Advertising interviews


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The advertising interview is not like other job interviews. It's special. It's different.

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Advertising interviews

  1. 1. THE ADVERTISING INTERVIEW PREPARED BY: Brendan Watson NOVEMBER 2010 CONTRIBUTORS: Ignacio Oreamuno, Jack Neary, Alan Madill, Dré Labre, Mitch Joel, Peter Ignazi, Nancy Vonk, Tom Beakbane, Suzanne Pope, Andrew Simon, Andrew Shortt, Hayes Steinberg, David Rosenberg, Todd Mackie, Arthur Shah, Shawn King, Joe Musicco, Tony Miller, Brent Choi,CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE David Houghton, Ron Tite, Wade Hesson, Heidi Ehlers
  2. 2. THE ADVERTISING INTERVIEW IS NOT LIKE OTHER JOB INTERVIEWS. ITS SPECIAL. ITS DIFFERENT. And often times the importance of it is overlooked, especially by students and juniors. Over and over again youre told that the only thing that matters is your book so its not completely surprising that students sometimes neglectFOREWORD the details that would make a good interview great. The truth is, having a great book is paramount. However, having a good interview will make your work shine that much brighter and a bad interview will have the inverse effect. The internet is a tad short on resources dedicated to this particular topic though. So even if an eager young creative was savvy enough to look up tips for acing an interview with their dream agency, they would probably come up short. Sure, there are loads of documents out there thatll help you get ready for an interview at a bank. Or an accounting firm. But instances are probably far and few between of Creative Directors asking applicants to list three of their strengths and three of their weaknesses. The advertising interview is a special kind of beast. Fortunately, some of the brightest in the business agreed to share their tips for acing your next agency interview, beyond just having a great book. So good luck and remember: youve been warned. BRENDAN WATSON Art Director/Instructor, Y&R/Humber College CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 2
  3. 3. 23 years after extruding from the womb I hopped my way to one of the big agencies to show off my grand portfolio. A masterpiece of advertising works fabricated by yours truly over the weekend. You see, my portfolio was not ready, I was in the middle of ad school but had surprisingly won a scholarship and had gotten catapulted into an interview with the President of McCann Canada, he had booked an interview with me and the creative director too. I was crapping my pants. Could this be my big break? I spent the entire weekend fabricating a portfolio of out thin air. I was so confident that when they asked me what I wanted to be, Art Director or Copywriter I was ready to say Creative Director.INTRODUCTION To show off the promise of my talent I wore a suit and tie. Not only was this a horrendous mistake, but it was amplified by the fact that I was wearing a tie of Rodins "The Thinker" (the statue/dude that looks like hes sitting on a toilet thinking". (The runner up for the interview tie was a tie of a Dali painting I still have). I get there, and Mr. Creative Director was there sporting his white pony tail and jean shorts. I remember there was a big sticker on his wall that said Vaginas are cool." Hence when I came in á la George Clooney I knew compatibility was a total #FAIL. Whilst I got some feedback (it all sucks!) I walked out with my tie in between my legs. The three nights prior to this event I had spent having wet dreams of my salary negotiations with McCann. "55k? are you joking? Im solid gold baby. Up it up!" The reality is that not only did I walk away without an internship or a job, I also walked away feeling like an absolute idiot. Advertising is the only job where breaking in is the hardest part of the entire career and there isnt a single Creative Director in the world that doesnt recall every detail from their first interview. Only a week in Guantanamo is more memorable. Fear not, most of these stories end in failure so dont worry if you have bad first interview(s). The irony is the we are all in the business of selling and the first thing we have to sell is ourselves. PS. My second interview landed me a full time job at Ogilvy :) I did not wear the tie. Ignacio Oreamuno President • ihaveanidea CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 3
  4. 4. 1. The interview is your chance to impress, dont squander the opportunity.2. Prepare, prepare, prepare: research the company you are going to visit, and everything you can find out aboutthe person you will meet. You should be able to talk knowledgeably about both.3. An good interview is all about storytelling. Tell you story. Make it interesting.4. Be active, not passive. Dont just sit there and let the CD go through your book. Guide him or her. Talk about yourthinking behind the work, how you came to execute the ideas, how the work performed in the market. Presentyour work as if you were presenting to a client. Make it easy to understand. 5. Ask questions of the CD. Make it a conversation. Jack Neary Executive Creative Director, TBWATorontoAttitude goes a long way in an interview. I’m interested in creatives that are eager to work for me. So, do yourhomework on the agency and the people you are interviewing with before you go for your interview. Don’t act likeyou’re hot shit in the interview, I’m not interested in how cool you think you are. And don’t chew gum. Alan Madill Partner, Executive Creative Director, Juniper Park CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 4
  5. 5. Present more than just ads in your book. Be prolific. Show off ideas from your other portfolio. You know, the stuffyou do outside of work. The extra-curricular creative activities that keep you always-on. Some creative directorswill insist on only reviewing ads. Ignore them. They don’t get it. If you’re good at photography, music, robotics,what-have-you; make sure it’s being represented. You are more than just your advertising work. Dré Labre Creative Director, Rethink TorontoStart a Blog. Share your ideas, thoughts and inspiration. Update it frequently with great stories. Not just about yourwork, but about you. Make it personal. Make it real. Nothing will impress someone else more than really getting asense of who you are. A Blog will do more for you than any 8 1/2 x 11 piece of white paper ever can/will. Trust me.Dont wait for the last minute. Start one now. When you set-up your interview, make sure to let them know thatthey can check out your Blog beforehand. When youre in the interview, re-enforce that if they really want to learnmore about you, that they should go online and check out your Blog. Mitch Joel President, Twist ImageGet noticed. Peter Ignazi Senior Vice President, Executive Creative Director, BBDO Toronto CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 5
  6. 6. The CD is looking at you with a critical eye along with your portfolio. It sounds trite but its true: be yourself. Dressthe way you dress. Talk the way you talk. Dont try to turn yourself into someone else thats somehow better.Show up with knowledge about where you are. Be conversant on that agencys work and the CDs reputation.Approaching shops in a way thats generic doesnt send a signal you are really interested in their place. In fact,everywhere you go you should have a case for why youd fit in and why youre excited about them. Most grads fail totake advantage of this simple strategy.The CD is looking for people who are passionate about the industry. Theyre looking for people with a strong workethic, and as newcomers, are happy to do virtually anything to help. You should say as much.CDs have healthy egos and it wont hurt your case to stroke it. Know their claims to fame and share someadmiration. Let them know in your perfect world you would be learning from them.(If thats not true, why are you there?)Finally, the people who leap out at us have often made something specifically for us. It sounds super cheese butone grad wrote a funny song about us and she was so hired when she played it. Key: it was really good. A realdemonstration of her ability and personality. Nancy Vonk Co-Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather TorontoWe are in the business of communications so when you present your portfolio dont assume that your work speaksfor itself. Sell it! Describe the story behind it in a way that is entertaining. Show through the manner you interactwith the person interviewing you that you logical and well as creative and that you can explain & listen & interact &play as a member of a team. Tom Beakbane President, Beakbane Marketing CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 6
  7. 7. The single most important advice I can give about interviews is to be unfailingly good-natured in your response tocriticism. If you push back, you won’t change the creative director’s opinion; you’ll only show that you’re unable totolerate the pain that is part of growth and learning. It’s quite okay to ask clarifying questions about the feedback.Just make sure you’re gracious about it – even if it kills you inside.But none of the above will matter if you can’t get the interview in the first place. Ours is a business of grabbingpeople’s attention, of inspiring them to take action in ways they might not have considered before. Because ofthat, I’m always a little surprised by the students who do nothing more than leave a voice mail with their nameand number. Those students are giving the creative director no reason to call back, apart from the desire to benice. And since creative directors are busy people, those calls often don’t get returned. If you understand thatevery good ad answers the question “What’s in it for me?”, you should demonstrate that understanding in all yourcommunications. So before you call, drop off a mailer that is so smart and clever and fun that the CD will be afraidof losing your talent to another agency. Creative directors want juniors who are hungry for success, and the worstmailer shows that hunger better than the best voice mail. Suzanne Pope Associate Creative Director, john st.Show real passion for your work and the business. Enthusiasm is infectious and agencies want “can-do” kind oftalent. Ability to take constructive criticism. Stand by your work and thinking but listen and respond to how workcan be even stronger. Don’t cling to work like it’s your last great idea. Andrew Simon Chief Creative Officer, GJP Advertising CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 7
  8. 8. 1. Research a bit about the agency whos CD youre talking to. Nothing pisses people off more than if you dontknow their agency at, and it makes you look like youre just after anything. Which you should be, but you gotta learnhow to hide that fact.2. Dont put on an air of entitlement. Too many kids coming out of ad schools have this idea that because theywent to ad school, theyre entitled to a job at a top agency right away. Zak Mroueh started at Sears writingcatalogue stuff.3. Be insatiably curious. Ask lots of questions. Make them good ones. Make a list of questions beforehand. Askinggood questions shows that youre smart and prepared.4. Ask for feedback on every single piece in your book. Youve managed to get a CDs time so make the best use ofit. And dont get defensive about their feedback if it isnt good. Theyre only trying to help.5. Come armed with a new technology tidbit, or new media idea to show. It doesnt have to be something youvedone, but something you found that is cool. That way, youve imparted some knowledge on the person youremeeting with an theyll remember you. Andrew Shortt Partner, Creative Director, Huxley Quayle von Bismark1. Listen.2. Listen.3. Listen. (All too often students try to explain / talk / defend their work. Dont.)4. Take notes.5. Always ask if they can follow-up and share new stuff when they have it. Politely.6. Make no assumptions.7. Be incredibly appreciative of the time youve been given by the person youve just interviewed with. Hayes Steinberg Associate Creative Director, Bensimon Byrne CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 8
  9. 9. What I look for in the interview process (in no particular order)1. First, I look for the work. that spark of originality in at least ONE PIECE that tells me you think differently thananyone else ever has before.Really. I want to see something in your book that tells me you, (fill in you name here), have ideas about soap/swedish furniture/kitchen knives that nobody has ever thought of in the whole history of the planet. Oh, and thatthose ideas dont suck.(Typically, I see less than 10 books a year that fulfills this criteria.)2. I look for candidates who will look me in the eye and tell me what their idea is about and why they think itsright. Confidence. Passion. Commitment. Not boastfulness.3. I look for humility. (this relates to the end of the last point.) You CAN be confident and humble at the same time.Humility tells me you can be taught. Humility tells me your best ad is NOT the one you did yesterday, but the oneyoull do tomorrow.4. Finally, I look for curiosity. The compulsive need to know more. A questioning spirit. The passion to delve intomaterial as seemingly dry as a rubber stopper in a bathtub, and explain to me why that rubber stopper is a betterrubber stopper. David Rosenberg Chief Creative Officer, Bensimon ByrneShare your personality and just be yourself as much as possible. I would say a nervous person with a greatbook stands just as good of a chance as a person with a great personality and just a good book. We can teachinteresting people how to be better creatives, and it can be tough to pull turtles out of the shell. That said, greatideas always rules. Todd Mackie Creative Director, DDB Canada CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 9
  10. 10. Be punctual. If you cant make it or going to be late, let me know. Im always happy to reschedule. But if Im sittingaround waiting for someone Ill be pissed.Dont bring a corny gift as a thank you for my time. An email will suffice. Theres more potential for the gift to eraseany good feelings that were created during the interview.Try and have some good questions. Like, what agency life is all about. Ask me what I would expect from an intern/junior starting out.Do some research about the agency the work they do. Also do some research about te person you are meeting.Check out their work. If there was something you particularly admired tell them that. Ask how that idea came about.Be ready to have your feelings hurt. Theres a chance not everything in your book will be brilliant. Dont be defensive.Try and explain why you did what you did and get a discussion going so you can learn why something in your bookisnt working.Do keep in contact. I see so many people its hard to keep track of who did what and whos work I liked.Dont suck up to me in an interview. If you get a job at my agency youll have plenty of time to do that. Arthur Shah Vice President, Associate Creative Director, BBDO TorontoShow up with confidence that says youre not afraid to work in the industry and humility that says youre notafraid to learn. And keep in mind, respect and credibility doesnt come with your first day on the job. You need toearn that. Finally, be real. Common sense and the ability to simply think are way more important to me than yourportfolio. I want to hire great people, not a great portfolio. Shawn King Chief Creative Officer, Extreme Group CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 10
  11. 11. 1) Be patient. If your calls or emails aren’t being returned right away, that’s normal. The interviewing and hiringprocess has a tendency to be excruciatingly long at every level of seniority, and it’s probably going to take moretime than you’d like. So my first recommendation is to channel your inner Zen and get good at waiting.2) Hope for pointed criticism. Some Creative Directors will treat you with kid gloves and say nothing but nicethings about your book, but the real learning comes from those who are willing to be honest and forthright in theirappraisal. If someone is generous enough to give you candid and constructive advice, heed it.3) Don’t take rejection personally. If you get the meeting but don’t get the job, it’s not necessarily a reflection onyou. There are countless reasons you may not land an offer, and very few of them hinge on how you ‘performed’ inthe interview. More often than not, it’s about timing and money.4) Don’t get discouraged. You should expect to sit through upwards of a dozen interviews before you land a job oran internship. Maybe more. This is standard. The ad business requires a lot of intestinal fortitude, and this is yourfirst taste. Grab the Pepto-Bismol and try to keep your cookies down. Joe Musicco Associate Creative Director, Bensimon ByrneOf course, the book is the primary thing, but if you come across as a deviant personality, an immature lout orprickly about any hint of criticism, then you are pretty much dead in the water.Another tip: Dont tell the Creative Director that you want his or her job one day. Thats a sure fire mood killer. Dosome research on the agency, find out about the CD and what he or she has done.Be aware of the shops client list and show up about 10 minutes early. Oh, and be articulate. CDs want to knowthat they can put you in front of clients. Maybe not on Day 1, but at some point. If you sound like Rob Ford, youre introuble. You might be Mayor one day, but you wont go far in advertising. Tony Miller Executive Creative Director, Anderson DDB CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 11
  12. 12. While it is an idea business, people skills and culture fit are nearly as critical for me.Ill start with the energy level. The role youre filling in my department is to bring youth, new thinking and energy.I dont want you to be unauthentic about it and be annoyingly positive, but you should be excited about advertising,ideas, and have a desire to learn and do whatever it takes to contribute. Be humble.Also, you have to feel out your interviewer but I like when the prospects shows some strategic thinking ability andcan set up each campaign in their book and give some rationale on why they took a certain approach.Finally (and for something little different), I think the black leather porfolio case has some baggage of old schooland traditional thinking. I cant help but think of 50 year old art directors from the 90s. Laptops and iPads allowyou to show some animation or at least frame the work in a way that feels more modern - ideally on theirown website. Brent Choi Chief Creative Officer, CundariGet to know the agency. Whats their culture and their work ethic? What makes them unique? Do some researchonline and on their website to find out what makes them tick. That background information will likely be veryhandy during the interview, and demonstrates that you take a genuine interest in them.Go with the flow. Some interviews will be shorter than you expect, and some will be longer. Let the person whosinterviewing you set the pace. Dont try to tell them every detail about your work, and dont try to turn every pagein your portfolio.Relax. Its difficult not to be nervous, but the best way for the person whos interviewing you to see how funny,smart and wonderful you are is just to take a deep breath and be yourself.Go beyond the ads. If you find a common connection with the person whos interviewing you, like perhaps the factthat you both collect Mongolian camels, take a few minutes to talk about it. Look for every opportunity to create arelationship, to open a dialogue, to build some common bonds. Let them get to know you better - beyond just theads in your book. David Houghton Freelance Creative Director CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 12
  13. 13. By the time someone gets to the interview stage, its because I loved their work. Either it was refreshing andunique or admittedly, they simply filled a specific need I had. At that point, I just want to see if they would be agood cultural fit with the department, agency and clients. And what does that mean?Be confident but not cocky.Be fun but dont show up looking like youve slept in your clothes.Be engaged but not desperate.Be open to working on any client but also speak to work youd love to sink your teeth into.Be professional but remember that youre not applying for a job at an accounting firm.Be passionate but dont be a diva.But most importantly, be yourself. If the fake you gets the job, the real you may get the pink slip. Id rather find outthat someone isnt right for the agency 10 minutes into the interview than 2 weeks into the job. Ron Tite Vice President, Creative Director, Sharpe Blackmore Euro RSCGAside from being polite, on time, and knowledgeable about the agency and CD, an applicant likely just needs to stayloose and reveal his or her opinions, interests, and personality. Wade Hesson Group Creative Director, MacLaren McCann CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 13
  14. 14. The best way to prepare for an interview is to think of it as an hour thatcan change your life. If you pay it that much respect, it probably will. Heidi Ehlers Founder, BLACK BAG creative recruitment + career management inc. CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE BLOG UPDATES 14
  15. 15. CHOCOLATE MICROSCOPE • Since 2009 •