If you’re a recent portfolio school grad or a junior creative who has just landed a gig (congrats!), you’re probably starting to realize the generic prescription for success isn’t very effective. A clever cover letter*, knowing Adobe like the back of your hand, and showing up to work early will only get you so far at the best digital advertising agencies. So, here are five tips for creatives interested in making a name for themselves that don’t include “proofread your work” (because no one should have to tell you that, come on).
1. Size Doesn’t Matter, Character Does
Big, small, or in-house, your first advertising agency experience is less about the brands you work on and more about the people you work with. Look for a team you can learn from, work late alongside, and a boss who will have your back when you’re in a jam.
2. Strategic Ideas > 360 Campaigns
Too often, students pull together campaigns including a print ad, a billboard, a social post, a radio script, a banner ad… the list goes on. This shows digital advertising agencies you know advertising, not strategic thinking, which is really what clients are paying for. Don’t hesitate to include a strong idea in your portfolio just because it only has one or two pieces.
3. Be Able to Answer “Why?”
Ninety-nine percent of your job as a creative is explaining and selling ideas to clients. Can you explain why you chose a specific typeface or why your campaign should live solely on Instagram? Practice telling the story of your process. Trust me, clients will ask why the logo isn’t bigger, and you can’t say, “Because it looks better this way.” The other one percent of the job, by the way, is not being an asshole.
4. Be a Unicorn, Not a One Trick Pony
If you’re a writer, learn how to spot good and bad ad layouts and about the video editing process. If you’re an art director, learn how to write-up an idea and what makes a headline pop. You don’t need to become an expert at these things, of course, just know the basics. This knowledge will make you incredibly valuable to your team now and in the future.
5. Know the Business
While your title may be creative, your role doesn’t end there. Take time to understand the workflow and meet the people in every department in every advertising or digital agency you work at. Knowing how things get from A to Z will help you create well-rounded campaigns, and give you an edge in client meetings.
Good luck out there.
*Clever cover letters are overrated. Most agency creative directors don’t have time to read more than a couple of sentences. Hook ‘em with a quick intro, then hyperlink your portfolio site. Let your work speak from there.