Writing the best “please hire me at your ad agency” cover letter (internship applications 101)

Actual screen shot from search of advertising agency cover letters on Google. Only one image stands out.

In the land of ad agency cover letters, what stands out?

You are selling yourself to people who sell things for a living.

Make every word count.

Leave out all the stuff about being a team player, or motivated. Actions speak louder than words. Show us that you not only want to work for us, but that you actually took the time to learn about us.

Some actual cover letters (painful examples):

“To the Next Wave Team,

As a (Insert your majors) Studies major, I have taken it upon myself to seek out opportunities that aim to integrate my knowledge into practical application. With that, I feel that your open internship position would be a worthwhile endeavor to expand my skills and tailor them to the objectives that best serve the The Next Wave.”

Rule #1 – Make it Personal

Find out names of the people you are approaching. This isn’t an ad to the masses, it’s an ad to a real live person at a unique firm. Do your research.

“Hello, my name is (your name) and I believe that I could be a huge asset to your team. I am a graduate of (Insert Favorite) University with a degree in (some related field) and extensive experience in (skill 1) and (skill 2).”

Rule #2 – Know your Audience

What you think is great, sure, but what I think is all that matters. Talking about your school or your experience might be great, but there are legions of people who can say the exact same thing.

“As a confident, articulate and goal-driven production professional with (X)+ years of experience, I am an ideal candidate for this role with The Next Wave. I am a creative problem solver with a demonstrable record of helping organizations meet their goals. My positive attitude, world-class work ethic, and attention to detail have helped me succeed in a variety of operational projects. I take my work seriously and approach every undertaking with enthusiasm, diligence, and positivity.”

Rule #3 – Show, Don’t Tell

This one is important. Instead of talking about skills you think you have, demonstrate them. Your cover letter is an introduction, your resume the reference guide, and your portfolio should be the shizzle/sex appeal/show.

Not that we love to have our ego stroked, but, demonstrating a knowledge of the firm you are applying to says more about how you approach a client than how you get a job. If you want to sell BMW that you are the person who has the skills necessary increase BMW motorcycle sales, the cover letter is where it starts. Same thing with selling yourself to us, or anyone.

Make it easy for us to see that you know something about our firm, our culture, our clients, and how you will be an asset.

This example is overkill, but, when Chase Zreet, who was trying to get a job at Wieden+Kennedy to work on the Sprite account he did a whole video, with real production values. This is what your competition looks like:

Of course he got the job. Even the client noticed.

Getting noticed in this business is our business. Lawson Clarke may or may not be a great copywriter, but he got a lot of attention as the “Naked Copywriter”– and his site, www.malecopywriter.com

Go visit. You decide, is this the guy you would want coming up with your next campaign? Should you be hiring him to help you get the job you think you’re worthy of?

His campaign for a job came out in 2009. I still remember it.

AdWeek magazine has a helpful post: 9 Tips for landing your first job at an advertising agency. Hint, a lot of it applies to your second and third jobs at an agency as well. Other than Lee Clow (2 agencies) and Alex Bogusky (1 agency) most of you will do some job hopping.

So, key takeaways: The cover letter shows you know something about your target market (the agency you are applying to), you have some unique or interesting insight or skills, that will help them make money if they hire you, and it’s memorable. Some people think this means delivering your message like a stunt- wrapping it around a sandwich, which may be attention getting, but, I’m more inclined to be impressed with something that can spread, cost effectively, like both of the job pitches above. You aren’t going to buy the masses sandwiches to buy your product.

Your portfolio, speaks for itself. Including a client brief summaries , as well as Key Performance Indicators Met are the only additions to the work.  The work should speak for itself. Clearly state what your part was in the project. Don’t show work others did without giving proper credit.

Resume: Clean and simple. Where you worked, what you did, what you learned. Include hobbies, interests, because, well, interesting people work in advertising. Even working at Burger King can be valuable, if the agency is working on a fast food account- if you can share insight you gained while working there.

And, lastly, make sure your resume has your name in the file name. Make sure it’s a PDF. If you have links in it- make sure they work. There is nothing worse than saying, “i want to look at that Bogusky kid’s portfolio again” and you search your computer for a file with his name attached that was named “My 1989 ad portfolio.” Sorry Alex,

Now, go get ’em killer.

note: I’d asked Alex Bogusky to review this post in an earlier form, and it went tangential, and the post got a re-write. But, here is the advice the Creative Director of the Decades gives:

The advice I give kids is pick three place that you would die to work at. Learn everything you can and do everything you can to weasel in from every angle.

1 place is okay too.

When you are talking top of the world beating agencies the weasel factor is key, because it’s you against everyone else who thinks they’ve got the next big thing in them.

 

 

Our soul won’t be sold

Soul stabbinbg logo. It's not a principle until it costs you moneyThe email came from another local agency. Can you please give us all the access to the client site, passwords, login info, account data etc. The client was copied on the email.

It wasn’t just any client, it was one of our oldest. One who we helped them birth their business, outgrow a location, move, go through many management changes. Dropped everything to make things happen for them- without rush fees. Their business was like a second home, comfortable, inviting. We know the staff by name and they know us.

Getting the dear john email hurt. The conversation that followed hurt more. The client was crying.

Our activism had collided with their politics.

For almost 20 years we’d been their champions, and they’d been ours. But, now that was all coming to an end. Because we won’t sell our soul to the machine, and they became a part of it.

The loss of their account won’t damage us at all financially. They may find out that they will pay a lot more to work with the competition. They may find out that the drop everything and get this done costs a lot more. It might not get done as quickly. They may pay for the learning curve of a new agency- or, they may just listen a little more, and do things outside what their comfort zone allowed before and feel absolved. These things happen.

But, when it comes to our soul, if anything, we’ve hardened our resolve to continue to fight the machine, to make things better in our community.

Because as the legendary ad man Bill Bernbach of DDB said “it’s not a principle until it costs you money.”

 

Understanding borrowed interest in advertising

How did Michael Jordan meet Mars Blackmon (aka Spike Lee)? Borrowed interest. Did Nike or MJ have a hand in the movie “Do the right thing”– the breakthrough film for Spike Lee? Nope. Did their ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy create  the character for the movie- nope. They saw a cultural phenomena and tied the two together. That’s using borrowed interest successfully. Two things that seem to go together- but, wouldn’t happen without help.

The king of borrowed interest may be Weird Al Yankovic, who borrows the familiarity of famous songs and just re-writes the lyrics, turning Michael Jackson’s mega-hit “Beat it” into “Eat it.” Familiarity opens doors for your message to get through.

Almost any and every celebrity endorser for a product is borrowed interest. Do we pay more attention to Lincoln ads because Matthew McConaughey is in them. Is Lincoln really his brand- or was he bought? Bets are the big paycheck makes the difference.

Remember the annoying guy for Verizon- “Can you hear me now?” Why do you think he’s now pitching Sprint? Borrowed interest.

And while Google’s new Snippets feature places this definition on top:

Borrowed interest is the intentional association of an unrelated theme, event or image with a product, service or subject being presented, to attract attention otherwise not anticipated.

which it pulled from some previously unknown self-proclaimed guru Susan Finch, borrowed interest is a key tool for brands that aren’t that well known and looking for some connection to something bigger than them. Which brings us to our little fun experiment.

Youtube Vlogger Peter McKinnon has hit the photography/videography community like a lightening bolt, going from zero to a million and a half (and counting) subscribers in a little over a year. We enjoy his tutorials, even though almost every single one could be shorter by about a third. Do I need to know about his favorite coffee to make a better video, of course not- but, it’s his thing and he almost uses it as a prop- as in let’s meet over coffee- but, I digress.

Everyone wants to know what McKinnon’s secret is to growing a community so quickly. We even watched an annoying video explainer (with the writing hand) that got over 287,000 views, by a guy that only has a few over 20,000 subscribers.

He’s making money on the pre-roll ad, using shared interest. His analysis isn’t rocket science, but, it’s quickly become one of his most popular videos, and all that in 2 months.

So, we thought, what could we do to attract Peter McKinnon’s fan base to take a look at a video we made? How can we introduce our agency to people who may need help with advertising, marketing, building a better website- or are interested in creating a borrowed interest campaign of their own. And, how can we have fun?

We think the main reason we watch Peter is because, well, all those crazy noises he makes. Remember all those late night infomercials trying to sell you hits of some past generation? Well, we decided to make an infomercial to sell the fictional “Peter McKinnon SFX library” guaranteed to get your video channel to grow subscribers like a rocket- and to introduce his viewers to us. We’ve also bid a large contract that we’re hoping to win and collaborate with Pete on, but we have to win it first.

So, order yours before midnight tonight, the complete, completely fake, Peter McKinnon SFX library, yours for only four easy payments of $24.95, get it before these custom, exclusive, McKinnon SFX become as tired and old as the old standbys of breaking glass, doors slamming and sirens wailing- all served up with a heaping portion of good old borrowed interest.