What they aren't teaching advertising students

Had a lovely meeting with a student to review her portfolio today. She’s a few months away from graduation and the el-crapo job market and I’m afraid the years of honing her skills haven’t given her a sharp knife to cut her way through.

Yes, knowing how to use tools like the Adobe Creative Suite is important, but knowing how to use ones brain is why someone wants to hire you.

So, here it it is, in real simple words: your job is to make me more money than I pay you as your boss. And my job is to make my clients more money from the money they spend on advertising/marketing/design/development etc.

Because, advertising only costs if it doesn’t work.

Yep, there you have it. The essentials of business, all in one nice, easy to digest post.

You’ll see those words all over this site (unlike other ad agencies) who talk about all kinds of other things that sound good to MBAs, but, when we get right down to it- we do things to help sell stuff. If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative, good or worth a dime to anyone.

How does a student need to prepare for that moment of terror when they walk in with their book and ask for someone to hire them, instead of all their other classmates?

Here’s a secret: you are the product. If you can’t sell you- how can you sell other peoples sugar water, netbooks or feminine hygiene products?

Just like any other creative brief, you better have done the research: what’s the industry, who are the leaders, what’s their claim to fame, what did they do better than their competition? If I get one more student through these doors who hasn’t heard of Bernbach, Ogilvy, Chiat, Clow, Fallon, Wieden, Bogusky, Rand, Pentagram, Duffy, etc. I should start cutting off ears and sending them back to their schools. How can you teach this business and not talk about those who’ve changed the industry?

And as much as we like to think it’s all pretty pictures with snappy words, you better understand something about how money is made. What’s a business model, what’s the distribution channel, how does your client make their money? Is it the razors or the blades? How can you make your client money if you don’t know what makes them money? Being able to focus on the right thing, is the first step in making them more money than they pay you. Read a few business books- get cozy with Peter Drucker or Tom Peters. Know what’s made to stick and who is a linchpin. (I should be putting in links galore here- but, I’m already giving you the secret tools to your success, you should have  to work a bit).

Last but not least, the job market you are preparing yourself for isn’t the one that’s there today, but the one for when you graduate and beyond. You better be tapped into what’s the next big thing- not what’s the big thing right now. Hint: Web 2.0 is already well established- start thinking about what happens when your phone has the bandwidth and speed of a desktop machine and is always on and connected. If you don’t know how to run a content management system, optimize for search, build community or produce video don’t even think of graduating yet.

And when you do go in to interview for that job, and you’re sitting across from an old guy like me (face it, men still rule in advertising) it shouldn’t be me interviewing you as much as it should be you interviewing me- because the first job you take will have a lot to do with how much you get to grow. Make sure the passion is still burning in your future boss as brightly as it’s burning within you, because it’s going to a take a super hot fire under your butt to add your name to the list of those who’ve come before and changed this business.

That’s what makes me get up every morning and love what I do. Because, as the saying goes, even a bad day in advertising beats a great day in anything else.

And that’s why you went to ad school in the first place? Isn’t it?

The Next Wave goes to see the next wave in Advertising: The Ohio University ad clubs winning AOL presentation

One of the things that separates great ad agencies from the rest, is that they are made up of “ad people” instead of “people in advertising.” True ad people, take their Friday afternoon off to go see the students who won the American Advertising Federation 2008 winners of the National Student Advertising Competition instead of drinking beer or heading home.

The OU teams planbook cover

The OU teams planbook cover

The Next Wave was the only ad agency in attendance today when the Greater Dayton Advertising Association invited the 2008 Ohio University team who won our District- and then the national competition with their strategy on marketing AOL Instant Messenger or AIM. From the AAF site is this description of the competition:

the students conducted primary research to study AOL’s target market, including media habits and competitors. The team from Ohio University focused their initial research on how adults ages 18–24 use the AOL Instant Messenger service and its competing social networking Web sites. From there, they were able to determine their objectives and strategies to ultimately design a campaign with the goal of increasing usage by 15 percent. The overall creative strategy for Ohio University’s campaign was to add tabs to the currently existing AOL buddy list. Each tab would link directly to a different Web site, representing the new facets they wanted to add to enhance AOL’s social media capabilities, i.e. a social networking site, music, etc.

AAF-June 9, 2008

The team did some of the same things that The Next Wave does for their clients: coming up with new products or services that enhance the customer experience. Their implementation of a flexible tab bar to the familiar AIM buddy list, not only added functionality to the software service, in became a key part of the campaign tagline of “Keep your tab on _______________”

The integration between their product differentiation, their media plan and the execution strategy was well thought out and reasonable to implement, although the budget that AOL set at $25 million actually gave them too much cash to work with (considering Leo Burnett relaunched Altoids with less than half that amount).

The one thing that creeps me out about these team presentations, that I wish the NASC would stop encouraging- is the style of alternating sentences by team members into one complete canned monologue. I’ve written about this before from when I judged the district 3 year ago. If there are real agencies that do this- as opposed to allowing each expert from an agency present their part of the pitch individually, I’ll eat my kneaded eraser. Some schools even put theater majors up to present- thinking this is some kind of performance instead of a serious business presentation.

There is a complete press release by OU online which includes a informal video of the winning team discussing the process of getting this presentation together. OU were the finalists that were doing this from their club- not as a capstone course, which says even more about the strength of their concepts. Also, it means that the core presenters were all Juniors or below, leaving them room for a return visit next year. The team presenters were: Ryan Dease, Victor Rasgaitis, Liz Follet, Lauren Miller, and Katelyn Mooney. And although they forgot to bring their planbook, which counts as more of their score than the presentation in competition, their advisor, Professor Craig Davis promised he would e-mail me a PDF (thanks in advance Craig). Hopefully, he’ll allow me to publish it here too.

We took our entire office to this free event at the School of Advertising Art in Kettering, where the OU team had presented to the SAA students earlier. It’s too bad that no local school has entered the competition in past years, maybe this year will see a team from SAA. And while The Next Wave was the only agency there in strength today (only about 5 other firms were represented at all from Dayton) which is one of the reasons we believe we are an agency of ad people, not just people in advertising.

Lessons for students of advertising

It’s summer, which means we get assaulted with e-mails from students who want to intern at The Next Wave. Generally, they start out telling us how great our work is, and then tell us all about their skill set. Usually, their cover letter, and or resume are both too long. I’ve seen students pad out “experience” to be longer than what I’ve seen from 20 year veterans with international awards under their belts.

The funny thing is, we get very few candidates who actually attempt to market themselves the way they would sell any product or service for a client. You want to be in advertising? What would an ad for you look like?

There are a couple of things in reviewing portfolios online or in person that always bug me:

If the work isn’t able to explain itself, other than what media it was in, where or when it ran- or the budget, you shouldn’t be showing it. In a PDF portfolio- only include the briefest description (ala Luezers Archive)

The second is that just because your professor gave it an “A”- or the client ran it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s done, finished, the idea is over. If you’re looking for work, you should be constantly improving your work, updating it, fixing the things that you weren’t quite satisfied with.

Ira Glass talks about this in this great little video about good taste and perfecting the craft- watch the whole thing (thanks Angela for posting about this gem)

2017- the video has been removed: https://youtu.be/loxJ3FtCJJA

This may be it:

This ties back to Sally Hogshead’s famous post on doing 800 headlines for BMW Motorcycles to get the right one. Or Chiat/Day’s mantra- “Good Enough, isn’t Good Enough.”

There are no excuses for a portfolio- if it’s got flaws, or your resume has holes, it’s up to you to fix or fill them. If you want to be in this business, there is no excuse good enough for a client who just blew a hundred million on your experiment.

So, before you think you’ve got it all covered after a few years in school, just take another listen to Ira playing back his work after 8 years in the field, and realize, you’ve still got a long way to go before you’ll you before you should start your cover letter praising our work. We keep our awards in the bathroom, our heads still fit through standard doors- and we’re working as hard as we can to get better too.

We want you to show us how you can be a part of improving our work- and just tell us the basics. We know good work when we see it (and we’re even happier when it’s ours!).

Best of luck.

Ideas can come from anyone in a connected world- Apple ad from UK student

Apple may have missed a golden opportunity by not releasing the original sound bed to the “switch” campaign (Hello, I’m a mac, and I’m a PC)- but, TBWA/Chiat Day isn’t asleep at the wheel anymore.

A user generated ad by an 18 year old student in the UK is getting a quick remake in HD for broadcast after gathering interest on YouTube. [update] If you want to compare the ad- here is the Apple version- although the link may change (due to Apple still not understanding the principals of the social web: http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch/ads/

The New York Times sees this as yet another nail in the coffin for the advertising business- and they are probably right. In a networked world, where the consumer has the ability to be on a level playing field as your corporate mega-site, it’s no longer about delivering a message, but managing the communications between market and manufacturer.

Student’s Ad Gets a Remake, and Makes the Big Time - New York Times
The idea that you do not have to be a professional to create a good commercial is becoming widespread, in a trend known as consumer-generated content. Leave it to Apple to, paraphrasing the company’s old slogan a bit, think differently.

A television commercial for the new iPod Touch from Apple, scheduled to begin running on Sunday, 10-28 is being created by the longtime Apple agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day. It is based on a commercial that an 18-year-old English student and Apple devotee named Nick Haley, who says he got his first Macintosh when he was 3, created on his own one day last month.

His spot offers a fast-paced tour of the abilities of the iPod Touch, set to a song titled “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” by a Brazilian band, CSS.

Mr. Haley said he was inspired to make the commercial by a lyric in the song, “My music is where I’d like you to touch.”

He based the visual elements on video clips about the iPod Touch and other new products, which can be watched on the Apple Web site (apple.com). He uploaded his commercial to YouTube, where it received four stars out of a possible five and comments that ranged from “That’s awesome,” followed by 16 exclamation points, to “Makes me want to buy one and hack it.”

As of Thursday, Mr. Haley’s spot has been viewed 2,131 times on youtube.com. Among the viewers were marketing employees at Apple in Cupertino, Calif., who asked staff members on the Apple account at TBWA/Chiat/Day to get in touch with Mr. Haley about producing a professional version of the commercial…

Creative visionary and leader of TBWA/Chiat Day Lee Clow seems to be amused by this new world- and seems to get the emerging 2-way nature of advertising.

Consumers creating commercials “is part of this brave new world we live in,” said Lee Clow, chairman and chief creative officer at TBWA Worldwide, based in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Playa del Rey.

“It’s an exciting new format for brands to communicate with their audiences,” Mr. Clow said. “People’s relationship with a brand is becoming a dialog, not a monolog.”

The commercial based on Mr. Haley’s spot will be seen on football games Sunday afternoon and on “Desperate Housewives” and Game 4 of the World Series that night. It is also to be shown in Europe and Japan.

As for how faithful the professional spot is to the amateur version, Mr. Clow said, “we didn’t mess with his content” because “it has a charm to it, a youthful fun.”

The changes include more polished editing and filming the new version in high definition.

“My input was totally respected,” Mr. Haley said, adding that he considered the agency’s commercial “pretty similar” to the original.

The experience of working with the agency executives was “overwhelming, surreal and fantastic, all in one,” said Mr. Haley, who is studying politics at Leeds.

“This is my first taste” of advertising, he added, but offered a thoughtful response when asked what it means if consumers like him are willing to make commercials.

“That’s the whole point of advertising; it needs to get to the user,” Mr. Haley said. “If you get the user to make the ads, who better?”

As heartily as Mr. Clow endorsed the concept of user-generated content, he suggested that turnabout is fair play.

At TBWA, “we’re producing films we put on YouTube that we make in a day and a half in the parking lot,” he said, laughing.

The big question is how much did TBWA/Chiat Day charge for the “big idea” that came from a consumer? And does this signal the end of non-disclosure statements, and releases for any suggestions for campaigns? Are the locks coming off the doors of the creative think tanks? Will the best marketers of the future be the ones who throw open the doors with the customers to establish the brand together?

Stay tuned. And what do you think?

[update] note, it seems a lot of people are still confused between an iPod Touch and an iPhone. The product looks so similar and does so many of the same things, that people are searching for iPhone and “Music is my boyfriend”- maybe Apple should have considered a different back panel- not chrome and a different menu look for the Touch- I often look at the main menu of the screen and think the icons should be bigger to fill the screen.

Lyrics to “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” by a Brazilian band, CSS as in the new Apple iPod Touch commercial:

From all the drugs the one i like more is music
From all the junks the one i need more is music
From all the boys the one i take home is music
From all the ladies the one i kiss is music (muah!)

Music is my boyfriend
Music is my girlfriend
Music is my dead end
Music is my imaginary friend
Music is my brother
Music is my great-grand-daughter
Music is my sister
Music is my favorite mistress

From all the shit the one i gotta buy is music
From all the jobs the one i choose is music
From all the drinks the one i get drunk is music
From all the bitches the one i wannabe is music

Music is my beach house
Music is my hometown
Music is my kingsize bed
Music is my hot hot bath
Music is my hot hot sex
Music is my back rub
Music is where i’d like you to touch

Fui escoteira-mirim
Direto da escola, não
Não ia cheirar cola
Nem basquete, pebolim
O que eu gosto não é de graça
O que gosto não é farsa
Tem guitarra, bateria, computador saindo som
Alguns dizem que mais alto que um furacão (rhéum)
Perto dele eu podia sentir
Saía de seu olho e chegava em mim
Sentada do seu lado
Eu queria encostar
Faria o tigela até o sol raiar
Debaixo do lençol
Ele gemia em ré bemol
Fiquei tensa
Mas tava tudo bem
Ele é fodão, mas eu sei que eu sou também

Agency 2.0- Zeus Jones

Fallon may be winning the battle as the womb of new agencies - as I’ve stumbled upon yet another spin-off: Zeus Jones. This agency popped onto the scene March 1, 2007 (and deserves extra credit for not naming the agency after themselves).

While we’ve not been very complimentary of Brew: A creative collaborative, or Barrie D’Rozario Murphy and the way they started off online (weakly)- the crew at Zeus Jones scores a B+ for “getting it.” The front page is just a series of places you’ll find them online- starting with their presentation on Slideshare (see below). Very cool stuff.

Zeus Jones Welcomes You.
Zeus Jones approaches marketing differently.
View our credentials to see what we mean by “Marketing As A Service.”

They also have a separate blog: From the head of Zeus Jones which for some odd reason, they didn’t decide to build on their own site- but using Blogspot- which is what stopped me from giving them an A+

The idea of a blog, separate from a site, is old school. Ideally, while having all those places online as place to hang out is great- the fulcrum of your online (the de facto realization of your brand these days) in 2 places is a mistake.

What I had time to look at on ZJ’s sites looked good. They’ve decided it’s not advertising brands need- it’s more of a reason to like a brand- utility. We’ve always thought of our solutions for clients as one that makes the relationship between customers and our clients one of mutual joy, as opposed to a one-way shouting match.

There are some smart, small agencies out there- but, finding and identifying them will take a new kind of filter. With agency search firms still clueless about what makes good web strategy, and Ad Age and everyone else so fascinated by Crispin Porter & Bogusky (us included)- what has been slipping under the radar is agencies like Zeus Jones who seem to have a true Unique Selling Proposition- and the smarts to make it happen in our Web 2.0 world.

How do you view your ad agency?

Mark Silveira at Ordinary Advertising reminisces about two clients who asked for, and got, great advertising. To help you understand how to get the advertising you think you deserve- he offers a list of 7 traits in a good client- but number 4 was worthy of mention here:

A Frank Appraisal at Ordinary Advertising
Neither of these clients believed the agency should be considered a “vendor” (more than a little demeaning) or a “partner” (utterly unrealistic), but rather as an “asset” of the client’s business to be taken care of in direct proportion to the return being generated from it.

I’ve seen hundreds of agency sites that talk about being a “partner” when in fact, the agency has nothing on the line- no risk, other than losing the business.

Considering your ad agency an “asset” fits much better - along with the understanding that the part of the balance sheet that accounts for “goodwill” and “brand value” comes in part from the client/agency relationship which should include an almost symbiotic relationship, an intertwining of DNA of the two organizations. Understanding a brand isn’t something that comes overnight or with a contract, it comes from insight gained over time.

In choosing an agency, look closely at what kind of agency you are retaining:

  • How long do people stay there?
  • Who owns the agency- and what is their personal stake (holding companies can be very cold bedfellows)?
  • How long do their client/agency relationships last?
  • Is there a passion for the craft, and your product in the agency?
  • What are the rewards for both sides if the relationship blossoms?
  • Are your expectations for advertising realistic?
  • Do you trust them as experts in the field?

In buying a piece of capital equipment- what do you look for?

  • How long it will be relevant to your processes?
  • Who makes it?
  • How do they treat their current customers?
  • Is it the best it can be for the money?
  • How does it pay off?
  • Will it do the job?
  • Is it the best solution?

See, your relationship with your agency is the same as that of your new CNC machine- and just like that CNC machine, it can only produce great work if there isn’t operator error- which brings us back to what Mark was talking about- and the idea of the relationship as an asset.