So, you want a placement?

Chas Bayfield | 24 February 2014

It’s funny. No one emails or calls, then your work gets featured in Adweek and suddenly things heat up. In the last month, we’ve been approached by creatives from Serbia, Romania, Portugal, France, Australia and all points north south east and west. The one thing that all these hopefuls have in common is that they want to work at Noah – or so their emails tell me.

The ad industry depends on highly talented young creative. One of the favourite things I get to do is to look through their work. I love finding raw talent and coaching it, which is why I feel the need to write this blog.

All the students who got in touch are talented. None stands out but even when I worked for a top London agency, very few brilliant students came our way and the ones that did are shining bright – step up Joe d’Souza at Karmarama, Ben and Emer at Adam&Eve and Remco at Mcgarrybowen.

The first rule of placements is to choose your agency well. When I started out, there was no email, just the Royal Mail and the phone. Jim Bolton (now joint ECD at CHI) and I simply looked at the ads we liked and got in touch with the people who made them by, wait for it, phoning them. Much has changed since then and email means that a portfolio can now be sent for a CD to scrutinize at leisure. Or ignored.

One thing unites all the creatives who have got in touch with me – a complete lack of personalisation to their email. Some even revert to formulaic language such as (shudder) ‘solution focused’ and ‘team player’. Despite all of them wanting to work at Noah, not one demonstrates that they know any of Noah’s work, have read any of Noah’s blogs or tweets or visited Noah’s website. Their emails appear to be generic, one-size-fits-all mailers sent out to hundreds of agencies with the agency name changed where appropriate. 

Going back to my own student experience, I saw an ad for the fizzy drink, Tango and TV and decided to call the creative team at HHCL that did the work (Al Young and Trevor Robinson, both now at Inferno). They liked us enough to get our book in front of Steve Henry and Axel Chaldecott, ECDs of HHCL. Steve and Ax gave us a two week placement which lasted eight months before turning into a job. Four years later, we were writing Tango ads of our own.

Lastly, if you live in Serbia, or Switzerland, or Melbourne, get over here. It sounds like a ridiculous risk but it’s far riskier trying to secure work from thousands of miles away. No one is going to look at your student book online and hire you. Give up on that dream. Get on a plane, get a job in a bar by night and work at your book by day. Ring people up, locate your heroes, pester them, take their advice and if you’re good enough, someone will make a pit of desk space for you for a couple of weeks. The rest is up to you.