Why would they want to work in advertising?
A view from Melissa Smith

Why would they want to work in advertising?

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, which runs until 14 February, Campaign hears from four apprentices on a specialist scheme as they start out on their adland careers.

Why would they want to work in advertising? Good question. Few school leavers learn about our industry from careers advisers, representation of minority groups isn’t great and – until now – other creative industries have been hoovering up all the talent. According to the IPA, while nine in 10 students recognise the sector, less than half could name an agency.

On the other hand, why not? Working in creative communications empowers us to express ourselves, join the big conversations and bring amazing ideas to life. Great marketing gets everyone talking, so the pull of working in it is powerful. Especially for a generation preoccupied with the why, rather than the what.

But there’s that underrepresentation problem: for many youngsters, graduate schemes, unpaid internships and a who-you-know culture are insurmountable barriers to entry. Especially if they’re from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The IPA’s research also showed that more BAME than white respondents knew advertising was an option, yet their representation within it had fallen year on year.

The Marketing Debuts apprenticeship schemes match talent from underrepresented groups with employers who, despite Covid-19-related restrictions, are sticking to their D&I commitments. It comprises four different apprenticeships in creative communications and digital marketing, which run for 13 months. After a two-week employability “bootcamp” in January to teach the apprentices workplace and employment skills, the first cohort got under way, with 95% of the apprentices coming from BAME backgrounds.

Melissa Smith is the founder and managing director of The Industry Club which runs Marketing Debuts

Meet the apprentices 

Ahmed Abdulrahman

Social media apprentice, 33Seconds

Before joining Marketing Debuts, I was studying business and marketing at college. I love the concept of marketing and the fact that everyone’s creative ideas come to life in campaigns. I knew that I wanted to work in a high-paced work environment where every day would be different. I also knew that I didn’t want to go to university and just be listening to lectures.

I decided to look for a Level 4 apprenticeship as I had just completed a Level 3 diploma. I came across Marketing Debuts. I read into it, and guess what? It was a level 4 apprenticeship in marketing that would allow me to gain experience in the field I loved, while learning more than I would at university. I wouldn’t just be reading and understanding theory, I would be doing it.

Tavie Agama

Project management apprentice, Adam & Eve/DDB

I’m a psychology graduate with a keen interest in the creative industries. I spent lockdown upskilling myself in content production and filmmaking with the hope of starting my journey into the industry.

I’m a fan of good storytelling, and when advertising is done well, it’s often conveying a compelling story. I love the fact that the industry is made up of people filled with creativity and passion for what they do. Our work affects people, and good marketing moves people emotionally in some way.

So far, I’ve been loving it. Every day I’m learning new things about the industry, the ad-making process and most importantly, myself. It’s been an amazing first couple of weeks and knowing that it’s only the beginning makes every day a little more exciting.

Jane Saword

Social media apprentice, Leagas Delaney

I’m a recent graduate from Oxford Brookes University, where I studied international relations and politics. Although I immensely enjoyed my course, I realised that my passion greatly resided in the world of marketing. As an advocate for innovation, I am visual, critical and relish modern creative perspectives, rather than traditional ones. I believe that the marketing and social media industry caters to that frame of mind (and more).

What attracted me the most about the industry is that it is more than just “let’s see how we can sell this product/service” – ultimately, one must understand wants and needs to do this. There is an unavoidable psychological aspect to marketing that makes the strategy building process very endearing.

Betty Ward

Project management apprentice, Havas Lynx

My background is in fashion marketing and design and I’m really passionate about social issues, specifically regarding diversity. As a creative person, I see marketing as the personality behind a brand and the potential power of that voice has always fascinated me – I love the idea of creating things that people emotionally resonate with.

Having left university due to the pandemic, I wanted to get more hands-on industry experience. Marketing Debuts offered the perfect combination of a supporting learning environment and the opportunity to be placed in a cutting-edge agency for a year, while getting paid. Plus, access to a network of people with a wealth of industry experience.

I'm loving working at Havas and I really enjoyed the bootcamp. I've had a great experience so far but can't wait to actually be able to get into the office and meet all these amazing people in real life, away from a screen and my slightly dodgy wi-fi connection.

Photos: Abdulrahman (left), Agama (top middle), Saword (bottom middle), Ward (right)