Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chatting with UT Grad and "Old Spice Guy" Craig Allen

I've been meaning to write this post for a week. But it's that time of year... 26 days until our final critique and seven campaigns to finish (including one we haven't started) plus two other class projects.

Anyway, meeting Craig Allen (of Wieden+Kennedy) was awesome, guys! We were all kind of nervous to meet him but he was really unassuming and laid back and (obviously) funny. Plus, he broke the ice by playing his enviably hilarious reel, which included the Old Spice stuff and gems like:


This was a more casual setting than when Rich Silverstein spoke at UT, so I didn't take a ton of notes. But, a few bits of advice for students that stuck out:
  • Ad folks work a ton of hours, even more so if you're in NYC. (Well known fact, but good to remember.)
  • Don't put TV in your book. No one wants to read storyboards, and whatever you actually shoot will generally look crappy when compared to actual commercials with giant budgets and professional producers. You'll learn TV on the job, so don't sweat it now.
  • Work with people who make you better. 
  • Seek out not only the agencies you want to work for but also the creatives you'd like to work with. Sometimes there's someone doing great work at an agency you might not otherwise be into. 
  • Always ask for as much work as you can handle. Kick ass on whatever you're assigned, even if it's a crappy account. Pitch great ideas for the accounts you wish you were working on. 

If you haven't seen it, here's a cool video about Craig and his partner's creative process. (Craig is on the right.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Creativity: The Awkward Years

This is an oldie but a goodie — Ira Glass on working through the sucky early years of any creative endeavor when your taste level surpasses your skill level and you're working like mad on a bunch of stuff that you know kind of sucks.

When I first stumbled on this video during my first semester in grad school, it made me so relieved not to be alone. My grad school mantra said essentially the same thing —  When you're green, you grow. (The tatted-up hairstylist I stole the line from always added: When you're ripe, you rot.)  But I needed to hear it from someone who'd made it to the other side.

A friend reminded me of this video today, and I had to share it. (Thanks, Tyler!) It's good to re-watch on the tough days.

My favorite part transcribed in case you can't play it where you are:
And all of us who do creative work like, you know, we get into it and we get into it because we have good taste… So you've got really good taste and you get into this thing that I don't even know how to describe but it's like there's a gap. That for the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good, okay? It's not that great. It's really not that great. It's trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it's not quite that good. 
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? Like you can tell that it's still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase and a lot of people at that point quit.
And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short, you know, and some of us can admit that to ourselves, and some of us are a little less able to admit that to ourselves.
But we knew that it didn't have the special thing that we wanted it to have and the thing what to do is... Everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you're going through it right now, if you're just getting out of that phase or if you're just starting off and you're entering into that phase, you've got to know it's totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you're going to finish one story. You know what I mean? Whatever it's going to be. You create the deadline. It's best if you have somebody who's waiting for work from you, somebody who's expecting work from you, even if it's not somebody who pays you but that you're in a situation where you have to try not to work. Because it's only be actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Please Feed the Creatives.

You know those people who lose weight when they’re stressed because they forget to eat?

That’s not me. When my stomach starts growling, my brain goes on strike and my pleasant disposition usually follows. I never forget lunch.

But, I do forget to feed my creativity. Things get busy and I get caught in the grind of making ads until suddenly they’re a lot harder to create.

And I, foolish worker bee that I am, feel like I must not be trying hard enough. So, I skip the gym. I tune out the radio and think while I drive. I feel guilty reading for fun. I withdraw from social media. I stop leisurely browsing ad sites. And I spend a lot of time thinking and not coming up with a damn thing.

Because, duh, I just need to eat.

But by then I’m so deep into my dried up rut that I’m afraid to eat. Surely, there’s no time for a meal. Maybe I can grab a snack to tide me over, but I certainly can’t sit down and linger over food.

Except that I have to. There’s no moving on until I do. I need to take an hour for yoga or browse through a bookstore or sit in the sun and people watch or take in a movie or maybe, probably, most likely all of the above.

So that, my Internet friends, is on the agenda.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Inspiration Sunday: Happy Halloween, Mrs. Jensen

I've watched this approximately 47 times in the last month, and I still love this commercial.

Thank you, BBDO.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cool Campaign: Enjoy the Wait

As a writer/reader, I love the thinking behind this campaign for a Thai publishing house — if you have something to read, waiting isn't so bad. I wish I could read the stories, but sadly, they are all in Thai.

(Click for a closer look.)

Advertising Agency: BBDO Bangkok, Thailand
Executive Creative Director: Suthisak Sucharittanonta, Subun Khow
Creative Directors: Chanattapon Tiensri
Art Directors: Korakot Konkaew, Naphol Chantapakorn
Copywriters: Chanattapon Tiensri, Prin U-manetr

Thanks to Ads of the World, where I spotted this one. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wrong turn down The Artist’s Way

A few weeks ago, some article mentioned Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and piqued my curiosity. It’s a classic with 200+ gushing reviews on Amazon. And, really, what creative person doesn’t want to “unblock.” Granted, I wasn’t feeling particularly blocked when I picked it up at the library, but there’s always room to be more creative, right?

For those of you not familiar with this book, it’s a “comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks.” The main tools are morning pages (writing three stream-of-consciousness pages about whatever every morning) and artist's dates (taking weekly alone-time to get inspired). As general concepts, both have been recommended to me by professors and other creative folks.

Sounds perfectly helpful, right?

Well, I found myself in a creative slump as soon as I started reading it. Maybe it was getting up half an hour early to write gibberish about how irritated I was getting up early. Maybe it was all the exercises in which I searched my childhood for the moment some villain told me I wasn’t good enough and destroyed my creative mojo. Maybe it was reading her florid prose or all the talk about how it’s God’s plan for you to be creative. Maybe it was the vaguely condescending attitude about careers (like journalism and advertising) that she considers “shadow careers” (i.e. practical substitutions for real art).

Whatever it was, it was not good. But I didn’t want to let it go. After all, so many people say this book changed their lives. Maybe I was just going through the purging phase. (Anyone who’s tried Retin-A knows your face gets worse before it gets better.) So, I trudged on another week, writing in my notebook and reading my affirmations each morning.

But it didn’t get better. I felt run down and idealess. And there was creative work to be done and no time to let this slump work itself out. So, I finally listened to my gut and took Ms. Cameron back to the library.

It took another week or two to shake off the residue, but I’m finally energized and back in the game. Ad icon Rich Silverstein’s talk yesterday helped tremendously.

The moral of this story: You can’t turn all your energy inward and expect it to reflect back at you.