Here are just a few examples of the question asked in some advertising grad scheme application forms...
WPP’s light-hearted offering:
Can frugality ever become cool? (max 250 words)
We have become a nation where everyone is talking about and trying to be ‘green’, be it recycling, shopping in charity shops or starting a vegetable patch. It amuses me that only a few years ago anyone caught participating in the above activities would have been classed a ‘hippy’, however, today, anyone thought to be ‘anti-green’ will surely be frowned upon. It would seem that these ‘hippies’ were in fact the trendsetters and innovators of the ‘environmentally-friendly’ era.
I believe that this new ‘green’ mindset combined with the current economic crisis will indeed bring about a trend where frugality will be cool. The need to save will no doubt give rise to a change in attitude towards frugality. A frugal lifestyle offers the opportunity to save money as well as gain some bonus points on the ‘green’ scale. Most supermarkets are already advertising discount brands as standard. Advertising does not set trends, but rather acknowledges what is cool and perpetuates it.
As with the attempt to be ‘green’, I do not feel that many will adopt frugality in its entirety. Most will experiment with the easier habits, however, those habits that require a greater level of change and dedication are never likely to be embraced wholeheartedly by the majority. Rather than making a conscious choice to be frugal, most are being forced as a result of their current financial situation but as economy begins to recover, I believe that they will be quick to neglect their newly adopted frugal lifestyle.
In 1973 E F Schumacher wrote: ‘All real human problems arise from the antinomy of order and freedom.’ If true, what are the implications for parents and managements? (max 250 words)
I believe that we all subconsciously battle with the antinomy of order and freedom on a daily basis, be it in a personal or professional setting. It is impossible to rate either one of the opposing laws as being more important than the other. The implications for both parents and managements would be the vital importance of finding the appropriate and most effective balance of the conflicting laws in order to maintain morale and loyalty, thus getting the best out of their employees/children. Parents must ensure that they provide their children with a balance of discipline, direction, morals and the freedom to play, have fun and learn from their own mistakes. Managements need to set boundaries and frameworks in order for the organisation to run smoothly but they also need to allow their employees a level of freedom so that they are able to use their initiative and feel trusted within the workplace.
Finding the best balance of order and freedom is especially important within creative agencies as due to their creative nature there is a danger that the law of freedom will be infinitely more alluring than the law of order. However, they must ensure that they do not choose between the competing halves, rather put both to good use, thus adopting a ‘one-and-the-other-at-the-same-time’ approach.
MCCanns Probing questions:
Britain has lost its sense of identity. Discuss. (150 words)
There is no doubt that Britain has changed dramatically over recent years, and many have struggled to come to terms with such change. I do not feel that Britain has lost its identity, rather its identity has changed. Britain has been welcoming to immigrants and as a result has a more ethnically diverse culture. I don’t think this a bad thing, in fact I think it portrays a British culture that we should be proud of. Britain’s identity lies with its people, if British people feel they have lost their identity then that is of their own doing and not that of the government. I consider myself British. Britain is where I live, and British culture is the culture in which I exist. I think that the problem lies not with a lack of identity, but with the inability to embrace change.
What have brands ever done for us anyway? (150 words)
We have become a nation that is obsessed with brands. We as consumers have complex relationships with the brands that we choose to use. We use brands as a form of identity and self-expression. Brands function as a tangible expression of self-image within the social environment, they offer us a method of differentiating ourselves within social groups. For example, surfers will more often than not only wear brands such as quicksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl as they are widely known as ‘surfy’ brands, whereas footballers will buy more sporty brands such as Nike, Adidas and Reebok.
You’re setting up a community on Pluto. Who or what would you take with you and why? (100 words)
Alex Zane – Husband (Self explanatory).
Kings of Leon – Life is better set to music.
Chef and culinary explorer Valentine Warner – Everyone needs to eat and good food makes me happy.
My friend Liz – She always manages to make me smile.
Lee Evans – Laughing keeps you young.
David Attenborough – I’ve always wanted to meet him and pick his brains.
The whole cast of the Bill – Guilty pleasure!
Coen Brothers – Genius.
Mark Sloan (Diagnosis Murder) – He has both medical knowledge and a good nose for crime.
Last but not least my Mum – I think she’d quite like Pluto.
Iris graduate application question: Have safe sex. It’s what we tell thousands of 18-24 year olds on behalf of our clients every day. Where and when do you think is the best way to get the message out there?
We have become a nation where in order to meet a prospective partner you don your gladrags and paint the town red. I am sure if asked, most 18-24 year olds would say that they go out at the weekends to have fun, however they will inevitably be hoping to meet a special someone. This need, combined with alcohol, often results in one night stands, which is generally when unprotected sex occurs. They are having fun, alcohol has taken away some of their inhibitions and they do not fully consider the consequences. Therefore, I would say that the best time to target this audience is a) when they are on their night out and b) the morning after, when they may be regretting their actions. Adverts could be placed in clubs and bars, especially behind toilet doors. They could also be placed in taxi cabs, tube stations, bus shelters etc for the ride home.
I think it is also important to consider that almost every 18-24 year old is a regular internet user, and more often than not look to the internet for sources of information, therefore a digital aspect of the campaign would be needed.
I would also target high street shops, maybe fitting rooms. Most girls and boys will buy new clothes for nights out. While they won’t actually be on the night out, it will be in their mind as they will be planning what to wear. By talking to them then we may be able to prevent any unsafe sex and encourage them to think ahead and buy protection before they go out, get them into the mindset where condoms are an essential part of their ‘outfit’ when they hit the town. This could be transferable into digital with condom brands etc combining efforts with Topshop/Topman and advertising on their websites for when the audience is shopping online.
(I didn't actually get through to the first round of any of these schemes...so I wouldn't advise that you take any ideas from my answers!!)