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Career watch: The creative and not-so-creative world of advertising
Navin Kumar
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March 26, 2008

Advertising is the art of scientific salesmanship: the ability to observe and understand your target, and get him/ her to behave as you wish. The sector has many paths that one can take, each of which requires a different skill set and is extremely competitive.

We take a look at the main career options in the field of advertising.

Client servicing
This department, populated by account managers is the link between the agency and the client. It is the job of the manager to offer as much value to the client as possible, without losing sight of profitability.

The account manager must allocate agency resources (meaning employees, ideas and time) to clients based on the business the client brings.

The account managers require a through knowledge of the market, the consumer, the client and the client's business. A good manager quickly learns about the various aspects of advertising, from research to the creative side.

He is the strategist and leader who must effectively utilise staff time and energy. It is his duty to communicate the client's needs to the agency and the agency's ideas to the clients.

Requirements: While a degree in advertising or marketing is not needed for the position of account manager, good business skills are. The candidate must have the good verbal and writing skills and demonstrate leadership, a good head for statistics and organisation skills. A bachelor's degree -- and an MBA, in certain cases -- is expected.

Promotions: Depending on his work, an account manager can become an account executive and then proceed to more senior positions, managing an increasing number of increasingly important accounts.

Account planning
Account planning is a relatively new concept and is not yet commonplace. An account planner's job is to keep his hand on the pulse of the consumer.

The account planner continuously sharpens the agency's understanding of the consumer: what attracts him, how he thinks, how he behaves and makes use of market signals. They help the agency formulate a plan of action, meet marketing challenges and "break through" the clutter.

The account planner is the examiner/ executor to the market researcher's observer. His primary tool is the data generated by the researcher: reports on consumer psychology, sales reports, consumer demographics, brand histories etc. Their job is to convey their insights to the agency's strategy and creative teams

While no clear-cut path to account planning or entry-level positions exists yet, most planners have an arts background, with knowledge of such subjects as psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology. All planners require the ability to extract and convey useful insights, which can be used by the agency.

This is the department of an agency develops the ideas that become commercials and ads, with the aid of others in the agency.

A junior copywriter writes the text for print ads, helps in editing and proofreading and in developing merchandise. After proving his mettle, he may be entrusted with the job of generating ideas for products, brand and company names, ideas for ads and commercials and writing scripts for radio and TV commercials.

A junior visualiser assists in preparing paste-ups, lettering and layouts for ads and television storyboards. He may eventually develop visual concepts, designs and oversee photo sessions and the filming. A candidate requires the ability to come up with good visual themes and concepts. He requires knowledge in such computer programs as Photoshop, Corel Draw, Pagemaker etc. A basic drawing skill is expected.

Other jobs in the 'Creative' department include photographers� who take photos for the campaigns and need knowledge of angles, lenses etc and typographers, who are involved with the selection of fonts, lettering etc.

Market research
A market researcher's job is to understand the consumer, the market and the competition. This knowledge is derived by indirect research, focus group tests, interviews, product experimentation and studying sales trends. The duties of a newcomer, called an 'assistant research executive', involve compiling data, follow research projects and helping to develop research tools.

A research executive must analyse and interpret data. A person with an MBA or a degree in statistics/operations will find it easier to enter this field.

The difference between the researcher and the account planner is that the researcher doesn't get involved with the creation of the campaign while the planner doesn't get involved in the tracking of data.

This department is responsible for placing advertisements in places where it will be seen by the target audience in an efficient manner, maximising the cost-benefit.

This sector -- even more than the rest of the field -- is challenging due to the increasingly complex nature of communication. Technological advances -- SMS, for example -- can abruptly change the nature of the medium by which the target audience can be reached.

There are two broad lines of work in this department:

A media planner is responsible for evaluating the various mediums and planning the position of the ads so that the ads get maximum viewership within the budget. This job requires analytical ability, innovation and computer skills.

A media buyer is entrusted with the job of implementing the planner's vision. He negotiates to purchase space in print, time on television etc at the best possible rate. He requires a through knowledge of market trends and rates.

Other than the traditional resume and cover letter, you must assemble a portfolio of your work if you wish to work as a writer or artist on the creative team. If you wish to be a visualiser, you must include samples of your work which demonstrate your sense of aesthetics and you conceptualisation abilities.

If you wish to be a copywriter, you must demonstrate sound writing skills and a head for the markets. If you have no experience, one common method is to choose a well-known or running campaign and interpret them in a way that shows freshness of ideas and insight.

While an advertising agency is the most straightforward option, there are many other places where an advertising professional can work:

It is hard to discover a standard rate for the various sub-sections of advertising since a person's pay depends on his skill and experience and the size of the agency. The starting rate for freshers at entry-level is between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000 per month. A proven professional can earn in multiple lakhs.

It's not easy to make a mark in this field but if you're creative, intelligent and able to withstand a high-pressure environment, there's no limit to what you can achieve or earn.

Part II: Colleges and courses
Part III: An unusual career option


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