The Advertising Industry
How do I get a job in advertising?
If you want to work at a legit agency you need a portfolio that shows off your creative ideas. Ad agencies hire job seekers based on their portfolios –– not their degrees, resumes, or GPAs. Hate to break it to ya, but agencies couldn't care less about your college degree –– they only care about what's in your portfolio.
The unfortunate reality is that few universities have programs that can give students the specialized instruction it takes to create an industry-accepted portfolio, which is why the majority of creatives working today attended a portfolio program after college. It's pretty much a pre-requisite if you want to be competitive in the job market.
Because we know the last thing you want to do is drop another 50 grand and spend two more years in school, we specially crafted our portfolio program to be a fully comprehensive alternative at half the cost and half the length of the other programs.
How can I tell if Art Direction is my path?
Agency art directors brainstorm lots of ideas, make decisions on typography and color, design billboards, lead development on a brand’s logo and identity, plan out photography, pick commercial locations and wardrobe, and direct the overall visual look and feel of an ad campaign. If you experience a rage blackout whenever you see someone use the Hobo or Papyrus fonts, can match the hues of everyday objects to colors on Pantone.com, have always (not so) secretly wanted to direct a music video, are proud to say your idea of a good book is the 1975 NASA brand guide, and can create a visual look and feel that fits with a brand and the story they’re trying to tell then you’d probably make a good art director.
How can I tell if Copywriting is my path?
Agency writers brainstorm lots of ideas, write tons (and we mean tons) of headlines, write scripts for tv commercials and digital videos, craft epic brand manifestos, write website and social post copy, and anything else that involves words. If you have a strong opinion on the Oxford Comma, fly into an unhinged rage when you spot a missplleing, spend your free time hanging out on thesauras.com, think music lyrics are poetry (even Blink-182, I guess), can write witty prose on Twitter like some sort of low-rent social media Shakespeare, and can distill large complex thoughts into succinct and impactful messages then you’d probably make a good writer. Not only are copywriters responsible for writing and editing all the words, they’re also almost always tasked with developing the over-arching story or “big idea” that drives an ad campaign.
What's the difference between an Art Director and a Designer?
Generally, Art Directors handle the bigger idea while Designers are great at the smallest details. Art Directors make decisions about visuals, photography, typography, colors, etc. Then Designers take the Art Director’s vision and they execute it, dealing with smaller decisions like type kerning, photo re-touching, and other fine art points. Designers are often better artists, whereas Art Directors are more focused on the conceptual side. At bigger agencies the roles are distinctly separate, but often smaller agencies ask their Art Directors to be good designers, as well.
What does a Strategic Planner do?
Agency planners are often also called strategists, insight directors, and a bunch of other names. They research audience demographics to determine who ad campaigns should target, track trends in business and culture, identify insights into human behavior and how they relate to brand products, set up focus groups to test hypotheses, write creative briefs that act as a guide for the creative team to develop an ad campaign, and work with the account and creative teams to sell an idea to a client using data and science. If you have a subscription to both PAPER Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, you can rattle off the sales data on whichever trendy pair of Nikes you’re wearing that day, whenever someone simply says “why?” you tend to answer back with a ten-page Keynote deck, and you enjoy being a cultural anthropologist who strives to find the human truths that fuel creativity then you’d probably make a good planner.
How much money can I make in advertising?
If there's a better career than advertising for creative people to make a good living, we haven't heard of it. Salaries obviously will vary from market to market, but generally the numbers below are standard across the more legit agencies in bigger markets. Creatives can move up the ranks quicker or slower depending on a lot of factors, but people who've attended a portfolio program often find themselves at the higher paying agencies faster than those who didn't.
Junior-level (0-2 years): $45,000 to $55,000
Mid-level (3-5 years): $60,000 to $70,000
Senior-level (5-7 years): $80,000 to $99,000
Associate Creative Director (7-10 years): $100,000 to $140,000
Creative Director (10+ years): $150,000 +
What's it like to work in an ad agency?
It's hard to imagine people like us working anywhere except an ad agency. You can wear whatever you want to work, there's ample amounts of cursing, pretty good access to free drinks and food, and you're surrounded by liked-minded people who are just as creative/weird/fun as you are. Culture is a very big thing for most agencies as it directly correlates to creativity and productivity, so they work hard to make sure the office environment is a great place to hang out all day.
Sure, sometimes there can be deadlines and late nights, but generally the work is very fun and it doesn't really feel like work. The pace can be fast and solutions are always needed faster, but that just adds to the excitement and creative energy in the office.
Let's get real, at the end of the day you're a creative –– where the hell else are you gonna work, a bank?
What's the demand for creative jobs like right now?
One of the nice things about advertising is that it's one of the few careers that will always be needed. Even during recessions, while ad spending may decrease, brands still need to advertise. As long as there are brands and products in the world there will need to be advertising.
A new industry trend that some see as troubling, though, are brands working with agencies on a project basis. This can have huge ramifications for how frequently agencies collect their fees and will subsequently structure their agencies. Some brands are also taking work away from agencies entirely to bring it in-house, which means the brand will operate it's own advertising team in its house rather than working with an outside agency. It's often cheaper for a brand to do this and they usually see it as easier.
But even with those seismic shifts to the way agencies operate, it doesn't change the fact that creatives will always be needed. Whether the work is done in an agency or in-house doesn't matter much, as creatives will always be leading that work which means their services will always be in demand.
Other ad schools are 2-year programs, why is yours only 14 months?
The last thing most people want to do after spending at least 4 years in college is spend another 50+ grand and two more years in another school. That’s a big reason why we think a 14-month program is the best fit for most people. Also, a portfolio doesn’t take years to develop. As with any piece of creative, you could theoretically work on it and refine it forever –– most of us are perfectionists, after all –– but the reality is at some point you just need to finish it and move on. In this case, we want to get you out of school and into an agency as fast as we can.
Even though we're shorter our program doesn't skimp. We've worked with top agencies to craft a comprehensive curriculum that gives future creatives everything they'll need to feel prepared and hit the ground running, with the exact kind of portfolio that agencies are looking for.
What programs do you offer and how long are they?
Right now we offer comprehensive programs in Art Direction and Copywriting, both of which last 14 months. Our forthcoming program in Strategic Planning is TBA.
How experienced are your teachers?
This is another way we're very different from Miami Ad School and Creative Circus. Those schools sometimes have professors leading classes who have never worked in an ad agency. Nothing against professors, but we kinda feel like you already went through four years of working with them in college, at this point we think you'd benefit more from working with active industry professionals. Which is why every single one of our teachers have big agency experience and are currently working at some of the best agencies in Colorado –– no career professors here.
Can I switch to another program if I change my mind?
Sure, as long as you decide by the end of your first quarter we’re cool with you switching.
Can I take a break during the programs?
It’s best to complete the program with no interruptions, so we don’t recommend taking a break once you’re enrolled. But, life is unpredictable and we are happy to make it work for you based on your circumstances even if it takes you a bit longer to complete the program.
Can I work full-time or part-time while enrolled?
We get it, Denver can kinda suck when you’re flat broke. A part-time job is totally cool, however we don’t necessarily recommend working full-time. Classes are held in the evenings Monday-Thursday, but you’ll need to set aside time during the day all week long to work on campaign assignments with your partners. Your portfolio is a direct result of the time and effort you put into it, so if you think your schedule can allow for total commitment to your portfolio then we’re happy to have you.
Am I creative enough to attend a portfolio school?
You don’t need to have prior experience in advertising or design to put together a great portfolio –– in fact, sometimes it's even better if you come from a completely different background.
Not sure you’re creative enough? You definitely are, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. People who work in advertising are filmmakers, photographers, painters, sculptors, doodlers, comedy writers, dramatic writers, poets, actors, stand-up comedians, musicians, and other fun things. The fact that you're researching portfolio schools shows you've got some sort of creativity inside you that's just waiting to be unleashed, whether you know it or not.
So what does it take to succeed here? A curious mind, a penchant for taking risks, and the desire to work really hard on stuff that is really fun. Spend a year with us and we’ll help you unlock your full creative potential.
When is the best time to attend?
We enroll new students every quarter, 4 times a year. Fall is typically our busiest quarter as that's when most people naturally start school, but we have students every quarter so you're welcome at any point in the year that works for you.
What supplies and materials will I need?
All you'll need are things you most likely already have:
- A good laptop
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Notebook for sketching and note taking
Couldn't I just make a portfolio by myself?
Yeah, you could give it a shot. But at DAD we're constantly pushing you with assignments, deadlines, and the type of structure you'd see in any big agency. Plus, you're surrounded by experienced guides every step of the way. We're more than just a portfolio school, here you'll get immersed in every facet of the business from those who know it best, all while making the important connections with teachers, recruiters, and agencies that will get you your start in this business. That's definitely something that's harder to do on your own.
The biggest thing to consider is you could absolutely try to do this all by yourself, but when it comes time to apply for an agency job your self-made portfolio will be competing against all the other creative portfolios that came out of an ad school.
How much do the programs cost and how do I pay?
Both the Art Direction and Copywriting programs cost the same. What you see below is what you pay, there are no hidden fees or costs because we're cool like that:
Application fee: $100
Access card fee: $30
We offer three different ways to pay: In full, quarterly, or monthly. If paying in full you receive a small discount and if paying monthly it costs slightly more. Here's how each of those payments break down:
Full payment: $13,500 Quarterly payment: $3,500 Monthly payment: $1,050
All payments are due at the start of the quarter. We accept credit cards, personal checks, or a briefcase full of cash.
How are you priced so differently from the other schools?
Our tuition cost is our biggest point of differentiation from the other schools –– about $35,000 different. The creative programs at DAD cost a flat $14,000 while you can expect to pay upwards of $38,800 to $50,000 plus fees at the other two schools.
Their tuition is overinflated because of the second big point of difference between us –– our program is a full year shorter than theirs. At the other schools you spend your second year either in classes you've already covered in the first year or working in an unpaid internship at an agency that you're paying your school to attend. If you ask us we think that's kinda shitty. Even though we're shorter, we've worked with the top agencies to craft a curriculum that gives future junior creatives everything they'll need to feel prepared and the kind of portfolio that agencies are looking for.
Do you offer financial aid?
We may in the future, but we do not currently work with any private vocational school lenders. We purposefully kept DAD competitively priced because we believe more people should have access to a comprehensive portfolio program that will gain them entry into the advertising industry, but if you’re looking for further assistance we recommend discussing financing options with your bank.
What happens after DAD
Do you help with job placement?
Our recruiting connections span both coasts and we have relationships with all of the biggest ad agencies in the country. What that means is when you’re done here the best agencies all across the country will have the opportunity to see your finished portfolio. Other portfolio programs may tout their connections as the best, but the truth is we all know the same people at the same agencies. And the people at those agencies who will hire you care less about what portfolio school you went to and more about what's in your portfolio.
If you're thinking about staying in Colorado we're also very connected locally, as well. Plus, because all of our teachers come from the top agencies in Denver and Boulder, getting to work directly with them on a weekly basis for a whole year is an awesome networking opportunity.
Our job is to get you a job and that never goes away. Even after you've left DAD and have started working in the industry you can always keep calling, texting, emailing, and sending up signal flares if you need advice or help finding a new job. Yep, this is a forever type of thing. DAD alumni also receive super secret newsletters with industry news, job opportunities, and other cool stuff to help you stay a step ahead of everyone else.
How do your industry connections compare to the other schools?
Most students kinda accept the fact that they're paying higher tuition prices at the other schools because the connections they'll get in the end will be worth it. But what most students don't know is all of the big ad schools have the very same connections. There are only a hundred or so top agencies in the country and we know all of them, just like the other schools do. At the end of the day, agencies care less about the ad school you went to and more about the portfolio you created while you were there.
Who are your industry connections?
There are too many agencies we know to list individually, but here you can see a list of some of our top agency connections. For an even deeper dive, check out our list of all the biggest agencies in the US. If there's a smaller agency on here or one that you've heard of but we don't have a connection to, just let us know as it's easy for us to reach out and establish that connection so we can send them your portfolio when you're finished.
What are your job placement rates?
Denver Ad School's first quarter begins Fall 2019, so our first group of students have yet to finish. However, as the Director at her previous portfolio school in Chicago, Heather's placement rates were a stellar 98%, with students finding themselves in a paid internship or full-time position within 1-5 months after finishing. So naturally we expect that same level of success to continue here in Denver.
Are you approved by the Colorado Department of Education?
Yep, DAD is approved by the Colorado Department of Education’s Division of Private Occupational Schools. Visit their website to find out more information.
Why are you not accredited? Why does that matter?
We’re approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Education, but not nationally accredited. Universities and colleges need to be accredited so they can offer financial aid, transfer credits to other schools, and a whole bunch of other things that don’t really apply to us. We chose not to be nationally accredited so we can be more nimble than the bigger, more traditional schools. A few perks of this include the ability to enhance our curriculum more often to stay current with the industry, having the freedom to teach more relevant classes that aren’t beholden to outdated education standards and practices that don’t apply to the agency world. We’re not your typical broad college program — and we think that’s a good thing. Ultimately this allows us to be more focused and better equipped to prepare you to enter the advertising industry.