A Teen’s Guide To The Ad Industry

July 20, 2015 / Features

By Hasnat Ahmed

A clueless 15-year-old enters the labyrinth of AdLand.

Entering these two weeks of work experience at The Beak Street Bugle, I mentally prepared myself for the role of playing a servant to a bunch of old, bitter journalists, making coffee and tea, following their demands like a bitch. Little did I know I was to be doing something totally different.

I was given the opportunity to go to ad agencies and companies like Somesuch, Wieden+Kennedy, BBH, CHI & Partners, RSA Films and Cut+Run. All, I must say, have completely different feels and vibes in each office. You had the contrast from an office with leather seats, wooden furniture and suits to one that looked like a shop with a selection of bicycles in reception and a different theme in every room with all the workers in casual wear, sporting Nike trainers (no prizes for guessing who that was).

Keep in mind that when I started, I knew nothing about the ad industry. I wasn’t interested in it either really. But I was thrown into the deep end, meeting and interviewing people like ECD Jim Bolton, many creatives like Chris Lapham, Aaron McGurk, Oli Short, Sarah Levitt and editors like Chris Roebuck and Ben Campbell. It really opened my eyes to the variation of jobs in advertising. I also got to talk to the people that handle the more business-like side of making advertising. I met people like Sales Rep Sophia Melvin, Executive Producers Casper Delaney, Sally Campbell and Kayt Hall and PR Director Isobel Barnes.

I got the chance to explore all the work and the never-ending hours of effort these job roles take and how all these people are necessary to make everything work. It’s like a complicated puzzle and all of these jobs are just small pieces fitting together. Without all of these people creating advertising, our culture would be less exciting and we wouldn’t get to see people express their creativity.

Wait… HOW long does creating an ad take?!

These commercials that all these people come together to make take many months, hours upon hours, just for a 30-60 second ad. FUCKING CRAZY! I’ve also found out just how much money gets put into making an ad, going up to millions!

Oli Short, a Creative from BBH said “sometimes, a 30 second TV ad can take 9-10 months.” What. The. Fuck?

There are so many job roles depending on what you’re good at and what you enjoy. It all depends on what talent and knowledge you have but there’s something for everyone. No matter what they are, you can easily translate your skills into a job in this industry.

I see it as a tree:

However, coming into this tough industry, almost everyone has to start at the bottom. Most people start as runners, meaning you’re making teas and coffees and fetching things for people higher than you. In order to build up your status in a company and get a higher rank, you must prove yourself by showing your motivation, making sure that you know your shit and can make it in this hardcore industry.

People with degrees and professional training still start at the bottom. Only a handful actually use their qualifications. Most people that I interviewed even said that their degrees were useless because all of the things they THOUGHT they needed to know were a complete waste of time.

What advice would you give to someone like me who wants to start working in this industry?

I repeatedly asked this same question to people I’ve interviewed. These were some of my personal favourite pieces of advice:

“It’s a long but amazing process. To get into this industry all I’d say is be really hungry for information and always be motivated for anything because it’s an incredible journey. As long as you’ve done your homework and you’re passionate about working in this industry. Always be hungry. Hunger is key.”
Renwick McAslan from BBH

“Everything links back to PERSEVERANCE. Perseverance is key because you need to understand that you will get criticism, people will keep knocking you back, but you need to be prepared for that. You need to be prepared and be stable for when your hard work gets turned down. But it’ll all be worth it in the end – believe me.”
Chris Lapham from Wieden + Kennedy

When I asked people what they love most about their jobs, it seems people in this industry genuinely love what they do.

Isobel Barnes from BBH said “It sounds like such a cliché, but I genuinely enjoy working with the people here as everyone in BBH is really nice and smart. Everyone loves what they do and always go the extra mile.”

Initially I thought, yeah sure, okay, everyone’s going to say that to save his or her ass from getting fired. I was shocked; as I kept on asking this question more and more people kept saying that, regardless of the frustration of doing long hours, they really enjoy what they do.

I found the positive energy from the people in all these companies very inspiring. It had such a positive impact on me to hear all their stories and struggles. It’s so refreshing to hear stuff like this for people like me, who want to get into this industry but are unsure whether it’ll be right for them. After all, I don’t want to be sitting behind a computer, drained, miserable and hating what I do! Everyone wants to have a job that they enjoy and are passionate about, including me.

However, it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be…

As amazing as working in the ad industry sounds, personally, I think there are some tweaks that need to be made. The issue with diversity and equality in this industry desperately needs attention.

I never really noticed the problem of this industry being a male dominated, white middle-class workplace. I haven’t got a problem with the people who work in it, but I find it quite unfair how little this issue is talked about.

It never really occurred to me until Sally Campbell, the managing director at Somesuch, opened my eyes. She’s recently been on the case to start an internship scheme, allowing young people with different racial, cultural and social backgrounds to get an insight into the ad industry.

In my interview with her she mentioned some remarkable things about herself and her problem with diversity in this industry.

“I feel very frustrated about diversity in this industry, presently,” she said. “That’s because I come from a very different background to a lot of people that work in this industry. I’m from New Zealand and where I come from culture is more acceptably diverse, so racially it’s very different and I believe that class-wise it’s very different. I think that in this industry, more of the problem is class related than racially related. “

She then shared with me what she wants to do to start resolving this issue by telling me her future plans with the APA.

“I think we’re going to set up an internship [scheme] where we pick between one and three kids a year and those kids are not just chucked into a company. We sit with them, find out their interests and then we find out what they like to do and place them in a company that is appropriate or relevant to them. For example, someone that enjoys drawing and art, we’d send them to an animation company. I think it’s our job to tailor it. You can’t just chuck people in a company that they know nothing about and expect them to come away from it with an amazing experience because they wouldn’t have learnt anything at all other than fucking making tea.”

In my own opinion, I agree with Sally. I believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to be in this industry. I’m not just talking about having a shitty job like being a runner. I’m talking about more chances for people to have the opportunity to be the best they can be and not be underestimated based on their skin colour, class, sexuality, religion, culture or gender. This isn’t the olden days people. It’s the 21st Century. And we all need to start being more fair and stop being so close-minded. This industry, to me, seems so amazing and so vibrant. If only this issue could be solved with everyone working together – not just one or two people, I mean EVERYONE – just get involved somehow to make this industry more equal and fair.

My time learning and getting involved with the ad industry was absolutely great. I feel as if I’m more educated about the whole idea of “THE MEDIA”. I’ve learnt that there is so much more to it and so many more platforms other than advertising that I still want to explore. I hope in the near future I get the chance.

Comments (6)

  • What a mature and professional article from a 15-year-old. Nice one Hasnat.

    by Michael Reeves on 2015 07 31

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    by Crystal on 2018 08 20

  • Oh how time flies!
    Such a great experience to work for an innovative company. 100% has helped me curate my future endvours to this day. Again, thank you Mr. Alex Reeves for such a unique opportunity.
    At the age of 18 now and I can see how much my knowledge has developed due to your guidance. A great mentor.

    by Hasnat Ahmed on 2018 09 04

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