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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Advice from Rich Silverstein of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Rich Silverstein — I took a camera pic today but it was fuzzy.
Wow, guys. I’d been planning to jump back into the blogging thing next week. But, when I heard that Rich Silverstein of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners was going to speak on campus, I knew I had to post.

His talk totally invigorated me — just what I needed mid-semester. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners does amazing work, and we even got to see a few yet-to-be-aired commercials. (Let’s just say there’s some awesome stuff in the pipeline.)

He was speaking to the Technology Marketing and Advertising class (which the professor graciously allowed other students to crash), but the conversation wasn’t super tech heavy. Rich said a few times that he didn’t think about technology except as a tool to further storytelling.

Connecting people and telling stories are the two things that tie together all the careers I’ve wanted or had (acting, journalism, advertising), so it was really cool to hear him mention those ideas over and over. Other frequently repeated themes included honesty and simplicity.

“Find a way to make something brutally simple that’s brilliant,” he said.

The quotes

He was highly quotable, and I’m sure you’d rather read his words than mine, so here are a few snippets:
  • “Do not talk down to consumers… Everyone is smarter than you think they are.”
  •  “No one’s going to give you a free ticket in advertising. You’ve just got to work your brains out.” 
  • “Sometimes a cool product is killed by advertising. You have to be honest and truthful.”
  • “Put a dog in your commercial, put a baby in your commercial, and you win.” ;) 
  • “It’s not easy to sell any of this to clients.”
  • “Passion is very important… You’re lucky — you’ll be in an industry that has a lot of energy.”
  • “Everything is a mistake waiting to happen. Nothing is perfect. You just have to go with it.”
  • “Middle management destroys creativity.”

More advice

For creative directors and other managers: 
“Be fair, honest and direct… A good creative director is the boy who sees that the emperor is naked."

For creative job applicants:
  • “If you’re not a student of pop culture, you shouldn’t be in advertising.”
  • Your book is what matters, and it should show thinking plus craft.
  • He and Jeff Goodby look for books with one great thing that makes them jealous.
  • You have to have a point of view.
  • And for copywriters “Writing is a lost art… Try to string some words together.”
  • When asked about it, he cautioned against filling your book with gorilla work: “Clients love it and never buy it.”

And, finally, the work

Got Milk? — Aaron Burr
(He rightfully called the milk mustaches campaign a bastardization of this idea.)

NBA Finals — There Can Only Be One

Comcast High Speed Data with Powerboost — Rabbit

Doritos Hotel 626

Sprint Now Network

Can't embed the video, but you can check out these ads at:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writer Wednesday — Elspeth Taylor — "it’s not enough to think that you have a way with words"

Each Wednesday I feature a fellow writer, and not just ad folks. I’m interested in anyone who makes a living stringing together words. Their answers are unfiltered, so I may not always agree with every last bit of advice. After all, what works for one writer may not work for another. But we all need fresh ideas and perspectives to keep growing. Interested? Please email

Writer Wednesday has featured a lot of freelancers, but most of them have been at it for a while. London copywriter Elspeth Taylor offers a different perspective as she's just made the transition to being her own boss.


What’s your writing focus or specialty?

Well, I’m really just starting out at the whole freelance writing thing so I’m keen to not pigeonhole myself just yet. Not to mention the fact that a good copywriter needs to have plenty of strings to their bow to be a success. My background is in fashion and retail, so I guess these would be my specialist areas. I can make the ugliest of outfits sound like your wardrobe will shrivel up and die without it! I also have SEO experience, so writing for the web is another key area for me. But I’m trying to keep my hand in at all sorts of writing—to keep my brain active and to give myself the best possible chance of making enough money to be able to eat! I report for a local niche-interest paper, write articles for their website, help people with their blogs and submit speculative features to magazines and weekend papers. Plus, I do article rewriting and proof-reading for various private and corporate clients.

Writers often take winding career paths. What led you here?

All my jobs have been in publishing/media type companies and all my roles have been to do with writing and editing. My last job was as a copywriter for a big UK department store and after about 18 months of working there I realised I wanted more variety in my working day. I enjoyed getting into the mind of the customer, really working out what makes them tick, what specific words and language will really engage them and so on... but I wanted more! I decided to branch out on my own to see if I could gain a more varied client base that would allow me to get involved in other areas of copywriting and to take on more challenging projects. And of course, I like the freedom of deciding the times of my working day! What other job allows you to work around walking the dog, popping to the shops or meeting friends for brunch?!

Tell us a little about your creative process.

I wouldn’t say that I have a set ‘creative process’, not as such. It’s more about doing solid ground work — I do plenty of research into the brief I’ve been given, who I need to target and how best to reach out and speak to that type of person, how to make them sit up and take notice. I also make sure I talk to the client about what they are trying to achieve, what main points they are trying to put across and then use all of that info to bat around a few ideas. I try to get a few sentences and key words down on screen (or paper!), even if they are incomplete; just so I don’t have a big, blank expanse of white in front of me, and then I see what I can put together from there.

What do you do when you’re stuck? Any tricks for getting unstuck?

I find that the best thing to do if you’re stuck is to (deadline allowing!) go away and try not to think about the piece of work for a while, possibly even leave it over night. Then come back to it fresh and read through what you have. You will often have a fresh perspective. Sometimes I come back to pieces of work and delete whole sections in a frenzy of “what on earth was I thinking”. On the other hand, sometimes I find that bits that I have agonised over just fall into place.

Any side projects? If so, how do you make time for them?

As I mentioned, I do some editing, feature writing and reporting on the side. I also have a little dog that’s a bit of a handful! Training her is almost a whole project in itself! Making time for everything isn’t really an issue at the moment, because I‘m so new to freelancing. I have plenty of time for my small client base as well as the bits and bobs I do alongside. Hopefully, once I’m more established, setting myself timelines and prioritising workloads will become more imperative!

I’m also studying a course with the London School of Journalism, which is great for days when I don’t have any paid work on. It helps keep my writing flowing and stops me watching too much Diagnosis Murder!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

That it’s not enough to think that you have ‘a way with words’, a good copywriter needs plenty of commercial awareness and a good listening ear to really be a success.

What’s one thing you know now that you’d wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

A small, boisterous dog is not the best companion to have around in a quiet home office!

Seriously though, I would say it’s that setting up on your own, taking on clients and building up relationships etc... it all takes far, FAR longer than you think it will. Even though I felt I’d prepared myself for how long it might take to make this work, it still seems painfully slow! I guess I’m a bit of a workaholic, I like having something to do every hour of every day and when this doesn’t happen it can be tough to feel like I’m getting somewhere. Still, I’ve learnt to cut myself some slack. I’ve achieved some good things so far and I have plenty of time to achieve plenty more! (So long as the food rations don’t run out!)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Inspiration Sunday — FCUK Man/Woman

It's Sunday, and we could all use some inspiration before we go back to work or school or whatever it is we do on the days when having a Bloody Mary with brunch is frowned upon.

I think it's the strong voice and the vague strangeness, but there's something I find really charming about this campaign for French Connection UK. I could probably ruin it by over-thinking the gender politics of it all, but I won't. I will just appreciate the French absurdism of it all. 

They also did these odd/cool tv spots for the campaign, which you can view on Ads of the World (where I spotted these).

Advertising Agency: Fallon, London, UK
Art Directors / Copywriters: Selena Mckenzie, Toby Moore
Photographer: Leila Naaman
Typographers: Philip Bosher, Monica Pirovana