Advertising Lullaby

This might not help you make better ads. But maybe it can help you avoid making really bad ones.


"The days you work are the best days."
- Georgia O'Keeffe

Man, I love that quote.


I just reviewed a student portfolio. Pretty good ideas, but typos and sloppy paragraph breaks were enough to take it out of consideration. This student apparently didn't care about his/her book. Why should I?

The Bronx & Their Mariachi Side Project

Today's guest post is from Energy BBDO brilliant-guy, Peter Carnevale.

As a buddy of Greg and Jim's, I periodically pass along stuff to them I think might be relevant to Makin' Ads. Well, this is something I shared and they encouraged me to write a post. So here goes.

This documentary, while not particularly well-made, shows a bit of what Greg and Jim seem to cover a fair amount on Makin' Ads: Doing something completely different creatively might make you better.

It's about a band, or more accurately, two bands. (Note: They are not everyone's cup of tea, but the bigger point remains.) The Bronx is a hardcore-ish punk-ish rock band. Mariachi el Bronx has the same members, plus a couple more, but they operate as two different bands. And yes, they perform in mariachi garb. The two bands are remarkably different, and the members discuss in this documentary how shifting gears completely has helped revitalize the creative process. Sound familiar?

I personally need to do more of this. I'd wager it would improve my work, and if nothing else, I'd probably enjoy the process.

Backstory of how Mariachi el Bronx came about: As I understand it, someone asked for an acoustic version of one of their songs for a compilation. They decided that they didn't like acoustic versions of hard rock songs, so they did a mariachi version instead and it snowballed from there. Pretty cool.

The Student's Paradox

I just stumbled upon the three new channels Mini is featuring on Pandora: Snow, Asphalt, and Dirt Road. Really fun to listen to. And as one of my friends pointed out, "It's the little things that make up a brand."

Here's the problem: As much as I love this idea, if I saw it in a student book, my reaction would be a resounding "Eh." Not because it's not brilliant. It is. But if I experienced it as an idea in a student book, and not as an actual, working piece of communication, it would have been entirely forgettable.

It's not really fair, I know.

If your student book had an entire campaign about how Pandora is now integrated into each Mini, and a really good print or web campaign were the focal point, and these Pandora channels were more of a sidebar, that would be great. (In fact, that's pretty much what Mini, and I'm guessing their agency Butler, Shine, Stern + Partners did.)

But it needs to be pointed out again and again that peppering your student portfolio with single digital ideas like this isn't going to make your book stand out. In fact, they will probably take your book down a notch.

Doing vs. Reading About Doing

In her book Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg has this to say about doing vs. preparing to do:

"People often begin writing from a poverty mentality. They are empty and they run to teachers and classes to learn about writing. We learn writing by doing it. That simple. We don’t learn by going outside ourselves to authorities we think know about it. I had a lovely fat friend once who decided he wanted to start exercising. He went to a bookstore to find a book so he could read about it! You don’t read about exercise to lose weight. You exercise to lose those pounds."

Pick up your copy of Hey, Whipple. Make sure you go through the annuals. And sincere thanks for reading this blog. But if you want to come up with great ideas, go to work coming up with them.

Optimism, Cynicism, and Various Mountains

Last week about this time, I was in Cape Town, South Africa, standing on top of Lion's Head, a small mountain that overlooks the city. The photo above is the view of Table Mountain from Lion's Head. The scenery there is spectacular, and it was one of those moments when I found myself thinking that I'm pretty damn fortunate to have a job that pays me to fly to these exotic locations and shoot some brainfart I had a month previous.

You will have moments like this in your career. Sometimes they are moments on a shoot, when you're traveling to locales and experiencing things you never would have the chance to by your own means. Sometimes it's the excitement of coming up with a new idea, or goofing around with people in the office. Or just sitting there shooting the shit, feet up on your desk, trying to find inspiration while you talk about your favorite films. All moments when, if someone were to peek in, you'd have a hard time convincing them that what you do is "work."

Of course, there are also moments when everything falls apart and you're up to your earholes in bullshit and you haven't slept and you're missing your family and none of the douchebags around you get any of your brilliant ideas. Or they did get it, and now because the wind has shifted direction or the moon is in a different phase or someone's wife's sister made a comment or who-the-fuck-knows why now they just don't get it anymore. Those moments when you're thinking it would be well worth it to just tell everyone to have a nice life while you hitchhike across the country, never to be seen again.

This is just the way it is. There are plenty of reasons why our industry has more mood swings than a teenage girl. Too many crazy variables to list. But the thing to realize is that it does. One of the keys to having a long, successful career is dealing with these swings. You can be the most creative genius on Earth, but if you throw your bonsai plant across your office every time a client asks you to make the logo a little bigger, you aren't long for this industry (possibly not this world).

The key to being happy in this crazy mercurial business is to remember, when stuff gets bad, as it will, that it will eventually get better. Be an optimist. But don't do the opposite. Don't ruin the good times with the knowledge that it won't last. When you're at the top, kick back and enjoy the ride.

This isn't just a feel-good philosophy. It makes your work better too. Good ideas need fun. They are born of momentum. They thrive in an environment of optimism and good energy. So be optimist.

Urgent Genius Weekender

Here's an interesting upcoming contest that gives you a chance to test your ability to "go viral" and compete against some of the best agencies in the world.

From the website Urgent Genius:

According to Eric Schmidt, Former CEO of Google, we now generate as much information every two days as was generated from the beginning of time to 2003.

With this information overload, how will your content stand out? By being topical and shareable. How will your brand find its voice in the hot-topic conversations?

The Urgent Genius Weekender (18-20 Feb) is a competition designed to explore these questions. Teams from all around the world will have 48 hours to make content related to a trending topic that's popular in their country or around the globe. Agencies involved so far: Droga 5, M&C Saatchi, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, R/GA, BBDO, DDB, BBC Comedy, etc. At the end of the 48 hours, you'll have 7 days to share your infographic, film, website, YouTube mashup, game or photo-blog with the world. The team with the most likes/retweets/views wins. What's in it for you? Global recognition. Plus, the best stuff will be featured in a talk given by iris Worldwide's Grant Hunter and Jon Burkhart at South By Southwest Interactive in March. The most shared work will also be included in a book to be published in Autumn 2011. Other prizes we're working on include commissions from top production companies in your home country.

Read more in this Contagious article.