How to rise to the top of the tree

The book that inspired this blog, David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man”, has a chapter dedicated to helping people rise to the top. He talks about being ambitious (but not so aggressive that your fellow workers destroy you), being informed about the business you’re working on and putting in long hours. In the 21st century, especially in the digital domain, things have not changed so much. If you have been in the business for a while stop reading now. If you are just starting then this is for you…

David urged people to recognise opportunities. It can be difficult when so many new developments in the digital space appear on a weekly basis. Some opportunities turn into dead ends but if you don’t take risks you will never get anywhere. He also said that failure is required which means that everyone will know about it thanks to Twitter and YouTube.  Take Chatroulette. Several brands saw an opportunity and grabbed it. It was a perfect platform to promote this movie:


Another of Ogilvy’s tips for success was knowing how to make good presentations. We all hate Powerpoint but can’t seem to escape it. Even if your presentation is for a digital project why present it on a screen? Get tactile, engage in role play and a little theatre. Learn from the people who present with passion and intelligence. You can sell an idea purely with words. Just check out a few TED videos and you’ll soon see that Powerpoint is not required. And if you do need slides use them as a creative talking point…

David said don’t discuss your client’s business in elevators. Today it’s easier than ever to let slip agency or client secrets that should be kept to yourself. Be careful what you blog and tweet about. Don’t post project updates on Facebook and don’t complain about your boss.

Ogilvy recommended having a hobby – advertising. He believed that you had to live and breathe the business to succeed. He encouraged people to write articles, become an authority. It’s even easier today with the internet. So get a blog going even if you think you don’t have time. You need a voice if you want people to notice you. I took his advice myself and became Digitaladman and haven’t looked back:)

Iain Tait of Weiden + Kennedy has some good advice on his blog about getting the job that you really want.

His advice is mostly aimed at planners but it remains valid for any kind of position in an agency that focuses on digital.

Get yourself a portfolio that shows what you’ve been working on to create a talking point during your interview. Make sure that it’s not full of errors so get others to check it first and give valuable feedback.

Be honest and clear about your role on the projects you talk about. (this is me interjecting – I once interviewed someone who showed a very high profile project so I asked what they did on it… because it was my project from a previous agency. They had simply added a button to the site).

Even if you are not in a creative role have an opinion about design, interaction, sound etc. It shows you care about the end product.

Brand yourself by knowing what you stand for and do some detective work about the company you want to join.

You can read the full blog post here.

Once you are in your dream job you need to have a plan for how you’re going to rise to the top. Ultimately it’s about hard work. Ogilvy says in his book “put your shoulder to the wheel, but be careful to pick the right wheel”. Make sure that your personal vision matches the company you work for. Do you share the same values?

Watch the people who have made it to the top. It is so much easier now since most of them are blogging and tweeting. How do they look at the world? Understand their points of view. Read about them in the industry press to get a real picture of what makes them tick. It will teach you a lot about what it takes to be a leader and help you define your own unique style.

If you are starting out in the business then it is a great time. Digital is now a mature discipline and we need people who will define where it goes next. Enjoy the ride.

Update: Interested in being a digital copywriter? This article on Mashable is for you >

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