There’s a true story about an advertising graduate who put herself into a coffin and had it delivered to a Creative Director’s office in Wellington. When the coffin arrived, she popped up and said: “I’m dying to work here”. She didn’t get the job.
Some advertising graduates go to extraordinary lengths to be noticed by a Creative Director. After all, seeking employment in an advertising agency can be a very daunting and challenging prospect for a young creative. Like many creative industries there is an abundance of candidates competing for only a handful of positions. An Art Director once told me that advertising agencies are looking for someone who can “put a man on the moon!” When I asked him to elaborate, he explained that the ideal creative is someone who can find a way to do the impossible without going over budget and without going off brief. Sounds pretty straightforward? If you’re a graduate and you’re not still nodding away at this point then typically you’ll be the type to settle down in another department or rethink your career options altogether. Those who possess that killer instinct will be quick to put their hand up. The reality is that the right candidate probably wouldn’t be able to meet all of those expectations, but they would be prepared to give it a damn good try and that is what’s important. Apparently advertising agencies are looking for someone who is tenacious, confident in their creative ability and also incredibly resilient. These individuals view an advertising agency as a channel through which they can express their creative flare. They’re excited about a career in advertising because they’re confident that one day they may be part of a revolutionary Google campaign that will reach millions of people worldwide or perhaps they’ll put a man on the moon as part of a game-changing Red Bull campaign.
It is plain to see why self-confidence is essential in the advertising industry - if the creative isn’t confident in their own ideas then why should the client feel any different? The industry is not always friendly nor is it very forgiving and young creatives are prone to being a bit sceptical and hyper critical of their ideas. This can lead to a state of paralysis. While studying at Award School of Advertising, every week I was required to present campaign concepts to experienced Copywriters and Art Directors at a critique session. Presentations involved standing up at long conference tables and sharing ideas to a room full of intimidating creatives and my twelve peers who were competing with me for the Executive Creative Director’s attention.
Initially I developed a terrible habit of discarding ideas that I felt weren’t impressive or eye-opening. But, when the work load increased, I couldn’t afford to discard ideas otherwise I simply wouldn’t have enough work to present. This taught me a valuable lesson. You don’t need to be afraid of bad ideas, instead you just need to focus on turning them into great ideas.
When I recently freelanced at Partisan Advertising this lesson became the law. Each week I would sit down with Greg Kramer for a few hours at a time and together we would create three piles of options. A pile of good ideas, a pile of potentially good ideas and a pile of ideas that need to be turned into good ideas. The process is incredibly satisfying, not only because it is exciting but because there really isn’t any other time when problems are resolved in such a matter-of-fact way. It is like going through a mediation process; only you simply must arrive at a positive outcome in a relatively short period of time because at the end of the day there is a client to please. Working in my first official Art Director role at Partisan Advertising I realise that I really am quite fortunate to be in this industry. Being employed to produce campaign concepts is an occupation that many naysayers believe is a myth. There are times when the work does feel too good to be true. Aside from being paid to be creative, you also get to enjoy the satisfaction of watching your ideas be professionally executed and sometimes you get to bask in the client’s contentment with the results. A Senior Art Director warned me that eventually the novelty does wear off, but for the time being the challenges are absolutely worth embracing.