I came across this article by Liz Taylor on Medium.

It begins with this quote from Steve Jobs:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Read all of Liz’s article.

It’s great advice.

And put things into perspective.


On Being Dependable

We had a new business pitch last week. If you’ve ever been through a new business pitch, you know that it’s a strange kind of animal. When I’m asked which creatives do I want on my pitch team, the characteristic that’s usually at the top of my list is dependability.

Creatives are cut a lot of slack. We’re allowed to be disorganized. Late for meetings. A little flighty. I think this is a disservice to us. We shouldn’t be allowed to be those things. And when it comes to a new business pitch, those things can be deadly.

With this pitch, I was fortunate to have a very dependable team. It also happened to be a team with a lot of young people, several who had never been through a new business pitch before. But here’s what I saw from them:

1) They followed direction.
2) They kept pushing ideas.
3) They came to meetings. They were on time.
4) They didn’t waste time bitching about how f’ed up things were. Maybe this was because they aren’t the kind to bitch, or maybe because they didn’t have enough experience to know that it was f’ed–new business pitches are always f’ed to some degree.
5) They didn’t draw lines as to whose idea was whose. We were all in it together.
6) They often asked, “What can I do?”
7) They didn’t draw lines as to whose job was whose. If it needed doing, they’d do it.
8) They kept a good attitude. Even the art director who worked all day Sunday until 7:30 Monday morning, then went home for a shower and came back two hours later to work some more had a smile on her face.
9) They spoke their mind, but realized that once a decision was made, we were all moving in that direction. They didn’t take criticism or killed work personally.

Being able to depend on someone to come up with a great idea is important. I’d obviously want that as well. But in a pitch, when half the battle is about process, about being efficient and getting through it all without killing each other, these other nine kinds of dependable are just as important.

Here’s something to keep in mind as you’re looking for work. It was originally posted by a friend of a friend on the Proximity BBDO blog, here.

You know you’ve landed a job at the right company, with the right people when…


– you can spend 2 hours standing around talking with your coworkers after work, about everything but work and feel like it was only 2 minutes
– you’re work family is a REAL family
– you share personal details about your life with your coworkers, without fear
– you would consider taking a vacation with your coworkers
– you invite your coworkers to your kids birthday parties
– you invite your coworkers to your home
– even after the worst day, you still get a warm and fuzzy feeling about your job and coworkers
– you tout your team’s accomplishments to everyone you know, every chance you get
– your non work friends start to wonder if you like your work friends better
– after a week of vacation, you actually start to miss being at work
I’m about to go on a week vacation and while I’m really looking forward to the time off, I have to honestly say I’m glad I’ll be coming back to the most awesome work family I’ve ever had. See you all in a week.

Creative directors vs. creative engines

Don’t confuse being the creative director of an agency with being the creative engine of an agency. Sometimes, they’re one and the same. But not always.

I’ve worked at agencies where the creative director, however well-respected, was not the creative engine. Those who came up with the best work, the killer lines and fresh layouts were not always the ECD, the CCO, or even the CD. They were the people who loved their jobs and worked like crazy to make sure their ideas were as good as they could be. They never settled.

It may take you a few years to be a creative director. But you can be an agency’s creative engine whenever you decide to be.

Production Rules, Part One

No matter how great a director is, the work will suffer if he doesn’t “get it.”

A couple of years ago, our team was faced with two directors on a spot. One was a cool, music-video director with one of the best production houses in the country. He was young, hip and eager. The other sounded like a slick ad-guy, saying all the right things, and buttering us up in all the expected ways.

But even though his schmoozy, unctuous over-sell made us roll our eyes, one thing was obvious: he got it. He knew what the essence of the spot was. The cool, hip guy kept talking about props and set design.

We went with the cool, hip guy, thinking we could help him get our vision. Boy, were we wrong. He obsessed about shots that had nothing to do with the story, wardrobe, and motivation for wardrobe, tiles and wall color. I want my directors to have this attention to detail. But only after they give detail to the shot that really matters.

No surprise, the spot (which I originally had a lot of heart for) was awful. The client hated it. And we ended up recutting it, removing the dialogue and replacing it with supers. All because we thought we could eventually bring him around.

I read once that Steven Spielberg wrote a treatment for the first Harry Potter movie. He deviated from J.K. Rowling’s vision in several ways, most notably by suggesting Hogwarts be an American school. And he wanted Haley Joel Osmet to play Harry Potter. I love Spielberg’s movies. He’s a brilliant director when he’s on his game. But as far as Harry Potter, he did not “get it.”

Career Warehouse

Your career is a warehouse. It’s got an inventory. And you decide what comes in, and what you keep in storage. Unless, of course, you stop paying attention.
That’s when crates of 20-second legal copy start to show up in the shipping office. That’s when the forklifts bring in palates of “ACT NOW!” starbursts. You sign for these deliveries because the client or your creative director promises “just this once.” Or maybe you let them pile up because you’re “just paying your dues.”
But then the shipment for the One Show has to go out. And you look around your warehouse and realize you’re out of creative stock. There’s nothing good on the shelf. All you have are some moldy cardboard boxes marked “CONCEPT STILL IN TESTING” and “POLISHED TURDS.”
The easiest way to keep your warehouse from being cluttered is to keep an inventory. I recommend monthly. Quarterly at the very least. Figure out what you need more of and find a way to go get it. It’s the end of the month. Why not take inventory right now? It sounds like a Stephen Covey aphorism, but a little self-evaluation is better than hoping you catch a break on the next assignment.
Going a whole year without getting into the One Show isn’t so bad. Going a whole year without having anything to enter into the One Show is.


One thing you probably won’t learn in portfolio school is how to use vendors. Why would you? You’re either pulling stock photography or using your own amateur pictures and illustrations. Once you get a job, that will change.

Vendors include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Directors
  • Editors
  • Recording studios
  • Music houses
  • Illustrators
  • Photographers
  • Retouchers

When you get a job, I’d encourage you to familiarize yourself with the vendors your agency uses. But also ask about the local and regional vendors the agency doesn’t use, and why they don’t use them. It could be because of quality, price, or maybe that’s just they way they’ve been doing them. In any event, it’s good to know.

You need to be a strong conceptual thinker. You need to know your own craft. But if you’re a copywriter, you also need to know which sound engineer you prefer. And if you’re an art director, you should have a list of illustrators you’d love to work with.

Here are just a few of my favorites I’ve worked with over the years:

White House
Red Car

Oink Ink

Directors/Production Companies:

Beta Petrol

Voice Talent:
Tom Kane
Harlan Hogan
Bill Rohlfing

Webby Stuff:
Imaginary Forces

Never worked with but would like to:
Asche & Spencer (music)
Olivo Barbieri (photography)
Rocky Schenck (photography)

(The nice thing about vendors is if you’re a frequent user, they usually send you some nice swag around the holidays. Of the four iPods I’ve owned, three have come from vendors.)

Parting With Your Student Book

Yesterday, LC posted a few very good questions:

“Once you’ve got a job, how long is it cool to keep student/spec work in there? And is it mandatory to put produced work in your book? What if you’ve done TV, but it isn’t anything of note. Having the experience is valuable to a potential employer, I’m sure. But what if the spot isn’t book-worthy?”

Keeping Student Work
After 8 years, I still have one student campaign in my book. I’m proud of it. I’ve been told by people I respect to keep it in. I’ve even tried (unsuccessfully) to sell it to the client to make it legitimate (and so I could enter it into award shows). It’s not a showcase piece anymore, but I still include it. That said, I think that’s pretty rare.

Produced Work vs. Spec
It’s not mandatory to put produced work in your book. I interviewed with Guy Seese when he was at Cole + Weber, and he said he thought it was cool that I had spec work in my book. When Mark Figliulo hired me at Y&R, it was partially because of the same spec campaign. That said, professional spec work looks much different than student spec work.

Putting Subpar TV on Your Reel
If you’ve done TV, but it isn’t anything of note, have a reel for it, but don’t tout it as “your reel.” If you show someone “your reel” and it’s full of impressive spots you’re communicating two things:

1) you think it’s work worth showing (bad)
2) you can’t sell a great idea to the client (even worse)

For my first two years at Y&R, I only did promotional TV for Sears. I had done over 50 spots where the main message was a laundry list of things like “Get 20% off sweaters!…All treadmills half off!…Plus free delivery on all home appliances over $299…Hurry! This sale won’t last long!” I had a ton of TV experience, and nothing on my reel to show for it.

But I did keep a CD of the work in case anyone asked. And in two interviews during that time, people did ask. It’s interesting to note I didn’t get either job (and because I ended up being able to do great work on Sears, I’m glad). TV experience is great. But only great TV experience is worth putting on your reel.