Elevator Pitch, Part 3: Your Book

You need your own elevator pitch. In fact, you're probably working on it right now. It's called "your book."

I can't stress how narrow the window of opportunity is for your book to make an impression on a creative director. I know one award-winning CD who literally flips through student books like he would a magazine. If nothing causes him to stop, he doesn't stop. May not seem fair. But it's how he hires really talented people.

So if your book really is your 30-second elevator pitch, here are a few suggestions for making the most of it:

1. Don't introduce each campaign with a set-up page explaining the strategy. It bogs things down. I've never seen an ad in any medium that was preceded by a paragraph explaining the strategy and target market. Most agency people are smart enough to figure out a strategy from the work itself. (At least the ones you want to work for.)

2. Keep the pages as clean as possible. Just show the ads. If it's an ambient piece, or some other execution that warrants explanation, keep it to no more than a couple lines.

3. It's nice if you want to credit your AD or CW. But don't do it on every page or with every campaign. (See #2.) If you are really so full of appreciation, give a collective shout-out at the end of your book. (Although even that isn't necessary.)

4. Don't try to be cute or clever with your book. I'm not a fan of cute themes because I've seen so very few of them work. I've seen some great ones. But I've seen a mountain of them come off as mediocre arts and crafts projects.

5. Ditto for resumes. I know very few creative directors who are fans of clever resumes. Keep it simple. Save your thinking for your ads.

Elevator Pitch, Part 2: Your Agency

So elevator pitches are used to sum up a campaign or an idea. But what about an agency itself?
If you were in charge of a pitch, what would you tell a client about your agency that makes it different from the competition? What's the agency's elevator pitch? (Hint: It isn't "We are a full-service agency, dedicated to breakthrough creative marketing solutions.") If you're a student or a junior, you may be a few years away from having to answer that question. But why not ask it while you're interviewing?

Next job interview you have, ask the CDs, creative teams and account people "What's the best thing about this agency?" Or something like "What does this agency offer that others don't?" You might even ask, "If I were a client, why would I go with your agency?"

I think they're important questions because they'll tell you a lot about the agency culture. Some answers will indicate that everyone's striving to do amazing work. Others will show you they're just there to get a paycheck and be home by 5:30. Some will be able to answer without hesitation. Others will say, "Um...Do you mean like free bagels on Monday?"

Elevator Pitch, Part 1: The Work

An "elevator pitch" is a term ad folks often use to describe the condensed version of an idea. Say you're in the elevator with a potential client. What are you going to say to that person to get them interested in the 20 seconds you've got before they reach their floor.

The reason elevator pitches are important isn't so much because you'll find yourself in these situations. But because it helps you strip away all the blah blah from your idea. If it's simple and concise, chances are it's either very boring, or very powerful. And you'll probably know which.

If you watched the Luke Sullivan video, you remember the elevator pitch for E.T. was something like "lost alien befriends boy to get home." You could probably figure out the elevator pitches for Lost, True Blood, or all seven Harry Potter book. You could also figure out the elevator pitch for the Mac/PC ads, Whopper Sacrifice, and Boone Oakley's new website.

So what's the elevator pitch for the project you're currently working on? It's a worth while exercise. Before you jump into execution, and start talking layouts or photography or long copy vs. no copy, figure out what your elevator pitch is. It's not really extra work, because if it takes you longer than 5 minutes for you to crystalize your idea into a sentence or two, it's probably not an idea that's going to go very far anyway.

Illustrated by Copywriters

Sometimes it's nice when an art director can write. Sometimes it's nice when a writer can draw. A lot of writers can draw. Not all, but some.

If you're a writer, and you've ever doodled anything, good or bad, please consider submitting it to Illustrated by Copywriters. It's a little side project I'm working on.


Performing is investing is selling

Recently, Jim was writing about audiobooks, and it got me thinking.

A few years ago, I listened to Tom Wolfe's book, A Man in Full on tape. (Yes, cassette tape.) It was read by David Ogden Stiers. Great actor. Great book. But having him read it to me was a little dull. As Jim wrote, it kind of felt like cheating to be listening instead of reading.

Last week, I finished listening to another audiobook. This one was The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. A cast of actors performed for about 10 different characters. The production was complete with Foley effects from background music on the radio to doors slamming. When someone was on the phone, they sounded fuzzy. When they were in the other room, they sounded distant. When they interrupted each other, you actually heard. It less of an audiobook and more of a radio play. They weren't the best troupe of actors, but the whole experience was far superior to famous Steirs reading famous Wolfe.

The Tom Wolfe book is like the creative team that says, “This idea is so good, it speaks for itself. Feast your eyes on this brilliance.” No one’s questioning the talent or the substance. But outside of the creative team, no one’s really invested in it either.

The Goldratt production was the creative team who took a great idea, sold it, and got it produced.

(In Tom Wolfe's defense, the jacket design for A Man in Full - and just about anything else - beats the cover of the Goldratt book.)

Quotes I found in a cook book, part 2: Enthusiasm in a brave new world

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.
-Aldous Huxley

Quotes I found in a cook book, part 1

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.

-Carl Jung

John Stewart on It Getting Easier

This is from "What Makes People Laugh," an interview by Carl Arnheiter with Jon Stewart. It appears in the book Rejected: Tales of the Failed, Dumped and Canceled, by Jon Friedman.

What's your take on building a joke, how does it start for you?

Jon Stewart: It's 99% perspiration and 1% love and all that...I think it's just one of those things you learn from doing it, and you know, the funny thing is even though I know how to do it in that yeoman sort of way, there is no "oh now I got it and so it now pours out." But it still takes as much effort and all that, I can do it a little quicker than I used to be able to, but the great stuff still comes in the same percentage that it ever came.

Language and Framing II

A while back, I wrote a post about the importance of language and framing, about how small changes in language can compel us to make larger shifts in the way we think about something.

I've recently gotten hooked on listening to audiobooks. I love them because they allow me to "read" while I'm driving or working in my yard. The other day, I noticed something: rather than a "Read by..." credit on the cover of the audiobook, it said "Performed by..."

I used to consider audiobooks a form of cheating. Someone was reading the book to me instead of me doing the work. It felt kind of lazy. I imagine this is one of the big hurdles for the audio book industry.

But "Performed by" frames the audiobook in a way that gets me over this hurdle. I'm not just having it read to me, I'm taking in a performance. It's as different as a play or a film. In this case, they hired actor Michael Boatman, who reads the narration and acts out the parts, giving voices to all the characters. It's a true performance. It changes how I think about the form and how I enjoy it.

In addition to how we frame things in the work we produce, the words we use to present it, particularly to our clients, can make a big difference.

We might think something is "cool," but a client might be more interested in hearing that it's "relevant to the target." Same meaning, different language. Is an idea "weird" or is it "breakthrough?" Is a design "clean," or does it "communicate more clearly?"

If someone had told me this when I was a student, I would have said, "Whatever. I want to sell my work on the strength of the ideas, man." I had much to learn.

Seth Godin on Quieting the Lizard Brain

You already know this stuff. But it's always good to hear again.