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

  • August 20, 2012 8:37 pm

    My Favourite Ten: How I’ve Come Up With Ideas or, Ways To Keep Yourself Looking Busy

    image

    A reblogging of my top ten posts since I started.



    FIVE: POST #12 (24 Feb, 2011)

    First and foremost, I’m not telling you how to get an idea, specifically. People who think this is a ‘how to’ on idea generating, you’re half wrong. But read on, this may help.*

    In my very short time in the advertising industry thus far, I have learnt more than an elephant can shit, to be graphically honest. This includes ways of coming up with ideas. I hope that in time, I can revisit this post an expand on it exponentially.

    Read More

  • March 18, 2012 8:03 pm

    Recycled Ideas or, Snow White Reloaded

    I’m currently remodeling my portfolio for when I finally travel back home to New Zealand in search of a job.

    Most of this is throwing out old stuff and coming up with completely new, exciting ideas.

    At this time, finding a completely original creative idea is quite the challenge. Everything’s been done.

    Take a stab in the dark and you could probably make a decent living (albeit an unhealthy one) betting on the fact that whatever you come up with has been done.

    "Umm… Batman! Fighting a…. a shark! With a light saber! Totally random, pay up, bit-"

    "…Oh."

    That’s why working as a creative in a commercial industry such as advertising and being tasked with coming up with something original that the success of the project rides on can be daunting.

    Or rather, an intense, gut-wrenching moment that only the soundtrack from the ‘Psycho’ shower scene can articulate.

    However, original isn’t the be-and-end-all of the creative game. Two more important buzzwords identify a successful creative project: fresh and interesting.

    "No shit, Dick Tracy."

    Ok, past the obvious. The best examples of fresh and interesting without being totally original have been taking someone else’s brilliant idea and looking at it from another angle; using a different perspective.

    It could be rather simple.

    I shall illustrate.

    I was reading a short story by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, entitled ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’.

    It’s my favourite short story I’ve ever read. It takes the classic Grimm Brothers story of Snow White and give an alternate, more macabre explanation to the events in the much loved children’s fairy tale.

    I won’t go into too much detail, but the story is told from the perspective of the Queen, who we’ve all bee raised to hate.

    Snow White is a vampire who kills her own father.

    The Queen had her huntsmen take the child into the forest and remove her heart.

    However, years later, the Queen finds out the girl is still alive and preying on the inhabitants of the forest.

    The Queen disguises herself and poisons some apples and goes to take of the matter personally.

    More years pass in peace and a Prince visits the Queen. They spend the night together but the Prince’s strange sexual fetishes reveal him to be a necrophiliac. Things don’t work out and he leaves the next morning.

    The Prince finds Snow White and revives her (but not with a kiss), they return to the kingdom, spread the lies about the Queen that we’re familiar with today and roast the Queen alive for the Midwinter feast.*

    After reading this, I don’t think I’ll ever look at Snow White the same way again. Disney can throw whatever it wants at me, that bitch will always be a vampire to me now.

    Another, more recent example of this is the TVC for The Guardian Online that’s making ripples all over the internet.

    A fresh take on an old idea will get just as good of a reaction as a totally original one, if not better. Take what people already know and challenge it. Most times you can’t go wrong (assuming it’s good, of course).

    As the days tick by closer to the time I get back, the tension in me grows as a try to unearth those crazy, cool ideas that will raise a Creative Director’s eyebrow.

    Gaiman’s brilliant story will serve as a nice reminder to me that what’s crazy and cool isn’t always found in what’s new and unfamiliar.



    *I really don’t do this justice. The story is so well-written. You can find it in his book, Smoke and Mirrors. Read it.

  • February 1, 2012 6:26 pm

    Getting Life Experience or, Watching TV Is Part Of The Job

    My first (creative) partner was a girl in my ad school during my third year doing a Bachelor of Communications at AUT.

    She was great, we did a lot of interesting work together.

    There was one thing about her that I found odd.

    She didn’t watch television.

    Her family didn’t have one. She was raised like this. Instead of watching TV, she’d pursue hobbies like dancing, which is all well and good because she was an excellent dancer.

    And her parents took her to different countries when she was little, so she was well travelled. Phenomenally so.

    But she didn’t watch television.

    And to me, this left a gap in her thinking.

    Sometimes, I would suggest an angle we could explore or lines we could use based on popular culture originating from a TV show, and she would come back to me; expressionless.

    I think there was one time I mentioned a TV character like Captain Planet.

    "Who?"

    "Captain Planet. You know, the Planeteers? Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart? Go, Planet?"

    "Nope. Are you sure people know who that is?"

    "Are you serious?!" 

    Good advertising messages stem from insights. Insights about the product, where it’s made, how to use it, the people that use it, an so on.

    The best advertising messages stem from life insights. Aspects of daily living that transcend language, age and gender boundaries.

    And the best way to come up with these life insights is to experience life.

    If you’re disconnected somehow, you’re not going to reach those crucial truths you need.

    In a way, this means to travel; see different people and cultures and view life from a unique perspective.

    In a more realistic way, this means to branch out from what you already do.

    Just because Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney hang out at MacLaren’s Pub all the time, doesn’t mean it’s cool for you to do as well.

    Read a book you by an author you don’t normally read; see a movie you wouldn’t see; watch TV, a lot; go to a restaurant you haven’t been to and order something you don’t normally eat.

    Every new thing you do gives you a new perspective and broadens your thinking.

    You could notice how people who can’t handle spicy food look like they’re taking a Lamaze class when they eat, or how the majority of commuters read books on the train, or all the weird tips and tricks for picking out perfect produce you learn from farmer’s market patrons.

    They can all birth interesting ideas that come from simple life insights.

    Another thing I would recommend is to watch a lot of stand up comedians. All and any you can. Local ones, international ones, male ones, female ones, transgender ones, old ones, young ones, Irish ones, American ones, Spanish ones, Chinese ones, Nigerian ones, bad ones, really bad ones, all of them.

    Especially those who specialise in observational humor.

    What these people do for a living is take even the tiniest life insight, like the faces men make when we shave, and turn it into something relatable, funny and entertaining.

    Gee, that sounds familiar.

    And you can tell they’ve hit the nail on the head with these details of daily life because of the immediate laughter from the audience.

    Young creatives could learn a lot from these people. The more you watch, the more perspective you benefit from - it’s simple.

    As a creative (especially one working in advertising), you’re not just living life, you’re exploring it. And the best way to do that is just do something different from time to time.

    A friend of mine, Iain Nealie, a creative at TBWA\Tequila in Auckland, once did something as simple as using a different mode of transport to go to work each day for a week.

    He managed it (walk, run, car, skateboard, bus).

    Simple as that.

    Or just at least make sure you’re getting enough TV each day.

  • 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 20, 2011 12:37 pm

    It’s Largely Luck or, Sometimes Father Fate Wants To Give You A Leg Up

    So the other week, as I have previously pointed out, Yew Leong Tan dropped by Lucideas for a chat.

    He spoke to us about his illustrious 23-year career working at Leo Burnett Malaysia for 16 of them, eventually becoming Executive Creative Director with Yasmin Ahmad. He spoke specifically about the amazing work he and Yasmin did for Petronas.

    I also learned a secret to how they sold that amazing work.

    It wasn’t the hours. Although, that probably would’ve helped.

    It wasn’t superior Powerpoint presentations. However, I’ve been told that Smart Art and animations can arguably make or break your client meeting.

    I wasn’t really any major skill that anyone can simply develop over the course of their career.

    It was mostly luck.

    Hmph. Well, shit.

    Being more spiritually inclined. Yew Leong called it ‘God’s Will’.

    He said it was a good idea, yes. But it was also persuasively presented.

    To open-minded clients.

    Whom they had a trusting relationship with.

    That’s quite a few factors.

    There was one particular idea that wouldn’t be where it is today without a stroke of luck.

    Many industry professionals will be familiar with the TVC Tan Hong Ming in Love.

    In 2008, it won at Cannes, the Clios, D&AD, the Media Spikes, the Kancils, the Andy Awards, One Show, the Asia Pacific AdFest, the CUP Awards plus many others.

    What’s interesting is the charm and charisma that cherries the idea was born out of luck.

    Let’s note that it takes a rather humble creative to admit this.

    What’s magic about this is as they were filming, the bell rang and little Ummi came out and what happened next was totally unscripted. The look of happy shock on Hong Ming’s face was genuine and perfect. The only bit of direction given was when Yasmin told them both to walk away (her voice was cut out obviously).

    Again, this would never have happened if they didn’t randomly decide to film by the classrooms and filmed by a tree on the field as originally planned.

    It just happened.

    Everything fell into place of fate’s own volition.

    I doubt this is first nor the last time you’ll hear a story like this. I know I’ve heard it more times than Charlie Sheen’s had sex.

    Industry stars have called the secret to successful work all sorts of name; modestly referring to it as luck, God’s Will, an alignment of stars, or a very intricate pattern of wearing unwashed lucky underwear every second day after lunch time except on Tuesdays.

    Knowing this I suppose we can all relax a bit, knowing that sometimes our successes are out of our control.

    Having said this, that’s not to actually say you can’t work towards it.

    Considering the above stories about the ECDs at Leo Burnett Malaysia, easily persuading a client helps if they’re open-minded, which helps if you have a trusting relationship, which takes a lot of work to achieve.

    The random decision to film Hong Ming near the classrooms led to Ummi wandering onto the shoot early, which led to her unscripted admission of considering Hong Mong her boyfriend, triggering his priceless expression of shock and delight. The icing on the cake was Yasmin’s direction to walk away, an on the spot decision which comes from years of experience making films.

    So yes, I suppose I do agree that a lot of the time when creating great work, things simply fall into place.

    But it is the insertion of your hard work and dedication that positions those things directly above where you’d like them to fall.

  • August 19, 2011 10:11 pm

    Loving Your First Idea or, A Ring After Two Days

    In 1972, Elvis Presley said,

    wise men say only fools rush in’.

    Despite knowing this he couldn’t help falling in love.

    Well, that’s all well and good for the romantics out there, but it’s bloody silly when I think about it.

    Mind you, I think about it with a degree of hindsight. I’m reminded about the silliest thing I’ve ever done in my young love life.

    I was on a school field trip in Rome. One of the girls in the group and I grew close.

    Skipping past all the awkward talking about each other to our friends and each other’s friends, I asked this chick out in St. Peter’s Basilica, as you do.

    She was the first girl I had ever asked out.

    So, naturally, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

    We spent the first day holding hands and sitting in the same chair together.

    Her friends jokingly asked me what my intentions were.

    "Oh, long term. For sure. She’s great."

    I guess I meant it at the time.

    On the second day, we were walking down the Via Nationale and we got the idea to buy each other gifts to commemorate the wonderful event of us finding one another.

    I thought I’d be suave and go with jewelry.

    No necklaces. Nothing was more important than her Virgin Mary necklace her mother gave her.

    She didn’t like bracelets, either…

    We stopped by a jewelry store to have a look. We spotted a diamond ring that was going for €89 (NZ$250).

    (cringe)

    I bought it for her.

    *NOTE*
    Can I just say, that at the time I was a tourist and had lots of money in my pocket, so I had no real sense of value.

    I said to her,

    "I know this cost a bit, but it just shows how cool* I think you are and how I think this is gonna last a long time."

    (facepalm)

    I told my friend about it.

    "You’re a dumbass."

    "Why?"

    "Dude, you don’t just give a chick a ring after being with her for two days."

    He told my other friends.

    "Wow, that was stupid."

    "It’s not what it looks like! It’s just a present."

    "That was stupid present."

    Eventually, my parents found out.

    "Oh, for Christ’s sake, Daniel…"

    Long story short, I realised about a month or so after coming back from the trip that the relationship could’ve been something more akin to a holiday fling and I broke up with her.

    Thankfully, she gave the ring back** and I was able to get (most) of my money back.

    The point is, I made the mistake that a lot of creatives tend to make.

    I committed to the first good thing that came along, as soon as it came along.

    Thinking about why we creatives do this and thinking about my past romantic ineptitudes, I can gauge an understanding:

    A lot of the time, creatives go a long time without a great idea. Even though we put the effort into finding one, it usually doesn’t come our way. Then, when our minds do start to come up with something decent, we get excited.

    We get so amazed by the fact a good idea had come our way, we jump to use it. Usually never stopping to consider how good it really is under the glamour of the initial reaction.

    Others around us, like our colleagues, might say,

    "Yeah, it’s a nice idea, but don’t just go full on with it, you’ve only known it for a few minutes. Try out other ideas, look elsewhere, see what else there is."

    And you come back with,

    "Nah man, this is it. I’m pretty happy with this one."

    It takes someone higher up, more experienced, whom you respect, like your boss or Creative Director to point out,

    "The idea just doesn’t work. Sure, there’s flare, but it doesn’t have depth."

    That’s when the illusion shatters for you. And you slowly start to realise the things the idea lacks. Pretty soon, you’re sick of the idea and the thought of working on it repulses you. You finally make the decision to dump it.

    Because you were so infatuated with this first idea, you didn’t consider others and all your precious time was put into nothing with nothing to fall back on in the end.

    And so you have to start again, alone, without an idea.

    Sure, there are those times where people come up with a great idea and everything fits, first time around. But you never use that as a model to follow, that’s just a moment when the stars align and people call out buzz words like ‘fate’ or ‘serendipity’.

    It’s always good to make sure you’ve assessed all your angles and options before going with an idea to go all the way to execution with it. You may not invest as much as a diamond ring, but then again, you won’t always get it given back to you.

    Creatives should heed Elvis when he says ‘only fools rush in’.

    No, it’s not romantic if you can’t help falling in love with it.



    *A word to young guys in love with someone. Never buy jewelry for a girl you think is ‘cool’. If that’s the only adjective you can come up with, put your wallet back in your pocket.

    **She threw it at me.

  • August 17, 2011 2:11 pm

    "Believe in your fucking self.
    Stay up all fucking night.
    Work outside your fucking habits.
    Know when to fucking speak up.
    Fucking collaborate.
    Don’t fucking procrastinate.
    Get over your fucking self.
    Keep fucking learning.
    Form follows fucking function.
    A computer is a Lite-Brite for bad ideas.
    Find fucking inspiration everywhere.
    Fucking network.
    Educate your fucking client.
    Trust your fucking gut.
    Ask for fucking help.
    Make it fucking sustainable.
    Question fucking everything.
    Have a fucking concept.
    Learn to take some fucking criticism.
    Make me fucking care.
    Use fucking spell check.
    Do your fucking research.
    Sketch more fucking ideas.
    The problem contains the fucking solution.
    Think about all the fucking possibilities."

    - Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher, creators of Good Fucking Design Advice

    Two things I love about this:

    1) It’s laid out, in black and white, clear as anything, simple and straight to the point, all you need to know to do well in your creative career (not just for designers).

    2) I love the word ‘fuck’. A lot.

  • August 12, 2011 3:50 pm

    Adapt And Overcome or, Eliminating Crying From The List Of Reactions To Criticism

    Man, university was the best time.

    I remember going to the ad school common room at AUT for the first time. It was exclusive to ad students to work and hang out, AdHut, it was called. It was a great space and the class got to know each other and made friends quickly.

    There was a day in the first month of the first semester when a couple of the guys decided to revamp AdHut. They moved the tables around and cleared the main wall for us to pin up anything cool, funny or creative we’d come across during the year.

    In the middle of the wall was a A4 print-out of what was to be our slogan for the rest of the year:

    ADAPT AND OVERCOME

    A worthy slogan for young creatives to go by, if you ask me.

    If there is anything a young creative (or any creative for that matter) knows well, it’s criticism and rejection. It’s a vital organ within the body of our working lives; it’s an integral part of us without which, we don’t function properly.

    It is our fear of rejection and harsh criticism from others that drives us to push our talents and produce work of a high standard. And yes, when it does come, it cuts into you, which can only motivate you further not to disappoint again.

    It’s all about the perspective in which you view and receive criticism. Our automatic reaction is to take it as a personal attack to the point beyond justification.

    "I don’t think that sentence is quite right for what you’re trying to say."

    becomes something that sounds like,

    "You know, your ability to write is just nonexistent. Whenever I read something of yours it makes me just want to bang my head until I stop living. And you smell."

    It’s important to get an attitude where you view each little criticism is a brick that helps to build the enormous stairway that is your journey to personal and professional improvement. 

    Ok, sure, not incredibly easy when you’re a creative person who has poured everything they have into the work, only to have it shot down. That’s a stomach knot like no other. But it requires that small degree of disconnection to your work that makes it easier.

    It’s also different when it’s personal criticism.

    Lucideas had it’s team alignment a few weeks ago. It was a weekend of workshops and team bonding in a beautiful, secluded location with trees and and ponds and lavish accommodation, where workshops were the last thing on you wanted to do, quite frankly.

    On the second day, we were to share our peer feedback with one another. We each had a piece of paper with everyone’s name on it and you wrote what they were good at and what they needed to improve on. Then we traded.

    After talking to a bunch of the guys after, I found the reactions had been similar. The things we were good at had been glanced over and the things we need improving (aka: the small reasons people secretly hate us behind our backs) had been read and re-read and analysed, accompanied with comments like,

    "Who the hell wrote that?!"

    "Well, apparently, I’m not a ‘team player’. Can you believe that? Guys?”

    Facing those comments had me sweating like I’d been on the treadmill for longer than my comfort zone allowed. When I came across something rather interesting - a personal truth.

    I was afraid, not of being cut down, but of people calling me out on the things I knew inside that were true about my flaws.

    That’s it, I reckon. The crux of it. We all know what needs to be improved most of the time but we don’t want it confirmed for us, so we avoid critique. Or approach it with the utmost fear.

    This is what we should adapt and overcome - face your flaws and know you’re far from perfect. Embrace the comments of others and collect those bricks to build your stairway.

    You could, of course, avoid this altogether, doing your own thing and being quite content, albeit quite ignorant, with yourself.

    Or you overcome that and can start climbing.

  • July 15, 2011 1:55 pm

    Thinking Ahead or, How Luck Saved Me From Failure And Dickhead Taxi Drivers

    The taxi drivers of Kuala Lumpur are something else.

    They’re sneaky individuals who will try anything to squeeze money out of you. Especially if you show the physical symptoms of a tourist.

    They leave the meter running as you flick through the notes in your wallet so they can snag that extra 10 sen from you, they barter the fare with you while a sign that reads ‘HAGGLING IS FORBIDDEN’ boldly stands out on their door and they’ll make up random reasons and rules to justify charging you extra.

    Not to mention they pick and choose when and where they want to take you. If it’s a peak hour traffic, they’re not budging. If they want their last fare of the night to end up close to their home, tough luck. If they decide it’s too far, you’re on your own.

    It’s bullshit.

    And I have no doubt at all that Kuala Lumpur is not the only city in the world where this happens. It’s just that Auckland is not one of those cities.

    It’s become laughable over time as I’ve grown to know the area and become more familiar with the roads and I get some cheeky sod try to charge me 30 ringgit for a 12 ringgit cab ride.

    But one guy in particular got me the worst.

    My artist friend, Michael (@zangatang) visited me from New Zealand and so we went hiking on a track that lay 55km out of the city. We took the train half way to Ampang where we would have to get a taxi to drive the other 28km.

    We got reject after reject.

    "Too far."

    "I don’t know where."

    Or sometimes, it was just,

    "No."

    Finally we got a guy who helped us ask for directions. Ibrahim was his name. Then we asked Ibrahim if he’d take us. He grins and asks:

    "I don’t know. How much will you pay me?"

    Ugh. It never ends.

    We settle begrudgingly on 40 ringgit. He takes us, complaining the whole way, trying to coax more money from us. We eventually made it (a 26 ringgit cab ride).

    We told him to meet us back at the exact spot he dropped us at 5:30pm. We’d be waiting for him.

    "Yes, yes. I come. I be here."

    We hurry our hike so we’re not late and we get back at 5:15. We call Ibrahim. No answer.

    Again at 5:30. Answering machine.

    Again at 5:45. Same English woman’s voice.

    After the answering machine message at 6pm, it has become quite obvious that the bastard has stiffed us and wasn’t coming back.

    So there we were, in the middle of nowhere; a quaint little village at the edge of a rather extensive jungle in the middle of Malaysia, sitting on a make-shift seat made from pipes.

    We were not prepared for this. Call us naive, but I guess we had a little more faith in our fellow man than that. Regardless, we were still well and truly up the creek on this one.

    Forward thinking is a very useful quality to have. I think we can all agree that the guy in the movie that suavely pulls the problem’s answer that he prepared earlier from behind his back is a total boss.

    For a creative person, it’s critical to have this cannon in your creative habit arsenal. Thinking ahead can help you to spot flaws in your ideas or ask the hard questions that the suits would ask to guarantee it gets through. Or even the hard questions that the clients ask that usually have to stumbling over your idea like a newborn giraffe.

    It is the ability to take your ideas and project them into possible futures and judge how they might work or falter. It’s adding logic to the creative recipe that you’re stewing in your cranium. It is solidifying the idea with tangible facts and logistics.

    It’s also anticipating that unfavourable result (as much as we don’t want to) and coming up with something equally as brilliant to come back with. It’s never falling completely in love with the idea you’ve gone with, it’s that level of detachment.

    Of course, you shouldn’t confuse this with self judging. I’ve always seen that as a negative trait to avoid. Forward thinking is productive. It’s the persistence to make the idea work by putting it through the hard yards.

    A lot of creatives, including myself when I first entered the ad industry, tend to come up with an idea and then fling it to the account exec to take care of and move on. If the theory is there, that’s all that seems to be sufficient.

    "This will probably work. Here you go, make it happen. I’m off for a smoke."

    About a month ago, we came up with an idea to add a twitter component to a campaign where we searched within 50km of  Kuala Lumpur for people complaining about their day and sending a ground crew to go and give them gifts and prizes to help solve their problems.

    Logistically, it seemed like a nightmare with such a small team. We practiced how we would do it, we figured out a system and we did a couple of trial runs a couple of weeks before the launch. 

    Then, we chilled.

    The theory was there. We thought we were sweet, despite our CD telling us to run scenarios where the system didn’t work.

    Our target was 40 people with 20 days to do it. Two people a day. Two targets and eight hours to get them.

    Too easy. 

    On day one, we failed. We only got one person. 5% into the campaign and we were already behind. We stayed late to figure out what went wrong.

    It was by sheer luck that the very next day, doing roughly the same thing, we got three people. These fluctuations continued until we eventually met our target on day 20.

    Perhaps if we’d listened to the CD, we’d have knocked out all the snags in the system before going live and maybe even met our target sooner.

    I may not be the best forward thinker ever, even after my time in the ad business. But I know that you need this skill like a Catholic priest needs an alibi. I’ve just been lucky in a lot of my exploits.

    Michael and I sat for almost an hour in the middle of a random township somewhere in Malaysia. My plan at the time was to eat what’s left of our provisions. That bastard, Ibrahim still hadn’t called back.

    Then just out of the blue, a bus pulls round the corner. It wasn’t going to KL, but close enough to catch another, regular bus to the city. Pure luck.

    If the bus hadn’t come at that time, I would probably be telling you a more interesting story about how Mike and I walked and used sexual favors (I’d eaten all the food already) to get rides back to KL. 

  • 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 15, 2011 8:40 pm
    The Copywriter’s getting into design now… Jeez, I suppose I better write something next week.
Just a poster concept I was mucking around with the other day. I want to print it on poster paper and hang in my office. I like it’s simplicity. It’s probably been done before, but I don’t know. What do you think? View high resolution

    The Copywriter’s getting into design now… Jeez, I suppose I better write something next week.

    Just a poster concept I was mucking around with the other day. I want to print it on poster paper and hang in my office. I like it’s simplicity. It’s probably been done before, but I don’t know. What do you think?