Who Will You Work For?

Within a matter of months, you students will have jobs. New jobs. Shiny jobs. Jobs of great potential. Although I'm sure you have a list of your preferred agencies, the right-place-right-time aspect of any job search pretty much guarantees that you have absolutely no idea where you'll end up.

But I don't think it's too early to decide for whom you'll be working. Will you work for...

  1. Your clients? Helping them build their brands.
  2. The agency? Helping it become a powerhouse (or maintain its status as one).
  3. Your creative director? Doing what he or she asks, and trusting them implicitly because you respect them.
  4. The money? Because you're finally making a decent paycheck.
  5. The glory? You're a legitimate creative now! You won't be entering your work into any student competitions.
  6. Other?

I've worked for a number of different agencies. But my boss has always been the same. Tell me who you think you should be working for, and I'll tell you who/what I work for. (No right or wrong answers. Except #4. That's not the right answer.)

Lost in Translation

Some of you recently had a portfolio review. The rest of you will soon enough. I thought the following might help (click image to enlarge):


Two blogs you might want to stick in your Google Reader;

Bannerblog focuses on some interesting online.

Billboardom focuses on outdoor.

Portfolio School Lies to You, Part 3

In the continuing series of lies that are somehow harbored before you’ve even begun interviewing, I offer yet another lie:

The client is stupid.

It’s easy to believe this one. We continually promulgate stories about boneheaded CMOs who killed a campaign because their spouses didn’t get like the color of the background. Or marketing managers who tested and tested and tested an idea into the ground until it was so devoid of soul it was the commercial equivalent of marshmallow fluff. Or clients who kill work with all the glee of those Muppet hecklers in the balcony. And you’ll all have your own stories within a month or two of your first job.

But the lie you need to uproot from your worldview right now is that the client is stupid.

They’re not. You’ll find that more often than not, they have more education than you. They have more business experience than you. They make more decisions and handle themselves better under pressure. That may be why they make four to ten times more money than you.

I’m not defending poor judgment or playing it safe. You’ll face clients who are inconsistent, timid, egomaniacal, and downright silly.

But the problem with believing the lie (other than it being false) is that it usually prohibits you from communicating with them. Why aruge with an idiot, right?

Dave Lubars has said that his talent is less in creative development (although he certainly has that in spades), and more in being able to listen to people and understand exactly what they need.

I’m sure Dave Lubars could tell more stories than me about clients giving schizophrenic feedback, or being gun-shy on a campaign that could make the company millions. But instead he listens. He knows there’s a reason for their actions. If he can understand their motives, their desires, their modus operandi, he can figure out what to do next.

Whatever his next steps are, I guarantee it’s not mope, complain, or talk about how stupid the client is.

Michael Chabon on Discipline

Michael Chabon says there are three keys to being a successful novelist:
  1. Talent
  2. Luck
  3. Discipline
Because he understands that talent and luck are completely out of his control, he focuses on discipline. He writes 1000 words a day, five days a week, no matter what.

Before the publication of his most recent book, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, he threw out about 600 pages from the final manuscript. And he cut over 350 pages from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (a book that ended up being 650).

Here's what he has to say about killing off pages he's spent countless hours crafting:

“That’s one of the things about discipline that saves you. If you know you’re going to write 1000 words every day it’s easier – it’s not easy – but it’s easier to contemplate cutting things…You’re going to be there again tomorrow. You’re going to check in, write your 1000 words, and check out again. I don’t get panicked about production, because that’s the minimum I can do.”

When you're disciplined, you're prolific. And when you're prolific, it doesn't matter how many times your ideas get killed. You're always going to have new ones.

Timeline of a Pitch

June 2007: We begin pitching the National City Bank business.

July 2007: In a preliminary meeting, the client gravitates to the line “Some banks have tellers. We have listeners.”

August 2007: After a couple rounds, the client still really likes the tellers/listeners line.

September 2007: We make our final presentation to National City. The campaign isn’t all about that single line, but it’s included in the work.

October 2007: We’re told that we had the “best strategy” the “best creative” but that the agency is “a little too young, and a little too hip” for them.

November 2007: The business is awarded to Campbell-Mithun.

March 2008: I pass this National City Bank window on my way to work...

I’m not posting to complain. I just want to share a good joke.

The Key to Failure

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

-Bill Cosby

Investments vs. Advertising

“You can’t do well in investments unless you think independently. And the truth is, you’re neither right nor wrong because people agree with you. You’re right because your facts and your reasoning are right. In the end that’s all that counts.”

- Warren Buffett (interview with Fortune, 11/11/02)

Now, replace the word "investments
" with the word "advertising." Is the statement still true?

South By Southwest

Well, one of the perks of working in the business is getting to occasionally travel to really cool places. This week my agency sent me to the South By Southwest Film/Interactive/Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

There have been some really interesting panels so far, particularly regarding the evolution of online and social marketing.

I'm blogging about the festival with a couple of coworkers on theysentustosxsw.blogspot.com. I plan to write a couple blogs when I return, specifically about how you take an idea for a website, event, or other non-traditional idea, and create an interesting, eye-catching, simple piece for a traditional book. Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know as well.

Dropped Balls

Something Kevin Lynch of Zig once told me:

"If I throw 5 balls at you at the same time, you probably miss all of them. But when I throw only one ball at you, you catch it."

Sometimes the balls are headline, body copy, tag line, visual, logo. Sometimes they're all the product features your client wants you to mention. And sometimes they're all the things you want to say in a meeting to get your point across.

The sooner you can figure out which ball you need to throw, the better communicator you're going to be.

Your Competition Has Their Hands Raised

Here’s an exercise: raise your right hand as high as you can. Seriously, do it. The example won’t work if you don’t. So raise your right hand as high as you can. Got it? Now, with your hand raised as high as you can raise it, raise it one inch higher. See what I mean?

Coming up with ideas is no different. You can sit and talk with your partner and keep your book open and write down ideas as they come to you and go through those motions. But that’s what almost every other creative team in any other school, or at any other agency is doing.

Stretch further.

Something to keep in mind as you get ready to send out your books...

Great agencies (e.g., Wongdoody. Butler Shine, Stern & Partners. Sedgwick Road. Element 79. Creature. Venables, Bell & Partners. Two by Four. Saatchi & Saatchi. Brighthouse. Toy. St. Lukes. Anomaly. Team One.Brew. Rethink. Droga5. Downtown Partners. Martin. Vitro/Robertson. Zig. Hill Holiday. Wieden+Kennedy. Shine.) are all very different.

But bad advertising is all the same.