So you want a writing job in the advertising business. Here are my two cents:
1. Be good.
If you’re good you can get any job you want, at any agency you want. If you’re not, then you can’t and you won’t. It’s a ruthlessly meritocratic business.
2. Getting good is mostly practice.
I wrote 12 ads yesterday. All good ones. Took me a couple of hours. I’m not some creative genius, I’ve just been doing it a while.
3. Work on the ideas, not the polishing.
Most books look the same (a “book” is your portfolio of work samples you send around the agencies when you’re hustling for a job). Yawn. Snore. More yawns and snores. Highly professional, highly polished, and full of second-rate ideas. You don’t notice how ineffective a marketing tool they are till there’s a recession on and you REALLY NEED to find a job.
4. Seek out the exceptional minds, avoid everyone else.
Life is short. You don’t want to end up in The Watercooler Gang.
5. Write like you mean the words.
“Being creative” is not the hardest thing in the profession. That’s easy. Being able to write about the client’s product with conviction, with passion, with genuine humanity is far harder. Most copywriters can’t do it. If you can do it, there’s always going to be a market for it. Be excited.
(read more here…)
6. Make the client think differently about his product.
This is the gold dust of the profession. This is what the client will really value over the long-haul. Hard as hell to do. It took me almost 10 years in the business before I made my first real intellectual breakthrough with Gerber Baby Foods. Now it’s pretty much all I do. Everything else is secondary.
7. Awards are overrated.
They’re fine for allowing a young rookie to get his or her name known in the business, but award juries are mostly biased, political, paranoid, incestuous, smug, nasty entities, a refuge for self-satisfied, backwards-looking mediocrity. Any business plan that includes their approval in the equation is highly flawed.
8. TV is still where the money is.
If you work in the mainstream of the business, your career will be rewarded in direct proportion to the number of TV spots you sell. Yes, there are exceptions, but they’re rare. This sad little factoid has pretty much sealed the death warrant on the standard agency business plan, but hey, it’s not my problem.
9. The business is in meltdown.
Everybody knows the “Job For Life” is dead, cold and buried. However, professionally you’re still expected to behave like that isn’t the case. There’s a disconnect. It won’t last forever. Smart clients know that agency business models generally suck and what’s on offer is expensive for what you get. We live in interesting times.
10. Everything you read about the advertising business is wrong (including this).
How do I know? Because there’s a new game in town. A new creature has come down the pike which will change the business forever. I don’t speak about it here, I save it for my clients. Rock on.
(For further thoughts about the advertising business check out “The Hughtrain Manifesto”. Thanks.)