For All Aspiring Creatives

A couple of weeks ago we went to see Matt with our work and he gave us some great advice on how to move things on with our book. Matt was then nice enough to send us a short help sheet after our chat.

We then asked if it was ok to share it on our blog as we get quite a few people reading who are in a similar situation to us. Matt was nice enough to agree and also offered to write up some of his own hints for the blog. We jumped at the chance so here they are for everyone.

But before we get to it here’s a little on Matt, he came over from Sydney where he had his own agency but then decided to work in London. Matt’s been at Fallon for four years now, CDs some projects and works solo on others, and on top of that he takes care of juniors and placements.

A big thanks to Matt for all his efforts, cheers!

Hints on how to put a book together.

I know there are a lot of opinions floating around offline and online about advice to juniors or placements. Some of it is really great advice, some of it isn’t. But that really doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is finding pieces of information that may help build your book or improve it.

So that is going to be the main theme here in so much as you should never settle on anything and you should try and create something that is reflective of you.

So congratulations, you’re half way there.

The little ‘Feel free to ignore’ I sent to Jai and Wal was given to me years ago by a very good CD and is still relevant today. For me, at that time, it was kind of helpful, not always right, but helpful to get me to focus. And that’s usually what these little things are for, to focus and inspire you. The following advice is combined wisdom from many people, not just me, so it may be familiar. In fact it isn't really advice it's more about trying to be helpful and to try and tell you what we look for and what people have told me. And that’s about it. As we all know, this is a subjective business, and everyone has very different opinions about what’s right and what’s wrong. So don’t look at this looking for things you disagree with. Simply take the things you think make sense and leave the rest.

Let me first start off by saying that I don’t know anyone who really wanted a job in this industry that didn’t get one. I'm talking about those that really wanted it. It may have taken them a while but they got a job. So if you work hard and have a good attitude that’s half the battle. Work hard, have the right attitude. I cannot say this enough. Work hard have the right attitude. If you are arrogant or think people owe you a job, forget it. You will not walk into a job, so don’t expect to. That is my experience. That’s my opinion.

Okay, firstly you’re competing against other books with the same 10 campaigns in it. Think about that. The same or similar formats and style. It’s great you have done that and have studied and worked hard but you are following a formula and sometimes it’s good to break it as you are only presenting different versions of the same formula to the same people. You’ve learnt the rules in college, you’ve done your 100 strategies, it’s now time to put that to one side and start to think ‘What kind of book do I want to have? What do I want to be hired for?’ You’ve learnt the basic skills, it’s now about presenting them in a fresher way and challenging yourselves even harder.

Just be aware that there are a number of formulas that have been around for a long time and lots of people use them. Do I like them? Not really. Have I done them? Yep. I have. But I try to avoid them all the time. Generally these are:
  • Before and after ads.
  • Something that is photographed to look like something else.
  • Visual collisions/puns
  • ‘Because’…ads
  • There’s a better/easier/new way to…
  • Lots of white space with tiny visual
  • The (insert long truth about something or someone) filofax/life plan/product.
Just be aware that there are lot floating around and they are easy to do. That’s all. If you’ve got a killer one you love put it in, but just be aware because I don’t believe every ad should or has to feel the same as the rest (or feel like an ad at all). You should try and make your ideas feel like I am not looking at an ad, then you’ll get more of my attention.

I read a comment somewhere that it took 5 months to see Tony Davidson at WK. The implication was that this was slightly annoying/unfair. But I think it’s right. I don’t even think you should be seeing ECD’s, let alone making comments about how hard it is to see them. The difficulty at seeing an ECD IS THE POINT. These guys are busy all the time. They are busy building and shaping their departments. They are not obliged to see you and nor do you have the right to get upset if they can’t. The way to do it is to find a senior team you like/trust/respect and keep seeing them. Keep producing ideas. You are a factory and you need to be working all the time. Only then will you get good. When they think your book is ready, the senior team will get it to the ECD because you have a relationship with them. If you want to try and see an ECD and get only one chance to show your stuff, then keep trying, but I suggest you are silly to do so early on. I would suggest limiting your agency exposure to four agencies with teams within those agencies. If it means they have slightly different styles then so be it. Shape your book/s accordingly.

When you have worked on your book (and it is ALWAYS a work in progress) you also need a bit of luck. That is why developing relationships with teams is crucial. You need to have the right book at the right time in the right place. Those three things. And a lot of that is timing and luck.

A lot of people give advice to juniors to write strategies. I agree this is a good way to get you to think. And a great way to get you to think of ideas for brands. But I also don’t think these are all you should do and I question as to what benefit it really serves you (if that’s all you do) when you still have to create an ad or an idea. Because half the strategies I see are one or two lines and I think strategies (the really good ones) can and should be more than that. So my advice is have about three of these types of ‘strategy ads’ in your book then do no more. If you want to write lots of them then do so as it’s great training, but I would encourage you to make them more interesting.

Examples of strategies that are more than strategies:

Crispin are great at thinking of creative ideas (you can call them strategies) that are not turned into endlines. Molson beer is one. They placed ads in women’s magazine showing men holding kittens and drinking Molson. Then they ran ads in men’s magazines telling men that ‘thousands of women had been pre programmed’ to think men that drink Molson are more sensitive (

Personally I think that’s great thinking (and proof that all great work is interactive). It’s a strategy and idea and execution that marries well.

Another example is The Truth campaign where the print ads were facts about cigarettes (Like “Every Cigarette Contains Cyanide”). But the genius in the idea is that they asked people to leave the magazine open at that page then put it back on the Newsagent stand or coffee table so they became mini billboards. That is a brilliant idea. That is a strategy written in a paragraph.

Again, I think strategies are excellent to train your brain, but don’t settle and see if you can make them more interesting. Failing that if you really love writing strategies become a planner. People will love you for actually doing your job.

Be critical of your campaigns and ideas. Do they show a depth of thinking? By that I mean are they just one or two levels of thought or are they deeper than that? Because the deeper the thought the better the reward for the person viewing the work. Why? Because the people you are showing your work to are smart, clever and have jobs. They can ‘get somewhere’ in their head very quickly. And as soon as they see the brand they would have already thought of three or four possible ways in. But if you have depth of thought then you surprise them and you make them think of something they didn’t. Do I mean lateral thinking, yes I do. Examples? The best is the Beware Of Things Made In October. There is depth of thought.

Okay, we see a lot of these random ideas for anything or everything or products. Whilst this is great and brilliant, it’s also sometimes (sometimes) a really transparent way to try and show you are more clever than we think. And the thing is everyone has them. And if given a day to think of anything, anyone can do it. So for that reason I would not present a book or a series of ‘other thoughts along the way’. It doesn’t make you more interesting, it makes you seem more desperate to prove that you can think. And sorry, but I believe that’s what your book is for. If you want to prove thinking in this area then think of an idea for a brand or service that makes business sense. Commercial sense. Then do the ads for that new idea. Examples (and these are examples only so don’t go judging them on their own):

Edible Lego. Lego has lost relevance to kids. A whole generation of kids have grown up without it. Edible Lego maybe a good idea. Kids can build creations then eat them. Good idea, then I want to see the idea that advertise this, and again, they may not be print ads or a TV ad, but I want to see how you tell people about this. And that solution should be amazing, different, inspiring.

Instruction manuals. Companies spend millions of pounds each year printing instruction manuals. Why not put them online? Okay not a brilliant idea, but kind of interesting. But what is even more interesting is how are you going to tell people about this? What is the campaign to launch this?

Turn your other ideas into sensible campaigns that can live in the real world.

Be hard on yourself. Don’t put extra things at the back of your book. If they are good enough they should be in your book, if you are unsure and are gambling then it will come across that way. Have faith and belief in yourself. Get rid of the rubbish at the back of the book. Do it now.

I personally don’t like it. It feels like pollution. Have I done it? Yes. Do I do it now? I try not to. The trend is over. Unless it is amazing don’t put ambient stuff in your book. Mainly because everyone has the same or similar versions of the same thing (Escalator panels, poster on lifts, missing posters, building wraps, etc, seen it all before). If it lives up to this type of thinking (meaningful, relevant, with a purpose) put it in, if not take it out. (

Print and long copy are not dead. There is no argument to say it is. But I never see it anymore. Personally I think that’s a shame. Why? Because currently a lot of briefs still require headlines and people just can’t write them. And you still, yes still, are asked to write copy from almost every client. So if you like the idea, put a headline campaign in. Write great headlines. Just one campaign won’t hurt. And if you don’t like them, then write something else. A piece of copy for something, some brand. And if you don’t like that either, then tell me why. But put it in writing.

There is a lot of thinking/debate/argument that says you need 5 print campaigns and 3 TV campaigns, or some version of that formula. This thinking is fine if you want to only do print and TV. But the world has changed and so should your capacity to deliver ideas that extend beyond print and TV. If whoever you are seeing is insistent you just deliver ONLY great press and great TV, fine do that and get a job there. But if you are interested in more then I suggest you don’t settle on print and TV but instead use it to launch into other areas. Combine the two or three or four. Carry on your thinking don’t just settle on the 3 print campaigns and 2 TV. Extend it. Change it. Use them in different ways.

An example? Okay, the Glue Society have done a campaign advertising the satirical show “The Chaser”. What they did is buy the cheapest billboards in the world – Iraq, Estonia, Iceland and made billboards announcing the show. The purpose wasn’t for people in those countries to tune in, the purpose was to do something satirical itself. Which that is. The billboards got talked about online and there were videos of them being built in the different countries. So the billboard was used to extend the overall idea. Clever, funny and smart. Go to gluesociety and click on ‘The Chaser’.

In terms of digital etc, yes I think it is important. Very. But what I think is more important is that you do justice to your ideas. If you have spent the time and thought of something great, it should live everywhere and you should explode it and make it live in different places. But the trick is not just doing a banner ad, or a blog, or a youtube video just for the sake of saying it’s an integrated campaign. No, your digital component should be just as great as the rest. Show us the idea that is brilliant because of the idea. It will breathe life into your book. An example? Okay, I think these are two solid example that shows product in an interactive way and I would have thought so if I saw it in a book (it’s better to be right first creative second, think of the right answer then spend time making it more creative. If you go the other way you lose people and get caught in esoteric nonsense):

So you should have digital components to your campaigns or have a digital based campaign. But it doesn’t have to be boring and I don’t want to see how you turned your car ad into a banner ad. I want to see how you got people to test drive online.

If you are going to draw scamps (which is the best way) then keep everything consistent and keep all your campaigns as scamps. The idea is the important bit. If you want to go to the trouble and spend time retouching and ‘macing’ stuff up (I wouldn’t if I were you) then do it for everything. Don’t have a book that is a half way house. It’s messy, it shows no thought and it’s just harder to decipher ideas.

Just don’t forget this is your chance to show us how you think. So take pride in presenting it. Make the presentation of it just as good as the ideas. And make sure what is inside it speaks and understands who you are showing. By that remember the question – Who is your audience? CD’s, senior teams. Think about them try and have something in your book that shows you understand your audience.

Okay, creative teams get sent hundreds and hundreds of photographers reps cards every year. It’s annoying. It’s a massive, massive waste of paper. Creatives don’t really read them. They just sit on their desks or get thrown out. So what if a junior team (or a photographer himself) decided to make little recycling bins especially for those cards and put them in the offices of creative people. Then after a few months collect the bins and cards and Paper Mache them into funny sculptures and then give that sculpture back to the creative team as a reminder of them. Not brilliant but relevant and different and speaks to the audience. Or think of what poster or thing I would want to take out of your book on put on my wall. What would that be?

The last thing to say is this book should be a reflection of you and how you think of the world. You need to be able to prove you can write ads, can understand the realities of how they work and demonstrate you know what is right for one brand versus another. But then it is about trying to inject yourself into your work. That does not mean you apply your tone of voice onto every brand. No, you must listen the voice the brand already has. But what it means is your whole book should feel like you. The way you think. Because that’s what people are hiring. And your opinions do count. How you think about it counts. What if you had a campaign for something that you felt strongly about? That would be good. That would be refreshing. Just like the following example. Can a fashion brand make such statements? Well it did anyway. And it worked. Like it or hate it it had an opinion and It challenged us: