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 naïve. 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.