Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Must Read

This may seem obvious, but it's worth stating. For an immediate lesson in what makes great advertising, pick up the latest issue of Communication Arts. In fact, pick up any past issue of CA.

I received my Advertising Annual #49 yesterday and practically pet it in excitement. That is, after I swatted away 4 creatives who also wanted to have a look. It has to be one the most succinct collections of great work in one place. (I'll throw in the obligatory "in my opinion" for those who may disagree).

For any student of advertising or entry-level creative, this is a must-read primer. Even I oohhhed and aahhhed at most of the work in there. My bet is if you studied the last 10 years of Advertising Annuals you'd learn more than your first year in the business. The work you see is just plain great (with the exception of those Amex ads - not really in agreement with their multiple wins, sorry). Anyway, pick it up and have a look. It is, and will continue to be, a great textbook of the best advertising work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Plan B

There should be a course taught to Advertising students called "Plan B." I think it would be highly popular and would serve to steer some toward alternate careers. Now I mean alternate careers within advertising, not a different industry altogether. I say this because the more I speak to near-graduates, the more I find a slew of them are curious as to what else is out there beyond copywriting and art direction.

Last week I visited a mid-west ad school and had conversations with at least 4 students who were clear that they wanted to do something else, but had no idea how to get there. One student wants to be an art buyer; another a stylist; another a creative assistant; another "something creative, but not sure." (yea, not sure I can help that last one).

This Plan B class would teach all about art buying: what they do, what skills are imperative and how to purposely chart a course into a junior art buying job. It would teach print production in the same way. Creative students who have an eye for design, but perhaps can't design worth a lick, can certainly learn the art and science of printing. The class would also teach about all the other operational positions within an agency that are viable career options for creative folks. I know all the schools generally talk about other positions within an agency. Students learn about what traffic does, what the art buyer does, what the people in the studio do. But, I'd love to see them learn more concrete ways to actually get one of these jobs.

For example, I gave the ones interested in art buying some advice about trying to get a part-time job in an art gallery (they live in the uber-artistic city of Minneapolis, so this shouldn't be too hard). I told them to start researching local photographers and get to know their work. Then classify the styles of each one, ultimately ending up with a binder full of potential photo vendors that could be tapped into for future shoots. Then do the exact same thing for local illustrators. This is something the students can begin now, before they graduate, and even if they never, ever even use the binder, it is a fantastic lesson in research. And, who wouldn't be impressed with a junior candidate who brought a binder like that to an interview and showed the advance work they had done to begin their career in art buying. I'd be.

Everyone studying advertising knows that want a "creative" career. Yet not everyone has the copywriting, design and conceptual strength to make it in the creative department. We should teach about Plan B just in case.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Follow Through

Once I had a junior copywriter send me a package, hand addressed which is always intriguing. Inside was a very small, red leather photo frame. She had framed a piece of paper with a message about hiring her. Enclosed with it was a note where she had written something to the effect of, "I'm a junior writer interested in your company. I will call you to follow up in a week."

Well, it's now about a year later and I am still awaiting that follow up call. I have her little frame sitting on my bookcase and still, a year later, wonder if she is employed. She must be. For her sake, I am hoping she was employed the day after she sent me that package. And perhaps in the excitement of actually landing a job, she forgot about following up with the rest of her potential future employers.

It's like I got a great teaser campaign with no hard sell afterward. I wonder how much effort and expense she must have put into preparing and mailing all of them, as I'm sure I wasn't the only recruiter she contacted. With that much effort, I'd think the last step of follow-through would be mighty important.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Toughen Up

I was talking with a co-worker yesterday, a guy who has been teaching a portfolio class at a local art school for over 4 years. He was telling me he made 3 students cry last week. Now if you knew this instructor, you'd know that he always makes a student or two cry every quarter. He's that tough.

And so we were commenting on how the students just didn't know it yet --but would in a couple of years-- that being brought to the brink of tears is actually a good thing. However bad it feels at the time, you will be a tougher creative in the end. Having your ego bruised once in a while hopefully helps make your work better and your skin thicker. His intent is not to make you cry, it's to honestly tell you when your work sucks. And I'm sure hearing that pretty much sucks.

Instructors make it hard because working in advertising is hard. This instructor is very, very tough on mediocre work because mediocre work will NOT be tolerated at any agency. Get used to it. I will bet you a million dollars that your future ECD will be equally (if not more) tough on your creative work. And your future ECD probably won't be too impressed if you burst into tears about it.

Thickening your skin, letting a bit of air out of your ego, and ending up a tougher person are all good things. And I'm sure that you'll have a teacher or two to thank for it in a few years.