So, you want to work in the wonderful world of advertising? That’s great.
However, take note, even little ol’ Immersion Creative gets a resume a day from people willing to work for free. I can only imagine how many the big shops get. Competition is tough and jobs are scarce. So you’ll need to stand out.
Here are eight things you should DO.
1. Know what you want. Do you want to write, art direct, strategize, deal with clients, sell work, build business, or what?
2. Build a great portfolio. Gather your favourite ads and dissect what you like about them. Find ads that you hate and make them better. You are going to need about 10 that show your creative thinking. Use a few different mediums – print, social media, outdoor, guerilla, etc.
3. Find out who makes the ads you love. Not just the agencies, the people behind them. Once you know which creative director is where, start approaching them. Be sure you tell them you’re a fan of their work. This is a good place to start: Ads Of The World.
4. Think of an interesting approach to get a creative director’s attention beyond a generic email. I’ve sent agencies golden goose eggs, skis, telegrams, piles of dirt, swim caps and singing picture frames. I once optimized all the names of 20 Hong Kong creative directors to lead them to my blog. I’m not saying you should send a bunch of useless crap to my office, but try to stand out beyond an ‘I’m looking for work’ subject line.
5. Hustle. Nothing worth having comes easy. Be persistent. Just because you’ve tried one creative director, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try five more. Keep trying. Go for new angles. Make meetings. Just ask them to see your work even if they are not hiring. Be on time. Get your face out there. Get your ideas known. Never give up.
6. Toughen up. Some people go to ad school and breeze their way into an internship, and then a job. If you are that talented/lucky/connected, that is great. For the rest of us, finding a job in advertising can be one of the most soul-destroying experiences in your life. It took me 35 meetings with creative directors to get my first job. 25 meetings for my second job. It takes a lot of persistence. There’s a lot of ego-lashing. Even after hanging the Immersion shingle, I still have to hustle. Every day I need to find new clients, new work, and new opportunities to keep my family fed. It never gets easier. So get used to it.
7. Read these books
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
The Copywriter’s Handbook
Flyers, labels, small print, instructions, disclaimers, children’s books, niche magazines, newspapers from other countries, legal documents, graffiti, obituaries, best of Craigslist, the worst of Craigslist, I saw yous, lost and founds and set lists.
8. Go to these websites
1. Send every agency out there your crappy copy and pasted resume. No one reads them.
2. Call us. Unless you have something hilarious to say.
3. Follow the rules. Even these ones.
4. Give up. And it will happen.
That’s a lot of work. Is it worth it? If you want to get paid to bring ideas to life, it most certainly is.
Copywriters From A Mixed Background
If you are in the market for a freelance copywriter, you might want a writer that has experience working for both large and small agencies.
A blended background provides a balance between the results-focused urgency of a small agency and creative perfectionism found in the larger shops:
1. You are getting the best of both worlds (see the two posts below)
2. You have a well-rounded professional with a dynamic understanding of your business needs (see below once again)
3. You will be working with a writer with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit, offering an authentic, passionate voice to your product.
Copywriters From Large Agencies
Large agencies act as a filter. They only hire the best that there is, so the quality of the writer is assured. This will work to your advantage because:
1. Your project will be handled by a professional
2. You will have a writer that is familiar with the same tactics used by some of the world’s largest brands
3. Your writer will have a strong understanding of good creative
At a large agency, writers are also pushed to produce ideas that break from conventional solutions to produce creative work that can do the job of ten ads.
4. Innovative thinking
Copywriters at big agencies are also familiar with big clients. They have worked on global accounts, so they are familiar with the freedoms and restrictions of large brands with big budgets.
6. They get you
Copywriters From Small Agencies
At small agencies copywriters often handle more than just the writing. They have to wear many hats, including production, strategy and accounts. A bit of experience in these departments is nice because:
1. Your project will get finished on time and on budget
2. You will have creative that reinforces the strategy and not the other way around
3. Your writer will have a better understanding of what the client wants
4. Client-focus and reliability
At a small shop copywriters also have less luxury to be offbeat, so they focus more on concepts that will build business, immediately.
5. Results, results, results
Copywriters at small agencies are also familiar with small clients. The demands of a startup are much different than those of a multi-national, and their communications has to be as well.
6. They know where you are coming from
So if you are looking for a versatile advertising copywriter for a project, give us a call at 1.800.785.1958.
We have both large and small agency experience under our belts.
People hate ads.
Worse – they ignore them.
But they like ideas.
They respect originality.
They are drawn to controversy.
And they want a good story.
People want ownership of a good, original story.
People out there in TV/Internetland want to be the first to tell a good story they’ve heard. To be the centre of attention. With all eyes on them. And all mouths silenced, eating out of their hand. Whether it’s at the water cooler, the break room, or at the dinner table.
By being the first to tell, you have something to say.
They like a good backstory. Every movie that comes out today has a story behind it. How much weight the lead actor lost, or the squabbles on set.
It’s intimate knowledge. It’s special.
By nature of sharing an idea – they share your brand’s story.
And more specifically, your backstory.
When Immersion Creative comes up with advertising ideas for its Vancouver brands, it tries to create a backstory to the campaign. A story within a story to add layers of interest and ownership to the campaign.
For instance, we were the first to do a transit ad completely in Chinese characters – a reflection on the true real estate market in Vancouver.
This is how I judge what differentiates a good ad from a merely okay one.
1. It needs to be unique
2. It needs to tell a story
Originality is key. No one is interested in seeing someone else’s idea re-hashed. Here are some ways that an ad can be fresh in my mind.
1. It makes use of undiscovered mediums.
Ads on buses, trains, benches and beaches have been done. But a ten-foot vending machine? Now that’s interesting. Clever placement can catch an audience off-guard.
Here’s a great example of using billboards and blotches to get a 3D effect.
2. It bases its art direction on visual phenomenon you are familiar with, but have never seen in ad form before.
3. It employs an original sales concept. A new approach to a better benefit. For the ad to tell a story, it needs a unique concept.
3. It twists the copy with familiar but rarely used plays on phrase or ideas.
The Importance of Storytelling.
If one image can capture your attention long enough to spell out a beginning, middle and end of a scenario, then it is successful. It is often said that advertising is a competition for attention – and time. The more elaboration spent on an idea – the more likely it is to be committed to long-term memory. This phenomenon is known as the Elaboration Likelihood Model or ELM. I wrote more about this psychological theory here: Advertising and the Elaboration Likelihood Model.
This is only one side of the Holy Grail: The perfect marriage between a strategy and a creative execution. It looks good on paper, or tacked up on cork boards in meetings.
The other side is the reality. Does it make the phones ring? Does it make any money? That is the true test of a great ad. It’s creatively perfect… and it works.
That’s what we’re trying to do here every day.
The work above is what we aspire to do. Also, we hope to find clients that appreciate this style as well. Or there’s no point. All these examples are from advertising agencies in Brazil and Argentina, by the way. Some of my favourite work in the world.
Every business owner has a choice.
1. Do what you’ve always done and expect more of the same.
2. Try something new to get the results you want.
Stop running that tired advertising campaign that no one is excited about. And do something new.
Cynics will tell you that advertising is full of runners-up.
They say that everyone in this biz really wanted to be doing something else. They had this desire to direct movies, or write screenplays, or play music – but they failed – and now their creativity is consumed coughing up comps for clients.
It’s not true.
I always wanted to be a writer – but I realized a long time ago, that the only way to become a writer is to write – all the time. You need practice. And I wasn’t about to sit around at a computer churning out stories in my spare time without making any money. So I thought I might as well get paid to cut my teeth. Every day. Who pays you to write? Journalists – hardly. Agencies – handsomely.
I’m not the first to have this idea.
But, it’s how I ended up in advertising. I heard it’s the second most lucrative form of writing (after ransom notes). So I headed straight for it. I didn’t want to be poor – I wanted to write, and improve, without worrying about money in any way.
My only financial goal? To make enough money that I didn’t ever have to think about money.
Now, after 10 years of getting paid to write professionally – am I any better? It’s hard to say. I’m better at writing ads – but stories? It could have been a huge waste of time: a colossal, greedy, misguided disaster. However, I do find that I am better at isolating concepts, sticking to a central idea, and all in all being more focused.
So there’s that.
Beyond that, I learned to love the ad game. Not so much the big agency politics and meetings and nonsense. I like to make ads, and see them come to life. It’s a glimpse of reward most writers never see. And that happens all the time when you have a small Vancouver advertising agency like Immersion Creative.
So it’s been fun. I didn’t get into advertising to run my own company – but it must have been in my blood, because here I am.