Ideas vs. Idea-like Things

I want to give a shout out to my friends at The Richards Group who made the following commercial. I don't normally share work like this, but I want to make a point. Here's the Fiat spot my friends made.

And here's a different Fiat spot. Not sure who made it.

I bet this JLo ad was fun to make. It was probably exciting to sell through to the client. The creative team probably got to meet her. And it was probably cool to shoot all those people running from so many angles.

But a good idea will always, always trump borrowed interest. Always.

And as Luke Sullivan says in his book, it takes just as much time and energy to make a good TV commercial as it does to make a bad one.

On Being Dependable

We had a new business pitch last week. If you've ever been through a new business pitch, you know that it's a strange kind of animal. When I'm asked which creatives do I want on my pitch team, the characteristic that's usually at the top of my list is dependability.

Creatives are cut a lot of slack. We're allowed to be disorganized. Late for meetings. A little flighty. I think this is a disservice to us. We shouldn't be allowed to be those things. And when it comes to a new business pitch, those things can be deadly.

With this pitch, I was fortunate to have a very dependable team. It also happened to be a team with a lot of young people, several who had never been through a new business pitch before. But here's what I saw from them:

1) They followed direction.
2) They kept pushing ideas.
3) They came to meetings. They were on time.
4) They didn't waste time bitching about how f'ed up things were. Maybe this was because they aren't the kind to bitch, or maybe because they didn't have enough experience to know that it was f'ed--new business pitches are always f'ed to some degree.
5) They didn't draw lines as to whose idea was whose. We were all in it together.
6) They often asked, "What can I do?"
7) They didn't draw lines as to whose job was whose. If it needed doing, they'd do it.
8) They kept a good attitude. Even the art director who worked all day Sunday until 7:30 Monday morning, then went home for a shower and came back two hours later to work some more had a smile on her face.
9) They spoke their mind, but realized that once a decision was made, we were all moving in that direction. They didn't take criticism or killed work personally.

Being able to depend on someone to come up with a great idea is important. I'd obviously want that as well. But in a pitch, when half the battle is about process, about being efficient and getting through it all without killing each other, these other nine kinds of dependable are just as important.

How to Double Your Salary

This post isn't really about money. But I'm going to talk about it to make a point.

Years ago I was the writer on a certain campaign. We shot five spots with a man who was (probably still is) one of the best directors in the industry. The ideas were on strategy so the client loved them. The spots were creative so the agency loved them. And the production was pretty high-end with a lot of props and visual effects so they were fun spots for everyone to make.

When we wrapped, my producer turned to me and said, "Congratulations. You just doubled your salary." I asked what he meant, and he said, "Put this stuff on your reel, and wherever you go next, expect twice as much as you're getting now." This was before anything was even edited. We had barely started to listen to music for the spots.

But that's pretty much what happened. The spots were better than anything I had on my reel at the time, and they got some national recognition. So when I took another job a few years later, I was able to ask for almost twice as much.

(Let me pause to say that you should never take a job for money. Never. It can be a factor. It can be something you earn. But never let it be your motivation. Take a job you don't like and no number on your paycheck can comfort you if you're waking up every day thinking, "Crap. I have to go to work.")

But this post isn't about doubling your money. It's about putting yourself in a position to do the kind of work that you and your agency can be proud of. Money is just a convenient metric for determining the value of your work.

I was very lucky to be the writer on that campaign. I was lucky to be at an agency that championed great work, even when the clients didn't. I was lucky to have a partner who wanted to make the work better, and a creative director who knew how to make it better. I was lucky to be on this particular assignment because for every great campaign they let us do, we had to produce eight terrible ones. They weren't Nike. So getting this particular assignment was just dumb luck. And that sometimes happens, too.

But if you're not at that kind of agency, with that kind of partner, and that kind of creative director, it makes it more difficult to double your salary. To say nothing of doing great work.

So give yourself as many opportunities to luck out as you can.


Our friend Brian Thibodeau is currently teaching at The Chicago Portfolio School. (He's a VCU Brandcenter grad who's worked at The Martin Agency and now Ogilvy.) Brian recently launched a new blog called Look@Things for his art direction class. He's got great taste and a knack for seeking out eye candy and inspiration. So give it a peak.

(Brian's also the guy who sends us new headers for the blog. Check out his latest.)