Advertising Account Director
"I would rather be working hard in a creative and inspiring industry than spending fewer hours doing a job in which I was bored!"
I’m Amy O’Neill, and I’m an account director at Ogilvy Advertising.
My role places me between the client and the creative team – which is great because it allows me to help clients solve business problems but also to be creative alongside some really talented people.
I studied English Literature & Media Studies, and started on a graduate training scheme with Ogilvy right after university. It was a great way to get started, as the scheme allowed me to spend blocks of time getting to know several different areas.
My job gives me the opportunity to do some pro bono work – for example on big environmental campaigns; I was involved with Hopenhagen, which was huge and created the biggest buzz online of any of the climate campaigns this year! I love doing this kind of work – not only is it meaningful, it really gives you a chance to shine.
Tell us about your job – where do you work and what do you do?I work for the Ogilvy Advertising agency. I’m in Account Management, so I’m the ‘middle man’ between the client and the creative folk. It means I get the best of both worlds - working with clients to help solve their business problems, but also spending time being creative and working with amazing, talented people.
What inspired you to do what you do? How did you get into it, did you have a plan?I’ve always been inspired by creativity. While I was at university a team came from another agency to hold a workshop for anyone who might be interested in getting into advertising. I had been studying English Literature & Media Studies and was envisaging a job in journalism, but the workshop inspired me and I decided to give it a shot.
I completed some work experience at M&C Saatchi, then applied to various agencies to join their graduate training schemes. The scheme at Ogilvy offered the chance to spend 6 months in 3 of the companies within the Ogilvy Group (including those involved with digital advertising, traditional advertising and PR). So, I joined Ogilvy after graduating and have been here ever since!
Why is your job meaningful? Both to you personally, and in how it benefits the wider world in terms of climate change and other environmental challenges.During my time at Ogilvy, as well as working with my main clients (such as Ford, Dove and IBM), I’ve also had the opportunity to work on some pro bono projects. I find it rewarding to contribute my time, in this way, to meaningful causes. For example, I recently worked on activating the global Hopenhagen campaign in London. This campaign was created by Ogilvy and the International Advertising Association, to mobilise people power ahead of the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. In order to bring the event to life and create as much awareness / participation as possible, we did a whole variety of things - created posters, built a website, installed a ‘sign up’ station at a Vivienne Westwood event, posted green Union Jack flags outside our offices, and held a client dinner at the Danish Embassy.
Hopenhagen has become the largest media effort of its kind (probably in advertising history), reaching hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and it created the biggest buzz online of any of the climate campaigns this year - by far. In fact, when the Danish Prime Minister opened COP15 he said "for the next two weeks Copenhagen will be Hopenhagen“, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Branson and Al Gore were all heard talking about it!
Many jobs in this sector are very new, how long has your job existed?Much of what I do in terms of bespoke environmental campaigns relates to ‘above and beyond’ campaigns, which means that you choose to work on them in your spare time (something that is often in short supply!).
What personal qualities do you think have got you where you are today?Being positive, and tenacious. Sometimes the job can be very demanding, but my ability to keep smiling and always carry on has helped people to trust me. I’ve shown that not only can I do a great job, I can also add some laughter and team spirit – essential!
What are the essential skills for your job?Attention to detail and a ‘can do’ attitude – even when it seems the impossible is being asked for!
My pro bono work certainly gives me the opportunity to hone my ‘blagging’ skills – there’s rarely much of a budget for these campaigns but, with some good chat and a winning (okay pleading!) smile, people often find a way to help.
What qualifications do you have? Are these typical for people in your role?I have a BA in English Literature & Media Studies.
To join a graduate training scheme you do have to have a degree, but there are other ways into the job - such as joining as a Team Secretary / Assistant and working your way up.
What do you think most helped you get where you are now?I’ve always been a hard worker, and I really do think that this is what it takes. You have to be prepared to graft - but I would rather be working hard in a creative and inspiring industry than spending fewer hours doing a job in which I was bored!
Please describe a typical working dayHmmm! This is pretty tough to answer; there isn’t really any such thing. Some days I’ll work ‘normal’ office hours 8.30-6.00, but it varies hugely. On really crazy days I can work until 10.00 at night if needed (though I obviously try to limit that to rare occasions only). The upside is that I’ve had some excellent opportunities to travel - I’ve been on shoots and meetings in Miami, Sao Paulo, and Athens!
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?I love the creativity and the variety of my job. No two days are ever the same, which keeps everything really fresh.
The pro bono projects that I get involved with are an excellent opportunity to work on some really motivating and exciting material. It really gives you a chance to shine - because any idea that you have, you're the one who can make it happen. This can be very liberating and exciting.
The downside can be the long working hours and juggling many different priorities.
What kind of people do you meet through your work or do you work alone?I work with a diverse team of creative people, art buyers, TV producers, digital specialists and strategic planners.
Do you feel well paid for what you do, or is it not about the money?Advertising is not banking, put it that way! For me, it’s much more about working in a creative environment and enjoying what I do.
Finally, what do you know now about jobs, careers and the future that you wish you’d known when you were at school?I think it’s so important to keep at it whilst you’re in school or college; it‘s easy to get bored of studying, and thoughts of leaving to go into work can seem very attractive when you want to start earning money and stop taking exams! However, I would completely recommend that you continue studying and gain as many qualifications as possible. Your aspirations may change over the years... the last thing you want to happen is to find that the job you suddenly realise you want to do, you are unable to do because you left school too early!
Lots of jobs are very competitive, so it’s all about doing things that will give you an advantage. I would advise trying to get some (sadly, usually unpaid) work experience; not only does this help you to stand out from other people, it gives you a real insight into the job and allows you to decide if it really is the one for you.