Sunday, November 28, 2010

The behavior business.

What will people think? Will they even notice? Will they want to connect?
As this Tech Crunch article points out, digital serendipity is less about magic and more about science. But, there's a fine line between meaningful connection and creepy assumption. (And yeah, Facebook and Gmail-targeted advertising, you know what I'm talking about with the latter implication.) 

So if we rely on former audience algorithms are we allowing for future evolution?
In research groups, and in general, there's something called the 80/20-percent rule. 80-percent of your audience should love an idea, and 20-percent should be challenged by it. If you try to please everyone, you'll end up with diluted mediocrity. (And hopefully, for your sake, you're not only presenting to the 20-percent. Tough room.) 

Misbehavior leads to opportunity.
I'm not condoning bad behavior here… no crazy egos or blatant obnoxiousness please. (Unless it's funny). Just because things have always been done a certain way doesn't mean that's the way you should be doing things. If you consistently deliver safe work that's on-brief, under-budget, and on-time – chances are, no one will remember. In the long term, that's more costly for your career and your client. In an environment that's filled with noise and content, you have to be a little disruptive and a lot relevant.

"I don't want people who do the right things. I want people who do inspiring things." – Bill Berbach
We need to be brave, for our brands.
Jed Hallam brilliantly confronts the Fast Company article that spawned numerous related 'digital is scary' and 'we are all going to be run by robots' articles. The truth is, advertising is about connection. How we connect will always be based on the core idea, not the technology used to deliver it.

So stop worrying about the robots, for now. 
Inspire behavior. Focus on authentic connection and brand serendipity will follow.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You are your book.

When speaking to tomorrow's designers and writers, one question always comes up:

"What do you look for in a portfolio?"

This is the challenge. What all those years of college and experience have prepared you for, right? Well, maybe. The truth is, there is no answer here. Everyone interviewing you will give you a different list of essential items. If possible, tailor your book to the agencies you're targeting. Find a way to stand out from the pile of contenders.

Your portfolio is only part of the deal.
People get hired based on a mixture of personality, talent, and potential. And, I'll be honest with you, some people are simply more hire-able (or more relentless). Will you be a good fit with the team? Are you driven? Do you adapt quickly? Do we even have an opening?

Basics I look for in designer's book:

1. Quality over quantity. Only show work that you completely stand behind. Try for 6 to 10 project examples.

2. Idea evolution. The ability to take an idea and expand it into an integrated campaign.

3. Process thinking. Purposeful design, not merely decoration.

4. Solid design foundation. Aesthetic balance and innovative art direction.


Key attributes you should possess: 

1. Computer capability. You must know the programs. If you don't, learn them. Tutorials, hands-on, whatever it takes.

2. Work ethic. There are no shortcuts or entitlements here. Earn your respect.

3. Presentation skills. Be able to sell your work.

4. Mediocrity fear. Keep up with industry news and challenge yourself. Always be observing and learning.

More thoughts:
There's a great episode on FearLessTV where CP+B Creative Director Tiffany Kosel gives her portfolio advice.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reanimating the story.

Once in a great while, a song momentarily stops your heart and commands full attention. The first time I heard this song, it was live. And mesmerizing. I had no background on the song's meaning or where the story was going. I hung on to every last poetic word.

I'm always most impressed when something ridiculous becomes something transcendent. This song resides at the intersection of absurdity and raw beauty. Fabrication-cloaked authenticity. A darkly-optimistic fairy tale with an underlying morale. Naive love, fame, and consequence.

Previously, I was somewhat familiar with Josh Ritter (old albums and, admittedly, mostly the Aesthetic Apparatus posters). His music is outside my normal music genre preference, but his narrative lyrics are complex and inspiring. He's the Midwestern singer-songwriter son of two neuroscientists – writing his first novel.

As writing becomes more about 140-character function and less about form, it's refreshing to hear a lyricist so driven to pair the right words together. He joked that he has trouble ordering at a drive-thru window. Continually writing, editing, and rewriting.

Take a moment and check out Liam Hurley's visual interpretation of the song that got my attention, The Curse. It's the story of a mummy who wakes up one day and falls in love with the archaeologist who is studying him.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

The creative reality of pretending.

If your going to advertise something, you need to experience it. Even if you have to simulate the experience like a child at play. (IDEO's Tim Brown brilliantly explores the value of this method.) Basic, human-centered insight drives today's successful marketing. It's the ability to pick up on a core truth that is usually so simple, it's been overlooked.

Years ago I was asked to market a snowmobile adventure from Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Saratoga, Wyoming. The client insisted we do the trip. Having never driven a snowmobile, seven hours to and from a resort was a bit much. Two major snow dig outs, one useless throttle hand, and a couple of recovery days later – I had what I needed. I could tell the story. And with a little pretending, I could tell it from the perspective of someone more in tune with the whole trip. Not that the snowmobiling wasn't fun, in moderation. (If I were just marketing to myself, I would sell the overnight spa part. And, oh yeah, the homemade cookie thing. Definitely.)

We can't always fully experience what we're advertising. However, we can resurrect our instinctual childhood method for figuring things out and pretend.

Why do children pretend? Even though it can be silly, it's an essential part of developing life skills. Children learn to empathize and make sense of the world through pretending. Imagination leads to new realizations, pattern connections, and unexplored possibilities.

Though I'm biased, I'm amazed with what my niece comes up with. Always dressing up – performing, pretending, and creating. She's in her own world. It's like a window to the past. I can see myself and her mother doing the same things. Getting lost in imagination. Reveling in stories as they unfold. Occasionally subjecting adult victims to whatever ridiculousness we thought was pure genius.

As we become adults, imagination fades for most of us. It's still there, but buried under layers of daily responsibility. Those of us who can hold onto it go into some crazy business like advertising. And if we do our jobs correctly, we can bring our audience's imagination back to the surface. Even if it's just a pause before they turn the page and get back to reality.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

When wrong is right.



Fallon launched The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with "Just the Right Amount of Wrong." A bold direction for a new resort.

In a city where we thought every concept had already been done – and was staying there – Fallon introduces the open-ended story worth telling. Luxurious curiosity paired with the always perfect Black Rebel Motorcycle Club track. Stunning art direction with a delightfully-twisted concept.

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