I just finished re-reading Jim Aitchison’s Cutting Edge Radio. Such a helpful book.
So for the next several weeks, Thursdays at Makin’ Ads will be Radio Thursday, and I’ll post a quote I think may be helpful for young creatives. (Art directors, you should learn radio, too. It will help you be a better creative director later on.) We’ll keep it up until I run out of quotes.
So here’s the inaugural Radio Thursday quote:
Silly voices are another hallmark of poor radio. [It shows creatives] can’t think of an idea. They don’t put any effort into being creative.
Note: There are so many quotes in Cutting Edge Radio, I’m not going to attribute them all to their rightful owners. Just know they’re all from Aitchison’s book.
Along with my regular diet of reading, I try to throw in some occasional work-related books. Sometimes my definition of “work-related” can be pretty broad. The pop idea books, like The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, and The Wisdom of Crowds can all be really interesting, and the ideas can be applied to what we do. Then there are the specifically advertising/marketing books, like Brand Hijack and Take a Stand For Your Brand (and, of course, the instructional books like Hey Whipple).
But every once in awhile I like to wander into the business section of the bookstore and see what the brand managers and CEOs and MBAs and all the other acronyms are reading. It’s not always fun reading, but it’s a good way to get a better understanding of how companies (including agencies) work. Last week, I read Good to Great
, a study of companies that made dramatic transitions from goodness to greatnes.
My point is not to recommend this book specifically, though it is good. What I’m suggesting is that you every once in awhile read something about business, or management, or brand strategy. Because advertising is first and formost a business. And although your primary focus should be your portfolio, knowing about the business side (and understanding how your client thinks) can’t hurt. And if you ever aspire to management or even running an agency, you’ll have to know how to be a smart leader.
I’m reading Seth Godin’s Tribes. He’s got a lot of good things to say about leadership, which relates to anyone putting their book together. Why? Two reasons:
- No matter what product we’re working on, we’re trying to create a leader. Don’t confuse that with trying to create a behemoth megabrand like Coke and Microsoft. Small niche brands also need to lead to be successful. On a brief, the Who are we trying to communicate with? section may as well read Who are we trying to lead?
- Not to get all Tony Robbins on you, but you need to see yourself as a leader, too. Whether it’s because you’re an aspiring ACD with longterm CCO goals, or you’re simply trying to win a client’s trust and respect, to be successful, you need to lead.
So with that in mind, let me share something Seth wrote (page 55) that’s really stuck with me:
“If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.”
When you’re given your next assignment, what are you going to do to make yourself uncomfortable?
(Disclaimer: If you’re still fresh and putting your book together, there are more important books to be reading than Tribes. As much as I’m a fan of Seth, don’t even think of picking up one of his books if you haven’t read Hey, Whipple a couple times through a spend every spare moment flipping through the annuals. Once you’ve done that, if you really want to read something by Seth Godin, I recommend The Dip for these reasons.)
I am always reluctant to recommend portfolio school students read anything other than the annuals (One Show, CA, D&AD, etc.) for a couple of reasons:
- You can never study the annuals too much. Especially at this stage of your career. There’s always new, fresh work to see, and you can learn a ton from work that was done 10 years ago.
- Advertising isn’t theory. You learn to make good ads by making lots and lots of them. Not by reading about them.
That said, Jim and I have a new sidebar on the homepage for books we recommend. If you’re looking for some industry-related summer reading, check it out. If you have questions or want more details on any of the books listed, post a comment and we’ll respond.
We’re also curious to know which books you’ve found most helpful in your pursuit of the perfect portfolio. So there’s a new poll on the homepage you should check out. Leave comments, too. We’d love to know which books you’ve found useful and why. If you’ve got some good suggestions, we’ll probably read them, too.
Yes, you’re all too busy putting your books together to indulge in “reading.” Certainly, not when the book is 500 – 700 pages long. But in the off chance you’re looking to squeeze in a chapter or two between Starbucks runs and wearing down your Sharpies on your comps, let me introduce you to three books worth reading:
If you’re lucky enough to be hired at Ricther7, these are three books the agency’s president, Dave Newbold, will suggest you read. Not because they’re advertising books (okay, “Whipple” is), but because they’re about creativity, and what it means to create.
The Agony and the Ecstasy is Irving Stone’s novelized biography of Michaelangelo, which he’s cobbled together from the Master’s actual correspondence. Here’s a guy who not only sculpts, paints and writes, he becomes legendary in each arena. Why? Because he’s creatively driven. The movie with Charleston Heston is pretty good. The novel is fantastic. If you don’t have time to read it now, be sure to before your next visit to Florence.
The Fountainhead is Ayn Rand’s epic story of Howard Roark, an architect who will not cave in to convention. While everyone around him is insisting the best work has already been accomplished (Renaissance, Gothic, Roman, or whatever they happen to consider “the best”), Roark follows his own creative vision. It’s loosely based on and inspired by the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. If an early attempt at Atlas Shrugged turned you off to Rand’s philosophy, give The Fountainhead a try. If you are a creative person, I can almost guarantee this book will speak to you.
Do we really need to talk about why Hey, Whipple is included? No. If you haven’t read it by now, dear student, shame on you.