16 October 2015

My First Year In Advertising

Believe it or not (I'm not sure I really do) the end of this month marks my first year in advertising. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to work in this industry. When I was younger I used to play a game with my best friend where you would choose an object for the other person and they'd have 30 seconds to come up with an advertisement and present it. Now that I'm in the place where this actually happens - it takes them longer than 30 seconds, obviously - it's pretty hard to believe it. Although I'm not creating show-stopping ads (yet) I'm definitely climbing the right ladder.

I've learnt a huge amount in the last year, more than I imagined I would. If I met myself from a year ago now, I'd be shocked by how little I knew - I don't think I'd even heard of Campaign magazine (advertisers' version of BBC News) and now I spend my day scouring it for new ads, hires, mergers and industry news.

The biggest lesson I've learnt this year is that advertising can do more than just sell. This was definitely some thing I was aware of (see my post from Blogtober last year on Why We Should NOT Ignore Advertisements) but I didn't know the extent to which advertising was moving towards this. The most successful campaigns from Cannes Lions (our version of the Oscars) this year were doing more than selling, they were impacting popular culture and creating change. People have started coining phrases such as 'solvertising' and 'goodvertising' but really it's just advertising at its best. Advertising of the future. Some people think advertising is slowly dying off but I think what these ideas show is that it's alive and making a difference.

I've also found out just how much time and effort (and how many people) go into creating these amazing, award winning ads. What I used to think happened was: a client told you what they wanted, a strategist turned this into a brief and gave it to the creative team (an art director/designer and a copy writer), they brought the ideas to reality and the account manager delivered them back to the client who then jumped for joy at your amazingly innovative yet refined ideas. Obviously I didn't think it was quite as simple as this but I never imagined how complicated the process was and how many different roles are involved. Collaboration is such a buzzword in the industry but it seems that to be truly successful you need to have a 360, fully integrated, cost effective solution. 

What surprised me was the unspoken hierarchy in advertising agencies other than CEO to Account Executive or Intern. The hierarchy of brands. The first question you'll get asked when you meet another advertiser is "what do you do?". In the normal sphere of employment this is taken literally but what ad people really mean is "who do you do?" and they're not being crude, they mean what account do you work on, who are your clients. Secretly (or sometimes not that secretly), they will judge you on who your client is - whether they're blue chip or a bigger (money-wise) account than their own. Working in the PR/Communications department I've been spared from this, sort of. My client is our own employer so no one has the nerves (or stupidity) to degrade part of what they represent - it's almost like I work in HR - and yet they're not particularly interested either. It's a really interesting place to be and has given the opportunity to be involved in a broad range of areas in the company.

Luckily, in advertising (an experience based career) 22 is considered young once again. My friends and I are always complaining about how old we're getting but here I'm considered youthful, fresh and Millennial. A key trait of Millennials is that we are 'digital natives'. Any technical issue and we're the first person to be asked (it's like living with your parents all over again..). But in fact it's actually quite a popular trait for employers. We don't need digital training, we just get it. Before I started working in my current role, and actually before I started working full-time, I didn't know how sought after this was. So instead of grumbling about my age (I'm definitely starting to get bags under my eyes, no grey hair yet though), I'm revelling in the fact that I've not hit 30 yet.

Finally, one lesson I've learnt in the last year which applies to any profession is the importance of making time for yourself outside of work. It's so easy, especially in the digital age, to spend your personal time talking about or doing work (whether it's checking emails, making notes or reading extra articles). And while I think this is great that my friends and I care enough about what we're doing to want to do this, if all we do is work, we're not going to be as productive as we could be. I read a really interesting article today about a company that has reduced it's working hours to 5-a-day. I'm not saying everyone should work less, I'm saying taking time to do what you want to do is really important too. At university I had such a flexible timetable I could easily balance my work and personal life. Now I work 40 hours a week it's not quite so easy. But it's still important that I find time to do things I enjoy such as hockey, seeing friends and writing my blog. I want to do the best work I can and I believe that being happy in my personal life enables me to do that.

I'm interested to know what you've learnt either about yourself or your industry in the last year or so. Leave me a comment below if there's something you'd like to share! 

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