Tag Archives: advertising writer

signs, signs, everywhere a sign

It’s almost election time here in the ABQ. And we all know what that means….

They’re all over town, on practically every corner where they’re allowed. And it makes me wonder…..do these colorful rectangles of cardboard really work?

I know it’s an inexpensive way to get your name seen by the masses. But does it really say anything? I mean, I’ve seen at least 8 or 9 different names of people running for sheriff. But just because I see their name on a sign, does that mean I should vote for ’em? What am I supposed to do? Vote for one candidate because I happen to prefer the color blue?

I know this is akin to browsing down any big box/grocery/drugstore aisle. We all know it takes more than just being present to build brand loyalty. So do these hopeful politicos really think that having their supporters put signs up in yards/on street corners will really help people at the polls?

Besides, we all know it’s really those few candidates that raise enough money (or in the case of one governor hopeful here, having deep enough personal pockets) to get on the air. A recent poll showed the top 2 Republican candidates just happen to also be the only ones who are currently running TV spots. Coincidence? Naw…they must have more signs up.

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of praise and copiers

“The average company takes better care of its copiers than it does its talent.”

So says an article for BusinessWeek.

I recall many days/weeks/months when I was punching a time clock (well, since I was salaried, there really wasn’t one) that I, like so many coworkers and others out in the business world, were putting in the extra effort under the guise of “it’s the right thing to do.”

Or was that more “I have to do it. Otherwise, someone else will, and I’ll find myself in the ranks of the unemployed.”

So I stayed chained to my desk. There was one stretch at one company where I ate 9 straight meals at my desk. Sure, I got to go home and sleep (a little), shower, change clothes, only to be back with my shoulder to the grindstone. But as my loved one (who I was barely getting to interact with, let alone see) reminded me….

“If you dropped dead in the office, they’d just step over you on the way to the copier.” Turns out it didn’t really matter. Despite the heroic effort put in by the whole team, the agency still lost the piece of  business, which led to all but 2 or 3 finding themselves relieved of their positions.

Kinda harsh. Then again, this economic environment is harsh. Sure, there is good news on the horizon. Recent numbers are showing that there is an increase in jobs popping up on the horizon, with fewer people competing for these new jobs and other vacant ones.

As a current freelancer who hopes that the right full-time job will come along soon, this is good to hear. Sure, freelancing has been good. But there have been obstacles. As more freelancers compete for opportunities, it often turns into a bidding war. But just how low can you go? There is a long comment stream on a group posting for freelancers who (for the most part) chastised one freelancer for (albeit innocently, for all general purposes) charging too little and over-delivering. The mob consensus was A) the guy was doing a disservice to himself by shortchanging his contribution to this particular project/company, and B) ruining it for all of us by charging so little.

I’ve been lucky to find companies who appreciate what I bring to the table, and pay accordingly. That seems to be one of the positive statements in the BusinessWeek article. Seems that the workforce is starting to wake up and realize they don’t have to settle for just any job. There is something to dignity and self-respect, even in this harsh, competitive market.

Only those companies that make the effort to keep their employees productive by treating them decently can expect to see continued productivity gains.

I’ll continue to freelance while building relationships with local companies in the hopes that I prove to be too valuable to not bring on full-time. And when I do, I’m hoping to hear these encouraging words….

“We’re hiring you for your talent—now go do something brilliant.”

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social awareness? or social suicide?

Name just about any large company these days, and chances are you’ll be able to find them on Facebook. Or tweeting their chubby lil fingers off. Sure, this prevailing trend to add social media to your marketing plan has been building for some time. But, is it really doing any good? Or is it really doing more potential harm?

I, personally, don’t connect with too many companies/brands on Facebook. There are a few like Peet’s Coffee and Moonstone Cellars that I “friended” but don’t necessarily “follow.” (This is especially true for Peet’s since I now live in a Peets-free zone.) There are also a few bands (like the Indigo Girls or Levi Kreis) that I follow, but that’s not exactly the same kind of fan that companies are rushing to FB to find IMO.

My journey into FB hell was mostly prompted by friend requests of the local sort. Once I exposed myself to the masses, people from high school and college were finding me online. I gladly accepted any and all friend invites. It was great fun to reconnect with some of the people I’ve lost track of. That is, until I started reading/hearing about the privacy issues that are running rampant on FB.

One of the latest can be found on gizmodo.com. The “Top 10 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook” lists a bunch of things that I know I need to think more about. And also be careful about.

If I, Joe the Individual, needs to be extra leery of not only an account being hacked, but also an identity compromised, what happens to all the individuals who “friend” a company/product/brand? Can all that information be hacked, too? Could a competitor be able to hack into the friend base of another in an attempt to sabotage or steal?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I just know for myself that I have started to ween myself off FB, and striving to kick the habit of wanting to constantly check back with all the feeds.

Guess what it all comes down to is getting back to more face-to-face interaction, and less Facebook interaction. And to recognize that it’s not always best to be up with the latest and greatest marketing tools until said tools can guarantee that privacy matters.

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a’far

Things are starting to heat up here in the High Desert. And with this warm up — and dryer conditions — comes greater risk of wildfires.

Having moved from SoCal where fires have done significant damage, I tend to notice when the sign at the Petroglyph National Monument says “severe fire warning” in bright red.

I have also noticed several “Get your Smokey On” billboards around town.

I remember when this campaign broke almost 2 years ago. I was working for the agency who produced ’em. While clever in execution, I never “got” the line. And apparently I wasn’t the only one.

I read several comments online that the line sounded more like an invitation to light up one of your merry-ja-wanna cigs. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was some sort of truth to that. (Or if it was the “source” of inspiration.)

But back to the line, it’s meant to remind people that we are the cause of most forest fires. And that’s not just blowing smoke.

“Research shows that many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires. In fact, more than 88 percent of wildfires nationwide are started by humans and the majority of these fires are accidental. The principle causes are campfires left unattended, trash burning on windy days, careless discarding of smoking materials, BBQ coals and operating equipment without spark arrestors. As such, the number of misinformed is quite alarming and threatens to become a contributing factor that will impact our environment.”

I know, for me, that every time I see a cigarette butt go flying out a car window, I really want to grab it and throw it back in the car’s window. I don’t like the world around me being used as an ashtray. (It’s the same with all the dog crap in the arroyo behind our rental here in ABQ. I always pick up after my dogs, even in these big, open wild spaces. I treat it just as I would by own backyard. But, based on what I see over some of the fences in the ‘hood, I guess these people ARE treating the arroyo like their backyard. Disgusting!)

I know that advertising, by its very nature, is meant to get people talking. And if the line (that sounds vaguely like an invitation to fire up the 420) gets people to think about their actions….to think before they flick….then I guess it works.

Then again, I guess that’s just my thoughts on a fire….from afar.

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i believe i can fly…

At this week’s NM Ad Federation monthly luncheon, the group brought in a couple of CDs from KC to dish about the “Creative Departments Dirty Little Secrets.”

One of the “secrets” they discussed was time lines. Their take is that every project, no matter the size or complexity, needs 2 weeks. Of course, this 14-day period is for concepting only, and not necessarily to deliver a production-ready ad.

The thought of a deadline can sometimes stop me dead in my tracks. I think part of that is I’ve always thought of myself as someone who “flies by the seat of my pants” and someone who does things “on the fly.” I can be quick with ideas. I can turn on a dime. But sometimes you just need a chance to let things incubate. You have to step away from the keyboard and just take some time to breathe, soak in the views, people watch, slip away to neverneverland.

It’s during these times of processing that I have to remember one very important thing: FLY. Set the brain free and see where the current takes you. Jump. Run like the wind. (Ok, that last one doesn’t happen as often now that I’m inching toward the mid-century mark.)

More than anything, trust my instinct. Does a brown pelican think about gliding just above a breaking wave? Hell no! It just does. Nothing wrecks good creative like over-thinking. It’s like trying to fly with 20-lb bowling balls strapped to each ankle. This is especially true during the concept phase. That’s when it’s time to just let loose, and know that among all the shit being strewn about, something magical is there.

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to resume the résumé

I’ve always been a big proponent of “letting my work do the talking.” It’s not the easiest thing for me to brag about the who/what/how/where of the last big chunk of my professional life. That’s when I feel it’s best to send people to my portfolio site and let them see what I’ve done rather than tell them. With this thought in mind, I’ve spent the past week or so revamping my site (whether that motivation came from boredom or a real need is TBD….but I’m pleased with how it looks) and rethinking my résumé.

Of course, Seth Godin in Linchpin states that “if you’re remarkable, amazing, or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a résumé at all.”

Well, who doesn’t think they’re any of those things? I know I feel that way about myself at times. On one level, I agree with Seth’s POV. My portfolio SAYS more about who I am and what I’ve done with the talents I’ve been blessed with and/or cultivated than a 1-page Word document. Isn’t it better to see examples of the long-form copy I’ve worked on for global clients than to say I’m an expert with brochure copy?

Unfortunately, the admission ticket to any new opportunity these days seems to rely on a résumé. Now more than ever, it’s not really about the story, no matter how meticulously displayed on the page, but whether or not you have the appropriate keywords living amongst all the others. And that doesn’t even include the challenge of getting your résumé in front of the right person who can then (hopefully) locate those special keywords.

It reminds me of the National Geographic special, Sizing Up Sperm. Seeing a “life-size representation of the struggles that sperm endure just for the hopes of fertilizing an egg” was so relevant to today’s job search that it was downright scary.

It’s even more of a challenge these days since moving to a new market with fewer “eggs” to target. But rather than blanketing the whole town, I’m in the embryonic stage of cultivating a few key relationships with people I’ve been lucky to come across (and who have been nice enough to make the time to meet with me).

I know that my quest for a successful career with an agency here in ABQ is going to rely more on these key contacts than a few choice keywords on a résumé. This town seems to be more about personal connections than a well-crafted Objective statement.

But, back to Seth’s thinking on the résumé, he makes a valid point that a “résumé gives the employer everything she needs to reject you.” So part of my challenge for the past few days is rethinking how I want to express my creative abilities on something that is less than creative. How do I remain in the game without playing the game by the standard rules of compliance?

I know that the great gigs out there aren’t posted on the job boards. And rarely are they found by blindly emailing an electronic document to some unknown recipient. That’s why I’ll continue focusing more of my attention on making personal connections rather than making the ideal word choice or format on a résumé.

You never know when someone who knows someone who heard that so-and-so was looking for someone just like me might be the next someone that I’m introduced to.

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reading for inspiration…

For the past few months, I’ve been enjoying blog posts over at pleasefeedtheanimals.com. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a great resource for anyone who has recently found themselves….displaced on the employment train. The “owner” of the site, Erik Proulx, has even made a movie about it, LEMONADE.

Anyhoo, there is a series of entries inspired by the book, Linchpin, by Seth Godin. This series is just a few of the  wealth of great ideas constantly being generated by the contributors of PFTA, a lot of which I’m really needing to see right now. After seeing my freelance business “stall” during the first 6 weeks of 2010, I need something to keep me motivated and moving forward. Seeing the following on Seth’s blog is definitely something I need to chew on, and upload to my way of thinking.

There’s a lot of pressure for freelancers to fit in, conform and comply. It seems easier to generate new business that way. That’s not really true. It’s easier to become an easily-described commodity that way, but the person who’s willing to push themselves out to an edge that matters is on the only path that actually leads to success.

And then it’s up to the client to care enough about the project and in making a difference to have the guts to hire you.

Granted, in this economy, it’s not easy to find the gutsy clients. I’m sure they’re out there. The key now is to make myself into the edge-sitter and remind myself that I am worth the price of admission.

Two days ago, I received my copy of Linchpin, plus a few other books recommended or mentioned on PFTA. It’s time to start energizing my creativity with the help of some wise people who look at things a little differently than me. I’ll look forward to posting about my “progress.”

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i guess advertising really does suck

As pop culture goes, so goes some advertising I suppose.

It all started back in the summer when I was concepting new brand spots for a state electric company. One of the messages we wanted to get out was about “energy vampires” (aka phantom energy). We even did a radio spot, with accompanying print ad and billboard, that helped get the word out about all they wasted energy people are paying for just by leaving things plugged in when not in use.

It’s only once these started hitting the market did I began to notice a similar theme in other advertising. (It’s probably like, once I have my eye on a new car that has my interest that I start to notice them all over the place.)

Here’s one print ad I recently came across in Wired magazine.

Even Microsoft is taking a bite outta the hype that is Twilight.

All told, I can’t be too surprised by all the different advertising messages using similar (if not the same) themes. But I am grateful that I didn’t have to sell my soul to continue working in a biz I really like….but not ready to die for.

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seeing the fruits of my labor

We recently relocated from Surf City USA to the Land of Enchantment. This move was for a few reasons, mainly lowering our cost-of-living and the potential of full-time employment.

Since we’ve been here, it’s been fun to drive around town and see the results of my creative collaboration with the agency here. Whether it’s the billboard along I-40, the print ads in the various local publications, or even a TV spot during the Olympics the other night, I still get a kick out of seeing my work out in the market. (I’ll admit to never listening to the radio in my car….so I haven’t had the chance to catch one of the radio spots.)

Here’s the main “brand” TV spot I contributed to back in the summer.

It’s great to begin the process of settling into a new area, and to be surrounded by such amazing beauty. The fact that I get to continue working with such a talented team — and seeing the results all across town — is just icing on the cake.

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barking up the, uh, wrong….tree?

I have two adorable, intelligent, feisty little girls who I’m lucky to share my life with. Not only do they provide unconditional love, they are also a great source of laughter. And blog topics.

These girls, by their very DNA, are ratters. This inclination not only shows up on walks, but also in chasing any shadow or reflection that might appear inside or out. But due to our living sitch, these are definitely city girls. And let’s just say they can confuse their genetics with their environment.

Our neighborhood has a fair number of new “critters” that have moved in. I’m sure it’s a combination of food supply, and having their previous residence submerged as a result of the new inlet to the wetlands. We’ve seen possums, shunks, coyotes, rats, and squirrels (to quote Carrie from Sex In The City, a “rat with a better outfit”). We have managed to avoid any major interaction with the first 3 (including keeping shunk scent remover handy). Ah, but the squirrels.

There’s one that likes to taunt the girls from the patio walls and surrounding trees. Well, that is until I get the hose out and chase it off.

The girls love to chase after the squirrels, and are usually quite proud of “treeing” them. But now that we’re finding a whole new batch of bunnies in the ‘hood, the girls get a wee bit confused.

Last night, while walking the girls, we came up on a cute lil Thumper. It tried to go unnoticed, but the hunting prowess of Allie and Cody kicked in and soon they were straining at the ends of their leashes, sending the bunny scampering away. It disappeared into the shrubs. And my girls. My brave little hunters. What did they think of their efforts?

They proudly stood and stared, daring that little bunny to show itself. Up in the tree. They haven’t quite grasped the difference between a squirrel and a bunny. Their thought process is A) we chase, B) chasee runs and climbs a tree, and C) we stand proud in our accomplishment.

So why does this story belong in a blog about my life in advertising? It makes me think of clients I’ve encountered who think the same message, delivered through the same media outlet, will reach the right target. Even when that message, intended for bunnies, ends up in the trees.

I know that my job is to provide leadership and guidance, along with the right message, and then deliver it to the appropriate audience. Whether that is up the trees, or to an audience of squirrels, all depends on the product/service. And what is best for the client.

I won’t stop my girls from being proud of their treeing prowess. I will stop a client from wasting time and money on barking up the wrong tree.

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