An advertisement can have various objectives. Here are just a few:
- To establish, maintain or enhance a company's overall image. An example might be advertisements for major petroleum or chemical companies.
- To increase demand for a type of product or service. For example: 'Tea. Best drink of the day' or 'Meat to live'.
- To increase sales of a particular product or service.
- To inform the public (about a hazard around the home, for example, or a benefit they may be entitled to).
- To tell customers about a brand new product (a 'product launch campaign').
It can be directed at the end user (the consumer) or at the middleman (the wholesale or retail outlet). It can even be aimed at governments (in the case of lobbying) or potential breakers of the law (as in drink and drive prevention advertisements).
The Process of Advertising
It is outside the scope of this book to look in detail at the stages of an advertising campaign. If you are interested in pursuing a career in this fascinating and challenging industry, you need to examine and analyze as many advertisements in different media as you can, read the trade press (for example, Campaign and Marketing Week) and read up as much as you can about advertising techniques and the history of advertising. Suggestions for further reading are provided on page 95.
What Kind of People Work in Advertising?
Many of the qualities demanded of marketing people are equally applicable in advertising. In fact, people do move between these two areas during their careers. The advertising industry is seen as glamorous and creative, and is notoriously difficult to enter. Nevertheless, if you are an avid analyzer of advertisements, approach tasks creatively and enjoy the gentle art of persuasion, advertising might be the profession for you.
A senior account planner in a leading advertising agency told me:
Each agency is different and demands different types of people. While a large agency might have a well structured workforce with plenty of administrative support, a smaller company might expect to employ all rounder who would be closely involved in most stages of a campaign. This is, without doubt, an industry where getting in is extremely difficult, but where you can really get noticed once you arrive. The important thing is to get the right balance between working on your own initiative and learning from other people. At first, you know very little and, although experienced creative and account handlers can get things right first time through instinct and expertise, it takes a lot of hard work to get to that stage. For account managers, in particular, the importance of financial skills cannot be over estimated. In addition, advertising research work is extremely technical and a qualification in market research would be a distinct advantage.
Ian is senior account handler for a major advertising agency.
I studied history at university, and hadn't much of an idea of what I wanted to do when I left. I had been heavily involved in music and drama, so I suppose I had demonstrated a creative streak of sorts. A few advertising agencies came round to recruit new graduates on the 'milk round'. Not all agencies do this, and they often restrict themselves to a few universities they believe supply the most suitable type of graduate. I had interviews with several agencies and was offered a job with this one.
I began as a graduate trainee, and spent a few weeks working in each department. This was part of the agency's excellent training program, which also included discussions and seminars, practical project work, and financial skills classes for those of us from arts backgrounds. While all this was extremely useful, I began to learn much more quickly when I became part of an account group. At first, I 'helped out'; doing anything the account manager wanted me to do. This ranged from editorial work to sitting in on client presentations. I was then given my own, small account to manage, although the account manager was always ready to give advice and to look at what I was doing. In this industry, clients are wary of being allocated to junior members of staff so, although they were not spending as much with us as the larger accounts, I had to ensure that they didn't feel neglected. It is quite often the smaller accounts that need more detailed work: they can be fussier about the administrative detail. I then moved on to one of our key accounts, working closely with a senior account manager. This felt like the deep end' and I learned more in the first month in this position than anywhere else.
The most difficult, and stimulating, part of an account handler's work is juggling all the different tasks and responsibilities, rearranging priorities when necessary and maintaining the right level of client liaison. The members of the team working on this account worked well together you depend on each other so much for each stage of the planning, presentation and production. You are also inevitably working to tight deadlines much of the time, so the ability to pull together is critical.
Five years on, I am senior account manager in the same company, which is quite unusual many people change jobs several times in the first few years, until they find an agency they feel comfortable in, or they might move in house. I run one of our most important accounts, which is a major responsibility: no agency likes to lose an account, least of all one of its most important clients, so I have to ensure that we continue to supply high quality analytical, creative and productive work. It's a competitive market and other agencies could be asked to pitch at any time. As you get higher in a company, you obviously do less of the administrative work and more of the corporate strategic planning, and new account development. Ideally, I'd like to become a director of a small agency, perhaps outside London.
I'd recommend that anybody wanting to work in advertising tries to get on to one of the graduate trainee schemes run by an agency, and agencies tend to prefer graduates, although not necessarily with a business studies degree. If you have any contacts at all inside the industry, use them. They probably won't be able to offer you a job, but you may get some holiday work, or be able to talk to them about the sort of people they recruit.