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A Copywriter Writes

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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.

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  • August 28, 2012 8:02 pm

    My Favourite Ten: Great Ideas Aren’t Everything or, How Sucking At Selling Chocolate Helped Me To Sell Ideas

    image

    A reblogging of my top ten posts since I started.



    SIX: POST #29 (29 Mar, 2011)

    Great ideas: the be and end all of success in the creative industries.

    You wish.

    Read More

  • 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.

  • March 6, 2012 5:26 pm

    Brainwaves or, A Nano-Second That Fuels Months Of Drive

    Usually, I get home from work rather late.

    Around 10:30 - 11pm.

    Too late to go to the gym, too late to cook something, too late to sit down and nut out some ideas for a great campaign for the portfolio.

    I usually end up reading a book chapter, watching an episode of a show I shouldn’t legally be in possession of, or thinking about how many pairs of underwear I’ve got left until I absolutely cannot forget to do another load of laundry.

    I usually crawl into bed for 8 hours of humid hibernation (the air-con in my room is currently broken, and probably will be until I leave the country) that will more or less rejuvenate me for the next day. 

    Sometimes, on especially sweaty nights, I’ll lie and fear that I’m losing my creative ability by not allowing myself to push the ideas in my portfolio or come up with new ones altogether.

    I gulp at the thought that I’m losing my creative passion to exercise my right brain outside of the day-to-day bread and butter jobs of the agency.

    I go dry at the image of today’s students soaring past my skill level with fresh drive and ambition and walking into some admired agencies and making a splash that the Kracken couldn’t match.

    I turn over and allow the acknowledgement of some unsatisfactory headlines dawdle behind the rest of my thoughts as all activity exits my mind for another night.

    BOOM. It happens so fast.

    Wait, what if I wrote it like this? What if I said it like this? Or this? Or this? Or this? Shit, where’s my Moleskine? And where’s my fucking Artline? A Faber Castell? A Sharpie? A Bic, I’ll write with anything!

    The lines come and they’re immediately scrawled across two pages of my notebook. Suddenly, the campaign looks a lot better. I feel less ashamed to put it in front of a Creative Director.

    The vigour comes back. The pure ecstasy of a brainwave and a creative idea. My god, it feels good.

    What was once midnight is now 3am.

    I crawl back into bed. The heat is stifling and I’ve never been more comfortable.

    This is what I live to do.

    I would suffer through weeks, months of quiet self-loathing and frustration for a moment like that.

    The more harder you work and the continued persistence of a passionate attitude will bring those moments closer and closer together.

    God, I love it.

  • March 2, 2012 3:59 am
    God, I love George Lois. Here’s a brilliant story about him I came across.

In New York, dozens of 1960 Renaults had to be sold to make way for the new 61’ models.
So normally the dealers would knock $500 off to try and shift them, but nobody wants to buy last year’s car. But everyone loves a bargain.
So legendary New York creative George Lois made a tiny scratch in the paintwork of each car, then covered it over with a Band Aid.
He then ran an ad with a headline saying
‘ IF YOU CAN SPOT THE SCRATCH ON ANY OF OUR RENAULTS, WE’LL GIVE YOU $500 OFF.’
Customers flooded in, clambering all over the cars, finding the plasters, peeling them up and being amazed how tiny the scratch was.
The Renaults sold out before close of business on the first day.

    God, I love George Lois. Here’s a brilliant story about him I came across.

    In New York, dozens of 1960 Renaults had to be sold to make way for the new 61’ models.

    So normally the dealers would knock $500 off to try and shift them, but nobody wants to buy last year’s car. But everyone loves a bargain.

    So legendary New York creative George Lois made a tiny scratch in the paintwork of each car, then covered it over with a Band Aid.

    He then ran an ad with a headline saying

    ‘ IF YOU CAN SPOT THE SCRATCH ON ANY OF OUR RENAULTS, WE’LL GIVE YOU $500 OFF.’

    Customers flooded in, clambering all over the cars, finding the plasters, peeling them up and being amazed how tiny the scratch was.

    The Renaults sold out before close of business on the first day.

  • February 29, 2012 8:27 pm
    What ‘Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This’ should look like when you finish reading it.
View high resolution

    What ‘Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This’ should look like when you finish reading 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.

  • January 17, 2012 6:22 pm

    Doodling or, What I Do When My Brain’s Not Looking

    Some of my favourite drawings I’ve done have come from the corners of my Moleskine while I’ve been in lectures, meetings, brainstorms or on the phone.

    It just goes to show the cool things you can come up with when you switch your brain off and let your subconscious take control.

    I’m not saying these are fantastic, innovative thoughts, but I’ve enjoyed the results - even if it’s something as little as a doodle. They’re just cool to look at, really.

    And if you could come up with an idea that you can be excited about and spend time with by switching off from time to time, then it’s totally worth it.



  • October 14, 2011 3:03 pm

    Budget or, Sometimes, We Kill It For Ourselves

    Recently, as is my usual experience since entering the ad industry, I learned something new.

    I learned about the way clients tend to work which, in a lot of cases, could prevent a lot of problems agencies tend to have with idea approval.

    It’s probably one of the most annoying aspects of dealing with clients; you’ve presented to the Marketing Managers, they’ve given their approval and you’re in a great mood because your work is going to get run. When all of a sudden, you get that email that says the idea has been canned because some random manager from higher up was on a different page.

    What I didn’t realise is that in many cases, the indirect cause of this is the agency themselves.

    It’s to do with the budget.

    Simply put, when the client sets their budget and the agency sticks to it, sometimes approving the idea generally lies with the client’s marketing team.

    However, when an idea requires more funding in order to execute, the budget increase has to be approved by a manager higher up.

    And any decent manager (no matter how much you’d love them to) doesn’t just sign things willy nilly. Especially when money is involved.

    So just like that, you have another pair of narrowed eyes, fine-tooth combing through the idea. And should that manager find something they don’t quite agree with, another change is proposed.

    The further up the chain you go, the more sensible-minded and less risky the bosses tend to become and you may find that it gets harder and harder to relate the creative concept to them.

    So your ideal plan would be to avoid getting these dudes involved if you can help it, for the sake of not dragging a project out for months on end.

    This scenario played out with a client of ours. In late 2010, a ballsy idea was pitched to them and approved. However, the idea exceeded the original budget.

    The concept was then presented to a Managing Director for approval of the budget increase, but, being a cautious businessman, he had some issues with the idea, so it came back to us with revisions.

    We then requested another budget increase and so more bosses got involved with more watchful eyes on the project and more opinions to consider. Too many people were getting involved at this point and too many concerns were arising.

    This difficulty continued until August and as misfortune would have it, a certain international political incident killed our idea completely as it may have suggested an association with the event, which was unideal.

    Had we stuck to the budget in the first place and kept the involvement from the higher-ups to a manageable minimum, we could have run the campaign swiftly and long before the political incident took place.

    The funny thing is, from where I sit, these changes look like they come out of the blue and it’s just the clients being clients needing the opinions of the entire staff before the go-ahead can be issued.

    It wasn’t until I had a chat with our Strategy Head about the matter that I learned that if we were as creative with our resources as we were with the idea, then things may have been different.

    It makes you think twice about whether asking to up the budget for your brilliant idea is the easier road to take.

  • 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…


  • 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.

  • 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 2, 2011 9:54 pm
    dalilahahah-deactivated20120704:  I was wondering if you had any advice for a someone studying advertising in school?

    God, where do I start? There is so much to comment on! Perhaps something more specific?

    First of all, read these books:

    • Pick Me: Breaking Into Advertising And Staying There - Nancy Vonk & Janet Kestin
    • Cutting Edge Advertising - Jim Aitchison
    • Hey Whipple, Squeeze This - Luke Sullivan
    • Making Ideas Happen - Scott Belsky
    • It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be - Paul Arden
    • Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite - Paul Arden

    Know how passionate you are. Know the shittiest things about the advertising industry and still love it. Only the most passionate will survive and succeed. This doesn’t mean you have to be excited all the time. All you have to do is KEEP GOING.

    Keep questioning your work. Keep asking yourself how it can be better. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as finishing your work early in the ad industry - keep pushing your work right until the last second before the deadline. 

    Be a total slut. Work and partner up with as many people as you can to get experience working with all types. Different people can help to unlock different parts of your thinking and broaden your creative horizons.

    Welcome rejection and criticism like old friends, because they’ll be visiting often.

    Share your ideas, get opinions and invite feedback. You don’t learn if you keep to yourself.

    Most of all: DON’T PANIC.

    I hope this is a good starter!

    Do check my #Advertising posts that go into detail about all this and more. But if you want more elaboration, I’m more than happy to help. 

  • 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?

  • April 1, 2011 10:00 am

    Outlandish Creativity Isn’t Always The Answer or, Paul Catmur’s Agency’s Loo

    I recently watched Dave Trott do a seminar on ‘The Art of Persuasion’ and within the first ten minutes he strikes a chord.

    He asked a question that resonated with me:

    "What’s the business problem."

    It seems that a lot of marketers and advertisers see advertising and branding as the answer without considering first the question.

    I’ve been guilty of this tons of times! I would wager $10, 2 cheeseburgers and my favourite Artline pen that many, many others are guilty of this same thing.

    'The client has a(nother) problem so let's do something drink-spittingly crazy and coloured bat-shit creative to solve it. People will gasp at the amazingness of it eat it up like last night's pizza.'

    That’s all well and good. Nothing like brilliant, passionate creative to glitter your brain in happiness.

    But this kind of thing tends to take a lot of people (not just creatives) off the track and off brief a little bit (or by the length of a couple of Eiffel Towers).

    When I finished up a lengthy internship with JWT in May last year, I visited Paul Catmur, who tore my partner and me new arseholes, to be blunt. He said something on the subject not totally unlike this:

    "Last year, we had a problem at the agency: the men’s toilet let getting littered with screwed up paper towels. It was a mess. We sent memos, made incentives to the staff, but in the end, the solution turned out to be simple.

    We just got a wider bin.”

    You just have to keep that one question in your mind all the time: "What’s the business problem and how can we solve it?"

    Sometimes, the solution is so simple, it’s the obviousness and effectiveness (not the blinding creativity) that people gasp at and slap their foreheads in a ‘duh’ moment at as they eat it up like last night’s pizza.