Obama In Our House

A side project from a good friend of mine, proving that just because Obama isn't saying something foolish every 10 seconds doesn't mean he's not great inspiration for fun stuff.


More from Tony

More advice from Tony Grangers' ANDY diary. You already know this. But emphasis is good:

Gone are the days when one piece of work no matter how brilliant will win a GRANDY. The idea has to be larger than one execution. It has to be an idea that touches many media channels and that create a stir online and off line. And when you think about it, that's what most clients want anyway.

Calling All Writers

ANDY judge, Tony Granger on radio:

[This year's ANDY submissions are] inspirational stuff. With one exception. Radio. Not one winner. Not even a finalist. That's really sad actually. Where are the beautifully written spots that use theater of the mind to make you laugh or cry? Anyone wanting to go for easy pickings next year. Radio.

Tony Granger’s ANDY Diary

Creativity has asked Tony Granger to blog about his experience judging the ANDYs. In his first installment, he wrote:

I was struck by how many agencies waste their time and money in entering work that is so bad that we often would find ourselves scratching our heads wondering if we had missed something. (More often than not, sadly, we hadn’t.)

I think it’s hard to gauge how important creative integrity is when you’re a student. As a student I was surrounded by people who wanted to do great work, so I never questioned it. And as a junior I was so full of hope and enthusiasm, I’d always give my work the benefit of the doubt when it came to awards-worthiness.

But Tony’s comment shows that even when you have to put up $250 for a single piece or $500 for a campaign, some people are still overly optimistic or blind to what great work really is.

The only way you’re going to understand great work is to get very familiar with the annuals. And the only way you’re going to beat what’s in the annuals is thinking and working.

Dave Packard

In Jim Collins's book, Good to Great, he outlines the commonalities of companies that made the leap from good companies to great ones. He talks a lot about leaders and leadership, about the importance of humility and selflessness. This is one passage that I found particularly inspiring:

Shortly before his death, I had the opportunity to meet Dave Packard. Despite being one of Silicon Valley's first self-made billionaires, he lived in the same small house that he and his wife built themselves in 1957, overlooking a simple orchard. The tiny kitchen, with its dated linoleum, and the simply furnished living room bespoke a man who needed no material symbols to proclaim "I'm a billionaire. I'm important. I'm successful." "His idea of a good time," said Bill Terry, who worked with Packard for thirty-six years, "Was to get some of his friends together to string some barbed wire." Packard bequeathed his $5.6 billion estate to a charitable foundation and, upon his death, his family created a eulogy pamphlet with a photo of him sitting on a tractor in farming clothes. The caption made no reference to his stature as one of the great industrialists of the twentieth century. It simply read: "Dave Packard, 1912-1996, Rancher, etc."

SIDE NOTE: Packard and Hewlett famously started their company in a garage with $538. Here's an HP ad about the "Rules of the Garage."

5 Rules from Wieden + Kennedy

Jelly Helm's advice, as it appeared in Men's Health a few years ago:

Act Stupid. "Our philosophy is to come in ignorant every day. The idea of retaining ignorance is sort of counterintuitive, but it subverts a lot of [problems] that come from absolute mastery. If you think you know the answer better than somebody else does, you become closed to being fresh." states Jelly Helm, creative director.

Shut up. "The first thing we do when we meet with clients is listen. We try to figure out what their problems are. Then we come back with questions, not solutions. We write these out and put them on the wall. And then we circle the ones that we think are interesting. More often than not, the questions hold the answer."

Always say yes. "What I've learned from improvisation is to let go of outcome and just say yes to whatever the situation is. If you say an idea is bad, you're creating conflict--you're breaking an improv rule. You want an energy flow that moves you forward, as opposed to a creative stasis."

Chase Talent. "Find people who make you better. It's best to be the least talented person in the room. It's reciprocal. It challenges you to keep up."

Be Fearless. "Do anything, say anything. In the worlds of our president, Dan Wieden, 'You're not useful to me until you've made three momentous mistakes.' He knows that if you try not to make mistakes, you miss out on the value of learning from them."

Don't be that guy

This might be an ongoing series. Feel free to chime in with additions.

Don't be the guy who has work killed by the creative director for one reason or another, then walks the halls explaining to anyone who will listen why you disagree with said creative director, why killing your work was a mistake, or why your creative director just isn't getting the humor of your work. You may find someone who agrees with you, but you shouldn't need sympathy to do your job. Having work killed is part of the business. Learn to live with it. Let it go. Move on. There are plenty of fun ways to waste your time in an agency that don't also involve wasting other people's time.

Exit interview advice

When I left my last gig, I sat down with my ECD for an exit interview. Let me share one piece of advice he gave me.

He pointed out that my best work always came when I was having fun. When I was loose. When I wasn't letting things get to me. He pointed out a few campaigns where he knew I had had fun producing them. They were the ones that had won awards. By contrast, the assignments that I'd struggled with were the ones where I was working too hard, second-guessing the client, and fed-up with too much feedback.

None of that was news to me. But I realized for the first time how apparent my enthusiasm (and lack, thereof) was to others.

My point: Have fun. You'll work better that way. If you're not having fun, find a way to make it fun. Sure, that's easier said than done. But it's better than complaining, moping and still having to produce something.

If you want to be successful in this business…

Art directors need to understand and respect copy.

Copywriters need to understand and respect art direction.

Account planners have to be creative and recognize great work.

Creatives have to be able to write their own briefs and recognize great insights.

AEs should understand and respect great creative.

Planners and creatives should understand and respect client relations.

Clients should understand and respect great creative.

Agencies should understand and respect the client’s needs.

(Notice how it gets more and more difficult?)

You should know something about everything and everything about something. If you want to succeed in this business, start by understanding everything about your craft and almost everything about the crafts of those around you.

Tom McElligott on the Work

When I was in portfolio school, each student had to pick an industry celebrity to interview. One of my classmates interviewed Tom McElligott, and got this gem. In my opinion, this is one to tack on your wall.

Don’t be distracted by anything. The work is what counts. There are a lot of things that can get in your way, that take up your time and your emotional and intellectual energy; none of them account for anything. They mean nothing. The only thing, in the final analysis, at this stage of the game, that really counts, is the work. The work is everything. The years that I spent in advertising I saw an awful lot of people who had the potential to be good lose a lot of their ability to distraction. To politics, to fear, and to who has the bigger office. You’ll get the bigger office, you’ll make the money. Anything you want will happen, but sometimes it’s hard for people to see that when they’re in the middle of it. It looks like it’s incredibly complicated. Well, it’s not complicated at all. In fact, it’s so uncomplicated it’s amazing. All it is about is the work. Finally, if you do the work people will notice and you will get what you want. That’s it. It’s as simple as that.

– Tom McElligott

Stay Involved in the Whole Process

The power of the art director/copywriter team is that throughout the creative process, there are two brains working together instead of just one. But for some reason some agencies separate the duties a little more when it comes to production. Both partners go to the edit, but the art director handles the film transfer (or grading) and the writer handles the audio record and mix alone.

If you find yourself at an agency like this, I'd encourage you to stay involved as much as possible. Go to the edit, and the mix, and the transfer. If you're an art director, be at the voice-over session, and be on the call with the music house. If you're a writer, look at the proofs when the retouchers bring them in. Give input on the font if you have an opinion about it.

The creative process doesn't stop when you move into production, and I always find it helpful to have another brain in the room. In the production I just wrapped up, my art director actually listened to all 250 voice-over auditions to help choose a voice. It was a great help. And when you're involved in the process, you learn more. Any time you have that opportunity, you should take it.

Layoffs: A few things to consider

If I were a student or a junior creative, here are just a few things I would consider when digesting the news that even Crispin is laying off employees:

  1. Now, more than ever, you really need to have a great book to make yourself hirable when you're looking and invaluable when you're not.
  2. Personally, I do my best work when I'm not worried. Brush to the side the things you can't control (the economy, the hiring process, client whims), and focus on the things you can (your work ethic, your book, and how much fun you're having).
  3. I bet some of the 60 who were laid off from Crispin were creatives. And I bet their books are hotter than those of some creatives who are at giant/global/dinosaur shops. They (and maybe you) will have to decide what kind of agency they're willing to work for in this economy. Will they be willing to work at agencies that don't produce such great work just to get a paycheck? Will you? No right or wrong answers here. But you'd better have your own.

Get it?

Until [I started working with Lee Garfinkel] I was trying to impress my ad friends and show them how funny I was. I didn’t really care if anything sold. Lee would constantly say to me, ‘Make sure everybody gets it’ – unlike creative people who do ads that will win awards but never sell anything, and then they lose the account.
- C.J. Waldman, Harvest