Career Potential: Working at an Ad Agency

This summer here at Wasserman, we want to help give some insight into particular career fields that you may not have previously considered. Here, Sydney Mai, MCC ’17, offers forth some thoughts on working in advertising.

Want a career like Mad Men’s Don Draper? Want to build an empire on Madison Ave. while spearheading a talented, dynamic team? Want office experience but dread the humdrum nine-to-five white-collar cycle? If you’re in for a little adventure, working at an ad agency is one career potential you can’t skip.

I was exposed to the concept of ad agency work in my Advertising & Marketing class last semester with Professor Eugene Secunda (to NYU future marketers: the course is a must-take). All through high school, I always thought that whatever field I ended up in, whether it was to be journalism, PR, or marketing, I’d always opt for the creative path. Truth is, an artist doesn’t have to make arts to be creative. Whether you’re a creator, a strategist, a communicator, or a businessperson, there’s a place to express your inner artistry at an ad agency.

With the explosion of social networks in recent years, the business of digital advertising is burgeoning alongside traditional advertising. The basic structure of a full-service ad agency, nevertheless, remains the quite static:

  • The account department acts as an intermediary between the advertiser (client) and the agency, communicates finance-related matters, and works closely with all internal departments to develop content & ensure that the advertiser’s message is being delivered.
  • The strategy department, also called account planning, conducts research that provides the basis for the campaign. Remember: the creative process starts with an insight!
  • The creative department is in charge of writing and designing the ad campaign. Good creatives are full with fresh ideas and know how to smoothly incorporate the advertiser’s message within their creative context.
  • The media & interactive department acquire outlets to run the campaign: prints, television, websites, social media, etc.
  • The production department executes the campaign. From printing ads to contracting directors for TV commercials, they turn plans into actions.

These vital elements of a full-service agency work like gears in a clock: everything has to be in sync. The creative department can’t go overboard with a creative idea and neglect the advertiser’s budget or intended messages. Same goes for the strategy department: account planners can’t squander a client’s budget conducting restless surveys and focus group researches. Therefore, an ad agency needs a capable account team to lubricate its gears, keeping its component departments on par with one another.

It is also important to keep in mind that an ad agency must hold great accountability for its statements. While it is easy to make unfounded claims sound convincing, it is extremely difficult – even impossible – to amend those claims and the retrieve the reputation that’s been lost. Respect your client by being accountable for your words.

Want to get your feet wet in this ever-changing, fast-paced business? Start now by searching for an internship. One of the most exciting facts about the ad world is that you learn as you go. Therefore, don’t worry too much about your background and experiences – be confident and show your passion, knowledge, and creativity. Impress your interviewers with latest articles from Ad Age & Ad Week. With your first internship, be even more flexible and look into marketing & PR positions to see how these practices crisscross and correlate. Best of luck with your endeavors!

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