Getting into Advertising – Advice from Ogilvy

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Last week Oxford AdSoc and the University of Oxford Careers Service were delighted to host a getting-into-advertising workshop with Ogilvy.

The bad news is that apparently there really is no secret password for getting a job. The good news is that Ogilvy is opening a pair of graduate schemes and the great news is that Rebecca Faulkner (Account Management) and Lucie Blake (Account Planning) were chock-full of pearls of wisdom to sooth our troubled brows.

It is my inestimable pleasure to present some of their advice for you now in no particular order.

-        Do your research. There are dozens of blogs, websites, magazines and books out there, there’s really no excuse for not knowing how the industry works or what’s been going on recently.

-        Know the agency you’re applying to. It’s so easy to get agencies muddled in your head. Don’t. Know what’s coming out of the agency, and about their individual philosophy or ethos.

-        Write well. First impressions count, so check your grammar and spelling. But writing can be a great clue to your skills, personality and intelligence, so don’t short change yourself. David Ogilvy himself said “The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.”

-        Don’t submit your application last minute. There’s always more chance of getting lost in the system if your application arrives at the same time as hundreds of other people. Some agencies recruit on a rolling basis and may have made most of their decisions before they even read your application.

-        In the interview you’re probably going to be asked 2 questions: Name an ad you like and tell us why it’s good. Tell us about an ad you hate….Think about your answers and name an ad you genuinely dislike and why you feel that way, not just something big, expensive or popular that people will talk about. (N.B. there’s a small chance you’re speaking to someone who worked on that ad so don’t be too mean.)

-        Think carefully about whether you use a creative CV or a professional traditional CV. Both can work well, and both could spoil your chances. Sure, advertising is creative but it’s also a business. What are you trying to tell the agency about yourself?

-        Be interesting. A huge proportion of people just say film, travel or photography when they’re asked about their interests. Why are your interests interesting?

And for those of you who are feeling a bit daunted by the whole process, relax.

Lucie: “Even if the application process is getting to you a bit, don’t be put off applying. When you’re facing lots of application deadlines, and you’re not sure what to put in each one, one of the most important things is to take time to think about it. Take some time to relax and get everything straight in your head. Most of all, take time to think about what you want.”

Rebecca: “The Ad industry demands, more than anything else, that you present yourself as yourself. There really is no template or formula we’re looking for, but there are a few things you can do to get our attention. Be smart but not boastful. A strong academic background is great, but in many ways you have to leave that at the door and show us why we might want to work with you. There are a lot of styles in advertising, so be yourself.”

By Sean R Mills