Saturday, August 7, 2010

How I landed my advertising job

Kids, when I...nah! Phew. I finally get the time to write something. Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not SO busy that I can't find the time to even eat or sleep. On the contrary, I've quite settled into the new job. A lot of people did ask me this, "How the hell did you land up at an advertising agency? Did you apply? Was there a test of sorts?" So I decided to write about that. Wow. I can't even find a topic to write about a lot :)

I was always inclined towards advertising somehow. I used to watch a lot of old ads, and I watched all the funny commercials in college (which I now realise is the same set of ads circulating in the DC++ networks of the entire country. Even my brother has it). And I had always wondered how it would be, to work in an agency. Plus, journalism was starting to get confusing, since I could not figure out what beat I wanted. And with the print medium dying (slowly but surely), the only option left would have been TV journalism. I need not say anything more. So, through a common friend at JAM, I met a copywriter at DDB Mudra. I showed him my portfolio. A portfolio contains some spec ads (ads of one's own), ideas for some ads etc. And to be fair, my portfolio sucked. But he was really nice, and asked me to work on it some more, and keep bouncing stuff off him. So I did. I had started looking in March, and over the period of 4 months, I kept writing ads, took feedback and rewrote them. It was extremely helpful.

DDB had no openings for freshers, so he gave me some numbers of some other people. So there I went again, showing my work to them. I went to Saatchi & Saatchi and there too, I was told to apply to a bigger agency, since they would have the time and scope to include freshers. From there I landed up a number of a JWT guy, but he was out on a holiday. So I went to Contract Advertising, and then to TapRoot. Somehow it didn't quite work out and I landed up at Mudra.

There I showed my reworked portfolio again, and that was the 'aha' moment for me. He thought I had some good stuff, so that was an encouragement (and some relief that I wasn't on some mad quest). He gave me a copy test (basically a set of advertising problems) to work on and asked me to get back whenever I felt I was done. Also in a single sentence, he explained to me how a campaign was worked out. It's basically one insight/idea, which is extended to all media. So I worked on a campaign and kept it ready. That is where I got really lucky.

For the first time in India, Portfolio Night was held. It's basically a "portfolio review" platform where aspiring juniors get to meet creative directors from different agencies and show them their work. It was 1500 bucks, but was totally worth it. I paid with a friend's credit card, and landed up at Westin, Goregaon, the building where Ogilvy was situated. Juniors got a golden chance to meet the likes of Piyush Pandey, Balki, Prasoon Joshi in person and get valuable feedback. I met some really awesome people, and got good feedback from them, and more importantly, their numbers. I called up one of them (who's now my super, super, super boss) and he passed me on to his team. I showed my work to them, and they asked me to wait for a week to figure out with HR as to how they could fit me in. 

I'd started to panic a little, since everyone was asking for advertising experience and I had none. And if no one took me, I wouldn't have the experience! I even said this at Ogilvy when I met my current creative directors (which probably was a little bold, now that I think of it). I called up the other people I had met, (one of them was again from Ogilvy), so I interviewed at Ogilvy again, but results were delayed. In my panic, I called up my friend from JAM, and she gave me the email ID to a guy from Lowe. I interviewed at Lowe too - correction, I interviewed at Churchgate Hotel, where I was fed biryani and offered alcohol. He liked my work but asked me to wait for a week, since he had to check with HR. The big H had struck.

Suddenly one day, I got a call from Ogilvy (from my current boss) asking me to show her my work. Since I already had some campaigns ready, I first went to Mudra West, and showed him my work. Then I told him about my Portfolio Night experience, and how I had to go to Ogilvy next to show my work. My current boss turned out to be a friend, and he told me to present my ideas to her, and that he would speak to her too. I did, and got a verbal confirmation of my first advertising job. But the "pay" was still to be worked out - you see, in advertising, freshers rarely get paid, and those who do, get paid in laughable proportions.

The family had already started panicking since "I was refusing an MBA offer (from IMT, Nagpur, which I had refused to go to when they had asked me in the interview) and I wasn't going anywhere in particular." Shifting from a job with a pay, to getting paid nothing would have let off a nuclear bomb at home. One was supposed to go the other way (from no pay to some pay). But finally, after all the mandatory HR procedures were done with (which took only a month and a half), I was offered a job. And a one with pay! woot!

My first day was supposed to be July 5, but thanks to the BJP bandh, I went a day late. The HR had no idea I was joining that day (happened to two other people), so after waiting for an hour outside, I landed at the creative floor, still wet from the heavy rain. I spent three whole days filling forms and taking signatures. And my transport problems were solved, since there is a bus which plies from Thane to Goregaon. There are two buses in the evening - one at 6 and one at 8 - for free! So everyday, I sleep in the bus, and shiver in the office, since the AC is on full blast.

I think there should be an extra introductory note for new employees at Ogilvy asking them to buy a jacket. I'm on some pretty cool brands. No, I'm not on Vodafone, Cadbury or Fevicol. I'm on ICC World Cup, The Economist, Future Generali, Lakme and Pond's. So don't be surprised if you find me talking about beauty products :P

EDIT: I just reread this and it reads like I was asked to write a report on how I got my job. Sheesh! 


Nikita Banerjee said...

It will be fun hearing you talk on beauty products! :P

SSS said...

Datar is gonna sell anti-ageing creams!
Woo hoo!

BTW, love the advertising for The Economist.

SSD said...

@Nikita Hehe.

@SSS Not anti-ageing. Anti-darkening. One has to be very particular, otherwise the client will chew your brain :)

shrikant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shobit Varma said...

Nice read !!
Hi, this is Shobit ( i am a copywriter by profession... have been working in one of Nagpur's leading ad agencies ( for a couple of years now.. looking for the 'big break'.. I know i am being a little too desperate here but hell!, the only shame is to have none. Can you please forward me some numbers, just like the way you said you got ?

Mute Spectator said...

It was nice to read this particular piece. I am sure you will definitely go places.

Waiting for a few exceptional ads which I am sure are on their way!

- Sugar Cube - said...

Interesting read.
I'm myself aiming to get into the Ad world..dunno where to start from!
Kindly drop in a word or two of suggestion :D

SSD said...

@Shreetam Thanks :)

@Shobhit/Sugar Cube Can you send a link of your work/portfolio? I will ask around and let you know.

Grace Personified said...

Ye achha hai, story repeat nahi karni padi hogi logon ko :P Now I understand all your purane gtalk status msgs about how life was headed for a change!

Anonymous said...


swapnil said...

too good...determination surely takes u places!!