Also known as ‘creatives’, advertising art directors craft the visual ideas for an advertising campaign. This is done as part of a team with a copywriter, who will be the one to produce the writing. This partnership is key and one that should be formed early on, as many organisations employ ‘partnerships’ rather than individuals. Working from an outline about the client, their brand, and the target audience, an advertising art director would have to form original and thought provoking ideas to promote their trademark. Advertising art directors will often have to work on more than one campaign at a time.
The typical starting salary in a junior position is £18,000 - £25,000, with experienced art directors, having gained 3-5 years experience, able to earn from £35,000 to over 70,000. Senior art directors can earn anything from £55,000 - £150,000. The salaries differ as it will depend on the agency and its location, as well as individual portfolio and merits. If highly regarded in the industry, art directors can be promoted to the position of creative director, where they can earn up to £500,000.
Extra hours are typical, and you will often have to take your work home with you during the week, and at weekends. You can be on location at times, and if your agency has international clients you may have to travel abroad. Work is mainly office-based but you may need to travel to meet clients. Many of the larger agencies are based in London, though several of the other large cities such as Manchester house several agencies.
A HND degree in areas such as art or design would be beneficial, and postgraduate courses would give you the chance to gain experience and make contacts in the industry. Competency in design software packages is a must. However, gaining a degree is not a necessity as most people are employed based on strength of ideas and artwork.
It is recommended you find a copywriter you collaborate well with and then start building a portfolio. Once you have built a portfolio you will need to organise a ‘book crit’ with agency ‘creatives’, who will offer constructive criticism on your work. It is best to get a variety of opinions. For advice visit the YCN (Young Creative Network) and Ad-Mod websites. NABS also offers a mentoring scheme.
Work experience is a must, and you can find a list of agencies offering such opportunities on the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) website. But more often than not you will have to contact agencies directly, as most positions are not advertised. Early on, moving from agency to agency and earning little to no money is the norm.
The D&AD has courses available, and can help to provide industry contacts and the chance to build a portfolio. The D&AD also run shows such as the New Blood exhibition, which is often attended by several agencies to seek out new talent. The IPA website runs a Graduate Recruitment Agency, and also the chance to show your portfolio online, and the D&AD website a Graduate Placement Scheme.
Further training can be found through online courses such as the IPA. You will be able to gain qualifications such as an IPA Foundation certificate, available for those with at least six months experience in the industry. The D&AD also offers Workout, a variety of courses for creative teams that usually last one day.