Exciting news. Last month, I picked up the opportunity to work freelance projects for Wired.com. After arriving in the office for a brainstorming session, I was assigned my first major project. The brief? Create a hookup guide for halloween, make it digg-worthy. Off I went and three hours later I had crafted Halloween Hookup Guide: 31 Tips for the 31st. Even though Halloween is over, like the candy, the memories remain. Check it out for some laughs, I hope you enjoy it.
Category Archives: Ideas
StrawberryFrog is an agency I respect for both its personal branding and client work. When I first clicked on their site and browsed through the case studies, I was pretty impressed. Their philosophy revolves around the idea of creating a “cultural movement,” finding the ground on which a brand can equally stand and resonate with its intended audience. It’s supposed to be more than messaging–it’s about creating an idea where people want to be involved, hence, a movement. To better illustrate this, I highly recommend viewing the case studies on their site for Scion and Microsoft.
Although I’ve been a freelance copywriter for over a year, my dream job has been, and continues to be, obtaining a full-time position within an ad agency. Times are tough and I knew for a fact that StrawberryFrog had laid off seven of its junior level staff this past Summer. It’s clear they wouldn’t be hiring me, but maybe an internship was still possible. Ignoring the financial strain behind the prospect, I submitted my resume, portfolio, and cover letter to the email address specified by their secretary. There was no response and I’m not surprised. I’ve seen HR departments, they receive hundreds of resumes on a daily basis, nowadays even more, and the method I took wouldn’t help me stand out from any of them.
That’s when I had an idea.
Among all the collateral on StrawberryFrog’s site they feature an interactive booklet titled, frog versus dinosaur. In a children’s story format, it details how the big established agencies are “dinosaurs” and why StrawberryFrog is the next evolution in advertising. It’s fun, cheeky, and gives me a sense of their personality. Look through it first otherwise my next step is going to seem crazy, although that might be true regardless.
I decided to write and illustrate my own interactive booklet. Taking cues from their art style, I crafted a story about a StrawberryTadpole who one day dreamt of becoming a StrawberryFrog. For those slow on the metaphors, StrawberryTadpole is me. Once I created a gmail account for the occasion, I sent this booklet to the original address as well as the direct email of the Chief Executive, Scott Goodson, and, his second-in-command, Tiffany. But I didn’t stop there. I also created a twitter account @strawberrytpole, writing tweets from the character’s voice and @ing the Chief Executive when appropriate. All of this took place on October 7th and continued forward from that date–I waited, I tweeted, and hoped for the start of a conversation.
After all the time since October 7th, I received two responses. One was from a guy looking for work at StrawberryFrog, he read my booklet and thought I already worked there (at least I look the part). The other was on twitter from the Chief Executive himself, stating, “Cool.” In fact, due to the timing of the @ reply, his response likely wasn’t directed at the story I made, rather a tweet I sent him about a great pumpkin carving.
That’s the end of it. I couldn’t get a basic conversation, let alone discuss working for free. So, why post this failure at all? I could have kept it a secret and saved myself the shame. It’s because there’s no shame in taking a risk. I refused to sit idly and hope to get noticed–I got off my ass and tried to make things happen for myself. And, like a lot of good risks, it failed. I’m proud of the booklet I made. I’m proud of myself for taking a chance, dedicating hours to a project I knew full well might have zero return. And, the best part is, I’ll just keep moving on to the next thing, taking another risk. If StrawberryFrog ever decides to talk to me, they’re welcome to do so. The door is always open, I’m just not waiting by it anymore.
“I’m not creative.” I get it all the time and I say get over it. You are, I am, the whole world is, or at least it would be if we didn’t beat it out of ourselves by age 18 . The scariest part is I find the divide worse off in the places where it should be furthest from existence: advertising agencies. By the very fact that there is a “creative department” we run into an exclusionary issue. What seems like a harmless label to describe the work of one department thereby tells other departments they do not deserve that label. In other words, “this department is creative and yours isn’t, so there.” *sticks out tongue*
Call it psycho babble, but I think this has a profound effect on the motivation and quality of thinking in the work place. Do I have study results showing direct correlation? Nope, but the gut feeling is there and remains whenever I interview for a position. I don’t just want to work in a creative department, I want to work in a creative agency–the type of environment that fosters creativity through all levels and department positions. Let the ideas lead and let them generate from everywhere and anyone. Few agencies put enough emphasis on this prospect although some are getting there.
CPB Group has it listed directly within their employee handbook on page 7 under “Your Sensei.” It is said that you are assigned a mentor called a sensei and “most importantly, your sensei will be in a different department than you. We have found that departments are necessary to get the work done, but we have also found that the more people ignore departmental boundaries, the better it is for the work. That is why it is always a good idea when media people come up with creative ideas, and creatives come up with planning solutions, and production people come up with media ideas, and so on and so forth. For this cross-pollination to happen, you will have to become comfortable in the other departments and what they do.”
R/GA is another example which has created their own model to address their focus on digital services. Taken from the July/Aug 2009 issue of Communication Arts, “the agency has been set up so that groups work in multi-disciplined teams–technologists partner with copywriters, designers, researchers and planners. The teams collaborate on projects from start to finish, instead of handing off ideas to separate departments or outside suppliers.” Because the ideas can flow easily between copywriter, producer, et al, the end result does not become disjointed, nor does it require longer turn-around time due to volleys of e-mails just to stay on the same page. If isolation is an issue with departments, what do you about multiple agency locations? Employee growth has caused R/GA to take its commitment a step further with a newly-minted program series called R/GA University; creating open thought provision across disciplines and departments within their entire network–that is putting your size to use. The message is clear; if your departments (or agency locations) are isolated, then your work might as well be outsourced.
As for those tiny creative hot shops that you hear about? Thanks to their smaller size it usually allows greater ease of communication and project awareness between all the staff.
The result: Love’em or hate’em, these agencies have produced consistently successful work at all levels. All three examples allow ease of communication between department levels and a shared sense of effort toward the common goal of improving the client. It’s no longer every department for herself, it’s every agency for her client.
Though I haven’t yet worked at these agencies, I can attest to their models. When I worked on the National Student Advertising Competition at Emerson College in 2008, we adopted a similar approach. Every day started and ended with a live update from each department presented to the rest of our team. We always knew what everyone else was doing and it was made clear that anyone could drop by a department to contribute their thoughts even if they weren’t officially within that department. In effect, this led to better thinking across the board and allowed us to hone some initially far-flung concepts into leaner, pitch-ready executions.
And yet, only a small percentage of company cultures embrace these progressive models. In an age where companies can thrive solely from the power of an open source model, it’s amazing how many still fail to trust the untapped creativity beyond the walls of their creative department.
Imagine that impact on the business. A creative idea in research might mean doing something non-traditional. Maybe focus groups and surveys aren’t the answer this time. Perhaps if you fostered creativity in that department they would feel inclined to go the innovative route for gathering qualitative data. Creativity in media planning is just as important. Where is it being placed? When are things top of mind for your audience? If your media team is willing to be as creative as the messaging it is given, it will work hard to both imagine and execute on the best ways to reach your audience. Or, even better, the media team will have a great idea that lives outside its department while other departments provide great ideas that live within media.
In point, every department should be a creative department.
I love inspiration. We all do. And why not? It gets us pumped. We see it or hear it and spontaneously want to kick ass at whatever it is we aspire to do. But the Negative Ned in me says there’s a dark side to inspiration that we rarely mention. You see, inspiration’s good…a little too good. And you know what they say about too much of a good thing? Well, hold onto your keyboards because this post is about too much of too good a thing.
For the regulars of us inspiration comes in the right doses. We manage to seek it out every so often, just enough to refill the spirtual well and keep us moving forward. The key here is that we manage it, but, if we don’t, we can become victims of our insatiable desire for inspiration.
The internet has become a source for volumes upon volumes of easily accessible and often inspiring forms of expression. There’s nothing to stop you from spending your entire day browsing through it all in an effort to “get motivated” or “feel more creative.” And that’s where the problem exists–you’ll feel incredibly inspired by other’s creativity but no longer have the time to create anything yourself. All of a sudden inspiration isn’t a means to propel you, it becomes a crutch on which we never stop leaning, and thus, never begin accomplishing.
Ironic as it is fortunate, these same powers of the internet allow us the ability to schedule our inspiration with flexibility. There’s so much brilliance being uploaded to your mainstay sites that you need only designate a 30 minute window to take it in at a time of your convenience.
Creativity necessitates responsibility (their connection is only grounded further by ending in -ity). It’s your responsibility to know the quantity of time you spend admiring other’s work and when to cut yourself off. After all, the people who inspire you didn’t produce that work by drooling over their idols–they simply got to work and decided it was better to spend more time being inspiring than inspired.
This post is not for the stank of breath.
The thought occurred to me as I went through the usual motions of brushing my teeth. I had started the hot water running to soften the brush’s bristles. As the faucet did its job, I reached over for my tube of toothpaste. Coiled. It was near the end of its life cycle resembling something more of plastic snail than a vessel for this ADA ritual. And then the thought came: Why? Why do we do this?
Since the inception of the toothpaste tube people have coiled and curled their money’s worth from it every single time. This, in fact, is such a popular behavior that they invented special rollers to aid our literal penny pinching. However, even with rollers behind us do we ever really use the recommended amount of paste? I’ve heard it’s supposed to be pea-sized, but who actually does it? You don’t want to undershoot it and get cavities. Of course, overshooting leads to a waste of paste.
My proposal is a new dispenser for toothpaste. Much like we do a simple pump to retrieve a specified amount of soap, why not get our toothpaste in the same fashion? This container would not only ensure good habits for children by applying the correct portion of toothpaste to their brush heads each time, but it also avoids all the physical complications of rolling the tube by hand.
And, for the sake of being environmentally conscious, make the tubes replaceable. It’s the same idea as any dispenser. Keep the main device. Reload when it’s done.
From there the skies the limit design-wise. Make the packaging as fun as the heads of PEZ dispensers or give it the bold, minimalist look of Kohler. Either way, it should find itself at home by our bathroom sinks.
So, what do you say P&G? Seems like the kind of idea that’d put smile on your face. How about you readers? While the trials of toothpaste tubes don’t exactly rank on the same radar as global warming, would any of you find this useful?