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How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Pushing the creative envelope of the job search

You don’t need Dennis Dimbleby Bagley’s giant boil to tell you the job market in advertising is a competitive one. As many students finish school over the next month and prepare to unleash themselves on the workforce, a few quality examples of the modern creative job hustle have surfaced.

Take the above video, for example. By attaching a QR code to his resume, French student Victor Petit certainly got attention — the video has been making the industry blog rounds — but beyond that, and more importantly, demonstrated an understanding of both the technology and when to use it. Another recent example of this is art director João Dornellas, who had stints at McCann Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather in Portugal. Dornellas created a free iPad app and put it on iTunes.

 “It’s about walking the walk as well as talking the talk,” says Anthony Kalamut, professor and chair of Seneca College’s creative advertising program. “The guy who made the app, from what I understand, was a traditional art director looking to break into the digital landscape. What better way to prove you’ve done that than to create an app? This becomes the quintessential element that you can show and demonstrate your skills beyond your portfolio. Honestly, the portfolio is very static and very idea-built, which is great but it’s flat. If you can offer something that actually pushes engagement and show potential employers what you can offer their clients, as well as get people’s attention, you’re going to get a job.”

Over at Denver Egotist, Dornellas has been active in the comments, responding to questions and criticisms. “No one is going to search in iTunes for an app with a portfolio, but when you are (in this case, me) the first one to do it, you just need to realize the real power of the idea you got, advertise it well and in a few days you will be on the other side of the world, chatting in a foreign blog about what you have just done,” he wrote. “In less than a week Portuguese newspapers and blogs have made the favor of distributing my work to every ad man in this small land. In less than a week my name is in lot of forums, tweets, etc., all over the world.”

Add these to the few notable cases over the last two years where job seekers have gamed the system to get their skills noticed. Some of the more well-known cases include copywriter Lawson Clarke’s ‘Male Copywriter’ website featuring him naked on a bearskin rug (that won two Webbys), Alec Brownstein parlaying a $6 Google AdWords buy into a full-time gig at Y&R New York, and Vancouver’s Chris Kahle tweeting his way to a job at Crispin Porter & Bogusky’s Boulder, CO office. Sure it’s about getting someone’s attention but, like any good ad, also something more than that.

“You need to prove you can sell a quarter-inch drill to someone who needs a quarter-inch hole, as opposed to just selling a drill bit,” says Kalamut. “That’s the difference. And it will separate you from the herd.”

Anyone have an impressive Canadian example to share?