Monthly Archives: November 2009

10. Poison-vertising

Thanks to Ron for conceiving the concept (let us hope he never uses it).

10 Poison-vertising


Corporate Camouflage: Why it pays to wear a blazer

Recently I met with a friend in the ad biz. Over drinks he told me that the recession has knocked out quite a few people in the agencies. What was of particular interest to me was the type of people being let go. At one agency here in Toronto the ratio of account people to creatives is something like 10 to 1.

Which is why it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to get a suit, even if the unspoken rule at your office is never to wear one. When it’s about keeping your job, it helps not to stand out as the un-presentable, sloppy dude. At the very least having a suit will make you more difficult to spot when they send security to round up the scruffy creatives in t-shirts and stained jeans. You may even be able to run off a few resumes or lock an account person in the closet and steal his identity before they catch you. You could also sell a few more ideas and thus avoid getting fired in the first place.

For years we’ve assumed the ‘suit’ to be the purview of accounts people, we even call them such on a bad day. The truth is clients with BofCs and MBAs are trained to judge people based on their attire. They may dress like Ed Hardy or wear Affliction t-shirts on the weekends, but to them the blazer and trouser are the mark of someone serious about getting things done during business hours.

Historically the suit has also been a privilege. For the longest time it was the mark of professionals who didn’t have to work with their hands. It meant you could afford expensive clothing and didn’t have to worry about getting them dirty on a daily basis.

In the same way creative teams in this industry are expected to work creatively to a set of guidelines (make the client shine, avoid offending the target, make sense to consumers), sartorially I find it far more impressive to see someone subtly express themselves to a dress code than loudly wear a really cool t-shirt to a black-tie event.

Apparently I’m not the only one, agencies who dress like Mad Men (great finale last night) seem to have a better time acquiring and attaining business than those who don’t. And Don Draper is a good example of somebody who buttons up while expressing himself. From his battle-ship suit to his creative tie to his armored cufflinks, he’s a man so well put together and so definitive in his style that no client doubts Don understands the importance of appearances.

So what does someone raised in a world that’s only recently come back to the almighty jacket do? A few ideas:

1. Avoid wearing black during the day, avoid wearing brown at night

2. Fit is everything.

3. Break it up–jeans with jacket, trousers with sweaters, vests with t-shirts and other colors–then…

4. Bring it all together if the situation warrants, or if you just feel like it

5. Socks are actually an accessory, never wear white ones.

In a business where ideas are notoriously difficult to sell and clients don’t often believe you actually know anything, showing that you can dress at least as well or better than they can will make them wonder what else you can do better, too. Most of us splurge on watches, sneakers, glasses and gadgets while completely neglecting the other 75% of our bodies. Tighter-fitting, better-looking clothing may feel uncomfortable at first, but you probably cried when you were first swaddled, too. And now you wouldn’t imagine going in public without fabric armor.

Plus you get at least two more pockets on your torso, and who doesn’t love pockets?

Get a good suit, and wear the hell out of it.

How student books are like combat sports

Found out about Machida’s controversial win recently and it got me thinking about why we shouldn’t have market leaders in our portfolios.

Machida is the UFC champ. He has tons of money riding on him and support backing him. He also has a proven track record. Both sides put up a helluva fight and while most thought the lesser-known challenger had won, the deciding vote among the judges went to Machida. Why? Because as objective and unbiased we purport to be an awesome reputation precedes. The only real way any unknown challenger can win without contest is by knockout.

We as students are amateurs, it’s like in Rocky, you can train and fight and beat up butcher-shop inventory as hard as you can but Apollo will win, unless you can conclusively convince all ‘judges’ (ie creative directors) that you’re better.

Knockouts are impressive, it’s a clearer win. And losers are easier to knock out than winners. Which is why picking a loser brand’s advertising to beat is a better way to start than trying to convince people you’ve taken down the champ.

Of course you don’t want to fight nobodies either (picking an obscure niche product or making one up) because nobody wants to watch you shadow-box.

Coffee Break!

9 Coffee Break

It’s not that hard


I should say that I haven’t won awards and I haven’t written anything I personally consider absolutely brilliant. I’ve spent most of this year looking around trying to figure out what was wrong with my work and how to make it better. Now, coming up on mid-terms at Humber, I have realized how crucial portfolio school really is. Nobody really tells you what brilliant work looks like, most people don’t even know it.

Every creative director I’ve shown my book to has given me passes but haven’t let me in. I understand this a lot better today. They don’t want to be your teachers, they are looking for excellent workers. If you don’t fall into that category they’ll just give you encouragement and maybe a water and toss you on your way.

I will probably eat these words if by next year at this time I’m still unemployed and pounding pavement. But truthfully, great creative isn’t all that hard. We see what is ‘good’ by industry standards, what sort of tricks or formulae are tested, and we take a pretty neat idea and mold it to that model. Ideas come after several hours of thinking hard and trying several models. It’s not rocket science, the fate of the free world rests on the shoulders of others. This is just sign-painting.

I’ve seen what great looks like. Now it’s time to go out and get it.