Ad Professionals: Tips for Breaking into the Business

On my recent trip to New York to visit ad agencies, I heard from some incredibly talented ad people. Here’s some useful advice for entering the business:

What Makes a Successful Ad Person?

Noorin Bhanji, Account Executive for NFL at Grey NY, laid out the following characteristics of account people:

  • Know their client’s business
  • Able to set priorities, multitask and manage time
  • Proactive
  • Born leaders
  • Knowledgeable
  • Insightful (be strategic)
  • Resourceful/problem solvers
  • Able to work well in a team
  • Able to work well under pressure

Chris Wooster (@chriswooster), Executive Creative Director at McGarryBowen, had these tips for wannabe strategists:

  • Are digital
  • Think about connections (what target audience is/does)
  • Aware of trends and research
  • Solve problems
  • Creative in solving problems
  • Have a book or a Tumblr
  • Have stories about that work

For art directors:

  • Don’t waste time learning HTML or Flash, you’ll never be as good as actual coders

(Side note: Some might heavily disagree on this one, like Edward Boches (@edwardboches), Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen.)

  • Thoroughly know Photoshop/InDesign
  • Be mindful that you are most likely to get production work first
  • Be comfortable building online experiences
  • Study other work

For writers:

  • CDs look for concepts
  • No grammar typos EVER
  • Get good art directors to work your ad
  • Focus more online
  • Fight the fat in your writing (“as well as”=”and”)

What Do Ad Agencies Look for in Creative Books?

There’s no set answer on this. Every agency and creative director will think different. For example, Chris Wooster says this:

  • It must be online
  • 15-20 pieces max
  • Don’t have a clever theme/concept
  • Summarize the problem you’re solving
  • If you need to explain it, the ad is not done
  • More than one-offs
  • Clever use of media, not just words and images
  • Have some “cool” pieces and some that solve a strategic problem

Dennis Grealey, VP Creative Director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, looks for a few specific things:

  • 5-7 pieces
  • The idea itself has to be good
  • Did the creative challenge themselves? Try something like a financial system
  • A diverse portfolio

Tips for Interviewing

Melissa Schulz, SVP, Global Group Account Director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler:

  • Any job can be relevant, even those not in advertising
  • Come to the interview with a solution
  • Ask questions that show your interest and leverage your skills, such as: What will I be doing? What kind of projects are you working on? What will my role be in the agency?
  • Dress to impress

Chris Wooster :

  • Keep your “talk” quick: 20 seconds a piece
  • Explain problem solved
  • Research agency interviewing with
  • Don’t look like a suit or a slob (dress to impress but not a full on suit)
  • Be engaging as we want to hire people we like
  • Following on Twitter is okay, but not LinkedIn or Facebook
  • Have a question or two on deck (What are you looking for out of this hire?)
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