Will work for food...


By David Milligan-Croft, Creative Director / Strategist / Writer

October 13, 2011 | 4 min read

...And a six figure salary.

Okay, make it a high five figure salary, chuck in an iPhone, MacBook Pro, accommodation (if more than a 50 mile radius from sunny Manchester), health insurance, a car allowance, share options, a seat at the top table, and we've got a deal.

Anyone and everyone in the ad industry will be familiar with the concept of pitching for a client's business.

Nothing wrong with that. Personally, I get a buzz out of it.

But more and more frequently ad agencies are asking creatives to pitch for jobs.

Not satisfied with the contents of your portfolio and character, they are asking suitors to work on fictitious briefs.

Essentially: Try before they buy.

It has happened to me on four occasions.

Twice I've been offered the position, once I wasn't and once I refused to take part.

So a 66.6% success rate in this new form of interview probably isn't a bad statistic.

But why put anyone through it in the first place?

Do they think I have stolen the entire contents of my portfolio over the past twenty (ahem) years in the industry and that this test will either prove or disprove this fact?

Agencies continually bemoan the fact they have to pitch for business due to the amount of money and resources they consume, so why put potential employees through the same rigmarole?

Let's look at it from a practical point of view:

If you're already in a job, where are you going to find the time to spend on this spec brief?

A prospective employer might say that someone hungry for the job will work late into the night. Well, most creatives I know are already doing that in their present jobs.

There's a world of difference between a Copy Test and producing a full-blown creative presentation across multiple media channels, (the same process and quantity you would produce for an agency pitch) - but single-handed.

It's slightly different if you're a freelancer in the first place and can juggle your workload around a tad.

On the pitch / interview where I didn't get the job, I reckon I spent a full week over a three week period working on my presentation. Of course, the subconscious is also working on it over the full three weeks.

On the two that I was successful, it was probably about the same. A day's research, couple of day's concepts and a couple of day's pulling it together. (More concepts arriving on the 'putting it together' days.)

Typical media tactics were: TV; Posters; Press; DM; Online banners / Pop ups; Microsite; Collateral; Ambient / Guerilla; oh, and of course - an App.

And, to be honest, I quite enjoyed the process. As I said, I love doing pitches. But that's not the point.

I've made a few hires in my time and I didn't have to get them to answer a brief before I offered them a job. And I haven't regretted a single one. (In Chris Miller's case, I offered him the job before he could finish his cup of tea.)

If the CDs in question are such a poor judge of creativity and character why are they in the job in the first place?

You may say, if I'm that against it, why take part? And you'd be right. I think in the first instance, I needed a job. And second, I think it's a buyer's market. There are too many candidates applying for too few positions.

Would I do it again?

It would depend on who the job was with.

I'd be interested to get other people's views on this practice. I'm sure there are some CDs and MDs out there who think it's a great idea.

Now, if it's dressed up as a freelance gig and money changes hands, that's a whole different story.

I charge £350 per day, or £1,500 for the full week. That's a massive £250 discount!


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