“Confessions Of A Placement Virgin” – how getting into an agency is like blagging your way into a club.
By dorashiner / / In the UK, aspiring creative teams cut their teeth in agencies with something called a placement. In the States, you’d call them internships. Typically these run for a fortnight but can run on and eventually your final placement turns into your first job. If you’re on the placement trail now, or have been, or occasionally find yourself uncomfortably close to a placement team, this is required reading. Anyway, here are Max and Ran, more commonly known as Ran and Max: “We’re a junior creative team recently released from the School of Communication Arts into the frenzy of young grads scrambling for a chance to get experience (and eventually a job) in London’s top ad agencies. A few weeks ago, The Egotist asked us to write an article about the following… “What We learned on Placement.” Unfortunately, we’d only been on placement for 4 weeks so far. That’s not to say we haven’t learned anything – we’ve learned lots! (including how to poach an egg in the microwave: life-changing) but summing up what we learned on placement demands stories. Armouries of anecdotes. Quivers of quips. And we just don’t have them yet. So instead we have written this: “Confessions of a Placement Virgin.” When we reflected upon our time on placement at our first agency, we were struck by how similar the experience felt to another virginal awakening… Being a junior creative team on your first placement is a lot like getting into a nightclub for the first time (when you’re not yet 18). Why? – You’re chuffed just to get in. – It’s really important that you fit in (and you’re trying a little too hard). – You don’t know anyone yet. Yes, it does sound silly, but after further investigation we discovered there was wisdom to be gained from comparing and contrasting the two experiences. Here’s what we learned: Fake IDs and Portfolios are the same thing. – Both get you into fascinating new places. – The best ones are expertly crafted, and cleansed of spelling mistakes and Comic Sans. – You should have the contents and order of each memorized. – Both must be presented with confidence and eye contact. Learning – Preparation is everything. You can seriously affect your chances of success by the work you put in before turning up and hoping to get a foot in the door. Fear follows excitement. Once you’ve got past Reception (or the bouncers) your initial excitement is quickly replaced by all-consuming feelings of inadequacy. Suddenly you’re convinced that: – You’re wearing the wrong shoes. – You’re the most boring and ugly person in the room. – Nobody has ever really liked you. – They’ve only let you in so they can laugh at you. Learning: Paranoia is not your friend. Believe in yourself. Your fake ID can be flawless… you can even have stubble! But clammy hands, shuffling feet and nervous stutters will betray you. The same applies to being a placement team; give people confidence in you and your abilities. Treat yourself like a brand and use your advertising talents to sell the f*** out of it. As our Dean (Marc Lewis, follow him here @sca2dean) used to say: ‘A brilliant pitch is 80% great idea, 80% brilliantly executed, 80% wonderfully sold’. Learning: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Sometimes things go tits up. Things in life don’t always happen the way you’d like them to. Indeed, sometimes no amount of preparation can immunize you against failure. Starting out in this industry is no breeze – things fall through, people break promises, places reach capacity – and sometimes it seems like you’re outside the club when everyone else is in. It’s important to remember that Advertising is subjective and your work won’t hit the spot for everyone. As clichéd as it sounds, the important thing to do is keep trying. Perseverance is key. Aside from being admirable, it shows people that you really want it, which might eventually make them really want you. Learning: Failure is your friend. It makes you work harder. There’s no one-size fits all. Every aspiring raver or wannabe placement team has a ‘hit list’. We make judgements based on hearsay, where’s currently ‘cool’ and where we think would sound impressive. It’s natural to think like that, after all you have to make decisions based on something, but it’s not smart. Just because you’ve heard The Box is like, ‘so totally cool and edgy’, it doesn’t guarantee you a good night. Just as working at BBH doesn’t guarantee you a career like Hegarty (filled with awards, happiness and sheep). *On a side note, what is it with the acronyms and weird names that clubs and agencies alike opt for? It’s like they want something exotic sounding enough to cover up the smell of vomit and desperation. Why the fuck is it called ‘Tiger Tiger’!? Was one ‘Tiger’ not enough?)* Placements can be exasperating, but they’re great for helping you and the agency find the right fit. You want to be somewhere that will get the best out of you, because making brilliant advertising is more important than the initials on the door of your workplace. Learning: Don’t limit your options. Great work is made by more than just a handful of companies, and snobbery isn’t cool. Overlooking somewhere because it isn’t a household name could seriously be shooting yourself in the foot. To conclude, we’d like to polish off our list of ‘dos’ with a short list of ‘don’ts’, which we may or may not be affiliated with. Enjoy: – Don’t call a Creative Director on their private mobile when they’re on a family holiday. – Don’t make highly sexist jokes about your partner in front of female Creative Directors. – Don’t joke about your Creative Director being short, to their face, on your first day. – Don’t send ‘reply all’ emails containing nothing but ‘A thought’ as the subject heading. – Don’t get drunk with the senior creative teams and call the agency website ‘shite’. Best of luck to all advertising grads past, present and future. Follow us @ranandmax to hear more of our misdemeanours.