After graduating with a degree in International Relations from Exeter in 2010, Elly started her first ad job just under a year ago at CafeCreate, a digital agency specialising in tech and finance brands. She's had the chance to work in project management, creative and strategy, but it’s planning that’s won her over and she's now looking for a full-time planning role in London. Elly likes writing, people-watching and banging on about ads. Feel free to follow her on twitter or email her and join in.
How did your career begin, tell us about your education and the first job you ever landed?
The first job I ever had was as an admin assistant at an acoustic engineering firm. Not exactly what I’d expected. But at the same time I was pretty chuffed to get a job in the heart of the recession that paid fairly and didn’t expect me to trade any organs on the black market (the intern horror stories came thick and fast at university). I worked my way up to Marketing Assistant and then realised there was something in the whole idea that excited me. I hadn’t really thought about working for an advertising agency at this stage and I spent the next couple of years working in a bank, a recruitment agency, a study trip in South Korea and then the e-commerce company, Wowcher.
What made you want to work in advertising?
I always have to say this with a caveat, but part of my motivation was to work out why people didn’t seem to like advertising much anymore. My mum used to enjoy lots of ads on the telly when she was young and so did I. But I often speak to people who are less than complimentary about the majority of ads we see on TV today. I wanted to learn what had changed and I wanted to be part of making ads that people find enjoyable and entertaining, whatever the medium. Beyond that, I’ve always loved writing, travelling, and trying to understand what motivates us as individuals. I’m very curious and have been interested in many different industries growing up so I wanted a career where that would be an advantage not a hindrance.
How did you clinch your first job in advertising?
I’m sure I’m not the only one to say this, but blogging was a large part of it. While I was working at Wowcher I really set my heart on getting into the industry. By that point I was sure it was what I wanted. I took advantage of Eventbrite and all of the other brilliant ways to attend industry events. Anything in the evening that was either free or affordable I’d go along to, be it PR, advertising or anything that seemed relevant. I inhaled great ad blogs like those from Ben Kay, Will Humphrey, the IPA and read books by Luke Sullivan, Jon Steel and The History of Advertising, etc. I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a planner or creative at this point, so I learned about both. Then I blogged about it all, my thoughts, campaign ideas, as much as I could. I knew some of my opinions would be rough around the edges but I just wanted to show and develop my thinking. I also knew I couldn’t afford to intern in London so I stalked CafeCreate, an independent agency in Oxfordshire, on Twitter until they gave in and let me do a week long placement. Luckily for me they then offered me a 3 month internship last October and I’ve been here ever since!
What’s been your most memorable moment or piece of work so far?
I’ve done some quite varied things. Probably the stand-out moment so far was interviewing a millionaire hedgefund trader! What’s your role and how might your typical day pan out? I’m the head of creative content. We’re a small team, which means I have to be versatile. I help with account management, research and planning, copywriting, social management and blogging.
How would you suggest a student or grad goes about landing a placement/work experience?
It can be tough if you’re coming from an unorthodox background (not that there is such a thing in advertising, virtually any profession and experience will prove valuable, whether you’ve studied advertising or not) but to me, the most important thing is proving your enthusiasm, curiosity and drive. Be active online: that’s a given. Work out what your best route to get experience is; grad schemes are great, but there are so many other ways in.
Advertising can be about who you know, but the beauty of that is it’s 2014, you have LinkedIn and a twitter account. As long as you’re nice and respectful of other’s time, you will be amazed how happy senior people in the industry can be to talk. Organise as many coffees as you possibly can, always follow up on a lead and always say thank you.
Where do you find inspiration?
The Tube/train journeys and walking to and from work always gives me time to think and get excited about ideas. Talking to people, wherever and whenever!
If you could share a desk with anyone, who would it be?
Freddie Mercury. Random I know but if anyone could inspire you surely it would be him! He also designed Queen’s logo so perhaps he would have been an ad creative in another life.
In your spare time, what do you get up to?
Writing – either my blogs or fiction – spending a lot of time in cafes, dance and currently a little too much Netflix (I’m finally working my way through Mad Men, about 5 years overdue)!
What wisdom would you pass onto others looking to break into advertising?
Don’t compare yourself to others too much. There’s no right way. You could have a YouTube channel with thousands of subscribers, or a large Twitter following say, or have racked up multiple internships, or you might not have done any of these things. Just be seen to be doing something. If you can demonstrate an interest and a desire you’re on the right path. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, remember. Oh, and don’t forget your other interests. Good advertising comes from all walks of life.
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