The ad portfolio stress test

Used by permission. © Joel Robison

Used by permission. © Joel Robison

Want to get into a better agency? Give your portfolio the following stress test:

1. Is there award winning work is present? Anyone can win an award in our industry. But there is only a handful that matter to the best agencies. If you’re in the US, these top the list: The One Show, Cannes and Communication Arts. If you’re not in these shows, top agencies will pass. Awards are not about ego. They’re about marketing you. They matter. Work hard. Do great work. Get recognized. Or forget about working at the best places.

2. How many big brands are featured? The more iconic the brand, the more regard people will have for your work. It must be high-quality thinking. But if you’ve played in the big leagues, you’re seen as more valuable. There are opportunities to work on big brands on a smaller level. For example, a car dealership for an iconic brand like Porsche can give your portfolio clout. The most important thing? Make sure all of the work passes the acid test for quality.

3. Are there integrated campaigns in the mix? Separate yourself from the pack by showing you can execute one brand story across all communication channels. Today, anything works as an ad. Include experiences and the product itself in your branding tactics.

4. Keep the gap of great to good very close. The adage that you’re only as good as the weakest piece of your portfolio is accurate. The amount of effort put into work makes it easy to lose perspective. Get someone who knows what stands out to review your work. Ask for brutal honesty. If you prefer praise over honestly, you’re looking in the wrong industry for success. Being the best is about getting better, always. After adding improvements, do one more review and pull the weaker work. An excellent book is as much about culling work as it is adding improved work. One last thing: Don’t show your book until it’s ready because you get one chance at most places.

If you want a dream job, stop rationalizing. Get busy getting your portfolio into top shape and keep it in shape throughout your career. Do this and you’ll be amazed how little stress you feel when the next great opportunity comes along.

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