Using advertising as a stepping stone to screenwriting has been going on for decades. Basically all writers need time to develop their craft, pay the bills, and meet people. The five years that John Hughes spent in advertising hit all those goals. And according to Robert Nolan who hired him at Leo Burnett, Hughes didn’t slack off on the advertising work at hand and he even picked up a few presentation skills that would help him in dealing with studio executives once he began working in movies.
“John never looked down his nose at the job. He took on every assignment with gusto and an off-kilter sense of humor. He was tireless and prolific — a committed workaholic. Every time he had a success on one project, he’d take on two more. When he finished those two, he’d go for four more. He was a whirlwind, banging away on his typewriter from morning till night. I think it was a discipline that never left him.
…Years later, when he was a successful screenwriter, he told me that the presentation skills he learned at Burnett helped him in presenting to the studio executives. He always remembered two things: first, to tell them what the idea was in one sentence before going into the details; second, to make some self-deprecating remark or a joke about the studio executive’s tie in order to break the ice and make everyone relax.”
The Early Ferris Bueller: Remembering John Hughes in Advertising