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Career Advice from the Pros

Are these qualities also the ones you look for in entry-level creatives?

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Anne Melanson: Creative in the agency business is generally the copywriter and the art director. They generally work as a team, one doing the copy, what you would see as copy, and one doing the graphic or the visual. I think the best teams work together, probably know each other so well, that they're sort of interchangeable in that sense. A good copywriter will have a good sense of a visual, of what he or she wants to see, and a good art director will have the same sense of copy. So, that's just so we all understand what we're talking about. That's the basic definition. There are other jobs in creative, but they really all support the copywriter and the art director.
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Patty Enright: I think in terms of someone like yourself, sitting out there saying, "do I want to be an art director or copywriter or even go into an agency to apply for that kind of job", you have to be thinking about it really today. You can't graduate in June and then say, I think I'm going to go talk to one of the agencies represented as an art director candidate or a copywriter candidate. You have to come prepared typically with what we call a portfolio, which would include samples of your work. You could be sitting saying, but I haven't had a job yet, what kind of work would you be interesting in seeing? Typically a copywriter, for example, will have maybe worked for their school newspaper, published an article, written something, been in creative writing classes where some of their sample projects could be considered portfolio items. Same thing on the art side. Possibly even a class, an advertising class, where you had executed a campaign. It's really to show where you're level of creativity is coming from. In some cases basic skills but for a very junior person, you have to really be thinking about that a little early on and prepare yourself to go in with sort of "this is what I can do for you" kinds of work samples.
Rene Bruce: That's the way our agency is. We have a creative manager, who hires all our creatives, and he really doesn't even look at people without a book. So, you need to get some work together, even if it means taking additional courses at another school where you can really get that experience. But that's the way we work. I think entry level positions in creative are pretty difficult, at least at Saatchi they're hard to come by.
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Anne Melanson: One of the things that you can do is do a speculative portfolio, too. Take an idea that you've had for a product or a service and put together what you would think would be a good ad. Let's say a print ad is usually easier to demonstrate. I guess I would make a couple of points about trying to get a job in the creative area. It is as you said, there are fewer jobs in creative. I think we all hope that that will change and that there will be more jobs. But right now entry level jobs are significantly fewer than in account management or media. Also, keep in mind that you will meet different people. If you bring your book in, you've put your book together, as Patty said, you bring it in to see somebody and you may get a point of view from that person that totally throws you and says, well, everything I've done is terrible. You have to keep heart and you have to plough ahead, because you'll meet other people, and other people will have a different point of view. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the nature of creative. That's why agencies are different. That's why each of our agencies is very, very different in the way they look at creative and the way they look at clients and in the way they actually do creative. So, my words to you would be don't be discouraged because one person that you see says the book is terrible, a bunch of crap, go back and do it again.
Patty Enright: That same person just got hired at my agency! It's true. It's absolutely true. The other thing you can do also, if you're particularly interested in creative, is go to a local restaurant, go to a local retailer in your neighborhood around school, and ask them. Ask them if they do any advertisements, if they do local newspaper advertisements, even your school paper. Look to do something around whatever the message is. Those are things that you can collect for your book and keep, and of course as you get more experience, and let's assume that you guys are juniors, get an internship if you can, even if it means being in place, in a creative department, to see what goes on. That's an enormous, enormous opportunity, not because you should be ever so ingratiated to carry boards or whatever, but to be around that sort of stimulus, to see what's going on, to see what's good and what's not, to be around the individuals when they're talking about what makes a good ad or what doesn't make an ad, or to simply hang around in a new business pitch, where you can see all kinds of thinking that goes into what ultimately makes the client presentation. That's all fantastic learning, particularly as it relates -- I mean, for any area -- but particularly creative. Because you'll know better what kinds of things to start in your portfolio and probably develop a little bit of a confidence about bringing your book in and, as Anne said, I think, taking the advice that you get and trying to learn from it.
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Anne Melanson: …you should be able to answer questions, because you are going to be getting questions from people that you talk to like, "That looks great but what does it say?" "Why did you do it?" "Why is it targeted to this audience? It wouldn't seem to work there." So, you need to be prepared to really answer those hard questions, not just think it's a great idea because I paid attention to it, and that's generally the mistake that I see. That's something that's easily corrected. Here I think is where you can get some guidance. If, as Patty said, when you're developing that book even now, if you could talk to some people in agencies as you're going along and get their point of view, get their words of advice and they can help guide you in this process, I think that would be very helpful.
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Angel Rivera: The two areas where you might be able to have some immediate impact as a young person out of school would be, I would say, in the direct advertising area and in internet marketing, and ways in which you can prepare yourself for that is maybe even building your own web site or helping others build their web site and using that as your portfolio. Of course, internships are another opportunity. So, I would say even banner ads, somehow getting involved in that through school. Going to Fordham, if you're a Fordham student, go the Fordham site and say, do you guys have a web site? If not, can I help you build one? Or can I help you with this kind of thing. That way you build up some of your skills and you have some experience. The direct and internet are two areas where a young person can come in and have immediate impact.
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