Learn to hear the word ‘No’ often. Even if you don’t take to criticism too well, the nature of the advertising industry is all about getting used to constructive criticism and feeling defeated. You can come up with 50 different thumbnails and ideas and your boss/lecturer/art director may say “Meh, possibly…” to 2 or 3 ideas. You might be in love with an idea of yours and think it’s the greatest thing to ever come out of the marketing industry, but if your boss doesn’t like it, you might have to put it on the back burner for now. It’s hard at first, and you leave a few earlier classes teary-eyed, but it really does prepare you for the industry and toughens you up, makes you push yourself to your creative limits, and teaches you to think outside of the box.
Stick-figure thumbnails are perfectly fine. No one is expecting Picasso-like drawings when you first begin to brainstorm ideas. If you are gifted in the artistic department, great! Your workbooks are going to look gorgeous and you’ll probably have clear, to-the-point thumbnails that really capture what you’re trying to convey and the ideas in your brain. If not, that’s fine too! (Also, messy handwriting is acceptable as well.) Remember, it’s not about how pretty the ad looks, it’s about the idea behind it!
You’re gonna cry. You’re gonna stress. You’re gonna be exhausted. But you’ll get through it. Advertising, for me, was a very competitive major to get placement in. It still is, even with my golden ticket in-hand and being well into Semester One of my third and final year. I am exhausted and often overwhelmed, but still managing. Having a supportive team of friends and family behind me to remind me that I am doing well (even when I feel as though I’m failing miserably), talented (even when all my work seems average, cliche and certainly not presentable) and worked hard to get where I am (despite the tears close to assignment due dates) does wonders. Even if you just have a roommate who asks about your major, a friend online to rant to or a classmate to exchange ideas or words of encouragement, this will help you through. Everyone in your major (and everyone at college) feels the same way at some point in the year. Remember to treat yourself, to take breaks when needed, and remind yourself that you are awesome and kick-butt and will get through the bumps in the road.
Sometimes, less is more. It’s easy to get caught up in a billion different ideas that all seem great and mash them together to create a wonderfully chaotic artwork of a campaign, but you need to remember a) what you’re trying to sell b) who you’re trying to sell it to and c) you need to keep it clear and straight to the point. Be that one eye-catching ad, the piece of copy that makes you smirk, the tune people whistle on the street. Don’t make your target audience have to jump through hoops – strip back your ideas if need be and look at what is working in your idea and what is making people confused. Group feedback is great – be it in front of your class or with someone totally unrelated to the major. (These are often the best people to test your ideas on!) Ask them if they understand the message, what they think about your ad, how do they feel about what you’re portraying? Are they inspired to go out and use or purchase your product, or are they squinting at your work? Once you get your audience to nod their heads, you’re on the right track.
You are not an idea-spewing robot, and that’s perfectly alright. Taking a break and coming back to your work after a walk, an episode of your favourite tv show, a scroll through Facebook or having some lunch can freshen up your thinking and help you to concentrate on the task at hand. You never know what might inspire you or trigger a clever idea to use for a campaign.
The ‘finding the idea’ part is the hardest. The first part of creating an effective campaign or advertisement is the hardest. You can brainstorm and make lists and Google ridiculous puns all you like, but sometimes finding that ‘a-ha!’ moment is simply torture. Writers block will pay a visit. Blank pages with pens hovering will appear. You might even end up stammering through so-so ideas whilst your lecturer winces and looks at you with pity. But once you get a great idea and roll with it, everything will be much easier. Your eureka moment will come – be it in the shower, on the bus, at work, whilst playing Candy Crush, who knows? But it shall come, I promise, and you shall take it and roll with it and the inspiration, ideas, creativity and confidence will follow.
You are your own person! Your tutor will probably bang on about all their fantastic previous students and graduates who are doing wonderful things in the advertising industry and winning all the awards. Whilst this may seem like positive and motivating for some students, for others this might be disheartening. You have to remember that you are a unique student with unique ideas, experiences and talents, and you will excel in what you’re meant to excel in – be it advertising, or something else. Next year (or in those to come) your tutors will more than likely be singing praises about your years’ work to some wide-eyed majors fresh out of high school. Your words and ideas and creativity are tools that you can do so much with, and a lot of which will be unlike anyone else’s – and that is the key to cracking the world of advertising: originality.
And, finally, Advertising might not be the thing for you – and that’s okay! A degree can take you so many places other than just your major’s field, and you can use skills you’ve learnt within advertising for so many things: marketing, campaign strategy, sales, graphic design, creative writing, journalism, photography, editing, social media marketing, the list goes on! What matters is that you gave it a shot, persevered, and didn’t just breeze through a course for easy A’s. Give it blood, sweat, tears and effort, and you’ll reap the benefits of your hard work and well-earned degree!