First Impressions

Ads have to work fast. Almost light speed.

They have to be simultaneously clear and intriguing.

If they’re muddled, irrelevant, or boring, no one will pay attention.

This is equally true for ads in student portfolios.

Just 30 seconds before writing this post, I was looking at a student’s book online. The first four examples were case studies that looked more like brochures than ads. They weren’t ads. They were explanations of executions.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have time to sit and read paragraph after paragraph designed to help me better understand the problem, the target audience, what they currently think, what they should think. That’s a creative brief. And I don’t have time to read your creative brief.

I have time to read a few quick headlines that are thoughtful, engaging, clever, provoking, interesting, and clear.

I want to see your creative.

I don’t have time to read your explanations.

“But print is dead,” you say. “Digital solutions need more explanation. They need to be set up.”

Fine. Then set them up. Quickly. And clearly. Then get out of the way, and let the work speak for itself.

And never discount a quick, well-written headline. It’s the easiest way of showing me you can think. If you can write a great piece of copy, I’m willing to bet you can create any kind of compelling content a client needs you to.

This is what reading paragraphs of set-up copy feels like.

Jim Haven Wants to See Your Print Work

On the heels of the last two posts, here’s something from Creature co-founder, Jim Haven.

In this article for, Haven explains what he looks for when hiring creatives:I’m looking for great ideas, like everyone else, but I think I’d almost rather see a well-crafted print campaign right now than something like augmented reality or an iPhone app. Shocking? Old school? I know; but there’s a reason, actually.”

Any of you wanting to work for a shop like Creature (98% of you) should check out the article to read his reasons. They’re pretty much in line with our Blank Page Manifesto.

The Blank Page Manifesto

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about our industry and its future. The great thing about advertising is it’s in constant flux. That’s also the scary thing.
When I left portfolio school, it was with a book full of print ads. That wouldn’t cut it today. The bar is much, much higher. You’ve got to have ambient media, web executions, product design. Big thinking no longer means a double-page spread.
And yet you probably spend a lot of time in school working on headlines and layouts. We spend tons of time on this blog discussing body copy and photography – techniques that seem hardly revolutionary or cutting edge.
So are we wasting our time? Are you wasting yours? I don’t think so.
I’ve written something that’s put things in perspective for me as a teacher and creative director. And I hope it puts things in perspective for you as students, juniors and the future of this industry.
If you agree with it and if it helps, please share it, post it or print it. Just don’t change it or charge for it.

Here’s the link for The Blank Page Manifesto.