Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Does creativity know anything about geography?

I’d like to think not. But, sad to say, some people think geography has something to do with creativity. Specifically on the Ernie Schenck blog recently, there was a post about the fact that Rudy Giuliani didn’t hire a “New York” agency for his campaign. The sad thing was that some of the posted comments referred to D.C. advertising with words like “buffoons”, “hamfisted” and “schlockmeisters”.

That was hard for me to read. Now, I hate the junk political consultants call “advertising”, and to be completely honest, I’m embarrassed they’re here. At the same time, I think that anybody who buys into the “any creative that didn’t come from New York is crap” mindset is a genuine, grade-A idiot. But what bothers me most about the Giuliani/Schenck post and comments is that the whole freaking city of Washington got painted with the “schlockmeister” brush.

For every one of those political hack agencies, there’s an Arnold. And Rosenthal Partners. A Design Army, August Lang, and a Redhead. With Lisa Biskin, Woody Kay, Joel Mooy, Dan Rosenthal, Ed Stern, Francis Sullivan, and so on. It’s a shame that sort of a little bit maybe sometimes to the outside world, Washington advertising is colored by the junk the hacks do.

It’s a problem. And I don’t know if something like Advertising Week is the answer or not. But I do know that there is some damn good work being done here. And, truth be told, there’s a lot of crap that comes out of New York.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beautiful. Powerful. Does it work?

Does this British spot push your buttons on gun control? Or not? Is it effective or just creative? Art or advertising? Comments please? Found on today.

I just love the art direction on these.

Of course, the concept and headlines are pretty terrific too.

This is a campaign I found on for a publication in Toronto. Note how the agency, Smith Roberts Creative Communications, resisted the temptation (or suggestion) to put a "to subscribe" phone number, e-mail or web address and such on there. Beautiful work. This goes in the "I wish I'd done it" file.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the comfort of your home or office, you too can . . .

Here’s something that’s been kind of gnawing at me lately.

On the one hand, I honestly believe that advertising is best when it’s a collaboration between the agency and client. On the other, I sometimes wish clients would trust us to do what they pay us to do.

For example – should a client get a group together with your ideas and comps and re-write or edit headlines and copy and send them back? Should they get into the “I don’t like the red” or “I’d like the background to be deep purple” arena of logo or web design? I mean really, at what point do we, should we, or can we as “professionals” try to insist on going this part of it alone?

This is not to say that everything any of us ever writes or designs is perfect as is. Far from it. What I do mean to suggest is that I think it works better if a client can give us the direction we need so we can apply our particular talents to satisfy the marketing challenge. (“Why not red?” Good answer: “It’s hard to read.” “Why deep purple?” Bad answer: “We saw it on another site and we like it.”)

When a concept or bit of creative isn’t cutting it with a client, I like to ask them to help me understand what it is doing that it shouldn’t do or what it isn’t doing that it should do. With that sort of information and insight, we can address their concerns.

I don’t mean to sound to arrogant here, but the fact of the matter is, anybody who does any particular thing full-time for a living can usually do it better than someone who doesn’t. That goes for legal work, plumbing, truck driving, competitive ice-skating, garbage collection or accounting. And it goes for art direction and copywriting as well.

Don’t get me wrong. Clients have very good ideas. A headline suggested by a client of ours won an award at The Addys last year. Another client had a fabulous packaging idea for a direct mail piece we’re doing. But people who don’t write or design for a living tend to write and design things that look to them like what an “ad” ought to be. That’s because they’ve seen it already somewhere. And re-creating something they and everybody else has seen already isn’t a very good way to grab anybody’s attention.

There are plenty of agencies out there who make a nice living simply carrying out client directions. Often those agency-client relationships last forever, because it works for everybody. But just as often, the client looks up one day and wonders why they pay an agency that has to be directed every step of the way. Sometimes, it’s because that’s what the agency has been conditioned to do in order to keep peace in the valley. Not everybody is inclined to disagree with a client who mandates an idea. And who signs the checks.

So if you’ve got an idea for your agency, by all means share it. Do not hesitate. If they are any good at all, they want to hear it. And if it's a better idea, they will use it. But recognize that there is a reason you hired them to do the creative, and don’t force your ideas on them. If their ego is so out of control that they are unwilling to recognize a good idea unless it’s theirs, fire them. You should give your agency the direction they need to get the work to where it needs to be. You should expect them to come through. You should demand creativity. You should not insist on joining the creative team.

That is, unless you’re inclined to invite the art director and copywriter in to help you with your sales forecast, inventory management or site permits.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We're just too wonderful for words.

So it’s 15 years ago, and we're pitching Ballston Common mall with an idea intended to show that it was really a great shopping center full of good stores.

Print up some BIG shopping bags with “I got all this stuff at Ballston Common” on both sides, we said. Load them up with packages and have people ride the subway and/or walk around Tyson’s Corner carrying them.

We'd rather have a direct mail flyer for a sale promotion, they said. Got anything like that?

Don’t think anybody was using the term “guerilla marketing” then. Not to brag or anything.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

For those of you taking notes at home . . .

If you're doing a web site, get the sucker finished as fast as you can.

This is because if you take too long, it's a near certainty that your client, while surfing the web, is going to find something they like and call you up to suggest that you re-do or modify the site to be like that.

There is just too much new cool stuff out there every day. Thankfully, this never happens in the middle of production of a radio spot.

Monday, August 13, 2007

There's a new kid on the block.

And, as you can see, it's not Donnie Wahlberg.

It's Jessica Tree, the newest Nasuti + Hinkler, direct to us from San Diego. Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Jessica graduated from the University of Minnesota and Brainco Advertising School in Minneapolis before heading West.

And now she's here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

I'm a professional. Don't try this at home.

So I’m cruising through to see what’s new and cool out there. And I came across a GLAD storage bag commercial. Couple in an RV runs off the road, flips over and over and over down a ravine and the woman stumbles out of the wreck with the GLAD bag containing her kitchen garbage totally intact.

An OK spot, but this was what struck me: the “Closed course with professional driver. Do not attempt.” disclaimer at the beginning. In other words, do not attempt to run your RV off the road and roll it over and over and over to the bottom of a ravine.

They felt the need to say that?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

You mean it's not about the hammer at all?

Ad agencies and (and creative thinking firms) do not make money on production.

There. I’ve said it. And I’m not taking it back.

There is no valid business model that can work well for – or be fair to – both client and agency that is dependent on the agency making its money on production. And I’ll fight you about it if you want.

Just like the notion of the 15% media commission as agency compensation, the idea of fees and markups related to production as sources of income for an agency needs to disappear.

Clients need to pay their agencies for what it is they really do – or should – receive that is of value. Ideas. Thinking.

That’s what we sell. (Ahem) Creative Thinking. Ideas. Solutions. The pressure needs to be on us to deliver solid thinking and good ideas. Our compensation should never be based on how long it takes us to do something any more than it should be based on how much we spend on a photographer or printing. Exactly how frequently is it acceptable for the client’s and the agency’s best interests to collide?

There’s an old joke that has been told in many variations that goes something like this:

A customer takes a car to a mechanic, complaining that the engine makes a loud clanking noise when idling. The mechanic opens the hood, starts the car, and listens for a moment. Then he grabs a hammer and hits the engine sharply. The noise stops.

"That'll be $100." he says.

"What? " complains the customer. "You just hit it with a hammer. Anybody can do that."

"True, “ says the mechanic, "That's why I'm only charging you $5 for labor."

"Then what's the other $95 for?" demands the customer.

"That's for knowing where to hit it."

And that, boys and girls, is the business we’re supposed to be in. Knowing where to hit it.