This being graduation and recruiting season, I’ve seen a lot of student portfolios lately. Seriously, gobs of them. And this is generally what I’m seeing:
- Lots of digital ideas
- Lots of integrated ideas
- Lots of side-bar explanations of how the digital and/or integrated ideas are supposed to work
- Not a lot of print
- Not a whole lot of outdoor
If I were a student in portfolio school, I’d probably skew toward the digital/integrated ideas, too. Done right, they’re cooler, more memorable, and it’s the direction the industry has been heading for about a decade now. And we’re thinkers and concepters first and foremost, right?
But here’s the catch: speaking for the majority of creative directors and recruiters, the best way for me to judge your talents is with an unsexy, unglamorous old school medium: a print ad. If you’re a copywriter, a bunch of headlines and scintillating body copy lets me know you can write. If you’re an art director, a double-page spread is going to tell me more about your skills and artistic judgement than a big idea blown out across six media channels.
I’m not knocking digital, integration, or big, big thinking in any way. You need that stuff in your book to be competitive. But imagine you’re a creative director, with a couple of portfolios on your desk. All writing and art direction being equal, this is what pretty much what you’ll come away with:
BOOK #1 contains several digital pieces with their accompanying explanations, a couple integrated campaigns with their accompanying explanations, and a billboard campaign.
My reaction: Wow. Some pretty cool ideas in here. At least I think so. I didn’t take the time to read through all the explanations.
BOOK #2 contains several print campaigns which might even be a part of one or two integrated campaigns, a couple digital pieces.
My reaction: Wow. Some pretty cool ideas in here. And this kid can really write/art direct. We could use them here.
Multiply Book #1 by about 20, and Book #2 by three or four, and you start to see why having big ideas on their own might not be enough to get you a job.
You need to be a big thinker. And digital and integrated campaigns are usually the best way to show off your brain.
But agencies don’t hire big thinkers. They hire writers and art directors who think big. And as unsexy as it sounds, the best way to show off your craft is usually a double-page spread. Sure, roll it into your integrated piece if you can. But don’t assume one print campaign is enough to showcase your talent.