Saturday, 4 July 2009

If you aren't online...where are you?

Joining the dots. Pic from vasta, usual rules apply.

One of the first questions which gets asked when you're thinking of applying for a job in advertising is about t'terweb. What role does it now play in the greater scheme of things?

I think it's quite a difficult question to answer. In terms of advertising, it really depends on the job it's required to do. Indeed, the same thing seems to apply when considering which sphere to move into when first starting out.

It really depends on you. Some people are more naturally interested in the web, whereas others are fascinated by people and why they do the things they do - or, to be fair, want to be involved with famous work that gets on the telly and gets people talking.

And in all honesty, the choice is getting more tricky. Agencies like BBH, WCRS/Engine, AMV et al, once derided for not 'getting' digital a few years ago - have now begun to win big at the digital awards.

Does this mean you shouldn't work at a digital agency, if the bigger, 'traditional' boys are kicking arse and taking names online?

Well, no. Digital agencies may typically have smaller budgets, and may have to work with the same strategy the lead agency has devised; but, as a result, tend to be smaller. And there's a lot to be said for not being a tiny cog in a very big agency. Sure, you may not get the same sort of traditional training you get in a big shop, but you will get your hands dirty, and quickly. Not be cosseted by an agency which spoon feeds you until you're two years in or more.

Flip that, and sometimes digital shops expect too much on a raw grad, and don't invest in them properly - given the greater responsibility, it can be a nasty combination.

It really depends what you're after at that moment in time. Yes, 'digital' (whatever that term actually means) will eventually permeate every single shop in town. But the mindset might not. I've always felt pure digital shops have had a willingness to share and to learn from their mistakes, where their more traditional cousins haven't. They also don't tend to have the politics which naturally comes with a larger agency and, traditionally, more senior staff on board.

I'm firmly of the belief that, within the first few years of your career, it honestly doesn't matter which side of the fence you sit. You do the job for a few years, and find out just what you're interested in, and, crucially, who at work you admire, and what kind of person you think you'll become within an agency. Will you be the thoughtful planner? The professional account handler? Or a mixture of those? Well, no-one will have any idea before you get there. So use the web to highlight your personality a bit.

Even if you don't really use the internet beyond functional google searches and reading around online, there's nothing to compare with actually using the tools - because they'll help shape the comms industry for years to come.

Before you've gotten in, have some form of presence online. Both Sam and I both had quite major presence online before we got our jobs. It helps when someone has already read your blog/knows a bit about you. If you enter a room with your interviewer knowing your interests, and crucially, how you think - you'll be in a good position before its ever begun.

So go forth, blog, twitter, hook up your music taste to, keep a delicious, or run a facebook group. It doesn't matter whether it's obviously to do with advertising. If it proves you're self motivated, intelligent and thoughtful, you'll be in a good position.

Even now, i'm surprised when I can't google someone's name and find out more about them. I'd bet this'll get more apparent in years to come.