“Sink or swim” means to fail or to succeed. That’s what it can be like in the advertising industry. Many people feel as though anyone can do it. Anyone can be a copywriter, designer, account executive; but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Strategic planning is probably the second most important position. First, of course, is coming up with a concept, the copywriter’s role.

This is an industry full of creativity, full of sexy ideas and brilliant minds. It also comes with an abundance of caffeine, sleepless nights and an injection of pop culture. Most classic references come from history, movies, art or music. That’s why the most sought after media is risk taking and going out of your comfort zone to increase viewership or readership. Advertising is means of communication. By not communicating the message you lose your audience. Fail. By having the ability to persuade your audience to purchase a product, you succeed. You must have the credibility to give people the reason why they should buy what you’re selling.

In order to be an efficacious ad rep one must be savvy with the 21st century and the idioms that coincide with it. Now I’m not on the creative side developing content, but I work with a lot of them. Being in sales is an entirely different story. You’re representing a multitude of clients, and have to know their companies inside and out in order to better suit their needs. Listening to their needs is the number one piece of advice I would give anyone who wants a career in advertising.

Terry O’Reilly, an advertising guru, host of CBC Radio’s “Under the Influence,” has a powerful presentation on “Why Customers Have To Feel, Not Just Understand.” Most people make purchasing decisions based on emotions rather than statistical information (charts, graphs, numbers). This is a very important rule when it comes to advertising: You must associate passion and emotion with a product or idea. This will help you succeed, or swim. By throwing numbers at prospects you’re not associating the emotional purchasing decision, you’re sinking.

So “sink or swim,” eh? That’s where the real principle comes in. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes, Darwin style, then get out of the kitchen. Know your competition, know your industry, and know what you want out of this industry, because guaranteed, there will be a younger version of you eager to work harder for less.