3 Lessons Learned From My First Month Working in Advertising

In addition to picking up a second language of industry lingo

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Henry Ford said that “anyone who stops learning is old, whether 20 or 80.” This concept is especially relevant to people working in the advertising world where trends and digital capabilities are constantly changing.

In the spirit of reflection, I spent time pondering the lessons I learned after my first month at an advertising agency. While going into advertising taught me many things, including what initially seemed like a second language comprised of talk about KOLs and OOH, below are three things I learned over the past month that I believe apply to people at all levels of their career.

Style is everything

An advertising agency has many moving parts. Within any one agency there are creative, digital, social media and account management teams. Most projects require swift collaboration among multiple teams throughout the development process. While I work on the account management side, it is critical that I infuse a high level of style and visual appeal in everything I do. This is mostly for the client’s sake.

After my first month at an agency, I learned that clients want to feel “wowed” through every step of the process. Sure, the creative team takes the majority of the responsibility on that, but there are several pieces of work outside of the creative process that go through the clients’ hands. Thus, it is imperative to infuse a high level of style in briefs, timelines, meeting minutes and PPM decks as well. This elevates the quality of your work and signals to the client that you spent a significant amount of time to ensure that each item delivered was handled with care.

Part of an agency’s appeal is that it produces aesthetically appealing products. A poorly crafted timeline or a brief with different font sizes and low resolution images can make the client feel as though you did not delivered your best. So after you have the basics down on a brief, spruce it up. Add style and finesse. You should feel proud of every piece of work you produce no matter how small.

Be a good listener

As a newbie in the advertising world, it can sometimes feel like conversations are whizzing over my head. I try to listen as intently as possible and write down words or phrases I am unfamiliar with.

This practice has paid off on several occasions. Most people at an agency are juggling several things at once. A project deadline here, a print shoot scheduled there. It is easy for the little things to slip through the cracks. Carefully listening to what people say in meetings or to clients brings value to your coworkers. Remembering meeting dates, client requests or even minor setbacks and recounting them to your colleagues when there are moments of confusion strengthens team ownership of projects. It also brings a sense of ease to a working environment. A good listener is someone people can count on to remember the facts, big or small, and that goes a long way.

Compromise is key

A successful project is highly dependent on how well an agency can manage a client’s expectations. This involves compromise. Sometimes clients don’t know how much time goes into creating assets or how expensive certain elements of production can be. It is imperative to first listen to what a client wants and then find a happy middle ground, all the while delivering high-quality work.

Compromise is also important in an agency as there are several live projects at any time. Team members must learn how to compromise to use their time effectively and refrain from taking on more responsibilities, which might inhibit them from producing high-quality work.

To do this, I have found it helpful to know how long certain tasks take you. Time yourself. How long does it take to write a brief? Work at a steady pace so you produce good work and make a mental note of the time it took. Then you know a realistic timeline when someone asks you to write one up in the future, and you will know how much time you need to compromise in the event that a deadline is coming up.

Infusing style in everything you do, active listening and mastering the art of compromise are three things I learned from my first month in advertising. Even if you are in the industry for a long time, I encourage others to similarly reflect on some of the things they learned from working in advertising.