If your campaign is clear without a case study video, please, for the love of all that is good, do not make a case study video. If you absolutely, positively, without a doubt cannot sum up your campaign in a short paragraph or a few bullet points, then and only then should you make me/us sit through a 2-minute case study video. 
P.S. It goes without saying that you will spread your campaign message through twitter and allow people to share it via social media channels. That is not a concept in itself and does not warrant a case study video. 
P.P.S. We have made this post into a handy jpg. Please feel free to blow it up, print it out and post it at your school/agency/barn. Godspeed. 


Simplify Your Copy

Recently, I wrote a TV script. While writing it, I asked if a certain phrase needed to be included. The simplest answers would have been:

a) Yes.
b) No.
c) If it fits, great. But it’s not mandatory.

Here is the emailed answer I received:

“I think we’ve committed to do our best to include, where it makes sense, but without compromising what we need to deliver to make [the] value message most compelling to our audience. And there’s probably a lot more impt [sic] info that needs to be voiced…that said, if we think we can easily fit it in, we should (I just don’t think that’s likely here…which would mean that we WOULD only cover in signage).”

No matter the medium, if you can use fewer words to convey the same meaning, do it.

What the Movies Can Teach You About a Big Idea

This is a guest post from AKQA creative and frequent Makin’ Ads contributor Nathan Archambault. You can follow him on Twitter @NKArch


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Greg has written before about the importance of having a great elevator pitch. Here’s another way of looking at it. This is something I picked up on after attending the Creative Week panel The Idea Matters… Still.
Your best idea should be like a great movie plot. For any great movie, you can reduce the plot down to a single sentence. For example:

Boy’s parents murdered, so he starts wearing a cape, fighting crime and talking in a deep, gravelly voice (Batman).
New York cop single-handedly stops terrorists from robbing an office building, all before the helpful proliferation of cell phones (Die Hard).
Nerd steals website idea from good-looking jocks and becomes an awkward billionaire (Social Network).

Your best ideas should be this simple and accessible. Try this test: take one of your ideas, write it down in a short sentence on a blank piece of paper. No visuals, no technology, no strategy, just an organized jumble of letters.

Now stare at it.
Does it still seem like a big idea? Does it pop? Does it wow? Do you look at that sentence, want to fold it in three and overnight ship it to Gerry Graf, Jeff Goodby and Dan Wieden?
Or, without all the glitter, does it seem empty, boring, unspectacular, less than large?
If, sans glitter, it’s not ready for the limelight, then figure out what it needs. Is it too complicated or gimmicky? Is it just a tactic? Is there something missing or is there something there that doesn’t have to be?
Boiling your idea down to a single, naked sentence can separate the great ideas from the good ones. Because all the glitter we sprinkle on our ideas makes them look better than they really are.
We’re storytellers, after all, and part of telling a story is making an idea seem bigger and better than it is on its own. When we present, there’s always more than the idea. There’s backstory and visuals. A beautiful presentation. People with varied areas of expertise go into an exorbitant amount of detail about each carefully-thought-out step of the process. Then, once sufficiently built up, the big idea is revealed with reserved aplomb.
And it’s glorious.
But if you start with a less-than-great idea, the final product will always have something missing.
So before you put all that effort into presenting and selling your idea, write it down in one single thought and stare at it.
If it still seems like the best idea you’ve ever seen, you’ve got a winner. Just imagine how great it will be once you add all the glitter.

What Occupy Wall Street Could Learn From Ad Folks

I wrote a post on my other blog over the weekend about the Occupy Wall Street’s lack of clear messaging and how they might improve it by asking themselves the questions we ask ourselves each time we’re trying to sell something. Greg asked me to post it here. Here’s a link to it: The Message has an Occupy Wall Street Problem.


Here’s a short piece that has great copy and great art direction.
[The link to this video was removed. But you can watch it here.]
Simple message. Simple images. Simple brand positioning. So clear and deliberate, you either hate the guy’s guts, or you sign on as a lifelong follower. No wonder this show won Best Picture.
Caveat: Before you decide to “pay homage” to this by ripping it off, you should know Nike and Dennis Hopper already did.

A Crisis of Credit

Our job is communication. In the communications model that you probably saw in chapter 1 of your advertising class, there are four parts to the communication process. The sender sends. The receiver receives. The receiver decodes (the fourth part is interference, but that doesn’t apply here).

Without all of this happening, communication doesn’t happen. Which is why it’s critical that the receiver not only gets the message, but “gets” it. Can decode it.

A buddy of mine passed this on to me. A really nice way to decode the credit crisis, an incredibly complicated mess, for all of us non-investment-banker-types.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

This was created by Jonathan Jarvis, a grad student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His site for this can be found here.


Today at work, I attended an interesting seminar by Lee Silber and Andrew Chapman on simplifying and prioritizing based on what they call the 90/10 rule. It can be applied to life or work. Basically, it’s a way to focus on the 10% of what you do that you love the most and is most beneficial to you.

As I listened to them, I was reminded of what Mark Tutssell, then ECD at Leo Burnett, once told me. It was maybe the most liberating, stress-reducing thing I’d ever been told by a creative director. He asked what I was working on, and when I told him it was just some crap for one of our crappier clients, he said, “Get it off your desk. It’s not an opportunity. Spend your time on opportunities.”

Real opportunities are about 10% of what we work on in our business (if we’re lucky). The rest is just time-eating stuff. Your goal should be to increase that 10%. This isn’t to contradict what I’ve said before, that you should look at everything as an opportunity when you start concepting. But when it becomes clear that a project isn’t going to end up great and has gone past the point of no return, get it off your desk. Do your best to make it not suck, but don’t get sucked into the trap of spending tons of your time on it. Polishing a turd, some people call it.

Some projects will never be opportunities. Some projects have potential but get so overburdened with junk that they cease being an opportunity. Once you recognize a project has gotten to this point, get it off your desk.

Dropped Balls

Something Kevin Lynch of Zig once told me:

“If I throw 5 balls at you at the same time, you probably miss all of them. But when I throw only one ball at you, you catch it.”

Sometimes the balls are headline, body copy, tag line, visual, logo. Sometimes they’re all the product features your client wants you to mention. And sometimes they’re all the things you want to say in a meeting to get your point across.

The sooner you can figure out which ball you need to throw, the better communicator you’re going to be.