Monday, November 30, 2009

Eurobest


The Eurobest Festival doesn't get as much publicity as worldwide shows like Cannes and the One Show. But it does a great job of showing the best of the best within Europe.

Winners were announced last week. You can see the work here. Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are you one of the Top 100 creatives?

CMYK is charging only $45 to submit up to 15 entries in their Top 100 New Creatives contest. That's the most inexpensive, high-profile contest you're likely to see in your career.

Definitely worth checking out here.

We get nothing from CMYK for mentioning this. But if you're in the Top 100, and a regular Makin' Ads reader, let us know and we'll give you a shout out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Radio Lessons from a Young Creative

When I was a young creative, I wrote a radio spot that had my CDs and our clients laughing out loud. What made it funny was the way I read it. When we went into production, we tried to find an actor who could read it as well as I did. We found a guy who was pretty close. But it wasn’t exactly how I read it. And it just wasn’t as funny.

LESSON 1:
If you’re the best person for a spot, jump in the studio after the talent has left and try it yourself. I wish I had. And I’m sure Andy Azula is glad he did.

Working with that talent, he began to read the client information with a kind of newscaster feel. This wasn’t the intention at all. But it was something the client picked up on, and urged us get more of. I was a very young and eager-to-please creative. But we ended up with a radio spot that sounded nothing like the one I’d originally presented.

LESSON 2:
Stay true to what you want. Don’t let clients or even your own producer steer you in a direction you know you don’t want to go. You want a director or a producer to plus the script – to give you something cool you weren’t expecting or even asking for. But if you don’t know exactly what you want going in, you’re probably not going to get your best stuff.


When this spot was finally produced, the client was very happy. But I wasn’t. And even though he didn’t say anything, I don’t think my CD was, either.

My art director partner – who was involved in the concept, but not in the production – told my CD, “It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be.” In a kind, mentoring way, my CD told her, “Then maybe you didn’t do your job.”

LESSON 3:
Radio doesn’t need to be a writer’s-only club. Radio is visual. You can’t tell me art directors have a roll to play. Here is one of my favorite radio spots – co-written by an art director.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Gang Bang


If you work in a big agency, you might hear about "gang bangs" from time to time (probably too often). This unfortunate nickname refers to throwing multiple teams at an assignment (the number of teams might be as high as 15, but I'd say 5+ teams qualifies it as an official gang bang).

Although they can be potentially detrimental to the morale of the creative department (lots of wheels spinning, increased competitiveness, paranoia about other teams stealing ideas, etc), the gang bang persists because it can generate a lot of varied ideas in varied directions in a very short time. And because the quantity of ideas is so important in the initial stage of the creative process, agencies are usually willing to make this trade-off.

So if you're one of a dozen creative teams in a gang bang, what should your strategy be? Here are a few thoughts:

1) Try not to be intimidated. For young teams especially, the gang bang can be super stressful. I remember sitting in gang bang briefings as a junior, looking around the room at all the agency's all-star teams, and thinking, "Holy shit. That's our competition? We don't stand a chance." On top of that, you may be presenting work to an Executive Creative Director, a Chief Creative Officer, or the Chief Creative God of the Universe who you've never had any contact with. You're the underdog. You have nothing to lose. Be organized, professional, and bring your best thinking. Nobody's expecting the junior team to have the big idea in these things, so if you do...Poof! Rock stars. And view the experience of presenting to the ECD/CCO/VP/Gods as an opportunity to make a good impression.

2) Don't worry what everyone else is doing. Paranoia, that they're trying to take your ideas or that they have better ideas than you, is not helpful. Forget all that. Focus on your work.

3) Think sniper rifle, not shotgun. Focus on your best ideas. Whereas you might take a handful of ideas into a creative review (shotgun approach) when you're the only team working on it, the gang bang creates that range by design. Spend time generating ideas, but make sure you also spend enough time picking your best one or two and refining them. One fully realized campaign will fare better than a dozen half-baked ideas.

4) Don't overlook the obvious. Here's a pretty common experience: You have a good idea that's right on strategy, but you think it might seem a little obvious, or that all the other teams are going to have it, so you abandon it. You push on, off into the far reaches of the universe to find an idea that nobody else would ever think of. Then it turns out that another team did have your original idea, the one you abandoned, and the client buys it.
The fact that other teams are working on the assignment doesn't change your goal. Your goal is not to outsmart the other teams. It's to come up with the best concept for the brand. One that's right on strategy. Don't psyche yourself out of a spot-on idea.

5) Don't kill yourself if your idea isn't selected. Hopefully you put your best thinking forward and made a good impression internally. Offering to help contribute thinking to whatever campaign does go forward is usually a nice gesture. But whatever you do, don't get bitter or sad. Suck it up, learn something from the experience, and move on to better things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview Questions to Ask

Yesterday, Ad Age reported that BBDO Detroit will be closing in January, and is laying off 485 employees. Yikes. I don't know any of them. But I feel for them.

Yes, the economy's bad. But here's the thing: BBDO Detroit is closing because is lost Chrysler. And that was its sole account. 485 jobs. Poof.

So when you start interviewing, remember: make sure you ask about the agency's current, paying clients. Not just the fun pro-bono accounts and side projects they use to enter award shows. Ask everyone who the most important clients are and why.

Even if you're winning Gold Lions, anyone who feels comfortable in a one-client shop is delusional. Even Wieden has lost part of Nike on more than one occasion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bogusky on student books

David sent us a link to Justin TV where Alex Bogusky talks about some of the things that make a good student portfolio. Very good stuff.

Watch live video from FearLess Q+A on Justin.tv

Monday, November 16, 2009

Einstein and Award Shows

In 1911, Albert Einstein realized part of his theory of relativity could be proven if he could measure starlight that passed near the sun. (The science is over my head, but stay with me.) But he'd have to wait until August 1914 for the next major eclipse. And he'd have to travel to Crimea in Russia to observe it.

Problem was, Einstein wasn't as famous in 1911 as he is today, and no university was willing to foot the bill. So Einstein paid for it himself. He wasn't a rich guy at the time. But he believed in his theory of relativity so much, he was willing to raise funds and pay out of his own pocket to do what he had to do.

Analogy time: Award shows are not cheap. According to this post, the average cost of a One Show entry is $358. Usually, you don't have to worry about that. You do great creative, and your agency pays for the submission fee.

But what if it didn't? What if you had to put up your own cash for your own work?

Take out whatever you're working on right now and ask yourself, "Would I pay $200 of my own money to send this to the One Show?" Maybe you're tired of award shows and think they should be boycotted. Fine. It's still a valid question. Would you pay $200 of your own money to let the world see your work? I suggest that if you're not willing to put your own money behind your own work, even hypothetically, it's not your best stuff. You need to be as excited about your current assignment as Einstein was about taking pictures of an eclipse in Russia.

Bonus Lesson: When you do great work and it isn't recognized, you haven't failed.

Twenty days before Einstein's eclipse, World War I began with Germany declaring war on Russia. The German team Einstein sent to document the eclipse was captured by the Russian army and imprisoned because all their cameras and telescopes looked like espionage equipment. And it turns out, the skies were really cloudy anyway.

Three years of anticipation and preparation killed like that. Huge setback. Devastating.

But it wasn't enough to keep Einstein from becoming Einstein.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Creating Cults Not Ads

Thanks to those of you who've taken this survey. Over 200 have responded so far. Much love and appreciation to you all.

Here's a short article worth reading from a former student, Nate Archambault. Something to keep in mind when you sit down to concept.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Please take this survey. Pretty please.

We've created a 14-question survey for portfolio school students and junior creatives.

We would really appreciate it if you would a) take it, and b) pass it on to any other students or juniors you know. We'll post the results as soon as we have them.

Click Here to take survey

Thanks!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Open Letter to Dylan Lee

Hi, Dylan.

We've never met. I don’t mean to weird you out. But you're one of my heroes.

The first time I came across your name, I was a portfolio school student looking through the 1999 CA Advertising Annual. Those ads you and Monica Taylor did for Victorinox just floored me. They were gorgeous, and the copy sang. Even back then, before tweets and status updates, body copy was considered a dying art. It was nice to see someone who was still able to craft it.


Of course, I'd already seen that great Monster.com ad during the Superbowl that year, and when I realized you were responsible for both campaigns, I made a mental note to look for your name in the back of every annual afterwards.



A year later, I got the 2000 CA Advertising Annual. And you weren't in it. There's a Michael Lee and a Miriam Lee. But no Dylan. You had two amazing additions. And then nothing? Honestly, it was a little confusing to my portfolio school student brain. (I'm sure it bothered you more than it did me.) But you've made several appearances since. Not every year. Just most years. And that reinforced something I once heard Mike Hughes say: "Advertising isn't a sprint. It's a marathon." It was good lesson to learn early on. Thanks for that.

In school, I was lucky enough to have Ernie Schenck assigned as my pen pal/mentor. Here's what he said about you without knowing I was already a fan:

"Ever heard of Dylan Lee? Dylan got his first job with John Doyle. He later went to Pagano Schenck & Kay and later Mullen where he did all that fantastic Swiss Army stuff. Now he's at Wieden. Just a huge talent."

There were a couple more good lessons to learn early in my career: Your reputation can proceed you, and it's because of your work. And talent is usually surrounded by talent.

So why am I writing you? A couple reasons:

  1. Generally, when I have a generous thought, I try not to suppress it. Just wanted you to know I think you do great work.
  2. Since a lot of portfolio school students and junior creatives will be reading this too, I want them to understand how important it is to have heroes in this business. Heroes beyond the figurehead Boguskys, Goodbys and Hugheses. You don't have to have your name on the agency to be worth following. You just have to be doing great work.

All the best,
Greg

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bring the Brief



This might seem like a small point to post about, but I think it's important. When you go to a meeting to present creative, bring the strategic brief along. Ideally, you should set up your work using the brief, but at least have it with you.

Inevitably, the creative director, or account person or the CLIENT will ask to be reminded what the net takeaway on the brief is. It's okay to whip the brief out and read it (usually, an account person or planner will be all over this). What doesn't look so good (and believe me, I've seen this happen) is if all the creatives just look at each other, hoping that someone remembers the main thing their work is supposed to communicate. This puts a bullet in the work before it's even been presented. It says that there's a good chance your work will be off strategy, because you don't even know what the damn strategy is.

I tend to lose things easily, so I started making a 3/4-sized photocopy of the brief and pasting it in my sketchbook. That way I always know where I can find it quickly. Just in case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In Memoriam

We don't usually post industry news on this blog. But it's a sad day in advertising.