Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quote of The Week, Fenske – 12/30/07

Tomorrow, as you may or may not know (but most likely you know) is New Year’s Eve. The year is about to be gone forever, just like every single one before it.

The next one is within seeing distance. And soon that one will be gone too. And soon after that, when you’ve seen a few dozen more of them and some higher being has figured that you’ve had your fill, there will be no more.

But I digress.

While I hate quoting Fenske so much (the guy is just so damn insightful), I couldn’t resist putting this one up to honor the end of 2007.

He wrote this exactly one year ago tomorrow:

“People who go dark inside at the thought of New Year's Eve, those are my people. Friends of mine have left New Year's parties at 10 minutes to midnight to walk out by themselves on the beach in LA to face the stars and the waves at the big moment. Looking back, those have been my best friends, not the ones who stayed on the dance floor. I've been that person standing on the beach at midnight, feet in the ocean, eyes pinned on the stars & moon several times, looking for what I can't tell you. Once it was my own party I left . . .We aren't putting stuff like this into ads. I think that's a mistake. I think people who make ads are getting drawn more and more away from telling the truth as we know it. People are walking around dying inside for someone to come along and say ‘Man, I hate New Year's Eve, don't you?’ But we're not speaking to that part of them as much as we used to. Maybe we're not speaking to them at all as much as we once did. And, truly, there are also people walking around dying to hear the exact opposite as well- something funny/light/warm/dizzy/smart/crackling that you can think of, you who are different and better and younger or older or wiser or faster or less abstract than me . . . The point is: use what's real to you. There isn't a company on earth that doesn't need more connection to the human beings who buy its product, would buy its product, or would at least be willing to stop lampooning people who they see buying the product.”

-Mark Fenske

Tomorrow night, when you’re undoubtedly at some sort of party, surrounded by loads of people, everyone obscenely drunk and searching for someone vaguely attractive enough to hold onto and kiss when the ball drops, try and take his words along with you.

Go off to be on your own, thinking your own thoughts, not what everyone else wants you to think, not what you think you should think. If you hate New Year’s, as Mark and I do, and find it to be nothing more than glitzy, overblown hype about a single, ridiculous moment in recorded time that comes around once ever 365 days, then think that.

Or think something else that I couldn’t think to write here. Most likely (and hopefully) it will be that.

And if you’re one of the poor schmucks that happens to love and embrace this holiday, even with all of it's hoopla and overpriced open bars,

Happy New Year.

dubs. out.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Try These On For Size...

In the last section of the Adcenter application we were instructed to list three companies/products we would target as heads of new business of an agency, and give a brief rationale for each.

One of the unspoken jobs of ambitious aspiring creatives, I believe, is to seek out and discover new companies and products to do campaigns for. Some of the best spec work that students have done was never assigned, so I’ve been told.

In thinking about this lately, and having kept an eye out the last few months, I’ve compiled a short list of some products that not only interest me, but would be incredibly stimulating to work on. Each has its own specific benefits and unique qualities and are anything but parity.

If anyone out there is inspired/compelled to try your hand at these, go for it.

And let me know what you come up with.

In no particular order:

1. The Napkin Notebook

According to their website:

-The business plan for Southwest Airlines
-Picasso’s earliest sketch of Guernica
-The first sentence of A Farewell to Arms

All done on cocktail napkins. Along with probably tens of thousands more ideas, quips, sketches, jokes, and grand world-changing schemes throughout history. Not a terrible idea to bind these alternative, innovation-wielding palettes conveniently together and market them to people whose job it is to come up with ideas.

According to him, some of Ed McCabe's best headlines were written on this medium in wild abandon at insane hours of the night.

The company has a wonderfully simple site where you can actually draw your own sketches as well as see some of the ideas of other visitors.

For $6.50 you get 20 spiral bound cocktail napkins with one ball point pen. Yes, they even throw in a pen.

2. Flip Cam Video

(See post below)

3. Emergen-C

I use this stuff pretty much every time I get the slightest hint of a sniffle, throatache or cough. With about 10 times the vitamin-C the average person needs in a day, it instantly fizzes in 6 oz. of water, doesn’t taste half bad, and knocks out any sickness that you might be starting to get.

I keep a 36-pack (around $10) on my desk.

Not even in my desk.

On it.

That’s how much I use it.

4. The Jack Lalanne Power Juicer

I’ve been juicing since about 8th grade, (not so much lately), but long enough to still know what the hell I’m talking about. In fact, the first ads I ever did were for this product. My internship Creative Director two summers ago almost slapped me for even showing them to him during our interview.

Needless to say, out of the goodness of his heart, he let me work for him anyway.

I can’t even begin to tell you how good this product would be for every family to have in their homes in terms of fitness, weight control, promoting healthy eating habits in children, increased energy, and overall healthy living.

Maybe one day you’ll see it all in a campaign that doesn’t suck.

Hopefully one that’s not confined to latenight informercials targeting the elderly and nitwits who buy anything. I am, in fact, one of those nitwits who was duped into dropping a cool hundo on one.

5. Purell Hand Sanitizer

For anyone who's ever ridden a NYC Subway, by now you should know that this stuff kills 99.99% of most common germs, and can be used anytime, anyplace, without water or paper towels.

But how many people do you know actually utilize such a blessing?

My thoughts exactly.

6. I-Doser

While complaining that I often have a hard time falling asleep, my brother told me about this particular product as we drove back from a family vacation in New Hampshire this afternoon. It is one of the most intriguing things I've ever heard of.

According to their website:

"The I-Doser application scientifically syncs your brainwaves to achieve a specific mood or experience, as outlined by the dose you are taking. It does this through the use of a binaural beat dose that changes your brainwave patterns to make you feel a certain way. Binaural brainwave doses for every imaginable mood."

In other words, you download a bunch of tracks, sit or lie down, close your eyes, put on headphones, and let your mind wander to exactly where you want it to wander.

To give you a better idea of what they're all about, here are some of their track names:

-hangover cure
-hand of god (their premium track, supposedly costs upwards of $200 to download)

Call it self-imposed hypnosis and/or a legal alternative to illicit drug use, if this stuff actually works and takes off into the mainstream, you're looking at a large chunk of what the future could and probably will be.

The most technical, boring, uninspired, ad campaign could sell this thing like crazy.

Imagine what an insightful one could do.

7. Sony Reader

On our trip to the National Gallery, my friends and I were treated to something truly special in the D.C. Metro: Absolutely shit advertising for an absolutely terrific product.

I’m talking literally, “Carry a stack of books in one hand” terrible.

Not that you’d ever need 160 books on you all at once (unless you're an astronaut on a 10-year space station mission). Plus most people like to physically build a nice library collection (which I believe will never go out of style, even with the advent of e-book technology like this).

But it is still a fascinating product that could be pretty useful for commutes, vacations, or wherever else people like to take along portable reading material.

At the very least, it deserves 3 decent D.C. Metro posters.

dubs. out.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Prediction:

Everyone will have one of these within the next few years.

It's a credit card-sized video camera with 30 minutes of film time and runs on 2 AA batteries. The best part: it can easily plug into a computer's USB port with a quick flip that is so simple it's silly.

YouTube should prepare to get an influx of new content like this, this, this, this, and of course, this.

First introduced to me by Mike Lear when he gave us a tour of the Martin Agency, Mike told us that everyone in the creative department was given one as an impromptu gift. I guess agencies that have Walmart as a client can afford to do stuff like that.

One of my roommates immediately went out and, $119.99 later, came home with one. He loves it and takes it everywhere he goes. While I would love nothing more than to easily make absurdly random, hilarious, and maybe even insightful videos, I lack his early adopter persona. However, I do plan to buy one eventually.

After all, like everything else, it will soon be made smaller. Cooler. Better.


Most likely the one he got for $120 will soon come with a phone, still camera, internet, email, GPS, music, photos, widgets, voice recorder, fax machine, flashlight, tire gauge, wood-chopper, BAC detector, microwave, and water purifier for $79.99 by this summer.

If for some reason you can't wait until then, check them out here.

For lack of a more succinct yet impactful word, they're straight badass.

dubs. out.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quote of The Week, Hogshead - 12/23/07

"Business isn’t a coin with 'risk' on one side and 'security' on the other; it’s a two-headed coin and that head is risk. Not taking a risk is risky. And if you take a risk, well, that’s risky too. The landscape is changing so quickly that we must literally invent as we go. There are no off-the-rack solutions anymore. Today, the opposite of risk isn’t security. The opposite of risk is getting run over by a truck filled with a shipment of status quo while you dawdle in the middle of the road."

-Sally Hogshead

While working at Wieden & Kennedy in her second year after graduating from Portfolio Center in Atlanta, Sally Hogshead won more awards than any other copywriter in the country. In her third year she judged the top national shows. In her fourth year she opened her own boutique agency, Robaire & Hogshead. She then went on to found the West Coast office of Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

All before age 30.

Basically, the most badass junior career of all time (besides David Droga). There are worse people to seek advice from.

I highly recommend her blog, particularly her essay, 83 things I wish someone had told me while I was learning how to be creative.

Some of my favorites of hers:

dubs. out.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bono Recites Bukowski

Depending on how you feel about Bono and/or the poetry of Charles Bukowski, this might come off as corny and overblown.

But if you really listen to the words, I can assure you it’s neither.

And to see something that will completely change your opinion about Bono as less of another celebrity with a cause, and more of an actual leader of human beings, watch this.

dubs. out.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote of The Week, Emerson – 12/16/07

This week’s addition is from a man whom I’m fairly certain not only never worked in advertising, as someone who was notoriously against the general state of culture and society, he probably despised it.

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I choose it because it struck a chord with me as something that I’ve noticed lately. All the great books we read, movies we see, artworks, anything at all, are all things that we could have created ourselves. Everything that we see and like are things that we wish we had done ourselves, but didn't.

And after looking through the newest CA Ad Annual, I feel that this is especially true with advertising. How many times have you seen something in an ad and said to yourself, "That is so right on... I've always thought that."

Only difference is, you didn't do anything about it.

They did.

dubs. out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Books

Advertising is one of the few jobs that actually awards and showcases its people for good work. The only other ones I can think of are the film and literary industry, so it's in pretty small, elite company.

Imagine a CPA awards show for best tax return?

While there are dozens upon dozens of local, national and international awards, one of the most notable comes with it no golden statue or certificate. It is simply to get your work featured in the Communications Arts Advertising Annual, which, to my delight, arrived in the mail today.

After practically tearing the thing in two to get it out of it’s cardboard fortress-of-a-package, I excitedly pieced through it, but tried to keep in mind some caveat-like words on the subject from those much wiser than I’ll ever be:

"Awards books can help. They’re a physical rendering of what is considered pretty good work. They’re fun to look at. They’re a reminder of what’s possible. Awards books can give you a jump start. But don’t spend all day reading them. The idea isn’t really in there. It’s inside you."

-David Fowler, Ogilvy & Mather

"Don’t become an ad groupie. Don’t become this thing where you’re following the award books . . . If that’s all you seek, you can get that, but it won’t be as much of an accomplishment if all you create is all you’ve seen in the books."

-Mark Fenske

"Make no mistake. Good ads sell product. Good ads also win awards. But remember they win because they’re good. They’re not good merely because they win."

-Jeffrey Epstein, Director, Chicago Portfolio School

"Advice to young creatives: Study the One Show annual. Study D&AD. Go back about ten years for each. Memorize every ad in there and then forget them. Do not try to replicate what has been done. However daunting it may seem, the only way to succeed as a creative in advertising is to carve out your own niche. After you've studied advertising annuals, pay equal attention to films, books, and anything that creates that elusive spark."

-Eric Silver, ECD, BBDO NY

"Award shows are so irrelevant. You can do a campaign or execution, or come up with an idea or song or a video or whatever it is to a specific group of people and for specific clients to meet a specific business objective and have it be wildly successful. The consumers that you're talking to love it, embrace it, sales are responsive and they go through the roof. So it’s a huge success, undeniably, everyone is happy, everyone is thrilled and yet you take that thing, put it on a reel and play it in a dark room by some beach or whatever, and it won’t have the same meaning because the difference is the only thing that works in a situation like that is where you're not assuming anything of your audience, you’re not taking advantage of any knowledge or situation of who they are."

-Kevin Proudfoot, Wieden + Kennedy NY

"Relying on annuals actually makes it harder to write ads. You may well end up with nothing more than an acute awareness of all the great ideas that can’t be used because they’ve already been done."

-Suzanne Pope, john st. Toronto

"If awards are why you want to get into this business, then don’t get into this business."

-Luke Sullivan

"I think advertising agencies are run on motivation. Awards are a great way to motivate people and to stay updated on what your peers are doing. The problem is when people do work to get awards. Awards are healthy as long as they’re a consequence of good work and never the goal of it."

-Jose Molla, la comunidad

And my personal favorite,

"Good creatives might often be products of the books. Great creatives write the books."

-Tom Monahan

Talk about lighting a fire under an ad student's ass, Tom.

Hanging up in the Martin Agency is an old self-promotional print ad with a headline that is something to the tune of:

"Oh, Honey. Let's buy thist product. The agency that does their advertising just won 10 One Show pencils."

Coincidentally (and ironically), it got into the One Show that year. And what is so genius about it is a perfect segway into a few of my own thoughts on the subject of awards.

Growing up, I was always the kind of person who wanted the "full package" when I saw ads, and I am the exact same way now. What I mean by that is I loved the wildly creative ads, the ones with the crazy, far-out thinking. The ones with the smart, groundbreaking, award-winning ideas that changed and molded the way I thought about the world. But I only liked them if I thought they actually made me want to buy the product, or at the very least, think about the brand top-of-mind. In other words, I couldn't stand the ads that were wild and crazy and different, just for the sake of being wild and crazy and different.

Above all, they had to persuade.

I suppose we're all like that to an extent. As ad folk we all want to see ads that are funny, interesting and wild, but at the same time have the business sense to actually motivate someone to action. With some of the ads you see nowadays (and as a creative this might unintentionally count as heresy in Mark Fenske's eyes), it seems like it's too much of the former, and not enough of the latter.

I feel like sometimes creatives sit down and do work not to solve a business problem or to make a brand famous.

They sit down to make themselves famous.

Now don't get me wrong. I am all for creatives injecting their own philosophies and worldviews into society via Pizza Hut commercials. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to win awards and become wealthy and known within the ad world. Hell, that's most definitely what I'm going to try to do (and in many cases am trying to do now).

I think that working for yourself above your creative director, above your agency, above your clients, is a smart, pure move. But in the end, going back to the Martin Agency's self-deprecating humor on the subject, there's still this to think about:

Consumers don't give a shit if your ad campaign wins an award or not.

Clients that win awards don't pay the bills. Clients that win market share do.

I pray Fenske never reads this.

dubs. out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

1 Down. 3 To Go.

They say that if you can survive the first semester of the Adcenter then you can survive the Adcenter. If that is true, then mission accomplished.

For now.

I am about 13 lbs lighter than when I arrived in Richmond in August (and I'm subsequently planning on marketing a new book, The Fear Diet). But I am also about 20 lbs heavier in brain matter, knowledge and confidence. Not to mention what I feel right now is great potential, which they say is the heaviest burden of them all.

Some reflections, class-by-class, from Week Fifteen:

Don Just’s Business of Advertising- I’ve gotta hand it to DJ-BOA. The dude can teach. And inspire. And make me want to rip his un-sideburned face off. But by-God, can he teach. Between writing ridiculous one-page responses to unethical case studies and throwing together presentations for exciting brands like Reynolds Wrap, I actually came out of that class with more than I came into it. I’m glad I was forced to take it. And I'm glad I was there to hear him tell us something that I won't ever forget: "Never hire people who are satisfied with their own work." I can't think of a better mantra to live by for one's own work.

Mark Fenske’s Creative Thinking- Ohhh Mark. I think most of the class consisted of us just being in awe of a man who has been claimed by almost every advertising book, blog, magazine and podcast of recent years to be among the modern-day legends. Not exactly sure when all of those hours of dissecting poetry will come to fruition, but I don’t doubt that any of it will. While Fenske's ad-writing process is a polar opposite from Coz, I found that it was extraordinarily valuable to learn from one who looks at the world so completely differently, deeper, and more clearly than anyone I’ve ever met.

Scott Witthaus and Wayne Gibson’s Visual Storytelling- Clearly a class for art directors, just to get everyone comfortable with using Final Cut and the video cams. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that it was based very little on concept and ideas, but rather on execution. I am also terrified over the fact that commercial-making is so damned hard. But I think learning how hard it all is (when it looks so easy on the network TV screen) was a good lesson to learn early on.

Coz Cotzias’s Conceptual Thinking in Copy- Coz is a beast. A tempermental, often mean, unadulterated beast. But he’s a genius beast. And he knows his shit. I pushed my brain harder than I ever thought it could go. And I’m happy I did. Because I got to see something firsthand that I had always heard but never really knew:

We are all capable of much more than we think.

Excited for break. 4 weeks of nothingness except reading, settling my mind, sorting through what I learned. And lots and lots of Doritos.

Excited for a new semester. Excited for the new building. Excited for unstained carpets. Excited for not having to swipe in every time I come back from the bathroom/water fountain.

Excited for the real start of this school.

dubs. out.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Mad World Indeed

Allow me to ruminate about something that has bothered me lately. Perhaps it has bothered you as well.

Turn on your TV and watch a network show for an hour or two. In that span, depending on which channel you’re watching and the time of day, you are almost guaranteed to end up seeing the Jared Jewelry store commercial.

You know the one I’m talking about.

Yeah. That one.

Unfortunately for this discussion, not even YouTube has the gall to include it on their lineup. Yet.

“He went to Jared” has become a bit of a joke around the Adcenter. In any event, however, it’s not very funny. What you are seeing when that spot runs (and believe me—it’s always running) is an egregiously terrible, stinking mess of advertising bullshit. Bullshit that someone actually wrote, storyboarded, directed, shot, edited, and most horrifically—approved. The client actually sat down in a dark room, was presented that steaming pile of corn-filled crap, smiled, and, with favorable ROI projections frolicking in his or her brain, excitedly said, “Yes. Yes, this is it. This is our new ad."

But this is not what bothers me most. What bothers me most is a much larger issue, and it is something that should bother all of us: Why is it that the ads we see constantly are the thoughtless annoying ones that are often no better than those for Jared? Why is it that almost all the great ads that you simply can’t get enough of—the ones that are smart, or funny, or cool, or interesting, or mind-altering, or humanity-pushing, or all of the above—are the ones that we hardly ever see? Where are all the award-winners? Where are all these? Why is it that all the companies with the giant media budgets are the ones that do such close-to-the-vest, uninteresting, uninspired, safe, ridiculously awful advertising that bombards us from all angles and sinks the industry (and thus society in general) to deeper and deeper depths every second?

How much money does this company have in order to be shilling their crappy jewelry multiple times on multiple channels every hour? More importantly, is this ad actually selling product?

As ad students we are constantly told that, without exception, our audience is to be treated as if he or she has a brain and deserves intelligent, concept-driven communication from us. But I simply cannot shake the fact that this Jared ad is somehow working. That somehow people see it, think to themselves, 'Hey, this place seems pretty cool,' go buy a diamond, and Jared is a success. After all, the company has to be gaining revenue from somewhere in order to keep these ads on the air with such volume. Or, maybe the ad is just annoying and noticeable enough to work their way into people's minds to the point where, even if they hate it, they might go shopping there simply because they remember it.

If there is any truth to that, then that scares me more than you'll ever know.

Maybe I am just bitter because of the simple fact that for some reason, I’ve always hated the name Jared. To me it sounds simple, stupid, and immature. Especially as the name for a jewelry retailer. Maybe I had a bad experience long ago in grade school, the memory of which I subconsciously tucked away, returning only whenever those Jared commercials rear their ugly heads.

But maybe not.

Maybe it’s because the commercial is just that bad.

And as such, I will never go to Jared.

dubs. out.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Quote of the Week, Sullivan - 12/9/07

This past weekend, two other writers and myself took part in one of Fenske's extra credit assignments, one of which was to visit the National Gallery in DC and take pictures to prove it.

The other option was to read all 750 pages of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.

I do plan on reading it this summer, but for now, no thanks.

One of the factors that influenced my decision to go was the quote below (and various others like it). I wanted to get out of the routine. I wanted to get out of Richmond.


Turns out that it was a pretty amazing place, even though our arrival time was 4pm.

It closed at 5.

Some favorites from our mad dash:

"Stay in touch. One way to do that is to watch TV all the time. Read books and magazines. See all the movies. Go to the weird new exhibits at the museums. Know what’s out there, good and bad. It’s called keeping your finger on the pulse of the culture, all of which has direct bearing on your craft."

-Luke Sullivan, Sr. VP, Group Creative Director, GSD&M

Anyone who hasn’t read Sullivan's Hey Whipple Squeeze This, go here and buy it.

Right now.

dubs. out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quote of the Week, Merkin – 12/2/07

"I used to say determination was the key. Not giving up, being relentless about developing the best book you can. Not settling, etc, etc. I think that's still true, but I realize that most junior people already have that. Determination is the price of entry. Even if you do get a job, your lack of determination will always catch up with you. So yeah, let's assume you've already got the will. Let's assume your ideas feel smart and that they're executed in a fresh way. Let's assume you're not an asshole and that you understand the value of being a team player. Now what? Well, here's the part too many creatives tend to forget. The minute you join an agency your student work begins to become irrelevant. The minute you create your first real campaign, that starts becoming irrelevant too. The minute you win your first award. The minute you get your first promotion. The minute you become a creative director or decide to start your own agency. Irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant. You got into this business to be creative and make things that are genuinely new. Never, ever lose that creative spirit that inspired you to get into the business. Never stop loving the process of making ideas. Keep saying to yourself, it's not what I've done, it's what I'll go on to do. Your best work should always be ahead of you."

-Ari Merkin, Founder & CCO, Toy NY

I saw Ari Merkin at's Portfolio Night in New York this past summer. He had just opened Toy, and it was well-known that he was among the nicest and most talented greats in the business. Hands down the most impressive guy in the room. People were literally cornering him and flinging their books in his face from all directions. Not surprisingly, when he got up to go to the bathroom, he took the necklace with his name tag on it and flipped it around so no one would bother him.

Good call.

dubs. out.