Monthly Archives: October 2012
Many people woke up to uncertain times this morning. Many hadn’t even slept from the night before. Hurricane Sandy – #frankenstorm - slammed into the Jersey Shore, killing at least 11 people from West Virginia to North Carolina and Connecticut, cutting power and communication, flooding streets and subways.
In times like these, brands have to tread carefully.
If you’re a brand that oversees essential products or services that are highly relevant during the crisis, you must instantly jump into action. Think, of course, Google and its data/mapping capability, supermarket chains, battery makers, phone and electricity and internet companies.
Then you tweet as much as you can to help any one who needs you.
But if you’re just an ordinary brand, a crisis is not your time to shine.
It’s vulgar to pump out your prescheduled tweets as if the people receiving them are just chilling in their offices refreshing their networks to take the edge off a normal work day.
But for the ones who aren’t, for the people who are refreshing Twitter because they’re scared and looking for answers, your blithe lack of awareness jars.
Perhaps worse is to try and tack on relevance where none exists. (“Hey, bored of the storm…?”)
Turn on the good old fashioned TV news. Is there something breaking the regular schedule, being run on a news ticker or headlining all bulletins? Take a look at your Twitter or Facebook timeline. If you’re following the right mix of people, you should be able to see if something is preoccupying a significant proportion of them. (Be particularly wary if a danger is looming and the full impact or scale is not yet determined.)
That’s when you take a pause. That’s when you know you have to be sensitive.
Don’t make jokes. (How will you feel if the disaster you’re laughing about claims a life?)
Don’t try and use a reference to the crisis to be “relevant.”
Don’t tweet as usual (prescheduled or not) as if half your followers aren’t in danger or scared for friends and relatives.
Just butt out. Keep the timeline clear for what social networks were made for.
Connection, communication, reaching out – one human being to another.
Lena Dunham’s probably younger than you and she’s definitely more famous. She wrote and directed and starred in the independent film Tiny Furniture, and now she’s writing, running and starring in her own show for HBO: Girls, nominated for four Emmys. She’s inspiring of course because she made it all happen at such a young age (26!). But more importantly, she’s not afraid to go where other people fear to tread.
From nude scenes with a normal body in a world that prefers perfect ones – to challenging storylines about entitlement, privilege, HPV and abortion – her work always features frighteningly high personal and creative stakes. Young or old, man or woman, we’ve all got something to learn from Lena.
1. No one ever knows how to start.
I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but I had no sense of how to go about it. I didn’t know if there was this thing in the world that could sustain me that I could be good at that wasn’t filmmaking.
2. Acting/writing/*insert creative act here* isn’t just for other people.
It never occurred to me that I could be a showrunner and it never occurred to me that I could be a person who was on television.
I remember going to see Les Misérables on Broadway as a kid. I was so jealous of the girl that got to play young Cosette, but I never had a moment where I was like, Oh, that’s something I could do. I just felt like, Oh, that’s what certain people can do. I also never got good parts in school plays, and it would incense me to no end, but I was like, “I’m not cut out for this.”
I think it was hard for me to acknowledge that acting was something that I wanted to do, both because there is a little bit of the perception that it wasn’t sort of an intellectual pursuit because of the fact that it didn’t necessarily feel like there was going to be a place for someone who looked and acted like me to play anyone besides someone’s sort of like a sassy best friend who can’t stay away from the buffet.
3. Image is nothing…
I feel like my work is dependent on the fact that I’m an everywoman. I’d be an everywoman if I lost 20 pounds or if I gained 50 pounds, because of my attitude and it’s my relationship to the world and the fact that like I have two front teeth that are bigger than the rest of my teeth.
4. …connection is everything.
The thing that I love… was that I spent so much of my time when I was younger feeling like such a weirdo that it was hard for me to imagine that anybody was sharing my experiences. And the fact I put out this thing so personal and specific, where the character is going through emotions that feel so mine, and so many girls have gone, “That’s what it’s like to be me” or “You and I are the same,” it’s really been heartening.
I read this quote somewhere… It said something like, ‘Start your attempts to tell stories close to home; the better you get at it the farther you can move away.’
I’ve always been someone who feels better, if I see what I’m going through in a movie. So, I really wanted that for me, and for other people.
5. Don’t be afraid to get personal…
I play these girls who are close to me, but they’re the parts of me that I find the most shameful, or the parts of me that I kind of want to excise. So I sort of distance myself from it. I have the comfort to feel free and un-self-conscious. I sort of go, “These are all the awful parts of me that I don’t get to talk about all day. Here she is.”
6. … even if you’re a woman (especially if you’re a woman).
…I think that people challenge women more who want to tell their own story. Nobody challenges why they want to watch Larry David at lunch. You know why you want to watch Larry David at lunch: Cause he’s fucking hilarious and it’s amazing to watch him at lunch. You don’t care that he’s mean to his friends and lives in a giant house, it’s just interesting, and I think that women often have to make more excuses for why they want to portray themselves.
7. Don’t lock yourself in an ivory tower.
I used to be really scared of what hearing the reactions to the show would do to me. My parents are artists; in their world, in the world of modern artists, you are supposed to just go into your studio and tune everything out, and your entire relationship with your work is supposed to be a super private one. That was the way to do it and you weren’t deeply truly artistic if that wasn’t the way you were engaging the press. But I realized more and more that as the producer of the show—and television being such a medium of the people—I don’t feel I can responsibly ignore the conversation that’s happening with the show.
I used to think Twitter was a waste of time and sort of ran counter to my ability to be productive and to write and now Twitter feels like a really cool part of the creative experience… You get reactions and you connect to people and I love Twitter.
8. Don’t be a hater.
Jealousy and regret are the two things that I try to avoid most in my life, because I think they’re two of the most corrosive human emotions. I’ll totally go with lust, rage, hatred and feelings of demoralization, but jealousy? No. That being said, there are so many things I want to do in my career, there’s no one whose career is like, that is what I want.
My thing is that I respect so much anybody, even 50 Shades of Grey, I respect so much that anybody sat in their house and wrote three books, it’s hard for me to fully hate on it. Because I’m like “ugh!” but then, “you did it, girl! You did it!”
9. Even people who’ve “made it” wonder and feel scared.
A creative career is always up and down, so I think, from having artist parents, there’s a way you never quite get settled and that’s maybe part of the beauty of it. But I’m definitely still having that experience of wandering the Earth wondering if this the right place for me.
My biggest nightmare is that I do something where they’d be like, “That’s why you don’t give shows to 25-year-old girls.” I’m always afraid that I’m being unprofessional, yet I continue to sign all my e-mails “xoxo.” All my freakouts have been pretty private and directed at family pets and/or people I have been dating for too short a time to freak out at in that way.
10. Success is not money or fame – but sending your message to the world.
I think success is connecting with an audience who understands you and having a dialogue with them. I think success is continuing to push yourself forward creatively and not sort of becoming a caricature of yourself. I think success is figuring out a balance between a really rich, intense, fulfilling work life, and the kind of personal life that makes that work life possible and that makes that work life meaningful. I think failure would be the opposite of those things. I think it would be becoming too involved with sort of the traditional markers of success. I think it would be stopping my sort of pursuit of new forms of expression. And I think it would be putting something out in the world that didn’t feel honest and exciting to me.
Every 2-12 months, I get an email from an acquaintance or friend-of-friend’s sibling, enquiring about the day-to-day of being a copywriter (or, more broadly, an advertising creative).
I’m not an industry genius or veteran. But, they don’t know that, so I pretend. Who else are they gonna email? Don Draper? Most geniuses are either really busy or really dead.
Plus, the inner-workings of ad agencies (particularly creative departments) are fairly inscrutable from the outside.
So, here are some unqualified answers.
What do you actually do though?
You sit at a white desk, with a Macbook, in an open-planned environment. Across from you is your creative partner. They could be anyone (though, by law of statistics, they will be a bearded male in their late-20s).
The majority of your time will be spent here, trying to come up with ideas that find something interesting to say about toilet paper or insurance or beer or frozen garlic bread.
Traditionally, you work in pairs: one person is a copywriter, the other is an art director (this is mostly still common practice).
At the start of the process, both of you have the same job — come up with lots and lots of ideas.
These ideas are usually expressed in a couple of sentences, with maybe a crude drawing or a reference picture.
Later on, when it comes to bringing the ideas to life, one person is generally better at using words (copywriter) and the other with visuals (art director). This balance between these skills is reasonably fluid, depending on the individuals. Some can do both well. Some can do neither.
The everyday process.
- Day to day, the job is reasonably varied. You’ll work on 1-10+ things at a time, at various stages of the cycle. The process is generally like this:
- You get a brief.
- You go off and have heaps of ideas, refine them into broad ‘territories’ or ‘insights.’
- You present them to your creative director (your boss). If they like them, you refine them/flesh them out with words and pictures. If they don’t, you cancel your evening plans and try again.
- The ideas are presented to the client.
- THEN (often after a period of back and forth), the client will ‘approve’ an idea, and you’ll start making ads*.
*It is almost never this simple.
One cool thing about this job is that, once you sell an idea, you get to work with talented people to turn your ideas into real, produced things.
For example, if you’re making a TV ad/piece of film you’ll work with your agency’s producers to find the best director.
You’ll then work with director (and production team) to cast, shoot, edit, record music and sound, colour grade and dispatch an ad — which, hopefully by the time it’s done, still has your idea in it.
Shoots can be stressful, but they are the best bit about the job. You get to feel important and craft something from start to finish.
- Bonus 1: If a shoot starts early in the morning, you get bacon and egg rolls.
- Bonus 2: Post-production houses usually have free mineral water and expensive hand soap.
- Bonus 3: If you write heaps of European landscapes into your script, they’ll fly you to the French Riviera New Zealand (maybe).
It’s 2012, though… It isn’t as simple as just ‘make a TV ad.’
If you’re really killing it — here’s the kind of stuff you could be doing.
- A massive integrated advertising and PR campaign.
- An Emmy-winning, viral phenomenon that everyone will remember forever and ever.
- A whole new product.
- Or just a pretty cool way to sell suits.
Disclaimer: To do the cool stuff, you’ll spend a bunch of time making regular old ads. Your job is to make them as funny/interesting and original as they possibly can be.
For context, here’s a few of the things you’ll come by along the way.
- Digital banners.
- Print ads in a newspapers and magazines.
- Adshel billboards.
- Tweets or Facebook posts.
- Ads that run on the back of buses.
- A wobbly thing on a supermarket shelf.
- In-store displays.
- Those annoying videos that run before a YouTube video starts.
- Direct mail flyers.
- ATM screens.
- Brand guidelines.
- Radio ads.
- Pretty much anything with a logo on it.
How much will I get paid?
I don’t know. It depends on a million different things.
At the start, not heaps. But if you surround yourself by fun, talented people, shut up for a few years and use the Conan approach — you should start seeing progress.
The better the ideas in your portfolio get, the more money people will pay you (winning awards helps too, but that’s a conversation for another day).
On the whole, it’s an almost shamefully good deal for mucking around with a pen and paper… Especially if you consider how badly people like nurses and teachers are paid.
In summary: I’ve never met an ad creative who couldn’t afford a novelty t-shirt and a schooner of Pure Blonde.
Do you recommend it?
Yep. It depends what you do now — but it’s DEFINITELY better than proofreading financial plans OR being the graveyard-shift receptionist at a hotel owned by the Masonic Club.
On the whole, agencies are full of smart, fun, hard working people. They’re also generally accepting and appreciative of eccentricity and unironed clothing (or whatever else is wrong with you).
You’re paid to be creative, so stuff like spreadsheets, administration and number crunching is all done by other people.
Also: most places have free soft drink and cheese slices, and you usually get beer on Fridays.
That said, it’s still a job. Expectations are high, so hours can be long and stressful. Some of the stuff you work on is ridiculously fun, some of it’s kinda hard work.
Overall, I like it. Wearing jeans and solving non-life-threatening problems is a privilege.
How do I get a job?
I don’t know. But, assuming you’re starting from scratch, this might work:
1. Go to AWARD School.
AWARD School is still the industry standard for people who want to work in creative departments. It runs for 16 weeks, and focuses on learning how to have lots of ideas. That’s the hardest bit about the job — everything else you can learn later.
It’s super-competitive to get in, but if you do (and can afford the $2,000 fee), it’s an intense, rewarding experience.
Pro-tip: If you know someone who works in a creative department already, buy them a case of beer and get them to do your AWARD School application for you. Don’t feel bad: they’ll feel like a legend, and you’ll probably get in.
2. Write/draw/design/make some things and put them on the internet.
Not necessarily ads — just stuff. A blog, a personal project, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is — just do something and finish it.
If nothing else, you’ll get used to putting ideas into the world, and won’t be so scared when you have to do it in front of someone important.
Creative directors like creativity more than they like ads: just show them something funny or interesting.
Some personal projects that I like — just to show what I’m talking about:
- Everything Georgia Perry does.
- Art director Tessa Chong’s The Sketchorialist.
- Lawrence Creative’s Andy Braithwaite cooks something new every Tuesday.
- Everything Matt Banham does
- The podcast You Look Nice Today
- Copywriter Zach Golden turned his love of swearing and cooking into this
- Art director Derek Anderson’s DUBGIF | The Casual
3. Familiarise yourself with “what’s good” in the industry.
It’s not healthy to spend too much spare time staring at ads, but here’s a few places worth checking.
- Copywriter Adrian Flores asks working creatives to send him three ads they like.
- Creativity Online.
- Campaign Brief and Mumbrella are the local industry standards (just don’t indulge the comments too much).
What if I’m a girl?
Good! There are too many dudes.
James Ross-Edwards has been a copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi and WhybinTBWA Group. He’s currently working on his writing, a series on pubs (and perennial Nextness-favourite) The Moderation Hotel, and freelancing for agencies including our own Lawrence Creative. If you have a bone to pick with his thoughts about copywriting, here’s his twitter: @frank_sartor!
I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Jamaica, checking my e-mail, two people walk by and in a harsh whisper a women says to her friend, “isn’t that sad? That guy comes here on a vacation and he’s stuck checking his e-mail. He can’t even enjoy his two weeks off.” I think the real question (the one they probably wouldn’t want to answer) was, “isn’t it sad that we have a job where we spend two weeks avoiding the stuff we have to do 50 weeks a year?” It took me a long time to figure out why I was so happy to be checking my e-mail on vacation. It had to do with Passion.
- Seth Godin.
Half way through my internship at Designworks and I think this quote by entrepreneur Seth Godin pretty much sums up my experience so far, here’s a few of the most characterising impressions I’ve picked up during my time at Designworks.
#001. The people.
Super friendly, hardworking, and charismatic, highly skilled and best of all, enjoy a good laugh.
A pulsating office filled with busy meeting rooms, completed creative projects, awards, and of course, enthusiastic people.
#003. The vibe.
In the first week I questioned as to why there were always people working before I arrived and after I left (and seemed happy doing so), was it due to their hours, an immense workload, or; the reply, because they want to be, they love their job.
This was a big shake up to me. I had previously spent years pouring beers at the local pub serving those in suits. In addition, I worked outside – teaching more “suits” how to kite-surf. As a result, I had the notion imprinted in me that the corporate world, a 9 to 5 job, was stiff and impossibly boring. So you could imagine the grin on my face as I left the office after my first week with the feeling that I could really get used to this.
Nothing beats having a cold beer (or two) at the end of a hectic day with people who have worked hard and earned it (and even designed the bottle we’re drinking from).
#005 . Thanks!
I can’t forget the most important part, and for once it’s not the beer. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank everyone at Designworks for the time and patience they have given me to share the almost infinite knowledge they have. After the first day I thought it would be impossible to feed my brain anything more. But as each day came with new tasks and challenges, it is exciting to know how much more there is to learn.
Some visuals that have caught our eye:
All-white Starbucks pop up in Omotesando, Tokyo. “The ‘library’ invites visitors to choose an espresso drink as they would a book, and verse themselves in espresso drinks as though quietly entering into a fictional world.”
Waterfall swing! Via 3quarksdaily.
For his detailed illustration of Sherlock Holmes’ fictional haunt 221B Baker Street, Ross Stutler said, “I read the entire collection of sixty Sherlock Holmes stories twice in a row, back to back, and took notes of every detail I could find of the Baker Street flat which began to take shape in my imagination.”
PBS’ short special on indie game developers who “devote time, money, and take great risks in a quest to realize their creative vision. They deftly balance game mechanics and systems, sound and visuals, and an immersive storytelling experience to push the gaming medium into revolutionary new territory.”
It’s a pretty huge achievement to make Snoop Dogg daggy. Congratulations “Hot Pockets.”
Artist Paolo Cirio’s project Street Ghosts evokes “the specters of Google’s eternal realm of private, misappropriated data: the bodies of people captured by Google’s Street View cameras, whose ghostly, virtual presence I marked in Street Art fashion at the precise spot in the real world where they were photographed.”
“For the CP3.VI launch, we created a live “frozen” moment using a chain of Chris Paul doubles in Venice Beach, CA. What unfolds is a unique traction story of how CP3 cuts through L.A.”
“With my pictures I try to capture the impression of their character and world views present in the decoration of their homes.” Eefje De Connick‘s beautiful series of photographs of female artists’ homes.
Pomegranate, 2006 by Ori Gersht.