ContactPortfolioIllustrationsSTORIESWorkINSTAGRAMBlogsLinks

A Copywriter Writes

A Tumblr Blog
DAN WATSON

Kiwi copywriter.

Illustrator on the side.

This blog is filled with stuff that simply comes to mind that's too long to tweet.

It's mostly my observations as I try to make it in the advertising industry. It keeps me writing and, hopefully, gets you reading.

Recent comments

Twitter Feed

  • September 23, 2012 9:35 am

    My Favourite Ten: The Gospel According To Dan or, Twenty-Two Tips For Interns

    image

    A reblogging of my top ten posts since I started.



    NINE: POST #46 (25 May, 2011)

    Over time, younger ad kids coming out of university have talked to me about getting an internship. Some have asked for tips and other times I’m thrown my two cents at them like a passerby to a man in the street juggling hackie sacks.

    Either which way, during my time studying and working I’ve picked up a few tips and walkthroughs that I think can be very helpful to the clueless intern, the timid junior or even the unsure fish-out-of-water worker.

    Read More

  • November 8, 2011 7:27 pm

    Direction or, The Type Of Creative Director I Wish To Be: Part 2

    So as I’ve previously pointed out, my happy place is my own office, with my own desk and my own door that says my own name on it and ‘Creative Director’ underneath it.

    It can also just say ‘Creative Director’ without my name. I’m not picky. I have very flexible life goals.

    Aside from doing great work and earning my keep in the ad industry, I’ve taken to preparing for the CD role through observation of the many I’ve met and worked with so far in my budding career.

    Approachability was the first quality I figured was important to have. The next one is an obvious one and almost goes without saying.

    Direction.

    To state the perfectly obvious, creativity needs direction like a burger needs a bun. Especially in a commercial industry where the message needs to be bold and more obvious than what you would find at your local modern art museum.

    So if you’re a young creative mucking around with a brief, judging by the job title, you’d expect a Creative Director to look at your ideas and direct your creativity in the right direction.

    I’ve had my share of meetings with CDs, where they’ve looked at the work and sighed a vague response:

    "It’s not ‘there’ yet. Go away and come back later."

    Or something of the like.

    What the hell is this ‘there’ place? It’s funny because I’ve talked to a couple of CDs who know when you’re not ‘there’ as if they know where ‘there’ is, but they’re not about to give you a map and a compass.

    You go away from those meetings being just as confused as you might have been before and with no grounding to start round two of cracking the brief. And a creative who doesn’t know what they’re doing isn’t likely to produce some awesome work.

    Now, I’ve had some absolutely brilliant meetings before. I was once sitting with a CD who was giving be a speech about pushing beyond the first thought after I showed him an idea for a campaign. Not only did he tell me to explore the uncharted territory but he gave me an example, he took my idea and said,

    "What if you made it about [such and such] and said something like, ‘[blah blah blah]’. You know? That way, it’s not your usual campaign about [whatever]."*

    My art director and I were simply inspired. There’s nothing better than coming away from a meeting with enough open windows to air out Buckingham Palace.

    Another brilliant example is a CD I was trying to get a job offer from. I met with him and showed him my portfolio and he went through it, critiqued it and then we sat there and brainstormed for another 30 minutes or so! A CD who will give 1st rate direction to even unemployed creatives is absolutely top of my charts.

    He even apologised that he had to wrap up the meeting and get back to work! Brilliant.

    Sure, not every CD is like that, and not all CDs can be.

    As much as I’d like to sit with my future creatives and nut out the brief alongside them, there may be times where I’m too busy or whatever.

    But if I can at the very least leave them with a good starting point to come up with ideas that even I as the CD wouldn’t have considered, then I would consider my day’s keep earned.



    *I can’t give all the details because it’s an idea I’m currently working on to go into my portfolio.

  • September 30, 2011 2:36 pm

    That Damned Client or, Stepping Up Your Game

    It seems that there is a new reason to quit the advertising industry each week.

    It could be you’re fed up that at the end of the week, there were more days than hours sleep you got.

    It might be that nagging Account Executive has brought the deadline forward for the last time.

    Maybe it’s the fact that if you’re not talking about advertising when with your friends, you’re not talking.

    A lot of the time, as far as I’ve noticed, it’s the clients.

    They can be real bastards sometimes.

    Between demanding the work be done yesterday, cutting the budget and wanting the logo to be large enough so that the magazine ad will be noticed by the guy walking his dog 500 meters down the street, dealing with clients can be taxing.

    A lot of the time, these people don’t seem to be in tune with what people like and respond to, or what will make their brand stand out from the thousands of others they battle for attention each day.

    They cower at any idea that is remotely controversial, or unique and insist we tailor their communications they way everyone else is doing it or how they’ve always done it since the business started in 1946.

    They are the reason we don’t get to do cool work.

    If you agree, you just activated my trap card.*

    "Cool work gets done because of cool clients."

    This is a common mistake that most junior creatives tend to make. I shake my head in disappointment to think I strongly believed this once.

    Yes, I suppose there are exceptions where there is a friendly and trusting relationship, like Leo Burnett Malaysia shared with Petronas.

    But I have a theory.

    Every single client in the whole world is shit to deal with.

    Yes, even the one you just thought about with really cool advertising; yes, the Skittles, the Old Spices and the Coca Colas of this world are all crap and wouldn’t know an really creative and awesome idea if it crawled in their ears and introduced themselves.

    There’s no getting away from it. Those marketing people were simply not taught to think like those at an advertising agency does. They think about making money and selling product. That’s why ideas get whittled down.

    However,

    The agencies they work with bust themselves to give them work that is so phenomenal, that even when it’s whittled down to something a little less that the client can deal with, it’s still diamond-studded gold.

    I like to think that Wieden+Kennedy pitched something far more fantastically creative to Old Spice than 'Old Spice Guy: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like', but when the client had a go at it, rejected some of the more outrageous ideas and changed a few things, they were still left with a piece of creative treasure.

    That’s what happens when the only thing the client has to choose from, is quality or more quality.

    My theory may not be right, and Old Spice might be on the same page as W+K and a dream to work with, but that’s the picture I prefer to paint.

    I’ve been in numerous presentation situations where the strategy was to present a really good idea and a safe idea to under sell and make the good idea look better. Then everyone gets pissed off when the client chooses the safe idea.

    That’s easy to solve. Don’t give them a choice between a good idea and a bad idea.

    Clients don’t think like you. More times that not, they’ll choose the idea you think is bad.

    To further illustrate:

    Last year my art director, Kishan and I were working at JWT Auckland. We were doing a small job for Nestle as part of a campaign for Milky Bar to search for the next Milky Bar Kid.

    Our task was simple: do up some concepts for an internet banner ad to inform people that the top 10 kids who auditioned were chosen and it was time to vote for the winner.

    We did a whole bunch, naturally, and two were put forward. One was a bland concept with straight copy using the stock campaign imagery. The other was a neat little animation about a classic western ‘baddie’ dressed in black coming out of the saloon, looking around and then jumping into a nearby barrel and the line comes up:

    The Milky Bar Kid is gonna be back in town.

    and then,

    Choose who it’s going to be here.

    Or something to that effect. 

    Also, there was little budget for this so, the illustrations I did would have to be used. The concept was funny, it was likable, and it meant that something I drew could get on the internet.

    I was excited. The Account Director happily took it to sell.

    She came back and said the client bought the safe, bland one.



    A good client can recognise a cool idea.

    A better suit can sell a cool idea to a hesitant client.

    The best creative can work around a client that still says no.



    *Yu-Gi-Oh reference. Anyone? No? Ok…


  • September 9, 2011 3:01 pm

    Approachability or, The Type Of Creative Director I Wish To Be: Part 1

    Basically, my long term goal is to one day (hopefully in roughly 12-15 years) be a Creative Director of a sweet agency.

    If you were to talk to many creatives my age at once, that life goal gets really old quick.

    But it’s my goal and even though the needle on my experience dial points just above ‘Fuck All’, I’ve taken to already preparing myself for the role.

    This means I’ve carefully watched and learned from the CDs I’ve already had the privilege to work for in my short, but illustrious career to date.

    There are a number of qualities that I both admire and dislike in CDs I’ve observed or just heard about that I wish to either emulate or avoid.

    However, I tend to think of them as I see them and say to myself,

    "I want to be just like that when I’m older."

    or perhaps,

    "I must not let myself become like that when I get older."

    So I shall talk about these qualities one at a time.

    Starting with one of the most important, in my book.

    Approachability.

    From what I’ve learned, if a creative feels comfortable with their CD, then they’ll show them any old crap they’re working on and seek an honest opinion, the way it should be.

    Alas, sometimes the creative is shit-scared for their CD for a number of reasons, and so they self-judge themselves heavily and end up presenting what they think are their best two ideas, or at least what ever that they think is worthy.

    Sometimes, this may be due to something that the CD simply cannot help. For instance, if the CD is incredibly successful and influential and thus as intimidating as the meathead dating the girl you’re crushing on.

    I know I’ve been there, I’ve worked for a CD who I could only dream of working with in my uni days. When that time did decide to grant itself to me, all I thought about was not disappointing him. All he had to do was enter the room and I’d be sweating bullets faster than a gatling gun.

    This can be good for a creative; a nice motivational kick every day. But it’s a bit too far when you panic at the thought of showing the ideas you’ve come up with to them.

    Other times, the CD is just gruff and speaks their mind, no matter who gets wounded and maimed in the process. That probably works for some, for the rest it has us trembling so much we can’t hold our Moleskines properly.

    Being able to simple stroll into your CD’s office and spit across some first thoughts at them without taking a second one is a crucial factor to a young creative’s development, in my humble opinion.

    I had a CD once who had approachability down to an art. He would saunter into the office, ask us how we were and not even ask to see our ideas sometimes. When we offered, he would simply shrug and say,

    "Yeah, sure. I mean, if you’re ready. No rush."

    And just like that, we’d be at ease.

    And no anxiety meant less pressure.

    It also meant a desire to impress, as opposed to a desire not to screw up.

    Big difference. Especially when you’re talking about creative productivity.

    All, in my eyes, dependent on how approachable you are as a CD.

  • September 2, 2011 9:11 pm

    Passionate People or, Temporarily Living The Dream

    The DDB Group in New Zealand was always an agency I wanted to work for. It was one of the top in the country. 

    How could you not want a piece of that?

    It wasn’t until I was about a month out of leaving for Malaysia that my little dream was answered. I received a text message asking me to come into the Interbrand office to work on a couple of projects.

    This was off the back of a very good recommendation from my past tutor. So I was elated. You couldn’t get much closer to a professional orgasm than that, short of a promotion to your dream job.

    I went in there for the meeting on the Monday, and started work on the Wednesday.

    I was nervous as hell, as you can imagine. Walking into the same building as some of New Zealand’s most awarded creatives.

    But I cautiously wandered into the office, sat down and proceeded to work like I’ve never worked before. I wasn’t there long, as I had a flight to catch in early March, but it was the most productive few weeks I had experienced.

    I have a couple of answers to why that may have been:

    It might have been the fact that I was sitting at a desk in the big, tall building at 80 Grey St in the heart of Auckland’s CBD, or it could have been I was working for a Creative Director (Lorenz Perry) that I had heard so many good things about in the past.

    However I’m more inclined toward the fact that the Managing Director, James Bickford had an amazing way of igniting the the wick of the team’s passion and shooting it up into the sky to explode in an array of colours and sparkles.

    He was a great guy to work with, to say the least.

    He was one of those people who was very involved with all the work the agency was doing and really liked to push ideas.

    He was someone you really wanted to impress, too.

    One meeting, we were discussing a look and feel and name for a particular band of lamb.

    "Yes, I love that. Now, this is interesting. Yes, I was thinking the exact same thing! I’m not sure this works. What do you think? Yes, I agree, I was wondering if it would be better like this? For me that works best. Ah, yes, I see what you’re saying. What was that you said? Yes, that one, I like that one."

    Trying not to sound like a blubbering ad fanboy, but it was magic to watch.

    I was asked to come up with names and tag lines and other little copy based bits for the projects I worked on. I was surprised at how I was churning out the words.

    They wanted names for a drink brand, I gave them over 100 suggestions by lunchtime. They wanted me to push a few. I came back with about 50 in half an hour. I was feeling good.

    This is exactly how you want to be in your working life; surrounded by people who awaken your love for your work and have you performing like you’re up for an award.*

    Surround yourself with passionate people and naturally, your work begins to improve as your attitude does.

    Obvious. You see it in the opposite scenarios too. There have been many times when we’ve had a client reject an idea or propose a really silly change and team is on its last legs and collectively goes,

    "Fine. It’s no use fighting anymore. Just do whatever."

    How deflating is that?

    Someone who is trying to keep fighting and try to get something at least a little cool out is going to drown with do support.

    It happens. But if it happens often, you need to get out and go find a place where it rains positivity. 

    Another thing to keep in mind is you can’t depend on these people to keep you positive. It’s a dyadic process. You’re surrounding yourself with these people and in turn they’re surrounding themselves with you. They’re counting on you to keep them going too.

    I’m guessing that’s how James stays so passionate: because the rest of the team at Interbrand NZ are as equally as passionate and keep on delivering passionate work.

    And then you become a place to work that people like me admire, blog about and wish to work for.



    *I’m not saying all the other places I’ve worked were not like this. On the contrary - every single place I’ve worked at has given me something different that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I’m not sure I have a favourite place, yet.

  • June 16, 2011 4:33 pm

    Reserve or, Looking At Your Child With Indifference.

    Iz Mady is the name of one of the most talented designers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He is the Head of Design and Art Direction at Lucideas.

    He is a mark of true passion for the work. He gets good art direction and design and pushes until it looks like a piece of creative so sexy you want to buy it a drink.

    Yet, I’ve never, in the time I’ve worked here, seen Mady get physically excited about work that he or anyone is doing. Not like I’ve seen with other creatives.

    Ideas and executions that the other creatives, myself included, would be jumping around about, chatting excitedly about like girls at lunch, would be passed to Mady for approval. 

    He looks at the work with an expression of absolute impartiality and gives his opinion on how good it is and what it needs to make it better.

    He’s an example of a great balance between unstoppable passion and immovable reserve.

    The first post I ever wrote was about passion.

    The single most important thing any creative person has to have bucket loads of if they want to have a hope of surviving in their chosen industry. How else are you going to keep yourself going? It sure as shit isn’t the pay (well, maybe not in the early years, anyway).

    I have said before that a creative should immerse themselves in the work; bathe in it. They should love all the nuances and nuisances of the work like a bloke loves a cold beer after doing the yard work on a Saturday.

    But it’s all about balance, as Mady has demonstrated.

    As I’ve advocated before, love your work; look at the ugliest things about what you do and see nothing but sunshine and cherries. But know just when to keep a certain distance between yourself and the creation you just birthed onto the page with the movements of your hand, brush or Artline.

    In my experience, there’s passionate and there’s destructively obsessive.

    When you get too close to your work, you sweat the (embarrassingly) small stuff and it becomes a worry in regards to how you’re going to handle the impending rejection from the narrow-minded client.

    I learned this the awkward way.

    Last year my art director, Kishan and I were working at JWT Auckland. We were doing a small job for Nestle as part of a campaign for Milky Bar to search for the next Milky Bar Kid.

    Our task was simple: do up some concepts for an internet banner ad to inform people that the top 10 kids who auditioned were chosen and it was time to vote for the winner.

    We did a whole bunch, naturally, and two were put forward. One was a bland concept with straight copy using the stock campaign imagery. The other was a neat little animation about a classic western ‘baddie’ dressed in black coming out of the saloon, looking around and then jumping into a nearby barrel and the line comes up:

    The Milky Bar Kid is gonna be back in town.

    and then,

    Choose who it’s going to be here.

    Or something to that effect. 

    Also, there was little budget for this so, the illustrations I did would have to be used. The concept was funny, it was likable, and it meant that something I drew could get on the internet.

    I was excited. The Account Director happily took it to sell.

    She came back and said the client bought the safe, bland one.

    "Arrrgggh!"

    My chair shot back and rolled into the wall as I got up in a huff, cursed a couple of times and then stormed out of the office and stomped down the hall to go grab a drink of ice-cold water. I could see people glancing out of their own offices and cubicles to see what the noise was.

    After I had cooled down, Kishan said to me,

    "Bro, bit over-dramatic don’t you think?"

    "It was clearly the better option! Why the fuck didn’t they choose it?!"

    "Ah, well. It happens. Chill out."

    I wanted to slap him and make it about how he needed to be more passionate about the work. But he was totally right.

    It’s going to happen time and time again: you’ll birth a cool idea, and someone will shoot it down.

    If you’re going to be as passionate as I was about all of your ideas and clutch onto each and every one of them, you’re going to get a bit stressed and down trodden. That’s no way for a creative mind to be.

    It’s why they tell us, kill your babies. Murder your darlings. Show no mercy nor remorse. Put the ideas that don’t work (for now) away and move on.

    Just keep going.

    Create an idea from your mind. Tweak it and nurture it. Watch with excitement as it grows into something viable. Shed a quick tear of pride as those around you admire and compliment it. Have it turned down by the client and without a second thought, cock you metaphorical gun and shoot it between the metaphorical eyes.

    Simple.

    A balance between unstoppable passion and immovable reserve.

    I’m still working on this, by the way. Just last night the client insisted on using drab, boring copy that they wrote themselves on an invitation.

    I wanted to break someone’s arm. I didn’t care who.

    Then I let it go.

    No ice-cold water required.

  • May 26, 2011 5:09 am

    The Gospel According To Dan or, Twenty-Two Tips For Interns

    Over time, younger ad kids coming out of university have talked to me about getting an internship. Some have asked for tips and other times I’m thrown my two cents at them like a passerby to a man in the street juggling hackie sacks.

    Either which way, during my time studying and working I’ve picked up a few tips and walkthroughs that I think can be very helpful to the clueless intern, the timid junior or even the unsure fish-out-of-water worker.

    ONE

    As soon as you’re settled, find the appropriate person and ask for a list of the agency’s clients. As an intern, there’s a chance you won’t see a lot of work for a first couple of days as you’re introduced to the agency and its culture. In the meantime, pick a client from the list when you have nothing to do and come up with some ads for them with your own SMP. This shows that you have initiative and you add value to the agency. Paul White told this to me toward the end of 2009, and I’ve lived by it ever since.

    TWO

    Any proactive work you do during the week, compile together and show the Creative Director at the end of the week. You’ll look amazing if you can make this a regular thing. This shows the CD directly that you’re always thinking and don’t waste time. If any of it is good, you’ve got some work to go in the portfolio (GOOD), or gets run (AWESOME) or may even be award winning (CRAZY AWESOME).

    THREE

    Before doing proactive work for the agency’s clients, do a quick round of the creative department and introduce yourself (if you haven’t already) and ask if you can get in and help on anything anyone else is doing. An agency appreciates a hungry intern. It gets you more relaxed and familiar with the other creatives too and you become more approachable to one another.

    FOUR

    Be talkative, smile and be approachable. Make sure people know you’re there. A small agency I once worked for took in a couple of interns who kept to themselves most of the time. After a month, the CD still didn’t know their names. In an agency with only 6 people in creative department, that’s awkward.

    FIVE

    As an intern, NEVER (without permission) drink the last beer/wine/spirit from the bar (if you’re lucky enough to get into an agency that has one). Psychologically, people tend to dislike whoever takes the last of something. Also, it can be perceived as a bit of a smart-ass thing to do. I found this out the hard way. I once drank the last of the whiskey at one agency and this news was quickly spread and was received with mild distaste. The senior copywriter even went as far as to make it a new rule and wrote an amendment to the agency induction document.

    SIX

    Unless work is beating down on you like a drummer in an African tribe, always take up the invitation to join people from the agency for lunch or after-work drinks. Get to know everyone outside of the office. Who knows? You may make some industry friends and (if you’re a swell person) some solid contacts for later in your career.

    SEVEN

    Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. It’s great if you’re one of those people who can easily adapt to a new environment, but careful not to rub others the wrong way with it. There’s a fine line between a cool intern who’s settling in nicely and cocky shit new kid on the block. One time, I was playing pool with the agency Managing Director and we were giving each other banter, as you do. He made a stab at me being fired if I won the game and I, in jest, made a remark along the lines of

    "Please, you need me." 

    To which he replied after a pause:

    "Sorry, who are you?"

    This was also a joke, but with serious undertones. Got me thinking. Always pack yourself a slice of humble pie for lunch.

    EIGHT

    When invited to sit in on meetings, contribute. ‘Sit in’ generally means sit there, listen and learn about what’s going on and you’re not really expected to speak up. Show your enthusiasm by diving into the work and getting involved.

    NINE

    Know that you’ll be working long hours. Expect it. Be pleasantly surprised if they let you go home at 6pm. It helps to inform your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend.

    TEN

    A rule of thumb with most workplaces if you’re interning is to be there before your boss and leave only after he/she does. Special circumstances aside.

    ELEVEN

    If it’s 6pm and there’s nothing for you to do, stay. I mean, this job is mostly about long hours, you may as well start practising. Pull out that client list.

    TWELVE

    Know that agency life will be exciting and magical for a first weeks, maybe, if you’re awesome, it’ll last a month for so. But sooner or later, the cherries, rainbows and fairy bread will dissolve and it’ll be crunch time and there’ll be tension and a sea of shit to swim through. But there’s always land ahead.

    THIRTEEN

    Always check and confirm all meetings, no matter how minute, with your CD. For one, it’ll show that you’re on top of things and you’re proactive about your work. Also, a CD’s schedule is dramatically hectic and dynamic. Don’t be surprised if the number of times a meeting is postponed gets into the double digits.

    FOURTEEN

    You’re never too busy. Having said this, be sensible. Take on all work opportunities that come your way, but there’s a point where you go from juggling multiple briefs to being ridiculous. Plus, as an intern (and in some cases a junior), you’re hardly in any position to turn people away.

    FIFTEEN

    The receptionist is the gatekeeper of all things in the agency. She orders the new stationary, she keeps the taxi coupons in her top drawer and she picks the beer brand and biscuits to stock the fridge and fill the jar with. She loves gossip, talking about her (and your) day and dogs or cats or horses or possibly all three. And she loves doing favours for people who are nice to her. Most importantly, she is not, by any measurement, below you in any way. Give her the respect she deserves.

    SIXTEEN

    Some of the more stressed workers in the agency (usually the creatives) would argue that it is not in fact a good morning or something that even resembles a pleasant evening. But wish them one anyway.

    SEVENTEEN

    If you’re going to complain about trivial tasks you are asked to do as part of being an intern, don’t trust this to someone within the agency. It’s never a good look, no matter how much they empathise with you. Always be modest in this respect. And never, NEVER describe a task as “tedious” when someone has the gentle kindness to inquire how you’re doing.

    EIGHTEEN

    The pay will be shit. Deal with it. In my opinion, this is a test of your passion (and budgeting skills). If you can’t survive on the paycheck you’re getting, get a part-time weekend job.

    NINETEEN

    Sooner or later, you’ll hit the metaphorical fork in the road where you decide whether or not to get involved in the office politics. Try to avoid for as long as possible. If you do, remain as impartial as possible.

    TWENTY

    Office gossip: collect as much as you want, just don’t be the source of it. It’s fun, I’ll admit, but not worth the crappy consequences. You’ll be surprised at who’s loyal to who and who’s connected to who.

    TWENTY-ONE

    Attitude is everything. A smile when people enter your office is loved. A groan or a sigh when brochure/mailer work is given to you is not.

    TWENTY-TWO

    Careful about the bosses you try to impress. You’ll have two. The Creative Director and the Managing Director. In a large agency, you’re probably not going to have much to do with the MD but in a small agency, you’re likely to run into him/her now and again. These two people will have different work ethics. Example: one CD once told my Art Director and I that he didn’t care when we came into the office, as long as the work got done. This led to a couple of times where we sauntered into the office around 11am. The CD didn’t care, but the MD raises an eyebrow to this stuff. Bottom line: who actually does the hiring?

    TWENTY-THREE

    Always give them more than they asked for. If they want 20 concepts by Friday, go for 40. I once heard about a intern creative team who went into a major car brand creative meeting with one idea. Try not to impale yourself on that end of the spectrum. 

  • April 19, 2011 1:41 am

    Judge An Ad School By Its Ads or, Getting Schooled Again


    Is that an eagle wearing a trencher? Christ…

    My agency, Lucideas recently did some work for a new client, a local advertising school which had some God-awful stuff trying to cram 27 messages into one print ad.

    My Creative Director, Zac Labang said that this was one of those blatant opportunities to do something cool and award-winning. I suppose you can’t ask for much better when the client themselves ask for something award-winning, not to mention the client is an AD SCHOOL; one of the best kinds of clients.

    I instantly lit up. I felt like I was back at university, getting briefed and, like all university ad briefs, there were no rules; no brand guidelines, no sponsor’s message, no Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

    Just a simple idea to go on a page in the newspaper.

    Rather relaxing, compared to what is usually asked of an ad campaign these days.

    And like university, I found myself being schooled once again in things that you really ought to remember when creating advertising.

    Having said that, we’re always re-learning stuff. Droga5 Creative Director, Guy Roberts once said to me before giving me advice,

    "Here’s something I was taught when I was 17, and again when I was 19, and again at 21, and when I was 25…"

    What I re-learnt this time:

    SMASH THE CATEGORY.

    Zac reiterated what Paul White first taught this to me a couple of years ago. It’s the ‘zig when everyone else zags’ principle; it’s part of what Paul Arden meant when he wrote ‘Whatever you think, think the opposite’. Simply look at the competition and go in a different direction to what they do.

    Looking through the newspaper at all the colleges’ ads ‘persuading’ students to come to their open days, the first point was to do an ad that was simple and uncluttered. The sea of stock photography of smiling students said to us that an actual idea in our ad would make it stand out.

    This was too easy. The above ‘zagging’ is what you should be doing anyway. The fact that schools boasting effective communication courses were not doing their ads like this to begin with is embarrassing.

    SHOW, DON’T TELL.

    Again something you learn right off the bat in any ad school worth its salt. In this case, we saw one ad in particular that sang out amongst the bullet points, text boxes, sponsor logos and the other three headlines (no joke) that they ‘develop you to be an industry-ready communicator’. How? By showing exactly what not to do? Talk about irony.

    Don’t state the claim, simply prove it in the way you do an ad ESPECIALLY if you’re an ad school. I mean, shit, practice what you preach.

    Helps cut back on the body copy too.

    Speaking of which…

    TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR.

    In your communication, there could be a slight chance that the reason you think you’re hot shit means nothing to the consumer.

    A student looking for a good college isn’t trying to compare their ability to equip them with global skills in a borderless world nor is interested in the fact that the university has leading research intensive facilities.

    Research does come in handy when figuring out what your audience what’s to hear. If you know what they want, then talking to them will be just like drinking through a straw without tipping the bottle up: simple enough, but if you still have trouble, then you’re kind of retarded.

    Finally…

    KEEP REFERRING TO THE BRIEF.

    You can make kick ass ads, but if they don’t say what needs to be said, the they’re about as useful as a mesh condom.

    When coming up with the initial concepts, I read the brief once and went to work. Each half decent thought was quickly drawn up and stuck to the wall, by the time it was time to meet, I went in with about 20-odd ideas.

    More than anyone else who came to the meeting.

    All of them off brief (by a smidge).

    Yep, felt like I was back at university. 

  • April 6, 2011 8:03 pm

    Agency Relationships: An Analogy

    Agency relationships are like growing up with brothers and sisters:

    You fight over your toys, you argue and scream at one another and you make each other cry. Then you all go outside together and play.

  • April 5, 2011 6:42 pm

    The Copywriter Does ALL The Writing?

    Account Exec: We need some copy to go in the place where they agree to the Terms and Conditions before submitting.

    Copywriter: What do you want it to say?

    Account Exec: Like, ‘I agree to the Terms and Conditions.’

    Copywriter: There you go.

    Account Exec: What?

    Copywriter: That’s the copy. Right there.

    Account Exec: ‘I agree to the-‘

    Copywriter: Yes, yes. What you said.

    Account Exec: Ok, cool.

    Copywriter: Do you need me to write it down and email it to you?

    Account Exec: No, I should be fine.

    Copywriter: Great.

    Account Exec: Sweet. Good work.

    Copywriter: Sure.