When I started out, after a period traveling around the USA with a backpack, I decided to give this lark a proper go.
I found myself a writer out of Watford Copywriting school to partner with (I was very much an art director then) and Rob and I started to get a book together.
We had a rather short list, like many ambitious creatives, of where we wanted to work.
In the 80s GGT was the agency every young creative wanted to work at, the Droga 5, Adama & Eve DDB or Mother of its day. We even turned our nose up at JWT…JWT? who did we think we were!
What we never considered was going the Pharma route.
Not glam enough. No TV. Maybe that was it, but also we just never knew about it or saw anything it produced.
But what we needed were placements at agencies, a short internship that could get us some experience and a foot in the door.
Even today most agencies, consumer agencies at least, still get requests for placements from young teams and some agencies even have to put you on a waiting list, to work for them for free.
This was before minimum wage laws. We had to finance the placement ourselves and make up the shortfall by nicking all the markers and layout pads we could get our hands on. (Apologies to Y&R circa 1986)
But placements were also a way of networking, getting some briefs under our belt.
Rob and I did a hundred and ten ‘book crits’ with every hack in town and ten months trudging the streets before we got offered a job, I dare say it would take more these days.
But today when it’s harder than ever to get a foothold, why do creatives still avoid placements in pharma agencies?
Take a look at the work that’s happening in Cannes, Clios and the Creative Floor awards. Anyone involved in that kind of work would sail in to a decent consumer agency surely?
And yet, I’ve not really heard of any student teams looking in Pharma for a month’s placement.
Not one. Never even been asked.
Okay, the briefs are sometimes more tricky but the opportunities are there.
The way I see it (with hindsight) is that 90% of the placements creatives do in any agency, do not end up in a job anyway so what have you got to lose?
Everyone has the dream of being plucked by a top agency but like footballers if you stay too choosy you can miss out on some great football matches in the lower league and in doing so, improve your skills.
There’s a reason why the top clubs loan out their players to the lower leagues; to get experience.
So, if you are a young creative team looking for placements, would you rather be on that waiting list at BBH or AMV that might get bumped to next year or get a foot in the creative door and start making stuff?
If I had my time again, I might have at least taken a look.
But where to start?
Try doing what we did, scour the award websites, see which work you like and give them a call. ( ok, these days its an email or tweet!)
You never know, you might even like it.