I have been a creative director at a traditional advertising agency for 2 years, with a background in writing ad copy.
I help artists and writers develop concepts for advertising campaigns. My level of involvement varies depending on the campaign, but I have final say on what we present to clients.
My current job satisfaction is about an 8. When I am working on freelance contracts it moves closer to a 10.
People may not think that advertisers put their hearts into their work, but so many of us do. I love when I hit on the perfect concept to help consumers or the public connect with an idea. There are a lot of bad ads out there, but great ads are art, and nothing hits the sweet spot in life like having your art seen and appreciated.
I got started in advertising after finance and teaching both failed to satisfy me, so it was my third career choice. I wouldn’t change my process, though, because I think the experience and perspective I gained in those areas has been an asset to my work.
The thing I learned the hard way was that clients don't study advertising, which means I need to be very explicit in my communication. I learned this when I lost one of the first campaigns I pitched because the client did not like an illustration of a pig in one of the mock-ups. The pig was just a placeholder, it wasn’t the final image, but the client did not know that and I never explained it.
The most important thing about the working world that I never learned in school was to treat every contact you make like a future employer. Someone I first met as an intern who was answering phones at the time is now head of client services at that firm.
The strangest thing that has happened to me since going into advertising was meeting one of my childhood heroes at a party during Ad Week in New York City.
Advertising may not have the best reputation for altruism, but I love to go to work every day for the times we get it really right. We have the opportunity to do public safety campaigns or work for nonprofit organizations that helps generate awareness and educates the public. It’s not all about selling products.
The most frustrating challenge of advertising comes down to the clients. The client may reject what you think is the greatest idea you’ve ever had and you just have to accept it.
My job can be extremely stressful. The balance is fine right now, but it would not be sustainable long-term for someone focused on family.
Depending on the location, the salary range for creative directors is about $80,000-$120,000, which is enough to live comfortably.
I don’t take many vacations, but at this point in my life I am still very focused on my career.
To really be successful in advertising, the most important skills are those you gain from other fields of study. The trap so many young advertising professionals fall into is majoring in advertising as undergraduates. The creators of the best ads campaigns have backgrounds in psychology, history, literature, music, or science and are able to draw from those fields to produce work that truly speaks to consumers. When you come straight out of college having studied advertising, if you are not the type of person who is constantly pursuing other interests at the same time, all you know about is advertising and college life and it shows in your work. I firmly believe I was able to land a better paying job after graduation than most of my classmates on the strength of my student portfolio, and the reason my portfolio was so strong was my range. I created campaigns for products such as jogging strollers, bamboo flooring, and women’s shape wear, whereas the average student portfolio is full of beer and car ads. Employers could see I was able to sell to people who are not like me, which is critical.
If I had a friend considering advertising, I would make sure they didn’t think it would be like Mad Men. This can be a fun and exciting field, but no one should go into advertising for the parties. The hours are long, people change jobs constantly, and everything can change tomorrow.
In five years I’d like to be focused entirely on social marketing and doing freelance work. I’ve been very lucky to gain the skills and connections I have, and it’s time to start giving back.
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