Last year, Lucideas was asked to pitch for a new iced coffee brand that was coming into Malaysia. We were to provide new package design concepts for the coffee product and its other flavours.
This was an incredibly exciting project. We wanted to do something completely different and look at where all other iced coffee brands were zigging, so we could zag.
Because of strenuous timing, we requested an extension, which was fine with the client. We would be presenting to them a few days after the other agencies did.
The designers spent hours, days, weekends researching, creating and applying designs and I spent an entire afternoon hunched over a brainstorm for possible flavour names.
Finally, we came together with some concepts we were truly proud of and excited to show off. Just to add something extra (seeing as we had extra time) we had actual models of the cans made up.
The client phoned and confirmed the meeting.
Naturally, we were in a rush. Last minute alterations and such had us sprinting to the car while simultaneously buttoning shirts and fumbling with boxes and laptops.
The traffic jam didn’t help anything.
To pass the time and ease the stress, one of the designers, Nick, suggested we play Monopoly on his iPad.
What turned into a passive/aggressively competitive game ensued. Nick seemed to be getting all the luck in his dice rolls. Maybe my mind was still on the upcoming presentation.
The game had to be paused when we arrived at the client’s office, much to Nick’s annoyance.
We got in, shook hands, talked about the traffic, the weather, the weekend, the client’s friend’s mother’s dog’s bronchitis and got on with the presentation.
We walked them through the designs, the ideas behind them, our rationales, our defense for whether people would still associate these designs with iced coffee. We even discussed compromises to set the client at ease.
The client talked bout what ones they liked, the ones they didn’t like, asked about the addition of extra logos, or alternative designs. Then they picked their favourite and said they would most likely go with that.
But then, after a short lull, they announced they made the decision to go with the other agency’s design three days ago.
Silence. People sat up. Eyebrows elevated. Mouths opened.
"What?" Managed our Business Director.
"Sorry." Said the client.
"Why didn’t you tell us three days ago?"
"We put a lot of time into this."
"We’re very sorry."
My feelings of infuriation were more of empathy toward the designers, who had put in ten times more into this project than I had.
The other designer, Edwin, was sitting in his chair, staring at the table. The personification of dejection.
Nick was typing something rapidly into his phone. Texting the office, no doubt.
A very civil and polite argument laced with the rage of a thousand hells followed. I had zoned out by this point. Nick prodded me in the side and handed me his phone:
I can’t wait to kick your ass in Monopoly later.
At the time, I was dumbfounded by Nick’s lack of concern for the events that had unfolded in that board room.
Now, I can’t stop laughing.
Nick had it right. Sure, he’d sacrificed almost a whole weekend to perfect a design that ultimately led to nothing, but he could still let it go in a matter of seconds.
In an industry as hectic and stressful as advertising, where mini tragedies such as this occur on a daily basis, you have to be able to let these things go and move on.
I’m probably not so skillful at that as Nick; if I hadn’t decided to start shaving my head in 2010, the job would have probably made that decision for me by now.
I’m reminded of what my lecturer at university, Dave Brown, told me this in one of his first classes:
"Advertising is the art of accepting rejection."
*That’s a shocking representation of Nick in the illustration, by the way. He’d probably want that on the record.
In an industry as hectic as advertising, you are faced with deadlines, harsh criticisms, fear and self loathing on a daily basis.
Especially if you’re a junior; you find yourself at the bottom of this pile of wet shit trying to tunnel upward.
And in the worst of times, you’re juggling 6 different briefs, all due on Friday (which just happens to be tomorrow); a Creative Director strolls the corridor of the agency, waiting to pounce with an impromptu check up at the exact point you decide to have a break and watch shit on Youtube and nervous account executives wander in and out of your doorway with transparent small talk and questions about timing.
At this point, I think it’s obvious that the most ideal thing to do is curl up on a sofa or under your desk and have a big, fat, sooky cry.
It was at times like these that I figured that there needs to be something, anything one can hold on to when they find themselves in these very situations.
My train of thought then switched serendipitously to Douglas Adams, or more specifically, the line he uses to describe the front cover of the universal bible, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“it has the words ‘don’t panic’ inscribed in large, friendly letters.”
Never an imperative was uttered that people were more inclined to adhere to. Everyone benefits from this advice when it’s applicable. In fact, Authur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey) said that ‘don’t panic’ was
"perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity."
And now, I’ve made it my personal statement.
It’s my statement to those with the gall to employ me:
"Don’t panic, I’m on the job and I assure you, I’ll do it well."
It’s my statement to those I’ve met who are having tough times and chance upon my card, hopefully striking a chord and making them feel better.
"Don’t panic, mate. Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Otherwise give me a call, maybe hiring me will make you feel better."
Arial Rounded MT Bold was the friendliest font I could think of at the time. It seemed right. The white lettering on black stands out like a single light in a pitch black room; the words of hope and comfort - for me, anyway. The placing of which probably outlines my adman’s preference for the bottom right corner.
It’s a nice line not only for it’s calming characteristics but also for the cheeky hint that I’m the ideal man for the job. Any bloke with drive and passion is ideal of the job, so it might as well be me. If I wanted to go all the way, I could’ve made my brand ‘42’.
But I wouldn’t want to be dick head by going around saying I’m the answer to life, the universe and everything now, would I? How much more pretentious can you get?