12 Things Worth Sharing Before We Kick 2010 Out of Here.

Since it's the last day of the year I thought I'd share some of the posts that helped inspire me this year. I went through all the posts I starred in my rss feed and just happened to come out with 10 from this year. In addition to those articles there's a post from 2008 I just discovered and a site that I really dig. Nothing comes from before June of 2010 because that's when I started starring things (didn't think about using the function until then). Here is the list in no particular order:

The Mentor Effect - Makin Ads

A really good summary of what today's juniors value in a job, at least juniors like me. It's not (strictly) about pay or bomb accounts, it's who you get to work with and for.

Trump Has an Apprentice Program, What About You? - Ad Pulp

It's a post about having the necessity of having the skills to make things. The more we can make ourselves the better off we'll be when looking for a job. Bottom line don't be the person up your own ass about your writing ability or degree, what do you make?

How to Have Ideas on Demand. Like Now! - Escapology (The Escape Pod Blog)

The real answer? You can't. But Vinny tells it like it is and says it gets easier with time. I know the more I write the easier it becomes so maybe he's on to something.

Why Clients are Always Confused - The Ad Contrarian

Not really a junior minded article but it does shine a light on what you'll be dealing with when you get into the business. Clients are fickle beasts and learning how to treat your ideas early on to be digestible the easier it will be to get brilliant work produced. You don't want ideas that double as suppositories, that would get messy.

Five rules for your About page - Seth Godin

They may apply for your about page but it's also a helpful guide for resumes. Sell yourself not just your accomplishments or responsibilities like "successfully organized database x". I picked this article out of a myriad of Seth's post's I have starred. If you read this blog you know my thoughts on him. His posts are short go read a few-dozen.

Little Tip #2: more generalists, less specialists. - Brand New

A reminder to stay curious about the world because too many people get caught up in the one thing they're really good at. A good idea can be anything be it print, video, radio or some cool interactive deal. The best ideas work well as ideas then executions, a good execution does not make a good idea.

80% Idea, 80% Execution - Dave Trott's Blog

A reminder that everyone's process for coming up with ideas is different. We all need to put in effort on ideas and execution but there is no balance, more effort always needs to go into both. A bit inspiring and a bit daunting to read. Like all of Dave's posts.

Right. Let's sort this fucking thing out once and for all. - If this is a blog then what's Christmas?

I really like the way Ben Kay writes his blog and this post is no exception. He's venting his frustrations out about the current state of advertising in the UK and gives some good insight into what's going on over there. It's not particularity pleasant but it is a look in to the industry and a good one at that.

Me Wonderful Me - A Gaping Void (Hugh MacLeod)

What I so thoroughly enjoy about Hugh's site is that he write very little and makes you think a lot. I shared this post with a few of my friends and got mixed reactions (a few of them might fall in that last category). So how would you answer his question?

What's in it for me? - Dave Trott

Of course Dave Trott shows up here again. This post he is critiquing the way someone approached him for a lecture for a junior ad club. I can't tell if this post is his form of the lesson or not but make sure to read the comments string, it's particularity interesting. Also a good lesson if you are in charge of a junior creative club.


Advertising's dirty Little Secrets  #1: It's all about people, not process - The Sell! Sell! Blog

I didn't pull anything from their blog from this year but this post from 2008 is incredible. It's a denunciation of silos and large agency processes. They take people to task on what it takes to get a really good idea. Just a really awesome post.

AdVerve Podcast (the whole lot of them) - Bill Green and Angela Natividad

Yes. All 59 episodes of this podcast count for one recommendation, I make the rules here anyway. Bill and Angela put out the best marketing/advertising/life podcast I've ever heard. Great insights into the industry, great conversation and a myriad of topics. The hosts and the guests they bring on really care about advertising and great work. You can hear it in the conversation and I am tremendously happy I found this podcast. Please give them a listen because it is so incredible. During every episode I find myself nodding along and thinking, "Damn. They really get it." Some of my favorites are 40, 23, 48, 47 and 42.

Well that's the list. I hope you enjoy and get through it. Here's to a 2011 full of gettin' things done and producing awesome work. Thanks for reading, I like to think I'm not just shouting out into the void.

This is my space. There are many spaces like it but this one is mine.

When I was producing my first book I found it was really helpful to go to the caribou coffee close by. The coffee tasted good, the wifi was faster there, and my friends didn't frequent it. That last point was a huge plus. At that time I was living in the fraternity house and putting together a book with 29 other people constantly buzzing around isn't the ideal environment.

So whenever I got an idea I would pack up my stuff and head over to caribou. I would pop in my headphones and write/concept/execute for hours at a time. It had become my de facto office. I joked with my friends that I paid caribou $40 a month for the space - which is honestly a great deal for the number of hours I spent there.

(here's a picture of my 'office' grainy cell phone edition)

Using Caribou as an office taught me two important lessons. The first is the imporatnce of finding the space you like to execute. Something about being there and sipping drinking coffee put me in the perfect grove for writing. I'm sure this wouldn't work for everyone because everyone's process is slightly different. Spend some time trying to figure out what space works for you and your process, some place that won't get in the way of your work.

More interestingly I found out that ideas seldom came to me when I was at caribou. Ideas like headlines and taglines came fine but those big honkin ideas would never come when I was just sitting there at the table. They would come when I was driving my car. Or in class day dreaming. Or when I was talking to a friend. To make sure I could always capture these thoughts I carry around a little black notebook, not moleskine, and jot down any idea that comes. Then of course I would head to Caribou to develop it further.

My advice is two fold. Get out into the world and get inspired, then find the space where you can work for hours at a time. It helped me put together the book that got my internship last summer, maybe it'll help you too.

It's not compromise. It's context.

I have terrible handwriting. That's not an opinion, it's a fact.

I'm working on making it better but that is a slow and arduous path. To be honest it's like walking up an 80 degree incline. Computers only make it worse because that's the really easy moving walkway up the same hill.

But I digress.

This post is less about my inability to write legibly and more about perception. You, my lucky readers, get to accompany me back to sophomore year of high school. Specifically an english class during my spring semester.

For this class we had to keep a journal with our thoughts on the works we were reading — a task I executed diligently. Like all the other students I turned in my journal for the first round of check-ins around the midpoint of the semester.

I was proud of the journal and thought my insights were pretty sound. It turns out that didn't matter. We all got our journals back and my friend asked what grade I had received. I checked the last entry of the journal but I didn't have a grade, I had a note from the teacher.

It read, "You really need to type this so I can tell if you did the assignment correctly."

Now that probably wasn't too much to ask. After all my writing was pretty poor but not substantially worse than my friend who had received a grade. Naturally this did not sit well with my indignant teenager self. I left the class fuming.

She would get my journal typed up. Oh boy would she get it typed up.

Even in those days I was a pretty big nerd so I knew about a couple of font downloading sites. Poring through fonts I found one that was nearly identical to my scrawl and downloaded it to my mom's computer. I typed up the entire journal in that font, printed it out, compared and was very pleased with myself.

They were both horrible documents to look at. My teacher would be so pissed!

The next day I turned in the assignment for her to grade, relishing in my subversiveness. Much to my delight I received the assignment back a week later with her verdict. And wouldn't you know it she gave me full credit.

This was very confusing to me. The assignments didn't look any different from each other except for the paper they were on but the second one had gotten her approval. I was not very happy that my experiment didn't work but it was a good lesson in context. I had given her what she had asked for so she accepted it just fine. Both of us were happy because we perceived the situation as us winning.

Bringing it back to advertising it's kind of an important lesson too. Especially on the client side of things. The client is going to ask you to change stuff around, add text here or not use that inflammatory word. The best way to approach this situation is to do something you still like while fitting into what the client wants. It might not be your perfect artistic vision, you might not even understand why they liked it after the changes, but the work got produced.

And at the end of the day work that shows up sells, and work that doesn't doesn't.


A Swift Kick in the Pants

The problem has become increasingly acute. I'm eager to hire the next great class of designers, but to my dismay--and the dismay of many young hopefuls who've often spent many years and thousands of dollars preparing to enter the industry--I'm finding that the impressive academic credentials of most students don't add up to the basic skills I require in a junior designer.

I snagged this from a recent article from fast company design. The author is lamenting the quality of junior designers portfolios and talking about how tough it is to find a suitable candidate for a job.

It should go without saying, but I'll say it any way, you do not want to be one of these people. There are fantastic job opportunities out there but if you can't deliver the bare minimums for what employers are expecting you simply won't get hired. I've heard from numberous people that there are jobs out there just not the talent to fill them.

The article makes it pretty clear that schools aren't quite doing their jobs giving students a proper education - one of the reasons I started this blog. So it's important to be cognizant that you need to do more than what your school demands.

The trouble becomes figuring out how to put together a quality portfolio. For this I recommend reaching out to any creative you respect who is willing to help you work on it. I know it helped me out tremendously and hope it does the same for you. the opportunities are out there it's up to you to show you're worth it. Don't act entitled, never be content with your work and maybe you'll get hired.

Well that was rather bleak. Sorry, but you come here for reality not saccharine. I hope at the very least this post can inspire people to up the quality of their books.

Link via @branddna

Speculation Sucks

Most kids are pretty picky eaters. But most of their biases against foods are unfounded.

Based on speculation.

Take carrots for example.

They say they don't like carots.

You ask them why not.

They say carrots are orange and icky.

Plus they just know if they do or don't like something. (these are very articulate children)

You, being the older and more-seasoned eater, ask them kindly to try just one.

Pretty please?

Tentatively the child takes a bite of the carrot. Then another bite, then another.

Because carrots taste pretty good in reality.

And it turns out that the kid didn't know simply because they didn't try it. A similar occurrence happened to me this year.

I took a community college course on economics.

For a long time I was frightened anything that had to do with numbers and hated anything that had to do with it. I loathed math most of all. And that's one of the reason I stayed away from marketing programs. I'd see the calculus requirement, the econ requirement, the stats requirement and run for the hills. That was the exact opposite of what I should have done.

Now I still don't really like numbers, to be quite honest I'm still pretty shit with them, but I'm no longer afraid of them. I attribute a lot of that to this course that I've been putting off for so long. Once I got the basic concepts (my first few quizzes were ugly) I realized that concepts in economics applied to every part of life. Law of diminishing returns can be applied to more than just production, understanding product elasticity can be applied to markteting. It's really pretty cool stuff.

One of the things I love is learning something that applies to one aspect of life then applying it to something else. It's what helps me better understand what to do when I'm selling a product. And a main part of marketing is just learning what you didn't know before. So if you're like me and are afraid to take a course or do something based on speculation, but haven't ever tried it before take the plunge.

You may find the next thing to influence the campaign that helps you make it big. And if you don't at least you learned something.


Another amazing post from makin ads. Like always.


Please read this. I really mean it.

If you don't already follow makin ads and you're trying to get into 'the biz' you should do that right now. The two guys who run that blog consistently push out great advice. This post pretty condenses everything you need to know about producing work into a couple of paragraphs. When I read that post I was really pissed because the advice was so good and so simple.

Stop wasting your time reading this and go read that, your work will thank you for it. Feel free to come around here from time to time though, and leave a comment if you like. We haven't gotten central heating yet and comments help keep me warm.

But what else do you do?

The other day I was listening through some of the older episodes of the AdVerve podcast*. In this particular episode they had Erik Prolux, the guy in charge of the Lemonade movies, and said something that got me so excited I had to write a post about it.

He tackled a wide variety or topics about his movies, his passions and other people's passions but the most interesting part for me was when he talked about applying for a job. Specifically he was talking about applying to W+K (if you don't know about W+K hit this link and inform yourself.)

What he said was after he applied he got a call back from them, but it wasn't to hire him. The person from W+K said that his book had tons of good ads in it. Also, it was clear that he was a very good copywriter.

Then she paused and said, "But we really want to see anything but your ads. We want to know what you passions are."

To me this was a pretty cool thought because W+K is arguably one of the most consistently great big agencies in the world. A lot of that success probably comes down to the way that they hire.

They're not looking for the person with the most polished book or the best headline, they're looking for people who are truly passionate about something. Because most of the time that passion transfers over into their work. I thought that was a pretty important lesson for aspiring juniors to hear.

Having an incredibly awesome book is just the bare minimum. You should assume that anyone else applying for the job you're applying for has a book as good as yours, some may be better. So it's important to have something else that you do, something else that you're passionate about.

For me that is this blog, video work and photography. That works for me because I always jotting down little thoughts to turn into full blown blog entries or short videos. Even if the one thing you really enjoy is making ads take that a step further, do something different because that thing will help you get a job.

A great headline is a great start but being able to show off your passion seals the deal.

*If you don't listen to AdVerve you should give it a try. Bill and Angela put out some of the best discussion about marketing and life every week. Get you some AdVerve!

You shouldn't care that you don't know how.

The other night I was talking to one of my close friends. He was considering changing his major because he thought he might be interested in working in the music industry.

I thought it was an awesome idea. He's always about two steps ahead of the rest of my friends when it comes to music and has a decent amount of passion.

But he was worried about making the choice. Mostly because he had no idea how to  approach this route. He didn't know what classes to take, what it took to get in to the industry or even if they had a major suited for it at his university.

He was stuck in the world of 'but-I-don't-know-how"

that's a place where you'll spend a lot of your time breaking into the ad industry.  Thoughts will swirl in your head like:

But I don't know how to put together my first book.
But I don't know what agencies are looking for.
But I don't know if there are even any jobs out there.
But I don't even know where to start.

The one thing you can't do is let these thought preoccupy too much of your time. If you get caught up in them then you'll never get your book together, let alone get a job.

The problem is that people go around looking for checklists. Ticking off the boxes on their way to success. If I do this then I will get X. But by now we both know that's the not the way it works in the advertising field.

So if you want answers go seek them out. Go on google, call up an agency and look at the work of people that you admire. Whatever you do don't get stuck saying 'but I don't know'.

Note: I'm writing this post on thanksgiving and one of the things I'm most thankful for is 'the fear'. The fear that one day I'll wake up my my brain just won't be able to eek out one more creative thought. In turn it motivates me to think creatively every day and keep proving myself wrong. SO I guess I'm thankful for the motivation 'the fear' provides.

Branch vs. Root

Transportation Secretary Expects To Use Technology to Ban Mobile Phone Usage in Cars

Excuse me while I get a little ranty.

This article is absurd and if it is true the Transportation Secretary is absurd. Legislating away a problem is so much less beneficial to industry than helping the industry come up with solutions to solve a problem. Take this case for instance there are two solutions.

Either you can make tech that bans mobile phone usage in cars for all people.

Or you create a car that avoids the problem all together.

I'm a stanch advocate for the second option. For the past few months I've been thinking about the way that cars work and how the experience can be improved. I'm not saying these solutions are perfect but it's worth a shot for me to throw them out on the internet. The issue is going back to what a car is fundamentally. One of the biggest wastes of time is driving in the car with no ability to be productive. People waste millions of hours in a car and there is nothing to do, hence why they get on their cell phones.

What if cars could drive themselves and were equipped with Wi-Fi and power outlets. While your car drives you to work, class or some far away destination you could be writing things down, browsing the internet or even talking on your phone. I think that people are looking at the wrong kind of solution for the situation that drivers face right now.

It's a root/branch solution conundrum. We learned about this in my intro to politics class (guess college does come in handy sometimes) a branch solution is where you build a new system on top of the one you have that might not be working right now, blocking cell phones. A root solution is going all the way back to the start and rethinking the intent of the entire system. Why do people need to be driving their cars if we have the technology for them not to. The single biggest reason for collisions is not cell phones, it's human error. You take that out of the equation and there are much safer roads, not to mention more productive people.

What we need for road safety is definitely a root solution but unless the government gets behind an Idea like this it's simply not going to happen. Which sucks because there are so many cool things that could be made here and revitalize American industry. But people are content making branch decisions that slowly keep institutions in place instead of root decisions that make real advancements.

This doesn't have to apply exclusively to cars but can also work for advertising. Sometimes the best idea isn't looking at what a company has done but looking at what they've never done before. When you go back looking for root solutions they can make a lot of sense and are worth investigating. All it takes is a little more faith and a little more lateral thinking, which is part of the reason you got into advertising.

If you think I'm an idiot please tell me in the comment box below.

Thanks @mtlb for the link.

EDIT:Here's a comment from that article that also summs up the issue nicely. Thanks to Bill Silverstien "We should ban passengers in cars because passengers can distract drivers. We should ban putting items on the car seat because if you stop sharply, the items can move and that would distract the driver. We should ban car horns because someone blowing a horn can distract other drivers. We should ban sirens on emergency vehicles because the sirens would distract drivers from the road in front of them. We should ban dihydrogenmonoxide because it can distract drivers when it spills inside the car, when it gets splashed on cars, etc. (I'm ignoring that it is a major component of acid raid and that it is found in a high percentage of cancer cells.)" At what point do you stop thinking inside the system and start rethinking the system?


When I was in elementary school I wasn't very self confident. Maybe this is true about all people that age but I always felt like the other students around me exuded confidence. It didn't matter if they had any grounding for it they just seemed to click with everyone.

Not this guy.

I spent most of my time in elementary school removed from most people, save a for a few good friends. Part of the issue was that I loved learning and was pretty good at it. So I would do projects a little bit differently or try a little bit harder.

Doing that was fine because I always did well in class but I was an easy target to get picked on. Which didn't make sense to me because I wasn't doing anything to anyone, I was just invested in my work.

In public school nobody really cared about what they were learning. So I was the anomaly. Being the anomaly sucks. It sucks because you can't quite figure out how everyone else seems so happy when they don't care about learning. That thought sort of stuck with me until third grade when my teacher told my parents to put me into a private school*.

So the next year I started fourth grade at a The College School, a private school in St. Louis. And once that happened I got a lot more confident because the people around me cared about their schooling too. The school taught students to embrace learning about what they wanted to learn and share that with the other students. We were encouraged to discuss everything we were doing and we learned about really cool stuff. So grades four through eight had a really positive impact on my life.

This is a lot like getting into advertising. You're probably at college with a bunch of people who want to go into advertising or marketing but don't seem to "get it" on some level. They look at you strange when you talk about passion or doing work that you're proud of. Especially strange when you shout at the TV when a terrible commercial comes on. Which kind of sucks because you're the anomaly and you question if you're doing the right thing.

But getting into the field is a lot more like going to my private school. Everyone around you is passionate, wants to do good work and is a little peeved about what is on the TV. You start to discover that there are people who want to talk about cool stuff every day. And that is what's worth working for when you're in undergrad.

Don't let being an anomaly get you down.

*This teacher was a public school teacher and telling my parents to take me out of public schools was very frowned upon. I'm glad she kept her job and got them to think about sending me somewhere else. I owe her a lot.