Getting into the Advertising World

This month we sat down with Jim Wood, Partner and Executive Creative Director with AnalogFolk.  Jim works in NYC, which is one of the ad agency's six global locations.  He's a veteran in the advertising world with almost 20 years of experience and a roster of past and current clients including Nike, CLIF Bar, jetBlue and BMW. We talked to him about working in advertising and he shared some incredible advice.  Check out what he had to say ...

Made To Hire:  Advertising sits under the broader umbrella of marketing. Why does advertising specifically interest you over any other type of marketing?

JW:  If marketing is the house, advertising is the game room. It offers all the toys and tools anyone would need to create unique, emotional and persuasive reasons to engage with a brand.

Made To Hire:  How did you get your break into the advertising world?

JW:  I left school with a degree in Mass Communications / PR and a portfolio of print ads, hand-drawn on tissue paper with marker. I quickly learned that school had prepped me for the business-side of advertising but, as an art director, the craft-side was something I was woefully unprepared for. After a few months of rejections, I was able to talk a small agency into hiring me as a proof reader. During the day, I would read everything from print ads, to collateral to annual reports and during the night, I would work on real projects others in the creative department were too busy to manage. Within three months, I had learned Photoshop, Illustrator, and Quark (a predecessor to InDesign) and built enough of a portfolio to graduate away from proofreading.

Made To Hire:  Being a partner at a big global advertising agency must be exciting. What’s the best thing and the most challenging thing about working for a big ad agency?

JW: I’d like to think AnalogFolk is a global start-up. We share resources across our network, but each office is relatively small and functions more like one, scrappy team rather than a collection of departments. We’re also independent. And that, I feel, is an extremely powerful position to be in. It allows us to make decisions around how we invest our time, talent, and thinking that best suits the business, not a holding company. The challenge for us, and really any agency these days, is finding the type of work that helps define who you are to brands. Lots of agencies say they’re great at everything. They’re not. You just can’t be. You have to focus on what you want to be and balance that with what consumers and brands need. And for an industry that changes quickly, it’s a fun, tricky puzzle to put together.

Made To Hire:  People often debate working on the brand side vs. on the advertising side. Why do you think the advertising side is better? 

JW: Brands don’t always know the best way to reach consumers. That’s why they hire agencies; for strategic and creative ways to get people’s attention. When brands create their own work, too many times they end up talking to themselves. At the end of the day, agencies offer an objective point of view, creating work on behalf of the brand, not as the brand. Consumers are too savvy these days. They quickly tune out brands trying too hard to relate or work that functions more as propaganda than a truly, meaningful interaction.

Made To Hire:  What are the main things you look for when hiring someone into an advertising role? 

JW: Two things: Unique details and a point of view. In digital, there are so many templates and tools for creatives to use, everything is becoming homogenous. I value small, bespoke elements in people’s work that make the work different. It gives me a sense of their commitment to craft. I also value a good argument. The best work comes from uncommon thinking and passion to push it through. I prefer those who believe in their work and aren’t afraid to stand up for it.

Made To Hire:  Any advice for people trying to get into advertising? 

JW: Work for a mission you believe in. Once I had a decent portfolio, I focused on working for the best agency I could. One with lots of awards and lots of great creative people. Later in my career, I sought out the best Creative Directors. The ones who were able to stand up and own a meeting room, making their audience laugh or cry while they sold in great work. Over the years, however, I’ve come to realize that standing for something is more powerful than anything else. Find an agency or brand that has a purpose or mission you truly believe in. Something that aligns with your own. For me, I happen to think agencies have forgotten who they work for. Sure brands pay their bills but, our jobs are to create things for people. The consumer. Because, when you solve problems for consumers, you automatically solve problems for brands. Our mission at AnalogFolk is to use digital to make the analog world better. Simply put, we use technology to help people. I believe in that. It’s why I work there.

Merryn Roberts-Huntley