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.