Well this is embarrassing.

Today I was working on an assignment for my copywriting class. A strategy assignment to be exact. To be more exact, a strategy assignment for a print ad to go in a student publication.

And this line of dialog popped into my head

We need to develop the big idea and see the possible print executions. Then we can flesh it out into a 360 campaign complete with microsite, viral video and ambient executions. Let's get Amy from New York on the horn.

Then I vomited. And tried to scrub that part of my brain (clearly it didn't work since i am recounting it here).

But I got a new thought.

Make an ad that sells. Use the best execution you can develop.

I don't know about you but I like that second thought a hell of a lot more.

A longer post about my trip to Minneapolis is coming very shortly. I promise!

I Know What I Did Last Summer. But Are You Really Interested?

Well I guess I should do this summer wrap-up post before we descend too deep into fall. I would be very appreciative if you would come along with me on this short ride.

Let's go back to May. It was around the second week and I was panicked. Not a single internship I had applied for had responded to me. No rejections, just limbo. Then as I was diligently studying for my finals my computer made a ping sound.

New email.

(I'll take this place to explain it was less of a ping sound and more of an alert popping up in the top-right corner of my screen. The ping sound was in my head I'm almost 90% of that.)

Springing into action I clicked on my email shortcut. Lo and behold Priceline.com was telling me about their new deals for the week!

Oh, right, you want to good stuff. Below the email from Priceline was a 'We are indeed still looking for a summer copy intern' email from HR at Momentum in St. Louis. Success. Much to the chagrin of my fraternity brothers I spent the next few moments flailing around wildly, shouting about the good news.

Then I remembered that I had not gotten the job yet. This was just an email for an interview. Sparing you the nasty details I got the internship & spent a good chunk of my summer writing copy and learning a ton. (Although my friends would attest I spent all of my summer doing this it was really only 9 weeks.) Over the course of the summer I worked on 16 accounts and even got to work with two beer clients! Imagine my excitement!

My favorite quote of the summer came from the senior copywriter on one of my teams. He said to me " When you came in you sucked, and now you are starting to suck slightly less. Thankfully you are on our team and sucking on our team means you'll be fine just about anywhere else in the agency."

So I leaned that i just might have what it takes to write copy and, more importantly, think. Good news because I'm a total geek about this ad stuff.  The internship gave me more confidence in my abilities and a ton of great ideas for my book. So thanks to everyone I worked with this summer.

But I couldn't just fill the whole summer with work. And knowing my strong affinity for reading it shouldn't be hard to figure out what I spent much of my free time doing.

(hint: It was totally reading.)

I still have a book left over but I think I read quite a good smattering of material. Here's the list:

The Copy Book; D&AD
Bill Bernbach's Book
Creative Mischief; Dave Trott
Both of Paul Arden's books
Hey Whipple Squeeze This; Luke Sullivan
Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse 5, Sirens of Titan; Kurt Vonegut
Stick to Drawing Comics Monkey Brain and The Dilbert Principle; Scott Adams
Free Prize Inside; Seth Godin
Numerous blogs (that's another post)
Still reading: The World According to Garp

All that reading while consuming an unhealthy amount of TV, movies, videos and music. I got at least my fair share of entertainment and information.

And that about wraps up my summer. Sorry this post wasn't too enlightening so here's a pice of art from Goofbutton.com. Think about it and enjoy!


This is too good not to post.

All you need is an enquiring mind.
And the desire to take complicated things and make them simple.

If you’ve got those two things, this isn’t work.
It’s paid fun.

From this post from Dave Trott. Pretty much sums up what drives me to get into the business. Also a reminder what the job is all about.

Oh go on, read the rest!

Don't you worry dear. I've got 'em lined right up.

I owe you guys three posts. One about my summer, one about looking at education a different way, and one about the Seth Godin speech in Minneapolis last week. Really each of those could be multiple posts (especially the later two) but we'll see how that goes. This post does not concern any of those topics. Sorry for the let down.

Yesterday I was buying a new notebook in my university bookstore. Dreadful place, but the shopping experience is entirely different topic than the point of this post.

Anyhow, I was shopping for a notebook to use as a news journal. And i'm pretty particular about the notebooks I use. In the store I like to pick them up, see how the pages feel, let my fingers run over the cover.

Really particular actually.

So I chose the style of notebook I would like and looked at the different options. College ruled, wide ruled, graph, dividers, no dividers. The choices were staggering. But there were no notebooks with blank pages in the style I wanted. And I thought it might be nice to have an unlined notebook for this use.

Rather discouraged I went back to the other styles. Peering into the notebooks. To quote South Park, "All the lines! Lines! Lines!". There was not a single notebook in the entire bookstore without lines. Not even a sketchpad.

To some of you this may not seem like such a big deal but it is rather troubling to me.

You see, the way you write in a lined notebook is entirely different from the way you write on a blank page. Collecting and synthesizing information is done in a different fashion when writing on a blank page.

With lines you write to fill the lines and do not deviate from the system. Left to right, whoops out of space, next line. Rinse and repeat. Because that's the system. You fill the containers that are made for you on the page. Connecting information with arrows. adding little indents for side comments or thoughts.

With a blank page this does not happen. By being blank the thoughts can be constrained to entire lines or little cubes of thought. They can be written vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Because the page has no rules. You group information together side by side. If you've never tried it please do, it's a very interesting process.

When I am writing on a blank page I often find myself condensing the core of what the information is and surrounding it with little thoughts. The writing is more free-form but the thoughts become much more complete through dissection.

And I think this freeform style of writing is instinctual.

Let me take you back to my high school. During classes I found truly interesting I would orient my notebook so that I was writing across the page. The lines were still there but were no longer the guidelines for how to write. And those classes that I ended up turning my notebook during I did far better in than the ones in which I was taking notes the traditional way. Without even realizing it.

By all means,  if you want to memorize or take notes for information's sake use a regular notebook. But from time to time, especially when coming up with ideas, try using a notebook with blank pages. Or at least writing across the lines, you never know where it will get you.



Haven't posted in a while. Profuse apologies. Expect a post about what I did/learned this summer shortly. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this one.

Three of my friends and I have walked over coals. Have you?

More than likely your answer lies somewhere in the realm of "no" to "of course not you bleeding idiot". This is because most sane people do not enjoy activities that put the meat sacks at the bottom of their legs in jeopardy. thankfully for you I am not a sane person, have done it and you get to read about it.

To avoid any confusion this was not some sort of team building exercise at a corporate retreat. There were no trained professions supervising. And there was no alcohol involved, probably for the best..

When I tell most people this story they ask two questions. First, how did it feel?


Second, Why in the Sam Hell would you ever do something so frightening?

In the spirit of full disclosure we saw it done on Mythbusters and thought it looked cool. So we went out back. Started a fire. Let it die down to coals. Then raked the coals out into a flat path. Then walked, albeit rather briskly,  over said coals

I have been mountain climbing, kayaking, rappelling, mountain biking, spelunking and even fell down the side of a Great Smoky Mountain (but that's another post). None of those activities are nearly as frightening as that first step onto the coals.

But after the first step the subsequent ones get easier, and those are the steps that really matter. The trick to walking over coals is just to keep moving. That way no one part of your foot is touching them long enough to get burned. The problem is when people get to scared they just stand on the coals and do get burned.

Which is a little like advertising. It's scary to do something new, like W+K's Old Spice stuff, but once you take the first step it gets far easier to try new cool stuff every time. If you go with safe every time taking little tip-toey steps towards the coals you are indoctrinating a culture of fear. And eventually you may be standing on the coals. But because you move at such a slow pace you're going to get burned.

From my perspective it's better to take the risks without fear than to be stuck at the fringes. But again I'm a crazy person.

I walked over coals.

Words (A visual experience)

This video could teach copywriters a thing or two about art direction. It's easy to get what word is being refrenced without ever seeing or hearing the word. Cool piece. Plus it employs my favorite trick of beautiful visuals paired with instrumental music.

More thoughts later on possibly. Or I could just let it speak for itself.

Found via @askacopywriter.

Scott Adams Please Don't Hate Me!

This is another entry into my blog series.

Admittedly this is a blog I used to read long ago. Lost. Then rediscovered rather recently. And upon rediscovery I read page after page, kicking myself for stoping in the first place.

It's the Dilblog, the offical blog of Dilbert writer Scott Adams. The content is infectiously good. Although some of the articles concerning science make my brain hurt. Ok, I have to take a nap after reading some of them.

You see, Scott Adams is a genius. Not in the 'oh-he-is-smarter-than-me-so-he-must-be-a-genius' way. In the he got accepted into mensa way. In the taking a complex argument and making it understandable to a layman. Usually in the space of half a page.

There is just something intriuging about the way he looks at the world. The way he describes his experiences and the way he interacts with people and the world around him.

Scott hates marketing with an extreme passion. With that said I find it remarkable how similar many of his insights are to people who have been very succesful in advertising. Although divergent in topics they all discuss the world in the same way, see the way things should be as something remarkably simple. A way of thinking that just seems to escape most people.

I hope Scott won't hold it against me that I am writing about him on a blog about advertising. But if he does there's probably a good reason behind it. Perhaps the marketing department picked on him in one of his earlier jobs.

Hey, it could have happened.

Check out http://dilbert.com/blog, read until your brain hurts.

This Mantra Subject to Change

Coming to the close of this summer I have boiled down what I want to do with the foresseable future. A mantra of sorts.

I want to work with people who push themselves and their clients to produce great work on a regular basis. Winning a few awards along the way wouldn't be a half bad addition. (My shelves are a little barren as it stands).

Like all things this may change in the future. For now i'm sticking with it.

Making up for lost time.

Wow. Amazing how a week can just get away from you. I had a ton of notes jotted down to write about but the three pitches I was involved with at work took first priority.  On to the actual content:

It took me forever to learn how to read. We're talking an absurd amount of time. And this is not something many people know about me.

I was more than halfway through second grade before I could read a proper book. Eight and a half years into my life.

Before that I could read kid's books but nothing of real substance.

However, I still remember the exact day that I actually learned how to read. My AP psychology teacher from 11th grade would refer to it as a flashbulb moment (thanks Mr. Westerholt).

It was spring break '98 and my family was on vacation in Toronto. My mother and I were sitting next to each other on the train to Niagara falls. We had taken along the first "The Boxcar Children" book that she had been helping me stumble through for weeks.

She said to me, 'You're going to be able to read by the time we get off this train.'

I started off just piss poor. Doubting my pronunciation of words, having my brain exhausted after a page and regretting ever asking her to bring my book along.

Then something clicked and reading started to get a bit easier. I could read a page just fine, then a group of pages, then whole chapters.

And as a reward my mom bought me a hot chocolate. Oh how I savored that hot chocolate. Little did I know that literacy for life was the true reward, the hot chocolate was merely a distraction.

Since that trip I have been an avid reader. Books, magazines, blogs, even lewd comments on bathroom walls. I'll read just about anything that crosses my line of sight, constantly on the hunt for a new morsel of information.

I believe I am trying to make up for those years of reading that I missed. Years when I was either too stubborn or too stupid to pick up a book and dedicate some time to it. It may have been a blessing that it took me so long to learn to read, because now it's something I will never take for granted. I also attribute this thirst for information as the reason behind my interest in advertising.

I hope this post provides a sliver of insight into why I am so interested in sharing blogs that have helped me and books that I am reading. Even if reading isn't your thing, finding something you are passionate about and absorbing all of the information you can will do you well. I believe it has for me.

Stare in awe at the magnificent, out of print, books.

This afternoon the Director of Strategy, at agency where I am interning this summer, stopped by my desk. In his hands he held two objects emitting a golden light. He stopped, turned to me, and said, in a voice reserved only for angles;

Stare in awe, at the magnificent out of print books. These tombs, taken directly from the golden age of advertising, contain the sage like knowledge of those who came before us. Study them with acute attention; for these books contain knowledge bequeathed to us by gods.

Alright, he didn't really say that. He said something along the lines of, "Take good care of these." In his hands were a copy of Bill Bernbach's Book and D&Ad's The Copy Book. Last week I had asked him if he had them and he remarked that he didn't but would get them for me.

I think it is incredible that he ordered them and I'm excited to read knowledge from some of the greats. I took the picture below to document this occasion. If it's a little blurry that's because my hands were literally shaking from the excitement.