Tag Archives: creative writer

Hello?

Are you currently in the job of your dreams? Are you doing what you think you’re meant to do? When you answer your life’s calling, is the person on the other end the one you were imagining?

As 2015 gets up to running speed, these are a few of the questions that have been bouncing around my head for the past few weeks. I spent umpteen years working as a writer for a few different advertising agencies and the view of those years in my mind’s rearview mirror all seem to reflect a happy camper. But then came the change of address, and with that a change in career direction.

Now comes the challenge of determining if I could go back in time and never leave the full-time writing gig, would that have meant never leaving the larger metro area we lived in? As a local creative director told me a few weeks, he can think of only 6 or 7 people in my current hometown who get up every work day and their primary job is being paid to write, so the odds of finding a job with a company that pays me to write are about the same as winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning while dancing around a May pole.

But I’m not throwing in the towel (nor am I using it to sop up my sweaty brow worrying about all this). I still believe a FT writing job truly is my life’s calling. But maybe the universe has more in mind for me? For now, my goal is to keep staring at my future self’s reflection (instead of the non ringing cellphone) and dream up the next big thing….or at least the next big gig.

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the devil is in the details….or is it?

Part of the challenge of being a creative writer is the overwhelming urge to share, and share everything. But sometimes you gotta show some restraint. It’s about the tease. Or just letting the brain complete the picture.

Here are a couple of new teaser ads that do just that. We don’t spell out the whole story. We let the viewer draw their own conclusion.

These are part of a campaign to help promote a new kid-friendly ER at one of our client hospitals. In addition to TV, these spots are also being shown on theater screens here in ABQ. Rich media web banners and outdoor bulletins are also in play.

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reinvention is just so…hard

Ask any ad agency and you’ll find that creating their own website is so much harder than building ones for their clients. Sure, part of the equation is that a client website is a paying gig, but in the grand scheme of things, ideally the agency’s website will pay for itself in new business while getting to show off their programming  and design chops.

Recognizing that I haven’t touched my own website in over 3 years, I’ve started wandering through the many forests of themes looking for inspiration. Knowing that Apple no longer supports my easy-as-pie iWeb program that I used to build my current site, I’ve started looking around at all the options available.

Squarespace looks like a viable choice, but I’m already paying for web hosting. RapidWeaver is something I actually used before iWeb, so that can always be an alternative. And there’s WordPress (which I use for this blog) that has a bunch of options available, some free, some for a fee. But playing around with it this past weekend made me realize that being stuck in the land of spreadsheets and client hand-holding has left my design and programming skills feeling a little….rusty. I stare at things that should make sense and only come up with more questions. But by gawd, I’ll plow through and figure it out, right? (I should mention that my normal pattern is to NEVER ease into anything….which really causes a lot of unnecessary aches and pains when I apply this “jump head first, think about the consequences later” mentality.)

It’s with this recognition that while updating my website is a priority, so is taking the time to think about it and doing it right. I don’t want to regurgitate my current site and simply rebuild it in a new program. It’s time to reinvent the wheel of experience that I’ve built over the years. But with so much emphasis on usability, SEO, SEM, analytics, etc, it’s daunting to think that this website isn’t just words and images on the page. It’s something that needs to be thought out/through.

So thinking things through I shall, including what portfolio samples best represent me and my experience. Small steps will ensue until I take that giant leap to publish a new site. Stay tuned….

 

 

 

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power play

Sure, I believe some of the stuff I’ve written over the years has played a role in a purchase decision or two. But I never imagined I could have this much power. (cue wringing hands and sinister laugh)

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the difference between marketing in US and other markets

There’s no question that, when it comes to advertising, the US market is much more…prudish.

Take a look at this M&M’s campaign Down Under…..

The sly innuendos. The fact that we’re watching “nude” M&M candies interact, including mixed company. (You never know what to expect when you mix crispy, peanut and plain. Whoa!)

But no matter how great the animation, as a writer, it gets very distracting to see typos.

Or maybe I just need to “confont” my own demons…..stripping away at my shell and face that even I’ve made typographical errors when writing copy. It is easy to “read” into what has been written and overlook very obvious errors.

Live and learn….

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The difference between building traffic, and building trust.

These days it seems companies are jumping on the Facebook and Twitter wagons like lemmings. And usually with the same disastrous outcome. (Can we really keep referring to such dated things as a wagon? Maybe it’s time to start calling it the band-hovercraft??)

Building community through online technology isn’t as simple as “hey, I think I’ll throw a party for my 500 closest friends.” Sometimes you have to step back and assess what it is you’re really trying to accomplish.

Are you trying to convert 500 strangers into friends of the brand? Can you really pull off something that will compel and entertain everyone equally? Maybe it would be wiser to start smaller. Perhaps a dinner party where you can try out your recipes successfully before booking that assembly hall or stadium.

Sure, every business wants to open its doors (brick & mortar, web, even social networking) and see throngs of customers clamoring to get in. But what kind of relationship are you trying to build? Do you want thousands who might come through the doors in the first week, most of whom only browse? Or would you rather have fewer clients that not only purchase, they come back for more? Sure, it’s not an either/or situation. But so often, businesses put so much effort into getting a relationship off the ground they forget that, to create loyalty, you have to put in just as much effort to cultivate your tribe. If you don’t, your loyal followers can quickly become strangers, or worse, enemies.

Technology can definitely help build an audience. But it can’t always build trust. Take, for example, the buzz created by “Jenny” who posted her resignation online using a dry erase board. People were so amazed by her chutzpah and technique that mentions (and tweets) were flying all over the web. In a matter of days, this story was everywhere. What most of us caught up the frenzy didn’t realize initially — it was all a publicity stunt. Imagine if a company launched a new product with as much buzz and fanfare, only to have consumers realize it was all a hoax? Is that the kind of exploitation of technology you think works for your brand?

Sure, it’s easy to become intoxicated by a sudden onslaught of traffic. But when you rely on a stunt rather than a well-thought out plan (social or otherwise), where will you be when the masses pull a mass exodus because they no longer trust you or your products? Go this route and you’ll spend more time doing damage control than more productive things like, oh, cultivating brand evangelists.

Unfortunately, some businesses think they need to do something so buzz-worthy to generate interest that they don’t realize the best results are nurtured over time. It’s important to remember that you’re not just putting your brand into the hands of your consumers, you’re also building trust. And sometimes, technology like Facebook and Twitter might not be the best way to do it.

What it takes is a thorough assessment of communication goals, and then determining the best course of action to take. You have to first know whom you’re trying to reach, and then figuring out the best way to get your message out to the right audience using the right outlet. Even if that outlet is Facebook. Or a dry erase board.

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the “duh!” heard all over the ad world

According to another article from BusinessWeek online….

A survey from IBM’s Institute for Business Value shows that CEOs value one leadership competency above all others. Can you guess what it is? (Wait for it…..wait for it….)

Da-daaa-dummmmm! Survey says!

CREATIVITY!!!!??!?!

Really! I know what you’re thinking. That’s what most of us in the ad biz do every day — come up with creative solutions to meet the needs of clients for their products and/or services. And as it is for me, it’s deep within my core. That “what is that USP and how can we use it to compel people to buy/click/call” drive that isn’t fueled by Red Bull or other caffeinated beverages. It just is.

But I suppose there is a unique process for those in the biz world who play in different sandboxes. (Although I read a very interesting take on the current state of the ad world a couple of days ago that mentioned how the influx of big corporate conglomerates has given more power to the finance people than the creative department, but that’s a whole different story.)

Until now creativity has generally been viewed as fuel for the engines of research or product development, not the essential leadership asset that must permeate an enterprise.

In face-to-face interviews with our consultants, they said creative leaders do the following:

Disrupt the Status Quo. Every company has legacy products that are both cash—and sacred—cows. Often the need to perpetuate the success of these products restricts innovation within the enterprise, creating a window for competitors to advance competing innovations. As CEOs tell us that fully one-fifth of revenues will have to come from new sources, they are recognizing the requirement to break with existing assumptions, methods, and best practices.

Disrupt Existing Business Models. CEOs who select creativity as a leading competency are far more likely to pursue innovation through business model change. In keeping with their view of accelerating complexity, they are breaking with traditional strategy-planning cycles in favor of continuous, rapid-fire shifts and adjustments to their business models.

Disrupt Organizational Paralysis. Creative leaders fight the institutional urge to wait for completeness, clarity, and stability before making decisions. To do this takes a combination of deeply held values, vision, and conviction—combined with the application of such tools as analytics to the historic explosion of information. These drive decisionmaking that is faster, more precise, and even more predictable.

So, I guess I’ll continue to think “creative disruption” (as opposed to disruptive creative….which can get annoying really fast if not abso-freaking brilliant in concept and execution). It’s how I roll.

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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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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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