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Ever since we saw the slick-haired king of advertising, Don Draper, grace our screens, we have wondered why we don’t get to swill whiskey, smoke cigars and come out with lines like, “You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself” at work.

So is that what advertising is all about? We get the lowdown from some real-life slogan slingers...


The hard sell

“We don’t spend our days drinking whiskey and going for long, boozy lunches,” says Nicola Vita, a South African who works as a strategic director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. TNT’s face drops. “But there are some commonalities,” she quickly adds. Phew.

“There are creatives trying to crack briefs, amazing ‘aha’ moments, sometimes brilliant, sometimes cringe-worthy presentations, the tension between the account man and creative ... stuff like that.” 

So what is working in advertising really like? It depends on your role in the company, but generally you will be dealing with finding out the client’s needs, the consumer’s needs, working on a creative idea, or helping out with the process somewhere in between. 

It’s an exciting industry to work in, with shoots potentially taking you across the world, and job satisfaction from seeing your campaigns in the media.

“You’re working in an environment that’s always at the cutting edge of technology and creativity, which is an exciting place to be,” points out Louise Barnard from Kent, a business director at ideas agency Clusta.

There is also a great social side, says Australian Matt Delahunty, the account director (or ‘Mother’) at Mother London. “There is no industry with better, more caring and fun-loving people than advertising. It really is a case of work hard, play hard.” The money’s not bad, either, with entry-level jobs starting at £20k, and the potential to earn around £400k if you get to be a really big cheese.

Do you have the Don factor?

It takes more than a bespoke suit and a cocky attitude to make it in the advertising industry. “You need resilience, passion, a desire to make a difference, creativity and a great sense of humour,” Vita says. “Plus you need to be flexible and to want to keep learning.”

Delahunty adds: “There is a famous saying [in advertising] that sums it up best: ‘You need to be talented and you need to be nice. After all, life is too short to work with a bastard.’”When asked what the worst thing about working in advertising is, all three insiders agreed: “The long hours.” 


Talkback


The Don Draper effect: What it's really like to work in advertising
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