What to include in your advertising portfolio

By Stephanie Wright, Lead Copywriter

If you’re an advertising student about to graduate, you’re probably scrabbling around to put together a show-stopping portfolio for your transition into The World of Work.

So we thought it might be helpful to share some of the things that agencies look for when reviewing students’ books…

Show that your ideas have legs 

We don’t know about other agencies, but here at Delineo, you’ll very rarely work on just one poster at a time.

So, while a great headline with a killer visual is definitely something to be proud of, showing that your idea can stretch across multiple channels and mediums is far more important.

Produce a book full of campaigns, instead of single executions, and the agency will get a much more relevant picture of what you can do.  

Think 'Digital First'

One thing we’ve noticed about some advertising courses is that they seem to encourage more ‘analogue’ work.

However, while traditional print artwork might look more impressive than a Facebook post, the reality is that the majority of today’s campaigns start and end online.

That said, don’t eliminate print executions from your book completely. Just make sure you’ve shown how your idea translates in the digital sphere too. How would it work on Instagram, in retargeting ads, or on a digitised poster on the high street, for instance?

Think ‘digital first,’ and your book will feel much less ‘classroom’, and much more in line with what agencies are doing in 2019. 

Consider your audience

One thing that’s always a huge hit with clients (and therefore the agencies serving them) is tailoring your ad placement to your target audience.

At Delineo for example, we were once tasked with targeting teens for a reservoir safety campaign in the North West. But rather than going for traditional media like local radio and press, we grabbed their attention through Snapchat and Spotify.

Anything that shows you’ve really thought about your audience – what media they consume, where they spend their time, what’s going to appeal to them – is a great thing to have in your portfolio.

Show your working

It was the key rule of thumb for GCSE maths, and it still applies today.

Whenever we present work to clients, we don’t just show them a picture and let them work out the rest. Your portfolio shouldn’t do this either.

Instead, it’s good to add a short paragraph next to your work to explain your rationale, and any audience insights that back it up. If you can do this verbally in person, that’s even better.

But don't show us too much

We once received a PDF portfolio that was over 60 pages long. The enthusiasm was great, but realistically, nobody in a busy agency is going to have the time to look through all that.

So put your best ideas front and centre. Show you have enough self-discipline to edit your work – and enough sense to understand which ideas work best, and why.

After all, you’re going to need that skill later when you’re choosing which ideas to present to clients.

Team up

When you’re working in an agency, you very rarely brainstorm alone. So, don’t be afraid to include collaborative work in your portfolio too.

For example, if your skills are more on the writing side, work with a designer to add some visual ‘pow’ to your portfolio. If you’re more of a visual thinker, have a sit down with a copywriter and bounce a few lines off each other.

You never know what you’ll come up with together – and showing you can work well with others is always a good idea in such a collaborative industry.

Finally, don't forget to be 'you'

Of course, the main thing that matters when you’re putting together a portfolio is you. Try to use your book to showcase your personality, as well as your creativity and brilliant ideas.

One way to do this is through your selection of material. Why did you love this idea above all others? What made you want to share it with us?

Likewise, don’t hesitate to share your sources of inspiration. Though in the ad industry we like to pretend this isn’t true, nothing in the world is original. Embrace this fact and tell us what inspires you. You might just inspire us in the process.


Want to join our Bright Minds?

Get in touch today and let us know what you have to offer – or check out our careers page to see the latest job listings.

Good luck!