Make Your Book Less Student-y! Act now!

I see a lot of student porfolios. And I can peg most of them – say 80%, and that’s pretty generous – as being a student portfolios before I even look at the resume. It’s not a unique skill. Most people in the industry can do the same. Because most student portfolios just feel┬ástudent-y. And the thing is, it’s the other 20% that make the big impression.
There are lots of different contributing factors to the studentyness of a book. For this post, let me just bring up one: Most studenty books neglect calls to action.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a call to action is something that gives the reader, viewer, participant, whoever, something to act on. It could be as simple as a website or phone number, or as specific as a date and location. It doesn’t have to be crass like “Hurry! Limited time offer! Call now!” (In fact, if you’re considering that kind of copy, you might be reading the wrong blog.)
Maybe you buy the argument that a lot of advertising is about brand building, or having a conversation with the consumer. I buy that, too. Sometimes. Nike rarely uses a call to action unless they’re trying to send you to some kind of microsite. iPad commercials don’t end with “Visit” popping up at the end. But for most ideas you’re going to present to your client, you’re going to need something more than just a logo. A book entirely full of pure branding pieces comes across as a very studenty book.
Look at it from a client’s point of view. You’re paying your agency to come up with a great idea and execute it. You’re paying your media company hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of dollars to make sure people see/hear/experience the idea. You’ve got a boss who’s expecting you to deliver some kind of tangible results. And you’re going to run an add that hopefully gets people to think of you as cool?
You don’t have to slip into gross promotional language. Just figure out what you want people to do once they come in contact with your ad. And then give them a way to do it.

Call to Action

This is going to sound heretical, but bear with me:

When you lay out a campaign, ask yourself where you could put the web address and an 800 number.

I’m amazed at the number of student ads I see that fail to include a call to action. This isn’t about making the logo bigger, or junking up the work. It’s about doing the right thing.

Sometimes web addresses and 800 numbers make more sense than others. If you do an ad for a car or a brand name soda, probably not. But for a small product or service most people haven’t heard of it makes sense. There are no rules. Just use your judgement.

A web address or an 800 number, tastefully added shows that you can turn commerce into art.

It shows that you know the purpose of the ad is to get people to act.

And it will make a student ad look and feel more like a professional one.