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.

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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.” 

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Getting in there

A post-graduate degree is an advantage, although it need not be industry specific. Skills such as thinking outside the box and being curious about human behaviour are highly valuable, Barnard explains. Delahunty adds: “I believe the power of persuasion is the most potent tool and important qualification anyone can possess.”

Advertising in the UK is competitive, but big breaks come with persistence and patience: “I left South Africa in 2005 with the intention of building on my four-and-a-half years in the industry,” Vita says. “It took me a while – plus dogged determination, dark moments and much crossing of fingers – to eventually land a job at my dream agency, and I have just plugged away at it since then.”

Delahunty broke into the industry by winning one of five spots on a graduate recruitment scheme with DDB in Sydney. The key, it seems, is to really immerse yourself in the industry. 

“Try to get some work experience and make sure you see all the different parts of the agency,” Vita says. “Agencies are different in size, shape and ambition and this will have a big impact on the type of work you do.”

Barnard adds: “Look at and share creative work, read and comment on blogs, go to events, get out there, meet people, share your thoughts and ideas and everything will fall into place.”

Expert tips

Managing director at Media Square Recruitment, Robert Garner, shares his tips on getting into advertising:

• Research the companies and understand what they do.

• Send your CV to specific and relevant people, and call them before and after they receive it.

• Be enthusiastic and passionate about the industry. 

• Ask lots of questions during the interview. And when it’s drawing to a close, ask what they think of you