VoiceTAP‘s call on Advertising as a career was held yesterday, 20th May 2009. Unfortunately I was not able to make a post on this sooner because I kept getting disconnected from the call multiple times yesterday. Before I begin, there’s a quick poll that VoiceTAP is conducting on what kind of sessions you’d want, so if you can leave your response below that would be nice.
Advertising as a career in a nutshell
The expert on call was V Subramaniam, who has worked in a senior position with advertising major Ogilvy & Mather. A lot of the advice given in the Event Management as a career call is equally valid for the realm of advertising too, so I would suggest you read up that first. While there are courses for advertising, most of these are postgraduate specializations. Just like in event management, the academic background that you’re coming from is not a roadblock to a career in advertising. Instead, it is your creativity and passion for the field that counts. Within the specific field of creatives, you have two different specializations – namely, copywriting and artwork. For specializing in artwork, design courses from National Institute of Design is a reputed institute which accepts students at the undergraduate level too. With the advent of online advertising and use of computer-aided graphics design, doing a course in this area may be beneficial too. Wigan & Leigh College and Amity School of Communication offer programmes in this field.
Most of the courses specializing in advertising however are mostly at the postgraduate level. Thus, if you want to join a course at the undergraduate level then you can join mass communication, journalism, or English (Hons) courses. Ideally this sets you up for the copywriting line but then you can always cross over to something else.
Getting into advertising has become more competitive – regardless of whether you’re doing a course in the field, or a course in an unrelated field. It is vitally important that you start building a portfolio – which will help you intern at companies and give you some hands-on experience. One way of going about this to, say, make an ad poster or video or something along the same lines for your favorite products. If you’re good at photography, then upload your pictures to Flickr – it has a really vibrant community, and you are sure to get feedback from others on how your photos are. Check what the pros do by browsing through Flickr Explore images. Make sure to be an active participant by commenting on others pictures.
Flickr is good for those who’re more interested in photography-type artwork for advertising, but if you’re more into graphic design work, then deviantART is the place to be in. deviantART is a website dedicated to sharing and discovering artwork and this will be of immense help to those who want to go into artwork specializations. You will eventually need to edit even photographs, so this is something you should check out even if you’re more interested in photography. Image editing is done either in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator – knowledge of both will be necessary. The best place for Photoshop tutorials is Psdtuts+ (Psdtuts+ even has a video channel for demonstrations). If you don’t want to spend money yet on these commercial software, try out The Gimp (raster editor like Photoshop; basic tutorials are available here, and books – some of them free – are available here) and Inkscape (vector editor like Illustrator).
The second specialization is copywriting. Taking up a course in English or mass communication helps create a base for you, but it is strictly not necessary if your writing is good. One way of improving your writing and getting feedback is to start blogging. You no longer have to write on sheets of paper and keep thinking on whether your creative writing is good or not when you can put it up online and get genuine feedback from people – this could be constructive criticism or encouragement, both of which can be useful to you. Setting up a blog is free and the best place to do that is WordPress.com. (The other major alternative is Blogger.com, but it often doesn’t function properly these days.) On the technical side, you’ll probably need knowledge of Adobe InDesign (free alternative is Scribus). Adobe PageMaker is an older (now deprecated) but still widely used software.
The amount of content that you’ll find online
- What an Advertise-Meant?: Blog doing in-depth analysis of prominent ads in the Indian media space. You’ll find details of how the ad was shot, the creative process behind it, and ratings of the ads on various parameters. This is blog is such a pleasure to read!
- Copyblogger: If you plan to go into copywriting, then this extremely popular blog is a must-read. It focuses more on digital media, but copywriting tips given are equally valid for ‘traditional’ media.
- Campaign India: Campaign India provides comprehensive news of developments in Indian advertising. It features interviews with prominent Indian advertising personalities; an added bonus is the job listings section. They also have a video channel.
- exchange4media: exchange4media runs two popular magazines dedicated to the Indian ad space – one is a monthly magazine called Pitch, and the other is a weekly called Impact. You can read Pitch online for free, but a subscription is required for Impact. (I also think that calling the online version ‘e-dition’ instead of ‘eEdition’ makes more sense, but then that’s just me.)
- YouTube: OK, everyone knows about YouTube of course, but maybe not many of you know that you can find almost any ad that you’ve seen on television on YouTube. These are uploaded mostly by fans and you can search these out easily by searching for ‘companyname ad india’, with a few more descriptive terms if needed. In most cases, the description and comments sections contain trivia on the agency behind the ad, actors / models featured in the ad, interesting anecdotes on how the ad was shot erc. As far as I know there are no ‘official’ YouTube channels of ad agencies where they put up their ads because I’ve never encountered one, but do correct me if I’m wrong. Sometimes though you might find a company which has an official YouTube channel and puts up its ads on it – or a an employee or a fan of that company who puts up videos. Once you start looking around for a couple of videos for the brands you’re interested in, you’ll be able to track down these users and subscribe to them for future updates on the brands you like. You can even look through the category Mad Ads on my blog – not been updated for a while though.
- Lürzer’s Archive: This is a paid resource, but well worth the price. It collates the best ad campaigns across any medium with commentary on them. (Thanks to the Buddhi Tree Free for pointing me to this!)
- Ads of the World: A blog, with an active forum that archives interesting ads from around the world.
- I Believe In Advertising: Similar to the one above, it posts daily updates on interesting ads from around the world, almost daily.
- Ad*Access: Collection of ads in American and Canadian newspapers from 1911 to 1955. It’s might interesting to go through this archive of how advertising used to be done in those days!
Advertising is most certainly a demanding profession, and it needs a lot of creativity. You’ve gotta come up with stuff that the customer is going to remember – and distinguish your client from its competitors – right up to the point the customer buys a product. Having a sense of humor helps too. Don’t get too hung up about the technical aspects (such as software) – that is not a major concern when you’re working.