Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Put down the video cam

I disagree with almost every sentence of this video. In short, he says don't put work for big name brands in your book. Your "sneaker" work cannot compare to anything Nike's done so why include it. Don't include work that all your classmates have done, the redundancy is unwelcome. And make sure you have a rounded portfolio, including TV and radio.

Dis. A. Gree.

Yes, you can come up with good student work for top notch brands. I've seen it. And every once in a while, it's refreshing to see that all the ideas in the world haven't been thought up already. Add a fresh, ignorant young mind to a great big well-known brand and guess what? Sometimes an unexpected idea comes out the other end.

One of our current juniors did some rockin ' spec work for Guess shoes that blows away anything that brand has done it a long while. It happens. And when it does, make sure it's in your book.

No, I don't care if your book has the 15th version of Motel 6 Ads that I've seen. I understand that you get school assignments and, well, everyone else in your class got the same exact assignment too.

No, I can't understand TV spots from a junior. No offense, but they probably suck. And moreso, are difficult to comprehend from storyboard frames. Ditto for radio. Stick to the stuff juniors get assigned.

Put work in your book that you are proud of and feel great about. Put work in that shows off your creative talent in the best capacity possible. No matter what the brand or assignment.

Monday, June 23, 2008


This advice is simple: Quit. Now why would I tell you to do that? And, quit what? Perhaps you just graduated or are fresh in your first job. Maybe you don't even have a one yet. Let me explain.

It’s not quit in the sense of giving up when things get too hard. This isn’t about hopelessness or a sense of failure. It’s quit in a much bolder sense. Quitting to try something new, to gain a fresh perspective, or to embark on a new endeavor. Quitting is risky. And risk is an exact expression of your courage.

Landing your first job is somewhat easy. That’s what your time at ad school prepared you for. What is much harder is the decision to leave it. To leave your first job and take your second. Or leave your second to take your third. No one is teaching you how to do that in school, guaranteed. Yet, when you move into new situations and places, you change your perspective, and you learn things. Every new place you work will have a different vibe to it with many unique personalities and a culture all its own. I am recommending you get exposure to as many as you can.

You’ll gain an advantage in your career when you continually go out and experience more of the world. This is what travel teaches you; what working at a new place or in a new city teaches you; what exposing yourself to change and risk teaches you.

Be curious, travel, discover, experience. Curiosity and courage will have a profound affect on your creativity. You are entering a field where creativity is key. Creativity is what will set you apart from your peers. And creativity, I imagine, is what got you interested in Advertising in the first place.

By exposing yourself to change, by making the tough decision to switch jobs, by testing your courage, by quitting – you gain so much. And if you truly believe in the choices you make, there is no question you’re making the right decision.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The 3 De's

Detach. Depersonalize. De-Ego.

The last one is a word, really. Born of the advertising industry and bred within the creative department.

When designing/concepting/creating work, you must learn to detach emotionally. Not completely, or you'd risk becoming a creative robot. But just enough to protect yourself from what is going to be years and years of critique. I think a lot of juniors coming right out of school are shocked not by getting criticism and feedback on their work but by being denied the choice to act on it. In school it's your choice what to do with the feedback, at the office not so much.

Depersonalize yourself from your work. Every critique is not a criticism of you as a person. It is so hard to not feel hurt when someone wants to change something about your creative baby. But above all else, remember this is a business. And your creative work is subject to poking and prodding all in the name of making it better and more successful for your clients. Your paying clients.

De-Ego. Again, not totally as a bit of ego makes the advertising world go 'round. But ever so slightly that your big head doesn't get in the way of your Executive Creative Director's. THEIR big head is allowed, yours isn't.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why is Alexis so cool?

See the link to the left that says "I'd hire her on the spot." That's Alexis. First off, it's obviously she spent some cash on her website. Second, the money was well worth it as I tried to hire her at the same time she was swooped up by Tribal DDB in Chicago. Alexis is most likely not worried about that cash outlay anymore.

Her website is a great example of two things: 1) her personality and 2) her personality. Remember a while back I wrote about differentiating yourself from other ad school graduates? This website is a classic example of just that. Alexis is cool, funky and very, very funny. And I knew all this without having met her.

Keep in mind that I was considering her for a position on our Mattel team. Her quirky style was a perfect match for that account. Now, had my opening been on Land Rover or Toshiba she most certainly would not have been a fit. Remember that the next time an agency turns you down. It may only be due to your style vs. client fit.

Back to Alexis' website. She is helped tremendously by some great art direction. Don't discount how that affects a copywriter's book. It is very difficult to extract bad art direction from good copywriting. Try as we might, we recruiters look at the ad as a whole. It is really hard not to. But, what Alexis does best is communicate her personality. The music (push it rocks!), the section "about me" is fantastic and the navigation is easy to maneuver. I think I want to hire her web designer as well!

I always, always go to any "about me" section first. I'm weird that way. But, I really want to know YOU before I see your work. And after reading about Alexis, I just wanted to hang out with her. Her apparent dynamic is refreshing and any agency creative department would be stoked to have her. Kudos Tribal DDB.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bigger is not better

June means Graduation. I know there are hundreds of about-to-be ad school graduates stressing over their Senior Portfolio Shows right about now. Most likely, they are spending an inordinate amount of time agonizing over what their portfolio cover is going to look like rather than what's inside.

I had an intern last June ask me if I'd review his portfolio a couple of days before his Senior Show. Sure, no problem. He comes back and hands me a 15 pound metal book. I am not exaggerating. He had a piece of metal hand-finished and, although it looked pretty cool, I could not lift it without a struggle. It didn't even fit on my desk without a major disruption of stacks and equipment.

Guys, it's not about the size of your cover. That is not what gets you noticed and, god forbid, what you want to be noticed for should it be obnoxiously obtuse. You could hand me a stack of 8 1/2" x 11" pieces of paper wrapped in tissue for all I care. It's about the work.

I want to be able to look at your work in 3 months or 12 months when an opening comes up. I am sick of looking at the stack of, oh, 200 or so portfolios on the floor of my office. Get a website, make it nice. That's all. And that way I can re-access it from time to time when I am searching for a particular position.

Web links are easy for me to forward to my Creative Directors, easy for me to file away, and keep my office from being the fire hazard that it currently is.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Execution vs. Concepting

As a Junior Creative, there is an inverted relationship between the amount of time spent concepting vs. the amount of time you'll spend executing someone else's concepts.

Coming right out of school you'll be incredibly lucky and downright unique if you land a job where you get to concept all day long. Perhaps 5 years ago when agencies were fat and happy with meaty AOR accounts this may have been the case. Today, when creative departments are integrating and streamlining (ie downsizing), every body counts. You must be able to execute and by that I mean be able to design and layout another (more senior) team's ideas.

Lately I have been reviewing junior books that are way too heavily focused on conceptual work and painfully lacking in design pieces. This balance is quite OK for mid- and senior-level creatives who spend more of their time concepting projects. But for juniors, not so much.

Sadly, I think your school instructors focus on concepting to the exclusion of design and, in my opinion, that hurts a junior portfolio. If you can't display a command of type, execute in a variety of styles, and show me you can work the software, then why in the heck would I want to hire you? I cannot afford to have juniors that lack these fundamental skills.

You know all those school projects that seem boring: logos, CD covers, identity systems, packaging, menus, invitations, etc. Those are exactly the means by which to show off your design skills. Don't discount their importance in helping someone judge your creative ability. And if you can throw in a couple of strong and smart conceptual pieces on top of that, you're golden.