Check out some great work from Ted Royer.
TR: What impresses me most are smart business ideas, not just funny ads. If a student can show that he or she has thought about the real business needs of that company, then I’ll know they have the kind of brain that can do exciting work. It’s one thing to be clever and communicate something well, it’s entirely another to show me you can push a client to change the way they do business or to truly change a consumer’s behavior.
What I don’t look for is work that has already been produced, unless it’s great. No CD gives a crap that you got something made unless it’s exactly the type of work you want to make. I want to see where you want to go, not where you’ve been.
In the best interview with students I ever had, two guys walked in and put their book in front of me. I opened it. The first idea was a huge, business-changing idea. The second was almost as good. I closed the book and offered them a job right then and there.
WS: How important is finish? If ideas are the most important thing, can sketches be enough? Do you look at physical books anymore, or is it all websites?
TR: Depends on what job you’re going for, but again, I want to see thinking and intention. Having said that, the polish I see now in books is really high. And I almost never see physical books. It’s all websites and iPads. But sketches can definitely be enough. I hired one team because they had a website to which they added one idea a day that they would crudely sketch up. Sometimes the ideas were crap, sometimes great, sometimes just ridiculous. But the whole thing was charming, and again, showed me their passion.
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WS: What do you think of showing work that is not advertising?
TR: Perfectly fine, and in some cases fantastic. Again, I want to know you and what kind of work you’re dying to do. I pick directors not just on the basis of what they’ve done but on what they are dying to do—that way you know you’ll get passion. Where’s your passion?
One guy I hired had a technical blueprint of Noah’s Ark in his book. He tried to fit in every animal. It was the size of a monster cruise ship. Had nothing to do with advertising, but the thinking was hilarious. Another showed me a book he had made for his mom on her 65th birthday. Made me feel like a bad son, it was so good. The point is, I got to see what these guys were capable of when they were truly passionate.
WS: Do you have any other advice for a student or junior trying to get into the business?
TR: It’s tough, I know. Cold calling or writing isn’t effective. Making some attention-getting mailer may be funny but also may just be annoying. Persistence and focus on your goal—there’s no substitute for that.
Keep your head up. Just because you don’t have a job and the guy next to you just got one doesn’t mean you suck, it just means he got a job. I stressed so much in school my last quarter because other people were getting jobs that I would wake up at 5 a.m. and go running. I don’t run. I hate running. But I thought someone’s gain was my loss. And looking back, I should have realized what they were doing didn’t matter—all I really had to do was stay focused on my goal.