Sunday, March 03, 2013

Top Ten Tips

In one week's time, I'm giving the opening lecture at Award School, where Australia's aspiring copywriters and art directors go for training.

I'll probably be doing the same presentation I've given for the last two years - 'How To Have Ideas', which isn't original at all, but based on a theory I adapted from Scottish philospher David Hume.

There are actually lots of things I'd want to say to young creatives, but it's better if a lecture sticks to one theme. A 'Top Ten Tips' of wildly disparate content doesn't work as a talk.

But it can work as a blog post!

I've been writing tips for a few years, on various ad-related topics - here's the full collection.

But I've never done an overall Top Ten.

So, wildly disparate though it may turn out, here goes - my Top Ten Tips for young creatives.

1.  To be a successful creative you need more than just talent, Converse trainers, and the hide of a bullet-proofed rhinoceros. You also need knowledge. Not a lot. But some. And the most important knowledge you need is a comprehensive knowledge of what has already been done. Why? So you know what not to do.

2.  Our work is often autobiographical, so we take rejection of our work as rejection of ourselves. But this is silly. The team/client have no clue of your autobiographical inspiration, they're purely rejecting the pieces of paper they see in front of them. You're a valid person! It's just the work they have a problem with.

A Certain Ratio were a band from Manchester,
and are tangentially related to this blog post
3. Advertising is subjective - there's no certainty that your idea is good. So when you are presenting it, people will be looking at you, and judging how much you seem to rate it. Therefore, the more confidently (and energetically) you present, the more people are likely to think it's good.

4.  Very often, when you're writing an idea, you come up with something great, that you love... but you know in your heart of hearts there's one tiny thing wrong with it. Someone once said that "the problem with a hidden flaw is it never remains hidden." They were right.

5.  Don't write TV ads that depict a normal or everyday situation, with a twist at the end. It has to be a helluva twist to compensate the viewer for the previous 25 seconds of boredom. You are much better off creating a commercial that is funny all the way through.

6.  Make your work extreme. If it's dialogue-based, double the amount of dialogue and cut out everything else. If it's visual, make it very visual. If it's logical, make it very logical. If it's emotional, make it very emotional. In short, be very. 

7.  To do good work, tell the truth about the product. Yes, obviously, you'll be exaggerating it, or dramatising it, but base what you do on a truth about the product, not on anything extraneous or made-up.

8.  If you're a young creative, the most important factor in deciding where to work is a certain ratio - 'Awards Per Head.'

9.  When working with collaborators - like directors, illustrators, web designers etc - never be afraid to tell them how you want your idea executed, even if they're a world-famous photographer, and you're a 22 year-old. Remember, it's your idea.

10. If you've done some good work in the last year, don't sit there stewing because your boss hasn't given you a pay rise. They never will. You have to ask.

P.S. If you think these tips are rubbish, let me know. If you have better ones, let me know.


Anonymous said...

I would take issue with number 8, Simon. As a junior you should work anywhere. Talent rises regardless of circumstance. That's why mac operators (the good ones) often end up as art directors. As a lecturer and tutor of junior ad type people myself, I've already had a gut full of the Gen Y syndrome, and "I'll only work at X agency or Y agency". Just get in anywhere, and work your arse off. And, most importantly, be thankful for it.

Chris T said...

Ooh. I like number 6.

Anonymous said...

I agree with number 8. Hard work will only take you so far. You need mentorship and at the least the remote chance of working on a remotely good brief / client, to make any kind of step up.

Alex the Kidd said...

I couldn't disagree more, Anonymous. Starting out at a bad shop will stunt a career more than being a talentless creative will. It took me 5 years to work out why my ad school peers got such a headstart on me... Their creative directors were filling the trophy shelves while mine was lining his pockets.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, in award school, another lecturer quoted the great David Hume; the world's most famous librarian. Would love to see a link to the lecture. Your book and blog are inspirational.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Alex, but your approach almost certainly guarantees that you'll have no career whatsoever, which is what happened to almost every student I've had who 'held out' for only a select few agencies on 'their' list. It never happens. Want to know why it doesn't?

The one thing to remember is the top shops (the ones students typically hold out for) don't need juniors. Don't for one second think of yourself as some sort of bankable investment for the future that they want to groom and protect. You're not. When you start out you're inexperienced and totally untested. Frankly, you're actually more of a hinderance and a risk to me.

What you need to do, more than anything, is prove to me as a CD that you can actually transition from the conceptual to actual. Show me you can make real things. Not all students can, if fact most don't. Give me something I know I can work with beyond the protect confines of AWARD School.

Thing is, as a CD, when I look at junior books I'll trust myself to see talent hidden therein, even if it's buried under mediocre executions or from a no-name shop, because I absolutely can (usually). As can any decent CD in this business. That's part of our job.

You just have to trust that we will, if you're good enough that is.

Ricci said...

Okay so I'm not a creative, but I've sat in (and presented) hundreds of ideas and number 3, while no guarantee of getting you across the line, can go along way. On the flip side, a bumbling, unenthusiastic presentation of an idea makes selling even the greatest idea a hurculean task.

Jay said...

Are people jumping the gun on point number 8? He merely said the most important ratio when deciding where to work is awards per head.

He didn't say if you cant work at the top 2 agencies dont work anywhere else.

Go for the best you can, if you don't get it, look at the next best option for the time being.

Marcus said...

Simon, they're pretty good. I'd also add 'Absorb life': watch people's behaviours, go to museums, gigs, talks, galleries, watch foreign films, read and surround yourself with talented people. Then eat a few D&AD books or the Long Copy book. And remind them upfront if they want to be artists or artistic salesmen. The best admen are the latter.

Anonymous said...

I don't normally leave comments on stuff like this but I like Top 10 lists & I liked your Top 10 list particularly.

Anonymous said...

Read Dave Trott's How to get your first job in advertising.

Anthony H Wilson said...

Wouldn't know too much about the tips as am more from the 'suit' side of things. I just wanted to congratulate you on including A Certain Ratio album cover in there. Bonus points will be awarded for further obscure Madchester/Fac 51 related references. Bravo!!!

Anonymous said...

11. Develop the ability to appear that you still give a shit.

Anonymous said...

Don't be the 22 year old a**hole telling the world famous photographer what to do. Learn from them and their experience. Your idea is safe with them, that's why they're world famous.