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Breaking into Advertising

Updated on June 4, 2008

Breaking Into Advertising

by Helen Borel, Ph.D.

Now that you know you must get on staff at an ad agency if you want to be paid for your writing or graphic talents for campaign concepts you are creating (see my hub "Freelance Ad Writing," subtitle "Freelance Ad Creation: for Client or Agency?"), here are some tips that could help you break into this exciting field of work - where artists and writers are paid well every day for work they love to do.

If you've never worked in an ad agency, let me tell you it can be quite exciting work and you get to meet all kinds of interesting people (read, "characters"). Here are some tips to get yourself ready for job interviews at ad agencies:

As a creative person, if you have some terrific ideas, and you're a graphic artist, do some rough drawings with suggested headlines and proposed content for body copy (the paragraphs under the headline). Do a number of these - create ads - on various types of products or services, say about 6 to 10 different campaign concepts.

Buy a portfolio in which you will put the graphic renderings with their headlines and suggested body copy. And bring this demonstrative portfolio, along with your resume to the interviews, preferably with Creative Directors. ("Human Resources" people are the last personality types to understand creative personalities or the concepts you are displaying in your book. So steer clear of them whenever possible. You'll meet them to fill out the necessary employment forms once the Creative Director decides he or she wants you on board.)

You'll want to call each agency in advance to find out who the Creative Director (full name) is on the accounts you wish to work on. As an artist, you'll want to see the Art Director or Creative Director-Art.

Follow the same procedure if you are a writer. To interview for an advertising copywriter job, get your portfolio ready as above, with a few differences relative to writing skills.

Unlike the graphic artist, you can clip out pictures - from 4/C (4-color = full color as opposed to 2/C = black/white + one color) magazines - that have a direct relationship to your copy concept. Print your headline in LARGE UPPER CASE LETTERS on white paper that fits the size of the page-sleeves of your new portfolio.

Then, write some fantastic body copy to explicate your headline (campaign) concept, type this up, with boldface subheads where needed. Remember, the headline, usually in the fewest words, sometimes only one word, should say everything about the product or service necessary to grab the reader's attention if he/she is quickly flipping through the periodical and not reading the body copy at all. Memorable. An idea tied uniquely to the product or service you are selling.

So, even if the reader doesn't buy it right now, remembering this captivating idea (of yours) about it can assure customers will buy it in the future. (Often, customers "buy" the product or service because of a great ad campaign's compelling invitation to do so, not because they otherwise would. And once they try the product or service, only then will they buy it for what the product or service actually does for them.)

The wanna-be copywriter should create 7 to 10 campaigns on different kinds of products and services, making sure the headlines are exceptionally enticing and give a rapid idea (to a page-flipper) what a product/service is about. And, even though many readers may not read the body copy of ads, the Creative Director interviewing you for a writer's job definitely will. Make it superb. Make every word count. Nothing extraneous. Pull it tight as a drum. Use humor or puns for appropriate subjects. But use puns deftly and surgically, where they allow multiple meanings while using an economy of words, particularly in your HEADLINES.

And Good Luck with your interviews. As time goes on and you find yourself working in an ad agency, you will accumulate fully produced and published examples of your work. Then, you will be able to discard (or move to the back of the book some of your early ideas that are exceptional) these initial work samples - and replace them with actual work done for actual clients. That is, for future interviews, when you are moving on up to other challenging ad agency jobs.

For any creativity questions, write me:

For emotional health information related to Self-Growth and relationships, as well as to the unique issues artistic personalities face, please visit my hub group PSYCH NEW YORK at:


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    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Helen - love that - 'The Baked Apple'! Funny.

      Your frustration is ringing through, loud and clear. Personally, I have not had issues with writer's guidelines. I read them before submitting so I can decide if my work is right for that publisher. Would writing e-books be better suited to your needs? I haven't checked them out much, but I think you have total freedom with them, and you can sell them online. There are sites to do that at. Or maybe submit your work in the form of essays (literary mags usually put out calls for essays), which will also give you a little more freedom.

      You own your content on Helium, but they have the right to keep it on their site forever. I have articles there, but I was completely green when I started with them and didn't know that using traffic exchanges was considered 'illegal', so I've been banned, but they keep my stuff on their site. I can use it elsewhere, but I don't want duplicate content, so I have links on my website so I can at least use them as clips. A few months ago, someone copied one of them and used it in a British print mag in Spain.

      Can't wait to read your hubs on this subject, I have a feeling they're going to be extremely interesting!

      Thx, Helen.

    • profile image

      Helen Borel (aka Creativita) 9 years ago

      Hi Shirley: Thanx for your response. Yes, seeing our work in print is very special for us writers. I'm really enjoying HubPages because of the total freedom, here, to do whatever we want - as well as to make hub "groups" to focus numerous articles in one umbrella subject area. So far, I have created these groups:


      and 4. ASK THE NURSE Most of my hubs are in the PSYCH NEW YORK group.

      I plan to develop other hub groups as well in which I will include, fiction, satire...and who knows what else.

      Also, thanx for your encouragement for me to attack, with another hub, the problem of book agents' and publishers' excessive demands on writers' creative time to do their (the agents' and publishers') marketing tasks. As soon as I get some of these psych and health ideas off my chest, that will be on my agenda.

      Reminds me of the annoying fact that the public, WE, pay most of the salaries of restaurant waiters and waitresses through the protocol of tipping (which I believe should be extra for them, in addition to a decent salary from the restauranteur, based on special service rendered to us customers). Why this industry is permitted to get away with low wages while we support the owners baffles me...and it's the same kind of frustration I feel with the publishing industry.

      Oh, by the way, I left out periodical editors, who often put so many constraints (called "writers' guidelines") on potential contributors to their publications that it feels cumbersome and time-consuming when their parameters feel like girdles around my creative process or my straightforward concept. And that's another reason I am so very much enjoying HubPages. I CAN START TO GET RID OF YEARS OF ACCUMULATED FILES OF IDEAS IN VARIOUS AREAS of knowledge OF BOTH MY MEDICAL-RELATED WRITING AND FICTION AND HUMOR IDEAS. How? By writing them each as hubs. Getting the ideas off my chest. Having the satisfaction of knowing others can benefit from them coming out of the many file folders, no longer gathering dust behind closed drawers, setting them free to be useful to others (and, maybe, who knows? get rich from Google's possible more thing which I hope you know about Shirley:

      At HubPages, WE OWN EVERY ASPECT OF OUR WRITINGS HERE. I found this out some days ago by emailing the owner of HubPages, he sent me to FAQs, and there it was...You own all your hub-published works. I own all of mine. This makes me very happy...because, as much as I can publish here, that's what I'll send any future prospective agents and publishers' editors to go visit. I refuse to waste my time anymore mailing out manuscripts to these people. The world can read my works here...and if a publisher wishes to buy any of it, I can then delete from my hubs the material they want and sell them the rights. That's my plan.

      Shirley, I hope this is not too long-winded, but I'm excited to share these thoughts with you and hope they help you too: I have approx. 48 articles at; but I noticed at the bottom of each article they print (c) 2008 copyright I don't know if they believe they own my works (and I have some short fiction there, a really good satire, that is buried somewhere in a mountain of other unrelated work so no one will ever see it), but Helium is not organized anywhere near as well as is HubPages, so there are no groupings and there is an arbitrary rating system with stars (are we in kindergarten?)...anyway, that's Helium.

      Another problematic content grabber is something called Forget them, Shirley. They have an online contract a writer must sign and all manner of protocols and parameters that constrict a writer like a boa constrictor. After being enticed at their site, and downloading their information, I registered and never wrote anything there because of the constringencies they impose on writers. So, now that I found HubPages, which thoroughly respects their content providers (us writers) and doesn't interfere in what we are trying to create, nor tries to rob us of our creative and monetary rights to our works, I believe I've found a creative home. Well, it's 5:47 a.m. here in The Big Apple - which if it gets as hot as it's supposed to here in the next few days I'll call The Baked Apple - so I'm signing off now to go visit your hub and see what you're up to, and then I'll check out the forums where I left a note yesterday on yet another topic. Best, Helen

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Helen - sorry, I didn't realize you'd written a reply. Yes, by all means, write that hub! I'll read it, and I'm sure others will too.

      You're right about seeing your work in print - it is one of the biggest rushes ever, I can't imagine ever tiring of that.

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wonderful newbie info! Thx again, Helen! I will passing this on.