We at The Next Wave consider ourselves students of the craft of advertising. We continuously seek out and study the best thinking in the business and then, share it.
Two of the greats in advertising recently were interviewed in podcasts; Alex Bogusky and Lee Clow. Lee gets his own show- which is a bunch of shorts. Alex gets a longer interview than most in the series of one hour interviews that you may find informative and enjoyable. We’ve included links to Apple iTunes for these free podcasts, but they are widely available on other platforms.
The first podcast is called Talking to Ourselves which is produced by Omid Farhang who is now Chief Creative Officer at Momentum. It’s a bi-monthly podcast that he calls his “selfish excuse to get the marketing industry’s most admired leaders to share advice, reveal process and routines, maybe tell a few stories, hopefully uplift a few cynics, and divulge secrets to a fulfilling career.” It’s produced in partnership with The One Club, and JSM Music.
While there are a bunch of episodes, the one that got us started was the 75 minute interview of Alex Bogusky. The best gem was that he tried leaving his own firm a few times when he grew exasperated with Chuck Porter. Things were lining up for him with Wieden + Kennedy to run the Amsterdam office until supposedly Dan Wieden saw his book and put the kibosh on it. Bogusky also is a recurring theme through many of the interviews- because Omid keeps sharing the story of when Bogusky asks him if he had seen the Dudley Moore movie “Crazy People” where Moore is an ad exec in a psych ward who gets the patients to work up ad campaigns that are brutally honest. His takeaway- working in advertising should be a lot like that movie.
He’s just wrapped up season 1- and the list of advertising superstars is impressive including David Lubars, Gerry Graf, David Droga, Rob Reilly, Andrew Keller- note, the list is heavy on Crispin Porter + Bogusky alumni.
One of his favorite things to say is how creative work ages in dog years- what was fresh 5 years ago- often feels ancient, especially after everyone has copied the big idea. Almost every episode he ends with the same two questions:
What was the most horrific response you’ve ever had from a client at a presentation?
“What was the one big idea that you loved- that never got made.”
The answers are varied and insightful.
Almost every guest has worked at one of these five hot shops:Fallon, Wieden + Kennedy, Chiat\Day, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Goodby Silverstein at one point in their career.
Andrew Keller talks about his being in a band as the thing that most prepared him for being in advertising. Working together in a small group and putting things together so that they are interesting.
John Norman, partner and Chief Creative Officer at Translation (They parted ways after this podcast was recorded and before we posted).makes a unique distinction between design and advertising: Design is to make something worth keeping, beautiful, useful - and advertising is what slos it down on the way to the trash can. Not an exact quote- but- it stuck- so it must at least be advertising…
David Lubars tells the story of how his father worked in advertising and he caught the advertising bug when his father solved the business problem Listerine was facing once Scope came out, with the line “The taste you hate twice a day” which he called a smart way to say that what made the stuff taste bad is what made it work well. That’s what great advertising does.
John Mescall, global ECD at McCann Worldgroup tells the story of the birth of one of the most awarded campaigns ever: Dumb Ways to Die. Considering it was a PSA client that nobody every heard of, the way they arrived at the strategy, the execution, is an amazing story. Mescall also shows his respect for the work of CP+B talking about how it changed the game, and it wasn’t necessarily with perfect craft- but driven by a great idea.
The discussion with Gerry Graf of Barton F. Graf, turns to awards shows and CMO’s and if any of the work that wins actually sells stuff. Makes Graf a hero in our book. Graf also gets a lot of mentions in “The A List” podcast- because he was a teacher at AdHouse NYC and- he also worked with a bunch of the people who make it onto these shows. Put him at the top of my list of folks I want to sit down with at some point.
Jaime Robinson, co-founder of Joan, may win an award for the foulest mouth, yet, since her agency is the newest, you get a sense of wonderment at some of the questions about time allocation and following your gut, even as far as to go with something that comes up right during a client meeting. They are so new, they don’t even have a site up as of this writing.
Rob Reilly talks about how a term “delusional positivity” as a phrase from his Crispin Porter + Bogusky days has made it over to McCann. He believes that they can do anything- which is how incredible work gets done.
Susan Credle, CCO of FCB talks about work life balance. Her answer was to quote something she’d written- and was one of the best I’ve heard for people who might be defined as workaholics: “I’m writing for you, Huffington Post, on a Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and I want to take a walk in Riverside Park. But as I sit typing and reflecting on these questions, I realize that my work is my life. When I separate them, I resent the work. When I adjust my thinking and realize that this work fulfills me, being asked to answer questions about work on a day off isn’t a frustration but a privilege.”
The Chief Creative Officer of Anomaly, Mike Byrne is almost too self-deprecating. He seems to put a lot more effort into relationships- within the agency, than outside of it. His discussion of his daily journaling and having lunch with someone somewhere other than the office as highpoints of his day are poignant, as are his gritty truth-telling about the fact that his daughter is shooting video and editing it right on her iPhone- and timelines have compressed. He says he’s not as talented as others- but willing to work twice as hard. Anomaly is a different kind of super agency- probably because his DNA is a bit different than other folks.
Susan Hoffman at W+K started out horribly, making a really bad joke about her parents profession and sounding very uncomfortable, but quickly redeemed herself with stories about how the Beatles/Revolution spot got made and the bullets they sweated when the agency was sued for it. The key insight she shared was that hiring people with “a voice” got them honesty, reality and truth. Which is critical to advertising. The Nike campaign for women (If you let me play(- was Charlotte Moore, Janet Champ and Stacy Wall- talking, not just ad people trying to sell you something. It’s not just the mantra “Fail Harder” that makes W+K great- it’s that the people have passion for their craft.
Jeff Kling shares his insight on W+K: “Dan and David believed and still believe in the power of the individual voice to do something special. It’s because they have a real philosophy and approach that believes in that. They’re essentially renting individual voices, visual and verbal voices, they’re renting those voices to brands, and in the process letting people do wildly special, unique and individual things, and making the brands on whose behalf of those people who express themselves, very human, very relatable. That’s why Wieden creates brands.”
One of the most interesting interviews for young creatives looking for career advice comes from Justin Gignac, the co-founder of Working Not Working. In a gig economy, building a body of work requires some investment in real, long-term relationships, and the long term growth potential in a real job vs a gig job is exponential.
The second podcast we’ve been enjoying is “Lee Clow will only say this once” which comes with the following description: “Listen up. Lee Clow is only going to say this once. For the 50th anniversary of storied advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, legendary advertising savant Lee Clow answers 50 questions from colleagues, industry leaders and industry newcomers. Talking with Clio editor-in-chief Tim Nudd, Lee shares his wealth of knowledge and experience, discussing topics both personal and professional. From from his early years at Chiat\Day, to the agency’s celebrated partnership with Apple, his personal creative process, the industry’s future, and even his favorite Twitter account, there’s no shortage of wise words from an even wiser man.”
One Clow gem is what he thinks makes someone good at advertising: arrogance and insecurity. Arrogance in that you believe you can change the world and insecurity that you may be fooling yourself. He also talks about having to lead clients through the idiot forest- ain’t that the truth. That phrase is also talked about in several episodes of “Talking to ourselves.”
We’re always looking for resources to expand our knowledge of advertising. It’s part of the reason we’ve always had our Booklist on this site. If you have some recommendations for podcasts, video channels or other resources, we’re all ears. Leave your suggestions in comments.
(a few months later) Another podcast we’ve since started listening to is “The A-List” (link to iTunes) which comes from our friends at DiMassimo Goldstein. It’s their Executive Creative Officer, Tom Christmann. It’s much more raw, unedited and sometimes the sound quality is so bad it’s painful. If I had a dollar for every stutter, uh, ah, or time he said “the kids” I’d be buying the Washington Post and divorcing my wife.
It’s supposed to target young creatives, to introduce them to the old guard, and sponsored by Ad House NYC. Yet, making jokes about how kids won’t understand what paste up is, or pre-internet advertising isn’t really helpful or interesting. Neither is Tom’s habit of talking over his subject, interrupting frequently and name dropping- Dan in Portland, Rich in San Francisco, Lee in LA, uh, yeah, I know who these people are- but don’t assume your target market of young listeners do. (update- many episodes in) Christmann gets much better as he gains experience and slows down.
That said, he also feels it’s very important to talk about where he worked with the person in the past and sometimes wanders off into what could be considered office gossip. A good editor could cut these in half- and still have a lot of good content- except because of his “interview style” of talking over people- it’d be edit hell. He has some of the some people “Talking to Ourselves” has- and between the two, I’d always prefer Omid’s interviews so far, but because he’s so unstructured sometimes he gets lucky and gets a few extra tidbits. He’s also more likely to interview people Omid wouldn’t- so you get to hear from some journeymen instead of just the stars. Calling it “The A-List” may not be truth in adverting, but, if you are looking to expand your horizons or learn more about how folks rose to prominence- this works. Hopefully, Tom will read this, write a brief for his podcast so he stays on point, and works on both audio quality and his interview style and this podcast improves to actually warrant its lofty title. (again- it does improve over time. I think later episodes are really good).
Update: Aug 20, 2021- The A List featured our founder, David Esrati on an episode. Tom’s learned a lot about Podcasting- he no longer interrupts or talks over his subjects- and he’s now the dean of AdHouseNYC - and working freelance. Take a listen.
If nothing else, think of these as a kind of time capsule of the industry- interviews of people who made a difference in Advertising- at the start of the internet era. Much like StoryCorps- but for advertising.
In the land of ad agency cover letters, what stands out?
You are selling yourself to people who sell things for a living.
Make every word count.
Leave out all the stuff about being a team player, or motivated. Actions speak louder than words. Show us that you not only want to work for us, but that you actually took the time to learn about us.
Some actual cover letters (painful examples):
“To the Next Wave Team,
As a (Insert your majors) Studies major, I have taken it upon myself to seek out opportunities that aim to integrate my knowledge into practical application. With that, I feel that your open internship position would be a worthwhile endeavor to expand my skills and tailor them to the objectives that best serve the The Next Wave.”
Rule #1 - Make it Personal
Find out names of the people you are approaching. This isn’t an ad to the masses, it’s an ad to a real live person at a unique firm. Do your research.
“Hello, my name is (your name) and I believe that I could be a huge asset to your team. I am a graduate of (Insert Favorite) University with a degree in (some related field) and extensive experience in (skill 1) and (skill 2).”
Rule #2 - Know your Audience
What you think is great, sure, but what I think is all that matters. Talking about your school or your experience might be great, but there are legions of people who can say the exact same thing.
“As a confident, articulate and goal-driven production professional with (X)+ years of experience, I am an ideal candidate for this role with The Next Wave. I am a creative problem solver with a demonstrable record of helping organizations meet their goals. My positive attitude, world-class work ethic, and attention to detail have helped me succeed in a variety of operational projects. I take my work seriously and approach every undertaking with enthusiasm, diligence, and positivity.”
Rule #3 - Show, Don’t Tell
This one is important. Instead of talking about skills you think you have, demonstrate them. Your cover letter is an introduction, your resume the reference guide, and your portfolio should be the shizzle/sex appeal/show.
Not that we love to have our ego stroked, but, demonstrating a knowledge of the firm you are applying to says more about how you approach a client than how you get a job. If you want to sell BMW that you are the person who has the skills necessary increase BMW motorcycle sales, the cover letter is where it starts. Same thing with selling yourself to us, or anyone.
Make it easy for us to see that you know something about our firm, our culture, our clients, and how you will be an asset.
This example is overkill, but, when Chase Zreet, who was trying to get a job at Wieden+Kennedy to work on the Sprite account he did a whole video, with real production values. This is what your competition looks like:
Of course he got the job. Even the client noticed.
So, key takeaways: The cover letter shows you know something about your target market (the agency you are applying to), you have some unique or interesting insight or skills, that will help them make money if they hire you, and it’s memorable. Some people think this means delivering your message like a stunt- wrapping it around a sandwich, which may be attention getting, but, I’m more inclined to be impressed with something that can spread, cost effectively, like both of the job pitches above. You aren’t going to buy the masses sandwiches to buy your product.
Your portfolio, speaks for itself. Including a client brief summaries , as well as Key Performance Indicators Met are the only additions to the work. The work should speak for itself. Clearly state what your part was in the project. Don’t show work others did without giving proper credit.
Resume: Clean and simple. Where you worked, what you did, what you learned. Include hobbies, interests, because, well, interesting people work in advertising. Even working at Burger King can be valuable, if the agency is working on a fast food account- if you can share insight you gained while working there.
And, lastly, make sure your resume has your name in the file name. Make sure it’s a PDF. If you have links in it- make sure they work. There is nothing worse than saying, “i want to look at that Bogusky kid’s portfolio again” and you search your computer for a file with his name attached that was named “My 1989 ad portfolio.” Sorry Alex,
Now, go get ’em killer.
note: I’d asked Alex Bogusky to review this post in an earlier form, and it went tangential, and the post got a re-write. But, here is the advice the Creative Director of the Decades gives:
The advice I give kids is pick three place that you would die to work at. Learn everything you can and do everything you can to weasel in from every angle.
1 place is okay too.
When you are talking top of the world beating agencies the weasel factor is key, because it’s you against everyone else who thinks they’ve got the next big thing in them.
This post will be the latest in the category, which had 44 posts already. But, since an applicant who didn’t bother to read any of the posts chastised us for sending it to them as helpful advice, after they sent a “To whom is may concern” email, saying we hadn’t updated it since 2012- here’s the update: it’s still all relevant.
You are the product. Sell us you. Not how great you are, but what you can do for us. How you can help us make money- for our firm, for our clients. What skills do you bring to the table that we don’t have already? What’s the brief that you are the solution to?
And while you may have gone to “a top ranked communications school” so did at least 100 others. Differentiate yourself from them as well as everyone else looking for a job.
And, we still expect you to know our name, and tell us what you can do for us. Don’t expect us to guess that you are a social media goddess, or a talented video editor. Give us that up front. Then prove it.
We’re also going to start looking you up. We’ll look at your facebook posts, we’ll look at your twitter feed, your instagram, your Linkedin. We want to know how you think, what you find fascinating, what you’ve read, watched, involved yourself in. So by all means, include those links.
Hopefully, you’ve done the same with us. You know what kind of work we do, why we do it, who we do it for. That you idolize our idols goes a long way (that we’re you’re idols makes us think you’ve set your sights too low).
And while we have lots of great advice on our site on getting a job- you can find more good insight here:
And note, these are tops in our Google search- and they are from 2012 as well.
We concur that you should have read “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” by Luke Sullivan, because, well, he’s a friend, a client, and we host his site. Our CCO is in the index of the fifth edition with two mentions. We also have our “booklist” with our top reading suggestions, in addition to the trade mags and sites.
One last hint, while you may have caught a typo in our not so carefully written response to your lame attempt to work here, criticizing us for mentioning people like Alex Bogusky or Dan Weiden on our site might have a little more effect if it wasn’t for the fact that we actually know these people.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky is proving why they are at the top of almost every agency search consultants list. Burger King continues to have same store growth after years of failed campaigns, and changing agencies. VW was almost ready to give up on the US market, again, but have at least started to rebound sales. But what started out as an embarrassingly bad intro for Microsoft with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, and then into an “I’m a PC” has now hit pay dirt by not even talking about Microsoft’s products, but by doing a comparison between PC hardware and Apple hardware.
“Laptop Hunters” is credited with changing perception of brand value, according to a BrandIndex study:
Based on daily interviews of 5,000 people, BrandIndex found the age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when it notched a value score of 70 on a scale of -100 to 100 (a score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand). But its score began to fall shortly after and, despite brief rallies, hovers around 12.4 today.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2.
Hefty gains in a short time, although Apple hasn’t sat idly by:
But, while this battle royal can wage for years, the real reason that Crispin Porter + Bogusky keeps winning for their clients is that they get the fundamentals right.
They know that advertising is supposed to surprise and delight, not inform and sell. They take great pains to make sure that you might actually want to talk about the ads they do around the water cooler at work the next day.
Today, they pulled one out of the hat for me. I own a copy of “Hoopla” which is their monograph. For the most part, it’s heinously designed making it almost impossible to read, but, inside the back cover- I discovered (via a tweet by Alex Bogusky) there is a secret second book:
I’ve also been watching the CP+B Ebay auction of their interns time:
ANNOUNCING THE CP+B INTERN AUCTION
In the past, our interns have created work for companies like Burger King, Volkswagen, Guitar Hero and Microsoft. And now they can do the same for you. Bidding starts at $1 for three months of service with all proceeds going to the hardest working people we know - the CP+B interns themselves. So bid early and often, and world-class advertising can be yours for a fraction of the going rate.
It’s innovative, it’s interesting and it’s not strictly advertising. It’s a conscious effort to manipulate and shape contemporary culture, cajoling and dancing outside the boundaries of conventional advertising wisdom. Everything can be an ad if you make it interesting enough.
And that’s why they are winning awards, accounts and owning the crown of the Hoopla kings.
It’s a long listen, and without the slides- if you aren’t a bit familiar with the B Cycle project, the later part will get a little slow.
And while the B Cycle is sexy and intriguing- the beginning of the podcast has some insight that hint at what makes Crispin Porter + Bogusky the hot agency: hint, it’s not about being an agency.
Alex claims to hate advertising and that he reads AdBusters- and not Ad Age. They don’t hire people for jobs, they hire smart people and let them figure out what to do- he calls CP+B a “Holding company for smart people.”
They don’t worry about deliverables- but more about “Business momentum”- and if you understand that business runs on cash flow- the idea of momentum makes perfect sense. Now that the agency numbers 900 people and has 1.5B in billings, things are a lot different from when he worked at what he considered the “third best agency in Miami” and was employee number 16.
For one thing, they no longer feel limited to doing “advertising” and claims that anything good that he’s been a part of, comes from sticking his nose where they don’t belong. This includes doing things like telling Mini that putting mileage restrictions on the sub-compact, while encouraging people to “Let’s Motor” didn’t make sense. This is marketing thinking, practiced at the highest level.
Just as accountants originally were part of assessing and evaluating business processes for profitability- instead of just how to account for taxes(and how to avoid them)- advertising is just one subset of the marketing process- not the end all and be all.
If your agency isn’t giving you insight on the complete customer connection experience, you don’t really have an agency- just an ad vendor.
In it’s early ads, Apple claimed the personal computer was the “bicycle for your mind”- and now, we have great minds rethinking bicycles. Spend some time with both the podcast- and thinking about the B Cycle concept- and how an ad agency can be a thought leader on solving the worlds problems, instead of being blamed for creating so many of them.
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