Posts Tagged ‘writer’

As simple as skiing downhill

February 24, 2010

I really enjoy watching the Winter Olympics even though I know nothing about most winter sports. I’m from the South. That’s not to say that southerners don’t enjoy winter sports. I know a lot people who ski, ice skate and play hockey. But I’m not one of them. While watching a skier prepare for her event, the camera zoomed to a close up of her face. I was struck by her focus; she could have burned a hole through steel with the look on her face. I’d never thought of the focus and concentration it must take to be a good skier let alone an Olympian.

Which brings me to my point. It’s nothing new or earth shattering to our business, but it’s more important now than ever before. We need to keep our clients’ marketing/advertising messages focused and simple. Finding that single laser-like message isn’t easy and outside forces can easily complicate the message. But, like the skier, we need to shut out distractions and keep looking and moving ahead.

It’s not a revolutionary concept, but it’s something we can easily forget. So take a deep breath, get focused, keep things simple and great work will follow. Maybe even a medal here and there.

I wish I’d thought of that.

December 7, 2009

Most creative types start every project with the same hopeful thought, “this will be the best work I’ve ever done.” So you dig into your creative briefs and pore over the research. You think, brainstorm and execute. Finally, you step back with great pride and think, “they are going to love this.” You present the work and you are correct. They love the work and everyone is happy. Then, several months later, you thumb through a Communication Arts, Print or some other industry book and you think to yourself, “I wish I’d thought of that.” You look back at the work you just did and you know it could have been better.

Your work is still good. It’s on strategy, very effective, and your client loves it. But, as you look back, you realize at one point you were on the verge of something unique. Then you put your industry-specific hat on and unwittingly watered down a great idea.

Wait. Hold on. Timeout.

You always want to know the nuances of a specific industry in which you are working. It comes with the territory. But most of the time we pull that industry specific hat down over our eyes for one reason: fear. We use specific words and images because we think we have to. We forget that every human brain – whether it belongs to a consumer, creative or client – craves and notices novelty.

Like a lot creative people, I’m guilty of being afraid to develop something that may seem too radical from time to time. But not anymore. I’m more afraid of looking back on a project and thinking, “I wish I’d thought of that.”

Get off the sideline

September 17, 2009

HelmetFor those of you who know me, you know I really LOVE football. I played from the age of eight until I was a college sophomore. The players I most admire are those playing multiple roles. You’ve seen them. Guys who play defense and offense. Running backs that play on the kick-off team. Receivers that return punts. For the football illiterate I am simply saying this: versatility on the gridiron is good.

Another place versatility is vital these days is any advertising, marketing, design or other creative shop. While most agency folks are assigned a title (web designer, art director, copywriter, etc.) those titles can be blinders that prevent people from doing their real job: coming up with great ideas for clients.

In our creative department we take versatility seriously.

For example, we have a copywriter who makes music, art directors who design websites and anything else they can get their hands on and a web designer/developer who also happens to be a talented art director and overall idea guy. These discoveries weren’t the result of some agency wide cross-training effort; they happened because people saw beyond defined roles or titles. They got out there, tried new things and helped each other out. The result has been great work for our clients.

I believe the best path to great ideas is across the lines of job titles and disciplines. Get out there, return a few kicks and see what happens.

Like I said, I like football. In fact, here’s a blank helmet so you can design your own team helmet. I know you can do it. While you’re at it, send me your creations. We’ll post the winning designs.

Writers write words that speak.

May 27, 2009

Everyone is a writer. Seriously. We all have to write everyday. Whether it’s an e-mail to a co-worker, a to-do list for your spouse or a check to the guy who just fixed your car, you have to put letters together into words and make sentences to convey your point. That’s writing.

Me? I actually write for a living so I have to do a little more than that. Actually a lot more than that.

Without question, I have to have my facts straight. I have to tell things truthfully because I represent my co-workers to our clients and our clients to their customers. That is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously.

The other side of writing for a living is that I have to make said facts interesting.

There’s an ongoing joke inside advertising that most copywriters enjoy on the outside and silently jab their co-workers with forks in their minds. That no one ever reads the copy. Ah ha ha. Real funny, huh?

Well, it’s true. If you don’t engage people right off the bat, they’re never going to read that stinger ending you edited and re-edited for 25 minutes just to get the cadence right. But even that’s not the hard part.

You can get your facts right and make what you write interesting. But you can still fail if what you write doesn’t move people or show them that you truly understand what you’re talking about.

Case in point. Early in my writing career, I wrote an article about a new piece of mammogram technology. The nurse who looked it over for me actually laughed when she read it and said, “Honey! How old are you? You have obviously never had a mammogram!”

I hadn’t. And it obviously showed. Which is not good when your target audience is all too familiar with the annual pain and discomfort that is the price for potentially lifesaving images.

Her good natured ribbing that day was a humbling experience that taught me a lot about my job as a writer. It’s one thing to write to get a point across. Anyone can do that.

It’s quite another to write things that actually speak to other people. That’s my job.

Every word. Every sentence. Every project. Every day.

When Creatives and Clients Meet

May 27, 2009

Late on Thursday afternoon, an account manager came bounding to my office with the news that a new client would be here tomorrow. “Tomorrow?”, I gasped. But tomorrow is Friday! Friday, the pre-game show to the weekend. I had already planned to wear my Spiderman t-shirt.

 Now, wait a minute.

Before you start calling me a geek, I know, I’m a geek. The shirt is black with a rendering of the wall crawler crouched in attack position. Plus, it was given to me by my sons as a Father’s Day gift. It’s very cool and it’s tailor made for Fridays.

But, with a client coming in for a meeting which usually dissolves into lunch, too, that meant the sweetest t-shirt ever made would have to wait until next Friday to come into work.

 Eventually, I made peace with the idea this particular Friday would have to be a staright-up business-casual day. But it got me thinking about how creatives react in client meetings and how clients react to creatives.

 In the old days, only the account manager, account executive or some other suit-wearing agency service person interacted with a client. In those days, the creative team rarely saw a client outside of a major presentation, pitch or important client event. Creatives were sheltered from the “harsh realities” of client interaction. Why?

 Usually it is one of two reasons. Or sometimes, both. The cost and the artist stereotype.

 Fortunately for me I work at an agency that values creative input at all levels. However, other agencies I know tend to think that clients look at a group of agency people and see the dollar signs start adding up. Any additional people in a meeting gets the billable time calculator whirring away. I mean, we only need to meet with our agency contact, right? Why is that long-haired person in here? Is that Patchouli? Why is everyone wearing black?

 Then, there’s the artist stereotype. The idea that if a creative is attending a meeting, then someone has to be responsible for him or her. Someone needs to make sure the creative doesn’t speak out of turn, make an off-color joke or make a mess on the carpet. So most creatives head into a meeting feeling a little leashed. And not just from the suit and tie.

 In my experience, some of the best thinking in the business comes from writers, art directors, designers and new media folk. And not just about creative matters.

 Clients have a difficult job to do in today’s market. They have to manage costs and still produce results on often what is a shoe-string budget. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

 However, managing a creative project can be fun and different. It’s like a college project. Meeting with creatives can make a client feel creative. Plus, I have found that today’s creatives instinctively think outside of their own discipline. They make it their business to know their clients’ business so they can often provide a fresh way of looking at things.

 There is now a new generation of creatives, too. They are extremely articulate and can sell their ideas convincingly to clients – some even have real MBAs and understand strategy. Go figure.

 And with today’s faster cycles and shorter, budget crunched deadlines,  there is an even stronger case for direct creative involvement.

 So don’t be afraid. Open your basements and barn doors. Let your creatives trade their Spiderman t-shirts, black hoodies and Vans for coats and ties, square-toed pumps and clothes that require dry cleaning.

 You might be surprised to learn that when you unleash creatives, they may be some of the smartest people in your agency.

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