The Pareto placement: How to hack your way into a job as a creative
A view from Elliott Starr

The Pareto placement: How to hack your way into a job as a creative

How to use Vilfredo Pareto's theory to get your first break in advertising. By Elliott Starr, a creative at Fallon London.

The Pareto Principle is a theory named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He developed the theory to show that in almost every area of life, 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs and 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.

For example, 80% of the happiness in your life is likely created by 20% of the people in your life.

You probably wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. Or, in homage to Pareto, you might say that 80% of truly great advertising is being created by 20% of agencies.

The split isn’t always 80/20. But a little does often create a lot. If you’re trying to get into advertising, you can use this to your advantage. Here's how.

Step one

Spend a weekend with your creative partner looking through agency’s websites. Assuming you have high ambitions, you likely want to work in a top-100 agency. If you’re in the UK, a good place to start is Campaign’s School Report.

Look through the work. Do you both like it? Do you both Respect it? Does it make you jealous? Does it make you feel like your ideas are embarrassingly weak? Or is it just nice?

Step two

Write a list of the 10% you thought were killing it. Agencies you’d possibly saw off and eat your own foot to get into.

These are the agencies to focus on, filled with creatives that you really respect, with portfolios that match.

These are the people to build relationships with. Show them that you work hard, fast and can crack a brief – or at least die trying.

Step three

Every time you see one of these agencies, make a note of which of your ideas they like/ don’t like. Enter all of this into a spreadsheet.

Vertical column = agencies.

Horizontal column = campaigns.

Mother loves your idea for Kia = insert Y in that cell.

BBH hates your idea for Aviva = insert N in that cell.

Do this for every book crit, at every agency, every time you re-work your book. Assuming you’re listening to nice people you respect at agencies you respect and you are acting on their advice, you should soon see a trend appearing in your spreadsheet. A nice, but not perfect, line of Y’s.

Next, the campaigns that have a Y against them for every (or almost every) agency in your top 10%, they go into your book.

You should now have before you a book full of campaigns and ideas that every agency in your top 10% likes. I can’t promise you that placements will follow, but they’re much more likely to occur than if you just slavishly keep re-working your book.

The 80/20 of getting a job in advertising is performing on placement. The 80/20 of getting placements is having a strong book. The 80/20 of having a strong book is extracting gems from agencies and creatives that make you weak at the knees and fill you with big, squishy dreams.

And the best bit is, no one needs to know that you are doing this.

Elliott Starr is a creative at Fallon London.