|Yes You Can: Getting a Leg Up in Advertising|
By Jonathan Wright & Andrea Stradford
Advertising’s finished product refers to print ads in magazines and on billboards; point of sale and point of purchase pieces such as hanging mobiles and lifesize cardboard cut-outs often found in the aisles of neighborhood grocery and drug stores. And don’t forget boxes of everything from Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix to L’Oreal Hair Color and commercials, from a kid on a skateboard carrying a can of 7-Up to an infomercial on the latest technique for losing weight. All are methods used to promote and sell products, services and events.
Getting advertising work can be a time and resource consuming endeavor — but the dollars and steady work are well worth it. What follows is a six-step program for getting work in advertising that should make the going a little easier.
Step 1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Think locally, nationally, then globally. Begin by assessing the type of work that is available in your city. You may want to work with Michael Jordan on a NIKE commercial, but unless Weiden and Kennedy, Nike’s Portland, Oregon-based advertising agency decides to shoot in Widefield, Colorado, you may be waiting a while. Comb the local newspapers and magazines. Are there department, furniture, or grocery stores in the vicinity? Is a local doctor or gym doing commercials? Are there people in the shots? If so, someone got them ready for the camera and it might as well be you. Create a hit list of local, national and international clients you would like to work for.
A sample list for a Seattle-based makeup artist might include:
“The Red Book” often called “The Advertising Bible,” can be found in the library’s reference section. It provides everything from basic company information and e-mail numbers to complete listings of all creative and administrative employees plus a list of the clients each agency handled at the time of printing. For more current information move to the periodicals section and request copies of AdWeek, Advertising Age and Brand Week. These industry publications will give you up-to-the-minute data on the accounts that are being maintained by a specific agency, which ones are up for grabs (review) and who’s in contention (i.e. other agencies) to get them… usually within the next six months. You can learn the names of creative and art directors for specific campaigns and how to reach them, as well as information on agency submission policies, current accounts and portfolio drop-off days and times.
Step 2. KEEP TRACK OF THE INFO
Now comes the fun part. Keeping track of all the information. Give some thought to your contact management system. Are you a post-it note person, an appointment book person, a legal pad person or a palm top person? You had better figure it out before you begin gathering information. A few hours or days of phone calls, taking notes and scheduling actions, such as: call back; follow-up with a phone call; send a portfolio or mail promo card(s), can leave you frustrated and confused if you don’t lay out your plan of attack and execute it properly.
Texas-based makeup artist Denise Reynolds says, “I’m a palm-top computer person. I’ve learned to keep my appointments, tasks and follow-ups in my Cassiopeia ($399). After noting the client, phone number, policy, contact person, notes and action on paper for easy reading, I move over to my Cassiopeia. I record the action and set an alarm to remind me. It’s the best investment I’ve ever made. I can even set it up for multiple reminders if I don’t reach the person.” The notes you take are in important part of prospecting. Write everything down, from the name of the receptionist to comments you hear from general staffers. Pay close attention to any mention of upcoming projects or referrals. Art directors love to give artists advice, and intelligent professionals will listen carefully, make immediate use of what they can and note the rest.
Be patient! It may take a few calls to reach your desired party but politeness, PERSISTENCE, follow-up and follow through are your keys to success. Be aware that the stress levels at ad agencies border on suicidal. Staff are often stretched to the end of their wits in an effort to meet impossible deadlines. However, if you are patient and call back more than a few times, your persistence will usually be rewarded with an appointment or even a job.
The info you’ll need to begin your assault is as follows:
Name, address, phone and fax numbers of art directors and/or creative directors;
Agency submission policies and guidelines;
Portfolio drop off days and times;
With account and staff information in hand, you can begin to lay out your portfolio, deciding which shots should be included, in what order and whether or not you need to test with a photographer to add new pictures to round out your book. These decisions will be based on the general nature of the accounts you intend to go after.
Beate Chellette, photo rep and President of BeateWorks, Los Angeles often talks to her artists about the images in their books. “This is one of my favorite topics” she says, “because not all images are created equal, and one or two bad photos can bring the image of the book way down. My general advice is that every artist should live with his or her own pictures. I tell them to take all the images out of their book and put them all over the house. In the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, everywhere. I suggest that they live with their own images for a month and the ones that really start to bother them should be taken down. The photographs that are left hanging on the walls at the end of the month should go back into the book. I believe that ultimately, the artist will be the judge of what represents them the best.” Meeting with an art or creative director should be a rigorously pleasant experience, provided that you have done your research, are prepared to show them examples of your work that relate to their clients and current needs and have a promo card to leave behind that is representative of the work they will review in your book.
After doing your homework (finding out the names and types of accounts) on the advertising agencies in your area, you may find that 75% of the clients for whom they are the agency of record1 fit into the Lifestyle2 category. In that case, I wouldn’t suggest showing up to the appointment with a plethora of tearsheets from the last ten Rap and Hard Rock CD cover shoots you worked on. They aren’t going to get it. They can’t use it and they aren’t going to be impressed. Besides, you are wasting their time.
As an example, let’s assume, the preponderance of agencies in your area handle high tech accounts.
How do you research the high tech market? The same way you would the outdoors or any other market. Flip through the pages and review the ads that are featured for the clients you would like to work for. Go to the Internet and type in keywords such as: “outdoor” and “sports,” or “outdoor sports,” or “outdoor” + “sports” + “periodicals.” This trial and error combination will net quick and easy results that can help you determine what kinds of tests you should execute to round out your existing portfolio and help you land the kinds of jobs you want.
Step 3. THE PRESENTATION
Tailor your presentation to fit the market you work in or hope to, as the case may be. Sheri Reade-Hill, a makeup artist from the San Francisco area, says of relocating to North Carolina, “I moved to Charlotte, NC to raise my child. Since I worked all the time in San Francisco doing cutting-edge editorial and advertising, I didn’t think I’d have any trouble working here. I was wrong. This market is very lifestyle2 (family) oriented and my work was not. I’ve had to start all over again, building a new portfolio and putting together a promo card. I explain to the photographers I meet that I can do the scaled down clean work that they want, but they want to see it. I’m even having a hard time getting an agency to represent me. They say my work just isn’t right for this market.”
Sheri’s experience is not uncommon. The tendency of many established artists who are successful in one market is to assume that what they have in their portfolio will work in any market. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Do your research. Plan strategically. Knowledge of the area will help you rearrange your book to make the biggest impact on your new target audience. You wouldn’t go into battle without knowing as much about your opponent as possible, so don’t do it with your livelihood.
Step 4. SUBMITTING YOUR WORK
Methods of submitting your work for review are as varied as art directors and clients. However the most popular are:
Portfolio Drop Off
Meet & Greet
Send a Promo First
Our own editor-in-chief, Crystal Wright, at one time an artist representative for photographers David Roth, Jeff Katz and Adrian Buckmaster tells how she once got art directors to review the work of her photographers. “I designed a small invitation style card that looked just like a party invitation.” The outside of the card read:
Once the card was opened, the purpose was revealed.” The inside of the invitation read:
A New York art director at a large agency says, “People think we only hire superstar talent like Bobbi Brown, Kevyn Aucoin, Sam Fine and Laura Mercier. Not so. We are always on the lookout for new fresh talent. Superstar rates are going through the roof. And, let’s face it, when the same artist works on several campaigns, they can tend to look similar. And in the world of advertising, with 25 beer cans or cosmetic products lined up next to each other in the local Sav-On or Wal-Mart, we want our product to stand out from the crowd, not blend into it.”
Step 5. FOLLOW UP & FOLLOW THROUGH:
This is the most important step of all, FOLLOW UP, by any means necessary. It gives you the feedback you need to further sculpt a winning portfolio, track responses and creative needs. If you had a personal appointment, send a Thank You card. An art director’s time is valuable. Thank him/her for their time and recommendations and enclose another promo card as a reminder. It jogs the memory and demonstrates that you are a professional and detail-oriented businessperson who respects others’ time and talents.
Step 6. FOLLOW UP AGAIN
Wait a few days and follow up again with a phone call, or two or three if that’s what it takes to get them on the phone. I am consistently amazed at how many artists tell me “I’m too busy to do ‘all that’ or assume their efforts will be ignored or pointless. Everyone appreciates being acknowledged. When you solicit feedback you are, in effect, asking for advice. And, to echo what I said before, ALWAYS send a Thank You card when someone, anyone offers you professional advice (whether you think it’s useful or not). It will go a long way toward establishing a reputation of professionalism.”
Now you have some basic tools to help you approach the advertising industry. Remember that every city and agency has their own way of screening and hiring freelance hair, makeup and styling talent. Some rely on agencies, others on the photographers they commission to do the work. Many look to their peers for recommendations and still others rely on the cards, portfolios, personal interaction and follow-up calls and notes they receive from artists who market and represent themselves.If you are represented by an agency, help them to help you. Show interest and due-diligence in your career by sharing with them the names and addresses of people you want to work with. Be available to go on appointments when they are set up for you, and notify your agency [continue on page 29] [Yes You Can continued from page 11] when you have completed appointments on your own so your booker can follow up for you with a promo card and phone call. The personal note should always come from you.
If your agent handles the details of sending your book out and getting valuable feedback, ask for and be open to constructive criticism. Ask who reviewed your book and what they thought. As a professional, you need to stay on top of who is responsible for what at your agency, where your book has been, who reviewed it and what they thought. A booker is only going to be as interested in you as you are in your own career. The relationship between an artist and their agency is a partnership between a freelance professional who participates in their own success, and a booker who facilitates clients being aware of your talent. It is not one where you whine about your lack of success and the booker works to get you jobs. Contrarily, if you find that you are doing all the work and getting results on your own, then consider going out on your own or finding another agency where the partnership works.
By making periodic trips to your local public library, scanning issues of AdAge, AdWeek and BrandWeek and forwarding the names of the creative people working on the targeted accounts to your partner/booker at the agency, you will demonstrate your willingness to work with your agency, as opposed to being a passive beneficiary.
Consider assisting an artist that is working in advertising. You will benefit greatly and make contacts for future jobs. Working artists often recommend assistants to their clients for key spots on jobs they are unable to accept due to scheduling conflicts or vacation. Finally, I offer this bit of advice. “As BIG as the advertising industry seems, it’s a small community. Art directors network with one another often. So, put your best foot forward and really give them something to talk about!”
2 Lifestyle: Images that represent America’s family values: Mom, Dad, Kids and Apple Pie.