Thursday, July 31, 2008

What makes a "NO"

On my office floor sit four big boxes, each filled to the brim with portfolios. The labels read 'yes', 'no', 'maybe' and 'to be reviewed'. If you think there is some grand filing system for your book when it arrives at an agency, well, sad to say that's about it.

It's subjective to explain what gets a book into my 'yes' or 'maybe' pile, so I thought I'd tell you a few things that guarantee a 'no' (for me).

1. The toss from my chair to the 'maybe' box fell short.
2. Your big, stinkin' heavy portfolio cover knocked my diet coke into my keyboard and then I'm just pissed. And un-caffeineted.
3. You suck.

Obviously I am kidding. But as I went through my 'no' box trying to find some good examples, I am happy to report that I currently don't have any junior books in my 'no' pile. Either they are all backed up in the 'to be reviewed' box or I happen to be pleasantly pleased with the selection of junior candidates graduating into the industry lately.

Which, I am happy to report, I am.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not Cute

We all know that big, heavy portfolios are a pain; for the person you send it to most of all. If it weighs more than 10 pounds, you might want to think twice about that wooden, laser cut, double-panel cover. I've written a previous post about how bigger is not better.

Now it's time to bag on silly little portfolio I got today. And I emphasize silly and little. I don't have a ruler handy, but it is as tall as my index finger. So, like 2 1/2". Seriously. And what's even funnier is the Magnavision magnifying glass that was included in the package so I can really get a good look.

This is a copywriter portfolio, so try and imagine for a second how small the type is on these pages (hence the magnifying glass). Really? That's how you want me to view your work? Now I might, might, just ever-so-slightly might cut this person some slack if they were a student. Students do all sorts of funky things to try and get their book to stand out and a tiny micro-thing might be something they'd do. But, this writer is 10 years into the business. And, with that tenure, the cutesiness makes me wonder.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Your True Colors

Recently I was on a panel for an ad school "Meet the Industry" night. Me, another agency recruiter, a copywriter, an account person and a small agency owner. Everyone talked about how they got into advertising, talked a bit about their current job and gave a few words of advice for the students. Pretty typical for this type of event.

I am just as interested in getting a nugget or two of wisdom for myself, so when the agency owner began to speak I was eager to hear his advice.

And here it went: Don't show me your tattoos in an interview. Do not wear earrings (guys), lip rings or any other visible offensive garb. Wear presentable business attire, from Brooks Brothers perhaps. Nothing sloppy or hanging. Remember your manners. Emmulate Emily Post.

My jaw dropped at the first sentence. And a giggle escaped at the last. Emily Post? Brooks Brothers? What industry does he think this is, banking?

I caught the eye of a student in the first row and slowly shook my head "nooooooooooo." I mean, come on. First of all: Show me your goddamn tattoos. You are in a CREATIVE industry. Of course I want to see your personality in all its colors. (there may be exceptions to this in terms of vulgarity, but I haven't see it yet). Don't disguise your personality during an interview. God, if I ruled out all the pierced and tattooed people I'd be left with a very, very small pool of candidates to choose from.

The sloppy and manners part I will give him. But this seems more like common sense than worldly advice. Don't look like something the cat dragged in and be courteous. No brainers. But certainly don't act like anyone that you are not. Because if I hire you, I want to make sure I've seen your true personality, how you really dress and behave. That helps me determine what kind of creative contribution you'd make in our department. And sometimes that involves a big fat lip ring.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Trust your gut

This advice seems obvious: always trust your gut. And, I'll bet it's the advice you will have the hardest time heeding as you prepare and grow your portfolio.

Every single person you show your book to will have a different opinion about your book. I may absolutely love your long-form, stream-of-consciousness copy for the ADHD Foundation and the very next person may hate it. So, so, so many times at an Ad School portfolio show I will be commenting on someone's book and they'll tell me the previous person told them the exact opposite. I say leave this work in, another recruiter will say take it out. I love your logos, another will think they really suck. Well, they'll say it much nicer than that, but you get the gist.

So, above all else, do what feels right to you. If you love the piece that 5 out of 8 recruiters hate, leave it in. Just make sure you can elaborate on why you love it so much. Even if I am not loving a particular piece in your book, if you proceed to tell me the reasons why you feel strongly about it, I will cut it some slack. I love hearing stories about people's work. It means so much more to me to learn about your passion for advertising than it does to love every single piece in your portfolio. Cuz chances are I won't. But I will tell you my honest opinion (thoughtfully disguising the word 'suck' of course) and that gives you the grounds to decide whether or not to take it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Copywriter 101

I'm loving the articles on Talent Zoo. Here's one that I hope stays live for a while, it outlines the essential traits of a copywriter.

My favorites are #8) A strong stomach. Mustn't get a stomach ache after having ideas rejected two or three times; and #30) Suspicious. The ability to doubt everything.

In my opinion writers should question everything, research like fiends, be savvy with pop culture and, in fact, become cultural anthropologists. Note that the man who put this article on Talent Zoo is an anthropologist AND a copywriter. As you should be too.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

2 pages is all it took

By page 2 I wanted to hire this guy. He has absolutely one of the strongest junior design books I have ever seen. This is exactly what I mean when I say that, for me, strong design will always take precedence over mediocre and even good conceptual work.

Unfortunately, he had no desire to come work in California. (Still perplexed by that: surf, perpetual sun. I mean, really, life here does not suck). Anyway, once he shunned me I still tried to help him find a job. Here is a junior who could easily land a job around 60K, no problem. I thought it a sin that he wasn't at a big name agency. He really wanted to land in Chicago. So I emailed our Y&R Chicago ECD his link. I called a local recruiter and passed on his portfolio. I constantly refer to his design work in lectures I give about junior portfolios.

I don't know if he ever got the job he wanted in Chicago, but here's the point: If you show your book to a recruiter and it is not a fit, either for them or you, do know that they may be helping you behind the scenes get the job that will be.