Advice from Maria

If you’re a student putting your book together, here’s some advice from Maria Scileppi, director of 72U:

Lead with personal projects. That’s what people really want to see; how you’re thinking, how you’re solving problems, how you see the world. Show the process if you can. And then have three or four campaigns to show that you can blow out an idea. But personal projects are a must, and I would lead with that. That’s how people get hired. Agencies want to see that you can make advertising. But what gets you hired is the personal project, because it resonates with us. It’s contributing to the culture. It’s not just giving a message. It’s being relevant in culture. And that’s what advertising wants to do. That’s what brands want to do. That’s why we connect more to these personal projects. They’re a reaction to the world we live in.

The New 72U

Maria Scileppi doesn’t like to call 72U a portfolio school. Before heading things up there, she was the director of the Chicago Portfolio School, so she knows what a program full of art directors and copywriters looks like.

“This is really strategic art school for the maker,” she says.

Oh, yeah. And it’s backed by and housed in 72andSunny, AdAge's Agency of the Year.

I had breakfast with Maria last week and asked her about the new program. I gotta say, I’m jealous something like that wasn’t around when I was trying to break into the industry. Here are some of the highlights:

Forget what you thought you knew about 72U. It’s a new program. It used to be 10-months. Now it’s 12 weeks. It used to cost applicants $10,000. Now it’s free. (Students will pay $1,000, which goes toward their final project.)

Six applicants will be selected, and they’ll work individually, in groups of two, in groups of three, and all together. They’ll be sharing space with 72andSunny employees. They won’t be grouped together, and they won’t be separate from the agency. They’ll be seamlessly integrated.

They’ll have a range of assignments. Not all – in fact, very few – will be making ads. One assignment will be to develop and market a brand that embodies who they are. Another will be to fix a broken system. Maria says the purpose of each exercise is to make sure students come out with a stronger creative process. They’ll think and make faster.

Who should apply? Maria says, “It’s an intense curriculum, so people won’t be able to hold a job while they participate. I imagine they’re a couple years out of college. Maybe they got stuck at the wrong job and don’t know how to switch over. They don’t have to have any advertising experience, but they do have to have talent.”

Applications for 72U can be found at The deadline for applications is April 5th. The program will begin May 27th. The next session is planned for October 2013.

If you've got questions, reach out to Maria and 72U on Twitter.

Portfolio Night 11

If you're a student in advertising, attend Portfolio Night. You'll walk out with a better understanding of how creative directors will view your book. That's something you can't get from your professors, peers or parents. It's worth the cost of admission. And if there's not one in your city, it's worth the cost of admission and a road trip.

Here's an old post featuring me and my dearly departed friend, Sonya, talking the day after Portfolio Night in Chicago.

The Woodshed School - March 16th

If you're in Dallas on Saturday, March 16th (or if you're up for a roadtrip), check out the first portfolio class from The Woodshed School. Click here for details.

The Woodshed School is run by industry veteran, former VCU instructor, and genuinely nice guy, Peter Wood.

Headline Tips

A friend of mine recently asked if I have any tips for writing headlines. I'd never stopped to write any of them down. But here's my incomplete list of headline tips. Like all the advice on this blog, these tips are only sometimes true. Sometimes they will help you write great lines. And sometimes they will be wrong and lead you down paths of lameness. But most of the time, they'll be mostly true.
  1. You’ll write 100 headlines for every one worth keeping.
  2. Sometimes great body copy can come from the 99 lines that you threw out.
  3. You can make your line stronger by removing every word that’s not absolutely necessary.
  4. If you have an unusual visual, go for a straight-forward line. If you have a straight-forward visual, put as much character and personality in your line as you can.
  5. Finally, we should all stop writing headlines that begin with “Finally,”
  6. Avoid the “It’s like a (blank) for your (blank)” formula. This has been done to death.
  7. Take inspiration from the Communication Arts Advertising Annuals. Over a decade later, I still think the 1999 and 2000 issues have the best collection of headlines.
  8. Headlines are often easier to write when you have a visual in mind – or better yet, a specific photo or illustration tacked to your wall.
  9. Don’t believe the platitude that negative words like “not” and “don’t” should be avoided.
  10. Write the way people talk. Not the way companies or mission statements want people to talk.
  11. Puns are not punny. See?
  12. If you’re not having fun writing, you’re not in the right job.