So we were giving another book crit the other day and the team we were seeing asked for some advice about being on placement. Most placement teams know the usual stuff about “get in first, leave last” or “be memorable“. But that’s all pretty superficial advice. So here are ten slightly contradictory little nuggets that might just help you out:
1. You’re not expected to crack the brief
You’re just starting out. You might think you’re the reincarnation of Billy “Big Balls” Bernbach. But you aren’t. The rest of the department expects you to present ideas that are unworkable, off-brief or just plain wrong, because you don’t know any better. But that’s a good thing. Use it to your advantage. Do something that’s never been done before. Be leftfield. Tear up the brief if you like. You can fail spectacularly and it won’t affect your career one jot. And when you do crack the brief, everyone’s impressed. But best of all, the rest of the department gets scared. Remember, it was a placement team that started all this.
2. Answer the brief first, then do crazy
Many placement teams are so desperate to do something mind-blowing that they forget to do what they’ve been asked to do. It’s good to impress with wild ideas. But it’s also good to impress by actually answering the brief. So do that first. Then come up with the crazy shit. If you’ve been briefed to write an email for a bank or an ad for shampoo, and you only present crazy stuff like Giant Hypno-Bosoms or Underground Papier-Mâché Workshops, Creative Directors will find it hard to trust you. Be employable. This is a job. People are paying you to be here (hopefully). So do what you’ve been asked to do first. Then do batshit.
3. Be prolific
At this stage in your career, quantity is a Good Thing. Feed the Creative Directors. FEED THEM. Do billions of ideas. Don’t worry about uh-mazing scamps. Quick and simple is the way to go. The Creative Director should help you sort the magic from the hokum. They’ll help you learn what makes a good idea, and why. So each round of creative will be a distillation. Refining and refining. Making you and your work better and better. And the more prolific you are, the more you’ll learn.
4. Be clear
Modern advertising ideas can get pretty complex pretty quickly. The days of ‘doing an ad’ are gone. ‘Doing things’ is much more the norm. So make sure you’re clear when presenting stuff. Distill complex ideas into a sentence or a short paragraph and present that first. Make sure the Creative Director understands the idea. If there’s a film which does it better, show that. If there’s an app which is similar, demonstrate it. If there’s a piece of research which validates your idea, show that. SELL YOUR IDEA CLEARLY.
5. Believe in your ideas
If you don’t believe in your ideas, you’ll end up with a job you hate. So only present stuff you think is good or exciting. If you’re doing work you hate, but it’s getting through the Creative Director, you’re at the wrong agency. Leave. Now.
6. Embrace rejection
99.9% of everything you present will be rejected. And that will continue throughout your whole career. If you can’t handle rejection, go see a therapist. Because rejection is a daily occurrence for creatives. You don’t need to be a thick-skinned black-hearted robot-bastard. Just relax, and accept the fact that the vast majority of the mind-babies you squeeze out will be killed horribly, maimed severely, or mutated beyond all description. Deal with it.
7. Speak the fuck up
If you’re a naturally quiet team, you’ll go nowhere. We had a placement team in once who literally said three words to us in the two weeks they were there. No idea who they were or what they’re doing now. And we don’t even care. So force yourself to interact. Make a noise. This is the communications biz, communicate.
8. Shut the fuck up
If you’re a couple of arrogant pricks, tone it down (a bit). Much like respect, arrogance must be earned. Don’t call everyone “mate”. Don’t touch people. Don’t argue with everyone. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re two unemployed people trying to get into a remarkably small industry, and word gets around. If there’s a team out there who are just as good as you, but a bit nicer, guess who’ll get the job.
9. Eat all the pies
By ‘pies’, we mean briefs of course. Some are small and bit hard in the middle. Others are massive and made of 100% pure beef. But you must have a crack at them them all. Ask traffic or project management for more. Hassle the Creative Director. Ask the other teams if you can have a bite of theirs. The more briefs you consume the better you’ll be. And if nobody will give you a brief, make your own. Look at the agency’s client list and think, “what could we do for them?” You never know what will happen. PIES.
10. Get out of the Creative Department
An agency is a complex thing and you are but a tiny cog within it. So go find out how it all works. See the rest of the cogs in motion. Go see the planners – they always have interesting things to chat about. Get to know the account handlers – find out how they sell your ideas. Speak to finance – they sort your pay out (you are getting paid right?). Find out what the data guys do, get drunk with the studio (once), awkwardly share a lift with senior management. But most of all, get to know Project Management / Production / Traffic. They’re the most important people in the agency (after creatives, of course). It’s their job to put you on briefs, to make the cogs turn, and to make your ideas actually happen. The best of them will make your ideas far, far better. And many of them make impossible things happen every day. Embrace them.
Remember, this is just what we expect. Do you think it’s useful? Let us know. Or completely ignore it all if you like, you might be just fine. And if you have any other advice for placement teams, stick it in the comments section below.