Posted 29 August 2019

How to get into advertising from ​the team behind VCCP’s Ad School

It’s no secret that having some kind of experience helps in getting your foot in industry doors. The quality of that experience, however, can vary. VCCP’s Ad School was set up five years ago in a bid to change that. Offering emerging creatives the chance to understand how an agency actually works, over five days the renowned ad agency runs jam-packed timetables of talks, delivered by industry professionals on the various departments and roles in an agency. Many of the so-called Ad Schoolers even go on to secure full-time positions at VCCP itself across a broad range of roles, armed with their new-found wealth of advertising knowledge. Here, we pick the brains of the pros behind the scheme to find out more about their jobs, and what advice they have to offer those looking to get into the business.

Inside VCCP

Account director at VCCP, Anna Fotheringham

What does an account director do?
As a ‘suit’ you map out and contribute to the entire process of a campaign whilst managing and working collaboratively with a client. I love the challenge of getting a brief, having absolutely no idea how to tackle it or how it will end up, but getting there by sourcing all the knowledge from the various specialists living under one agency roof.

What skills are most essential to the job?
Honing your diplomacy skills – it’s important to be able to find a compromise and agree a way forward. You might want to throw your toys out of the pram too, so biting your tongue and maintaining a level head is key.

What resource do I recommend?
The digital section of Campaign. Yes the TV ads seem sexy, but having your finger on the pulse on the latest digital innovation and creative articulations behind this will help differentiate you from the rest.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
Ad school! A shameless plug but (having used it as my own entry to the industry) it truly is invaluable in getting a whirlwind tour of all the various roles in an agency, making contacts and establishing the foundations you need to confidently pitch yourself in ad land interviews.

Planner at VCCP, Lucy Allen

What does a planner do?
My job is to represent the consumer in the creative process. What that means is I act as the bridge between a client’s business needs and the needs of their target audience. It involves asking a lot of questions, thinking creatively about how to solve a business problem with an advertising answer, and working with creative teams to make sure their ideas are going to have the right impact.

What skills are most essential to the job?
A colleague once told me “Planners should be the most interesting people to talk to at any dinner party.” And it’s true! All great planners are ferociously curious about the world around them. It’s important to have interests outside of advertising that keep you in touch with what’s going on in culture.

What resource do I recommend?
Subscribe to interesting newsletters for updates into adland. Only Dead Fish [a blog and digital media and marketing consultancy run by Neil Perkin] writes Weekly Fish Food which is a favourite of mine as it throws together interesting miscellaneous tidbits each week that would otherwise be easily missed.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
Meet as many people who do the job you’re looking for as possible. Try to go along to free talks or strategist meet-ups, and put yourself out there. These do tend to happen in cities, particularly London, but if you’re not already in a city try reaching out to planners you admire on Twitter or LinkedIn. You’d be amazed how much people are willing to speak to you if you just reach out! And if you have your eye on a particular advertising agency, investigate whether they have any work experience programmes that you could apply for.

No place to call home – Compare the Market TV ad by VCCP

Managing director at VCCPme, Louise Morgan

What does a managing director do?
I work alongside my peers to deliver the agency vision and direction; and drive new business. I get to work with some of the most talented people in the industry and even at my age, I’m still learning. Having fun in the workplace is important to me as you spend so much time in the office. Plus, I love all the disciplines involved, data, tech, creative and so on.

Part of my job is also to ensure a high happiness score amongst our people, and an even higher happiness score with our clients. What I love most of all is happy, motivated teams. You are only as good as your team, someone once told me years ago and that is very true. I love to see people happy to walk through the door every morning and nurturing and growing future talent is very satisfying.

What skills are most essential to the job?
Communication – ensure you are a chameleon; you need to be able to get the best out of everyone so the ability to flex your personality, especially in client service, is key!

What resource do I recommend?
I don’t think there is one source, information is everywhere – you need to be curious. Mentors are a great source of learning and growing – I still have one today.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
Ensure what you are striving for is what you are passionate about – everything else will fall into place!

Founder of Naked Eye, VCCP’s sister company , Nick Leon

What does an ethnographer do?
I head up Naked Eye, a video ethnographic research company. We are a team of researchers and VR filmmakers that specialise in uncovering insights, using video to show you what people are doing, thinking and VR to transport you to their world. We work alongside our sister agency VCCP Health in London.

What skills are most essential to the job?
Documentary filmmaking is an excellent skill for this type of job. Done well, it captures and represents the nuances of everyday life – essential for ethnography projects.

What resource do I recommend?
The Field Study Handbook by Jan Chipchase.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
A degree in anthropology or a related social science is helpful alongside passion project, or other work you have taken on off your own back that explores culture and human behaviour.

Mum’s Birthday – Cadbury's ad by VCCP

Associate creative director at VCCP , Pete Bastiman

What does an associate creative director do?
At the top of an agency you have an executive creative director (ECD), who oversees every piece of creative work and ensures it’s of the highest possible standard when it goes out the door. Under that, you have creative directors (CDs), who steer the creative teams’ ideas and help get them to the best place they can be – a place that not only the ECD will like, but the client too. Then there’s my role. As an associate creative director (ACD), I come up with creative ideas and work with the CDs. I’m trusted to look after a couple of smaller accounts and take some briefs and jobs off the CDs to ease their workload and have creative teams work with me.

I love my role because I still get to think up ideas, but I also have the responsibility of looking after some work. For a creative, coming up with original thoughts and seeing them through to fruition is by far the best bit. We get to think of ideas, sometimes crazy ones, and we get paid to do it. Brilliant.

What skills are most essential to the job?
An open mind.

What resource do I recommend?
If there’s one thing any creative should read, it’s the D&AD annuals. Every year the best work in the world is judged, and the very best pieces get into the these books which have been published every year for over 30 years. I tell all young creatives to look through them, pore over the pages and ask themselves “What makes that good?” By doing this young teams understand what makes a good piece of work and, more importantly, the thinking involved to create it.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
There are many ways young creatives have tried to get their feet in the door over the years – gimmicks, some good, some very bad. This is a fine line and you can get it wrong because you don’t know the recipient’s sense of humour. The best way is to come up with several bits of work to show your thinking. That is what you’ll get hired on, not a gimmick.

Squads – ad for Domino’s by VCCP

Head of technology at VCCP, Mark Sweatman 

What does a head of technology do?
I’m responsible for the development team at VCCP. We love solving challenging technical problems and are specialists at creating loveable user interfaces and integrating them into cloud-based websites, apps, and platforms that we develop using a range of different tools and tech.

What skills are most essential to the job?
The best developers don’t just know one or two programming languages, they understand many and can adapt to new technologies or ways of working with ease. Technology is always evolving so it’s important to keep learning new tools and techniques.

What resource do I recommend?
Stack Overflow is a great place for new and seasoned developers to seek help and share their knowledge with the global community.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
Even if you are just starting out, make sure you have a portfolio of code you can share. Whether it’s projects you’ve worked on previously or demos you’ve created while you learn, we love to take a look under the hood and see the inner workings of tech you have created.

Account director at VCCP Kin, Anna Skinner

What does an account director do?
As an account person you are the client’s go-to. You are the consistent point between internal and external teams and need to be able to manage both teams smoothly to ensure the best work gets out the door. My favourite part of being an account director is the number of people you get to work with on a daily basis from different walks of life.

What skills are most essential to the job?
You need to understand what it takes to manage a group and organise lots of moving parts. Account management is essentially relationship management (whether that's internally or externally). Therefore, having experience managing a team comes in handy.

What resource do I recommend?
There are so many websites out there – The Drum is a great place to start.

A tip for getting a foot in the door
Be hungry: Turn up on time (if not early), be enthusiastic, be interested, ask questions, reach out to people at that agency by messaging them on LinkedIn asking for a chat.


The Drum
Stack Overflow
D&AD annuals
The Field Study Handbook by Jan Chipchase
Weekly Fish Food – a newsletter written by Only Dead Fish [a blog and digital media and marketing consultancy run by Neil Perkin]


Find out more about how to join VCCP here, and read more on their blog here.

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