Advertising Is Growing in East Africa: Do You Have What It Takes to Make It?


Advertising. We all have a general sense of how it works; there are clients with strong opinions, creative types with even stronger ones, and if we believed the popular TV show “Mad Men” — a large amount Scotch. But just like a clever campaign about a dubious product, there is way more to advertising than meets the eye.

Did you know that eMarketer forecast that ad expenditure in the Middle East and Africa would grow to US$25.35 billion by 2018? Moreover, Tanzania and Uganda were among only 20 countries worldwide identified by Euromonitor International as “Markets of the Future”, meaning they’ll offer the most opportunities for consumer goods companies globally. Those companies will need advertising, and you know what that means. Jobs!

We are all about getting you connected, so we talked to three advertising professionals with diverse experiences and got them to answer all the questions you might have.

So how does one get into advertising anyway?

Turns out there isn’t one path. People end up in advertising through a myriad of ways, and in fact, stumbling into it seems more common than one might think. Take Trudy, a copywriter who’s been in the industry for five years. She was a curious university student “nosing” around an ad agency at the right time and due to sheer luck bagged herself an internship. Javan, a senior copywriter and ad consultant, fell in love with advertising when he saw his brother’s first television commercial. And creative director Emuron? He was convinced to interview with an agency when he found out people could wear flipflops and shorts to work.

What is it actually like to work in advertising, spare no details.

Ok, so the not-so-fun parts. First of all, it’s not like “Mad Men”. As Trudy tells it, advertising “can be grueling, working odd or all hours to beat a deadline”.

It also sounds like you need a tough ego. From Emuron: “Chances are 60-80% of your work will never see the light of day … no matter how much you love it.”

You’ll need to show some creativity and perseverance too. “Succeeding at the top of the game takes long-suffering and a different way of thinking,” according to Javan.

But it can be a ton of fun too!

“An ideal agency environment is one in which you have people of varied personalities, ranging from the colorful to the drab, the hyper-energetic to the moody, the calm and collected to the insane and high-octane, the devout ultra-religious lady and the rarely sober Rasta.  In such an agency, there is no dull moment, the music blares loud, the laughter louder, the insults are unbelievable, the fights are epic, the camaraderie unmatched, the fun endless, and as a result, the work will always be edgy and truly creative,” Emuron says.

Ok, ok, I’m getting the gist of things, but paint me a picture — what does a typical day look like?

What you should know is that there is no typical day. For Javan, a lot of his days begin when his brain wakes up, which is usually mid-morning. This already sounds like the dream job. Then it’s on to brainstorming with his team, “where things like strategy and big ideas are thrashed out”. Then it’s team meetings and one-to-ones with his art director to flesh out concepts.  Side note: a copywriter handles the words (a.k.a. copy) of an ad, and an art director sorts out the visual aspects.

How do I know if I’d be a good fit for the industry?

Turns out advertising firms need a wide variety of professionals for their different teams. Emuron has the breakdown: “Creative looks for good writers, storytellers, and visual artists. Client service looks for people with good communication and people-management skills, and it can go on and on depending on the department you are talking about. However, I believe the most important quality, irrespective of what department you are joining, is creativity. It doesn’t matter if you are a number-crunching suit or an actual member of the creative team, if you do not have the capacity to come up with truly creative, out-of-the-box solutions, you will struggle. You might be able to survive in advertising without out-of-the-box creativity, but you will never ever thrive.”

“It doesn’t matter if you are a number-crunching suit or an actual member of the creative team, if you do not have the capacity to come up with truly creative, out-of-the-box solutions, you will struggle.”

You should also value diversity as “often you will work with unconventional characters, who see the world differently”, Trudy says.

Javan’s advice is key for any budding copywriters, “… your craft must be on the cutting edge. That means research, a thorough command of language, and a specific style of writing. A writer must be a sponge of information and be able to write conclusively on any topic under the sun”.

Ok, I’m ready to apply! Now how do I get hired?

Emuron’s advice? “Be creative. If you can’t package yourself in a creative manner, how can I trust you to package our clients’ brands creatively?”

If you ever apply to work with Trudy, then proofread! Ok always proofread your CV, but Trudy is especially appalled by the careless errors she sees on applications.

Parting words of wisdom?

“There will be long nights, disagreements, fights; your self-esteem will be called into question (many times), and you will feel like quitting. And that’s where passion comes into play … If you’re serious enough about your craft, it always works out. Someone always notices in the end,” Javan says.

Trudy: “Never ever stop learning. The best creatives add new skills always … be curious, ask questions, and explore, but above all, have fun!”

Emuron: “As Jerry Della Femina said, ‘I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.’”

High praise indeed. Now go forth and be creative!

Tell us what you think in the comments!