September 24, 2015 Last Updated 2:44 pm

Guest column: So you want to be a mobile ad creative?

Guest column: Luke Harris from Opera Mediaworks offers advice ‘culled from the leads of creative departments in New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, and London’

Now that the majority of digital media time takes place on mobile devices – surpassing desktop in July – there’s no doubt that mobile monetisation is a top priority for publishers and app developers. From technology vendors to creative agencies, everyone wants in to the mobile space. It is, quite literally, exploding.

And as with any fast-growing industry, there are hordes of talented young people who are interested in starting their careers in a promising space, so full of opportunities. For each job on a mobile creative team there are hundreds of applicants. It’s now apparent that there are certain qualities that some candidates have to not just make it through the hiring process but to find success in these roles.

Here are some bits of advice we culled from the leads of creative departments in New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, and London. This is what we know it takes to get hired – and to thrive! – on a creative team at a global mobile advertising company.

Explore your passions

If you’re not passionate about something creative, you might start off by asking yourself if you’re even in the right space! It doesn’t have to be something even related to mobile, or advertising for that matter. Try every medium there is: Pick up a pencil and draw, write or play music. Snap some shots with a good camera, or even your smartphone. Take a typography class. A lot of people say they are creative, but they don’t know what they want to do. That’s okay, but you have to get into something to know if you really want to make it your livelihood.

Subscribe to creative blogs and newsletters and read them every day. Even if you are done meeting your official credentials for whatever discipline you are exploring, continue to take classes in the areas that you are most interested in, and also in those where you know you need some improvement.

Show off your work – in a unique way

Even if you’ve never had a “real” job before, establish your portfolio. It can be work that you’ve done at school, or passion projects that you’ve done on the weekends – just get it online and make sure it shows the real you, the person that is willing and able to tackle problems head on.

There are so many tools now at your disposal, such as Carbonmade, Dribble, Behance or DeviantArt if you are designer, GitHub or CodePen if you are a developer. And there are also creative ways to summarise your overall abilities, like creating word clouds that show the weight or rank of your different skills.

Dazzle your interviewer…with humility

Whatever you do, don’t Google, “Questions to ask in an interview.” We’ve actually heard some of those questions, verbatim, from entry-level candidates! Believe us, that won’t get you a second interview.

The best way to interview for a creative role is to come prepared to talk about a specific problem that you’ve solved with your work, and be sure to communicate the story in a way that gives us a clear picture of how much you did independently and how much support you received from others. All too often, we see a candidate with an impressive portfolio, only to discover that they were only responsible for 10% of the finished product.

Build your creative competence

Remember that Robin Williams movie, Flubber? The absent-minded professor creates a green substance that can take on any shape, and gains energy from the things it bounces off of. That’s what being a creative is like, once you’ve landed the job and are in the company. You have to be very flexible and ego-less, able to move quickly from one concept (no matter how much you love it) to another, depending on the feedback of your peers or the client. Don’t be afraid to take on a life of your own, of course, and challenge the vision, especially if you think there is a better way to achieve the desired outcome. That’s how you grow and learn.

Harris-240There are going to be times where things feel really out of control – that’s just the workings of the creative process, blending with the difficult demands of the client. Working as a creative in an agency is not easy by any means, but it can be extremely rewarding. If you find yourself stuck, ask for fresh eyes; everyone around you is talented, and if you are open to both inspiration and feedback, you’ll realise that ideas can come from anywhere.

Luke Harris is Director of Studio at Opera Mediaworks EMEA

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