• How To Outrun The Inevitable - Robert Campbell

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    There are a lot of agencies out there.

    In China alone, there’s said to be tens of thousands.

    TENS OF THOUSANDS!!!

    However amongst all those – not in China, but generally – there’s a few that have a ‘global’ name.

    Traditionally, they fall into 2 camps:

    Those who are living off their legacy and those creating it.

    Yes, that’s harsh – and there’s a whole host of reasons for it – but that’s pretty much how it feels.

    Of course, these two states are in a constant state of motion … one good campaign can lift an agency from the past to the present and vice versa … however the agencies that tend to have the greatest momentum are the ones that seemingly are continuously creating their legacy rather than riding on their past.

    Now in no way am I suggesting an agency purposefully ‘takes a back seat’ – there are many reasons why that can happen – however the point of this post is that as much as there are many agencies out there who are grabbing a bunch of the headlines right now, there’s 2 that are seemingly always at the forefront of commercial creativity.

    BBH and W+K

    Now without doubt there are some fundamental differences between the 2 companies – some good, some not so good – however the thing I find fascinating are their commonalities, of which a number of them, I believe, have directly enabled them to succeed while others have fallen.

    I should point out that what I’m about to write is my perception.

    The fact is I’ve never worked at BBH and while I know many of the guys there very well – I am still basing my views on observation and here-say.

    And as for W+K. Well while I have had the pleasure of meeting Dan and his senior management team, we’ve not really talked about this sort of thing … most of the time I’m getting bollocked for something.

    But that aside, here are 5 things that have made these agencies so creatively influential for so long.

    1. Consistent Management.

    The guys who run both these agencies have been at these agencies a long time.

    Better yet, they are the people who founded these agencies – so they have a vested interest in maintaining the culture of the place rather than just go after the profit, regardless of the implication.

    That said, they are constantly introducing new people into positions of influence and power.

    Younger people. Talented people.

    People who bring new perspectives and thinking to the table so while the principals of the company will stay the same, the expression of it is at the forefront of the times.

    2. Control, Not Controlled.

    In short, when you own your company rather than a holding company with masses of shareholders, you can control how your company grows and where your company goes.

    Basically, control means you can focus on the longer-term, bigger play rather than purely focusing on hitting the next quarterly target.

    It’s probably the best ad for communism you could have, ha.

    3. A Willingness To Fail.

    Both agencies try stuff.

    Better yet, the want to try stuff.

    There is a reluctance to rest on their laurels.

    This isn’t just because they believe to stick with what you know is the surest way to future failure, but because they are adventurous by nature and they believe great things happen from experimentation, even if on first impressions, the result is not quite what they hoped.

    They also put their money where their mouth is.

    They don’t expect clients to fund their adventures into the unknown, they’ll pay for it … be it in the activities they do or the people they hire.

    For both, failure is NOT trying stuff.

    4. Culture, Not Function

    When I first joined W+K, people talked about it’s unique culture.

    To be honest, I’ve heard this sort of thing before and almost always it’s turned into a crock of shit … because the culture that was there was because of the people in the place rather than the company.

    But in W+K and BBH’s case, I believe it’s true.

    Sure, the people that work there enhance and develop that culture, but there’s a strong philosophical view that permeates every element of both companies.

    It’s not about the press releases or the credentials deck … it’s about their standards … their expectations … their beliefs.

    They actively encourage trying new things … exploring new approaches … not going for the lowest-common-denominator or the category convention … standing up for what they believe in …

    In short, it’s about filling their company with interesting and creative people who share their beliefs [even if they express it in radically different ways], rather than simply those who can perform a specific job function at the lowest price.

    5. Involvement, Not Observation.

    Northern wrote a blog post recently where he said he was convinced the reason older, senior people lose their dynamism and originality is because no one challenges them and they don’t get in enough situations to be told something they don’t know.

    Very true.

    However one thing I really like about W+K is that while the senior guys are ridiculously talented and smart and experienced … they welcome opinion, debate and challenge. From everyone. Literally everyone.

    I remember the first time I met Dan and John and had an ‘out of body experience’ where I saw myself telling, arguably 2 of the most respected ad guys in history a bunch of stuff I think we should be doing.

    OK, so Dan said, “you’re fired” … but he listened and that’s more than many would do.

    The other thing is they are all deeply involved in what’s going on.

    Not in the sense of dictating outcomes or decisions, but being part of the chaos – contributing, listening, exploring.

    Sure that doesn’t happen on every single piece of business on every single campaign, but you’d be amazed how knowledgable about what’s going on. Seriously, you just need 2 minutes in the company of Dan or John or Dave etc and you know that they are absolutely bursting with dynamism and originality, even though by the protocol adopted by many agencies, they should be put out to pasture by now.

    Why are they like this?

    Because they still care. I honestly think it’s that simple.

    They still want to learn. They still want to do stuff. They still want to push boundaries.

    It’s fantastic and I honestly believe that one of the reasons this is the case is because they seek out people they regard as talented and interesting … people who can push them … their colleagues … their clients … and their agency to a different place.

    Not being scared of change or youth or provocation shows people who are very confident with who they are … which for all the ego and posturing that goes on in this industry, is very rare indeed.

    Of course you might think this is all bollocks … and maybe it is, however I can tell you from my time at W+K and my relationship with BBH that I see all this time and time again.

    Sure it’s not always perfect, sure there have been some bad mistakes – but that aside – the fact they have been at the forefront of mass market commercial creativity means they must be doing something right … something few other companies have been able to pull off over 30 odd years which is why I honestly believe these are things we could all benefit from following or learning – whether we work in a company or want to start our own.

    Making money is not hard.

    Being the creative industry darling for a moment in time, is not out of the reach for all.

    However making money while sticking to your principals and being an acknowledged leader in [effective] creativity for 3 decades is, and that’s why W+K and BBH stand out from the crowd.

    While both agencies shun propriety processes in favour of being judged by what they do [rather than what they say they do] … the reality is you can’t ignore how their principals, philosophies and approach have directly contributed and impacted to the work that so many of us [general public, not just adland] hold in the highest esteem.

    Saying “it’s all about the work”, might make a nice headline that people can gravitate to, but a great creative legacy starts way before the brief lands on the table.

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    By Robert Campbell, W+K's Asia Regional Head of Planning. Reposted with permission. Read the original blog post here (and don't miss the delicious comments.)

  • Unwarranted Conjecture: Where's the Hoopla?

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    It’s 10 PM. You’re at home on the couch, staring at a brief that’s as inspiring as a sack of dirt clods. You sigh and stare down the white bull that is your blank Word doc. Grasping for a shard of illumination, you pull out Crispin’s retrospective tome, ‘Hoopla’. It reads like a compendium of new millennium advertising. Each page sparkles like a semi-precious gem.

    A garter-clad chicken-man subserviently awaits your every whim (minus dick stuff). A dwarfish British motorcar challenges your preconceptions with iconoclastic urgency and hipster idealism. A mute king sidles up beside you with the gift of flame broil and vague threat.

    This is the stuff, you think. This is the kind of irreverent, post-post-modern advertising that transcends the usual Carl’s Jr.-y dreck. Why regurgitate pop culture when you can create it?

    Suddenly, you’re inspired. You’re in the zone. You’re conceiving new worlds: A Tourettic fan boat captain. A country-clutter cutter. A webisode called “Ginger Beard House.”

    Next level stuff.

    Just then the TV seizures and chirps with cheap synths and fluorescent flashing, snapping you out of your revelry. It’s a spot for Old Navy – a Crispin campaign you’re vaguely aware of, but now regard with laser pen precision. A Kim Kardashian clone vapidly sings about her “Super C-U-T-E” jeans while prancing from one choreographed scene to another, instantly darkening your mood.

    Is there a wink to it? Is it meant to be ironic? No. It’s simply the worst of pop culture distilled down to 30 seconds of bubbly saccharine sludge. Ever a glutton for punishment, you turn to Youtube to dredge up some more Old Navy bile. Bad move.

    This time a group of gal pals are at bowling alley singing “Only in My Jeans” to the tune of Debbie Gibson’s “Only In My Dreams.” Your eyes twitch.

    In the next one, another group of girls sing “I’m Wearing a New Blouse” to the tune of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Your serotonin ebbs.

    Next, Bootsy Collins churns out boots in a Funnovations factory, because – as the people of Crispin are fully aware – puns are the pinnacle of comedy.

    And, finally, with the onset of “Don’t Jiggle It When You Wiggle It,” you close your laptop in soul-crushing defeat.

    Contemptuous and a little dumber, you wonder what machinations are responsible for such an abomination? Surely, there must be an explanation. So you hit the bottle and devise a few theories.

    Theory 1: Metal Machine Music

    In 1975, Lou Reed released “Metal Machine Music,” arguably the most unlistenable album since the advent of the phonograph. Devoid of melody and rhythm, it’s comprised entirely of over-modulated guitar feedback – like an autistic Yngwie Malmsteen playing a chainsaw. The justification for the album remains a mystery, but you speculate that it was as a calculated backlash to the sycophantic reverence that was thrust upon the Velvet Underground during the 60s. Such rarified air can contaminate. Whether it’s delusions of grandeur or self-sabotaging hubris, Lou’s story was not unlike Crispin’s – that of a meteoric rise and tragic fall (an arc favored by films featuring blow and/or Marky Mark dong).

    Theory 2: The Mentos Method

    Mentos ads were an ugly anomaly. The weirdly foreign, hobo-cheap ads featured an absurd array of life-altering candy consumption that made us collectively shudder. But like depression-era circus pinheads, a freakish spectacle attracts a crowd. Consider Rick Astley’s ghastly resurgence, or those two girls and that cup, or Carrot Top’s physique (which, incidentally, can be attributed to his Napoleon Complex that was brought on by his roundly ridiculed androgynous-prop-comedy-ginger-clowning).

    But you digress.

    You have a hard time believing that Crispin has succumbed to the Chinese model of churning out cheap plastic crap, but the Schadenfreude side of you kind of hopes so.

    Theory 3: Bogusky’s Exodus

    With a creative vision not seen since Lee Clow (and bangs that could shame Kevin Sorbo), Alex Bogusky wasn’t just Crispin’s creative leader, he was the Adonis of Hawking Wares. The Swayze of karate-guy bouncers (and/or ghost pottery).

    And, lo, like Icarus (another ego-drunk demigod), Alex flew too close to the sun. In a desperate effort to rediscover his life’s purpose, he abandoned his agency and retreated to a cabin in the woods, like a handsome Thoreau or a tenor Bon Iver.

    Resigned to grumpy old men status, Sam Crispin and Chuck Porter fell victim to stereotype. Their fleeting attention spans were focused more on the Floridian shuffleboard/smorgasbord circuit than irreverent computer-y advertising. Sadly, their heir apparent, Andrew Keller, dropped the baton in favor of his crimper. And thus the soul of the Crispin machine was vanquished. Not even Ted McGinley could save this sinking ship.

    Whatever the reason for the agency’s creative demise (or hiccup), one thing is clear: If ‘Hoopla’ is the Gospel According to Crispin, then the latest chapter is the ‘Book of Mormon’ – a preposterous sequel in which Jesus Bootsy appears in America to pander to ignorant savages tweens.

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    Chris Elzinga is a freelance copywriter in San Francisco. He is also the founding father of Prudism and Gimpressionism.

  • Super Bowl 2012

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    All 62 ads here:
    http://www.youtube.com/adblitz

    Check out the Egotist Super Bowl Round Up here: http://www.thedubaiegotist.com/news/national/2012/february/6/egotist-net...

  • Getting the Most Out of Your Internship

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    Giving students a jump-start to their career, college programs provide many aspiring creatives an opportunity to get some real-life experience through an ad agency internship. This is when young creatives learn fast that working in the biz is nothing like the textbook or bubble test said. It's actually much more interesting and fun. But knowing what it takes to make the leap from unpaid (or poorly paid) volunteer to a junior level employee who earns a paycheck starts by knowing what to soak up during that two-three month adventure.

    Here are the seven things I think are most important for interns learn:

    1. If You Don't Ask, No One Will Help You. 
    Not the last thing a creative will do, but low on the list is checking on an intern. Many professional creatives are wrapped up in their own world of "make the logo bigger" crises. Don't be afraid to bug someone or ask them to get coffee, lunch or an after-work beer just to talk shop. They'll probably welcome the break. The result is that creative pro will label you as a driven individual. Should a higher-up ask about you, he/she will now have something positive to say. During your chat, put your ideas on the chopping block, ask "why" and milk his or her mind for all it's worth.

    2. Go To Meetings That Have Nothing To Do With You.
    Meetings ... boring, yes. Valuable for an intern, definitely. You'll pick up lingo and understand the DNA of the agency. You'll also discover why certain people are stressed and why so many agency workers drink moderate to heavily. There will be presentation documents, creative briefs, short brainstorms and client feedback. These are all things you'll never see in a classroom setting.

    3. Your A+ Thesis Paper Has Nothing To Do With Creative Copywriting.
    My first creative director told me: "Clients don't pay you to write or for me to design. They pay us for our minds." It's true. Think about it this way: everyone thinks they can write and/or design (until they actually have to). But thinking creatively on a highly strategic level is a skill few possess. It's what separates us from our clients and their brand team - we are their brand's thought leaders. It's not about writing a clever headline with a pretty photo, rather it's about writing a clever headline and designing an ad that meets six brand objectives while still clearly communicating to a human being. Forget writing essays and designing your cousin's band poster, the creative side of the biz is based on intelligently communicating with people in creative ways. Learn that or at least show a spark, and you'll be valuable.

    4. Jump In On A Pitch.
    Many ad students get to participate in the AAF competition through "Campaigns" class. They have four months to come up with a large creative presentation for a national client, where they'll compete against other college student teams. In the agency world, that same process happens in about 10-14 days (sometimes less) instead of 120 days. You're guaranteed to hear the word "RFP" (request for proposal) while interning. When you do, do what you can to get involved. Even if it's just gathering photos, proofing or binding. Pay attention to how the team brainstorms. Study how the copywriter writes up the ideas to be sold. How the art directors design comps to communicate the idea. Figure out why the creative director and account director wanted it in certain order. It may not be a flawless process and final product. But this is your chance to finally see how the sausage is made. "Just Do It" wasn't sold as just a clever line - the agency went through a pitch process, creating a strategic deck book that made the idea of that famous line shine.

    5. Keep Building Your Book, Even If It's Not "Real" Work.
    In some situations, it can be difficult as an intern to truly own a project. If you have that chance, save every PDF and file, and make it the showpiece of your book. Unfortunately for many, you'll dabble here and there, but may feel uncomfortable claiming a finished piece as your own. Don't let that stop you -- now that you understand a brand better than ever, go ahead and design your own campaign. Show what you can do with total creative control. Have a reason for everything you do and say in the campaign. In your upcoming interviews, creative directors are going to be looking to see that you can think and execute creatively and strategically. The ad doesn't have to be printed in Time Magazine. Good creative is good creative.

    6. Be Digital Or Be Left Behind.
    You know the vehicles: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Now get active and learn everything you can about them. Pay attention to what brands and marketers are doing with them. Connect with others in the industry through it. Know how to talk about social media in simple terms. Need practice? Try explaining Twitter to your grandparents or crazy uncle. While interning, ask if you can participate in speaking for the agency through their social media channels. Contribute to the agency blog. Be seen, be heard and know what you're talking about.

    7. Be A Writer Or Designer. Never Both.
    If you say you can do it all, no one will believe you. If you really can excel at both writing and designing, more power to you. But for most, it's crucial to pick one path and become as great as you can be at it. Creative directors and agency heads want to know that you're "our writer guy" or "our design gal." Don't get me wrong, having cross-over skills is great -- just don't sell yourself as such. At least until you reach the level of Creative Director.

    With the ultimate goal is landing that first job shortly after the internship, remember the process is all about luck, timing, skills, your book, drive, resiliency and intangibles... plus a bunch of other things.

    Good luck and let me know what you think. Like the Dude says, everything in this post is just, like my opinion, man.

    ---

    Eammon is a copywriter who's worked over eleven years in the ad agency business. He's won a few ADDYs, judged a few shows and worked on a variety of national clients. Find out all about him on his LinkedIn profile and feel free to follow him on Twitter.

    Linkedin link:
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/eammonazizi

    Twitter link:
    www.twitter.com/eammon

  • Trends of 2012: Solitude

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    The “always on” culture that has abruptly emerged as the new norm is here to stay for some time. A recent piece from The New York Times demonstratively stated, “Solitude is out of fashion,” elaborating with analysis of the trending open-space work environments and team-based strategies. This contemporary approach is counter to extensive research touting the benefits of privacy in creative thinking. This culture has been fiercely fueled by the (my) millennial generation and has gained significant acceptance by baby boomers. We have grown up in an age of digital collaboration; now we’re applying these same tendencies to the office place despite making ourselves susceptible to real-life distractions.

    We all know the natural, yet rude, tendency to prioritize instant information from our smartphones over the people actually in the room. This was never more evident to me than Christmas this year. I never thought I would see the day my parents were playing Words with Friends before me. I certainly didn’t expect they would become addicted to the game instantaneously. Prior to this, my mom was notorious for leaving her cell phone in the bottom of her purse - for days on end. To her, it was a device to make calls; not for her to be alert for incoming calls. It’s becoming ever-apparent those days are over and never to be seen again. She’s texting, emailing, playing games, reading books, and verifying bets with my father through Google.

    Despite the added convenience at our fingertips, it can become overwhelming – like a menu at The Cheesecake Factory. Thus, people are increasingly more than willing to pay a premium for solitude – the ability to escape the constant draining buzz. Trend Watching explains,

    This isn’t about consumers rejecting everything that brought them to the city, but about a temporary breather. Remember, no trend applies all of the time. People will forever crave the excitement and choice available in cities; yet still want to escape for a moment.

    In 2011 some brands were ahead of the curve in offering a moment of solace to their consumers. These early adopters compete in industries where such services are appreciated due to the high stress in their corresponding environments. Some examples:

    • In July 2011, Telia, a Swedish telecom provider, launched a free app that enabled customers to disable internet for set period of time at home. They also set up internet-free zones in several public locations across Sweden. (Trendwatching.com)

    • In September 2011, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, Sleepbox launched a small self-contained cabin designed to give users a quiet place to get some rest. (Trendwatching.com)

    • From July to September 2011, the Marriott Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel offered “Zen and the Art of Detox” – a weekend package that obliged visitors to surrender any digital devices when checking-in. Also, rooms were stocked with books instead of televisions. (Trendwatching.com)

    Brands that, by virtue of their product or service, must compete in a mentally fatiguing space, can embrace the opportunity by providing a counter experience like the examples above. However, most brands do not need to provide such overt forms of relief; they can bake it in to the actual product. Pandora Radio is an example of a highly appreciated, passive user interface. Listeners have one less thing to think about as the stream is designed to anticipate their tastes. Pinterest, with an extremely intuitive user experience and strong social integration, provides a similar release. The mindless nature of pinning offers a pleasurable distraction from daily stressors.

    Facebook, in the short term, offers a similar mental release. In fact, thirty-year psychology veteran, Susan Weinschenk, found that the brain releases dopamine upon receiving notifications of Facebook updates or status changes. In contrast, Facebook has become an eclectic badge of social currency - check-in’s, relationships, flattering pictures, and job title changes; thus truly adding up to social noise. As we become desensitized to social updates we look for other sources of immediate reward like Twitter, Reddit, and sites like Wimp and YouTube.

    At the agency I work for, we have a former Buddhist monk who spent six years on a silent sabbatical in Burma. You read that right…he didn’t speak for six years. He trains employees to practice mindfulness and stress-relieving routines they can implement on a daily basis. In one session, he explained that humans are naturally hard-wired to respond in a “fight or flight” manner. This was an essential tool for survival when humans first roamed the earth. Despite our evolution over time, we still react in a similar manner to alerts, texts, emails, calls, green lights, our significant other calling our name, and so on. We’ve been conditioned to believe that an immediate response is expected, and a delayed response has become an indication of a lower priority. In this new social norm we’ve set ourselves up to strive, long-term, toward solitude…or pay a lofty price to have it right here, right now, between our 2:00 and 2:45 meetings. Regardless, this will be something to watch in 2012 – an opportunity to make your brand the hero.

    As an account manager in Boulder, Dorsey has worked on global and national campaigns for brands like Microsoft and Groupon. Read more of his posts where he blogs at And this....

  • How the Dubai Egotist Can Help You in 2012

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    And we're back. If the world doesn't end this year, we're going to help make Dubai even better than it was in 2011.

    To that end:

    Creative people - Join us. Create a profile to show off your work. It's free and companies look for talent on our site all the time. It'll take you 5 minutes. And when you create something cool? Send it to us. We love posting your work.

    Creative businesses - Send us your work. Ad agencies, art galleries, musicians, mobile developers - if it's creative, we want to see it. But don't let that limit you. New hires, big news, company picnic photos - all good.

    Anyone with a job opening - Post a job with us. Our Jobs Page is the second-most visited page on our site (after the home page) and the Middle East's most creative folks are there looking at it. For a fraction of the price of most job boards, you'll get a highly targeted job post and great applicants. Or post internationally across all the Egotist sites.

    Anyone looking for a job - Again, join us. That gives you a 3-day sneak peek at the great jobs posted here.

    Advertisers - Our banner ads (to the right) are ridiculously cheap. Talk to us at dubai@theegotist.com for info on how you can get your product or service in front of Dubai's most creative people.

    Writers - Have something to say? Write an editorial for us. We're always open to interesting points of view. Drop us a line at dubai@theegotist.com if you're curious.

    Here's to an awesome 2012.

    Sincerely,
    The Dubai Egotist

  • What I Learned This Year - Malek Atassi (CD)

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    So what I've learned this year...I actually learned many things:

    Never upset a rooster!!!

    I need to be a MFCEO

    A horse running can get 43,000,000 million youtube hits

    I need to give a shit

    Balloons are fun again

    And after a very eventful, painful, sad, genocidal year...no one has learned anything...WHAT A SHAME!!!

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    Malek is a Senior Creative Director at TBWA\RAAD in Dubai.

  • What I Learned This Year - Steve Hough (ECD)

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    What I’ve learned this year is that there is nothing more powerful on earth than humour. It crosses borders, cultures and mindsets. It is contagious and hospitable, welcoming everyone to take part. Humour has the ability to explain the most complex and even brutal messages in a way that everyone understands.


    Censorship tells the wrong story.

    Early this year we published a campaign for Reporters without Borders with humour in it. 26 million Google hits later, we have witnessed people all over the world getting engaged by it, discussing the serious issue of censorship in Italian, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Arabic, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, English, Tagalog and many other languages. The humorous campaign became so contagious it even got people to create their own versions of it.

    So basically, what I’ve learned this year is that if you have something difficult to say, say it with a smile.

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    Steve is the Executive Creative Director of Memac Ogilvy & Mather in Dubai.

  • The Dubai Egotist 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

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    Starting Sunday, Dec 11th, we'll be showing off the coolest gifts for the holidays. So if you need help with what to get that creative person in your life, here's the place. Better start ordering because shipping can be a bitch in the UAE.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    MEGAPHONE DOCK

    A classy iPhone dock and speaker made by two Italian designers. Its ceramic body and thin wooden frame helps to optimize sound output and make it look like a freaking war horn. Perfect for waking up the sleepy creative souls. Buy here

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    LURZER'S ARCHIVE APP

    Free to download, but 99 euro a year for full access. Good app for quick reference of ads and talents. Buy on iTunes

    In a nutshell:
    • access to every back issue of Lürzer's Archive since 1984
    • more than 40,000 print campaigns
    • more than 6,000 full screen spots in first rate HD quality
    • includes easy-to-access tutorials to get the most out of this app
    • you can download your favorite campaigns to access them even offline

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    CUSTOM CHANG JIANG 750 "MAGNUS"

    You know what creatives need most? Fresh air. Get them out of their chairs with this custom Chang Jiang 750 from Bandit9, the hottest custom shop in China. It's been getting a lot of buzz on bike blogs and we understand why. Check the detail on the gas cap. That's craftsmanship. Buy here



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    OLD SPICE BEAR DEODORANT PROTECTOR

    Yes. It's a real product that you can buy and put on your shelf to be the man that your woman wants you to smell like. Buy here

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    THE ELDER SCROLLS: SKYRIM

    This much-awaited game allows you to be anyone you want. A mage, a knight, a thief, a merchant, or a murderous mage who was once a knight who sells stolen goods. There's an elaborate story about dragons coming back and barbequing everything. But we're having too much fun wrecking havoc in town to care. Watch the epic trailer below. Available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. Buy it pretty much anywhere.

    TO BE UPDATED DAILY...

  • None Of Us Is As Dumb As All Of Us

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    I “borrowed” that from one of those Demotivator posters. If you’re wondering why someone with my cynical outlook on life needs a demotivation poster, just remember that sad sacks love to wallow in misery. And oh, how I love the wallowing. It’s a great site for realizing just how fucked up so much of the business world is; and this comes from someone who worked in an office full of the original motivational posters that make you want to hang yourself with Roseanne Barr’s thong.

    So enough of the horseshit intro; what’s this rant all about?

    One word…opinions.

    It was inspired by the recent lump of festering shit designed for Colorado Springs, an abhorrence that slid out of the puckered anus of local “design” firm Stone Mantel (sounds like something cold that supports crap from Goodwill…hmm, the irony).

    When I first saw it on The Denver Egotist I thought it was a joke. Nice one! Even worse than the Fort Collins travesty, but there’s no way this malodorous boil is real. Good old Egotist, always one for larks and japes and…

    …oh. Shit.

    I wasn’t exactly expecting Pentagram quality, but this thing looks like the kind of rotten puke you see in student books; the stuff that means you have to break it to the hopeful brat that they’re better off flipping burgers than polluting the world with their lack of design skills.

    Actually, it’s worse. And that’s because it reeks of design by committee.

    This is one of the biggest problems I see with the advertising, marketing and design industries. And it’s also prevalent in movies (oh god, the shite movies we now have to endure), music, product design and almost everything else that we encounter on a daily basis. You can see the hands of wannabe artists, designers and writers everywhere, who sit behind a desk crunching numbers for most of the day. But when they get to review work, they get to show just how damned talented they really are.

    Design by committee is rife in advertising and design, but could never exist in some professions. Here’s a quick example. Imagine a surgeon performing an operation, only he’s joined by a bunch of other people, including: his boss; a surgeon who hates his guts; an intern; the secretary; the girl from accounting who he’s been fucking at night; and the mailroom guy.

    Just as the surgeon is about to make his first incision, there’s immediate opposition.

    Asshole surgeon: “Whooah, is that the best place to cut? We need to discuss this at length. And that scalpel is all wrong.”

    Intern: “We should probably have coffee and look at these charts I pulled on the best place to make first incisions. It includes new data from focus groups.”

    Secretary: “Do we even need to cut him at all? That seems harsh, perhaps we can massage the failing liver back to health and burn some incense.”

    Account girl: “Statistically, we shouldn’t even go near this cut. The legal team says it could open us up to lawsuits, and that means more expenditure. We should probably go somewhere private, together, and talk this over.”

    Mailroom guy: “Cut him now! Big cut! Let’s see blood!”

    Boss: “I say we make a small cut in a different area, one less likely to cause visual trauma, remove a small part of the liver, put a small part of the new liver in there, sew him up and then put this all on the back burner while we wait for the results to come in. Let’s see how he performs.”

    Surgeon: “OK…making incision.”

    Asshole surgeon: “Hey, we need to talk about the shape of the incision, the depth and so many other factors. We should take this offline and run the numbers.”

    You get the picture. It’s ridiculous to think of it in those terms, but it’s exactly what happens in advertising and design. And it’s not too much of a stretch to consider the client and their product as a patient in need of medical assistance.

    Their brand is dying, their sales are on life support, they need a solution, and quickly. But opinions are allowed to grow and flourish from all sides. Everyone’s thoughts matter. Even people who have never created an ad, or wrote copy, are allowed to directly influence the copy and art direction.

    “How about this headline?”

    “Oh, yes Julia I like that. But maybe not so bold, and let’s add a call to action in there along with Justin’s idea about combining those two headlines from the other campaign.”

    “Brilliant! Let’s get a focus group together for even more opinions!”

    Clients, account managers, planners, they all have their place. But they rarely stay in it. Creative territory, and to some extent the strategic side of the business, seem to be fair game to everyone else. If a creative, like an art director, asked to see the fiscal projections for the next quarter, and supplied a spreadsheet with numbers that he or she liked, there would be hell to pay. But anyone, and I mean anyone, has a valid opinion when it comes to the business we’re trained in.

    Oh sure, it’s sometimes disguised as self-deprecating verbiage, but you can see straight through that. How many times have you heard these gems:

    “Look, I’m no copywriter but have you tried something like…”

    “I’m not a designer, but I’m thinking we could try this color…”

    “You’ll figure out how to make this much better, but what about…”

    Before you know it, your sketch pad is filled with “suggestions” from the clients and your own management team, and you have to bite what’s left of your tongue, go back to your corner of the office and turn something great into something mediocre. And then repeat the process a few dozen times until everyone can agree that they don’t hate it.

    It’s the equivalent of taking a car into the shop with a leaking engine, and picking up a completely jalopy with a new paint job after 3 months and $100k in expenses.

    So, how do we solve this?

    It’s solvable, but it requires an incredible amount of discipline and trust from both the client and the agency.

    First, the client must have one decision-maker. ONE. And that person must be in the loop from the start. That doesn’t mean the CEO, it means one person responsible for signing off on the finished project. That means the CEO and the board has to go with that person’s decision. Like I say, trust. But really, if one retarded monkey had sat down with crayons and designed The Springs logo, and another retarded monkey signed off on it, would it be any worse than the one the fucking committee agreed to?

    It also means that the agency must get a very specific creative brief, signed off on by the main decision-maker. And it means the agency must put its foot down when the client asks for god-awful changes. To put it bluntly, fuck them. They don’t know what they’re doing; if they did they wouldn’t need an agency. Steve Jobs said that he refused to test the iPad before it went to market. He knew people don’t know what they want and it would score badly. So he took the “fuck you” path and released it. It’s now the most popular tablet by a large margin.

    Jobs also had to put his own money into the infamous 1984 commercial. The committee hated it. He loved it. And we all know how that turned out.

    The agency must also put a limit on brainstorms between all kinds of people. A team is great, but I honestly believe three’s a crowd. Bernbach wanted the art director and copywriter to work together to formulate ideas. It worked great. I don’t ever seen great work coming from brainstorms with five or six people in the room. Too many cooks. Too many opinions. Ideas get left on the table because one person in the room isn’t keen. Other ideas get pushed because the group likes them. Generally, when we think in large groups, we play safe and the tepid ideas rise to the top. There are notable exceptions (Pixar), but not many.

    If we want less of this Colorado Springs crap, we all need to start putting our own houses in order. Solid direction, one main decision-maker, small teams and no more of these big group brainstorms. Try it. You’ll save time, money and the sanity of the talented people around you.

    Felix Unger is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He has been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.