Making people tick

Ben Wilkinson (BA Geography, 1999) discusses how the combination of studying human geography and living in Birmingham gave him the right skills for a career in advertising. Plus, some of his career highlights so far…

‘My first encounter with Birmingham was through a university open day, the sun was shining and the campus looked amazing. A poster in the Guild advertising a forthcoming D:Ream gig sealed the deal - oh, the shame!

‘After graduating I decided to stay on an extra year to complete a Masters in Economic Geography. I then joined the graduate scheme at TBWA, the advertising agency behind fcuk, John Smith’s and PlayStation. Nine years later I left for Saatchi & Saatchi where I helped launch EE. I then joined Dare, Campaign magazine’s ‘Digital Agency of The Decade’, as their Head of Account Management. Last summer I joined AMV BBDO, one of the UK’s leading agencies, to run BT Sport, BT Mobile and The Economist.

‘A career in advertising is all about understanding people. What motivates them? What influences them? It’s difficult to separate, but the combination of studying human geography and being surrounded by thousands of new people certainly helped me develop the skills and curiosity you need in advertising to understand what makes people tick.

‘I’ve been very spoilt for fond memories, advertising is good like that; I’ve spent a day playing keepy-uppies with Ashley Cole at Chelsea’s training ground, I’ve gone behind the scenes to see how a Big Mac goes from field to fork, and I’ve worked with Kevin Bacon dressed in full A Few Good Men style military fatigues - him, not me.

‘When I stayed on to do my masters I took the opportunity to join GTV, the university’s TV society. I made lots of new friends and gained new experiences that definitely helped me land a job. I’m now 15 years into my career and it is hard work, so you need to enjoy what you do. And when you love what you do, and are half decent at it, you tend to excel at it.’