Lately I’ve had a few college students stop by the office and ask me how to break into advertising as a young account planner. When I have these conversations I touch on three things: 1) Market Economics, 2) Agency Percentage, 3) Other Ways In. This is a good time to share them with you as the semester winds down and students are ready to conquer the world of Advertising.
When I arrived in San Francisco in the year 2000 people were tripping over advertising jobs. The Dot Com was in full swing. I decided to choose a city that I knew was booming… plus I knew agency recruiters were struggling to get people to choose agencies over online companies. Today the booming markets appear to be Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai and Sydney. If you want to stay in the U.S., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles appear to be stronger than other markets for young staffers.
I arrived on Sunday and interviewed with three agencies that week including FCB, Chiat/Day and Hal Riney. By Thursday I had two job offers but I still couldn’t get a job in account planning. Even with a great economy I had to start out in account service and move into planning. I know planners that started out in Media, Creative and even Office Services before getting a chance to be a junior planner.
The reason that I started out in account service is an agency staff percentage issue. In my experience most agencies have 3-5% of their staff strategists (we are lucky at BBH, it’s around 10%). In Agencies below 300 total staffers, they are going to have most of their planners mid to senior level so they can be client facing and add value and advice on day one. Agencies above 300 total staffers are more likely to have enough staff to warrant junior planners. Big agencies with big accounts are a great place to learn the fundamentals of account planning and then you can move to a more creative agency.
Those spots are precious and hard to come by where else can you look? Try to find the institutions that hire 80%+ of their staff as strategists.
OTHER WAYS IN
Brand Consulting Firms have a high staff percentage as strategists. They get to work on a new client and a new audience every 10 weeks or so. They get to travel the world learning how to moderate groups, lead brainstorms, concept new products and names and work closely with senior clients. They have been known to hire smart people right out of college.
I left Hal Riney to join a brand consultancy. I learned the fundamentals over 2-3 years and came back to agency life to work closer with creative teams. Here are some consulting firms that I like (mostly in markets that I know):
Think Conservatory - http://www.thinkconservatory.com/
What If - http://www.whatifinnovation.com/
IDEO - http://www.ideo.com/
Sterling Brands - http://www.sterlingbrands.com/
Faith Popcorn - http://www.faithpopcorn.com/
Flamingo - http://www.flamingo-international.com/
Hall and Partners - http://www.hall-and-partners.com/
Prophet - http://www.prophet.com
Outlaw - http://outlawconsulting.com/
Consider looking at Brand Consulting firms if you are having trouble breaking into Advertising right out of school. You can always go back if you can land a job in consulting.