What is it Like to Work at an Ad Agency?

If you’re an advertising major or a “Mad Men” fan, you may be wondering what it’s like to work at an ad agency. To find out, we visited the New York offices of McCann Worldgroup, one of the largest and most established advertising agencies in the world. While there, we sat down with Brand Strategist Cristina Pansolini to find out what an ad agency does and talk about some of the most common facts and myths of advertising.

Here’s what it’s really like to work at an ad agency.

Is working at an ad agency a fun and glamorous experience?

According to Cristina, there’s definitely some truth to the “Mad Men” representation of the industry. “I would say the socialization is pretty accurate. Everyone’s hanging out all the time and there’s definitely a creative, fun vibe like there is on the show,” she says. This vibe helps the team come together to brainstorm and develop innovative campaigns for their clients. For a big agency like McCann, this means working on campaigns for clients of all sizes including corporations, startups and everything in between.

How long does it take for a campaign to go from inception to implementation?

Because each campaign is different, it’s important to distinguish the type of campaign you want to create before you can identify the timeline for implementation. Cristina explains that “A brand campaign (which is related to what the brand stands for) can take six months from start to finish.” This includes everything from establishing the look and feel of the brand to creating ads designed to increase the brand’s presence. Product and social campaigns however, are faster to develop. “A product campaign, which is a focus on something specific the brand sells, that can take three to four months to launch, and social campaigns can take anywhere from a week to three weeks,” Cristina says.

How does the team brainstorm new campaigns?

Brainstorming is one of the key parts of advertising and finding ways to do it effectively is really important. According to Cristina, a lot of what makes brainstorming such a fun process at McCann is the layout of the office itself. “We have whiteboards and corkboards across most of the walls and most of the meeting rooms. If inspiration strikes, we just start writing down ideas,” she explains. This makes the process a collaborative one and ensures that brand strategists and account executives are able to work through ideas and presentations as a team, coming up with the best possible solution for each client.

How do you balance working on multiple accounts at once?

One of the challenges of working for an ad agency is balancing multiple accounts at once while ensuring that senior leadership is happy with the results. “Most people work on two to three brands, depending on the size,” Cristina explains. Delivering successful campaigns is all about listening to what the client needs and being able to offer them solutions that will help them put their best foot forward with consumers. Although this may sound challenging, Cristina emphasizes that it’s been a great learning experience and one that has helped her learn the ins and out of the advertising industry very quickly.

Working for an ad agency definitely has some glamorous perks but it’s also a great place to develop new skills and take on interesting challenges. If you think an ad agency job might be right for you, be sure to test it out by applying for paid and unpaid internships in the field. These roles will give you the hands-on experience you need to land your first entry-level job, and will help you determine whether an advertising job is a good fit for you. And who knows? You might just land a job at a great agency like McCann.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is a Chronological Resume? and find answers to common interview questions such as If I Asked Your Friends to Describe You, What Would They Say?