Why working in advertising still kicks ass

Andreas Krasser of DDB Hong Kong is a die-hard supporter of the advertising profession. Here he tells us why.

Recently I read a great piece by Tom Roach on ‘why advertising will never die,’ and how instead of taking aim, we should be dead proud of it. This is a sentiment I share to the fullest, which motivated me to write about why, despite what many disgruntled nay-sayers might claim, working in advertising is still one of the most exciting career paths one can choose.

OK, full disclosure, I might be a bit of an outlier. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work in advertising. As a small kid, I would sit in front of my parents’ TV, anticipating the ad breaks on German cable television because I loved playing speed-guess the brands. Moreover, I was fascinated by how they could tell funny, engaging, sometimes even sad stories in such a short timeframe.

Now, while I might be slightly biased, I’m not delusional. I very well know and acknowledge the hardships a job in our industry comes with. I’ve had my fair share of all-nighters, challenging clients and agency politics. Nevertheless, the good still outweighs the bad – maybe not in quantity, but certainly in quality. So, here are my top five reasons why working in advertising deserves a much better rap than it currently has:

1. You always learn something new
Working in advertising means that you will very likely get to work on multiple brands across multiple categories. One day you need to know about the quick-service industry, the next you need to study everything there is about investment funds, toothpaste, electric cars… the list is endless. Not only will you gain knowledge in a variety of fields, but you’ll also learn how to do so very quickly.

You’ll get to understand people, and how or if they care about the brands you work on. You’ll touch psychology, anthropology and technology all at once. You’ll learn about the power of words and images, how to build an argument, how to present that argument – and you’ll certainly become very proficient in PowerPoint (don’t we all love PowerPoint?)

Moreover, you’ll learn about brand and business strategy – you will understand how companies make money. All very transferrable skills, if you ask me.

2. You won’t be replaced by machines
Contrary to what some technology evangelists, innovation ninjas or digital gurus would like us to believe, creativity still is a uniquely human trade that no algorithm can copy. Don’t take my word for it, but take that of the world’s leading AI expert Dr Kai Fu Lee. Or take a look at the ‘AI Job Replacement Index,’ and you will see that working in the creative industries can also increase your future job security.

3. You can come as you are
I was always drawn to advertising because it seemed like an industry that didn’t care about who you were. It always felt like a beautiful collective of misfits coming together in their passion for creativity.

Working in advertising means that you will meet people from all walks of life, with extremely diverse personal as well as professional backgrounds. You’ll be exposed to different opinions and life stories – you will meet ex-lawyers who wanted to be more creative, former construction workers who always had a knack for words, people who just wanted to be able to wear jeans to work, chemists with a passion for the arts or college drop-outs who simply couldn’t wait to show their book. Experiences you can learn from, experiences that will inspire you and experiences that will widen your horizons.

All this leads to my next point…

4. You build genuine human connections
Being in the trenches together bonds you. Yes, you would argue, sometimes even fight, but at the end of the day, you realize this is happening because you all genuinely care about the work. And whatever the differences, whatever the dispute might have been about, once you collaboratively solved an impossible brief, while working against an impossible timeline, it’ll all be water under the bridge. The only thing that remains is camaraderie. And very often this camaraderie stands the test of job shifts, and more importantly, time.

5. You get to add value to people’s lives… sometimes
Everyone has heard of Sturgeon’s Law, that 90% of everything is crap. This holds true for working in advertising as well, but the trick is to make the remaining 10% worth the effort. Every year, you get your hands on one, maybe two briefs that deserve your wholehearted devotion. This doesn’t necessarily have to be pro-bono work or a project for social good. It can simply be about a brand trying to genuinely do something valuable for people, instead of trying to interrupt their lives or force their attention.

And once you produce work on the back of such a brief, you’ll feel an indescribable rush, you’ll feel an enormous amount of pride, and you’ll want to feel it again and again and again.

Admittedly, much of whether working in advertising is bliss or misery depends on the agency culture. So, it is up to agency leaders to make sure they create environments that are free from fear, environments that are open and accepting, allowing people to bring as much of themselves to work and inject as much of themselves into the work as possible. After all, advertising is not about inventories or supply chains, it’s about people. And this is what has always made working in advertising so great in the first place.

Andreas Krasser is chief executive officer of DDB Group Hong Kong. The article was originally published in The Drum in June 2022.

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