Friday, February 26, 2010

Boba Fetting Freelance

Everyone knows Boba Fett. But to name the other bounty hunters, you'd have to be a pretty big geek (no shame in that, but it's true).


This is the problem you'll find if you start freelancing. There are very few Boba Fett-caliber freelancers in the industry. It's extremely hard to do award-winning work as a freelancer, because those aren't the assignments agencies typically give to freelancers. They're usually brought in to do supplement work. Or to fill a gap left by a departing team until the agency can hire someone else.

You can make a lot of money as a freelancer. And when you start interviewing, you should let agencies know you're open to doing freelance work (it beats sitting around waiting for the phone to ring). But unless you've already made a Boba Fett-sized name for yourself as an award-winner, you're going to be a 4LOM or a Dengar (again, no shame in that, but it's true).

GEEK CHECK: From left to right - Dengar, IG-88, Boba Fett, Bossk, 4LOM, Zuckus (out of frame). You don't want to be a freelancing Zuckus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Talented Jerk vs Sweetheart Hack

Here's a great article by Sally Hogshead that tackles an interesting question. Obviously, it would be great if your creative director were both nice and smart. But what if you can pick only one?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't Discount the Laugh


I'm in a radio session today, working on a funny* spot. The script was funny when I wrote it, but by the time I get to the studio, I've rewritten it dozens of times. I've read it dozens of times and presented it maybe a half dozen. Then the talent reads it a few dozen more. And after awhile, I often find myself in that place where I'm going "Wait, is this really funny?"

Unless you're in a joke-writing class, analyzing humor can be counterproductive. If you have to explain why something's funny, it's not. Funny just is. Humor is based on surprise, so after the surprise has worn off, it's hard to keep that sense of what's funny. Because of that, the best gauge of whether or not something is funny is usually your first gut reaction.** Trust your gut. And when you present it and people laugh, point that out to them if they come back later and say it's not funny. When you hear 50 takes and one of them makes you snort in laughter, note that.

Humor can be structured and built up, and a script might go through months of painstaking crafting and revision. But you'll know if it's funny in about a half second.


*Yes, funny is subjective. For the sake of this post, though, pretend I'm talking about an idea that is indeed "funny."

**This is different from late-night slap-happiness funny--if it's not still funny in the morning, it's probably truly not funny).

Friday, February 19, 2010

On A Horse

One of my favorite parts of production is seeing how the director and crew figure out how to shoot things practically. Here's an interesting video looking at the fine Old Spice ad from Craig Allen and Eric Kallman at W+K.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Control Freaks

Years ago, as a student at the VCU Adcenter, I remember Jelly Helm admitting to our class that he was a little bit of a control freak. He said that if you asked the rest of the faculty, you'd find most of them were control freaks, too.

But the thing that's really stuck with me, is that Jelly believed that having control-freak tendencies was probably a big contribution to his success.

"Control freak" has negative connotations. Who wants to work for a tyrant and an ego-maniac, right? The thing is, I don't think Jelly is a tyrant or an ego-maniac. He just really cares about his work. He doesn't stop at "good enough."

Embrace your inner-control freak. Nourish it. You can be a control freak and still be nice and humble and respectful and open to other opinions.

But if you're an art director, have an opinion about the copy your partner's writing. If you're a writer, weigh in on your partner's layout and typeface. It's you're ad, too. Because when you show your book around and have to explain, "Yeah, my partner wanted it this way, but I didn't really agree," what you're really saying is, "I put this in my book, but I don't like it, so there's really no reason you should either."

Friday, February 12, 2010

The opposite might be true

A very short video on assumptions.

Just something to consider when you're concepting.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Gadd Taught Me About Advertising

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a drummer in a band.


Whenever we'd go to the music store, I'd pick up all the Zildjian, Tama and Pearl catalogs I could. They'd always feature photos of their spokesdrummers, and out of 20 or 30 per catalogue, I'd usually only know three or four.


So I'd try to figure out who these other drummers were and why they were supposed to be good. And that exposed me to a lot of new music I would never have discovered on my own.


Instead of thinking Alex Van Halen and Phil Collins were the uncontested best in the world, I learned about the guys in this video:



I bring this up for two reasons:

  1. This video is awesome and should be viewed frequently and with great enthusiasm. Steve Gadd knows how to use the cowbell.
  2. Being a wannabe rock drummer isn't too different from being an advertising student. You don't have Zildjian catalogs, but you do have the annuals, and sites like Creativity. Everyone knows the Goodbys, Wiedens and Boguskys. But there are tons of lesser-known creatives who have just as much talent, if not more. The best thing you can do is seek them out in the annuals, and seek them out when it comes time to look for work.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Working As A Team

"In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Power of Story



Check out this short video on why Subway's Jared story was so much more impactful than their previous campaign, "7 under 6." It's why ad schools have classes that focus on storytelling. And the point he makes about the message being concrete, unexpected, and emotional is true of any good campaign or execution.

More on surprise in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Art of Presenting

"...It just doesn’t matter how good the idea is unless you can persuade the person on the other side of the table to feel the same way."
-The Art of Presenting
by Peter Coughter, Jr.

Some other great tips on presenting can be found in his article here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why Creativity Isn't Enough

Here are four characteristics of the kind of advertising we all aspire to create:


But most of us focus the majority of our efforts on only one area:

We're in the creative department. We're called creatives. One of the leading industry magazines is called Creativity.

The problem is, almost all of the student portfolios I see are creative. But that doesn't get them a job. In most cases it doesn't even get them an interview.

A lot of the advertising I see on TV and billboards and online is creative. But that doesn't mean they're going to win Lions at Cannes. It doesn't even mean the writer and art director who came up with the idea will want to showcase it in their portfolios.

The way creative begins to stand out is to make it brilliant.



There are a lot of ways creative can become brilliant. A great brief with a great insight. Mind-blowing art direction. A real human truth. Basically, I think it's creative work that the team actually cares about. It's creative that tries harder.

Brilliant creative elevates your book out of the crowd a little bit. It puts you in the top quarter of portfolio school graduates. But top quarter isn't really enough, right?

The next leap is to make it different.
It can't just be different for different's sake. You've got to back it up with the brilliance. So what's the difference between brilliant creative and being different? It's got to have that "I've never seen that before" feel. Look at the Skittles work. Completely different than anything in the candy category. Look at the Space Chair work from Toshiba. Or the We Choose the Moon site from Martin. Or Whopper Freakout. Not just brilliant creative, but very different from anything that came before.

I have seen only a few student books that have been able to do something truly different. And those were students that agencies were quick to hire.

But the big leap is to make your work innovative.


This is real Titanium Lion territory. And to be honest, it's hard for me to imagine pulling something like this off in portfolio school. It's hard enough once you're in a job. But knowing what to reach for is a great place to start training your brain.

The adage is "Good enough isn't good enough."

But whether you're trying to get a job, a raise, a Lion or a reputation, I think the new thought is "Creative isn't good enough."

(Credit for the four-quadrant idea goes to Gideon Amichay, the ECD of Y&R Tel Aviv.)