How to get a job in advertising: Simply 'follow your heart', says Jam/Engine's Wayne Deakin

What does it take to make it in the creative industries? The Drum and Twist Recruitment catch up with executive creative director at Jam/Engine, Wayne Deakin, who advises ‘follow your heart’ rather than just doing what’s expected of you.

Interview by Twist Recruitment, words by Katie McQuaterFollowing your heart, pursuing your own creative interests and ensuring your work is polished are all essential aspects of nailing a job in advertising, according to Wayne Deakin, ECD at Jam/Engine. As careers in the creative industries go, Deakin’s has been far from ordinary. The Australian started out down under and, during a career that has spanned over 20 years, has gone from roles at creative agencies including Saatchi’s, Leo Burnett and McCann’s, to a stint at Jung von Matt in Germany where he worked on campaigns for Mercedes and Smart, to his current role at Jam/Engine. After being headhunted to join Jam in 2011, Deakin became responsible for building the agency’s creative presence, a task he describes as “a bit weird” as he had made the move from a large creative agency to a small agency that didn’t have a traditional creative department. Nevertheless, Deakin has gone on to build a team comprising creatives, designers and developers to create what he calls a “bit of a mash up” of varying expertise, helping to build Jam into the 100-strong agency it is today in the process. He’s quite clear on what it takes to pursue a career in the advertising industry, saying that those looking for a break shouldn’t try to mould themselves into the role of a traditional advertising creative, for example, just because they think it’s expected of them. “Follow your heart. Follow things that you are interested in. If you truly pursue your creative interests, in whatever medium you like, then you’ll get a good gig,” he says. “Don’t try to force yourself into a role when you’re maybe slightly different – don’t go against that flow,” he adds, before explaining that his own responsive approach to hiring has led him to employ people of all different backgrounds. “I don’t necessarily hire lots of traditional creatives, and I find that some of the most interesting people I’ve worked with are people who have come from diverse backgrounds and have followed their passion and somehow ended up in that industry.” Craft is also hugely important when it comes to standing out in an age of digital disillusion and commercial saturation, according to Deakin, who explains why craftsmanship has always attracted him to the industry. “In the digital age it’s so easy to be instantaneously online or out there, and forget about the quality of work. If you look back to the CDP days, the craft’s always been there, and I think great craftspeople produce great work.” Understanding the principles of craft, and how it can aid the idea, is key to any burgeoning creative’s toolkit, but is often overlooked in favour of rushing through the idea. So whether your specialism is copywriting, photography or art direction, he opines that it’s important to understand the other principles of craft and take these on board. He says: “I’m a writer but I still look at art direction, I still look at design. These are tools that any creative professional needs to take on board and use – it’s just another arsenal in your kit, basically.” Once the basics of that kit are right, then, and only then, can the rules be broken, he states. Thinking about things in different ways is perhaps exemplified by Deakin’s move from a traditional creative background into the digital arena. He is inspired by markets like Brazil, which aren’t held back by the hierarchy of traditional advertising versus digital existing in more established markets. “They haven’t had to grow up with the social class system of above the line, below the line, whatever the line. Fuck the line. I think everything is basically blurring and I like the fact the Brazilian agencies just go in and tackle things in a totally unique new way – they’re full of passion.” His favourite advertising campaign of all time – the Red Bull Stratos jump, which featured Felix Baumgartner plummeting towards earth in a dangerous stunt that had never been pulled off before – isn’t an ad, so to speak, but Deakin admires the coverage it created for the brand. “They ended up getting an hour long slot on the BBC here, on the NBC and all those other channels around the world. An hour-long piece of content was created out of the back of it. Who wouldn’t want an hour long ad about their brand, their ethos and their values?”Every day of agency life is a challenge for Deakin, something he relishes, along with the enviable task of bringing ideas to life. He’s happy not to be “out digging holes in the road” and instead creating ideas in an industry he describes as a “bullshit world”. “We’re fortunate enough to be in the position to have an idea, and then to watch that idea get born, and developed, and grown, and set free, in a way, so we’re lucky,” he says. “We live in a bullshit world where we can make our ideas come true.”Deakin rounded the interview off with a quick-fire question round.Cannes Lions or D&AD pencil? I prefer the weather in Cannes, so Cannes Lion Olympic gold medal or an Oscar? Gold medal Brightest person you’ve worked with?Bill Bristow, my first creative director. Ex-New York Mad Men type who started an agency in Australia called BCM. A super bright guy who used email before email was even popular. Best looking person?I did an ad with Elle Macpherson, does that qualify? Creatives or suits?Creatives Apple or Android?Apple fan boy Degree or no degree?The university of life Art director or copywriter?Copywriter Retained work or pitch work?Retained Web or mobile?Mobile, because everything is mobile Independent agencies or networked?Networked agencies that act like independents Don Draper or Roger Sterling?I do like Don Draper. I shouldn’t, but I do Twist or stick?TwistYou can view the latest jobs in advertising, design, digital media, PR and marketing by visiting The Drum's job sectionThis article was first published in the 22 January edition of The Drum magazine, available now from The Drum Store.

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