REI-_OptOutside_Anthem_Film_15I was happy to see my favorite campaign from 2015 pick up a Titanium Grand Prix Cannes Lion. Much of the chatter from the festival was predictable (scam ads, the importance of technology, how to deal with the emotional resonance inherent in cause-related advertising). But a few of the big winners surprised me—I wasn’t sure this campaign was going to get the recognition it deserves.

Why do I like it so much? It is a brand sticking to its values in the most important way possible. If the strength of a person’s values can be measured by what they do when nobody is looking, the strength of a brand’s can be measured by what they do when lots of money is on the line. And there’s a lot of money on the line on Black Friday.

REI_OptOutsideonBlackFriday2215.jpgREI_OptOutsideonBlackFriday1215Closing its doors on Black Friday and encouraging people to go outside instead is a simple idea. But it’s also brave and, importantly, perfectly embodies what the brand stands for. It’s not latching onto a cause or topical conversation. It’s creating its own cause: nature>commercialism.

Beyond that, it’s very well executed. The design is great. The tone is great. And the hashtag is a fantastic bit of short writing. Kudos to the teams who pulled it off. Wish I had this one in my portfolio.



Tell Your Idea to Life

compWhen you have a story to tell, you usually just tell it. But in advertising, the story is what gives your idea life. And for your idea to live successfully, you have to tell it over and over. You tell it to your partner, to your team, to your client, to your director—before you finally tell it to your real audience. You literally breathe life into your idea through these tellings, so you better get good at it.

Your job, as much as anything, is about articulation. That’s seems like a weird thing to say, but it’s true. You have to figure out how to articulate your idea in a way that brings it to life for different people. Some of those people will be creative people who understand what you mean when you reference a Wes Anderson style of art direction. Others will be MBAs who are very smart at business but don’t know Wes Anderson from Steven Spielberg. Or maybe you’re talking to a CMO who has about 2 minutes to hear your idea and just wants to quickly get the gist and understand how it solves her business problem.

Whatever the case, you have to know your audience in the meeting the same way you know your audience out in the world. What will resonate with them? (Hint: there’s a 99% chance that “it would be really cool if we…” won’t resonate with them.) Importantly, how can you articulate your idea so that what’s in your head is the same thing that ends up in their head. I tell my students this over and over in my scriptwriting class. How can you get what’s in your head into my head? 

You’ll tell your story many times. If those first tellings don’t go well, that final telling will never happen. So don’t overlook those first tellings. Give a lot of thought to how you’re going to bring the story to life for your client, in particular. They should be as engaged by your telling of the story as they will be by the final execution.

We’ve all seen ideas that could be great fall flat in meetings. It’s usually because nobody gave any thought to how to present it. Or worse, didn’t think the idea needed anything more than to be read from a paper. Ideas do not sell themselves. Stories—vivid, engaging, entertaining—sell ideas. So tell a good story each time you tell it.


To clocks, bad ads and good ads are identical.

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.

If you spent the time to uncover it.