Saturday, 22 December 2012

100 Habits Of Successful Freelance Designers – Gordon 2009

100 Habits Of Successful Freelance Designers – Gordon 2009

I am not a designer (far from it), but there are so many lessons for work and life in this book. It’s another example that reading the books that are not of interest to you, turns out to be most interesting. Moreover freelancing is important also to me, especially in an age where due to ever shorter contract length of clients and ever shorter ‘stints’ at agencies  we all seem to be more or less freelancing.

„Our triumphs are won by effective execution of strategic ideas that call others to action by moving emotions. We work by art not by force“ (Gordon, 2009, p.7).

„Bad bait, bad fish .... Don’t start out with a low price and expect good clients. Low pricing will only get you a lack of sustainable income.“ (Gordon, 2009, p.35).

„ The ideal is to work as much as necessary to be able to afford the things that will make life not just livable, but enjoyable.“ (Gordon, 2009, p.42).

„The best way to win new clients is by doing great work for your current clients.“ (Gordon, 2009, p.58).

„I suggest that at the outset of a project you ask your client to shoot fort he moon. Ask them what they’d do if money was no object.“ (Gordon, 2009, p.75).

„Not everyone can do what we do, so it is our responsibility to do it right.“ (Gordon, 2009, p.100).

„You are not protecting the creatives from the client; you’re protecting the client from the sometimes messy process of developing work fort hem.“ (Gordon, 2009, p.125).

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Washington Irving - Tales of the Alhambra 1977

It’s a beautiful book. Don’t read it. Just go there. Perferably at night.

Alhambra: „It was the royal abode oft he Moorish kings, where, surrounded with the splendours and refinements of Asiativ luxury, they held dominion over what they vaunted as a terrestrial paradise, and made their last stand for empire in Spain. The royal palace forms but a part of a fortress, the walls of which, studded with towers, stretch irregularly round the whole crest of a hill, a spur oft he Sierra Nevada or Snowy Mountains, and overlook the city; externally it is a rude congregation of towers and battlements, with not regularity of plan nor grace of architecture, and giving little promise oft he grace and beauty which prevail within.“ (Irving, 1977, p.33).

Saturday, 1 December 2012

John Webster – The Earth People’s Ad man (Carter, 2012)

 Webster is the other defining creative director of DDB.  On the one hand his style of advertising is completely different from Bill Bernbach’s ads, but in their humble, entertaining tonality they are very close.

Webster’s work is most interesting and puzzling to me as a planners. Most of his ads cannot be reduced to half a sentence or  a genius insight – but on the other hand they were never really ads but more pop culture – viral, before such a word existed in marketing language. „Dave Trott concurs ‚John was absolutely not interested in what the advertising fraternity thought. They weren’t as good as him anyway, so why would he give a shit what they thought? He was interested in what the bloke in the street thought.’“ (Carter, 2012, p.63).“ John believed the true measure of the success of an ad was nothing to do with creative awards. It was when it passed into the vernacular.“ (Carter, 2012, p.22). „’I always thought that actually there was something oft he megalomaniac in John. He was very shy and thoughtful. He disliked flamboyance. He hated all that Cannes stuff. But he liked the idea of influencing millions through his characters.“ (Carter, 2012, p.57).

And that was his ‘calling’ (if such a pompous word can be applied to Webster’s work). But to a certain degree such a word is right, because that gives meaning to our work: „G K Chesterton said of Dickens: ‚He didn’t give the people what they wanted. He wanted what the people wanted.’ He could have been talking about John.“ (Carter, 2012, p.1). „John taught us something about ourselves. Not through novels, painting or plays. But through his own specialist medium – 40 or so seconds of film, on a small screen, in the corner of the nation’s sitting rooms.“ (Carter, 2012, p.1).

He had his own way of working with others: „He worked with others, but they were never there as partners, more to stimulate his own creativity.“ (Boase quoted in Carter, 2012, p.7). And he used planning and research in the same way:  „Peter Jones, the world’s first advertising Planner, tried out John’s ideas in rough form on unsuspecting housewives round the country, to return to a wall of abuse from the author when the idea didn’t work quite as expected. Two things stopped this developmental approach collapsing before it had really got going: John’s fecundity – by the next morning he’d written up a new idea – and his interest beyond winning prizes (although he liked that well enough if they were the very top prizes) in creating campaigns that were talked about in pubs and over garden fences.“ (Carter, 2012, p.12).

And in the same way he treated research: „’John believed research was data, not a decision’ Alfredo Marcantonio (former Lowe Howard Spink creative director and long-time friend) once said, ‚He would look at the failings exposed by research and try overcome them.’“ (Carter, 2012, p.57). „’John understood that what outsiders call creativty is in fact, a process of rejection, a painstaking and unsentimental sifting oft he wheat from the chaff.“ (Carter, 2012, p.58). Thus, as a planner, you are not responsibility to come up with ideas, just stimulate your creative director and recognize an idea: „Through working with John, I realised that it was much more important to be useful than clever. It wasn’t even my job to have ideas – rather to create an environment where others were more likely to have them, and feel comfortable expressing them. And that’s just as well, because over the course of my career I have succeeded in coming up with a relativeley good idea about once every seven or eight years.“ (Steel in Carter, 2012, p.28). „What I did develop, and I’m sure I learned this from John, was an ability to recognise good ideas when others had them.“ (Steel in Carter, 2012, p.28). „But if you stop trying to be heard above the noise, and just listen, it’s surprising how many good ideas are flying by.“ (Steel in Carter, 2012, p.28).

And to be able to come up with ideas, it is important to collect stuff, that might stimulate at one point in time: „The key, as John showed time and time again, is to watch, listen and collect. He was a magpie among birds, a collector of pretty things that one day might, just might, be useful. A keen observer of humanity and the culture that surrounded him, he hoarded language, film clips, art, music and anecdotes, all stored in an encyclopaedic memory.“ (Steel in Carter, 2012, p.28).

„ he taught me that optimism can be a more powerful force than intellect. John saw each brief as an opportunity, each rejection as a catalyst for improvement, and even at the end of his career he still believed that his best work was ahead of him. As planners we would do well to remember this: rather than dwell on what can’t and shouldn’t be done, or wallow in the obstacles that stand in our way, we should be champions of possibility.“ (Steel in Carter, 2012, p.29).

„As he (John Webster) explained: ‚I’ve always tried to develop characters in three dimensions. So when I invent a character, I always write the back story so we know where he’s come from, who his parents were, his personality traits ... very like actor doing a role in a feature film I suppose. I started to write biographies oft hem fort he clients.“ (Carter, 2012, p.40). „John imagined that many years ago in Africa lived animals called honey midgets who ate only honey. Some escaped, only to find themselves on a remote island where the only honey was very high up in the trees. Over time, the honey midgets evolved into honey monsters so they could reach the honey.“ (Carter, 2012, p.43). „One day Henry, a middle-aged, somewhat camp bachelor came tot he island with the Navy and took a Honey Monster back to live with him. The monster thought Henry was his mummy. Hence: „Tell em about the honey, Mummy.’“ (Carter, 2012, p.43).

Thus John Webster was a creative the whole way, not just for the beginning: „But very often it sounds as if having the ‚idea’ is the only difficult, ‚creative bit’ , and the rest is mere decoration. People respond to ads, however, not to abstract ideas.“ (Feldwick in Carter, 2012, p.70). „The reason John’s work still looks so fresh today, the reason we still admire so much of what he did, is not that he had better ‚ideas’ than anyone else. It’s because he made better ads.“ (Feldwick in Carter, 2012, p.70).

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Copy Book – How Some of the best Advertising writers in the world write their advertising. O’Kennedy 2011

This book not only gives you plenty of ‘How-To-Write-Copy-Advice’ but also some exciting ideas what advertising could and should be. I’ll start with the former and then go to the latter:

The first piece of advice is fun and honesty: „Don’t be boring.“ (David Abott, D&AD, 2011, p.11). „“If you don’t enjoy writing it, no one will enjoy reading it“ is one of my mantras.“ (John Bevins, D&AD, 2011, p.30).

„Object to everything as you write it. Keep writing until you say yes. Build your ad on a series of yes responses.“ (Silverman, D&AD, 2011, p.305). „Confession is good for the soul and for copy, too. Bill Bernbach used to say „a small admission gains a large acceptance“. I still think he was right.“ (David Abott, D&AD, 2011, p.11).

Then, not surprising, all writers agree that understanding your audience – consumers and clients – is key: „Demonstrate greater insight into the needs of the audience. People who better runderstand your needs (a category that includes spouses and shrinks) are seen as better able to meet them.“ (Thomas, D&AD, 2011, p.342). „Search for some way to relate the tiny, constricted world clients live in to the larger, sunnier world people actually care about.“ (Hayden, D&AD, 2011, p.154).

And then, a piece of advice, that is incredibly important, when we all feel very busy: wait before you write and hand it to the creative director: „First and foremost, avoid like genital warts the temptations to start writing. Once I’ve read the brief I tend to waddle off and play pool, or hang about with unsuitable women for a while. On the one hand it allows the important bits of the brief to sink in, and the reams of dross to fade into richly deserved obsucrity.“ (Neil French,D&AD, 2011, p.128). „On my return around 3:30 or 4pm from this daily habit, which was essential to create as much distance as possible between me and the copy (thus removing my ego from it and creating a more objective stance). I would see that what I had written in the morning was tosh. I would throw it away (amongst the myriad of things DDB provided for ist copywriters was a green metal waste bin).“ (Gluck, D&AD, 2011, p.141).

Once you write, offer readers something to lead him in and then constantly keep them engaged: „It was probably my grounding in direct mail that taught me my obligations to the reader. I was usually entering their homes uninvited and because of that I always felt that my first responsibility was to them – and not the client.“ (Harrison, D&AD, 2011, p.148). „Keep the reader rewarded: Any copywriter has to strike a deal with the reader. And as far as the reader is concerned, the deal is this. I’ll keep reading as long as you keep me interested. So always ask yourself: have I expressed this in as original a way as possible? Have I been ruthlessly concise? Have I kept my side oft he bargain?“ (Holmes, D&AD, 2011, p.173). „There’s one short simple word you should use a lot. Read your copy and check that „you“ appears three times more than „I“ or „we“.“ (Harrison, D&AD, 2011, p.148).

And to keep readers engaged, make it easy for them: you need to cut the copy relentlessly until it is in the simplest form possible: „I learned that if a line (let alone a word) could be taken out and the copy still stood up, i fit did not suffer in any way, then it could be quashed.“ (Gluck, D&AD, 2011, p.140). „ Make your copy slightly less demanding than the editorial matter to both respects.“ (Salmon, D&AD, 2011, p.301). „This means using language they’ll understand instantly. Which words are they? Well, oft he 80 most-used words in the English language, 78 have Anglo-Saxon root. These are the short, simple words we use every day.“ (Harrison, D&AD, 2011, p.148). „Verbs, of course, always make faster pictures than adjectives. a) A sharp jagged cut in the paper was made by the knife. b) The knife ripped though the paper.“ (Silverman, D&AD, 2011, p.305).

But the copy needs not only simple, but at the same time, develop and expose the best of the company to the outside world: „I don’t create a voice for a client. I try to express the voice that is already there but which may have been muted by expediency or distorted by poor advice. I believe that companies, like people, exist and grow by virtue oft he good in them. And that if there is no goodness they will die. Sometimes their essential goodness is hard to find. (...) But when you show them who they truly are and where their goodness resides, it rings a bell.“ (Tony Brignull, D&AD, 2011, p.42).

And then do it again and again: No matter what you brought to Tim Delaney no matter how much, he went through them and said: ‚Nah.’ „Tim didn’t really teach. He wanted you to just get on with the job and teach yourself. And that’s much quicker and more effective than any long drawn-out critique. Don’t think, just do, and thoughts will definitely happen along the way.“ (Sean Doyle, D&AD, 2011, p.90).

And beyond copywriting the writers offer many ideas on what advertising is and what it should be: „the one unalterable thing that differentiates copywriting from all other forms of writing. An ad is never an end in itself. It always refers to something beyond it, the product. And just as there are only half a dozen stories of any kind, there are only half a dozen car stories.“ (Tony Cox, D&AD, 2011, p.64). „Our job is not to make people think what a great ad, it’s to make them think what a genius product.“ (Trott quoted by Paul Fishlock, D&AD, 2011, p.114).

But it is a fascinating job: „Words are Gods. They have the power to make people do things, because they carry ideas.“ (Sinclair, D&AD, 2011, p.314). „Read poetry: Any why not? Indeed, I think the best copywriting is a form of poetry. We fuss and fret about the way things sound as much as poets do. So study their techniques, see how they use language, rhythm and imagery to achieve their effects. Anyway, it’s good for you. What do they know of copywriting that only copywriting know?“ (Holmes, D&AD, 2011, p.173). „Clive James said that humour is common sense dancing. Following the great advertising tradition of „borrowing“ from someone much cleverer, I would say that copywriting is persuasion dancing.“ (Wear, D&AD, 2011, p.354).

And beyond words, there are stories: „The secret was to trust not in writing but storytelling. Storytelling is not the same as writing, it is only superficially about things like plot, character and narrative. At the deepest level it is entirely about the reader. Stories change things by enabling people to realise for themselves that they are powerful and can do much in the world, and, crucially, that they want to do it.“ (Sinha, D&AD, 2011, p.321). „In so many ways, then, creating advertising actually is the same discipline as acting. You must start by mentally discarding your own identity. You have to become the people you are communicating with. Internalise their interests, joys, fears, tastes, even biases.“ (Stingley, D&AD, 2011, p.328).

And this ability is what makes advertising necessary: „The ability to communicate product benefits to customers in language they find credible and sympathetic is one of the major values an agency offers ist clients. Copy should read like a letter from a friend.“ (Salmon, D&AD, 2011, p.301). „Like lawyers, copywriters build persuasive cases for clients by selecting truths that are positive and omitting truths that are negative. This is different than lying. Lying is inelegant and foolish. It is not professionally challenging.“ (Silverman, D&AD, 2011, p.304).

But our responsibility is to the readers: “If you want to be a well-paid copywriter, please your client. If you want to be an award-winning copywriter, please yourself. If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.“ (Hayden, D&AD, 2011, p.154).

When we are truly lucky we can be of relevant to them: „Product advertising explains the product to me. Brand advertising explains me to me. (Empathy.) (...)” (John Bevins, D&AD, 2011, p.31).