over them all thinking what the fuck. Maybe you’re not actually, maybe you’re doing quite well and therefore my opinions don’t actually count. However, for some of the rookies looking to get in I thought I’d start my own planning school here on adgrads. Really to help you think about advertising in a different way.

So my first attempt at this is going to be on creative critique. The reason being is that most of the time you’ll be asked to give a creative judgment on a campaign or execution and share your thoughts or act as an account handler and sell in the work. Not always an easy thing, the sell in of the Cadbury’s Gorilla work must have been a gem to watch but where do you start? So here is a brief framework to get an opinion together which you can follow, morph, scrap or just ignore.

Advertising Idea & Execution
I always find it best to make the stark distinction between these two when looking at creative work and as the title may indicate, it’s quite obvious. The advertising idea being the core thought that makes the advertising relevant to both the product and the target audience. It can be communicated in many different medias and usually can be summarised in a simple sentence. The execution is, clearly, a creative manifestation of the idea. It renders sound, colour, symbols, shapes and provokes emotion and thought (or in ad speak ‘consideration’). So far so good….well no, not really as that doesn’t help in the slightest unless I can apply it to a real example. One that always springs to mind which is quite easy to use is the Dr Pepper work…although not around today. You know the one:

The advertising idea being born from the problem that people just weren’t buying Dr Pepper. It wasn’t because of the taste it was simply because people had the default carbonated choice of Pepsi or Coca Cola or the other major players such as Lilt or Fanta. When researching this problem it was found that people actually really liked Dr Pepper, just they’d never tried it. So the advertising idea was simply – don’t be afraid to try Dr Pepper

The execution is what you can watch on the YouTube link above i.e. Dr Pepper, what’s the worst that can happen, manifesting the play on the consumer insight that people weren’t trying it for the silly reason that….they hadn’t tried it before… the execution dramatised this consumer insight and produced the Dr Pepper advertising we know and love.

If you think of a ‘now’ product you could apply the above framework to then Lipton Ice springs to mind. It’s a really good soft drink but people will 9/10 opt for Oasis or Lilt as the thought of cold tea isn’t that great. Try it though and I guarantee you’ll like it and drink more of it.

Anyway, I digress. So the next step after being able to make the two clear distinctions in breaking down creative is the Creative Rationale. What this means in human speak is a reason for the existence of the execution. This will 9/10 times be consumer knowledge. For example, research shows that men buy the majority of Citroen C4s, so use a robot to talk to men. That quite simply is a creative rationale and will follow the idea and execution.

The great thing about this framework is that there isn’t any mystical skill to it, just practice as you would any technique. Take an ad from TV or a magazine and try it. Some wont be as easy as others, some will be shit with little to no thought and therefore are either really obvious or just don’t exist or some really good ads will be quite obscure such as Sony Balls (how do you communicate HD colour on non HD colour TVs – use lots of colours in a beautiful way on any TV) and Cadbury Gorilla (communicate enjoyment by giving people 90 seconds of random entertainment). Remember, it is creative stuff you’re talking about so it won’t always fall neatly into boxes.

Then there is a Buying Rationale, wont bore you with this but essentially this is a summary of your points so you would recap your verbatim in a linear process to make the interviewer know you have a structure to your analysis, so your recap would be:

…so to summarise I believe the idea for Cadbury's Gorilla (and this is subjective and not the law, if you can support your idea then it’s valid – that’s the beauty of advertising analysis) is that Cadbury's are more generous with their milk content than any other chocloate bar, therefore they use that generosity in their advertising by giving the public 90 seconds of entertainment. In order to execute this, the advertising is be as enjoyable as eating chocolate so to have a gorilla drumming to Phil Collins is not only random but funny and therefore enjoyable. The rationale for this being that Cadbury's Dairy Milk has reached a peak in terms of awareness, everyone knows it exists, therefore there isn't a need for a hard sell but to create an emotional affinity with the product, to have positive values attributed to the product. Therefore this ad is there to entertain and engage audiences with Cadbury Dairy Milk via a completley different TV advertising model - almost branded content if you will (that's a different post).

Think I better get back to work now. Hope that helps.

Anton xx

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Star Stories: Simon Veksner

Our fifth star story comes courtesy of Simon Veksner, a creative at BBH. Simon's been involved in a lot of high profile campaigns, most notably this for Vodafone. His blog, Scamp, is one of the most widely read creative blog on the internet, and can be found here.


by Simon Veksner

I’m one of those sad people that just always really liked advertising. I even sang jingles in my primary school playground. (Hey, whatever happened to jingles? Surely it’s time they came back…)

My dad used to work at the Sunday Times and I would beg him to bring me home copies of their poster ads. They had a very cool campaign back then, with the endline “Haven’t you ever wished you were better informed?” It ran on images like Anne Boleyn about to get married to Henry VIII.

I was quite academic so I ended up going to Oxford University, and then I applied to ad agencies in the milk round. I got offered a job at BMP, as an Account Handler. I think one of the reasons they wanted to hire me was because I was so enthusiastic about advertising.

However, I was also very na├»ve. I hadn’t done any research – literally jack-all - and I actually didn’t know that there was such a thing as Creatives, who wrote the ads. When I found this out, I decided not to take the job.

I think that was the right decision, as it’s not really possible to transfer to the Creative Department once you get into the industry. It’s a separate skill-set, and requires specific training. Not to mention completely different outfits.

In fact, to get a job as a Creative, you really have to do a specialist course in that. There are several out there, the best-known ones being at Watford College, St Martin’s in London, and Bucks college.

So that’s what I did. I went to Watford, to do their one-year course in Copywriting.

These courses are an excellent foundation, and a great place to meet a partner (Creatives always work in teams of two – an Art Director and a Copywriter).

However, it’s very rare to get a job straight after leaving college. You have to spend time building up a portfolio, a collection of ‘spec’ ads that demonstrate how good you’d be on a real brief. Once your portfolio is up to scratch, you start to get offered placements at agencies, and the most common way to get a job is by doing well on a placement.

It’s competitive, and a lot don’t make it. Even the good people can take a year or more before they get a real job, so you have to be prepared to sponge off your parents or sleep on the streets for a little bit longer than most graduates. But people in the industry are very helpful, and normally very willing to see young teams and give them advice on their portfolios.

My first job was at Saatchi & Saatchi, where I worked for 2 years, and since then I’ve worked at Ogilvy (for one year) and DDB (which used to be BMP - ironically, the place I’d originally applied to be an account handler) for 7 years. I’m now at BBH.

The life of a creative is not all TV shoots in Miami and recording voiceovers with Judi Dench. But some of it is. Then again, some of it is writing a 99p deal ad for hamburgers.

If you think you might be interested, then the best place to start is probably to contact the colleges. They will tell you more.

More Graduate Schemes...

Yet more schemes have opened..check these two out:


DDB London

Feel free to shoot us an email if you have any questions about how to answer any of the questions they put forward. I think we're planning to have a stab at a few, just to give you guys an idea of how to approach them.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Star Stories: Jonathan Rigby

Our fourth star story comes courtesy of Jonathan Rigby, a Founding Partner at LOVE Creative. Within the industry, Jonathan has had a wide range of experiences at London agencies, before moving northwards to Manchester and setting up LOVE. Their agency blog can be found here.


by Jonathan Rigby

I joined the industry as an Account Executive. I’ve been a Board Director at WCRS, a New Business Director at Lowe and a Managing Director at FCB London. I’m now a partner in a fast expanding “new model agency” called LOVE in Manchester.

To get into advertising, I sent £5 notes as bribes to 10 London agencies figuring they’d feel humbled into replying to my letter in order to return the cash of an impoverished student. It worked. I got 10 replies and 9 fivers back (the cheeky gits at an agency called Arc kept my fiver!) and a work placement at WCRS. I spent the summer there doing anything I could volunteer for.

I wasn’t over-bearing and annoyingly over-enthusiastic (as far as I remember), just polite, quite quiet and keen and I made sure I did everything as thoroughly and professionally as I could. I spent days and nights writing, typing and binding a report for a pitch and Robin Wight (founder and chairman) liked it. Robin remembered me a year later when I applied for a full time job and my advertising career started. Four grads were recruited that year. Giles was sharp and very funny. Lorella was loud and great fun. Alison was really professional and intelligent. And they hired me too.

The point is, not all agencies hire a “type” of person. Like putting a boy/girl band together, they’re looking for a mix of people, so be yourself and don’t take it personally if you get a rejection from one agency. You might be the perfect fit for the next. The first year or so was about learning, listening and doing as much as I possibly could. As a grad in 1991, you certainly knew your place and ruthless, blind ambition was frowned upon. Have things changed? Is it the done thing to be in a rush to be a Board Director nowadays? Do grads tolerate the requests to make the tea, write the contact report, keep a wallet full of twenties and run across busy roads for the cab?

I learnt to become an indispensable member of my team. I asked questions. I tried not to be annoying and arrogant. I wasn’t in too much of a rush to get ahead. I was in London and I was 21 – concentrating too much on work would have wasted the most hedonistic years of my life. When you start in an agency, you might think that no-one ever notices you or is too busy to be thinking about or discussing how you’re progressing. Wrong!

You’ll be talked about by everyone because you’re new and you’ll be being judged for your contribution to the culture of the agency. Positively or negatively. Oh and make sure you make genuine friends with the most important people to you in the agency – the person who orders couriers, the post room, the edit suite, the person in charge of petty cash, the finance department, junior creatives, traffic and production, the security guards, secretaries (do agencies still have secretaries?), the cleaners.

This will quadruple your ability to get things done against all the odds in your formative years. You need these people. But it will also teach you the importance of being civil, polite, nice and never to burn bridges in such a small industry where everyone knows everyone, reputations are quickly made and memories are long.

Grads Down The Track: Matthew Hazel

A recent graduate account of how to get into the business comes courtesy ofMatthew Hazel, who is currently a senior account handler at an agency in London. Originally from Australia, Matt's experiences span several continents. So, we thought it'd be rude not to post his story up. His blog is here.


by Matthew Hazel

I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to, I could swap careers tomorrow and become a high school guidance counselor at P*******e School. Here’s what I would say to my promising young pupils ready to venture out into the real world; If you are an above average student and are good at:

  • Science, become a doctor.
  • Maths, become an engineer, stockbroker or accountant.
  • English, become a lawyer.

Otherwise, if you’re an average student, become a tradesman and earn more than your above peers. If you want to drop out, make sure you can kick a football, or hit the gym and some pole dancing classes and become a male stripper. Pretty helpful, hey?

Well, that’s how my guidance counselor treated me. In hindsight if I were in the role I would do things very differently, because I sure could have used it.

Like 90% of the student population, I didn’t really fit into one of those 5 groups, but English was my best out of the four so I enrolled in law school. I envisaged my future career to mirror the glory days of L.A Law, or at the very least The Practice. Alas, a few weeks into the course I found out there was reading involved. A lot of it. Bugger that.

So for semester two of college I decided stockbroking was the career for me, so I enrolled in finance. 3 weeks later, I realized that I didn’t want to base my career around mathematical formulas that don’t fit on a standard A4 sheet of paper.

Next on my list was accountancy, which I enrolled in purely because I didn’t know what else to do and these grads had a top 3 grad salary in Australia at the time. I wasted a year and a half of my life (well maybe not, I do have a commerce degree now) realizing that an extra couple of grand a year wasn’t worth 160 hours a month of wanting to stab myself in the eye with a fork, so I moved onto marketing. I managed to stay awake for one or two classes a week, which was one or two classes more than my previous studies so I rode this out and graduated from college.

As a marketing grad, there were three clear job roles I could have applied for; marketing coordinator on the client side, an account exec on the agency side or a role in market research. I decided that agency life would be my best bet, so I penned a letter to all the decent ad agencies in my hometown offering the privilege of having one of the finest baristas in all the land willing to work for free.

One out of the eight I had written responded, and I did work experience there for about a month. In that time I got to do a stint in all the major departments of the agency (acct management, creative, air media, media and production). And I made a LOT of coffee.

Then before I knew it, the month was over, I’d done my time, I needed money, they didn’t have a role, so we shook hands and parted ways. I got the usual ‘we’ll keep your details on file in case anything comes up’ speech. Yeah, bullsh*t.

I didn’t care though, I felt like I’d learned more in one month in an agency than what I had in 4 years of uni, and now I finally at least knew where I wanted to be.

Two weeks later, the agency called. Something had come up. An account executive had resigned and they offered me the chance to interview. Getting through two interviews straight out of uni with no experience was one of the hardest selling experiences of my life. At the time it felt like telling a girl she should go out on a date with you instead of David Beckham. Nevertheless, I had three things going for me; I was hungry (at the time it was the most important thing in the world- you can’t fake that), I was honest (interviewers can smell bullsh*t a mile away), and I knew my interviewer through previous work experience, so I was comfortable and was able to throw in a few jokes here and there. In hindsight, I realized a cheap, hungry grad can be better for an agency than a more expensive, more jaded, slightly more experienced adman. A day later I got the phone call, I was starting on Monday in a role as a junior planner.

About a year and a half later our agency held a seminar that was themed ‘become a better ad person’, and we had key industry figures speak and offer their views on how to achieve this. One of the resounding messages was ‘Great advertising comes from great life experience. So get out there and live life.’. So not long after that, I moved from Australia to London to do just that.

I touched down in
London in mid July, and I got straight into interviews within my first week. I took the first freelance job I was offered to pay the bills and buy a sh*tbox car (Australian dollars get you NOTHING over here. NOTHING!!. It was a very depressing first week for me.) So now here I am freelancing as a Senior Account Exec, preparing to go after my first full time permanent gig over here next month. Back to square one in a way, and I’m bloody glad to be here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

And So It Begins..

Ok guys as the saying goes in parts across the pond, we're officially in the ballpark. JWT and BBH have opened up their grad schemes for '08 entry. The links are below, any questions/things you're stuck on should be carefully placed in the comments - hopefully we can get some discussion going. 
Good Luck!

Edit: M&C's grad scheme is open, links below:

Monday, 10 September 2007

Nick Fell On Ideas

Nick Fell works for Ogilvy UK and is the brains behind the Facebook group 'Don't tell my mum I'm in advertising, she thinks I play piano in a brothel' - which currently has a membership of over 2,700. Nick has very kindly written us a piece about ideas.

“Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes” – Napoleon Hill

Ok, I admit it: I googled quotes with the word ‘idea’ in them. I’m not going to pretend I’d ever heard of Napoleon Hill either.

But I do think this quote is apt for summing up what I wanted to write for this blog.
In my humble opinion, the only thing that matters in advertising is producing great communications ideas that make money for your client. For me, it’s really that simple. So, if you want to work in an industry for which the most important currency is ideas, you need to prove you can have and nurture them.

The trouble is that ad agency job applications can be pretty uninspiring canvases. True, the questions are more interesting than the standard, “In no more than 500 words, tell us about a time when you proved strong leadership skills” (snore). But even the ‘wackier’ ones can lead to hundreds of carbon copy answers – it’s still just an application form after all.

So, how do you really stand out? Well, you do what they’ve asked of you, and then something completely different.

The guys who run this blog have done just that. They’ve been in Campaign and won creative awards for their ideas, before they’ve even secured a full-time job. You can read more about what they did here:

Sam's Saatchi Auction

Anton's Saatchi 'Hack'

Following their example is likely to put the fear of God into the people you’re competing with, and should ideally do the same to those individuals who are going to interview you. After all, to paraphrase David Ogilvy, your interviewers should always be looking for people who are better than them.

Be confident in your ideas and opinions. Get them out there in a courageous way. And don’t be fearful of stepping on toes or breaking convention – that’s what we get paid for.

Now, this is all very easy for me to say. Personally, I didn’t do anything that spectacular to get my job. But since starting work, I’ve realised that going beyond the call of duty to have great ideas will be valued whenever and however it’s done. Great ideas, implemented well, are timeless.

So, to my ultimate point: start thinking big now.

If you’re a student then you shouldn’t be too cynical yet, which will lead to some enthusiastic brainstorming. Plus, you have plenty of time to make things happen and no professional pride to lose. For these reasons and others, it’s probably this period of time before you even step foot in an agency when you’ve got the best chance of having wonderful thoughts and really doing them justice. Ironic, eh?

Here’s Mr. Hill again to wrap things up, “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”

Friday, 7 September 2007

Star Stories: Gareth Kay

Our third star story comes from Gareth Kay, an expat Yorkshireman. He's currently head of planning at Modernista!, an agency in Boston that not so long ago won Cadillac's US business. He also writes a blog called Brand New, which is a great read.


by Gareth Kay

I fell into advertising by chance rather than design. I had my heart set on working in the music industry so when my band failed, I looked to be an A&R man. But after some work experience at a major record label, I realized it was more about business than the music, and the politics and backstabbing were truly amazing.

So I began in my second year at University to think about what I could do. I was studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford Uni and didn't want to fall into the trap of satisfying one side of my brain by going to a bank or a management consultant (which I think about 80% of my year did).

So in thinking about a career that might exercise all my mind and frankly be fun I thought about all the ads I had grown up enjoying. Didn't really have a clue about any of the agencies or disciplines, so I just wrote for placements at the dozen agencies that had that year won prizes in the Daily Telegraph Press Awards.

Eleven agencies said thanks but no thanks, but there was one moment of serendipity. I met with a small agency (no longer around) called Harari Page (probably best known for their work on Harvey Nichols) who were willing to take on a placement. Spent 3 fun months being thrown in at the deep end, predominantly as an account man but helping out in TV production, print production and planning (which was more of a research thing there). At the end of the summer they offered me a job which I took as an account exec.

So, my first year was spent being an account exec. And there was real benefit to that. You learn about how stuff is made, timelines, budgets. And the benefit of a small agency is you end up being exposed to every discipline and working out what you like doing. So, I decided planning was my thing - I enjoyed working with creatives to develop work, was curious about people, culture, brands and enjoyed the strategy part. The next challenge was finding somewhere to be a planner.

After 18 months or so I began to get the usual call from headhunters and every time I told them I wanted to be a planner they said "good luck finding a place". Eventually, I began to interview at agencies with more established planning departments in the hope to get a job as an account person and quickly transfer.

I interviewed at a place called BST.BDDP (now part of TBWA) and I was offered a job as an account manager. That was the point I decided to get serious and I turned down the offer and explained that I wanted to be a planner. The MD there, Nick Kerr who I owe a huge amount of gratitude, decided he liked me enough to arrange a lunch with their head of planning Chris Baker. Chris is a pretty legendary figure, especially in terms of ad effectiveness, and he decided he'd take a chance on two account managers who wanted to be planners and hired myself and Rob Alexander who is now a planning director at JWT.

So it was about perseverance and serendipity. Being really passionate in the end about planning. And being lucky. After Chris I was lucky enough to continue working with the who's who of planners - Simon Clemmow, Gary Duckworth, John Lowery and many other people I learned and stole from. And it's down to them and the trust they placed in me that I really owe any success I have.

I know it's hard to get in to planning, and hard to establish yourself, but stick to it. I think perseverance works, and I think it brings you some serendipity down the road. It's a great job. And probably the most exciting time to be in advertsing, especially as a planner, since the 1950s as it's all up for grabs.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Star Stories: Giles Rhys Jones

Our 2nd star story is upon us courtesy of Giles Rhys Jones who is the Director of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy UK. Giles' blog - Interactive Marketing Trends is here as well as in our links section. We also recommend you have a look at Ogilvy's graduate recruitment site.


By Giles Rhys Jones

Nearing the end of my degree in Industrial Design and having missed the grad recruitment rounds, I watched all my friends picking up design or city jobs and had abit of a panic.

Not realising that this was a situation that I would replicate often in later life, this pressure seemed to bring out, if not the best, then a slightly above average performance in me. Being of a creative persuasion I produced a 6 page cv booklet to send to prospective employers with each of the pages focussing on a particular skill with a relevant photo of me, a description and examples. I bought a business directory and sent out 74 of these to the top advertising and design companies in the UK and US. This led to a number of interviews and some very interesting conversations.

At the same time the older brother of a friend of mine was as a grad at Saatchi & Saatchi and offered to take my letter to his boss. I got a call and was asked to come in to meet them. After a couple of interviews I was offered a 2 week summer job starting the day after my last final. A couple of weeks later I started work on the pan euro HP business as a ae.

A couple of weeks later I got an extension to stay longer and 2 months later they even started paying me £50 quid a week. After a few more interviews, quite alot of beer and some half decent work they invited me to join full time and be part of the coming years grad trainees.

After 2 years of spreading press, poster, wobblers, gondola ends and DM across 17 countries for HP, I shed the shackles of traditional channel thinking by moving into their emerging media group: Saatchi Vision. Amazingly lighting a 747 up with a laser, causing outcry with a graffiti campaign for Random House and plastering a talking 3D supermodel on bus stops for Playtex produced results as well as being great fun.

Three years helping to run the Digital Marketing Group at AGENCY.COM working on BA, Oneworld & Heineken gave me the ability to 'top-trump' interstitials, virals, CPCs and eCRM with the best of them and, more often than not, win.

Not able to find an agency I liked, I helped to create Agency Republic delivering campaigns that crossed wireless, traditional and digital channels, generated results and appalled other roster agencies on clients like O2 and Boots.

A year at The Brand Company in Asia followed, travelling, buying cheap gadgets and helping Vodafone/Smartone to work out that branding is not just what they say but actually what they do.

The opportunity to gain more line management experience running the global integrated HSBC account at DRAFT tempted me back to the Uk and into advertising.

As Interactive Strategy Director, I am responsible for digital marketing strategy across clients including IBM, Ford, Cisco and BT.

The only traditional title I have had was that of Account Executive at Saatchi, since then I have made pretty much made up job titles. Where once, not fitting into an advertising job box was a hinderance and headhunters struggled to come to terms with what I could offer. Now as advertising needs to become smarter in how it works rather than just bigger, there is positive descrimination for people who have a broad range of T-shaped skills.

Looking at how my career has moved across disciplines and companies I guess you could say I have ants in my pants but I am just passionate about how to better connect businesses and their audience.

There is always a better way.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Consciousness meeting Consumerism = Success in Advertising

A quick one really as it’s getting late and I need to pack up my pseudo hippy gear for what looks to be quite an amazing weekend at Bestival.

No ranting this time, which, if you read my over opinionated drivel must be nice.

When getting into a mindset of working in advertising, what it is to be successful in advertising and what criteria make up the minds of great ad people I’ve come to observe, well, the very obvious actually, but always apparent elements which are a high consciousness and grasp of commercialism.

Totally fckn obvious really, but when in large ad agencies it really comes through in those who get on and command respect.

Breaking it down further I don’t mean some chump throwing around research debriefs and claiming to know the consumer (ah-hem) and I don’t mean someone who reads every marketing magazine out there and can tell you which FMCG is topping the shelf charts.

What I mean is a thorough understanding of one-self as a consumer, the ability to make accurate assumptions of others who are consumers and to really, in essence, be a psychologist when getting to the grass roots of certain conscious consumption actions – knowing that Tango is consumed by an older demographic than any other carbonated drink due the hay day of ‘being Tango-ed’ existing in the mid 90s and these kids are now your twenty somethings. Being able to understand that really, the real denim wearers go for Wrangler over Levis as they are the cornerstone of authentic rodeo denim and not simply a string of (consistent I might add) well produced high street fashion advertising.

I could go on, I will, no I wont actually. My attempt at a point here is that by reading your Campaigns, checking the Brand Republic news alerts and knowing your agencies and their client lists are all the essential bases you need to cover to get in. To take you a step further beyond the competition (and not just get in but excel in terms of a career – especially in Planning) there is a strong need to be fully aware of yourself as a consumer, take note of why you act the way you do and then apply it to what the commercial world is doing – it’s no fckn coincidence that you bought an ipod or that you found your girlfriend playing on your Nintendo Wii and thought ‘that’s odd’. All these little observations you should question and mine down to a ‘why’. At the end of the day you’re in a much better place to comment as a consumer than people in advertising are, most of which are way too busy to watch TV and have to Youtube good ads at work to stay abreast etc.

So, umm, yeah, whatever the above was about do it, or dismiss it at your peril.

Have a great weekend

Anton xx

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Star Stories: Jon Steel

Here is our first 'Star Story', by Jon Steel, Director of the WPP Fellowship. This will be posted on the Wiki shortly, along with other people's personal experiences of getting into the industry.


by Jon Steel

I am writing this by accident.

You see, I was never supposed to work in advertising. I should have been teaching geography and coaching the 1st XI cricket team at some leafy English private school. If I ever really had a plan, that was it.

But twenty-five years after leaving university, I have spent my entire working life in the advertising business. I was a director of a London agency after five years; within ten I was a partner at another agency in San Francisco. Since 2002 I have worked for Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP, one of the world’s largest marketing communications groups.

So where did it all go wrong?

It all started when a friend suggested that I should apply for jobs in the advertising business. He told me that all the good jobs – and therefore the interviews – would be in London. And in London, he said, he knew a number of fun-loving nurses.

That seemed quite appealing. As I started to research the business and its requirements for graduates, it also seemed that advertising might be a good fit for me. In a year spent working for my university’s students’ union I had run advertising for the newspaper and radio station and managed a number of full-time staff. I had been told I could write reasonably well. I had a good degree. Even without the nurses I would have felt compelled to apply.

I applied to about fifteen agencies for a position in account management (the account manager is the person who represents the client’s business interests inside the agency). Within a few weeks I had been rejected by fourteen of them, including all the major agencies owned today by WPP. At the fifteenth, BMP, I was asked whether I might prefer to be an account planner. When I admitted that I had never heard of such a role, my interviewer explained that planners used consumer research to help craft advertising strategy. I told him that it didn’t really appeal to me.

BMP subsequently hired me as an account manager, but only when their first-choice candidate turned them down for a higher paid job in the City. Within six months I had transferred from account management to account planning. (Once inside the agency I had seen the job in a new light and had discovered that it was more interesting than I had initially thought.) Five years later I was surprised to find myself running a planning department in an agency in San Francisco, a job I held for a decade. On my return to the UK – again unexpected – I now find myself working on a daily basis with the management of agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, Grey, Young & Rubicam and J. Walter Thompson, all of whom had rejected me when I first applied a quarter of a century ago.

My career has been full of accidents, and it has also been enriched by others who stumbled into jobs they probably always wanted but never knew existed. At BMP I was trained in the ways of advertising by a man whose degree was in aeronautical engineering, and by another who was a classics scholar; in the ensuing years I have hired lawyers, doctors, and engineers and even a killer whale trainer, all of whom realized along the way that they didn’t really want to be lawyers, doctors, engineers or (surprisingly) killer whale trainers.

I tell you all of this for three main reasons:

First, being focused and having a plan is not all it’s cracked up to be. Over the years I have met a lot of unhappy people who were doing the jobs that their parents and teachers always wanted them to do. I’m sure there are lots of people out there heading for careers in teaching, management consultancy, law, or indeed anything and everything else, who would actually have a lot more fun in the marketing communications business if they knew what it had to offer.

Second, being rejected is not the end of the world. In my case, it was probably a good thing that all those other agencies rejected me when I was twenty-one, because I later realized that I wouldn’t have been happy at most of them. At my first agency I found the perfect job, in an environment that suited my personality. At other places I would have been a fish out of water. With every rejection I also learned some important lessons, and in the end, albeit with a generous dose of luck, I was able to put them to good use.

My final point relates to my experience of rejection. Each year as the director of WPP’s Marketing Fellowship programme I have to say ‘no’ to almost 1,500 applicants, but when I do so I always try to remember how it felt when I was the recipient of such bad news. In those days the news came in a letter. Sometimes they started with “Dear Mr. Steel.” Others addressed me with “Dear Candidate.” One started, surprisingly, with “Dear Shirley.” But one recruitment director took the time to write me a personal letter, and I have never forgotten that. BMP’s chief executive actually took the time to call me after my first interview and explain what was going on. Now I can’t make 1,500 phone calls, but I do always call the one hundred or so interviewees and give them feedback on our meeting. If they haven’t made it I tell them why.

It’s impossible to make anyone feel happy when telling them they haven’t made it, that the answer is ‘no.’ But you should never forget that when you hear that dreaded word, it may well signify the beginning of something much better.

Jon Steel is the Director of WPP’s Marketing Fellowship Programme, and author of “Truth, Lies & Advertising” and “Perfect Pitch” (John Wiley & Sons, NY). He still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.