When fledgling art director Shelley Weakly was offered a full-time job at Leo Burnett, she was a graduate student at the VCU Ad Center. That was a year ago, when top ad school grads could expect three to four offers.
Weakley, 29, and copywriting partner John Runkle, 25, accepted positions at the Chicago agency. Today the creative team is working on the Kellogg and McDonald's accounts.
Fellow ad grads have not been as fortunate this year. After average investments of $26,000, most are stuck in a hiring freeze that recruiters said will last through November.
"The average job search is five to six months," said placement director Carol Vick of Creative Circus in Atlanta. "It's taking longer and students aren't as fussy, but they are looked at as a viable alternative to more expensive creatives."
Creative Circus, which graduates students quarterly, has placed just one of its June 2001 grads, but three from its March class of six at BBDO South in Atlanta, Ground Zero in Marina del Rey, Calif., and Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Mo.
VCU in Richmond, Va., graduated 52 in May. Fourteen have secured jobs at shops such as Modernista!, Boston, and The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.
In an industry where attitude is as important as talent, there are some who welcome the tough times.
"There's a general humility sweeping through advertising that's good," said one headhunter. "There's been a smugness in this industry that had to do with the inordinate financial success."