So You Want to Get Into Advertising

If you ever have people asking you how to get into advertising, the suggestions below I received from Jeff Friedman hit the nail on the head. I know because that’s how I got my first gig at Doyle Dane Bernbach in NYC years ago. I took a low paying traffic job ($100 per week down from $400 in sales) to get my foot in the door. Two years later I was making $600 a week as an assistant account exec.

These days prospects might want to consider working for free at first to prove their skills. John Macht reports that, “The first female Supreme Court judge, Sandra Day O’Connor, had wonderful grades in college and law school, but could not get a job in a good law firm, so talked her way into an entry legal job, FOR FREE, and shared a space with an office secretary. The rest is history!”

Surprisingly, this “free” approach may even have applications in medicine when you learn how Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, credited with the first full face transplant in America, got his first physician job in America.

I’m told that Dr. Pomahac, now the world famous Head of Facial Transplants at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, convinced B&W to hire him back in 1996 for free, even though he was an experienced Czech Republic physician. He then worked 90-120 hours a week until he was eventually rewarded for his efforts. His first facial transplant, Dallas Wiens, just got married to Jamie Nash, a 29 year old from Garland, Texas burn victim (70% of her body).

Dr. Pomahac says, “I became interested in facial transplants after a disfigured burn patient told me, “I just want a cab to stop when I’m at the curb.”

See Wiens wedding details at

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac

5 Tips to Get into Advertising


I have a confession to make. When I was a Senior at The University of New Hampshire (UNH), I applied for an internship at Arnold Advertising. The rejection letter came back saying I applied too late. But, the signature at the bottom of the letter caught my eye: “Jon Castle, Intern Coordinator.” So, I immediately picked up the phone, called Jon Castle, and begged my former RA (Resident Assistant) from UNH to let me in. One month later, I was a media intern (unpaid) at Arnold Advertising, and the rest is history. Yes, I got into this business because of a connection – and some begging.

Twenty-plus years later, as students, recent college grads and others ask for my advice about advertising, I feel compelled to share this story. However, I do also have a few pieces of advice that I hope will help those considering a career in advertising:

1. The hardest part about advertising is getting in.
As you already read, I got lucky. But, for most people, getting into this business is the most difficult part. Do whatever it takes to get in the door, even if it means working for free. Once you are in the door, the opportunities are everywhere you make them.

2. “Fun” does not necessarily mean “easy.”
Advertising can (and should) be a fun business to be in – it’s creative, it’s collaborative and every day brings new challenges. However, it is also full of tight deadlines, differing opinions, difficult feedback, long days/nights and big personalities. It takes thick skin to be in this business. Be prepared.

3. It is a small world.
Everyone in this business knows one another (especially in Boston). We’ve worked at other agencies together, met at industry events (there are quite a few), sat on panels together or even met in the lobby of a new business pitch (that doesn’t only happen on Mad Men). We compete with one another, but we are also friends with one another. Be nice to everyone. You never know what the future will bring.

4. You don’t know it all – and you never will.
To me, this is the beauty of advertising. Every day, we learn. If you think you know it all, you do not belong in this business. Every perspective, every interaction and every experience is a learning opportunity. Take advantage of it, or you will quickly become irrelevant.

5. Relationships are everything.
It’s not just about who you know – it’s about how they know you. Be yourself and take the time to get to know others. More than anything, we all want to work with people we like, trust and can have fun with. Great work follows. And, so does opportunity.

If you’re looking to get into this business, I hope this helps.

If you’re in this business, please feel free to add or comment to any of the above.

If you don’t fall into either of the above categories, please share this with others who you believe can benefit.

Have a great day.

Jeff Friedman
Small Army, Boston

A Copywriter’s Story

My friend and colleague back at HBM, award-winning copywriter Peter Caroline, shared a few tidbits from his life in advertising with me.


I wanted to get into advertising because, during my one nightmare year at Harvard Business School, the only course that interested me in the slightest was Marketing. And the Advertising segment of that course left me astounded that people actually got paid to do that. My first job in advertising was at a tiny agency on Newbury Street, owned by a gentleman named John M. Lord, a Cabot alumnus. I wrote copy and also went out into the surrounding communities to make cold calls. I actually got a fairly large local banking association interested, and they wanted to see what we could do for them. I approached Mr. Lord with the good news, and he informed me that speculative presentations were not something that was done by any agencies other than those owned by persons of the Hebraic persuasion. I told him that I still thought a speculative pitch would work. Mr. Lord informed me that some people were cut out for the ad business, and some weren’t. And I was in the latter category.

My next job was at Hargood Associates, because my father was good buddies with the uncle of the owner, Hal Goodstein. I was there for eight years, until Hal moved the agency to Provincetown. I was not about to commute from the North Shore, and besides that, I’m straight, so I was out on the street again.

My third job was at HBM. I had interviewed with Scott and Mary, and I told them I’d be happy to work on all the shit accounts. I remember they looked at each other like, “Oooh, we’ve got a live one!” Mal MacDougall told me that if HBM got the Mass. Lottery account, I’d be hired. HBM got the Lottery account, and I was hired. I worked on any number of accounts that the superstars couldn’t wait to scrape off their shoes, and I won awards and got lots of bonuses (boni?). I also accumulated a lot of shares of HBM stock, which was not on the board and had a par value of $1 per share. Some years later, Mary, who was at that point the Creative Director, called me into her office and said that we had been sold to a British agency, and my shares were worth $105 each. That was nice, because it put my two daughters through college and paid for some scenic acreage in AZ and some interesting guns. Five years later, Ron Lawner, who was the new Creative Director, called me into his office and gave me my walking papers. I was not unhappy; the agency, which was now called something I can’t even remember, had turned into a very nasty place. I set up my own freelance business, gradually phasing into clients exclusively in the firearms field.

In 1995, right after my younger daughter graduated from college, I moved to AZ. I still write…no more ads, just articles and reviews for a firearms publication. Sally, who has been putting up with my nonsense for 46 years, says, “You can’t retire; you never worked.” She’s right.

Peter Caroline

This entry was posted in Advertising/Tag Lines. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.