Free Lobotomy by Tom Monahan

Just browsing around on issuu, I stumbled upon Tom Monahan’s book The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy. This book is a classic, and I’m a little floored that Monahan’s offering it for free. (For those who don’t know Tom wrote the Advertising section for Communication Arts for years before passing the torch to Ernie Schenck.)

Enjoy the book. And pass on the good news. You can read it here, or on the official issuu page. Should be some great summer reading.


The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi

Of the ad books I’ve read, this is by far the most comprehensive and up-to-date snapshot of where the advertising industry (if we can still call it that) is today and how we got here. Iezzi places today’s ad industry in a historical context, going back to the industry’s founding fathers like Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy, the first creative revolution sparked by Bill Bernbach and DDB, on through the changing styles of epic television spots in the 80s and 90s. But the book is primarily about the current creative revolution, sparked by digital technology, and how evolving media is changing the jobs of copywriters (although most of the book is applicable to anyone in the creative department).

The role of the copywriter has gone from writing television scripts and print headlines—pieces of one-way communication—to constructing and articulating more complex narratives that include longer-form content, cross-media experiences and dialogues between the brand and consumers (or consumers and other consumers). Iezzi covers some of the seminal cases that shaped this new landscape—BMW films, Whopper Sacrifice, Halo 3, and the Old Spice guy to name a few. She also conducts interviews with various people in the industry to get their take on how they do what they do. I was happy to see a few of my former students interviewed and credited with creating some of the best work in recent years.

The evolving nature of the industry makes it hard to capture “how it’s done.” One of the main things to take away from The Idea Writers is that there is no one right way. It’s no longer about simply being creative with what goes on the media. It’s about being creative with the media itself, the process, even the structure of the companies creating it. We’re in such a new and strange space that it’s hard to say exactly where we are. But this book gives a great overview of how we got here. A must read for anyone working or hoping to work in “advertising” today.

Jim’s 2010 Book List

Greg posted his 2010 Book List a few days ago.

Here’s my list from the past year:

Or if you just want the quick favorites, you can go here.

Please, let us know what you’re reading and what you think of it. We’re usually mostly about advertising on this blog, but if you want to get us talking for a really long time, bring up your favorite books.

The 2010 GRC Book List

Since 1998, I’ve kept a list of the books I read each year. In 2000, I emailed it out to a group of friends and got so many responses I’ve made it an annual event.
It might not have much to do with advertising or putting your book together, but I thought I’d share it here as well.
Here’s the link to the 2010 list. Enjoy.
(Jim keeps a similar list. I’m sure he’ll be posting his shortly.)

Modernista Is Not For Everyone

If you go to Modernista’s Website, you find a unique and inspiring message. “Modernista is not for everyone.”

Many agencies will take a shot at any client they think they can win. But an agency with a good sense of who they are and who they want to be realizes that they can’t be the right agency for every client. Like a brand, they have a character. Taking on the wrong clients will dilute that character pretty quickly.

Understanding what your agency’s brand is can be just as important as understanding your clients’ brands. But, as Tim Williams points out in Take A Stand For Your Brand, agencies can be surprisingly bad at defining and understanding their own brand. We tell our clients they can’t be everything to everyone. We would be wise to heed our own advice.

Thinking is not wasted effort.

Natalie Goldberg, who wrote the how-to-write books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, encourages her students to write constantly. And she says every once in a while a student will ask, “But what do you do with what you write?” She answers, “I don’t know. What do you do with after you drink a glass of water?”
She means that you don’t have to do anything with it. It becomes a part of you. Maybe there’s a line or two you can use. Maybe a whole paragraph. Maybe nothing. But it’s not wasted effort. You write because you’re a writer. You art direct because you’re an art director. You come up with ideas because you’re creative.
So don’t be afraid of generating ideas you won’t use. Experiment with layouts. Write long body copy for a visual solution. And then you’ll be able to decide what, if anything, to do with them.

Performing is investing is selling

Recently, Jim was writing about audiobooks, and it got me thinking.

A few years ago, I listened to Tom Wolfe’s book, A Man in Full on tape. (Yes, cassette tape.) It was read by David Ogden Stiers. Great actor. Great book. But having him read it to me was a little dull. As Jim wrote, it kind of felt like cheating to be listening instead of reading.

Last week, I finished listening to another audiobook. This one was The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. A cast of actors performed for about 10 different characters. The production was complete with Foley effects from background music on the radio to doors slamming. When someone was on the phone, they sounded fuzzy. When they were in the other room, they sounded distant. When they interrupted each other, you actually heard. It less of an audiobook and more of a radio play. They weren’t the best troupe of actors, but the whole experience was far superior to famous Steirs reading famous Wolfe.

The Tom Wolfe book is like the creative team that says, “This idea is so good, it speaks for itself. Feast your eyes on this brilliance.” No one’s questioning the talent or the substance. But outside of the creative team, no one’s really invested in it either.

The Goldratt production was the creative team who took a great idea, sold it, and got it produced.

(In Tom Wolfe’s defense, the jacket design for A Man in Full – and just about anything else – beats the cover of the Goldratt book.)

Some Light Reading

The other day at lunch, I read Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. It’s kind of a hodge-podge of tips and insights about working in advertising, and a quick read.

Here are random quotes I would have underlined if I weren’t borrowing the book:

Do not seek praise. Seek criticism.

If you ask the right question, you get the right answer.

Know your client’s aims. Most clients are corporate people protecting their own mortgages. They mistakenly see ideas as a risk rather than an advancement to their careers. Therefore their motivation might be quite different from their brief to you. Find out what the client’s real objective is.

It can’t be judged by description. It needs to be done (made) to exist.

The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.

The way to get unblocked is to lose our inhibitions and stop worrying about being right.

If you get stuck, draw with a different pen. Change your tools. It may free your thinking.

Get out of advertising. To be original, seek your inspiration from unexpected sources.

We all want to be proud of the company we work for. If you find people talking down [your agency], take issue with them…or, as a friend of mine did, fight somebody for talking disparagingly about the company he worked for. [this one seemed stupid at first, but then I began thinking that if you don’t take offense when someone knocks your agency, then you must agree with them. Which begs the question, why are you still at that agency? And fighting other ad people, that sounds good to me. I’ll warn you, though, I’ll throw lots of leg kicks and try to take it to the ground]

If you can find a way of summing up what the client wants to feel about his company but cannot express himself, you’ve got him.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If instead you undersell, pointing out the possible weaknesses and how to resolve them, should they occur, you are not only building a trusting relationship with your client but you’re able to solve any problems.

What do you do when your client won’t buy? Do it his way, then do it your way.

If you know the your client’s logo or product has to be big in an ad, don’t hope that it will fit in the corner somewhere unobtrusively. It won’t. Start your layout knowing that it’s a problem to be solved as an integral part of the ad.

The best blog post ever

We don’t promote too many books on Makin’ Ads. We’d encourage you to get very familiar with the annuals, first. That said…

If you’re currently looking for a job…

If you’re currently putting your student book together…
If you’re about to go on a TV shoot…
If you’re writing your first radio commercial…
If you’re about to create you first award-winning piece…
Check out this book.

How I got unstuck

About a week ago I was in a serious rut. I was down on work. Down on our clients. Down on co-workers. Needless to say, it was a pretty unproductive few days.

Then I started listening to this podcast called The History of Jazz by Georgia State University professor, Dr. Gordon Vernick. (Look it up. Wish I could link you to it directly.)
I also started reading my co-worker’s copy of Paul Arden’s book It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.
And on a bright sunny day, I accidentally took the bus too far and had to walk through a couple of neighborhoods I’d never explored on foot.
And suddenly, things were awesome. I liked work. And I’ve been very productive since.
If you’re stuck, frustrated or down on work, it’s not enough just to take a break. A walk around the building or a trip to the burrito joint across the street can sometimes help. But you really need to change your routine.