In Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This! Luke Sullivan reminds us that it takes just as long to make a bad commercial as it does to make a good commercial. Whether it’s a brilliant, shining idea or a dripping wad of hair and toe jam, you’re still going to have to do storyboards for it. And present it to the client. And walk through a director through the idea. And sit through a pre-pro. And sit in video village. And edit. And revision after revision after revision.
So don’t cut corners on the idea. Make the idea solid. Because even if the client strips away your very best shots, and makes you change the music you love, and doesn’t want to pay $1 million for the celebrity voiceover, you’ll still have a strong idea.
I’m starting a series of posts that ask a simple question: “If you could go back in time to when you were starting out in this business, what one thing would you tell your younger self?”
For the first one, I asked Luke Sullivan the question. Luke is an incredibly talented, wise, respected and beloved writer and creative director. He’s the author of the canonical Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! He currently teaches and chairs the advertising department at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Here’s what Luke said:
“The one thing I wish I coulda done different when I was a young ad geek, is to have shut up and listened more. Even if you’re fairly talented, just behave like like an apprentice oughta and learn from the journeymen and masters who surround you. I would tell me to quit gettin’ so bent out of shape every time one of your ideas gets axed. Deal with it. That’s how it is in every creative business. 98% of everything you ever come up with will die. The answer is to deal with it, shut up, sit down and come up with another idea. As they say, the best revenge is a better ad.”
I want to give a shout out to my friends at The Richards Group who made the following commercial. I don’t normally share work like this, but I want to make a point. Here’s the Fiat spot my friends made.
And here’s a different Fiat spot. Not sure who made it.
I bet this JLo ad was fun to make. It was probably exciting to sell through to the client. The creative team probably got to meet her. And it was probably cool to shoot all those people running from so many angles.
But a good idea will always, always trump borrowed interest. Always.
And as Luke Sullivan says in his book, it takes just as much time and energy to make a good TV commercial as it does to make a bad one.
A lot of us get into advertising to make people laugh. We want to do funny spots like the moose ad for monster.com or the shark spot for Snickers. Check out Adweek’s 18 Great Skittles Ads by TBWA, and you can’t help but want to be on the funny wagon.
But I’m always reminded of something Luke Sullivan (a really funny guy) said. In his book, he says humor is a dialect, not a language. It’s more important to be interesting than just funny.
Funny is good. But it’s also really, really hard. And when you miss, it can be painful. Saturday Night Live hires some of the funniest writers in the country, and the show is still wildly hit-and-miss. Lots of weeks it’s miss-and-miss.
In this article, Gerry Graf tells Creativity his thoughts on humor. If you’ve got an account, you should really read it.
In this article from ihaveanidea.org, Luke Sullivan says, “A great creative director is a ‘career accelerator.’ These are bosses who leave your career in better shape than they found it.” Very true. Those of you about to graduate, make finding one of these CDs a priority.
Our recruiter visited SCAD a couple weeks ago and came back raving about the place. The fact that Luke Sullivan just announced that he’ll be joining SCAD as the Chair of their Advertising Department ups those raves exponentially. As if eating at Paula Deen’s restaurant between classes wasn’t a good enough reason to go there.
Good luck to Luke. Looking forward to SCAD being a serious contender in the college shows.