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Saul Bass Explains The Price Of Excellence January 27, 2010

Posted by Ivan Pols in advertising, design.
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Another sage once told me that if you just concentrate on the work, the money will follow. Which, to be frank, has worked for me just fine.
(Okay, back to work.)

The Natural Girl January 24, 2010

Posted by Ivan Pols in advertising, models, photography.
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Chris Craymer does a lovely job of capturing the softness in his models. No schmaltz, just a wonderful optimism (which is a lot tougher than it sounds). I’m not sure who does his styling, or if it’s all his own, but it’s inventive and matches the photos brilliantly.

Enjoy. Click here.

Life Lessons From An Ad Man October 16, 2009

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Rory Sutherland gives a great, funny talk about perceived value at TED. (I especially enjoy his Diamond Shreddies example.)

It’s Remarkable What A Bicycle Can Do These Days September 24, 2009

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Well, more importantly, it’s amazing what the riders can do. This is a video of Danny MacAskill for Inspired Bikes and it hardly feels like an ad. Which is the way I like my ads sometimes.

Green Washing August 5, 2009

Posted by Ivan Pols in advertising, comment, culture, drawing.
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greeenwashing

9 Portfolio Night Chats Later June 12, 2009

Posted by Ivan Pols in advertising.
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Last night was Portfolio Night 7, a worldwide event where young advertising creatives get to show their books to crusty Creative Directors to get advice and criticism. It was my first Portfolio Night. Normally I see portfolios one and at a time and therefore give one crazy monologue at a time. Not last night. I gave 9 lunatic monologues while recent graduates of Seneca, Ad School and OCAD scribbled furiously in little books or stared at me. I suspect that my non-Canadian accent provided some difficulty to the kids from the suburbs (which is entirely my own fault, being a dirty foreigner).

Eyes

Seeing 9 random portfolios in a row I noticed kept saying the same things. I endeavoured to be original, but there are a couple of realities that needed to be repeated until my brain hurt. I figured I may as well repeat them here one more time to save myself the effort in the future. For the next few days this will be relevant.

Firstly, I have basic disagreement with the way young creatives portfolios are assessed in Toronto. Too much emphasis is placed on tight, developed ideas and not enough on craft. I’ve had this argument with a few locals. They say that “ideas” are the gauge of a young creative, craft can be learned. I say that you either have “art” or you do not. Idea skills can be learned (ask Gerry Human) but you’ll never surprise me if there is no spark. A good idea executed typically is typical. Craft elevates communication (The Copy Book & The Art Direction Book are testaments to this belief). Why would we pressure the most pliable minds in the industry into delivering meat and potatoes ideas? That’s what experienced teams are for. Youngsters are meant to play and make things, pushing the old-timers, not doing their jobs for them. Talented young creatives need to be able to MAKE things. Creative Directors are meant to guide and shape the ideas.

  • Repeated Advice 01: More craft. (We create things where there was nothing before. It might as well be stuff worth reading and looking at.) I got great advice when I started: You’re an Art Director, Art Direct! Try stuff, make mistakes, play, experiment, surprise, scare and screw up. Sure, have a couple of straight ads and designs to prove you remember where a logo typically goes, but don’t rely on the Adobe CS4 tools defaults. Be inspired by everything but ads. And force your will upon CS4. It’s desktop publishing design hell. Powerfully easy and it makes us lazy. Be better than the software. And writers, create samples across channels to demonstrate your command of language and tone. The best writers I know all did Literature at university, they read a lot. Read more.
  • Repeated Advice 02: Too many print ads. Yes, that’s what school gave you. Print is a good way to learn your craft and now it’s time to expand across multiple channels. I have spent the last 3 years selling campaigns with deep social media components. The work we make is designed to be shared, useful, PR-able, conversational. Young creatives eat and breath social and yet none of the 9 people I saw last night applied what they practice to their portfolios. Their idea of digital was limited to iPhone Apps and microsites (a year after Modernista! dismantled the website). I can lay blame on a few doorsteps for this, but rapid understanding of social marketing is the only way to be relevant. Every young creative should be naturally light years of their CD and demonstrate some of that in their book.
  • Repeated Advice 03: Make things that people would talk about, experience or share. It’s the Alex Bogusky test and it’s a good one.
  • Repeated Advice 04: Lighten up. Work hard off but remember that if you aren’t entertained, nobody else will be.

I’m sure there was more bad advice I could hand out but we only had 15 minutes to inspire or horrify portfolio carriers. I find my own output increasingly difficult to categorise and I expect that from the best young talent. Which is the point of Portfolio Night.

If you want to add some insights or obvious advice, please do.

It’s Where You Take Things To May 20, 2009

Posted by Ivan Pols in advertising, art, comment, culture.
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Jim says

CR Blog had a post that raised a traditional issue in advertising and design. Namely the “stealing” of ideas and techniques.

YouTube provides a steady stream of inspiration to advertising creatives, but it also leaves young directors vulnerable to having ideas stolen and agencies open to accusations of plagiarism. How can both directors and agencies protect themselves?

That started a fun discussion. I argued that nothing (advertising, design, art, music) is original. Everything you do is based on the work of someone else. You don’t necessarily have to proclaim from the roof who you borrowed from, but don’t be shy when someone points out that you are not a true original. I like Jim Jarmusch’s quote, “Don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.” Just remember that you borrowed and will be borrowed from in turn (if you’re any good). Just try make it better and stop feeling so damn guilty. Love your history.

How about this: Love Your Influences As You Would Be Loved. Okay, now where’s that D&AD annual…

Pick Pick Pick Pick It Apart May 7, 2009

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Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly etc) sings a song analysing the analysis of creative work. It starts with the first cave artists who didn’t explain much about their process and ends with the advent of the DVD commentary (which the song was written for) and deleted scenes. It’s a silly song and the man can’t really sing, but his dive into the destructive rationalisation of creativity (JJ Abrams magic box) got me thinking about my creative industry.

I make brand campaigns. My job is to come up with ideas that capture the imagination of the client and most definitely the public. There is nothing more satisfying than releasing a great idea into the room and watching people get caught up with it. I enjoy that perfect moment because I know that for the next 3 months to a year we will spend most of our timesheets in battle. Some people have the task of picking the idea apart and some have the job of defending the integrity of the idea. There are many more people picking than there are people stitching. They use the tools of Research, Integrated Marketing Campaign Meetings, Internal Meetings, Conference Calls, Global Corporate Politics and Powerpoint to deal out the damage. Joss Whedon sings that his Art is picked apart to reveal “the tick, tick, tick of a heart“, which is then promptly devoured by the ravens. Yet nobody in marketing actually wants to kill the fabled Idea. They love the Idea. They all believe they are doing the very best for the Idea, forgetting that it only takes one person, maximum 2, to successfully do a magic trick*. Big groups of people really saw the girl in half.

Whedon as an entertainment creator spends less time trying to make the work he believes to be right, but more time rationalising and explaining after the fact. His published work has a heart that is then picked at. In advertising, you spend all your time up front doing the rationalising and explaining to ensure that some heart remains when it is published. A friend of mine maintains that anybody can come up with a great idea. It’s getting that great idea out that proves the quality of the creator.

Joss Whedon’s song is a warning for art creators to be wary of over-analysis. I say creators of advertising should revel in creative over-analysis. That’s 90% of your career after all.

*Getting the public to like some brands is a magic trick.

Help Child Soldiers Fight December 5, 2008

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Toronto agency, John St., are trying to do a very difficult thing. They’re attempting to make the horror of child soldiers in Africa, places like the Congo and Darfur, a reality to middle-class Canadians. It’s a tough sell. It’s hard to imagine your precocious hockey playing 12 year old drugged, abused and carrying an AK47 through the bush. I think they’re doing a fine job.

Help Child Soldiers

BBC Olympic Campaign Gets A Banana July 30, 2008

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Here is an astute piece of sporting design for the BBC’s road to China, Olympic campaign. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett from the Gorillaz step up to the plate and deliver something people want to watch. Entertaining sport. I like it a lot. I especially enjoy the culture, trashy & otherwise, that they tap into. Apparently you don’t need an athlete to sell athletics.

via Drawn