Top tips from industry leaders to get ahead in Adland

©Jack Woodhouse -

The Dots recently hosted their second Advertising Portfolio Masterclass at the world-renowned Advertising HQ of BBH London.

This was to give up-and-coming Art Directors, Copywriters and Creative teams the chance to get their work reviewed by some of the UK’s most respected Creatives.

Whilst we had these brilliant creative minds in our reach, we thought it would be a pretty good idea to ask them for insights on the elusive world of Advertising, and they didn’t fall short on helpful advice!

What are your Portfolio Tips?

Let Your Ideas Shine

“My portfolio tips are very simple, and the most important thing are the ideas” Paco Conde (Group Creative Director, BBH London).

Know your audience!

It’s important to gauge the reaction of the person your presenting to. With some mentors loving to hear your thinking behind every project and others preferring for the work talk for itself. Top tip would be to watch their eyes. If they start glazing over when you talk, preferring to look at your portfolio then stop talking and let them focus.

Caroline Pay (Deputy Executive Creative Director & Managing Partner, BBH London) says, “I’ve only got one main portfolio tip and that is to let your work speak for itself. Too often students come and have to voiceover everything to make it make sense. I would make sure you make your work incredibly simple and self-explanatory. And you know, easy to understand within the first three seconds.”

With this in mind be sure your portfolio tells the story behind your ideas, as you might not get the opportunity to talk them through.

What are your top tips for getting ahead in the industry?

Be original

It’s a point that is made time and time again from the amazing Mentors at our Portfolio Masterclasses and rightly so – why would you be hired over the next person if you were simply regurgitating existing ideas.

Roberto Fernandez (Group Creative Director, BBH London) told us that creatives should “try to surprise & come up with different kinds of ideas that don’t look like that kind of ideas that I can already see in the industry”. To do this, he said that you’ve got to “be wide open to new possibilities”, whilst Hollie Newton (ECD, Sunshine) backed this, suggesting, “if I was a creative looking to get into the industry now, I would be looking at everything that doesn’t seem like advertising”.

Be inquisitive and allow other mediums to inform your work – it may just lead to something!


To get ahead in the industry Daniel Fisher (Deputy Executive Creative Director, adam&eveDDB) told us that it’s super important to “go out and see as many people as possible. Take on as many opinions as possible”. Attending events and other networking opportunities is a fun and easy way to not only make contacts, but to also get a huge insight into the Advertising world. It’s also really useful to take on a variety of thoughts and opinions from others as this will massively help you to think outside the box.

Get yourself a Mentor

The advice from Rosie Arnold (Deputy Executive Creative Director, BBH London) is “if there’s somebody who’s opinion you respect then try and form a relationship with that person because that will help you:

A) Get a friend in the agency

B) Get the most fantastic portfolio

And C) hopefully secure you a Mentor!“

Apply to the Agency right for you

Before you go hitting the send button on a blanket email to all the agencies – do a ton of research, talk to your piers and work out where you truly want to be. It’s not just about being based in a cool area, or working on the biggest brands. There are so many factors you’ve got to consider. If you get the ingredients right you’re sure to have longevity with an agency and most importantly – be happy!

Charlene Chandrasekaran (Creative, BBH London) summed this up perfectly, “it’s so important you think about where you want to work. It’s about the culture, the kind of work you want to be producing, the kind of people you want to work with”.

Caroline Pay suggested that people should absorb as much work as possible and “when you see work that makes you seethe with jealousy, find out who did it and go and work for them”.

It’s that simple!

What type of work/campaigns should creatives be aware of?

Paco Conde illuminated that creatives should “make the most of the new technologies and the new channels that are opening up”. Question how are they influencing our daily lives, where are the trends, what will my audience respond to? Brendan Stephens (Creative Director, MOO) revealed to us, “video is something that really captures my attention a lot. I think for a lot of us you see it on preroll you see it on adds now – even a bit of the cinemagraph that’s going on.”

Our day-to-day lives are continuously influenced by digital media whether we’re aware of it or not. When responding to a brief explore which channels are out there then create ideas that play to the channels strengths, not the other way around. There’s nothing worse than not thinking your ideas through and having to adapt a watered down version for a digital output.

Hamish Pinnell (Creative Director/Partner, BBH London) told us “there’s definitely a trend now to be part of an experience of some sort” which Beto strongly agreed with, suggesting that, “you have to be seeing the things that people are relating to… whatever it is”.

So to sum it up – let your work do the talking while you network your socks off, do your research, bag a mentor and create tangible experiences if you want to win the hearts and minds of your consumers and industry leaders.

What are you waiting for? Get out there!

If you are looking to meet and get first hand advice from leading Mentors, find out about The Dots’ next Portfolio Masterclass here:

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