Cilla Snowball, 43, joined Abbott Mead Vickers in 1992 as the agency's first new business director. She became head of client service in 1994, managing director in 1999 and chief executive earlier this year. She is also a non-executive director of PR agency Fishburn Hedges.
"As an undergraduate considering careers, I wanted to pursue something in communications. I decided on adver- tising rather than marketing, which I was also attracted to, because I felt there would be more variety. I was pretty ill-informed about the industry at this stage, but thought it looked exciting and went for a graduate training scheme.
"I soon learnt these schemes are oversubscribed and you have to be very determined to get a job that way. Today's graduates have the extra option of doing work experience at agencies as a way in.
"I attribute my success since to a lot of luck, hard work and great clients. There's no magic formula, but plenty of oppor- tunity for those who are talented and industrious. I applied to Abbott Mead Vickers as a graduate and got rejected, which I never stop reminding everyone of.
"We have around 40 clients and my role is to ensure we're doing an outstanding job for them all. I'm particularly proud of the work we've done with Sainsbury's recently as it is making a huge difference.
"To make it in advertising, you need energy, imagination, inspiration, a commercial grounding and the ability to form relationships that will help build brands."
Phil Andrews, 37, managing director of Partners Andrews Aldridge, co-founded the direct marketing agency three years ago. He started at Wunderman Worldwide and went on to EHS. He then moved to Tomahawk, where he became managing director at the age of 27.
"By being actively involved, I can bring a wide experience of creative and strategic direct marketing, along with an understanding of a particular business."
Joanna Bamford, 34, is planning director at Lowe, the agency famous for its Orange, Reebok and Heineken ads. She manages a team of 25 planners, who provide the strategic foundation for ideas developed by the creative teams.
"The skill of a planner is to develop strategies that are right for the client's brand but also to act as a springboard for compelling creative ideas."
Duncan Bird, 36, is managing partner at Soul, the London creative/ media solutions agency formed in May 2000. After leaving a career in marketing, he started in advertising at Grey in 1988 followed by spells at Abbott Mead Vickers, Leagas Delaney and Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Soul's clients include Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Powergen.
"Advertising is a common-sense busi- ness where sense isn't very common."
Colin Mills, 37, is managing director of Carat in the UK. The media company achieved a high-profile status last year after it gained a string of new contracts, including Renault, Royal Mail and GUDV. It was recently voted one of the top 40 great places to work in the UK.
"I believe that to be successful in today's advertising market requires energy, creativity and vision, and an absolute willingness to work in teams. …