Cut Through The Clutter: Getting Your Advertising Portfolio Noticed

Braxton Tulin - Sunday, April 28, 2013

The business world is a dog-eat-dog world. It is based on the spirit of competition, and one brand's success is often determined by a zero-sum game where another brand must fail. But before one considers how rival companies must compete, one must think about the professionals who work for these companies. Landing that job at a top firm is the first real taste of the competition inherent in business. You must outsmart, outdo, and outshine rival applicants.

Getting a job at an advertising firm crystallizes the business experience of competition more than any other industry. This is because the process of getting a job is basically a form of advertising yourself. In going through the process of having your resume selected, your cover letter carefully read, landing that interview and making a great impression, one has to imagine how one's resume, cover letter, and first impression will stand out over other people equally as eager to get that position.

More and more people are flocking to business programs to study advertising today, perhaps partly due to the popularity of the television program Mad Men, perhaps because of the proliferation of new media where advertising thrives, like the internet and mobile platforms. Some of the most sought-after jobs in an advertising firm are the creative jobs: copywriters and art directors. Both of these positions rely mostly on their portfolios to get hired. So, considering the competition of talented applicants, how can you make your copywriting or art portfolio stand out, or in advertising lingo, how can you cut through the clutter and get noticed?

Less is more - simplicity is key
Don't turn in a huge portfolio with everything you've ever done. Carefully select a sample of your best work. Most creative directors won't take the time to go through every ad you've done, so you want to make sure every sample is excellent.

Know your audience
If you trying to get a job with a firm that specializes in one type of client, for example, domestic goods or high fashion, hand in advertising examples that are for that specific market. If you are applying to a creative director known for witty ads, gear your portfolio towards your more comedic samples. If it is a big agency that does everything, show off your diversity.

Exploit new mediums
One can not rely solely on print, TV and radio ads today, but your portfolio should demonstrate your ability to work with online content, interactive advertising, and even ambient public campaigns. Try including links to websites, or showing up to an interview with a tablet computer.

Let the work speak for itself
Gimmicks are lame and they are often seen as compensation for sub-par work. Don't try and be cute or clever in your attempt to get noticed. Make your portfolio the centerpiece of your application, because your portfolio is the ultimate piece of advertising to sell yourself.

A good educational background with a combination of business courses and creative practice goes a long way in advertising. It is this combination of competitive business and creative talent that makes the ad game so exciting. If you want to get cut through the clutter, start with a razor-sharp portfolio.


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