New take on an old theme

This image was found here. A while back we featured a similar post here. We used triangles. But you get the idea.

Free Lobotomy by Tom Monahan

Just browsing around on issuu, I stumbled upon Tom Monahan's book The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy. This book is a classic, and I'm a little floored that Monahan's offering it for free. (For those who don't know Tom wrote the Advertising section for Communication Arts for years before passing the torch to Ernie Schenck.)

Enjoy the book. And pass on the good news. You can read it here, or on the official issuu page. Should be some great summer reading.

Creator vs Curator

"Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003." - Eric Schmidt
One of the fundamental shifts that has happened with the advent of digital media is that we now have access to way way way more content than we could ever process. Even if you could process it all, you'd find that 99.999% of it (rough estimate) is of poor quality and even less is of use.

Lately, I've been working on a project called, which allows photographers and illustrators to submit their work if they agree to cut back on the number or paper promos they send out. We created the site for a few reasons:
1) Those promos are a huge waste of trees and we thought we were in a position to help change that practice.
2) To help artists promote their work to ad folks.
3) To give ad folks a central place they could quickly and easily search for artists.

Working on the project has got me to thinking about the different role we have taken on. We concepted and created the site, but our primary role now is as curator. Because we need to keep the quality of content the site high if we're going to be of value to art directors and designers, we have to decide what content to include (when I say we, I'm speaking mostly of our head curator, the very talented Lance Vining).

I don't expect that our roles as creators will ever disappear, but I do expect that the role of the creative will continue to expand to include more things like curating, community management, conversation moderation, etc. It's a different set of skills, probably more like being a creative director of a crowd-sourced creative department. The key will be to find those projects, or those conversations, and then get them rolling until they have their own momentum. Once they're rolling, the job then shifts to keeping them on track. Creating, then curating.

I'm kind of thinking out loud a little here. What do you guys think?

We all gotta learn something

I was just flipping through the Communication Arts first ever Typography Annual and came across this quote from one of the judges:

"We need to teach designers to be better readers. Once they respect the text, they'll want to set it well."

I buy that. Here's my open question to you readers: What do copywriters need to do to better respect design and art direction?

Tina Fey on Over-Thinking It

This is from Tina Fey’s new book, Bossypants. It is the second on a list of things she learned working on Saturday Night Live:

“The show does not go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30. This is something Lorne [Michaels] has said often about Saturday Night Live, but I think it’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid at the top of the waterslide overthinking it. You have to just go down the chute. And I’m from a generation where a lot of people died on waterslides, so this was an important lesson for me to learn.”
Here's something to keep in mind as you're looking for work. It was originally posted by a friend of a friend on the Proximity BBDO blog, here.

You know you've landed a job at the right company, with the right people when...


- you can spend 2 hours standing around talking with your coworkers after work, about everything but work and feel like it was only 2 minutes
- you're work family is a REAL family
- you share personal details about your life with your coworkers, without fear
- you would consider taking a vacation with your coworkers
- you invite your coworkers to your kids birthday parties
- you invite your coworkers to your home
- even after the worst day, you still get a warm and fuzzy feeling about your job and coworkers
- you tout your team's accomplishments to everyone you know, every chance you get
- your non work friends start to wonder if you like your work friends better
- after a week of vacation, you actually start to miss being at work
I'm about to go on a week vacation and while I'm really looking forward to the time off, I have to honestly say I'm glad I'll be coming back to the most awesome work family I've ever had. See you all in a week.

The New Guy

Our friend, Peter Carnevale, is our newest contributor at Makin' Ads. Peter's worked for shops like Roche Macaulay, and MacLaren in Toronto, and Mullen and Goodby back here in the States. He's currently at Energy BBDO in Chicago. He's written articles for Makin' Ads before like this one and this one. We're looking forward to lots more. Welcome, Peter.

The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi

Of the ad books I’ve read, this is by far the most comprehensive and up-to-date snapshot of where the advertising industry (if we can still call it that) is today and how we got here. Iezzi places today’s ad industry in a historical context, going back to the industry’s founding fathers like Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy, the first creative revolution sparked by Bill Bernbach and DDB, on through the changing styles of epic television spots in the 80s and 90s. But the book is primarily about the current creative revolution, sparked by digital technology, and how evolving media is changing the jobs of copywriters (although most of the book is applicable to anyone in the creative department).

The role of the copywriter has gone from writing television scripts and print headlines—pieces of one-way communication—to constructing and articulating more complex narratives that include longer-form content, cross-media experiences and dialogues between the brand and consumers (or consumers and other consumers). Iezzi covers some of the seminal cases that shaped this new landscape—BMW films, Whopper Sacrifice, Halo 3, and the Old Spice guy to name a few. She also conducts interviews with various people in the industry to get their take on how they do what they do. I was happy to see a few of my former students interviewed and credited with creating some of the best work in recent years.

The evolving nature of the industry makes it hard to capture “how it’s done.” One of the main things to take away from The Idea Writers is that there is no one right way. It’s no longer about simply being creative with what goes on the media. It’s about being creative with the media itself, the process, even the structure of the companies creating it. We’re in such a new and strange space that it’s hard to say exactly where we are. But this book gives a great overview of how we got here. A must read for anyone working or hoping to work in “advertising” today.

What I Look For In A Book

Last week I reviewed student portfolios at the AD2SF review. The thing I've learned about these big portfolio reviews is that in order for your advice to be helpful, you have to tailor it to the level of each person's book. If the book doesn't have a good concept in it, there's no sense in talking about typography.

I like to flip through the whole book first to get an idea of what level it's at. I also ask the person upfront what their current situation is (which quarter in school, looking for a job, freelancing, whatever). This helps me assess what the landscape looks like. The landscape (and the discussion) usually then takes place on one of three levels:

1) Concepts. If there aren't solid concepts in the book, the rest doesn't matter. Bad concepts with good design are just bad concepts. If the concepts are hit-and-miss, most of the review will be about pinpointing which concepts are working and which still need work.

2) Execution. If the concepts are solid, I start looking at the craft. Do the executions deliver on the underlying concept? Do they communicate? Are the headlines well-written? Which are the strongest and weakest? How about the copy? For art directors, I'm looking at design, type treatment, etc. I want to know that this person has a mastery of the skills they'll need in the industry. What can be polished?

3) Personality. If the concepts are good and well-executed, I start looking for a range of voices. A smart book is one thing. A book that makes me laugh is another. And a book that makes me laugh on one page, think on another, and get all weepy on the next is another thing altogether (I have yet to get weepy over a book). I see that as the last stage--you have a good book with well-executed concepts. Now push yourself to write or art direct in different styles. Show me that you have more than your one voice.

Good luck to everyone finishing up their portfolios.

The Doughnut Vault

There's a place in Chicago, down by the Merchandise Mart, called The Doughnut Vault.

Just like Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, and even 7-Eleven, they make doughnuts. But the Doughnut Vault has something those other places don't have: A line that stretches around the corner.

There are a few more things that make this place unusual. The Doughnut Vault does not have opening hours. They open when they're ready to open (9:30-ish), and close when they run out of doughnuts (this usually happens while people are still in line). Their prices are also pretty steep: $2 - $3 a donut. And they won't let you walk away with more than a half-dozen, so forget bringing them back to the office. More than a few people have compared it to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. Here's a screenshot of their tweets @doughnutvault.

I stood in line for a half hour last Saturday morning before the tweets of their diminishing supply made me give up. I was a little bummed that I didn't get to see the inside of the shop. And also disappointed that I didn't get to find out what a pistachio or chestnut doughnut tastes like. Still hungry, I ended up walking two blocks and buying an apple fritter at 7-Eleven where I was the only customer in the store. But I don't blame The Doughnut Vault at all. Next time I'm in Chicago, I'll just be sure to get in line around 8:30, and bring something to read. I still had an interesting experience with them. And I still want to get into their club.

There are Doughnut Vault-level agencies out there. You know who they are. And there's a good chance you're standing in line right now, portfolio in hand, waiting to get in. Lots of people will give up and settle for a job at a Dunkin-caliber shop. And that's fine. There's some great work/donuts coming out of those places.

But if you want to get a Doughnut Vault-level job, you're going to have to have a Doughnut Vault-level book. You're going to have to offer more than the chocolate long john campaign (those are delicious, but we've all seen them). You're going to have to figure out how to make the work in your book as remarkable and satisfying as a pistachio or chestnut doughnut.

With graduation coming up at portfolio programs around the country, I've seen a lot of student portfolios in the last couple of weeks. And I can tell you those books are out there. They're just as rare as a blockbuster line for a donut shop. But they're out there.