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How to get a well-paid job in digital advertising

With vast spending budgets and anticipated skills shortages, it’s a better time than ever to consider a job in the digital advertising and marketing industry

Jason Lark
Managing Director, Celerity
Wednesday 19 October 2016 09:44 BST
£4.78 bn was spent on digital advertising in the first half of 2016 alone
£4.78 bn was spent on digital advertising in the first half of 2016 alone (Getty)

Why pursue a career in digital advertising and marketing? For one thing, the profession allows you to indulge your creative side while also enjoying a salary that comfortably exceeds the national average – and can significantly exceed it if you’re great at it.

Historically, marketing and advertising have been breeding grounds for young, raw talent: the likes of Dr. Seuss, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Alex Guinness, aka Obi-Wan Kenobi, all began their careers in advertising.

The industry is spending vast amounts of money on digital advertising – £4.78 billion in the first half of 2016 alone – trying to reach the coveted 16-24 demographic.

If you’re a recent graduate, you’re right in the middle of their sweet spot. Where your prospective boss might struggle to grasp the potential of Vine, Instagram or Snapchat, you grew up using these kinds of channels and platforms, and can relate more directly to the needs and desires of their core users.

What’s more, with skills shortages anticipated throughout the rest of 2016 and beyond, demand for young digital marketing and advertising professionals will only increase.

It’s a better time than ever to break into the industry, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. If you’re looking to make a good impression on potential employers, you’ll want to have the right knowledge and skills in these six key areas.

1. Data

In the age of big data we’ve never been able to collect more information on our customers, and the performance of our campaigns. The success of any marketing department depends on how they collect and use that data.

Roles across the industry are becoming increasingly data-driven and graduates need to have a good cross-sector understanding of the impact data and digitalisation is having on all areas of business, as well as a desire to get to grips with it.

Even if you’re not looking to assume a technical role, you should familiarise yourself with concepts like segmentation and predictive analytics – they often form the backbone of any worthwhile marketing strategy.

2. Creativity with commercial awareness

Creativity and commercial awareness may not typically be seen as going hand in hand, but marketers need a good dose of both to drive successful campaigns.

Everything marketers do has to be measurable and commercially viable. You will need to possess a solid understanding of the market your clients or company operate in, as well as their business needs. Within the role you’ll have to manage a budget and be able to demonstrate a good ROI on your campaigns.

Cultivate a strong commercial focus as well as a creative streak and you’ll go far.

3. Communication

It goes without saying that aspiring marketers need to have excellent communication and networking skills.

You’ll need to be able to engage with agencies, clients and numerous internal stakeholders. It helps to be a people’s person as good communication skills are a big part of the role. You will likely attend awards ceremonies, conferences and industry events big and small.

If you’re looking for a 9-5 role, it may not be the job for you – these roles often see many late nights.

4. Digital presence

Prospective employers will Google you in advance of an interview: it’s more or less unavoidable. So it’s important to have a professional online presence: you don’t need to be told that pictures or comments made years previous could come back to haunt you.

But it’s also important to realise that this represents an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in digital marketing. Blog, vlog, tweet or Instagram and show that you not only understand these platforms, but are actively using them. When a brand does something interesting – for example, Oreo’s lightning-fast, highly-shared “Dunk in the Dark” tweet – dive into the conversation and engage with key influencers.

Whatever’s happening in the industry, be aware of it, and talk about it. Don’t just talk about your passion for marketing in the interview – demonstrate it.

5. Passion

Whether you’re planning on going into advertising, digital or marketing you will require a genuine enthusiasm for the industry to succeed in and enjoy the role. Marketing disciplines increasingly overlap so it’s also important that you have an idea of the bigger picture and know how everything from PR to PPC fits in.

Cultivate opinions – where do you see the industry going? You might be most interested in the latest innovative technologies and platforms, or you might enjoy critiquing adverts or marketing campaigns and picking apart the messaging and design. Employers like to see curious minds capable of leading great campaigns of their own.

6. Adaptability

Finally, marketing and advertising are professions that are subject to constant fluctuation and change. Technology and trends evolve rapidly, and today’s fool-proof tactic may well be tomorrow’s cliché.

When you’re developing your skillset, do so in a forward-thinking fashion: graduates that learn how to code, for example, or even how to build an app, are doing well in a world that’s currently moving away from the desktop and towards mobile devices.

Above all, demonstrate curiosity, and a willingness to keep up with a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. In your interview, you want to demonstrate the willingness and the capability to progress: that you’re not only an excellent entry-level hire, but a potential future department leader.

Jason Lark is the managing director of Celerity, a data-driven marketing agency.

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