What do you think of when you think about the advertising industry? Board rooms full of blue sky thinking? Arty people with beards and round glasses? Mad Men? Think again.

We’ve been chatting to the integrated ad agency VCCP (the ones responsible for mega ads such as O2’s More For You campaign, Be More Dog, and most recently, Follow The Rabbit), to find out what they’re really looking for in new recruits. Turns out that while they love creative people, there is a growing need for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) candidates, right across their global business!

VCCP are back on Go Think Big at the moment, bringing you guys the chance to learn everything you need to know about advertising at VCCP Ad School, and they’re looking for a diverse range of people to come along to their HQ. We had a chat with VCCP’s Emily, an Insight Analyst, and Ed, Head of Digital, to find out why advertising isn’t just for Arts graduates…

HIYA! WHAT DO YOU DO DAY TO DAY AT VCCP?

Emily: “I’m an Insight Analyst and basically I evaluate the core advertising campaigns for customer communications for O2, our main client. I evaluate how the campaigns performed against targets, how well sales did, and how engaged our customers were. After looking at that, I feedback the insight and learnings to say what we can change in the next campaign, or for a wider strategy. I also help with targeting for campaigns, so I’m involved in the beginning of the process and the very end.”

Ed: “I head up the digital delivery division within VCCP. This is a team of around 70 digital specialists that include developers, technical consultants, user experience architects, creatives, designers and project managers. We design and build mobile apps, websites, back-end technology platforms, banner ads, digital out of home displays, in store interactive screens, emails… Basically, anything ‘digital’, no matter how new! Some of our most recent projects include augmented reality apps and AI chat bots.”

COOL! EMILY YOU STUDIED ECONOMICS AND ED YOU STUDIED INDUSTRIAL DESIGN. DO YOU THINK MORE STEM STUDENTS SHOULD CONSIDER ROLES AT AD AGENCIES?

Emily: “Absolutely, they’re really needed actually! Advertising is becoming extremely data driven and so we need people who can manipulate data and translate that into actionable insight and strategy. We need people who can work with data and not be afraid of it.”

“Problem solving and critical thinking are important skills to have. This is something that you get quite frequently while studying STEM subjects just because naturally students have to be able to dig into a problem and find answers. That’s really the key thing about being in advertising roles in general: if you’ve done economics and are really good at strategizing and recognising patterns, and solving problems, then that’s the key skill that you need to highlight in a job application.”

Ed: “Digital is about the creative use of data and technology and it’s the future of marketing. Agencies like VCCP are known for famous advertising campaigns, like the meerkats for Compare the Market, or the Be More Dog campaign for O2. This ‘traditional’ marketing and the ‘big idea’ are still critical to effective marketing, but actually, most of our business is now conducted via digital channels; by creating databases, developing applications, running social campaigns and helping clients drive their SEO and CRO programmes.”

“To succeed in today’s marketing environment, brands need their agency partners to be proactive technology experts with digital knowledge and strong customer understanding. This is a far cry from the chain-smoking, whisky-swilling world of Mad Men that people often expect!”

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EMILY, WHAT SKILLS DO WE NEED TO BECOME INSIGHT ANALYST LIKE YOU?!

Emily: “For my job coding would be particularly helpful. Learning programming languages that are used for data analysis like; Python, R, and SQL, and being comfortable pooling data using those is helpful. Some companies will train you on the job, but if you have done an introduction to them already (and they’re all things that you can get free courses for online!) it’s really helpful and it gives you a giant step in the door, whenever you’re trying to get a job.”

GREAT TIP! SO WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BENEFITS OF WORKING IN A “CREATIVE” INDUSTRY AS SOMEONE WITH A STEM BACKGROUND?

Emily: “It’s really dynamic and a really fun environment! The job changes every day so it’s always interesting and exciting. Plus, you’re around really funny creative people who are just fun to be around. The workforce is extremely diverse which is something I really enjoy. People are so open to change and challenging things, in fact, at VCCP in general, half of the people that work here don’t even come from advertising backgrounds anyway. That’s kind of an advantage for STEM students because they can say: ‘I have something new to bring to the table. I understand data and its value to a customer journey, so I can incorporate this into our strategy’”.

Ed: “Two things: it’s innately creative and it changes every hour of every day. It’s not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for those who like to know exactly what they are going to be doing each day. It’s very dynamic and invigorating, and you have to approach it with a sense of adventure and mischief.  The pace can be alarmingly fast, but it is ultimately very rewarding.”

If you’d like to get a taste of the advertising world, don’t miss VCCP Ad School. This is your chance to come into a top ad agency for a whole week, learn from experts in a huge variety of departments, and find out what the job is really like while working on a live brief. Apply here.

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