Truth In Advertising

Truth In Advertising is a new book by John Kenney. I haven't read it, but here's a promo for it.

I thought this was worth sharing for a few reasons:

  • Focus groups can be like this. Especially the lady with all the issues, and the guy who changes his mind.
  • The piece was funny, but I thought it was very over-acted. Subtlety always works best. If you want someone to act confused, don't have them scratch their head; have them bite their tongue in a way you barely notice. I promise - you'll notice.
  • I find it interesting when books use social media as marketing. It's probably not a coincidence that authors with backgrounds in advertising do this best.

Three Intangibles

Aside from a great portfolio, here are three things I look for when I'm interviewing someone:

1. A curious mind. I get suspicious if the person I'm interviewing doesn't ask any questions. Our most recent hire, when he interviewed, asked me about our strategies, wanted to see a strategy, asked about the worst part of my job, wanted to know about the structure of the place, the process. He asked me about our client relationships. He asked me what was my favorite work out there. He talked about the kinds of classes he likes to take and his philosophy of always trying new things once. It said he was interested in growing and learning as much as he could.

2. Drive. I like to know that the person has had to work really hard at something. Maybe there's a project that the client killed but they executed anyway because they loved it. Or a side project. Maybe they run a successful website or have started a business or invented an app. Maybe they run marathons or wrote and directed a full-length film. All of those things tell me that this person has the will power to accomplish things. 

3. Enthusiasm. Some people are more low-key than others, but occasionally I'll have someone sitting in my office for an interview and I'll want to reach over the table and feel their neck for a pulse. Creative businesses run on the energy of the people. You don't have to be loopy, but it's nice to, as my little league baseball coach used to shout at the outfielders, "look alive." 

How to Choose An Actor

When you’re shooting a TV spot, you’ll see about 50 people audition for every role you’ve written. Typically, you’ll watch all of these online, and you, your partner and the director will mark the ones you like best. These actors (maybe a third of the people you originally saw) will come in for callbacks, which you’ll usually attend in person. Actor after actor will come into a small room with a camera and act out the scene for you.

I’m shooting with a director who’s very good with actors and dialogue, and I’ve learned a few things from him in callbacks that are great guidelines for choosing actors:

  1. Watch their eyes. Their eyes will give away whether or not they believe in their character and the scene. That sounds very ethereal, but when you’re watching 50 different actors audition for one role, just watch the eyes and it will become apparent who’s into it.
  2. In dialogue, watch the person who isn’t speaking. It’s easy to look at the person who’s reciting the lines you or your partner wrote. But if you look at the actor who’s supposed to be listening, you can tell if they’re invested in the other character or not.
  3. Good actors support their co-actors, bad actors automatically shift into competition. We were auditioning for the role of a father and a son building something together. The son was supposed to say, “You’re going to need a new crosscut saw.” When they start adlibbing, the best actors would simply smile and respond, “Yep. You’re right.” The bad actors would say, “There’s nothing wrong with that saw!” And then the sons would reply, “Come on, Dad! This thing’s been around since the Jefferson administration!” And then the Dad would say, “Ah, you kids don’t know quality when you see it.” Bad actors are looking to stand out, and pitting themselves against any other actor in the room is the easiest way to do that.

This isn’t the kind of thing you’ll learn in portfolio school. So tuck this away and use it when you start casting actors.

Remember, watch the eyes...

And remember, bad actors avoid competition...

Creative Confessional

Here's a fun site for your Friday: Creative Confessional. Worth a few laughs and expresses lots of truths about the crazy industry we work in.

Words from Sally Hogshead

I came across a post today with lots of great advice from Sally Hogshead. The list originally appeared in Nancy Vonk's and Janet Kestin's Pick Me, but I'll link to the blog I found it on.

Advice from Sally:

1. There are no right answers, including these.
2. The hipster creative with tattoos and piercings rarely does the coolest ads.
3. Dominos delivers to Starbucks.
4. Smart beats clever.
5. You’ll create a better book by breaking the rules than by following them.
6. Spend more time thinking, less time executing. more

What Arguing Gets You

I have argued with clients before. I have seen other creatives argue with the client. I have even seen account people and agency presidents argue with the client. And here’s what I have learned:

You cannot win an argument with the client.

Why? Because it is the client’s money that’s been spent. It’s the client’s job and reputation that are being put on the line. So no matter how idiotic their rationale may seem to you, you can’t really win an argument with the client.

That doesn’t mean roll over. I’m not saying be the artless hands of an irrational mind. But don’t argue.

If you argue enough, the client will ask to have someone else put on the account.

Or you will lose the business entirely.

It’s hard to do great work when you don’t have an account to do great work for.

If their reasoning really is stupid and you combatively point out the gaping flaws in their logic, they may yield to you, and you’ll end up getting your way. But they’ll resent you for it. And it will affect your next project, or whether you work on the account again.

Communicating takes more effort than arguing. Helping the client see your point of view takes more effort than trying to put the client in their place. Understanding the client’s point of view takes more effort than being unyielding on your own.

I’m not saying compromise your creative integrity. Just don’t think you’re above the client just because you’re an artist.

You have to be 100% willing to yield to the client. That doesn’t mean yield to them 100% of the time. It means you have to understand that it’s their money, their decision to work with you, and their campaign. Being open to compromise doesn’t always mean letting the work become terrible. It can mean that. But it doesn’t always have to. Occasionally, it can mean making the work even better.

Sometimes you’ll want the client to fire you. That’s okay. Sometimes you’ll actually fire the client. That’s okay, too.

The goal is to do great work for people you like. And you can’t do either if you’re arguing.