Your portfolio is the only way an agency knows how good you are at solving problems creatively. You get one shot.
That said, I’d like to dole out a little advice on the kinds of projects I think prudent to put in your first advertising portfolio.
First off, no public service stuff. Sorry, I wanna save animals as much as the next guy, but it’s just too easy to do wowzer ads for clients with names like “Let’s Stop Stomping on Kittens.” (And yes, I know, back in the ‘80s, I did some ads for PETA and won awards for ‘em, but … but … that was just different. Anyway, shut up.)
Next, don’t do any work for brands that are doing great work. Even if you do come up with a cool concept, your interviewer will likely compare your work to the famous work, which isn’t good. So, no Nike, no VW, no Apple.
Choose instead a real brand that could use some great advertising. Some middle-of-the-road product or service, one that’s running a lot of mediocre advertising. Like, say PetSmart. Or an airline or a bank or a line of power tools.
I’ll also caution you against picking products that are already interesting, in and of themselves. Sure, it’d be fun to do ads for, say, PlayStation 19’s Direct Retinal Control system but as my old friend Bob Barrie says, it’s better to “do something interesting for a boring brand.”
Choose also a service or product that you don’t have to explain. (“Well, ya see, it’s this thing shaped like a dodecahedron that attaches to the…”) If you first have to explain your weird niche product, you’re already playing catch up.
And lastly, don’t work on brands that scream “I’m a campaign in a student book!” Energy drinks, no. Hot sauces, no. Duct tape, no. Every single student in the space-time continuum is doing ads on these. Also, I implore you, please, no pee-pee jokes, potty humor, and for the love of God, no condoms. All of these things have been done to death. You won’t just be beating a dead horse. You’ll be beating the dust from the crumbling rocks of the fossilized bones of an extinct species of pre-horse crushed between two glaciers in the Precambrian Age.
(I stole that last paragraph from Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. Sue me.)