Here's an article from Mashable with tips for you chicklets (basically everything I've said in the past 6 months in one place. Doh!) and even 50 job posts you should check out. (It's from August but it's good to look at job descriptions and start seeing what skills you need to have.)
5 Tips for Aspiring Copywriters & Art Directors
Between high-profile awards shows and TV series like Mad Men, more and more of the American population are coming to realize the glamor of the advertising industry — and there’s perhaps no role more inspiring, frustrating and, yes, sometimes glamorous, than the role of an advertising creative.
Advertising creatives fall into two main branches: copywriters, who are responsible for coming up with creative concepts and writing copy for ads (as necessary), and art directors, who work with copywriters to fashion visual solutions to creative problems. Good copywriters and art directors are often promoted to become creative directors (CDs), executive creative directors and, ultimately, chief creative officers (CCOs).
Of course, creatives don’t run the entire advertising creation process; they work with talented teams of account managers, producers, project managers, brand planners and more to oversee branding and creative work for clients.
For a typical advertising campaign, brand planners and account managers will work to outline specific goals to compliment a client’s overall communications strategy. Creative directors will take these outlines, called creative briefs, and work with various creative teams (usually copywriters and art directors, but often brand planners, social media strategists and other specialists as well) to brainstorm ideas to pitch to clients. When or if ideas are approved, the creative director then manages the campaign’s execution.
If this sounds like the career path for you, read on. We’ve interviewed some of the top creatives in the advertising industry to get their advice on how to break into the business.
1. Prepare Yourself (And Your Portfolio)
The portfolio is arguably the most important part of any aspiring copywriter’s, art director’s or creative director’s job application. When putting together your book, keep these things in mind:
Show your best work. “When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to put as much as possible in your portfolio,” Alec Brownstein, a senior copywriter at advertising agency Y&R, explains. “My advice would be to put in only the things that you think are really good. It’s better to have a small, really good portfolio than a large, mediocre one. Even if you’ve actually produced an ad, don’t put it in your portfolio unless it’s good. Produced work is only impressive if it’s good.”
Show the kind of work you want to do. “Fill your portfolio with the type of work you want to do, not necessarily the type of work you’ve done,” Brownstein insists. “If you want to do edgy, funny work, make sure that comes across. It’s hard to get a job on an account that does irreverent work if your book is full of sentimental, mushy ads.”
Experiment broadly. Several of the professionals I spoke to warned against “safe” portfolios. “I hate seeing portfolios from students full of ‘ad-like objects,’” Chris Clarke, Chief Creative Officer at LBi discloses. “Ads are not enough, show me experiences and content, not a series of posters and tag lines.”
Think outside the box — try different media, creative ad placements and guerilla tactics. Brownstein suggests that aspiring creatives “get some friends together and spend an afternoon making something. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to do it, either. The new iPhone and Droid phones shoot in HD.”
Be receptive to feedback. If you’re just starting out in advertising, or if you’re reentering the job market after several years, you’ll want to show your portfolio to as many people in the business as possible. Be open to feedback about your work,” McCann Erickson VP and Creative Director Steven Nasi says. “Take in everything that people to whom you show your book say to you, reflect on it, decide what’s useful and act on it. Knowing how to show your work is one thing, but learning how to listen, synthesize and incorporate feedback might be even more important.”
Invest in your own development. It’s not all about the book, James Cooper, a senior vice president and interactive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi insists. He advises those trying to break into the business spend a year traveling or working “somewhere other than an ad agency…If you want to stand out and want longevity you need to do the wrong thing.”
Both he and Karen Ingram, an associate creative director at McCann Erickson, suggest that aspiring creatives work on developing a broad skill set. “Learn to create something from scratch, with your bare hands. The future is in branded product development which means having practical as well as theoretical skills,” Cooper explains. Ingram likewise encourages diversity. “I like to hear that folks have an array of skills –- a designer who can also do AI. A writer who knows Photoshop. The landscape we’re working in now is always fluctuating, and it’s a necessity to have a range of skills that can be tapped into in a pinch. Don’t be imprisoned by your role. Be flexible,” she says.
Both Cooper and Nasi emphasized the importance of staying engaged with popular culture. Read books (Steven specifically recommends Robert Cialdini’s Influence, Daniel Miller’s A Theory of Shopping and the Harvard Business Review “for starters”), watch films, listen to music, read gossip columns, and go to art exhibits and music festivals. “Interweaving brands into popular culture is key,” Cooper says.
2. Find the Right Fit/Agency
Just as it’s important to show “the type of work you want to do, not necessarily the type of work you’ve done,” as Brownstein put it, it’s critical to find an agency that’s the right fit, both in terms of culture and the kinds of work you’ll get to create. “You should look at the agencies out there and identify the ones doing the type of work you want to do. Then go for them and only them,” Brownstein says.
Identify the creative directors and brands you’d most like to work with, rather than the agency with the biggest name or the first one who offers you a job. You’ll want the opportunity to create work that will make your portfolio even better in the future.
3. Get Their AttentionThe desks and inboxes of creative directors are perpetually overflowing with the portfolios of job seekers. No matter how great your portfolio, if you can’t get anyone to look at it, you’ll have a tough time getting hired. The delivery of your portfolio is yet another opportunity to showcase your creative skills.
The method Brownstein employed in his last job search is a great example. He created a $6 Google AdWords campaign to target the chief creatives at Y&R, a tactic that not only landed him his current job, but also resulted in a story here on Mashable, as well as CNN, ABC, NPR, The Huffington Post and elsewhere.
Mike Germano, President and Chief Creative at Brooklyn-based agency Carrot Creative, recalls how a candidate at Digital Dumbo’s career fair in July got his attention. The young man handed him a zip drive, “saying I would find his CV and some ‘other relevant work’ on it. The next morning, I popped it into my computer to find, indeed a PDF of his resume, but also a folder entitled ‘Porn.’ I thought, wow, is this guy serious? Curiosity got the best of me and I clicked it. Inside was a document titled ‘Just Kidding’ which had ‘hahaha’ written across the top of the page. It brought a smile, piqued my curiosity and showcased his personality.”
The best job application CCO Chris Clarke said he ever received was from Matt Stafford, “whom I hired immediately and on the spot.” Stafford sent Nasi both an e-mail (copied below) and a tweet with a URL to a “classified video transmission,” which led to a custom video and links to Stafford’s portfolio.
If you’re an aspiring designer or art director, you may want to take note of Ingram’s strategy. She created a series of limited edition art postcards that double as business cards.”Usually I have an array of them that people can choose from, so it’s almost like you’re giving someone artwork instead of a run of the mill business card that will get shoved in a drawer and forgotten. The best part is the people that I give them to often end up displaying them in their work areas,” she says.
4. Ace the Interview
The interview is an opportunity to discuss and get feedback about your work, and to see how your personality pairs with the agency.
Ingram suggests that applicants “select a few favorite projects and have in mind what you like about them as well as what your role was. Talk about the process of working on them, too. When I am talking to people, I am far more interested in knowing what their working habits are, than how many awards they’ve won,” she says.
As a side note, she also insists that no one should ever go to an interview without safety pins. “You never know when your super smart shirt dress will sabotage you. I learned this the hard way!” she recalls. Although the dress code at agency interviews is less formal than most — unless you’re applying for an account management position, you’re not really required to wear a suit — personal grooming (neat hair and clothes, etc.) is still critical.
5. Keep Up the Good Work after You’re Hired
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Breaking in to the advertising business on the creative side is no small feat. And now the real work begins.
Eric Andrade, a former copywriter who now works as an Executive Producer at digital agency R/GA, says, “One thing that helps is to understand the roles of the other members of your team — planners, producers, client services, analytics.” Doing so, he claims, “helps to bring a bit of perspective to your creative, and the restrictions actually force you to be more creative in the way you develop your concepts.”
You should also continue to work on your own self-development. Build up your other abilities, especially your presentation skills, Steven Nasi advises. As you advance, you will increasingly “be presenting to your boss, your client and your peers, and if you’re not comfortable doing it, it will show. Take a class on presentation basics if you think you need it. In fact, take one even if you don’t.”
These five tips will get you far in the advertising world. Which tips would you add? Let us know in the comments.