eBook contest deadline extended

The Makin' Ads eBook contest deadline has been extended to August 15.

To submit, just provide a page or two of your design idea. Nothing fancy.

Details here.

Have fun.


Years ago I read an interview with Dan Wieden. He said for years he'd been trying to write like Whitman (or was it Faulkner?) and hadn't got it right. Maybe Wieden's new Levi's campaign fulfills that desire in some small way.

Today, I came across the I Write Like site which purportedly analyzes writing and compares it to other literary greats. A few paragraphs from one of our AE's documents came up with Arthur C. Clarke. Repbulicans and Tea Partiers might be thrilled to know Obama's Inauguration Speech came up as being George Orwellian. Text from a Sarah Palin speech I found online might have been penned by Dan Brown (minus the cliffhangers). Here's what I received after plugging in a block of text from my journal:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I've never read any of his work. I'll have to swing by Barnes & Noble tonight. Any recommendations?

My point in bringing this up is that it's good to emulate. It's good to have heroes. It's good to try to write or art direct or crack jokes or present to clients or play bass or start companies in the same way that some other great person is able to. Not forever. Just until you're able to find your own voice. (And we've got plenty of time to practice finding our own voices. I just read this morning that Carl Sandburg didn't become famous until he published "Chicago" at age 36.)

Who do you write like?

An Interview with Lionel Carreon

This is a great quote from an insightful interview with Lionel Carreon, senior creative recruiter at AKQA (full interview here):
What do you see over and over in portfolios that makes you cringe?
Thankfully, there isn’t much that is consistently cringe-worthy, apart from the occasional misguided idea. What I have noticed is that digital components have become as much a checklist item just like a TV spot or a print ad. They are often included in student campaigns for the sake of having them, often without any relevancy to the overall brand message and lacking any true innovation or strokes of genius. Two years ago it was an iPhone app, last year it was Twitter, this year Foursquare.

Very relevant to what I often see in my portfolio development class as well. Especially when it comes to that final quarter, students are often looking to check boxes. If it's not a great concept, it doesn't belong in your book, period.

Last night in class, someone set up a concept with "This is a Facebook idea." Alarm bells went off right then. If you're not setting up the idea with an insight about the brand and/or consumer, you should ask yourself if there is an idea. I heard the same theme consistently from speakers at Cannes this year: TECHNOLOGY IS NOT AN IDEA.

I completely understand the need and want to show that you are up on the latest technology, but without a relevant idea, it's nothing. Ironically, agencies often do the exact same thing when they pitch new business--at the last second, they'll say, "Shit! What's our Twitter idea? We need a Twitter idea!" No, you don't. You need a good idea, and maybe Twitter will be the best way to bring it to life.

Your Competition

Our friend Nate is also teaching at Miami Ad School this quarter, and he, Greg and I exchanged a few emails of advice and what to expect last week. In one of them, Greg said something that I think is really important and that students often forget (It applies to people in an agency too. It’s easy to compare yourself to your coworkers and nobody else.):

I usually found that midway or 2/3rds of the way through the term, students had kind of figured out how to coast. Come in with some kind of interesting ideas, listen to the instructor, revise them a little bit, start to lay them out and they look a little like ads. Almost every term I'd have to have a break-them-down-to-rebuild-them meeting where I'd do two things:

1) I'd have them look at a CA or One Show annual in class. Spend about 5 minutes with it. And then have them examine their absolute best (usually comped-up) work and honestly say whether or not it belonged.

2) Point out that their competition for a job isn't in that classroom (it's very easy to start to rank yourself among your peers). The competition is coming from Richmond, and Atlanta, and Miami and wherever any of those ad schools are, plus all the talented juniors who are still looking for work. No one can afford to coast.

Old Spice Does It Again and Again

Congrats to folks at W+K, who continue to push their Old Spice campaign into new territory (and to think, a few years back this was a brand that made you think of your great Uncle Buzzy).

And as if their commercials weren't rad enough, now they hit us with personalized video responses from the Old Spice guy to Twitter comments. Damn, they're good.

UPDATE: Here's an interview with the team behind the project.

UPDATE AGAIN: And here's the 2-day stats on the campaign.

AGAIN UPDATE AGAIN: Another interesting article about why this thing worked.

Questions for your Portfolio

I'm teaching a portfolio development class at Miami Ad School again this quarter. For many of the students, it's their final quarter of getting their portfolio in shape before heading out to look for a job. For the first class, I put together a page of questions to ask yourself about your portfolio before you take it out there. Let me know what you think or if you have anything to add.


Happy Birthday, Makin' Ads

High-fives and big thanks to all our readers.

Continuation of a Cool Story

About a year ago, I wrote this post on agency tenacity. Long story, short: Creative team comes up with a cool idea. Client loves it, but doesn't make time or money for it. The agency, knowing a great idea when they see it, tenaciously pursues it with the client until the client capitulates. Then the client ends up using it all over the place - TV, t-shirts, banners, etc.. There was never a brief or a client request. Just a cool idea and a committed agency.

Seems now the client is using it on their own products. A very cool continuation of the story.

Remember, not every agency or every creative director will take a brilliant idea and push it forward like this. Make sure you find those that will.

Makin' Ads Abroad

I spent the last two years working in an ad agency in Europe. Since returning to the States a couple months ago, I've received several requests for advice on working overseas.

To answer some of these questions, and give a little insight to my time abroad, I wrote an ebook, Makin' Ads Abroad.

You can download it here. Even if you have no interest in working abroad, I hope you find something in there you can use. Feel free to pass it on. I'd love to hear feedback - what you like, what you didn't, what you wish I'd included.


Design Competition

Just a reminder that the Makin' Ads eBook competition is still on. Details here.

Deadline is July 31st.

Have fun.