I would learn a skill, a skill that is appropriate for this business, whether it's art or writing, and I would be very good at it. Even though you are an excellent businessperson and a good salesperson, all of us in this business have to fall back on our skills from time to time. Sometimes there just isn't enough time to assign someone with a particular skill to do something. You have to jump in and do it yourself. This means at times we all have to be on-the-spot art directors, photography directors, and of course writers. Many of the advertisements you see in the papers and the magazines these days are written at the last minute on the client's desk by the account executive. The client has rejected what the creative department has come up with, time is of the essence, the account executive has to knuckle down and do it right there on the client's desk! This pinch doesn't come up often, but you have to be prepared and equipped for it when it does come up. So, I'd urge anybody who wants to be in the business to learn writing skills. Stay in school and concentrate heavily on marketing courses as well as finance. I could really kick myself for not getting a better finance background. Take as many practical application classes as possible in marketing. For an undergraduate student, I would say get experience anywhere you can during the summers. Be a receptionist in a small agency, sweep the floors, work in a radio station. That's background. There are extracurricular activities that are also important because they round you out.
I got an advertising-related job in market research and sales promotion. Sales is related to advertising. There are a lot of different areas where you get involved a little bit with advertising. You get into those areas and hope that you get "discovered." In addition, you must be persistent and keep knocking on those doors. Eventually someone will say, "Well, you were a beginner two years ago, but now you have some relevant background, maybe we can use you."
Determination is one factor you must have. You're going to send out the letters, and you're going to pound hard until you get in. Now you may start as a media coordinator, an assistant account executive, or a receptionist, but just getting your foot in the door is the most important thing. There are two options: smaller agencies and major agencies. You can go to the smaller agencies and try to get in, but the problem at this point is that a lot of the small agencies really can't afford to bring anyone in. That's usually where a lot of young kids could get into the business. Major agencies are the second stepping stone. Some o them have training programs. If you can get into a good program, you've got it made, because they train you in media and research, and the} move you along if you have the ability to perform. But determination to keep pounding on the door of an advertising agency until you get in is essential.
Q - Do you have anything you would like to add?
A - Salary. For beginners starting out, it's often bad news. You're in a bind. They (ad agencies) can pay you peanuts because of the huge supply of job candidates. Starting salaries are between $9,000 and $13,000, and for a full-fledged account executive, at least $17,000.
It's a very promising business, but it's not a business where you're going to make a fortune. You have to be in it for the satisfaction it offers and for the interest it offers, and you have to be the right kind of person. I have worked with others who find this business boring, uninteresting, or too challenging. They just wouldn't bother with it for very long, and they've gone into different careers, but those of us who are still here seem to thrive on it despite its difficulties. So, it's a business that's not for everybody. I'm not just talking about skill, I'm talking about what you like to do. If you like your work to be very challenging, if you like unpredictability in your life, it's for you.