Students Meet Top Creatives at BuzzFeed, Saatchi, Mullen and RPA - Here's What the Pro's Shared

Ten San Diego Portfolio Studio students participated in an "all day agency blitz" in Los Angeles and visited BuzzFeed, Saatchi & Saatchi, Mullen, and RPA. These aspiring copywriters, art directors, designers, and strategists had their portfolios reviewed and talked to agency top creatives who shared advice on how to get in and stand out in today's competitive ad industry. Here's what they said: 

1. "Create Portfolio Work That Speaks to Who You Are" - Nic Piscitello, Creative Director, RPA. There was a lot of agreement among the pros that your portfolio should reflect what you hope to do when you get a job in the business. Passion and great work comes through doing the kind of work that you love. Jeff Pelton, Copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi, says to make your portfolio "reflect your personality and warned not to show work that you don't want to do, because you might end up doing that type of work, all of the time."

2. Find an Agency That Fits Your Working Style" - Josh Weiss, Art Director, Saatchi & Saatchi. The SDPS four agency tour revealed how different agencies really are. There are agencies where people buckle down and work privately in their cubicles in a quiet atmosphere, and others where people openly (and often loudly) collaborate in a shared environment. Josh suggested that "self-awareness and identification of these different styles will help you find a place where your energy is compounded, rather than hindered." 

Students Brent Hannify, Dr. G, Brooke Hugus, Zach Russell, Candela Rebot, Alumni/BuzzFeed's Kirby Darland, Rachel Orodenker, and Liz Lybrook

Students Brent Hannify, Dr. G, Brooke Hugus, Zach Russell, Candela Rebot, Alumni/BuzzFeed's Kirby Darland, Rachel Orodenker, and Liz Lybrook

3. "Be Up On Trends and Push Them a Little Further" - Tyler Haruta, Associate Creative, BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed is "always listening" said Justin Thomas, Account Coordinator at BuzzFeed. We follow what is going on. Your portfolio needs to show that you are listening to the world around you too and paying attention to the trends that make your portfolio relevant. Ari Voukydis, Senior Creative Manager at BuzzFeed says, you need to "frame ideas in a certain way. Think about things that people are interested in and make them laugh or relate. It can be anything - California Burritos or cat butts. You hold up an aspect in life so that the light hits it just so. That's what makes it interesting."

4. "The Presentation of Your Work is More Important Than You Think" - Kenji Shimomura, Design Director, Saatchi & Saatchi. Simple, smart ideas are the ones that creatives like the most. But, great work can go unnoticed if it isn't packaged right, where good work can stand out if presented and executed well. Kenji "would rather see a piece full-screen and click multiple times than see two or three different pieces (i.e. billboard, bus ad, banner ad, etc.) all on one page."

5. "Portfolio Reviews are Subjective" - Eric Schroeder, Senior Art Director, Mullen. When showing your portfolio, be prepared for criticism and conflicting reviews. Welcome feedback. Evaluate and make changes when there is consensus. Ari Voukydis, at BuzzFeed says, "You have to have a thick skin." Ari explained that his background in stand-up comedy gave him confidence. "If you've been booed off stage, you develop the ability to go on." Don't be discouraged. 

6. "Be Hungry" - Chris Bradford, Copywriter, RPA. Be prepared to work hard, especially at the beginning. If you have an opportunity to intern at an agency, ask "what more can I do?", every day. Marcella Coad, Associate Creative Director at RPA says to "remember the 10,000 hour rule: It takes roughly 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. If you put in the time, you'll get there. But you have to want it."

7. "This is a Small World. Make Friends"-  Amy Moorman, Director of Creative Services, RPA. Treat everyone with respect because in this industry, you're likely to meet them again. 

In summing up the amazing day, San Diego Portfolio Student student Brent Hannify said that our gracious hosts described long project times, punishing assignments, and rigorous after-hours work. His thought? "Sign me up."

Many thanks for the portfolio reviews and presentations from: Saatchi & Saatchi's Kelsey Preciado, Jeff Pelton, Josh Weiss, Nobbie Kim, Marlon Hernandez, Justin Kaehler, Nate Trost, John Naderi, and Logan Miller; BuzzFeed's Ari Voukydis, Eric Sams, Justin Thomas, Ryan Hynes, Tyler Haruta and Kirby Darland; Mullen's Sean Stell, Flo Zavala, Denzel Hill, Paige Arrington, Eric Schroeder, Jeff DeGeorgia, Natasha Hugeback, Eileen Moss, and Kristina Litvin and; RPA's Amy Moorman, Nic Piscitello, Marcella Coad, and Chris Bradford, who give their time to change the lives of young creatives. 

AUTHOR: Gina Greco is the Director of Operations and Programs at San Diego Portfolio Studio and a Recruiter in the technical and creative industries.