Tips to get into an ad agency: Copywriter words from Karmarama

This weeks interview is with Paul Bailey, Copywriter for Karmarama, an agency known for their fun, engaging work. Their client list ranges from Costa and Honda to the BBC, Plusnet and Bombardier. If you’re interested about Paul’s tips to get into an ad agency or becoming a Copywriter, have a read to see how Paul did it and what he’s got to say.

Having previously worked at Mother and McCann London (to name but a few), Paul has the experience and insider insight that not many get in his position; being that he only left university two years ago. Opportunities such as that don’t come around to everybody, but only to those who are willing to work for it and prove themselves. In this interview Paul and I discussed how he finally made it into the ad industry, what it takes, what Karmarama look for from future Copywriters and what tips to get into an ad agency he would offer.

1. What’s your day to day role?

My official role is a Junior Copywriter at Karmarama, but my Creative Partner and I didn’t really have the traditional ad school background to define our roles, so we both share the Copywriting and Art Direction between us. The main accounts we’ve worked on so far (we’ve only had a job for 3 months mind) have been BBC 6 Music, B&Q, blinkbox, Pilgrims Choice and Bombardier Beer.

2. How did you get to where you are now?

My partner and I both studied Graphic Design at Kingston. Advertising wasn’t really the plan at first, but the course was really conceptual and there was loads of problem-solving briefs, so it led well into advertising. We then both took part in the IPA Ad School, which was a really good way to get a foot in the door – we learnt loads about the industry and used contacts we made to get our first book crits. Our first big placement was at Mother, which took us a good year to get! But after that I think agencies took us a bit more seriously and it wasn’t too long before we got the gig at Karmarama.

“It’s all about persistence. Some of it felt like a waste of time, but everything we did got us where we are now.”

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced to get where you are now?

There was a long time between finishing uni and getting the placements we wanted. There was a lot of going back and forth to agencies with work and never really feeling like we were getting anywhere. But it’s all about persistence and even though some of it felt like a waste of time, everything we did got us where we are now.

4. What do Karmarama look for in a book?

I guess one thing which possibly made our book stand out from others was the variety of work, we didn’t really have any campaigns in it. There were a few one-off ads, but the majority was just fun projects that had good ideas behind them and nicely executed stuff from our Graphic Design days. Creative Directors can recognise a good idea when they see it, whether it’s executed as an advert or not, so to cut the waffle, my advice would be to have a book full of variety, rather than endless b+w scamped campaigns.

5. Are there any steps you would recommend to becoming a Creative?

Do the IPA Ad School and use every shred of a connection you have to get book crits. Try and be smart about who you see, we saw a load of teams who were great for giving advice and crafting our book, but when our book was finally good and ready, they weren’t the ones who could get us placements. You’ve got to see the top dogs.

Key points to take away

Paul and his Creative Partner are true examples that you don’t have to have an advertising degree to get your foot in the door. If you’ve got the passion and the ideas then that’s all that matters. All you need to do is be persistant and prove yourself the people that matter. It’s not an easy industry to get into – don’t forget it took Paul a whole year just to land his placement at Mother – so whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep at it and show agencies you’re serious.

My second point would be to definitely get a variety of work to show off in your book, design work, get briefs, create briefs. Show off your skill set and your ideas, as Paul said, Creative Directors know a good idea when they see one, so get them down on paper, even if you’re not overly happy with the execution.

Finally, my last point for tips to get into an ad agency is that I think you should take away is to network! Paul and his partner made some incredibly important contacts via the IPA Ad School; whether you enroll in that yourself or you attend industry events, make friends, make contacts and get your name seen by the right people. Sometimes it can be a case of who you know, not what you know.