CAMPAIGN FOR BEGINNERS: CLOSE-UP - ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JEREMY BULLMORE

Q: What's the best way to present your work when looking for a job?

A: When real advertising appears in real newspapers, on real billboards and on real television sets, there is no-one around to "present" it. No voice comes through your earpiece, as with a guide tape in an art gallery, to explain that the brief was a bitch, the competition had already used animation and the production budget had been frozen. You do not learn that the creator of this advertisement had long been inspired by Roy Lichtenstein's contention that Pop Art is "an involvement with the most brazen and threatening characteristics of our culture, things we hate" - which is why the creator had chosen this particular graphic technique to dramatise the intrinsic qualities of Band-Aid.

Real advertising either speaks for itself - or it doesn't speak at all.

Remember this when presenting your work. If it doesn't speak for itself, don't present it.

Above all, resist the temptation to babble. Work which has failed to impress on first sight can never be retrieved by babble; you'll just bury it deeper.

Speak only of those relevant facts, which are not self-apparent. There won't be many.

Most good creative people are very self-critical; there's nearly always a little something they wish they'd done better. Don't be afraid to say what it is.

Q: How long should you hold out for your dream job before taking something else?

A: However good your research, you can never be absolutely certain how good or bad a job will be before actually starting to do it. A job you have reservations about may turn out to be dreamy; and your dream job, in reality, may well be a nightmare. So if you're lucky enough to be offered what sounds like an OK job, take it. You'll learn more -and earn more - from working than waiting.

One caution: if you can, avoid pigeonholes. Once you get a reputation for, say, pharmaceutical work, toffee-nosed creative directors may leap to the inane conclusion that you could never do good work for Levi's or lager.

Q: What do you feel are habits and strategies that lead to success in advertising once you are hired?

A: Don't be too calculating about this: follow your instinct and do the obvious.

If you don't find yourself getting interested in your client's business, you probably shouldn't be in advertising in the first place. Once you do get interested, you'll enjoy yourself more and develop an envied versatility.

Do not equate your ignorance of a client's business with the existence of high creative principle.

Challenge the convention that a volatile temperament and erratic timekeeping are in themselves conclusive proof of creative genius.

Remember that it's ten times easier to do outstanding work on accounts on which outstanding work has already been done. It's also ten times more satisfactory to do outstanding work on accounts on which outstanding work has never been done. If you were a creative director, which ability would you value the more?

Listen very carefully when other people have the effrontery to criticise your work. More often than not, they'll fail to find the precise words with which to express some vague unease; so look for what they haven't said rather than disagree violently with what they have. Once you understand what's really fussing them, you'll often be only too happy to fix it. And if you still don't agree, at least you'll be arguing about the same thing.

Q: Say you really like a certain agency. How should you approach them when looking for a job?

A: Do your homework. Familiarise yourself with everything they do: not just the three accounts that keep getting them gongs. (You'll be surprised.)

Q: Does winning an award at an ad show really matter to people hiring you?

A: Yes. In the absence of any other quantifiable assessment of talent, awards are disproportionately important. Remember that most people in a position to hire you also have to justify that hiring to other people. Awards help.

Q: Is it appropriate for a student to have some non-ad work in their book or is this overkill? For example, if a writer and art director had written/illustrated a children's book, is this appropriate to put in a portfolio? Or if an art director did a painting?

A: Art is. Advertising does. Never forget the distinction. Agencies, often wrongly, fret that some students want to work in advertising only in order to pay the rent while all the time planning to jump ship and become An Artist. This disturbs creative directors on two counts. They wonder if the student secretly despises advertising. And they may also feel the onset of envy.

It's great deal wiser for you to be seen to envy your interviewer (your dream job) than the other way round.

Q: How important is body copy, when showing your book? Do you think it is necessary?

A: Busy interviewers all too often judge ads in books as if they were posters - on glance value alone. A great many copywriters are hired on the evidence of a few smart headlines. But an increasing number of creative directors, not all of them writers, are beginning to look for the ability to write evocative, persuasive, joined-up sentences, then demonstrate it proudly. In the words of the original Mr Heinz: "To do the common thing uncommonly well." But if the only adjective you can think of for a food product is delicious, you should stick to lorem ipsum dolor.

Q: Does commercial work restrict the creative process in any way compared to student work where you are able to push boundaries and fully explore ideas?

A: No: rather the reverse. Far too many student books contain ideas which have been conjured up in isolation and then attached almost arbitrarily to a product. All the best advertising ideas - by which I mean the most original and effective - are born of strategic necessity. Nothing stifles the imagination so much as absolute creative freedom. Nothing stimulates the imagination more than an apparently impossible brief.

Q: If you know what kind of work certain agencies tend to like, is it fair to make minibooks with different selections of your work catering to that specific agency?

A: It's certainly fair but it may not be sensible. For all you know, the agency in question may be desperate to find a new approach: that's why you're being interviewed. You may also be thought to be a presumptuous young pipsqueak by daring to identify an agency's entire house style while never having done a day's work in the business.

The risk here is all the greater if you've actually identified it absolutely accurately. You'll never be forgiven.

Q: If a very passionate young Aussie creative were to turn up begging at the doors of great London agencies, what do you think her chances would be of getting a job with good creative opportunities, while avoiding homelessness and malnutrition?

A: Excellent. Aussies are in. But whatever you do, don't beg. Imply that you're faced with a kaleidoscope of choice. It may even be true. Buy now while stocks last should be your guiding principle. You can always resort to humility later if necessary.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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