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Will Harvey, Senior Acc Manager, Proximity London

4 min, 45 sec read
14:52 PM | 4 June 2013
by Adam Oldfield
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Senior Account Manager at digital agency Proximity London. Starting as a graduate 2 and a half years ago, Will has some fresh insight into getting in, and then getting up in an agency. In his time he has worked on Royal Mail, Lloyds TSB and now Procter & Gamble.

What was your first ever job?

I’ve done my fair shift of monotonous factory box packing and table waiting over the years, but my first ad work experience was many miles from this. Literally. I spent a couple of weeks working at Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai, at their office on the beach. It was always going to be pretty hard to turn my back on advertising after that.

Why did you go into advertising?

I watched a BBC program about Saatchi & Saatchi’s £20 million launch of a Brazilian rum called Sagatiba, and just loved it. The program described what they wanted from the launch and went through the many ideas that got finally got them to their brilliant answer. I just wanted to get involved in creating that kind of idea.

How did you clinch your first job in ad land?

In essence, the IPA Summer School. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to get into the industry. Every year it places a host of young people in top agencies across the country. I was placed at digital and direct agency Proximity London and thrown straight into the deep end. They then asked me back a year later when I finished uni. This was bang in the middle of the recession so had it not been for that leg up a year earlier, I don’t know where I’d be now.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

That we're making banners not babies. Having perspective on the task at hand and not overegging what you have to do allows you to reprioritise your efforts. It helps you highlight what’s really important, not get stressed about what’s not, and actually enables you to do your job better. If you're staying till 10 every night to send what could be sent tomorrow morning you'll soon lose that passion that got you your job in the first place.

And what’s the worst piece of advice?

To put all my focus on what you’re bad at. From the 9 or sometimes 10 GCSEs we are told to do through to the annual reviews at work, the emphasis is placed on focussing on the things you are bad at, to get them to parity with your strengths. Why? Because Britain loves a ‘jack of all trades’. We don’t highlight and harness expertise as well as the Americans. It’s important to focus on only what’s important, as obvious as that sounds.  Early on, find what you like and are good at. Get better at what you’re bad at fast, but don’t spend more time on this than you need to.

How would your typical day play out?

Bit of email fielding on my Blackberry on the way in to work. Officially a 9 o'clock start so I'll grab a bit of toast and a mug of caffeine at my desk, while I look over a few favoured sites. Once the emails start coming in, I'll ping a few straight back and then get ready for my 10 o’clock. Be it a creative WIP, client briefing or catch up with the society for the mutual appreciation of excel spreadsheets, they'll be some actions off the back of it. When they're done I'll make a start on the brief or strategy deck due tomorrow. This is the fun part. An hour throwing around problems and solutions and its only lunch time. After lunch, repeat and repeat again.

What do you see as the next big thing?

Wearable, behaviour-influencing technology. The Nike+ Fuel Band and Google Glass being  the most high profile examples of this. Technology you carry on your person everywhere you go. It’s not that the technology is pushing the boundaries of possibility, as its not, but that it is made fundamentally useful and with it can be integrated completely into your life. It’s what happens when tech geeks build solutions that are designed completely around the consumer. We’ve already seen how integrated phones have become to our everyday lives…and they are detachable (I think).

What inspires you?

The really great people we have in our industry. John Hegarty, Cindy Gallop, Rory Sutherland, and Dave Trott to mention a few. Whether it’s the passion they show or their acquired knowledge, their outlook makes me wish I worked in advertising a few decades back, and for them right now.

If you could share a desk with anyone, who would it be?

In a second, Malcolm Gladwell. In my view, ‘the one that got away’ for advertising. About 15 agencies turned him down as a graduate, yet he was a keynote speaker at Cannes last year. He is in my book (but more importantly the many books he’s written) the best planner around. He would be the most insightful desk partner ever. Hand him any brief to look over and he’d have a gem back to you within the week.

What’s your one piece of advice for young people looking to break into the industry?

Do whatever you can to get your foot in the door. Try to think about the whole thing differently. Just sending your CV to won’t do anything to make you stand out. And believe me, with top agencies like AMV receiving 1,000 applicants for 4 places, a standard cover letter just won’t do either.

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