Image of the masterclass panel

What we learnt about advertising at the Publicis Poke masterclass

Posted on October 25, 2023

Last night, we entered the Publicis Poke offices in Television Centre for a masterclass on all things advertising. Publicis Poke is a 160-person strong ad agency that has worked on campaigns for the likes of Google, Renault and Morrisons.  

Our panel included: 

  • Prianka Ramlugun – strategist 
  • Mollie Milton – strategist 
  • Emma Tacon  – account manager 
  • Khalil Orrett – producer 
  • Kate Bly  – business lead  

Our community were welcomed by Creative Access alumni Prianka, introducing us to Kate who gave an insight into agencies back in the day (think Mad Men, Kate said) versus agencies now (thankfully, there’s much more diversity but there’s still more to be done). Kate talked us through the different departments helping us understand what it’s like to work in strategy, creative, production, and as a business lead.  

We were then lucky to get a behind the scenes look at a case study of their client Tourism Ireland’s ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ campaign. Mollie, Emma and Khalil pulled back the veil on exactly what goes into a high-profile campaign from the level of research needed to help discover the concept, how long pre-production and post-production takes and of course, its delivery (plus then even more research afterwards to see how well the project has worked!). You can see the fruits of their labour in this advert with cast members of Derry Girls here… 

Throughout the masterclass we gained a deep insight into the nitty gritty processes that help make advertising work. However, our panel also made our audience aware of the skills needed to break into the industry and propel careers forward. Here’s the top three things we learnt… 

TIP 1: Embrace your unique experiences 

Many of our panel spoke about their ‘unconventional routes’ into advertising. Out of all the panel, only Mollie studied marketing at university. Khalil actually studied law and worked as lawyer for a couple of years but hated it. He got into advertising via a Bartle Bogle Hegarty scheme which didn’t ask for a CV, experience or a relevant degree, and recommended keeping an eye out for this sort of internship. Khalil also advised our audience to hone your interests outside academia and work; whatever your passion is (doesn’t have to be related to advertising!) can make you stand out from the crowd.  

Kate has also had a ‘squiggly career’, working on and off in advertising for 20 years. In that time, she took 10 years out of the industry to raise her 2 autistic children and work as a wedding florist. She said: “My attitude now is totally different compared to if I’d stayed in advertising – you can use your life experiences to your advantage.” 

Meanwhile, Prianka found her start in advertising via a Creative Access internship at Publicis Poke two years ago. She said she used her history degree to her advantage:  

“The process before getting my internship was horrible as I graduated and then it was lockdown and I was stuck. I used my history degree to sell myself: creating a story, my research skills, what I do in my free time, what work I love. This industry is about selling yourself, it’s not about having a particular skill or experience” 

TIP 2: Good advertising makes you feel something 

Prianka’s route into the industry shows the power of storytelling in advertising. Ultimately, advertising is about making the audience feel something. In her intro, Kate used the example of the Snickers’ tagline “you’re not you when you’re hungry” as a statement which really makes you think about your feelings and is emotive.  

Mollie recommended that any aspiring advertisers do their research into brands they like or products they’ve bought and to bring their learnings to a job interview or into their role: “Have a look at what brands inspire you and how you can bring that into your role. What led you to buy the thing that you bought recently? Analyse that process.” 

Kate stressed that the industry has changed, it’s not as hierarchal as it once was; “A good idea is a good idea, and it can come from anywhere or anyone”. This means, if you have an idea you believe in then back yourself. Emma says learning this skill will come in handy when receiving push back from clients.  

TIP 3: Kindness goes a long way  

And finally, whilst advertising is a very fun industry, it can also be difficult if a client is unhappy with the campaign, putting your team under pressure. This is why Khalil wants to hire people who ‘when we’re in the trenches, we can rely on you.’ Kate echoes this highlighting that skills like tenacity, teamwork, and simply being a nice person are what she looks for when hiring new talent: “If you’re in an edit suite together at 6pm on a Friday and the client has threatened to pull the ad (when it’s due out on a Monday), you need someone with you can trust and get on well with”. 

When dealing with pressure, Mollie says that kindness will help you take a step back and remember it’s only advertising.  

Ultimately though, being friendly will also help you build up your network as you work your way up the career ladder. Khalil explained that: “It is a tough industry with a lot of nepotism, but those who have to try harder or network more will have actually worked out whether you really want to do the job or not”. He recommended the audience to keep finding their own network as his network helped him get back on his feet and find a new job during the pandemic.  

Emma assured the audience that there’s no need to be intimidated when meeting industry contacts exclaiming: “We’re all a friendly bunch so get out there and have a chat!”.  

A massive thank you to the team at Publicis Poke for welcoming us into their offices and arming us with the behind-the-scenes intel on how the industry works, what it takes to create a campaign, and why our audience should enter the sector! Find roles in advertising here.

Keep your eyes peeled for our next masterclass in November…