Internship King

I'd never heard of this list of internships before, and I kind of wish something like this had been around when I was breaking into the industry. Hope some of you will find it useful.

Shameless plug: At the current writing, my agency is #4 on the list.


If your campaign is clear without a case study video, please, for the love of all that is good, do not make a case study video. If you absolutely, positively, without a doubt cannot sum up your campaign in a short paragraph or a few bullet points, then and only then should you make me/us sit through a 2-minute case study video. 

P.S. It goes without saying that you will spread your campaign message through twitter and allow people to share it via social media channels. That is not a concept in itself and does not warrant a case study video. 

P.P.S. We have made this post into a handy jpg. Please feel free to blow it up, print it out and post it at your school/agency/barn. Godspeed. 

Plagiarize Yourself

If you have a good idea that the client doesn't buy, don't throw it away. Keep it in a file somewhere. If it's really a great idea, you'll find a home for it sometime in your career. Aaron Sorkin's built an amazing reputation doing just that. Even when his copy's produced. Works for him.

Simplify Your Copy

Recently, I wrote a TV script. While writing it, I asked if a certain phrase needed to be included. The simplest answers would have been:

a) Yes.
b) No.
c) If it fits, great. But it's not mandatory.

Here is the emailed answer I received:

"I think we've committed to do our best to include, where it makes sense, but without compromising what we need to deliver to make [the] value message most compelling to our audience. And there's probably a lot more impt [sic] info that needs to be voiced...that said, if we think we can easily fit it in, we should (I just don't think that's likely here...which would mean that we WOULD only cover in signage)."

No matter the medium, if you can use fewer words to convey the same meaning, do it.

What's Wrong With This Chipotle Commercial?

The song is too sad.
Most of the spot focuses on the negative.
The animation style is weird.
It's too long.
I don't know what the product is until the very end.
There's no strong call-to-action.
Where the hell is the food? You can't have a food commercial and not show food?
People don't like to be reminded that their food comes from animals.
Willie Nelson is too old for the target market.
Willie Nelson is too country for the target market.
It reminds us of what's wrong with things.
It could be for any farm-fresh product.
There's no voice-over walking us through Chipotle's philosophy.
The cows in the good half are square. Square reminds me of boxes, which aren't natural.
The length isn't good for television, and if we don't run it on television who's going to see it?
The farmer is too fat.

I'm sure there are more. What else?

Stately Sandwiches

Kelly Pratt is a recent graduate of the Chicago Portfolio School. Because she likes sandwiches as much as she likes advertising, she's got a side project called Stately Sandwiches. Check it out. Bring your own chips.

What the Movies Can Teach You About a Big Idea

This is a guest post from AKQA creative and frequent Makin' Ads contributor Nathan Archambault. You can follow him on Twitter @NKArch


Greg has written before about the importance of having a great elevator pitch. Here’s another way of looking at it. This is something I picked up on after attending the Creative Week panel The Idea Matters… Still.

Your best idea should be like a great movie plot. For any great movie, you can reduce the plot down to a single sentence. For example:

Boy’s parents murdered, so he starts wearing a cape, fighting crime and talking in a deep, gravelly voice (Batman).
New York cop single-handedly stops terrorists from robbing an office building, all before the helpful proliferation of cell phones (Die Hard).
Nerd steals website idea from good-looking jocks and becomes an awkward billionaire (Social Network).

Your best ideas should be this simple and accessible. Try this test: take one of your ideas, write it down in a short sentence on a blank piece of paper. No visuals, no technology, no strategy, just an organized jumble of letters.
Now stare at it.

Does it still seem like a big idea? Does it pop? Does it wow? Do you look at that sentence, want to fold it in three and overnight ship it to Gerry Graf, Jeff Goodby and Dan Wieden?

Or, without all the glitter, does it seem empty, boring, unspectacular, less than large?

If, sans glitter, it’s not ready for the limelight, then figure out what it needs. Is it too complicated or gimmicky? Is it just a tactic? Is there something missing or is there something there that doesn’t have to be?

Boiling your idea down to a single, naked sentence can separate the great ideas from the good ones. Because all the glitter we sprinkle on our ideas makes them look better than they really are.

We’re storytellers, after all, and part of telling a story is making an idea seem bigger and better than it is on its own. When we present, there’s always more than the idea. There’s backstory and visuals. A beautiful presentation. People with varied areas of expertise go into an exorbitant amount of detail about each carefully-thought-out step of the process. Then, once sufficiently built up, the big idea is revealed with reserved aplomb.

And it’s glorious.

But if you start with a less-than-great idea, the final product will always have something missing.


So before you put all that effort into presenting and selling your idea, write it down in one single thought and stare at it.

If it still seems like the best idea you’ve ever seen, you’ve got a winner. Just imagine how great it will be once you add all the glitter.

Too Old for Portfolio School

More than a few people have told me they wanted to go to portfolio school, but figured they were too old. Advertising's a young man's game, and they missed the boat. Whenever I hear this, I always think of Ronny Northrop. Ronny and I were classmates at the VCU Adcenter. I was 25 and thought I was old. Ronny was in his 30s. At that age, some people would have bailed and gotten into real estate. Ronny went on to work at places like Crispin and Goodby.

I recently emailed Ronny a few questions, which he was kind enough to answer. Long story short, if you think you're too old to do something you're passionate about, there's a good chance you're wrong.

When did you go to portfolio school?
I started ad school in 1998. Graduated in 2000.

How old were you went you were there?
Let’s see, I started when I was 32 or 33. I graduated at 35.

What factor did age have on your experience there?
I was definitely concerned about my age in terms of getting into an intense business like advertising so late in the game. It takes a hell of a lot of energy to make good marketing. Even more than I realized coming in. And this seems to be something many students don’t understand. Great advertising takes hard work and long hours. There’s a lot more to it than coming up with a bunch of funny ideas. And it’s competitive as heck--more so each year. So every advantage helps, including having a lot of energy to do the work. And the older most of us get, the less energy we’ve got.

On my first day, Jelly Helm, a wonderful teacher I was lucky enough to have, asked the class to talk about their life experiences so far. I think I was the oldest person in the class. And I had done a ton of different things in my life at that point, from a few years traveling abroad to a range of various jobs to going back to college for creative writing…the list goes on. Jelly made the point that the people who had the most life experience to bring to their creative approach would have a significant advantage over those with less to draw from. Which was great to hear. And true, I think.

A few days later I learned that Jelly was the same age as me. And the fact that a hugely successful famous ad superstar—and my teacher, for that matter--had already reached stardom at the same age I was when just starting school, freaked me out a bit. But them’s the breaks. 

Same was true for Alex Bogusky, who I later ended up working for. Point is, if you’re getting into the biz later in life, be okay with encountering many success stories and maybe even bosses who were drooling on a baby rattle when you were half way through high school. 

Another advantage getting started a little later in life brought me was motivation. As I said before, I had done a lot of stuff in my life when I finally made the jump into ad school. And at that point, I really had no idea what else I could do for a career. Advertising in many ways was a last resort for me. And that can be a powerful motivator. Which helped me out-work lots of 22-year olds. 

What factor did age have once you graduated and started looking for a job?
People just want to know that you are a great creative. If there was a 74-year-old dude who was making Grand Prix-winning work, I’m pretty sure the agency would keep him on staff. It’s a cliché I get tired of hearing, but this business has always been about great ideas. If you can consistently deliver the goods, you’re gonna do well.

All this said, it’s no secret that there’s been a shift happening in our industry. More and more work made under unrealistic deadlines, less and less time for craft. Lots of work that attempts to leverage the latest social media platform. Apps, games, tweets, something else that will make client check lists before this blog entry is published. Schedules and themes that, well, us older folks are probably less likely to keep up with than say, someone who learned their ABCs on an iPad.

In my opinion, it’s important to keep up with all this stuff as best you can. At some point someone might say, “Hey, that old dude hasn’t produced anything cool in like, two years.” But hopefully, someone else might reply, “Yeah, but he really gets Pinterest.”

Ronny Northrop is a freelance creative director and copywriter who lives in San Francisco. He’s still in the business, and he’s still got a fair amount of energy.

Amateur Creativity

This is a presentation I gave to the Chicago Portfolio School last month. 

I shortened the 45-minute presentation to about 12 minutes, so I had to cut out some of the showcase pieces.

I also had to rerecord my voice. I swear I sound much better live.

Please send any feedback on how I could improve this presentation to the comments section below.