Careers in Advertising The American Association of Advertising Agencies publishes a brochure entitled “Go For It: A Guide to Careers in Advertising,” which provides detailed job descriptions and advice for pursuing a career in advertising. The material found in this appendix provides a more in- depth look at agency positions, their requirements and career opportunities, as well as helpful information on preparing a résumé and for a job interview. JOBS IN AN ADVERTISING AGENCY As you have seen in these chapters, agencies handle a broad range of tasks requiring people with experience and ability in overall management as well as specialized fields. In a small agency, one person may wear several hats, such as media planner and buyer, whereas at a large agency some people will tend to specialize, such as a network television buyer. In all agencies, however, the jobs usually fall into five categories: Account management Creative Media Market research Support services and administration ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT At an agency, the client and its business are usually called “the account.” One advertiser may offer many products or services and ask separate agencies to handle each one. Another may use a single agency to handle several products or services. No matter what the particular situation, the account management department is where the resources of the agency and the needs of the client connect. The account manager oversees the advertising business that has been assigned to the agency and is ultimately responsible for the quality of service the client receives. The account manager serves as the client’s representative at the agency and the agency’s representative at the client’s organization. It is his or her job to get the client its money’s worth—to get the best possible work from the agency for the client—but at a profitable return for the agency. This means knowing how to handle people at the agency so that they give the client their best effort without spending more time than the income from the client’s business justifies. The effective account manager develops a thorough knowledge of the client’s business, the consumer, the marketplace, and all aspects of advertising, including creative, media, research, and commercial production. As team leader and strategist, the account person must communicate the client’s needs clearly to the agency team, plan effectively to maximize staff time and energy, and present the agency’s recommendations candidly to the client. He or she must also know all about the agency: who are the most qualified people in each department and how to get their attention when it is needed. The account manager must also know all about the client, enthusiastically learning every aspect of the client’s business — ideally, from product development through the entire marketing operation—well enough to command the client’s respect when presenting the agency’s recommendations. In the final analysis, the account person must be able to foster productive communication between client and agency staffs, identify common goals, and make sure that the final product is profitable and effective for the client and the agency. ENTRY-LEVEL POSITIONS ASSISTANT ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE (MANAGER) The typical assistant account executive reports directly to an account executive and has a wide range of responsibilities. Some common duties include reporting client billing and forecasting agency income, analyzing competitive activity and consumer trends, writing conference reports from meetings, and coordinating creative, media, research, and production projects. Successful candidates have strong general business skills: the ability to write and spell effectively, demonstrated leadership experience, a capability for statistical analysis, and developed organizational skills. In addition, it is important to be able to work well under pressure, handle a variety of tasks simultaneously, and coordinate the work and energy of diverse types of people, as well as to have creative sensibility and an intense interest in advertising and marketing. Candidates for this position should have a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, a master of business administration. A degree in advertising or marketing is not a prerequisite. Within the agency business, agency account management and media departments hire the greatest number of entry-level candidates. Some of the large agencies offer entry-level training programs in account management. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES An entry-level position in account management usually leads to account executive and then to more senior positions, with responsibility for more than one account and for the work of several account executives. Ultimately, account management can assume broader office and corporate positions. Currently the largest percentage of top agency management positions are filled from the ranks of the account management department. CREATIVE The creative department of an advertising agency is responsible for developing the ideas, images, and words that make up commercials and ads. Although many people contribute to the process, the invention and production of advertising is mainly the responsibility of copywriters and art directors. When a copywriter and art director are assigned to an account, they must learn about the product or service to be advertised, marketing strategy, consumer or potential consumer, media to be used, advertising by competitors, production budget, and the client personnel (such as brand managers) with whom the agency deals. The research, account management, and media departments provide basic information on all these topics. However, the creative people will most likely want to gain first-hand experience with the client’s product. After the creative people assimilate as much information as possible, they agree on a general direction. The art director and copywriter work as a team trying out ideas first on each other, on the creative director, and on the other agency groups working on the account. These executions are reviewed by senior members of the agency (including legal counsel), sometimes called the review board, to evaluate whether they match the goals of the marketing and advertising strategy. The reviewed creative executions are presented to the client for approval. Once the client approves, the art director and copywriter work with print and broadcast production people to produce the final version of the advertisement. Magazines and newspapers require camera- ready copy. To prepare such print advertisements, agencies rely on outside services, from photographers to typesetters. Agency specialists in print production oversee this contracted work. Television stations require videotape; radio stations must have audio tape. Broadcast commercials often involve a large cast of outside specialists. Agency producers oversee the completion of television and radio commercials. They hire directors, production studios with film crews, and actors. In addition, producers administer the budget, work with composers and musicians, and participate in the review and editing of the rough film or videotape into the final version. ENTRY-LEVEL POSITIONS JUNIOR COPYWRITER A junior copywriter assists one or more copywriters in editing and proofreading ad copy, writing body copy for established print campaigns, and developing merchandising and sales promotion materials. With proven ability and experience, assignments might include generating ideas for product or company names and writing dialog for television commercials and scripts for radio ads. A successful candidate not only has outstanding skills in writing but has a “love affair” with words and symbols and their use in communication. Interest in a wide range of subjects and an insatiable sense of curiosity are assets. Candidates should have some knowledge of marketing and how words and visuals have been used in advertising. Agencies expect job candidates to demonstrate their talent by showing portfolios of previous creative work, seminal ideas, and “rough” designs of potential campaigns, even if they were done in the classroom or on your own. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required, most agencies look for candidates with proven intellectual ability and emotional maturity. Degrees in English, journalism, or advertising and marketing can be helpful. Opportunities for candidates who have no writing experience are limited. Some of the largest agencies offer entry-level training programs in copywriting. JUNIOR OR ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR The junior art director assists one or more art directors in preparing paste-ups, rough lettering, and layouts for print ads and television storyboards, developing visual concepts and designs, and overseeing photo sessions and the filming of television commercials. A successful candidate will have strong visual concept skills and good basic drawing and design ability. Although an assistant art director must be capable of handling day-to-day lettering and matting tasks, agencies are also interested in identifying candidates with visual imagination and an interest in applying that ability to marketing and advertising problems. Agencies expect candidates to show portfolios displaying their basic drawing skills and roughs of ideas for potential advertising campaigns. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required, most agencies look for candidates with at least a two-year degree from an art or design school. Entry-level opportunities are very limited for candidates with only some related business experience, such as in a retail advertising department. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES An entry-level position as junior copywriter leads to copywriter. An entry-level position as a junior art director leads to art director. In these more senior positions, each is given more responsibility and freedom in developing the visual and copy ideas for campaigns and may work on more than one account or on accounts that make special demands. The position of art director or copywriter can lead to creative supervisor, the professional responsible for the work of a group of copywriters or art directors. More senior positions usually include creative group head, responsible for supervising teams of art directors and copywriters as well as production functions; creative director, responsible for all creative work produced by the agency for either all clients or a group of clients; and chief or executive creative director, responsible for overall creative work in a division, region, or company-wide. Senior creative people are important to the overall management of an agency. Many of them reach top agency management positions. MEDIA Even the most innovative and highly creative advertising in the world can fail if it is presented to the wrong audience or if it is presented at the wrong time or in the wrong place. The media department of an advertising agency is responsible for placing advertising where it will reach the right people in the right place and do so in a cost-effective way. To bring advertising messages to the public, agencies must use a carrier, called a medium of communication or simply a medium. The four most commonly used media are television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. Some other media include billboards, posters, printed bulletins, and even skywriting. Planning and buying media at an advertising agency is exciting and challenging because ways of communicating are constantly changing and becoming more complex. Such technological advances as cable television or videotext make an impact on what media are available for advertising and how viewership is calculated. A recent increase in the number of specialty publications enables more precise targeting of consumers. Today, more than ever, agencies and clients are recognizing the importance of creative and innovative media planning and buying. When working on a particular advertising campaign, the media planners discuss, with the client and other agency people, the goals of the marketing strategy as well as a description of the potential consumer. As planners, they think about the kinds of media the target group might read, listen to, or watch. They compare the content, image, and format of each medium with the nature of the product or service, its image, and the goals of the advertising campaign. In discussions with the creative department and account team, planners suggest which media can be used most effectively to reach the target audience. The media department is responsible for developing a plan that answers the question: How can the greatest number of people in the target group be reached often enough to have the advertising message seen and remembered —and at the lowest possible cost? Once the media plan has been developed, presented to the client, and approved, the department’s media buyers start negotiating for space and time. Buyers purchase space in which to display their messages in print media. They buy time in the broadcast media. Buyers must not only find and reserve available space and time, but also negotiate the best price. Will a station offer a lower price if more time slots are bought? Will prime time be discounted if the buyer is willing to purchase, in addition, some less desirable time in the morning or late at night? Buyers who have outstanding negotiating skills are valuable assets to any agency’s media department. After the space and time have been purchased, the department must monitor the media to make sure that the advertising actually appeared, in the proper form and at the proper time as it was ordered. If a discrepancy occurs, the department negotiates an adjustment to the billing or accepts a credit for additional time or space. ENTRY-LEVEL POSITIONS ASSISTANT MEDIA PLANNER The typical assistant media planner reports to a media planner and gathers and studies information about people’s viewing and reading habits, evaluates editorial content and programming of various media vehicles, calculates reach and frequency for specific target groups and campaigns, learns all there is to know about the media in general (magazines, newspapers, radio, television) and about media vehicles in particular (Time, The Wall Street Journal), and becomes thoroughly familiar with media data banks and information sources. Accomplishing these tasks requires the ability to find and analyze data, apply computer skills, ask innovative questions, and interpret or explain findings with attention to quantitative and qualitative considerations. In short, a planner must gain knowledge of what information is important and where to find it. By assisting in gathering statistics to support a variety of plans, he or she eventually becomes familiar with broader characteristics and trends in all media. ASSISTANT MEDIA BUYER The typical assistant media buyer reports directly to a media buyer and knows when and where space and time are available for purchase, reconciles agency media orders with what actually appears, calculates rates, usage, and budget, learns buying terminology and operating procedures, develops skills in negotiation and communication with media sales representatives, and becomes familiar with the media market. Accomplishing these tasks requires ease at working with numbers and budgets, outstanding communication skills, and the ability to work under pressure. Skills in negotiation and sales are especially advantageous. Successful candidates have strong general business skills: the ability to write and speak effectively, developed organizational skills, aptitude for working with numbers and statistics, and basic computer skills. in addition, other important attributes are working well under pressure, maintaining priorities while handling a variety of tasks simultaneously, the ability and desire to interact with a wide range of personalities at the agency, the client, and within the media industry, an intense curiosity and interest in all types of media and their role in the marketing process, and understanding of sales and negotiation concepts (leverage, timing, and positioning), and a winning personal attitude. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree. A degree in advertising or marketing is not a prerequisite. In most agencies, the media department, along with account management, hires the greatest number of entry-level candidates. Most larger agencies offer entry-level training programs in media. The organization of a media department varies with the size of the agency. In large agencies, a person may specialize by medium, whereas in small and medium-sized agencies each person may handle all media. The media function is headed by a media director who usually reports to the highest level of management. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES An entry-level position as an assistant media planner usually leads to media planner, the person responsible for developing a media plan. An entry-level position as an assistant media buyer usually leads to media buyer, responsible for negotiating time and space. It is common for the planner and buyer to develop expertise in specific media categories, such as magazine or network or spot television. In a small agency, the two jobs may be combined. The next step is supervisory. The media planning supervisor coordinates the work of planners and presents recommendations to the account group and client. The broadcast buying supervisor oversees buying operations. With greater knowledge and experience, media people advance to any of several positions —associate media director, manager of media research, network supervisor, director of spot broadcast, group media director, director of programming and negotiations, and media director. Many agencies have top media people represented in senior management and as members of their boards of directors. MARKET RESEARCH The basic role of the market research department in an advertising agency is to understand the wants, desires, thoughts, concerns, motivating forces, and ideas of the consumer. By researching secondary information, conducting focus groups or one-on-one interviews, testing people’s reactions to new advertising copy, tracking sales volume, or studying buying trends, the advertising agency researcher becomes an expert on consumer behavior. Most researchers are assigned to specific accounts and work as advisors to the account, creative, and media people. They help develop, refine, and evaluate potential strategies and are called on to react to possible creative approaches based on their understanding of the consumer. This might be done with the creative team during the process or with account managers as evaluators of creative alternatives. Some agencies also employ researchers who specialize in specific areas of quantitative or qualitative research. Consumer trends and lifestyle research are two areas in which most large agencies maintain continuing studies. Findings from these specialized studies tend to have an impact on all agency clients as well as on the process of creating advertising. In addition, the research department oversees projects that are subcontracted to “out-of-house” research firms. A typical example is surveys of shoppers at malls. The agency researchers design the questionnaire and interpret results, but a private firm conducts the interviews and summarizes the data so the researcher can write a report on the survey. ENTRY-LEVEL POSITIONS ASSISTANT RESEARCH EXECUTIVE The typical assistant reports directly to a research executive. Duties usually include compiling data from secondary resources, following the progress of research projects, assisting in the development of primary research tools, and learning to analyze facts and numbers, interpreting and explaining what these really mean. Successful candidates have strong quantitative skills and the aptitude for analyzing and interpreting qualitative as well as quantitative data. Computer literacy is also advantageous. In addition, candidates should be able to write and speak effectively, work well under pressure, and organize work priorities. They should have an interest in forecasting trends and patterns and a fascination with human behavior and motivation. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement, but it is not unusual to find people who have master’s or doctorate degrees employed in agency research departments. Although a specific major is not a prerequisite, many employers are attracted to candidates whose coursework is related to research. Some academic disciplines fitting this category are sociology, psychology, marketing, marketing research, economics, journalism, quantitative methods, anthropology, and mass communications. Entry-level positions in agency research departments are relatively rare, especially in medium- and small-sized agencies. Candidates who have only bachelor’s or master’s degrees and no experience might find some opportunities at the largest agencies or at research firms. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES An entry-level position as an assistant research executive usually leads to a supervisory position with responsibility for managing research on individual accounts or brands overseeing the work of assistant research executives. During this stage a person might identify a personal interest in a specific research area and seek to specialize. The next step is management of a specialized research function or responsibility for all research on more than one account. Ultimately, a research person may have the opportunity to move into more general corporate management or marketing functions. SUPPORT SERVICES Like any well-run business, the advertising agency must maintain a full complement of people who handle accounting, personnel, clerical, and office services. In addition, agency traffic managers make sure that, once started, an ad or commercial moves smoothly through the agency, additions and corrections are obtained, and the whole job arrives at the publication or the broadcast station on time. Cost controllers monitor agency costs, making sure that work stays within budget or that everyone is aware of, and approves, any needed changes in the budget. Other agency employees may include lawyers, librarians, and certain specialists. For example, agencies with big food or packaged-goods accounts sometimes keep nutritionists and home economists on staff. Those with health products or medical accounts may employ physicians. Such diversity is one more aspect that makes agency work such a fascinating and rewarding career choice. PREPARING FOR A CAREER IN ADVERTISING Breaking into advertising is not easy. Most jobs require a college degree. Internships and related work experience can be helpful. Retail selling experience is also excellent preparation. In addition to all this, however, getting a job in an advertising agency requires determination for two reasons. First, there are few job openings, and second, a lot of other bright people, like yourself, want those jobs, too. This year alone many agencies will receive thousands of inquiries for entry-level opportunities. Of this number, a very large agency might hire only 30. In short, there are many more people interested in working at agencies than there are openings. Nothing guarantees a job with an agency, but there are seven basic steps you should consider. 1. Educate Yourself About the Business Find out as much as possible about the advertising business, what an agency does, and the career area or department in which you would like to work. Read every bit of relevant material you can find —articles, books, and such trade journals as Advertising Age, Mediaweek, and Adweek. Talk to people. Track down any contacts or friends you have in the business. Sit down with your college instructors and career counselors. Make inquiries at such professional organizations as the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Advertising Women of New York, the American Advertising Foundations, or your local advertising club. Find out about seminars and attend them. One source of information can lead you to ten others. The more you know about your chosen area, the better you can present yourself as a first-rate candidate. 2. Target Your Prospects Decide what factors are important to you about a company and evaluate prospective employers on that basis. Make use of the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies, popularly known as the “Agency Red Book.” It is available at most libraries and lists all the agencies worldwide. It gives names and titles of key people, size of the agency (in dollar billings, number of offices, and total personnel), the agency’s accounts, and a breakdown of the media in which the agency invests its client’ money. Read the trade press to learn more about specific agencies you want to target. For example, Advertising Age prints a special issue each year that provides profiles of individual agency business activity during the previous 12 months. It also selects an “agency of the year” and publishes an in-depth description. 3. Develop a Strategy With all the competition for jobs in advertising, you must develop your own “unique selling proposition” to communicate your own unique qualities. It is not enough that you are interested in advertising, or that you made dean’s list eight times, or that you wrote for the school newspaper. So did most of your competition. You have to connect what you have done in the past, in a unique way, to what you will do for the agency in the future. Developing a strategy gets your commitment, imagination, and analytical thinking out in the limelight. It is the key to making you stand out from other candidates. 4. Create a Good Résumé The primary purpose a résumé is to get you an interview. Used correctly, it can open doors. Used incorrectly, it slams them shut. A good résumé connects your experience to your job goal. Support your candidacy by highlighting relevant skills, such as writing, speaking, managing, and so on. Include any activities, jobs, or internships directly related to advertising. Did you sell space for the school’s newspapers? Were you yearbook editor? Or stage manager for the college theater group? Add less related activities only if they are outstanding. Be selective. Your résumé is a selling tool, not a life history. Keep it neat, clear, precise, and all on one page. Try to make it unique and interesting but not gimmicky. 5. Take Pains with Each Cover Letter A cover letter works hand in hand with your résumé. Together they create a first impression of you. Your cover letter should work as a connecting tool between you and the agency you are writing to. Don’t let it read like a form letter. Instead, include real knowledge of the agency, its clients, its work, and its position in the industry. Tell the agency why you are interested in it and why you think you’d be right for it. Then make sure that you are prepared to discuss in your interview whatever you say in the cover letter. Remember, you are being judged on communicative skill. Watch spelling, grammar, and typing. Most importantly, be clear, crisp, and brief. 6. Assemble a Portfolio To help you get a job in an agency creative department, you must prepare a portfolio that shows your thinking and imagination. If you are an aspiring art director, this clearly has to include ample demonstration of your design ability and graphic sense. If you want to be a copywriter, visuals are less critical than is demonstration of your writing ability and marketing sense. Even account managers can show ads they have worked on in order to explain the strategy behind them. In any case, show your very best work. If you have not had any experience, pick some currently running campaigns, determine their objectives, and interpret them in your own way. It doesn’t matter if your “ads” are not professional. Your prospective employer wants to see fresh concepts and new ideas that prove you have potential. Then keep making changes to improve your portfolio. For more specific suggestions, see Maxine Paetro’s book on building portfolios, entitled How to Put Your Book Together and Get a Job in Advertising. 7. Prepare for Your Interview At most agencies, an invitation to be interviewed reflects more than casual interest in a candidate. If you have made it this far, you’re at least in the quarterfinals. And if you’ve done your homework, you should have nothing to worry about. Before the interview, organize your thinking. Review your résumé and the cover letter you sent the agency. Decide what key selling points you should communicate about yourself. Think how you can best do this. Review the information you have about the agency. Be aware of its current campaigns and any fast-breaking developments. Commenting on these can help you make an immediate connection with the interviewer. Be ready to discuss your point of view on advertising in general and your area of interest in particular. Be articulate. Be self- confident and enthusiastic, but relax and do it naturally. Don’t try to recite everything you know. Selectivity shows you are thinking. Remember, someone is interested enough in your background to invest 30 minutes or more in you. That person wants you to succeed. Source: Courtesy of The American Association of Advertising Agencies.