January 19, 2007

Moving Up The ‘Creative’ Food Chain

This is What They Don’t Teach You At Advertising School.

But before we begin brace yourself for the million-dollar question: How does a creative guy move up the agency food chain? Let’s ask Rajan Nair, a creative consultant and a visiting faculty at MICA, the man behind the Raymond's The Complete Man and The Economic Times Power of Knowledge campaigns.

Here are 7 Habits of Upwardly Mobile Creative Guys and Gals that should become second nature to you.

Habit #1 of successful creative people is this: They chart the course of their career themselves. They don't complain, moan and groan. They take concrete steps to better their lot.

If you're really passionate about your job and your career, then you will go out of your way to know everything there is to know about it. That means you read, you watch, you study, you discuss, you debate, you swap ideas, you keep copious notes. You eat, drink and sleep ads.

In this business, if you don't make friends, you'll be just another rivet in the machinery. So, go out and meet other copywriters, art directors, film guys, media planners… people from other agencies. "If you can't advertise yourself, how do you expect a client to trust you with their advertising?" Join the Ad Club and attend all the tea parties and continuing education programmes on scripting, direct mail, ad review sessions, whatever. See. Be seen. Hear and be heard.

Don't reject (your) rejected work. Today's rejected work is, oftentimes, tomorrow's Campaign of the Year. I've seen it happen many times. An idea is an idea. And with some tweaks, it could work in another time, another place, for another product. Best of all, some of your rejected work may show your true creative potential and a creative director with a good eye could spot it.

Build a good portfolio. If you're still banking on the articles you wrote while you were in your final year, to see you through, you're in for some disappointment. Creative directors today are looking for 'ideators', not just copywriters and visualisers. They are actively seeking people who are in tune with the times. Your portfolio should reflect today's scenario, today's marketing problems/solutions. (So) ask an account management friend to give you a solid brief. Then rework the ads the way you think they ought to be done. Your portfolio must have a few good film and radio ideas, too. Make your portfolio interesting: Put in things that show your passions and interests—photos, poems, lyrics, haikus, articles, wrestling memorabilia, whatever.

Make a habit of entering for awards. What have you to lose? The entry fees, right? And that's probably less than what you spend on beers, hoping for inspiration. Ask your contacts in NGOs if you can do creative work for their cause—FREE. Don't worry about not getting the credits upfront. If your work is good, the word will spread, and people will know.

Don't worry about the money right now. I know, I know, your friends in call centers and BPOs are already earning twice as much. And worse, your Dad might still have the last laugh for not joining his business. But don't go down. Remember, this is a brand-building business. And the brand you're building right now is yourself.

And once you do, the rewards will be more than you ever wished for.

(This article appeared in agencyfaqs.com and is being excerpted here with permission from the author.)

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