Monday, December 14, 2009

First Day Back

See what I did there, I used a title that incorporates two meanings.

This is my first post in a long time.

And today is my first day back after a nice week long vacation.

It's almost been a year since I started at my Agency.

Its been nuts.

I've seen our largest client leave. We then won enough business within 2 months to nearly replace that clients revenue.

I've personally written my first five minute sizzle reel. Won a big campaign pitch, have the client take that same campaign in house, then win their even bigger overall brand pitch.

I've been praised for my hard work and my big ideas. I've been scolded for not paying enough attention to the small details.

I've been asked to write a Holiday Invite to our client for a party. And I've been passed over for a project that I really wanted to work on.

Its been rough, its been fun and I don't think I'd want it any other way.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This is why you want to work in advertising.

1 Week ago today, I was finishing up my work for the day.

It had been a pretty good day. I spent most of it huddled with my art director going over background plates to generate some composite photos for a shoot on a upcoming campaign we're both excited about.

At the end of the day I poked my head into an office we use for brainstorming meetings.

A Sr. AD who sits next to me was in there looking frustrated.

"What's up?" I said.

"Nada just working on this [DELETED] pitch."

"Cool, mind if I look?"


For the next 15 minutes, I read the notes posted on the wall.

"Do you think if we do this..."

3 Hours later I was on the pitch team and my wife was calling me wanting to know why I was so late.

"I'm sorry sweetie. I'm makin' ads."

These are the moments you bust your butt in portfolio school for. That you sit in your cubicle and write catalogs copy for. This is what is so great about being in Advertising. The ability to get lost in your work and love every second of it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Most Exhausting Thing So Far...

I have now officially worked on a pitch team. I have worked on an exiting client. I have worked on a loyal client. And I have worked on a client that cancels every job.

But the most exhausting thing about advertising so far has been...

worrying about job security.  

I know people say work hard, do great work, and your job is secure. But it's still not easy, when things loom overhead. 

My agency has ben great about doing its best to retain people. And they have been great in how they treat the people they're forced to let go. Still, this economy sucks. It's not a downturn, its slow-down, its just a sucky-economy. And in a sucky economy, Advertising creatives have little faith in the security of their jobs.

And that lurking thought in the back of your head. The one that seems to pop up every time I get a project down and there isn't something immediately waiting on me the second I'm done, is the most exhausting aspect of working in advertising. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Doing Partner Work for Clients

I got to work on an amazing brand last week, sorry can't say who. They do a lot of cool work, they have their own identity and ideology. 

They are not a client of my agency. They are a partner of one of our clients. They are good partners, but their styles are mutually exclusive, so I had to write a print ad, a banner ad, and a poster in their voice, our art director had to lay it out in their style, and then our client got to slap their logo in the bottom LEFT hand corner lol.

If it runs, it will be a piece I put in my book because it shows a different voice than the work I do for Disney and Aircell, plus they lines kind of kick ass (not to brag or anything).

So why am I telling you this, oh future Ad Stars.

Because you spend your entire time in portfolio school making ads for a specific client, with a specific voice, a specific style, and a specific problem you're solving.

In the real world you'll make ads for a client that must include their partners, merge their voices, merge their style, and merge their problems into one cohesive message.

So think about that next time you see an ad in a magazine or a banner ad that is done with partner clients. Think how you would have done it so that both partners feel satisfied with the work, and you'd feel proud of the work. Because when you got to work, that's the type of things a junior works on lol. (lets see if I can say work anymore times. work, work, work,)

That's it for now.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Yesterday was the first day back after layoffs. 

If you've ever wondered what it would be like if they showed the day after a zombie outbreak movie ends, walk into an ad agency the day after layoffs.

Life has to go on. It's a cliche, I know, but it's the truth. 

Awesome work still needs to get done for the clients, but you can't help but cringe every time you walk by a desk that used to be filled with a friend or a colleague.

However, the best remedy for the post-layoff blahs, is to do great work for a client that is excited about it. My partner and I have a campaign for our client and the client is even increasing the budget to do more tactics based on the concept.

Things will get better and we'll rebound, until then I'll be on the lookout for zombies.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Officially Initiated Into the Business

I went through my first round of layoffs this morning.

More than 20 people of varying skill and talent were let go.

I was not among them.

But a good friend whom I owe a lot of the start of my career too was.

You know who you are, if there is anything I can do you know my #.

This is one of those times Advertising reminds you that its still a job.

Regardless of how fun it is.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A twitter experiment

Most tweets I have seen thus far are stupid.

That's not entirely true.

Their vain, irrelevant and stupid. 

There are some exceptions (wife included) but for the most part they are Facebook updates on crack written by someone smoking meth.

But I am intrigued, because clients are demanding social media and I want to be able to use if if it comes to it.

So I'm experimenting. My goal is to provide you with 3 insightful Tweets a day. Maybe more, but certainly no less. 

Who knows, maybe you'll enjoy reading observations about the world, other than the fact that someone haz cheezborger.

account: @engagebrain1st


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Here I sit at 3pm on a Sunday

I've never worked on a Sunday at a Full-time job before. 

Sunday has always been a day of rest for me. Wife, daughter and I go to church, eat fried chicken and relax in each others company.

Today, my work Mac's keeping me company.

But this isn't something that bothers me too much and here's why: 

1: I still got to spend the morning with my family at church (no fried chicken though)
2: I'm getting ahead of my work load, meaning I can focus on things more thoroughly during the week, without needing to stay here until 10 pm
3: My bosses have trusted me enough to give me more responsibility with each day I'm here.

The 3rd one is the most important for anyone who's coming out of portfolio school looking for a job(though to me the first one is the most important).

The economy is bad. Which is a tremendous understatement. Our agency is in a rough spot with the loss of a major client a few weeks back, yet I'm still getting more work to do. And because I do a good job and get it off my plate on time and even earlier in some cases, they trust me with even bigger projects.

It's hard to fire a cheap, young creative who gets his work done on time and does a good job.

I don't know if they're be layoffs here, but I do know that if they come, I'm going to work so hard at being the best Jr. writer at the shop that they'll have to take a real long look before they drop the axe on me and if they do lay me off, that they'll have nothing but good things to say about me when I go to another shop to find a job.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Oh poop.

So yesterday morning, we lost one of our biggest clients.

I've never seen a person lapse into a catatonic state before, but I imagine it would leave me with the same feeling I had yesterday as I watched the account team and creatives on that account receive the news. 

Immediately, they took the day off and went for beers, a better brand of beers than what we had been drinking ;)

But in the people that stayed at the office, I was inspired (I can't blame those who left for drinks, hard to work on a client that just told you we don't want your creative anymore). 

The people that remained at the office didn't walk around like zombies, they set themselves to their work, and were determined to kick ass.

I am determined to kick ass.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Making the Worst List

Last night on my way out, I got my ego smacked down a bit.

Our agency does a thing called 4 great 1 bad. It's a review with our chief creative on each teams' recent work. We choose 4 great pieces and brag about them, the people who worked on them get to present its all great and a good way to impress your bosses and we choose the worst recent piece to show and the CD explains what went horribly, horribly wrong.

The very first project/campaign I ever worked on for my agency is our 1 bad.

I knew it was going to be, the client dictated the art direction to match a campaign for another aspect of it's business (that we don't work on). But I had gotten them to buy off on a really great headline and body copy for the first piece.

Problem is, they loved it so much they used the same headline and same copy on all 15 executions. Did I mention they used the same lay-out.

Obviously, this is a case of the client overstepping its bounds and not listening to us.

But still, nothing like being told the first ad you worked on for your agency is the worst one your teams done in recent memory.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Presenting with Laryngitis

I presented our concept for a new campaign to the client today.

I have laryngitis and my partner's first and second languages are not English.

I think it actually helped me present. 

I had to be short, concise. I couldn't ramble because at any minute I was going to lose my voice.

I would have liked to have prepared a little more for my presentation though.

Lessons learned: Prepare more, slow down, read the entire ad, and don't repeat myself so often.

World's Best Senior Writer

(Sorry Greg, former teachers don't count.)

Disclosure: My senior writer doesn't know I have a blog, and I'm not going to tell him because my little letter of praise my make things a little awkward.

I have the world's best senior writer as my copy supervisor. I'm not sure if he's won many awards, but he always does good work, he always sets a good example, and he's always got time to work with me.

When I started, I was afraid that it would be weird having a guy who's ideas compete with mine as the guy who supervises and approves my copy. But nothing could be further from the truth.

He and I are both working on a billboard campaign for our client. He and his partner have their concept, and my team has ours. I was brought in on the project 1 week into it. He has sat with me for more than a few hours and just let me bounce headline ideas off of him, giving me suggestions on how to make them work for each specific message. 

I don't know if the client will pick his campaign or my campaign, but I know mine is in the running because of the help he provided.

Granted, its part of his job responsibilities, but this guy goes out of his way to help make sure that every one of us writers on the team produces the best copy for our concept possible.

He's never a dick when he doesn't like something. He just says it's not working, try some more. He's quick to praise when he does like something, which makes it a lot easier to show him my work.

The reason I'm writing this is to remind myself in a few years when I'm a Sr Writer of how to be a great Sr. Writer, because I'll tell you this right now, if people regard me in the same way his peers regard him, I'll consider myself a success.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Not to Use Portfolio Night

Makin' Ads beat me to the punch on posting about Portfolio Night, but I want to share my experience with Portfolio Night. I entitle this, how not to do Portfolio Night.

I failed at Portfolio Night.
I had 5 people review my book. All immeasurably more talented and successful than me. I got some great feedback, good feedback, and some awful feedback. And I didn't focus on any of it.

Pay close attention, because I'm about to tell you the most important thing you can do during Portfolio Night.


I had an ECD who had worked at my dream agency, and was working at one my favorite shops in town review my book. This man was a multiple Grand Lions winner, Multiple One Show winner, multiple entrant into CA. He was a former One Show Judge, and he reviewed my book.

I remember all of his compliments vividly.

I couldn't begin to tell you how he told me to improve my book.

This man told me I was talented, had a great future ahead of me, and wanted to stay in touch with me. He replied to each and every email I sent him within a day of me sending it, with thoughtful and encouraging replies. Until I sent him my "finished" student book.

I don't know why I never heard back from him, but I'm pretty sure I can guess. There were two campaigns I had showed him at the review. He loved the concept behind both of them, but told me they needed work. 

I removed those campaigns from my book. 

I didn't fix them, I didn't show him that I could follow feedback.

I didn't get a job at his shop.

After that, I resolved myself to making changes based on feedback of my reviewers. The next time I showed my book to someone I made their suggested changes, and it made a difference.

I got a job.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The difference between writing creatively and writing creatively toward a concept.

I learned a great lesson this Friday.

I learned the freedom of writing toward a concept rather than just trying to write creative lines.

That's right. 

I said its easier to write lines based on a strong concept than to just randomly come up with a bunch of smart lines without a concept.

On Friday morning I was asked to come up with with at least 3 workable lines for a poster campaign. I was asked to do this in 3 hours. 

I didn't have a concept, I had a visual and a partial brief.

For three hours I tried to pump out lines.

There were lines that were funny, ones that were clever, ones that were smart, there were no lines that focused the power of the visual to an idea.

I went to the meeting with my lines. I was thanked for my effort, told my lines were well written, but they weren't sure that they were paying off the concept.

None of the campaigns were 100% ready to go to the client, we all agreed to regroup again next week with our reimagined campaigns.

I grabbed the AD and we went and sat down.

This was the first time we'd even met on the project. She had worked with another writer who was going to be gone for a few days, so I was brought in. 

I talked to her about what the visual was supposed to convey. She gave me a one word explanation. I laughed. The one word was clearly a condensed version of what she was trying to convey. I asked her what about the product conveyed this word, she gave a reply. I then gave a reply.

For the next hour we listed off all the things that the word conveyed about our product, then I asked, of all these things this conveys, what is the only thin our competition can't claim.

After another 30 minutes we figured it out. That was our concept.

I wrote the first line of the campaign within 15 minutes of us finishing this conversation.

I showed it to the Senior writer and he was blown away.

I showed it to the CD and he said our campaign just grew legs.

So to recap, I spent 3 hours with no restrictions/directions on what I was supposed to write and came up with nothing.

I spent 1 hour and 30 minutes figuring out what our direction was, and 15 minutes writing the line (it won't always be that quick after figuring out the concept, today was a fluke) but my point is, that I wasted three hours writing without a concept and got nothing of value.

But as soon as I spent time figuring out what our concept was, writing for it became much simpler and more productive.

You'll hear that you can't do great work without a concept in School.

You'll see people do work that is conceptless that actually is good and think I can do that.

You probably can.

The point is, I spent an hour and a half less working on a concept and lines that actually work than I did working on conceptless lines that will never see the light of day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

No one ever prepares you for what it's like to wait on the results of a pitch

This week we pitched a campaign concept to evolve a brand we recently introduced to the market.

It was intense. Late nights, early mornings, working through lunch, pitching, repitching, throwing ideas out only to bring them back in.

Yesterday, we pitched our first round of computer comps to the account team.

I was nervous, but proud. Our work was solid, it was on brief, and it had a distinct voice.

The other members of the team pitched their ideas too. All of it solid.

Then it came, something I was entirely unprepared to hear.

The creative director recommended my team's campaign as the best concept for the client. This includes his campaign, the ECDs campaign and the senior teams campaign.

I just about jumped out of my chair and kissed him. I could barely contain my pride. 


Until he recommended that we take 24 hours to improve on all the work. 

We worked hard all day today to perfect our campaign, as did the rest of the team. 

We will represent to the account team on Monday to pick our final two campaign recommendations to the client.

And despite the momentum behind our idea, I'm going to be on pins and needles until the decision is made. And then I'm going to be on pins and needles until the client makes their decision. 

If our campaign gets picked, I'll be on cloud nine.

If it doesn't, well that's just something I'll have to learn to deal with on my own.

The point is, no matter how good your program is, nothing will ever prepare you for the first time you pitch a true campaign to a client and how to handle victory or defeat.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Doing Your Job

Today I did something that scared the living daylights out of me.

I disagreed with a client to the Account VP.

The client is obsessed with a piece of copy I wrote. 

Every time we start on a new tactic in the campaign, they ask for us to use the original piece of copy.

Account side has fought a valiant fight for me and my Art Director.

But the client is persistent. They want the original copy.

This isn't the best solution but it works and it can at least be justified because not everyone is going to see every tactic.

But today the client wanted to use the original copy paragraph twice, in the same direct mail piece. 

One right after another. The same paragraph twice in a row.

One right after another. The same paragraph twice in a row.

Get my point?

Understandably the Account Team was tired of arguing with the client.

They apologized profusely to me that the client wasn't even looking at new copy for any of the tactics.

I didn't like it, but I understood. 

But when I read their changes, I said no.

The client had given us a short version of what they hoped I would elaborate on. All of the touch points were the exact same touch points from the previous paragraphs.

I pointed this out. 

I said, "If the client wants new copy or to cut this copy entirely you won't hear a peep out of me. I'll do my job. But my job is to make sure the client doesn't look ridiculous to their customers and if they repeat the same paragraph, immediately prior and after the offer line, they will look foolish, and I won't be doing my job to make sure their communications are well-written and effective."

The Account VP looked at me. Then looked at the copy that I had highlighted, then looked at the copy I was referring to, then looked back at me.

"I hadn't even noticed that. Thank you."

I nodded. "What would you like me to do about it."

"Make the other changes, and tweak the original copy to at least incorporate the tone of their changes into your copy."

I did as she asked and sent it off to her and the rest of the account team.

If I hadn't spoke up, the client would have been angry when they realized that they had the same copy in every paragraph of the direct mail and taken it out on my account team. By speaking up, I was able to make my boss look good, give them leverage on the client when they insist on all the copy being verbatim from the original piece, and I made myself look good for being attentive to feedback, I could have arguably mindlessly followed and embarrassed the client, my agency and myself.

Keeping your cool

I got angry at the new job on Thursday night. 

I probably had every right to be pissed off. 

2 month long project I've been working on was coming to what had seemed to be an end.

But the legal department at the client couldn't stop changing the legal guidelines for compliance.

I'm not a lawyer, I don't even pretend to play one. But I've read enough advertising and know enough about advertising law that I know these guys are just out of control.

I started making some snarky remarks. To my team, not the client. I'm not nearly that insane or good.

People got a good laugh at them. I felt better.

Then the client gave me an assignment to write a few headlines for a small retail sign they were putting up. I spent an hour cranking out lines, we settled on one, only to hear that the client had really wanted us to just use the provided information and not write any lines or copy.

That's when I complained about a client for the first time at the new job.

"Wasting my fucking time," I growled. I stopped making snarky comments and started using invectives.

I was pissed off.

But I did my work, I kept my bitching to a minimal and I moved on.

Fortunately, no one seemed to think I was out of line. Again, I didn't say these things to the client, I just said them to the person who happened to be talking to me at the time.

When I calmed down, I realized: They're paying me to waste my time. And that in the future I should just keep my mouth shut.

And in today's economy, I'm more than ok with that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Find ways to be relevant

Obviously I'm posting this at work.

It's ok. I didn't take lunch today, so this is my compensation.

Now to my point.

We are in a terrible economic crisis (this is no Great Depression, unemployment isn't even as high as it was in 90/91 let alone the recession of the 70s), it's hard to get a job in this economy and hard to keep a job.

This advice is for people in both situations.

Find a way to be relevant.

Maintain a blog, make sure it's funny, its poignant, and it has a raison d'etre (cultivate yourself and look that phrase up). Be sure to post on it regularly. Include it in your book.  It will show ways you think creatively outside of just advertising.

Not the writing type. Maintain a photojournal, same rules apply. Start a web comic, do something that shows your creativity and shows that you have stick-to-itiveness. 

I write a weekly report on my major client and send it to the entire team, from the GCD to the Account VP. I gleam message board threads that mention campaigns we're working on, things the client is doing that pisses off or pleases their customers, and their customers wish list of things.

I use the stuff I learn to write copy. When the client pushes back, my account people have research that proves why the copy will be effective. Account loves me, my CD respects me, and I amuse my team. It also gives me something to do other than surf the web when I'm between products.

One of my former instructors at CPS, serves as his agency's Creative Town Crier. He finds cool work being produced and shows it to the creative team, creating bulletin board material for his team to beat when they go into a pitch. This guys an award winning senior writer who probably skips his lunch hour to do this work, but guess what: everybody in his shop knows his name for a good reason.

Start a freelance business.

I've got a friend who's running a Freelance shop, while hunting for a job. It may turn into  something huge, it may be something to do until a job comes along. But there's always new work to show that's being paid for by an actual client.

Show that you've got the ambition to do this whether they hire you or not. Show that you know what its like to deal with clients, even if its on a much smaller scale. 

Those who can be trusted to put hard work into little things, will be trusted to put hard work into big things.

No one's going to hand you a job right now.


But if you find a way to show that you're harder working, more ambitions, and a creative thinker, someone will take a chance on you.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Juniors: Make friends with the account people.

I'm serious.

The better your relationship with the account managers/executives/supervisors whatever your agency calls them, the harder they work for you.

The less you bitch about the client and the more you listen to them bitch about the client, the harder they work for you.

The more you show a willingness to honestly listen to their feedback and make client changes without complain, the harder they work for you.

It's about building trust.  You show that you trust them and they'll trust you.

Because nothing helps sell good work like having an account VP trust that your idea is the best idea, and going to bat with the client for it.

But like I said earlier. Be worthy of that trust, because nothing kills good work as quickly as an aggravated account executive who thinks you're a lazy diva/divo.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When Do I Get to Do a Shoot with Brett Favre?

I love my job.

I'm at such an advantage over anyone who doesn't have a job right now.

But I want to know when I get to do a shoot with Brett Favre.

I mean that's what advertising is about isn't it?

Doing shoots with celebrities. Striking up an engaging conversation with them. Finding out that they used to play Rainbow 6 on their computer too.

I bet Brett and I would become fast friends. He'd invite me down to Louisiana for a crawfish fry and to go toss the pigskin around with some High Schoolers. He'd probably even let me where his Super Bowl ring.

If only they'd let me go on a shoot with him.

What's that, none of our clients have deals with Brett Favre.

Well that sucks.

So what's the point.

In my one short month in advertising, I've learned isn't as glamorous as TV and movies may have you believe.  I'm not sitting in the cigar shop pecking away on my company laptop while I smoke Cubans with Mayor Daley.

You will sit in a cubicle. In fact, my creative director sits in a cubicle. You will go to status meetings, self-improvement seminars, you will listen to clients try to dictate copy to you.

There will be times when this job is mind-numbingly boring.

But for every 5 minutes of boredom at an agency, there are 25 minutes of pure joy (if you enjoy actually doing advertising.)

You'll get to come up with great ideas and really bad ideas and excitedly pitch them to your partners and work to make them better.

You'll pitch to a client and here the dawn of realization when they get it, and love the great idea.

You'll get to go out to lunch with your boss on occasion and have him/her buy you a beer.

You'll get to play Wii Tennis at 5 o'clock.

And you'll get to wear t-shirts and flip-flops in the summer.

Which is pretty cool.

And occasionally you'll work with the odd celebrity, if your client insists.

But for the most part you probably won't meet Brett Favre.

Which sucks, cause I could have totally caught one of his 90 mph 5 and outs.

Filter Yourself but Don't Filter Yourself

Do or do not there is no try.

Sorry for the Star Wars reference, but my little green Hero's message is incredibly true for us in Advertising.

You need to learn how to filter out the mediocre without actually filtering your ideas.

Make sense?

Advertising is about confusingly awkward success and completely beautiful, utter failure.

What it shouldn't be about is safety.

Example from portfolio school.

I did an ad for Tropicana. It was extremely well-written. A clever headline, nice friendly art direction, incredibly safe concept: All Natural. 

For the most part everyone liked the ad, they didn't have any complaints about it. Then one day a teacher of mine looked at it and said; "Yeah, so?"

And that's when I realized it was mediocre. It was a safe idea. It didn't change anyone's mind, it didn't make anyone think differently. No one was going to see that ad and say, "Hey, I'm going to buy more orange juice from Tropicana." Because the only thing it did was confirm what everyone already new about Tropicana, that it's all natural. And that's when I realized I should have immediately filtered this out.

On the flip side, I did a campaign for Wii Fit. It was funny, everyone laughed, but for the most part I looked at it and saw the two big rules I was breaking: I was a student doing a Parody of another products campaign and my headlines were puns.

You know what though? Every creative director who saw my portfolio said this Ad was the reason he/she wanted to interview me. Yes I wrote puns, yes I parodied another campaign, but I went all out with it. I didn't just tiptoe up to the line. I dashed across it and kept running until I was out of breath.

And that campaign was a mystifying, completely unexpected success.

You see the things you need to do in portfolio school, is learn how to filter out the safe idea without filtering out the really bad ideas or the really good ideas. Because the two extremes are where good advertising lives. 

If you can understand that.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A month in review

I've been working for approximately 1 month now.

I'm blessed.

I have a job at an agency that is still winning new business, while many other agencies are losing business and some are just going out of business.

I have a great sr. writer who although he isn't required, has taken me under his wing and helped me take great ideas and great starts and make them into great ads.

I've sold a print ad. I've blown away the clients expectations for a tiny job. I've done freelance for my friends business. And I've gotten put on more clients.

But these aren't the reasons I'm blessed.

I'm blessed because I got to chase a dream.

At nearly 30 years old, I got to put off "real-life" for a few days each week for a year to pursue a career in one of the coolest businesses in the world.

And while there are no shortage of mean people, angry people, burned out people, in advertising, there is also no shortage in truly wonderful and creative people.

So my advice to you trying to finish up portfolio school is this.

Don't let the jerks in this industry get you down.

Don't let the creative directors who get their rocks off by putting down your student book discourage you.

Be inspired.

Not by advertising, but by real life.

Watch the news, read the papers, read the blogs. And watch at how no matter how terrible things get, there is always someone out there creating something beautiful.

And while I don't have any delusions that I am an artist.  I'm am a salesman who's pitch is given on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. I still create. And I try to ad beauty in the world, even while I'm cluttering it with advertising messages.

You would do well to do the same.

Remember that even an ad has the power to make people smile and cry.

Focus on doing the former rather than the latter.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sometimes we need to stay out of our own way.

I think this ties into my earlier post about desperation, but I think one of the biggest mistakes we make as creative people is that we get in our own way.

As juniors we talk while a creative director is looking at our work. 

We try to explain, when we should let them absorb.

When we are writing or art directing, we try to show off our talents but in doing so we use (in copywriter language) 10 dollar words when a 50 cent one would work.

Fortunately, you're a student. your teachers, your friends, the Creative Directors who reviews your work, they understand. They give advice on how to let things be. How to write smart lines, rather than clever, how to properly use white space instead of cluttering up your lay-outs and if you've learned anything, you've learned to listen to these people. 

As a junior, you won't immediately learn how to get out of your own way. That's why you should take the advice of the Seniors you're grouped with, listen well to the words of your CDs, not be afraid to ask them to look over your work and have them give you advice on how to make it better.

And trust me, you shouldn't be afraid. That's why they are seniors and CDs. That's why you're put in teams that have people with experience in them.

Trust me, there are a plenty things worse to be berated by a Creative Directors for than asking too many questions about how to make your work better.

Eventually, you'll get the hang of it. You'll need to ask for help less and less often (at least I hope so, because otherwise my seniors need a significant raise for dealing with me) but that doesn't mean you should completely quit asking for help.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Welcome to Advertising, subject to approval by our compliance department.

File this under things no one tells you in portfolio school.

Your worst enemy, the worst enemy of all creatives is not the client, it is not a dunder-headed partner, an aloof CD, or anyone remotely related to the creation of the product/service or the creative to market said product/service.

The worst enemy of creative is the Compliance department.

Lawyers are great. My college roommate is a lawyer, lawyers do a lot of great things.

They are the equivalent of an overprotective mother when it comes to their clients' brands.

It is their job to make sure that no one who might possibly see an ad could use it in a future way to sue their client.

And the problem is, that these men and women are very creative. They can think of a billion different ways that a single line of copy could create a class-action lawsuit against their brand. The can see a billion different subversive messages in a single photo that may draw the ire of some Concerned Billardists Organization.

They  don't do this because they hate you. They do this because it is their job to make sure people don't use a hair-dryer in the bathtub.

But you, you will hate them.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A letter to the owner of my moving company

This is a version of the e-mail, letter, and review I have been posting about my moving company, Able Moving, Co. Feel free to share with anyone who needs a mover and has the misfortune of dealing with this company.

My name is Perry Littrell. I had the misfortune of being a customer of your company on January 20, 2009 thru January 21, 2009.  We chose a moving coordinator WeHaul, Inc. based on a binding, so long as it didn’t cost them any money, quote that was significantly less than a competitors binding quote and ended up costing us significantly more than what was quoted.

We understood that this wasn’t your company’s fault. We didn’t complain to your employees, we didn’t tell your movers to bring all of our property back. We complained to WeHaul, who told us to stiff your company to recoup our loses.

We didn’t, because we didn’t think that was fair to you.

And when your employees called with a move-in time between 4 and 7 p.m. on the 21st or on the 22nd between 8 and 11 a.m. if the 21st move-in time couldn’t be accomplished; we didn’t complain. We understood. Things sometimes arise and besides our contract said that the move-in period was between the 21st and 23rd. So when no one called at 7 or arrived by then, we assumed your company would be delivering our property sometime between 8 and 11 a.m. on the January 21.

We didn’t call to complain. We didn’t demand any compensation for our lost 3 hours.

Then when your employees called at 8:15 p.m. to say they were on their way, we simply asked that they wait until morning, as we had previously agreed. You see, we have a 2 year old daughter who was already falling asleep on our couch, the only piece of furniture we had in our new apartment, and didn’t want to wake her. They told us this should be no problem. As an afterthought, my wife asked we not be charged for storage as it was not our fault the delivery was over an hour late.

They said it shouldn’t be a problem, but they would call to check with Tracie.

Five minutes later we were called by Tracie, who informed us curtly that there would be a $250 dollar storage fee because your company was late delivering our products.

Understandably, we were upset. We had already been taken advantage of by one party in this move, and now we were having our prostate examined by your company as well.

My wife gave me the phone, which in retrospect was probably not a good idea, I start my work day at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. is close to my normal bed time, I was needless to say tired and not in the most agreeable of moods.

I told Tracie the fee was unacceptable. We were paying quite a bit of money to your company for this move and we had already waited patiently for what was now four hours for our furniture which had not yet arrived, nor had there been any communication up until this point. I said the courteous and professional thing to do would be to wait and deliver our property first thing in the morning sans fee. She told me that your company could deliver our furniture at 11:59 p.m. on the last day of our move contract and that we should be ready to accept delivery 24 hours a day at any time during this period or be prepared to pay a storage fee.

This was approximately the time when I became rude, and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Tracie. While she was discourteous and unhelpful in all ways, treated my wife and I like vagrants, rather than valued customers who were spending over a $1000 dollars with your company, and made an extremely derogatory comment about me being chauvinistic despite my making no comments to her in any way that were demeaning to her sex (though I was rather pointed about her ability to do her job), she still did not deserve to have me use the language I did toward her.

I demanded Tracie contact her supervisor. I am not sure if this was you or someone in the department your company refers to tongue-in-cheek as customer “service”, but I was informed by Tracie he would not enjoy being bothered at 8:30 p.m. during his family time. I pointed out the obvious irony of her being concerned with her manager’s family time, while she was clearly not concerned with her paying customer’s family time. She did not seem to find the humor in my observation. Eventually, she did contact said supervisor. She then informed me, after contacting him, that we could refuse delivery and not pay a storage charge, but our furniture would be taking an all expenses paid  7-day, 6-night Florida vacation without us. 

I thought about the joy this would bring my furniture to experience the warm Florida weather rather than the bitter Chicago cold, but made a cold-hearted decision that my family needed our furniture more than the furniture needed the vacation.

I then had a very blunt discussion with Tracie about the destination of her immortal soul, and gave her rather harsh, but ultimately sound advice for her love life and hung up.

Obviously, I did not feel fully vindicated with my pyrrhic victory as I ultimately accepted the fact that our furniture would be moved into my apartment at a time where the rest of the street was preparing for its evening slumber.

On a positive note, both Casey and Ezekial were very pleasant and cordial gentleman who did their utmost to be as quiet and efficient as possible when moving our furniture in under the dark cover of night.

By now you have probably thrown this note in the trash and berated your poor secretary for being foolish enough to put it on your desk. I seriously doubt someone in your position at a company so flagrantly disinterested in doing what is right by its customers has bothered to read a nearly 3 page complaint letter, but if you are still reading I assure you this letter is coming to a rather quick and tidy conclusion.

You suck.

So what does this have to do with advertising and the business of marketing in general?

The time for self-absorbed presidents, aloof CEOs, and generally prickish General Managers is rapidly coming to a close. Our economy is in a downward spiral of trouble, which ultimately will change how consumers do business in this country forever. The internet is allowing more of the disenfranchised consumer base the ability to voice complaints about companies more concerned about the bottom line than providing a genuine quality product or service and allowing more potential consumers the ability to search the web to find out if anyone like them has ever had an experience like me and will use that knowledge to ultimately make decisions on how they spend their precious budgets. As marketers, advertisers, communicators we need to vigorously express this concept to our clients. No matter how much they spend on their marketing budget, if they do bad work and treat their customers badly, all the award winning advertising in the world won't save them.

I only wish that I would have had the time or prescience to look up reviews for these companies before moving. I might have then had the good sense to use one of their more customer-friendly competitors, but hindsight is 20/20 and I must deal with my mistakes, just like these companies will someday have to deal with theirs. But unlike them, all I will be doing is looking back on this letter and laughing at my impotent rage, while they look back on this letter while updating their impotent resumes.

I have made it a personal mission of mine to post this as many times as I can on as many different review sites as I can. And while I'm not sold that Twitter or Facebook is ultimately going to be the driving force of advertising and marketing, I think they are precursors of what will be the driving force of the most powerful form of marketing; word-of-mouth.

Take care, best of luck, and warmest regards, 

Perry J. Littrell.

P.S. Ezekial and Casey really were super cool, its a shame they work for such gigantic sphincters.

Are You Desperate?

So you've finished Ad School. 

You've got your book.

You've got great feedback from your instructors, the people (most of) you think are the smartest advertising minds in the world.

And you have a list of your dream agencies, your fall-back agencies and you "gag" agencies.

You send out your book with a snazzy e-mail introducing yourself.

I once sent an ECD in Memphis an e-mail explaining how despite the fact I grew up an hour and a half away, that I had never been to Memphis due to a promise my father made to a judge after a run-in with the law.

He thought it was funny and then never got back to me.

In fact I had a lot of people think my book was good, that my writing was excellent, my thinking was smart that never offered me a job.

At first I brushed it off. For the most part these people were at agencies in hiring freezes, but told me I was great.

A few people told me that I wouldn't fit in at their agency.

I started to get desperate.

Animals can smell fear.

Creative Directors can smell desperation.

And it affects their brain.

A great book, seems weaker if the creative behind it seems desperate for a job.

Your funny work history that doesn't include any actual advertising work becomes a tell-tale sign of your undesirability.

You're quirky sense of humor, your refreshing optimism, your unwavering honesty? 

Becomes weird, annoying, and cocky.

And instead of positive feedback, you start getting the "polite" brush-off where no one returns your calls.

The desperation becomes so odious that even you, a mere junior, can begin to smell it and you try to compensate.

You start adding concept statements to your book. You start explaining the idea behind ads that really need no explanation.  You start begging, you start behaving like you were applying for a banking position. You do your best to not appear odd or weird or unusual.

And then you quit being called into interviews all together.

Until you finally say, "fuck it."

You send out your book to every possible lead. You craft cover e-mails that express who you really are, instead of your bull-shit, "I'm too cool to work here attitude." that you had right out of school.

And somewhere along the line a CD sees something that seems genuine about you and your work, and they call you.

They interview you. 

They interview again.

If you're lucky they offer you a job later that day.

If you're like me, you get offered a job 3 weeks later five minutes after telling your friend that the agency is blowing you off.

And you say yes, start your job and go on to be the greatest creative in advertising history.

So why am I telling  you this?

Because, I want you to skip the whole "desperation" period of the job hunt.

I want you to know that its going to take a little while, that you aren't too cool for the places you're applying to, and to just be as real as possible.

Because the last thing you want is to get a job at an agency where you don't "really" fit in.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Be Worthy Of The Office You Have Been Appointed To

Politics and Advertising are alike in more ways than people like to admit.

I'm not going to go into the details, I've got a job and I want to make this post short and sweet.

But I think this thought is one that is more universal than just politics and advertising.

No matter what your station in life, strive to be worthy of the office you have been appointed to.

My father told me that when I started my career. 

I say this now to our new president (I'm pretty sure he's not a reader)

And I say it to all young creatives out there trying to get their first job.

Once you get it, be worthy of that job.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Being a Stay-at-Home Dad prepared me for being a Jr. Copywriter

A post or so back I wrote about how I was having to adjust to the difference between portfolio school and an actual Creative Job. The multi-tasking, brain-budgeting, and general lack of ability to hone in on one project at a time from concept to production.

I also noted that much to my surprise, I wasn't floundering like I had feared I would. That it wasn't causing me a lack of concentration and then I realized why: for the 6 months between school and starting my new job, I was a full-time, stay at home Dad.

And those 6 months have given me a world of experience most of my peers couldn't even fathom.

Because from the moment I woke up, until the moment my wife got home from work, I had to find ways to keep her entertained while educating her and not putting her into too much life threatening danger.

Sort of like what I have to do for a client's brand.

I have to find entertaining and educating ways of reaching the client's audience, without putting the client's identity into too much danger.

I also have to deal with a lot of demanding personalities. And if you ever wanted to know what multiple-personalities are like without actually dealing with a crazy person, just spend some time with a 2 year old girl.

Think about it.

The client has demands, the account team has demands, the creative director has demands, the seniors have demands, and your partner has demands; and as the new junior, I am expected to placate all of them.

Unfortunately, I do not have the authority to spank the client's butt and put them in the timeout chair for 5 minutes if they are being unreasonable.

But you get the point. A junior needs to have two traits to survive: you have to be creative and you have to be willing to compromise.

Because we are expected to come up with great ideas and then marry them with the great ideas of our partners, our supervisors, our creative directors, our account planners/managers, and our clients and just like with a child, we can't simply ignore them and think they'll understand.

Unfortunately, though Fatherhood did not prepare me for the lack of an afternoon nap at the agency.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama's Brand is off message

I'm going to be upfront with everyone. 

I'm a conservative Libertarian. I also like pie.

I'm also using a post from Makin' (its one word, skip the apostrophe) that changed how I thought about presidential elections to comment on what's going on with our president-elect's treasurer confirmation hearing.

Obama's message is Chage We Can Believe In.

As Greg pointed out much sooner and concisely than I did, the reason Obama beat McCain so handedly is that Obama never strayed from his message.

He sermonized on how we needed change in government, how there needed to be an accountability. Not just of the Wall Street Pyramid Scheme Barons, but of politicians and their ties to that seedy world.

For the most part he did nothing to make the American people not believe him. He appointed people who had been his political opponents to key positions in his cabinet, instead of cronies, he cut ties with anyone who had any inkling of corruption tainting their image.

Until now.

Now he's showing us what we should have realized. He's just another politician (so was McCain for that matter), maybe he's a less corrupt than most, but in the end he isn't as connected with us as he seems. 

Otherwise he'd tell his appointed Treasury Secretary to take a hike, instead of calling his 40k of tax fraud and unfortunate oversight.

No. Not now, it isn't an unfortunate oversight to the majority of Americans who's annual salary is less than what this guy tried to screw the government out of. Its tax fraud and if you or I or anyone else without the pull and connections of the political elite tried to pull that shit, we'd be in jail or having our wages garnished, and we sure as hell wouldn't be getting hired to be the CFO of a company (which is essentially what our Treasury Secretary is.)

So it's time Obama has come to a crossroads that many brands come to. It's time to stick to your guiding principles, your brand identity or hire a good pr/agency to re-create your image.

POTUS, same corruption, different party.


Working on Three brands at once.

I think one of the things Portfolio School could never prepare us for, or didn't prepare us for is working on more than one brand at a time. Sure we had a little overlap from our Monday concept class to our Thursday concept class, and we obviously were tweaking the campaigns we were going to push in our book, but I'm talking about the meat of advertising.


This week I started concepts for three different campaigns, and a pitch for three different brands.

It's hard. 

In portfolio school I had the luxury of focusing all my energy into one project at a time, I had the power of tunnel vision. 

Now, I have to budget brain time.

And if you think budgeting your check is hard, wait til you budget your brain.


Monday, January 12, 2009

First Week Second Week

First week has come and gone.

The nerves are starting to calm down.
I've written my first ad. I've worked on my first pitch.
I've shown up at 8:30 and left by 5:30.
And all of that is about to change. 

because Advertising is a business that ebbs and flows.
And I'm about to be baptized by fire.

And the funny thing is, I'm itching for it.

Wish me Luck.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Very, very, very, very, very strange.

I've seen an albino before.
I've also seen a transvestite. 

Last night on the train home I sat next to both, in the same person.

I was a little freaked out. I did my best not to stare, but an albino transvestite is not something you see every day.

And the only thing I could think of is; "How can I work this into an ad?"

Right then I realized that advertising is about absorbing strange little truths around you and using them to express an idea that will stand for your clients brand.

I don't know the guys/girls who created E79s Gatorade: Is It In You? campaign, but I'd like to think that their ad was more of a metaphor to the consumer for everything they do. You have to love it, you have to ooze it. That doesn't mean you have to be thinking about advertising all the time, but if it is "in you" then when you see these little oddities in the world, you'll immediately think: "Gee I wonder how I can get that into an ad?"



Wednesday, January 7, 2009

World's Most Expensive Personal Ad

Amy Borkowsky wants a man.


So bad that she's trying to raise money to buy GMs abandoned Superbowl time slot.

Now, I'm only a Jr., but who ever is in charge of the, E-harmony and accounts needs to jump all over this and fast.

This could make for the best Superbowl ad of the year if a dating site picks up the tab and lets her do it.

Just my opinion.


Day 3

Today I have nothing planned.

I'm guessing that's the way it goes with the new guy. 
They've got to feel you out, figure out what they trust you with.
That's fine, I'm doing my best to make sure I'll be  up to my ears in work in a few weeks.

But for now I'm making work for myself.
I've already pitched a new idea for a project to my Sr. Writer.
He thought it was really cool and we're going to pitch it to the Account Head today.

If advertising is a "What have you done for me lately?" business.
I'm going to make sure that they only have to think back a few minutes to answer that question.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today I wrote an ad.

Today I wrote an ad.

It was for the unveiling of a new wine created by a former sports personality.

The headline was 7 words.
The copy was 31 words.
The location and contact information were 15 words total.
The phone number was 10 numerals.
The dimension of the ad was 3 inches by 3 inches.

This ad will run in a small town newspaper in Florida.
It will be seen by no more than 20,000 people.

And yet I spent 4 hours writing it.
Because it was my assignment and that is my job.
And I love my job.

Thus begins the career of Perry J. Littrell, jr. copywriter. 

First Day Recap

So I got on the train expecting a 30 minute ride.

An hour and 15 minutes later, I was running through the MerchMart screaming, "Shit, shit, shit, I can't be late on my first day."

And somewhere in the back of my mind I heard my father say in his smarmy preacher voice, "Welcome to Chicago son, don't ya wish you'd picked a career that would have let you stay in Southern Illinois."

The answer is still a resounding no, but a few more train rides like that one yesterday and I may be singing a different tune.

At the office I met Ben, he's the other new guy. Cool, skinny, I wish him luck.

Craig kept text messaging me and calling while I was trying to fill out my paperwork.

There was a lot of paperwork.

I found my cubicle. 

Sarah sits kitty-cornered, we have the same insulin pump. Jaclyn sits over the wall, she hates the cubs too, I really haven't gotten to talk to my other cube mates yet. But so far so good.

I get the 10 minute DVC walkthrough, then the 1-hour DVC walkthrough. Then I get the 150 page and the 100 page DVC manuals.  

My day is spent reading, I am now confused as to whether Walt was a mere mortal or a God who walked among us.

Day ends, I have not written a single thing, but I'm excited. I've gotten an e-mail that invites me to a meeting to start working on my first piece.

I go with Craig to have a beer in the only Bar in the Merch. It costs 5.50 for a Miller Lite. I once again here my father say.

"Don't ya wish you were back in Southern Illinois."

And I responded, "Only when I'm buying the beer."



Monday, January 5, 2009

T-Minus 2 hours 'til go time.

Well this is it.

My last 2 free hours for the next (hopefully) 40 years. It's exciting, terrifying, and completely boring all in the same breath.

I've worked before, even had somewhat of a "career path", but none of that means squat now. Now, I'm the new guy. I'm the guy who has to prove I'm the best (sorry Craig), so that when it's time to pitch, time to launch a new campaign, I'm the first person my bosses look to.

I won't talk much about my first "job" in Advertising. If people from that agency read this, I really bare your no ill will. But I think there was only one really important lesson I learned and it came at a time when the owner was yelling at me.

"Perry, you've got two jobs as jr. copywriter for *name witheld*, the first is to make me look good. When you do good work, it is a reflection of me as the creative director and as long as you're making me look good, we'll have a great relationship here. The second is to improve yourself until you can leverage this job into a better one."

At the time I thought he was just being an ego-maniacal dick, part of me still feels that way. But I realized the truth in his words. If I do great work and get into the award shows, I make my bosses and my company look good. Their name gets posted right there with mine, even if the only thing they did was glance at it for a second and pass it along. And that's fine, they've paid their dues. They made their CDs look good when they were juniors too. And now, their job is to find people like me who will work hard to make them look good. It's the circle of advertising life.

As for the second part of my job. I already knew that part.

I'll post later to tell you all about my exciting day of signing forms, learning about Aenta Health Insurance, our Investment Bank, and the dangers of Sexual Harassment in the workplace. Quit undressing me with your mind Craig.