Wednesday, 31 October 2007

An AdGrads Meetup

Photo courtesy of the photographer

We finally got round to organising a get-together type thing. It's gonna go down next Friday (November 9th) - like the movie, at 7pm at The Green Man on Berwick Street (just off Oxford Street) in London. All are welcome.
We're calling it Gradsphere - inspiration courtesy of Faris.

The Facebook event page thing is here.

We'll see y'all there. If more than like 10 people show up I'll be really impressed - I still can't believe you guys read our stuff!

Opinion or Fiction?

I’ve just come out of a reader’s block and it feels really refreshing. Trying to learn about planning I’ve been cramming the latest APG Creative Effectiveness Awards volumes and lately Herd by Mark Earls which is fantastic.

However, I found myself becoming quite unmotivated to read at all as all I seemed to consume was marketing theories to the point of saturation.

Before I left for my recent holiday I was thinking of which new marketing book to read and the thought seemed to almost get me down a bit. So when whizzing through Heathrow I picked this up, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall, the first fiction I’ve read in ages and MY GOD it feels good to get wrapped in a fictional world again. That and the book is as addictive as Garland’s Beach (before the film came out and everyone under the sun had read it). It’s a truly fantastic read which whips you into a mad psychologically tricky place.

The point I’m trying to make stems from a Paul Arden comment (in his career advice books) that some of the best books to read about advertising aren’t about advertising i.e. I now intend to keep my nose firmly in both current marketing books and the world of fantasy and fiction, just so I keep a healthy balance and a fresh perspective when thinking about whatever I’m thinking about.

All above books I thoroughly recommend. Rambling over.

Anton xx

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Diary Of An Applicant

Ok guys, this is the part where I need your help. We know we have readers, because statcounter tells us so, and I've come up with an idea for a regular column/post thing over at our Brand Republic spot. It's ingeniously called the Diary of an Applicant. I could write it myself, and chronicle how the whole grad recruitment process goes, but I'd rather everyone contributes a bit, because that'll make it infinitely more interesting and a ton more readable.

So what I'm after is this: a couple of lines about how it's all going so far, which agencies you've been to see on open days, recruitment events etc, what your impressions have been of the agencies, of the staff, of the application forms..what you like, what you don't and all that. You can email them to me here. And if you don't want to me to use your name/names of people who you really didn't like, let me know and I promise I won't use them in the BR blog.

I really think this could be a really cool thing to get going, I plan on hopefully getting a new post up every Wednesday, I've done the 1st one, but am hoping to get some more good stuff before I put it up on the BR blog tomorrow.

Hope applications are going ok and as always ask us questions if you have any..

Peace out..


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Messing With The Look

Agency application deadlines are now in an easier to spot position. Seems obvious, but I didn't do it until now. There's a lesson in there somewhere for me, like don't put Levi Roots' Fiery Guava Sauce on everything you eat..

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Open Day Time

Everyone loves a rainbow, or so Will tells me. Copyright moi.

I'll be at JWT's open day tomorrow, if you're gonna be around say what's up. I'll be the one looking tired cause I'm up late typing this..

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Likemind and Deadlines

A bunch of deadlines are coming up, and as well as putting them up on the AdGrads and Advertising Applicants 08 Facebook groups, I thought I'd whack 'em up here as well so y'all know when to get stuff done by:

RCKR: 22nd October
McCann: 4th November - Noon
AMV: 5th November
JWT: 7th November
BBH: 9th November
M&C Saatchi: 9th November
DLKW: 9th November - Noon
WPP: 21st November
DDB: 23rd November

Also I'm going to be at Likemind in Birmingham tomorrow (October 19) from around 8am (!), if you're around come say hi.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

busy as fck

Meh, I can not wait until this month is over. In Media Land October is synonymous with planning for the first quarter of the next year. True, it is possibly the most exciting time to be at work, money (client's) is flying around left right and centre, creative media brainstorm sessions all over the place, new media opportunities and following the September intake of grads there may even be some new faces around (Yes I have looked up the grad that I'm getting next week but there are too many under his/her name)..but it is definately the busiest.

As before, not the one to ask what times are like in the fluffy side of things, but the agencies I work with AMV, Publicis, WCRS all seemed to rammed with never-ending-to-do-lists. I'm surprised I'm getting away with posting here to be honest.

So what does this mean for you guys that have pressed send, licked the stamp or signed the cheque for your applications? Time of entering the industry is important.

Personally, I think now (September - November) is a very interesting time to enter. The place has an evident buzz about it, you would be able to get stuck into things right away - thrown in right at the deep end if you like. Which is important for learning fast. Your team will get to see what you are like when under pressure - let's face it, most of the time you are going to be under pressure.

When I joined we did have the option to defer our start date, but I made the right choice entering at September. You get to see how the planning forms and just how much it can change in such a short space of time before things get booked too. Socially - it's a crucial time to mingle with the adfolk in the run up to the agency Christmas party. Make some fucking friends.

And while October and the start of November may be completely manic, the jollies and parties come flooding in at around week 47. The Ivy, Cavas de Gaucho, The Fat Duck, Hakisan, Nobu - the choice will be yours as the media owners (usually Outdoor) thank you for the business you have provided them over the year.

So keep this little piece of info in mind and do not join in August. Adland just shuts down.

Monday, 15 October 2007

This Mad Season

I feel stupid, but I know it won't last for long,
And I've been guessing, and I coulda been guessing wrong,
You don't know me now, I kinda thought that you should somehow,
Does that whole Mad Season got you down?

The first verse of Matchbox Twenty's song Mad Season sums up how I feel right now having ploughed through a variety of agency graduate recruitment applications over the last week or so.

I personally get into a groove with these things and find I can get them done in quick succession if I'm in the mood, but then if I'm not it's useless even opening them up because questions like 'How to sell coal to an eskimo' bounce around the inside of my head and exit rapidly.

And what I and the rest of the guys all agree on is that one of the most important things you can do when filling out these applications is to let your personality shine through. Now that is infinitely easier said than done I agree, but it's crucial to you getting noticed in the piles of applications that will cross any given agency's desk.

So how do you do it? There's no magical silver bullet I'm afraid; if there was someone would be filthy-rich by now by patenting it, so it boils down to this: be you. Personality is something unique to you so don't try to find it in someone else. I would advise against typing 'How to sell coal to an Eskimo' into google and trying to use anything you find as the basis of your answer. To see how other's have attacked the question is of course, great to do. But your answer has to be all about you. Which is what will make you get an invitation to interview as well. So when it asks for your favorite song lyric think of your favorite song, why you like it and leave it all on the page (that's my way of saying that the more personal the answer the better). If you wear your heart on your sleeve in real life do the same on your form, and conversely don't try and be something you're not. Your application forms, CVs and all the rest of it should be extensions of yourself - recognisable as you.

Another thing that could be useful to keep in mind is that when faced with the blank spaces of application forms - especially the questions at the end (like 'is there anything else we should know about you?'), continuous prose may not be the best way to go about a particular question. I'm not saying do the whole thing in bullet points, but think about how to visually differentiate yourself within a written answer. Maybe do a flowchart, a mindmap, a cartoon, graffiti, a picture, maybe import a digital picture, maybe string a couple together to do a montage. Think of how you want to make it you. Graduate application forms should be something that you know you're ready to send off because you're happy you've indelibly stamped them with your personality. A friend should be able to read through your answers and know it's you who wrote it without seeing the name on the top of it.

The 'anything else' or 'use this box as you like' sections on applications are the best sections - they let you give the reader a flavor of what you're like, don't waste them.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Beauty In Everyday Things..

The finest ale in the land.

Or, 'It's the little differences that matter'.'ve read some books on advertising, checked out what the billings and comings and goings are at in the agency world. You read Campaign, and know about the creative process (that is to say, how good and bad ads come about).

Yet, you are still missing a valuable weapon. Particularly if you have designs on becoming more than someone who does admin and nothing else.

That weapon is an appreciation (cue the American Beauty soundtrack) of how little things make experiences more worthwhile. The picture above is a little ticket which was apologising for the lack of the distinctive bottles that the ale usually comes in (another reason to love it).

Now, knowing about the little differences may not get you a job (you still have to do the leg work). But imagine, if after discussing your favourite ad and whatever, you drop in that your favourite brand has done something to make you happy - whether it's a clever piece of ambient or an inspired bit of DM. It's something which means you are thinking (much as I hate the term) holistically - about how experiences, not 30 second TV spots, necessarily, help build brands.

Be careful not to overstate though. The clever tag above was charming, but only because I have drunk the beer before - how would my reaction have changed if I'd never tried the stuff before? (Probably not a lot in this case, as I loved the ale). And it's a tiny tiny thing in the world of the brand - but these real life, experential devices are growing in popularity, and you should be aware of them.

What brands have affected you in this way? If not, what could your favourite brands do?

For those who are interested - that pint was from the St Peters Brewery, served at a pub called Jerusalem; surely one of London's finest.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Application Form Cool

A really good question from Gemma on the AdGrads Facebook group about application form questions got me thinking. So I wrote this over at AdLads but thought it may be pertinent to put it here as well.

How To Be Cool

A bit of an ambitious title huh? Yeah I think so too. But see, I’ve been thinking a lot about cool; not the word, maybe not even the concept, but the connotation. What is cool? It’s all so subjective right? But I think cool is pretty closely related to confidence. They even go together well in a sentence; cool and confident..see? I may be onto something. And you can make an argument about creativity being very closely related to cool and confident, maybe like first cousin-close. And then it’s pretty clear that cool, is well for want of a better expression, pretty damn cool.

What has really got me thinking about all this is the mad season that is graduate recruitment. I’m trawling through applications that ask me questions like ‘How do you sell coal to an eskimo?’ or ‘Which superhero would you be?’ and thinking ‘What the hell do I write here?’. That combined with something my main main Richy B said a while back, something along the lines of ‘We get along because we know cool when we see it’ got me thinking about what cool is and how you can be cool.It’s simple really, cool is inside every single one of us. Really. It’s about being self-aware, and being self-aware is something I go on about a lot to Anton, Will, Alex, all y’all who read the blog and pretty much everyone I know. But I’ll say it again, being self-aware, and really knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not is one of the most powerful tools you can have in your life, forget about career type things. So you’re self-aware and you know what you’re good at. Be confident in it, like really really confident. Ooze that stuff.

Confidence is one of those things that is really easy to see through if it’s false bravado, and confidence masked with arrogance is like me on a Sunday night in front of the TV watching the NFL: right in your face. So real confidence is easily spotted and comes naturally, because that’s what it’s the product of, being naturally at ease with something you know you’re good at. And that’s where creativity comes in. Think of everything you’ve seen that you consider to be creative. Was it forced? Awkwardly out of place? Not at all. It was really at ease with itself, natural even.

At this point I’m sitting here smiling because I think this post is coming together now, it’s a load of psycho-babble maybe, probably even. But I think it makes sense. And it’s right at this point where I can get to the crux of the matter, when y’all are sitting there trying to figure out a way to be creative and cool and original when answering a question on an application form / coming up with an idea for something at work / for anything at all, remember

  • The things that come easiest to you are the things that are natural. No matter how people will try and put you into boxes ‘numerate’ ‘orator’ etc, everyone is creative, every single one of us. So be natural and take yourself out of the boxes that you’ve been put into, sit outside, sit on your bed, sit on a couch, sit in the bath with a notebook - wherever you feel at ease is where you’ll be in the most natural frame of mind. Go to that place (be it mental, physical or both) and just zone. And you’ll find (and trust me, every single one of us will) that you’ll be more creative than you thought you could be.
  • Natural is confident, confidence is natural and both of them are pretty damn sexy.
  • Natural, creative and confidence are so intertwined it’s not a coincidence, they all stem from the same thing; being at ease with yourself.
  • Find out what it is about yourself that makes you without question you, like patent-pending you, what about your life has made you who you are? That’s your gold-mine and that is where you need to be knee deep in sifting for the nuggest of the good stuff, because that’s where you’ll be most confident, most unique, most effortless, most cool and most you.
  • Take this feeling of confidence outside the box of ‘work’ and things will seem almost effortless compared to what they were before.

So take it from someone who used to be so uptight about things I used to work myself into a frenzy about how to be original. All you have to do is be the thing that comes most naturally to you. I’m no good at being anything but me. To everyone that matters and in everything that matters, that’s always more than enough. And that is pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Brand Republic Ahoy

This picture may have nothing to do with the post. But I took it and think it's damn cool.

After much procrastination on my part, the first post for the Brand Republic edition of AdGrads is up. I'll put the first post up here but for future posts we'll whack the links here for you guys to go check it out over there. That made sense when I wrote it, I swear.

W1, We Have a Problem..

When thinking about what to write about as a first blog post on Brand Republic, I toyed with a few ideas. Maybe a bit about each of us and why we started the AdGrads blog in the first place? Or perhaps we should let one our stars tell their stories about how they got into the industry?

But what swayed me was something that happened today. I walked back into university for the second day of my final year, and was guided to the careers service, where I was informed that this week was finalist career week - and over 100 companies would be giving sessions about their companies to students from Warwick, Aston and Birmingham universities.

After a quick question to one of the staff members, I was told that the number of final year students in these three universities was in excess of 10,000, all who had been emailed details of the week and (hopefully) a good chunk of them interested in what life after university entails.

And guess what? Not one piece of literature, not one prospective employer, not one reference to advertising. 10,000 finalists, more than a hundred companies, and nothing from the advertising industry.

In a nutshell, that is why Will, Anton and Alex and myself set up AdGrads, because as hard as it is for anyone to hear the brutal truth about themselves, the industry is not doing nearly enough to help themselves find the best graduates. Not nearly enough, and today was another example of that. There is a gap in the market for educating students about how amazing the advertising industry is as a career choice and why the often obtuse application forms are worthy of their time and effort. If there wasn't a gap, then to be honest, this blog probably wouldn't exist. We are here because there is a problem.

The reality of the situation now is that the advertising industry is not on a level playing field. Banking, consultancy, accountancy et al are a good way ahead in communicating, educating and ultimately recruiting the cream of the graduate crop. Advertising as an industry now has to try and kick start their drive to get the best talent, and that means doing the things they can do the best: getting creative.

Both individual agencies and the industry as a whole have to ask themselves one question: Do we really want to attract the best? If the answer is yes, then go in wholeheartedly and do it. Utilise all the tools at your disposal and get the word out there.

Brand Republic's online careers fair is a great example of how to get things started, as it acknowledges that the internet and all things digital are media that we have grown up with. As we live and we breathe it everyday, adopting these channels to get to us is a wise move. Agencies; use your talent in creating innovative solutions to your clients' problems to help create a solution to your biggest problem, because the gap will only get bigger if things keep going as they are. That may be a bitter pill to swallow for the industry.

But the truth sometimes is.

"Early to bed, early to rise.....

c’mon kids, let’s advertise” or so the cheddar saying goes, thing is I can remember the early rise bit just not the early to bed bit. Having said that the myths of the chronic hours or the sweat shop mentality which are whispered in university corridors or in the reception of agencies between rival applicants are somewhat blown out of proportion. It is most certainly true that some agencies in particular are worse than others and will work you hard as they can but the majority fall within the humanitarian side of 2007.

However, it mustn’t be sugar coated. There is certainly sometimes the need when you start to be prepared to stay that bit later than most, to stick with the guys in studio who are doing the run outs over night which are to be presented tomorrow, to work on sourcing images for research projects, so that in the morning you can hand them to your planner instead of struggle through the day. What this really boils down to is distraction and not necessarily the extent of work that you are loaded up with. For example I have quite a large project going on which involves the whole account team and senior clients, if I were spared a clear day I could storm it, but other requests keep coming in – a European office needing UK market analysis, the research side of my client requiring competitive positioning analysis, the other account I work on needing me in a brain storm (not being able to make it so having to write up some thoughts). The point being that the only time I can get some space to sit down and focus on one task is when the clock strikes a time that everyone is out of the office and it’s just me and a non ringing phone.

So, whilst time management is essential sometimes you won’t be able to escape the inevitable which is to put in some dark hours to get through your work load. It’s not that bad, there is a sense of achievement leaving late knowing you got everything done lined up for the next day rather than leave feeling that little bit shit about your day and lack of completion. Some say that it’s bad to be seen working late….I’m sure none of you would be there if you didn’t have to be so those wise words can fck right off, do what you have to and don’t be too alarmed that some say advertising is a slave trade. It’s just a hard working trade for hard working people, the upside is that the people in advertising generally like to let their hair down more than most... and I’d rather work late and enjoy their company than say work late and hang out with those in the finance world…..urgh.

Anton xx

The IPA's Essential Graduate Reading

Statcounter's trusty referrals feature has informed me that the IPA have released a newsletter that has all sorts of advertising related reading for y'all to catch up on.

It should be here.

And yeah, we're on there as well. That is damn cool.

My First Year in Media (MKII)

So after our entertaining, fast speaking Wii fest round Anton's on Saturday it became apparent that I had started this but not finished just about sums up how busy things can get when you 'inside'. Nah just kidding, media agencies aren't really like prisons. Plus I have no internet at home and suddenly everyone has realised how to activate the wireless WPA security setting. rubbish.

It's been nearly 13 months since I set foot in Adland and I reckon its been very 50:50. 28 weeks of feeling on top of the world, learning about New Media opportunities, opening numerous gifts from media owners in the post, gobbling the odd doughnut and of course - L U N C H.
But rolling back to back with 28 weeks of standard, business as usual, media-schedule-tennis and autopilot mode, but hey, that's work and the odds are you will get that in most jobs.

So I thought I could shed some light on what being a Media Planner is all about and offer an honest view of the discipline. Let's not hide around any towels here people - In an ideal world I would have jumped straight into creative. What induced my consideration of media planning was actually my fascination of guerrilla/ambient/experiential campaigns. You've probably seen the emails with various global stunts or flicked through Guerilla Advertising in Magma stores, - yep, im a big fan. The low cost, the outdoorness (get used to new words just being pulled out of the air), the standout, the viral/chat factor, the piggy-back PR when Metro pick up on it. It ticks most boxes in my opinion. Anyway I was informed that it is media agencies that plan and think about these and was also advised that with today's fragmented media landscape and growing relevance of ROI, (pffft sorry!) Media will be a more interesting and exciting place to work than it ever has been.

Which to a certain extent is true. I have been lucky with the nature of the clients that I am working on and we have dabbled in some exciting outdoor projection formats and there have been talks of bringing FunHouse back. Shhh don't get too excited.
We do also need to develop and study consumer insights (big shout to Anton for the definition), perhaps not as in-depth as creative agencies but just as important. These are then considered for the overall media strategy and aimed to be supported with research - media agencies love research tools, they may invest millions in developing their own or buying existing systems but they all require patience, analytical skills and close attention to detail.

Working closely with various media departments allows you to really grasp how each channel works and in what context, I guess when factoring in the target audience, becomes very useful to determining what client you want to be on the creative team for. All very well having the big name Agency on your CV but how interested will you be with a client that spends 80% of their budget on doordrops and inserts??

Another positive of media planning is the level of creative input you get. When you meet the A(dgrad) Team you will realise that we are all bursting with ideas - and hopefully you guys are too. To be honest, I've no idea of the level of creative input in the different roles at creative agencies. Most Grad roles are in account handling or planning - planning is the most obvious, but at such a junior level are you really going to have a significant input? Perhaps Anton could enlighten us on the first year of planning??
Media is different. The output of channel planning may seem like common sense to a lot of you and essentially it is. New Hybrid Lawnmower? (fck what a good idea!)... obviously want a full colour page in BBC Gardener's World Magazine. Both agency and client may already have in mind some particular programming that needs to be cherry picked.
The excitement begins with the brainstorms about the extra/unallocated/experiemntal (?) budget and how it should be spent. Here I've been to several create sessions where ideas are thrown left right and centre, role play, touch and taste sensations, mind mapping. And sometimes your idea will actually get to a proposed schedule... quite a good tingly gooey feeling.

So it can be interesting, trust me. Just keep in mind that (and this may seem condescending but HR did tell us of grads that aren't aware of it) WE DON'T MAKE THE ADS!!
As a cheddar G.I Joe analogy - creatives make the missiles, we aim and fire them. Yes sometimes perfectly good missiles are fired into the sea but more often than not the missile will hit but not be damaging enough. Capishe?

I think I'm going to stop here. Instead of a cons of media planning as promised I'd rather do a 'what to watch out for' type post for all of you. Feel free to ignore, pass around or comment on.

Tonight? Salmon and Arsenal.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Something From The Weekend

Here we are.

We spent the day of rest at Anton's love shack in the East End, where he served up some rockin' salmon and played the part of the host like a pro.
In betwix the conversation and videogame themed shenanigans, we managed to record a podcast, with some (very basic) pointers on all things application forms. That podcast will be edited and whacked up here very soon. We hope.

Also we're planning an AdGrads shindig on Saturday, November 3 - it will be half work and all play, so book that day off. We're hoping to make it really useful for all of you guys. 

And finally, we've set up a Facebook group for you guys to give us some feedback on the podcast, the forthcoming (we haven't forgotten it) wiki and all things AdGrads related. 
It's a closed group and we're going to keep it totally on topic, so no spamming action will be had. 

Join it here and tell all your application-type friends.