Career Guide 2007: Where do you start?

There's more to jobs in advertising than storyboards and straplines. And there's more to marketing than advertising. Beyond ad agencies, graduates can find opportunities in media, digital and direct marketing. The trick is getting through the door.

Advertising agencies

Mainstream creative agencies offer two entry streams - one for executives, the other for creatives. If you want to create ads, there are opportunities for art directors, who have generally been to design or art school, and then there are writers, who can have done just about anything. The traditional method of getting creative work in an agency is door-stepping senior agency creatives with your portfolio. Other ways to get involved include D&AD workshops and the D&AD global student award (, which is keenly watched by creative chiefs.

The structured agency graduate schemes are mostly for account managers, the execs who run the agency's client relationships. Agencies are also on the look-out for would-be planners, whose job it is to research the consumer. Start looking at the IPA website ( Each year around 25,000 undergraduates register on the site; 6,000 or so apply for graduate schemes; 10 per cent will get through, with roughly half going to creative agencies. The IPA site's Factfile contains links to member agencies that run graduate schemes. The IPA also runs a day's introduction to the marketing communications industry and you can post your CV on the site.

Alternatively, you could send your CV to any of the myriad smaller agencies around the country, on the off-chance. Or approach an ad industry recruitment consultancy, such as the Garden Partnership, which occasionally places graduates.

Quite a few of the big agencies now offer summer schools or work experience (again, the IPA site has some details). Ogilvy & Mather is one that has a handful of ten-week placements each summer and runs half-day introductions to the industry.

Finally, if you decide that formal graduate training is not for you, or if you fail your degree, all is not lost. You could try the riskier option of applying for a junior post in the creative services or TV departments of an agency, or as an agency secretary, and then attempt to bridge the gap to executive level. The IPA does now have a qualification to help wannabe executives, who are already insiders, to prove themselves.

New-media agencies

New media is less new and more a central part of the advertising landscape. At the last count, adspend in this area had grown by more than 60 per cent year on year, so it's not surprising that there's a big demand for talent in the digital agencies. But many agencies remain small and the business is still young, with a far greater variety of technical and design jobs on offer than in their traditional agency counterparts, which means only a few offer structured graduate schemes.

Dare is one of the first to have offered formal graduate training, with Dare School training ten creative graduates each year. The agency is looking to start an account handlers scheme. Grand Union has offered a small number of places for account handlers and planners, while Profero advertises several graduate-trainee posts. The latter two also offer summer placements.

The IPA site also has links to its new-media member agencies, where a growing number are expressing their interest in graduates. Some are taking graduates in a single annual intake or ad hoc across the year. The site divides digital agencies into three categories: media, creative and full service. Media agencies advertising for graduates include Diffiniti and Cheeze. Panlogic is one of the creative agencies interested. And full-service agencies with graduate entry include and Agency Republic.

Some of the digital divisions of both media and creative agencies are also interested in taking on graduates and will largely do this through the main graduate intake for the parent agency. This includes Tribal DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi Interactive.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau website ( also lists its members. The range of different types of member companies - from technical through to media and creative - reflects the range of jobs you'll find in the area. Some of the bigger players also post ads for jobs on their own websites.

Media agencies

Media used to be more about negotiation and driving deals for media space for a client's advertising. But times have changed and, as the medium and the message get less divisible, a raft of different media agency jobs has arisen, with planning and research now central to agency needs. Unlike the other marketing communications disciplines, however, there is no account management training on offer. Graduate training programmes now cover buying, which includes a lot of organisational and management skills, and planning, which, like its creative agency counterpart, is all about understanding the consumer.

There can be cross-over with digital, where major media agencies, such as the Media Planning Group, offer digital as part of the graduate media training. Other agency digital divisions, such as MindShare Interaction, also advertise for graduate trainees.

There are fewer agencies and graduate places in media, but some of the biggest media companies employ swathes of graduates. Of 300 or so graduate places per year in IPA member agencies, ZenithOptimedia offers an impressive 50. It runs two graduate schemes each year, one in the spring and one in the autumn, but, like many other media agencies, it also takes graduates as required throughout the year. It advertises jobs on its website and on the IPA website, as well as putting ads in the Media Guardian every so often.

In the recent past, media agencies have tended to take more graduates with vocational degrees, perhaps in marketing or business. But they are increasingly interested in graduates with a broader education.

DM agencies

Direct marketing or marketing communications is all part of the same marketing service pie, which takes in disciplines such as PR, event marketing, field marketing, sponsorship and market research. Some of the big agencies are members of the IPA, but there is also the Direct Marketing Association. Its website ( has links through to members' websites for contact details and job ads; it also lists recruitment consultancies that work in the area. From time to time, they will be able to place graduates and it may be worth sending some speculative CVs. The DMA has itself recently made use of a university website for graduate recruitment.

If you want to showcase your own direct response work, you could enter the Graeme Robertson Trust Student Awards, (, with the added bonus of £1,000 if you can come up with the winning entry.

The Institute of Direct Marketing ( has an Education Trust, which is dedicated to encouraging the best talent into the business. One of its initiatives is the IDM Student Competition, which receives around 200 entries each year. Then there's the IDM Graduate Fast Track programme - a week's introduction to the industry for 30 final-year students - which provides the perfect entry into the industry.

Another useful website is the Chartered Institute of Marketing ( Both the IDM and the CIM sites give information about marketing qualifications that might be the next step towards landing the right job.


7.30am: Wake. Consider gym. Reconsider. Snooze.

8.15am: Eschew Radio 4 in favour of Virgin. Hear ad we recorded last week with Duckface from Four Weddings... Chuckle. Text boss.

8.30am: On Tube. Good day = finding a Metro.

9.00am: Eat complimentary doughnuts (three), check e-mails (17).

9.30am: Internal status meeting. Client's boss loves our tactical posters. Air punch.

10.20am: Call another client for catch-up. Wants "edgy" music for presentation. Steer him away from Genesis in diplomatic fashion.

12noon: Taxi to Soho. Oversee digital removal of stubble from model's leg.

1.45pm: Quick lunch with other grads. Riotous laughter/gossip means high risk of pannini chokage.

3.00pm: Creative duo (twins!) share new TV scripts over coffee. Brilliant. We'll present to client in Norwich tomorrow.

3.50pm: Call BACC to check regulations before tomorrow - are depictions of cross-dressing meerkats acceptable during the day?

5.00pm: Help with presentation for tomorrow. Loads of replies to my all-staff e-mail. Notice adpeople use lots of kisses.

7.00pm: Softball in park - agency wins.

9.30pm: Home, via pub.



"In this industry, conventional ways of working are being challenged, so fresh thinkers, people who like to lead, team builders comfortable with ambiguity, experimentation and managing creative types, will be of higher value than ever.

Also, find a great boss, in an agency that believes passionately in its ability to do great things, and don't stint on learning your craft skills - they'll provide a grounding that lasts your entire career."


"It is no longer enough to be enthusiastic and tenacious to get into planning. You have to prove the way that you think.My advice is to blog your heart out. Use it to showcase your strategies and ideas and the other stuff that keeps you up at night. This means that you can point potential employers at the blog and use it to sell you in your absence."


Sam Coleman, broadcast buyer, PHD

7.30am: Wake two minutes before alarm.

8.00am: Leave the house in a hurry, listen to soothing sounds through rush hour.

8.40am: Get in early for free breakfast.

9.00am: Weekly buyers meeting, department discusses broadcast marketplace - problems, opportunities, successes.

10.00am: Call round TV saleshouses to request schedules. Our ads may have moved by a minute or two, which affects the ratings.

11.00am: After daily update on my campaign, it's apparent that ratings have fallen over weekend - possibly due to it being hotter in London than in Rio.

11.30am: Call saleshouses to negotiate more ratings in top programming.

1.00pm: Delicious Thai business lunch, where I undo good work recently done in the gym.

2.30pm: Put together competitive analysis of the motor industry to present to the planners.

3.36pm: ITV exec calls to move ad spots. I tell him I can't. This annoys him greatly.

3.37pm: Help my manager to pull data together for a pitch.

4.30pm: Presentation by radio sales house GCap on how their stations are performing.

6.00pm: Leave work with colleagues for Superman preview screening.

8.00pm: Drinks, discuss who would win fight between Superman, Spider-Man and Batman.

11.45pm: Try flying home... doesn't work, get train instead.


Neil Jones, managing director, Carat UK

"Prerequisites for a job in media are strong interpersonal and communications skills, the ability to work as part of a team and, in a dynamic, vibrant, high-pressure business, having a sense of humour helps too. From a personal point of view, passion, commitment, hunger and curiosity were the qualities that really helped me to develop my career in its early days. Having a thick skin, a bit of luck and strong commercial acumen was useful too."


"It's all too easy when you arrive as a media graduate to concentrate on just absorbing what you're told, but my advice is to question everything. Why is television right for that particular brand? How often do we need to have people hear the radio commercial before they buy the product featured? Do we know which sections of a newspaper people read most? The more you ask for yourself, the more you will remember. The more you remember, the more confident and valuable you'll become."


8.00am: Hit the well-worn snooze button.

8.55am: On the bus from Marylebone, attempt to read John Grant's New Marketing Manifesto, but New Order wins out.

9.15am: Arrive at work, grab a Starbucks and toast from the canteen and check my favourite websites.Find out what Hezbollah is and the latest Suri Cruise conspiracy theories.

9.30am: Polishing off a presentation to Volvic about music sponsorship opportunities.

11.00am: Collate some charts for Lloyds on what our research tool tells us about their brand.

12noon: Quick brainstorm for The Times on newspaper giveaways. I've been off the account for six months, but still love sticking my nose in - it's a great client.

1.00pm: The Engineer pub for asparagus tempura and a lengthy positioning meeting on a hush-hush Virgin project.

6.30pm: Back in the agency with rose in my belly and e-mails to catch up on. Call a psychologist I'm consulting for a book I'm researching for my planning director.

7.30pm: Head up to Camden to meet an ex-colleague in a Brazilian bar.

9.30pm: Home. Return coincides with lawyer housemates.From what I hear, my day was definitely more interesting.

12.00am: An episode of Sharpe later, I retire with John Grant (in paper form) in my hand and Sean Bean on the brain.



"Never stop asking questions, even if you think they are stupid, because you will always walk away better informed. Interact, engage and respond to every communication channel to truly understand how brands build relationships with customers. And when you are in a position to hire people, hire talent that is better than you, because you will always be challenged and will always learn more."


"Always remember that we are in the business of engaging people first, and influencing their role as consumers second. Insight is everything. Never assume, avoid the platitudes and dig deep to find real clues about how the people you want to communicate with behave and, above all, will react."


8.10am: Wake up; can't put it off any longer, so get up.

8.12am: Shower, grab cliched outfit: vintage tee, faded jeans and Converse trainers.

8.40am: Helmet on, start the Vespa and I'm off.

9.15am: Arrive in Camden.

9.20am: Helmet hair sorted, get drink and slice of toast.

9.35am: Briefed on L'Oreal job, run through old campaigns and think about direction.

10.45am: Headphones on to work on Mini, The Kooks on full volume....

1pm: Lunchtime. New member of design team has joined, so welcome them with pub lunch.

4.30pm: Have brainstorm on new Channel 4 campaign - good to get away from desk.

5.30pm: Show creative director progress of work.

5.45pm: Look through portfolios of potential junior designers.

6.30pm: Time for a shandy, before heading off to a degree show.

9.00pm: Back home with a pizza.

11.30pm: Time to check if I've won original Muller-Brockmann poster off eBay. Pipped to post at last minute again!

12.30am: Off to bed, forgot to go for run (Nike 10k run getting closer). I'll go tomorrow.



"The consumer of the future is someone like you. Think about what influences you, personally, to make the purchase decisions you do. Then ask yourself what marketers need to do to exert that influence. Then find an agency that understands this. There are quite a few of them out there, but they might not be the ones with the big names that your career adviser has mentioned. Ignore your career adviser. Go with your gut."


"Undergrad is OVER. You have just spent three or four years being competitive, doing it on your own, motivating yourself,to stand out. Now you need to prove to the working world that you can work in a team, can fit in and pull together, and, most importantly, continue learning. That bit never stops. Sorry."


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