Why people love it, and why they leave it. The advertising industry encompasses a multitude of specialized businesses, including public relations, marketing companies, media services, and advertising agencies. Although the industry is multi-faceted, its components have the common goal of persuading consumers, or their target audience, to purchase or support a product or service. Convincing the right way is where advertising agencies take the spotlight, and they play a crucial role in finding new and innovative ways to reach potential customers.
With the ever-changing demands of markets, there is no shortage of creative work coming out of the industry. Perhaps this fast-paced, dynamic environment is what sparks many to idolize advertising as a fun and exciting career.
Individuals often set their aspirations for a career in advertising based on television sensationalism and early praises of “you’re so creative.” In the end, many feel disillusioned when they realize the sacrifices that come with it and end up leaving without looking back. So, the question is: is advertising really for you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:
The Excitement of the Industry
It all starts with a love for writing and design—the brilliant copy, the captivating images, and how the two can mold together perfectly in ads to capture an audience. When this love fuels a passion that’s strong enough, it causes individuals to seek a career in advertising. In addition to the glitz and glamour of advertising, there are many additional aspects to love within the industry—which is what leads people to join in the first place. While the benefits below, among others, may hit all the checkmarks for aspiring advertisers, some will find their passion isn’t worth the sacrifices that are required to be successful.
1. Admiration For The Efforts Made By Advertisers
People are often enamored by how an ingenious idea was brought to life by advertisers. There is also a strong admiration for the efforts and meticulous planning that had to be made to ensure all aspects of an advertising campaign met the client’s needs.
2. A Creative Outlet
Many problem-solvers with creative minds are itching to get their creative juices flowing, especially when they have many ideas and nowhere to apply them. Working in a fast-paced industry that values creativity provides daily opportunities to bring those ideas to life. They’re able to craft the perfect solution for clients, and, in turn, satisfy that creative itch they’ve always had.
3. The Ultimate Satisfaction
It’s hard to develop a campaign that not only checks all the boxes of a client brief but also resonates strongly with the target consumer. However, when you do see this happen, the amount of satisfaction and pure bliss that comes from knowing you contributed to something this successful makes it very worthwhile.
4. Constantly Evolving, Always Learning
The market is always shifting, and the consumer’s needs and wants can change in the blink of an eye. Shifts like this make it hard to keep up, but this also always opportunities to learn about all sorts of processes and pick up new skills.
5. The Variety of Work
The variety of work in advertising is infinite. Each campaign is a clean slate. The bottom line is the topics are endless, and creatives can have fun with re-entertaining ideas that may not have been a good fit for other campaigns.
6. Networking Opportunities
Due to its collaborative nature, there are many opportunities to network with people from all sectors of industry. The relationships you establish and nurture can help you land new opportunities, give you a competitive edge, and often, be instrumental to your success in the industry.
7. A Unique Lifestyle
Flextime, cool office spaces, long lunches, stylish dress codes, fancy cars, awards, industry reputation, bars in the office, directing commercials, are all realistic and great attributes of the industry. We sit around all day brainstorming and coming up with ideas on how to solve marketing challenges for clients. We don’t make widgets; we are literally paid to think, strategize, and be creative.
The Challenges of the Industry
Even though the advertising can be rewarding, the industry does demand a lot of commitment, and the pressure of deadlines can be overwhelming. It’s also a business that requires thick skin because your ideas are not always met with enthusiasm from clients. You’re not making “art,” you’re solving challenges for companies that drive the right opportunities to their front door. Advertising is a business that has to make money, which means you can’t spend months on end developing ideas for one campaign. Time is money, and if you can’t produce quickly, consistently, and with high quality, you won’t be in the industry for long.
1. Ethical Boundaries Undefined
Remember, the main goal of advertising is to convert the target audience to customers. In order to do so, you’ll be contributing to advertisements that may misrepresent the product to the consumers by only focusing on the best features and ignoring negative features. You’ll also have to make decisions to push things forward based on budgets and delivery schedules rather than the highest quality of work. Moral dilemmas such as these can be challenging for many people.
2. Not Always a “Creative” Industry
There will be cases where you’re encouraged to be creative, but as Leon Jacobs, Executive Creative Director of Boondoggle says, only to the extent of what the client wants. In other words, your creative freedom is limited by the box that the client puts you in before even starting the brainstorming process. There’s really no way around it, as the client’s needs come first in this industry.
3. Not Always “Fun”
One of the best features of advertising is that there are lots of opportunities to work on many different projects and topics. Some will be new, some you may love to work on, and some may conflict with your beliefs. Unfortunately, even if the topic isn’t something you’re thrilled with, if that’s a client the agency believes in, you’ll have to set your beliefs aside and work with them.
4. Have to be Aggressive
With so many other creatives aspiring to succeed in advertising, you can bet that they will come strong with their ideas to win the pitch. Being shy and timid does not get you far in this industry, so you must learn to have thick skin and pitch all your ideas with absolute confidence. You will also have to learn not to take it personally if one of your ideas gets rejected. It’s a feast and famine business that flows like the tide in the ocean. Also, with many agencies, when low tide hits and you lose a large client, you may lose your job.
5. Low Compensation at First
Individuals entering the advertising industry should be prepared for a small paycheck, at least for the first year or so. There is a significant wage gap between entry-level positions of advertising agencies versus tech companies, and some, understandably, find that a turn off. The reason for this is, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” As much as you’ve learned in school, entering the field of advertising for the first time is like starting school all over again.
6. High Pressure
Clients can be demanding and impatient, and as a result, many projects become very stressful. On top of having short deadlines, last-minute changes close to deadline are also inevitable. The worst part is you may end up taking the heat if a campaign flops and a client pulls out. With all this pressure, it can be hard to come up with great ideas even if you are naturally creative. Since this is a business, creative on demand is expected at times and all though important; it is a very small piece of the big picture.
7. Long Hours and Weekends
Again, with the short deadlines and demanding nature of the job, you may never feel like you have enough time. A lot of people end up having to work long hours and over the weekends in order to finish everything they have scheduled. The office becomes the place you spend the most time, and your social life may become non-existent. Although this doesn’t happen all the time, it will happen, and you usually find out last minute.
Leaving the Industry
Even after assessing the good and the bad, some people still choose to stay with the industry, as the advertising lifestyle can be intoxicating. With that said, even seasoned advertisers may end up leaving the industry for good.
Kate Robertson, the co-founder of One Young World and former Chairman and Global President of the Havas Group, believes that the advertising industry is a “young person’s game.” With the high stress, long hours, and constant need to come up with fresh ideas, after many years the work can take a toll on the body.
Other times, people leave out of no fault of the industry, but a shift in priorities. They once entered the advertising industry with a fiery passion and ambition to climb the ranks, but now want to settle down and spend more time with their family. With that said, no one can definitively say if advertising is “good” or “bad,” but rather, it ultimately depends on whether it suits you or not.
To all our seasoned agency colleagues, thanks for keeping the love of our industry alive. We’re here because our passion never wavered, and it’s provided us with experiences that have made us extremely good at our craft. When you see a passion for creativity in our youth, encourage them to pursue our industry, but also illuminate them on what it really takes to live the dream.