I was able to make four of the six recruiting sessions the AAF planned this year for student attendees of the 2014 ADMERICA! National Conference. In the continued spirit of strategic change, the AAF moved from the traditional career fair-style layout. Instead, the AAF hosted hour-long, individual sessions with some of the largest agencies and clients in the world. They made presentations that touched on a variety of topics, such as navigating the industry at entry level and how to progress. Each presentation was followed by an in-depth Q&A session that produced thought-provoking dialogue between the students and professionals.
Often, the thought of working client-side automatically generates thoughts of monotony and having severe limitations. I have personally been in situations where I felt incredibly restricted to how creative I could get with in-house projects. After attending the General Mills session, I realized that it’s not about in-house vs. agency, but rather about picking the place that best fits your needs career-wise. The session leaders were Erica Jensen, Sr. Manager, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Alysia Powell, Integrated Marketing Planner. The ladies discussed the many opportunities an employee would have to work on a variety of brands – such as Lucky Charms and Yoplait – and how new, innovative thinking is encouraged. Their marketing department houses a united called GCom, essentially an agency within the company. There, integrated brand campaigns are born. The company, also a Mosaic Awards winner, actively recruits AAF-affiliated students. In fact, both of the session leaders were past Most Promising Minority Student finalists!
Felicia Geiger, SVP, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, shared an overview of the Deutsch culture and delivered valuable advice on landing a job that could transcend to whatever industry you decide on. Deutsch’s NYC office is home to a large number of women in the C-suite, including Val DiFebo, CEO, Deutsch NY, and Linda Sawyer, CEO, Deutsch North America. In addition to the NYC office, there is a location in LA that focuses on experiential marketing. Deutsch is also very supportive of their employees’ passions. One great example is Tyler J. Helms, an advocate for raising awareness and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, who has received an overwhelming amount of support from Deutsch for several years. In addition to supporting the causes its employees care about, Deutsch LA recently launched a program that supports their employees’ entrepreneurial endeavors as well.
Felicia shared some key tips for students seeking a career in advertising:
- Reach out to the right people.
- Send a BRIEF and focused introductory email.
- Show off personal projects and hobbies.
- Understand the position you want.
- Be focused and clear.
- Pay attention to where the business is going; the minute an agency wins an account, they need to staff immediately.
- Don’t complain or be negative, be comfortable and confident.
- Believe in what you’re saying and have a vision for your future.
- Create a LinkedIn profile (but if you’ve already read my first blog, you’ve done that, right?)
- Be on time for appointments.
- Have examples prepared of why you are right for the job.
- Send a brief thank you note or email.
- Steady eye contact and a firm handshake go a long way.
A few don’ts included:
- Never just show up; always have an appointment.
- Don’t get too personal and tell your life story.
- Don’t criticize people or other employers.
- Avoid having any unflattering pictures of you show up online.
- Refrain from being too relaxed; have respect for the person you are meeting.
Felicia also shared her thoughts on certain misconceptions about entering the advertising industry.
On having to go to portfolio school:
“It kills me that in a creative world such as advertising you have people saying you need to go through a specific process to be successful as a creative.”
On whether first jobs will determine a new graduate’s career trajectory:
“You are going to be the person to shape your career trajectory. Meet people and nurture your networks.”
Rich Stoddart, CEO, Leo Burnett North America, shared insights on the agency’s approach to advertising and closed out the session with dialogue between the students and representatives of different departments within Leo Burnett. He discussed Leo Burnett’s restructuring of the traditional “4 Ps.”
Identify the human insight that bridges the divide between what people are currently doing, and what they wish they were doing. This is articulated in truths of behavior, not simply attitudes.
The permanent statement of a brand’s reason for being in peoples’ lives. Be sure to stay true to your purpose.
Give people something to do in a way that’s participatory and meaningful. It’s particularly important to find efficient ways to leverage popular and emerging tech.
Serve people first. We have a responsibility to put quality out there in the world and do things that inspire people. Enhance what they care about and remember data is only important because it helps you understand people.
Leo Burnett staff rounded up the session with their own tips for success in the industry:
Michelle Bolanowski, Assoc. Director Recruiting
“Be courageous, take risks, and push yourself to that uncomfortable place.”
Chris Andrews, EVP, Global Account Director
“Be interesting and avoid conformity at all costs.”
Debbie Bougdanos, EVP/Director of Talent Acquisition
“Become a student of advertising, form opinions, study it, absorb it.”
Renetta McCann, Chief Talent Officer
“Be and stay curious; the minute you think you’re an expert, find another questions.”
Zack Stoller, Account Executive
“Keep raising your hands, and don’t get complacent.”
Rich Stoddart closed the session with a challenge; find out what you’re good at and what makes you happy. Make your career decisions with your heart.
Samantha Nicolosi, Talent Acquisition Manger, and Tandria Norman, Account Executive, concluded the last recruiter session. Like client-side work, pharmaceutical driven agencies are trying to shake the stigma that they’re boring and uncreative. FCB Health’s CCO, Rich Levy, has made it his mission to prove the health sector can be just as creative and innovative as the mainstream brands. Healthcare travels the same path as general product campaigns but goes beyond that, it’s about helping people feel better. Samantha and Tandria walked us through a few campaigns for clients like Spiriva, Gilenya, and Nuvigil, explaining the breakthroughs and challenges the teams encountered with each one.
Those working on pharmaceutical campaigns are often left with a smaller amount of leeway because of FDA regulations and guidelines. These added restrictions push the teams to think strategically and more creatively so that they may maximize the space that they have. Having a foundation in pharmaceuticals is a good launch pad for an aspiring advertising professional. Felicia from Deutsch even mentioned it during her discussion, “Working on a pharma account will shape your career because you’ll know what you can and can not say.” Other ad professionals echoed her sentiments, describing advertisers with pharmaceutical backgrounds as having a stronger eye for detail.
I learned an immense amount from all of the Recruiter Insights sessions that I attended this year. I left Boca Raton with great advice to assist me in making the most out of my internship at GSD&M this summer, and a completely altered career plan.
Candace Queen is a graphic designer and advertising graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary research focus is on mobile technology’s impact on the advancement of developing countries. She is also completing a study of select initiatives that have been established to stimulate diversity within the advertising industry. During her time as an undergraduate at the University of Houston, she served as President of her AAF student chapter, and Account Director of UH’s student-run agency, Valenti Group, which won the 2013 NSAC District 10 Competition. Traveling, people-watching, and blazing through DIY projects are her key sources of entertainment and creative inspiration. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Candace_D_Queen.