Graduated & Looking for Book Crits & Placements

A recently graduated creative team asked me for “brutally direct feedback” on their portfolio.

They're braver than I am.

If you're in the market for some some of this feedback I can perhaps give you one piece of advice that I’ve learned from people much better at advertising than myself.

You have some good ideas and you’ve obviously enthusiastic about this business of communication but I suspect you’re missing a rather fundamental part of the process.

Your storytelling needs better crafting.

The advice I have given every single student in recent years is to stand out from the crowd of your classmates. You all got the same projects and had the same amount of time to do them. You all seem to make the same poor design choices as well. When I look at your portfolio I have no idea why you’re different and how you believe a story should be told.

Now that you have the time you should go back to your portfolio and make sure that everyone who sees an idea you’ve dreamed up gets some sense of how you imagined it should look and sound. Pick the tone of voice, write a better social post, create a better image, think about the logic and explain the magic of the idea with some interest. 

At the moment it’s all rather dry. I believe that as soon as your personalities and storytelling skills start to show themselves you’ll find yourself getting more attention from agencies for placements.

Good luck

Advice to get into the Creative Industries

I thought I'd share a rather long-winded e-mail reply I sent to a young person who's quite good at making things like film and is interested in getting into the ad industry but doesn't know where to start. If you resemble this person you may find this useful.

Hi J,

I think it’ll help if you know how I got into the industry. It may give a hint at the journey you could start.

At the age of 15 I decided I was going to be a comic book artist. When I finished high school at 17 I sat down and created a graphic novel with a friend of mine. The longest comic I had made before this was 8 pages. This was 108 pages. I learned a lot and I also created characters for other projects that I shopped around at small educational comic book studios (this was South Africa in the 90’s so this was the only kind of professional work you could do in this field).

It then dawned on me that I didn’t know very much about anything. 

Read More

Creative Showcases Are Good But Original Work Rules

I've just sat through a presentation by Cannes Lions to Unilever making the case for creative work. And as I sat there listening to the Q&A afterwards I was struck again by the way people mistake Cannes Lions as a creative target rather than as a showcase of creativity. To make sure I'm clear: Cannes is a showcase of great work from the previous year, it is not the purpose of the work itself.

Be original, make something you care about and Lions will follow. And if they don't, whatever, awards juries can be as bad as research at picking original ideas.


One Year Later He Looked Up

I've had the privilege of hitting my 1 year anniversary at adam&eveDDB this week. It's been a full year and I've missed out on a lot of drawing time in lieu of advertising time. I believe it's mostly been positive and I've learned quite a lot. I'm unfortunately left feeling that not enough has been done. Thankfully, there's another year to look forward to. Thanks a&eDDB.

D&AD Graphite Pencil

I admit I had to look up what the new D&AD Pencil names meant. Wood, Graphite, Yellow, White, Black, etc. Graphite equals a Silver, and it gets a video from the jury chair explaining why it's a winner. Eike Koenig does a wonderful job of talking about the Amnesty International Freedom Candles that I was lucky enough work on. Well done to O&M London and everyone who touched them. Watch the video here.


Four weeks ago I started a new chapter at adam&eveDDB. They're an agency going through a remarkably creative period and I'm very happy to have been asked to join their team and add to their amazing momentum. 

At the same time I've left a company that I worked with for 11 years in 3 countries. I'm incredibly proud of what we achieved together and I wish Ogilvy & Mather nothing but the best. 

Something Happened

When I joined Ogilvy & Mather London in 2010 it was a creative awards wasteland. Yesterday, Ogilvy London (Ogilvy & Mather + Ogilvy One) was announced as the most award winning office in the Ogilvy network (which is the Cannes Network of the Year). I'm usually not one to crow about these things, but I have to say I'm very proud of what we've done.

Well done to Gerry Human and the creative talent of O&M. That is a remarkable achievement in 4 years.

Social Media Week

I was asked to be on a panel discussing the role of "likes" and "shares" in our decision making when partnering with bands. It was an entertaining morning with LoveLive, YouTube, Music Metric and myself. I'll do anything for a good coffee, even talk in front of a live studio audience.

A swing and a miss

I tried out for the D&AD Board of Trustees this year. I got the e-mail a few days ago that I had not succeeded in my bid for power and fame. I suppose I'll just have to console myself by meddling in the lives of friends and co-workers instead. 

Meanwhile, Ogilvy & Mather has 3 placement teams from SCA and D&AD New Blood working with us over the next 6 months, along with 4 interns from Ravensbourne University. This is positive news for us. Our involvement in training and development is gaining momentum and I think the fresh energy is good for us. 

Now, back to watching House of Cards.

PK Dick Said It Best

“Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it.” 

Philip K. Dick, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

Fight on. 

Cannes Lions

The Dove Ad Makeover collected 2 Silvers and a Bronze in Cannes last week. Two of the prizes came in Cyber which was a happy return to that category for myself. It takes a village to make these projects happen, and you won't find a nicer, better-looking or smarter village anywhere in the world. I look forward to seeing what happens as the Ad Makeover rolls out around the world during this year.

Take Something Boring and Make It Beautiful

My favourite ideas involve products or tools that no sane creative person would bother with. You know the sort; high fibre cereal, wall paint, dog food, the stuff that surrounds us but has no coolness attached to it at all. No one has ever seen a good idea involving these woeful waifs and they don’t expect that to ever change. Until someone does exactly that, and we never forget those ideas.

Many years ago a VW Beetle was turned into a Lemon.

A few years ago we turned a boring “Square Shreddie” into a perfectly lovely “Diamond Shreddie”. An idea so ludicrous it’s found it’s way into TED talks, textbooks, economics and behavioural books, and more than a few speeches by people who’ve never even eaten a Shreddie.

Not so long ago TBWA/Chiat/Day turned Pedigree dog food into a call to arms for our hairy pets with, “We’re For Dogs”. It sounds so obvious now.

Last month we turned the media planners domain of “keyword targeting” into a consumer friendly self-esteem tool with the Dove Ad Makeover. An idea so radical that it’s attracted the kind of scrutiny that gets people into trouble.

All of these ideas have done a fine job of selling more product, improving brand love and being famous among connoisseurs of advertising. But most importantly they’ve taken the dull, dreary and boring and given it new life.

Which brings me to something that desperately needs a great idea. It’s something that nearly a billion people theoretically see on a regular basis. They’re a throwback to the classifieds ads of newsprint and they’re without doubt dull, dreary and boring. I’m talking about the small space, 90 character, 110px image, Facebook ad.

They need some love. Everybody (even you) has given up on them as ever being truly memorable. Even if they are “liked by a friend”, “sponsored” and “in your timeline”, it all feels like a last gasp attempt at polishing a turd.

Therein lies greatness. If only some brave soul would rise to the seemingly impossible challenge and do something good with these pixels.

Just remember that you could be the subject of a TED talk, quoted in books, name dropped at conferences and loved by the advertising fraternity for breathing life into the unloved Facebook ad.

The boring can be beautiful if you’re creative enough.

First published on the OgilvyOne blog:

Philips Worldwide Account Comes To Ogilvy

It has been a hard year of pitching at Ogilvy London and none was bigger or more prestigious than the Philips pitch that happened over the backend of 2011. It's no understatement to say that this took a staggering amount of effort to be a contender, let alone win. I was lucky to enough to be a very small part of a very committed team from offices  round the world who have done themselves proud. You can read what AdAge have to say about it here. I think a few industry people will be surprised by this result, it's not something you'd expect from Ogilvy. Except it's not your dad's Ogilvy anymore.