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.