Simon, 32, Senior Account Director, Creative Agency discusses his career in advertising, the pros and cons, and the best way to get involved.
What is your degree in?
Bachelor of Business Studies (Marketing)
Why did you do the degree you did?
I did economics as an A level, and found it very interesting; demand and supply, how that applies to people making decisions. There were modules in my economics course about marketing, brands and creating a want and need for a product, which I really liked. There was a course in Brighton that was business studies with marketing, so there was a bit of a balance. I wasn’t doing just marketing and putting all my eggs in one basket.
Why did you embark on a career in advertising?
My degree was a sandwich course, for the third year I did work experience with a famous luxury goods company in London. I worked in the marketing department; my boss told me if I managed to get all my work done, then I could go and get involved with the really cool stuff. So, I used to get all my work done by Tuesday, and then spend the rest of the week speaking to the new product development guys, hanging out with the PR girls, seeing how the adverts are made. That work experience was amazing. I asked the advertising guys and account managers what their roles were like, and what their jobs entailed. That gave me such great insight into a career in advertising. I couldn’t recommend work experience enough to young people these days.
What percentage of what you learned in university have you used in your day-to-day roles?
50% or 60%, I picked my modules to align with what I wanted to do after university. I was quite lucky I figured out quite early what I wanted to do.
With the benefit of hindsight, if you were 18 again now would you do anything differently degree-wise?
I always liked drama and acting. Where I grew up, it was quite poor. I always thought you had to be from a wealthier background to be an actor or performer, as you wouldn’t always have money coming in, etc. I was a bit risk averse and didn’t want to take a chance. If I could go back now, I’d maybe follow my passion a bit more. That would be the one regret I have.
What are the jobs you’ve done since graduating? And what have they entailed?
2011 – 2017
Senior Account Director, Advertising Agency, London
Delivering several different campaigns, keeping the wheels moving on all accounts.
2009 – 2010
Account Manager, Advertising Agency, London
Starting to manage campaigns and getting my own clients to manage.
2007 – 2009
Account Executive, Advertising Agency, London
Entry-level position, helping the account managers and directors with admin.
What are the things you most like about your career in advertising, and the things you don’t like?
- The variety. I’ve worked on 6/7 accounts in 10 years. Every time you get a new account, it feels like you’ve got a new job.
- Working in a young creative environment – advertising is young and vibrant.
- The money – you get paid quite well.
- You get a lot of responsibility at a young age. When you are 24/25 years of age, you are responsible for budgets of £1m.
- A career in advertising is very long hours. Very rarely can you meet a friend on a Tuesday or a Wednesday evening as you are working. It’s 9am – 7/8pm, it can be 10-11 hour days.
- The client fatigue – some clients change things so much that it’s not even the idea anymore. On the agency side*, you are constantly selling, trying to please people rather than being the decision maker.
(*A marketing brand manager will tell the advertising agency what they want the advert to look like. The agency then must meet their expectations.)
3. The career progression. On the agency side, the 40-year-olds still do the long hours and stressful days, whereas on the client side the big bosses just do 9-5. It’s always a treadmill in advertising – I’m not sure it ever slows down much on the agency side.
Which would you prefer to work for: a small company or a big company, and why?
I started off with a small independent, and it was great. Then I moved to a bigger agency and found it was tough to get things done.
Have pursuing a career in advertising meant working long hours over the years?
Yes, most people would say a career in advertising is a lot of fun, it’s the people you meet. Also, clients would stab each other in the back as there is only one brand manager role in their company for that brand/product. In advertising agencies, it’s much more of a family that tries and help each other. If someone wins a pitch, we all go out for drinks; there is a nice feel to working in an agency.
If you could start over and you were 22, but you know all you know now, would you do anything differently career-wise?
I might have tried to get into the creative side. When creatives start off, they must do a lot of interning, and create a portfolio of their work. It’s a lot tougher than getting a planning or account manager role. So, I might have tried to go more creative, but it’s not easy!
What advice would you give a young person who wanted a career in advertising?
– Think about what you like. You don’t want to end up studying something that you are not interested in. Think about what you might enjoy doing and go get work experience to test and see whether you do like it.
– A lot of the young ones we take in are A level students, who are on their fifth work placement in five weeks! When I was their age I was spending my summers in Ibiza; they are way more on the ball than I was!
– Some of the interns that work for us are not very good. I encourage them to go on holiday and enjoy themselves!!
What gets you further in your career – knowing people or being good at your job?
You must be good at your job. Look at me I didn’t know anyone; I was a scumbag working-class boy from Wales! Going to those graduate assessment days, they were all really posh kids. I remember thinking I’m not going to get far here. Starting out, I went knocking on doors and started in a small agency and worked my ass off, and I’ve done pretty well!
If you any questions about a career in advertising, please get in touch using the ‘contact’ form, many thanks!
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