it was super fun to receive an email from miss tino cho a few weeks ago, a lali blog reader and aspiring ad girl. we invited her to lunch here at chiat so we could get to know her, and tell her more about the business.
maybe because la and i are talkers. maybe because people helped us out when WE were aspiring ad girls. but la and i seem to find ourselves telling our story and giving advice to newbies kinda often. we pretty much always say the same thing:
- take bookshop classes (if you live in LA) or something similar so that you learn how to concept. basically, teachers there are going to have you come up with fake ads for real things, then tell you why they’re good or not. they also give you due dates so that you have to make concepting a priority, even if you have a day job selling furniture or something.
- decide if you want to be an art director or a copywriter. they are NOT the same. you’re either better at art or better at words. pick one and get lots of practice. keep in mind that these days, you are expected to be able to think of ideas for TV, online, social media, print, outdoor, PR stunts, etc. so don’t specialize. think holistically.
- try and find a partner! art directors are going to need copy. and even more so, copywriters are going to need help turning ideas into pretty ads. when you find someone you like who thinks of good ideas, and (perhaps more importantly) understands YOUR kooky ideas, hold on and don’t let go. maybe someday you two will create your own blog about advertising.
- learn what makes ads awesome. see what won at cannes or the one show last year. watch art© (especially the parts featuring lee clow) and check out the portfolios of your favorite ad agencies. and if you don’t know who your favorite ad agencies are, start googling!
- take your time getting your book together. you’re going to think your first few ads are awesome. after a few rounds, you’ll realize they were not. wait until you have ideas you love before showing to people whose opinions matter. i made the mistake of sending my very first attempt at a book to everyone i knew in the industry. really bad first impression. one guy said “are you sure you want to be an art director?” and another guy i cold-called at dailey said “hmm. maybe you should do voiceover instead.”
- GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR, even if it means answering phones and doing expense reports for the creative department. la and i both started as assistants and it’s a great way to prove you’re indispensable and (hopefully) smart! once you’re in the door, don’t be annoying …ad people are busy and can only help you out so much… but at the same time, don’t ever say no to a project. when the HR department says “here’s a list of people who still need to take their sexual harassment training” take that to mean “make funny wanted posters and put them up around the office so creative directors can see how clever you are.” click here for a few examples of the silly stuff la and i did back in the day to show we had potential to break out of assistant-hood (and please don’t judge).
- if you opt to go to ad school — and we can’t give you advice on that because we didn’t — you can probably ignore #6. hopefully your book will turn out awesome after shelling out $90K and some type of career person at your school will place you at a great agency and you can skip the grunt work.
- don’t give up. this entire process will take longer than you think but you’ll most likely find that it was worth it when you’re traveling to fancy shoots and working the occasional half-day while your peers are crunching numbers at banks or pushing papers for the man. plus, when people ask you what you do, you can say “do you watch madmen…?” or “did you see this year’s super bowl…?”
- then, after you’ve made it big, hire lali!! and don’t forget to post your very first creative success on freshmen ads for a nice chuckle.