How to Get Into Advertising

If you’re a marketing or advertising major you’re likely thinking about your career path after graduation. To find out more about what it’s like to work in advertising, we visited the New York offices of McCann Worldgroup, one of the oldest and largest advertising agencies in the world and talked to Cristina Pansolini, one of the agency’s brand strategists. During our chat, Cristina shared her insights about the advertising world and offered some helpful tips for how students and recent grads can get started in the industry.

Here are some of the things you need to know about working in advertising.

What is an advertising agency?

“All the ads and commercials you see have an advertising agency behind them,” Cristina explains.“The agency basically helps a brand decide how they want to look to consumers out in the world.” From brainstorming ideas to implementing campaigns, ad agencies are responsible for helping brands discover their unique value and put their best foot forward with consumers.

What are all the different roles at an ad agency?

According to Cristina, there are three main client-facing positions: account executives, brand strategists and creatives. Account executives are responsible for managing the day-to-day relationships with clients, including making sure that timelines and budgets are adhered to and that clients are happy with the results of their campaigns. Brand strategists like Cristina also interact with clients and they’re responsible for helping brands determine how they want to represent themselves to customers. “I help determine the strategy for brands to come to life,” Cristina explains, emphasizing that the process is all about taking ideas and executing them in an engaging, effective way. Lastly, there are creatives, the people responsible for writing engaging copy and designing graphics to capture a brand’s look and feel. Although each of these positions plays a unique role in how campaigns come to life, the interaction between them is what allows agencies to consistently deliver effective, creative solutions to their clients.

What is the culture like at an ad agency?

“It’s pretty casual,” Cristina explains, emphasizing that working at an ad agency is definitely not as fast-paced or exciting as a show like “Mad Men” makes it out to be. “There are definitely no suits and ties though a lot of people care about fashion and are trendy.” As far of the atmosphere of the office goes, that’s pretty fun and casual too. “Socializing is definitely big. We have a ping-pong table and a pool table. And it’s definitely very young. Even the older employees have a young spirit,” she says.

How does a recent grad or college student get a job at an ad agency?

According to Cristina, most advertising executives land their jobs by going the internship route. “I would say that 90% of the people who work here got in through an internship,” she says. The key is to find a good internship and then capitalize on the opportunity by working hard and going the extra mile.

Pro Tip: Timing is also important. Ad agencies like McCann recruit full-time employees from their crop of summer interns and they make sure to hire interns who are recent graduates. “It’s kind of a trail run and they’ll be able to determine if they’re going to hire you by the end of the summer,” Cristina explains. Her advice: Take your internship seriously and make the most of every moment you have there.

Working in advertising is an exciting chance to come up with creative ways for companies to connect with consumers. It’s also an opportunity to work as part of a dynamic team like the one at McCann. If you think a job in advertising might be for you, take Cristina’s advice and test it out by applying for relevant internships in the field. And who knows? One of them might just get you your dream job after graduation.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Write a Resume That Stands Out and find answers to common interview questions such as What Gets You Up in the Morning?