Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sorry, I've been working.

It's been a while since I last posted here, and I have to apologize. My blogging career was side-tracked by a brief and traumatic tryst with actual work; but now, I've caught a few moments to get back to what's really important: Tweeting and blogging about stuff.

And, what better way to get back to internet geekery with some good old self-aggrandizing. Take it as an alcoholic's version of, "How I spent my summer."

Let's begin the show and tell...

Amacon's "District" campaign: This project actually began an entire year ago, with me and the team at Industrial Brand hashing out names for this South Main St. Loft development over way too much sushi. Things were great back then, with plenty of work. Then, the bottom dropped out of the local real estate market, and the project got shelved. But low and behold, things got better a few months back, and we got the call to go ahead with the launch.

The idea was to create the anti-real-estate real estate campaign. I actually hashed out this epic list of smarmy real estate words that we would ban for use. Stuff like: spacious, urban, luxury, lifestyle, and loads more crap that hides under the lapels of greasier estate agents. Check it out at www.southmaindistrict.com

Versus MMA and Fitness's "Flash-Fight" UFC Stunt: This one started out as a small idea, and just got progressively more and more ridiculous. I had been training at this MMA studio, doing kick-boxing and interval workouts, and trading my services as a copywriter for a monthly pass. Each month I'd write their newsletter, and each month their trainers would punch me in the face for a few hours. In a totally unrelated incident, I met a young videographer that was keen on doing a spec guerilla stunt. He asked me if I was interested in writing it, and if I knew of any willing clients. I said yes, and asked the guys at the gym the next day. The gym was really stoked, and within a week, I had come up with the idea of doing a flash-mob type of event—but with boxers and a collapsable ring. Client then made the suggestion of using the promo in conjunction with a gym-sponsored awareness campaign for the UFC, and its current banned status in Vancouver. After countless hours of rehearsing, story boards, and trying to talk girls into walking around a makeshift boxing ring in the middle of Vancouver, this is what we came up with.

Homeless Copywriter: This one has been a long time coming, with all sorts of crazy moving pieces. From a basic idea for new portfolio site, to a youth homelessness campaign with help from design firms, PR shops and one of my advertising idols, the project is finally getting ready to launch next week. I won't go into too much detail yet; you'll have to hang tight just a little longer. www.homelesscopywriter.com

Excel Tire: Working with the guys over at Brandspank, I was challenged with a mature brand that wanted a fresh position. The tire industry can be a tough one, with some very entrenched competition that own words like, "Trust" and "Service"; big words for people afraid of perceived shady mechanics. What we ended up doing, though, was going in the opposite direction, drawing attention to the big corporate conglomerates that lay down rules for the competition. Excel's Campaign would infer that they were simply good old-fashioned mechanics; ones that had a stake in their individual shops, and made recommendations based on what consumers needed, as opposed to what executives wanted.

Block Magazine: Been writing their monthly music column. Look for their next issue; up on only the hippest news stands across Canada. How can you tell they're hip? They're next to the cigarettes and Pabst.

Cactus Club Restaurants: Did a complete rewrite of their cocktail list, week night drink specials, and chef bio. Soon to be handed out by girls in short skirts everywhere.

Capilano Mall: Again with Brandspank, did a fun little ad for the touring British Artiques (no, that's not a typo) Roadshow that stopped in at Cap Mall. Here she be:

Tisol Pet Nutrition and Supply: Wrote and shot my first proper TV spots. Yay me. Can't show 'em yet, but all three 15 second spots will be airing this Christmas on local networks.

Ledalite: Wrote a brief 6000 word brochure for this crazy new wireless lighting control called Airwave. The whole thing runs on the kinetic energy created by flipping the light switch. Do they deliver it in a hover car? Yes, yes they damn well do.

Fraser Valley Wine Region: Total rebrand alert. Worked with the lovely and talented Brooke Bowie on a brochure and new identity for the Fraser Valley Wine Region:

Last but not least: New logo...

Need a fulltime writer? Dial me up on the internetz.

Friday, July 10, 2009

SPEC: A four letter word.

Ad folks love to hate spec work, and to be honest, so do I.

However, a colleague of mine recently ranted on the subject in his blog, and now I just have to chime in. It's one thing to hate spec, but let's face it—it's a reality. The trick is, how do we as creatives play the spec game to win?

Let us define spec. Essentially, it's free creative work done by a writer, designer or agency/studio. Make a clear distinction between the two usual types, though:

- Type 1 is spec work done by individuals to demonstrate their abilities on larger projects they may not otherwise have the chance to work on.

- Type 2 is done by an agency or studio on the behalf of a client request, and in hopes of gaining real paying work from said client.

It's important to make these differences clear, and I'll tell you why.

In the case of Type 2, (agency/studio for client) I feel strongly that this is nothing more than an abusive situation. The client has the carrot, and they dangle it for all it's worth. They say, "Alright creatives; you want my yummy orange bounty? Then dance for it. Dance!"
And dance we do. Over and over again, proving nothing, and building no body of work.

In the case of Type 1, (individually to flex muscles) I feel there can be a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way, essentially, is choosing your favourite brand, and just toodling off on some giant creative wank-fest that shows no strategy, or real world application. This sort of stuff will impress the odd Creative Director, but does a piss-poor job of being relevant to any actual work you'll have to do in future.

So what's the right way? Well, first you need a real client. That's right. Good spec work still needs a client. One with a pulse. There are tons of cause-based organizations that are short on money, and high on morality. Environmental groups, humane societies, The Hair Club for Men, whatever. Call 'em up, and ask them if they want a free ad campaign. 10 to 1 they say "yes". They buy the media, you create the ad. The hitch is: you retain creative control. Sure, they can have some input, but you get the hammer—the final say. What this accomplishes, is the chance for individuals to bolster their own portfolios (with real, meaningful, work) in a way that truly expresses their style. Not the Account Manager, not the client, but themselves.
Ultimately, this—their clearly expressed individuality—will get them to the next level.

Please don't get me wrong here; I know that dolling out free work devalues what we do. In a perfect work, we'd all get paid for every gig from the day we walk out of school to the day we pack it in to work on our lawn-bowling game.

However, keep this in mind: we created this condition.

This industry is built on breaking rules. It's centered on creative problem solving. If we all want to erase the spec work phenomenon, we need to apply rules.

Rules that may be seen as stifling.

Senior Creatives would have to judge Intermediates and Juniors only on the actual work that had been done for pay. That means books full of banner ads and 15 second radio scripts. Then, ALL Agencies (and I mean every last one of 'em) would have to commit to never present free work again. Never ever ever. They would have to be content to be judged by an exactly defined criteria. past work, credentials, etc.

So what do ya'll think? Agree? Disagree? Want to lynch me?

Chime in, or forever hold your pee.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pick battles, not your nose.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with a Creative Director (unnamed here) over beer(s). We chatted about my work, his work, work we liked and work we hated.

Lager went down easy, and talk turned to the balance between advertising efficacy and creativity. Now, I agree that every ad should blend these two elements seamlessly, but when you're cranking out dozens of projects a month of various sizes and intents, I think it's more important than ever to keep in mind when and where the idea must be pushed, and when we simply need to get the sales message out in plain language.

Yes, we need to move product--if we didn't, we'd all be artists instead of "creatives". However, for every time there's a client telling you to quit trying to make an Opus out of a banner ad, recall this: advertising is public art. We are in charge of bringing interest to economics.

That said, here are my top five signs of a battle worth picking:

5. You're creating a campaign for a homogeneous product or service. Gas; beer; plumbing; etc. Unless the client has an actual defined Unique Selling Proposition, what else is gonna make the ad stand out other than the creative? What are you gonna do, try and tell me yours is the coldest beer on the market? Waitaminute, Coors tried that. Geezus.

4. You're bored.
Boredom usually means you've given up. Boredom leads to laziness; laziness leads to failing at life. Look at your desk; what's on it now? Pick a project, and work it like your job depends on it. These days, it just might.

3. You get a vague brief.
This usually means the client wants you to (or needs you to) take control. It's your job to be the most exciting part of their entire day. That's right, you need to be exciting. Remember? That's why you got into this business in the first place.

2. It's the client's most hated project.
You know the one. It sits there at the veeeery bottom of your Status Report like that last random drunk guy at your house party. He's too old to be there, you didn't invite him and he smells. Can't put lipstick on a pig, you say? Just watch me.

1. No reason at all. These days, you really don't need a reason to be better than you ever thought you could be. Why? Because our business is fundamentally changed, and you better pick up your crap and get a move on. Yeah, you may still have that nice fat account, or cushy gig now, but there are a lot of hungry people out there, and we're willing to do whatever it takes to earn what you've gotten accustomed to having.

On that note, maybe you should just stick with "good enough". Yeah... relax--everything's cool.

Why not head out for some Chocolate Martinis or something?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dollars for Gold makes me weep for the future.

Disturbing Kiwi Narrator:

"Tired of all that dusty heritage clogging up space your precious jewel-box? Want to forget your grandma ever lived?! Then grab her holocaust ring and send that bad-boy to us so we can melt it down for scrap! C'mon! DO IT. PUSSY! What the heck do you care about art or tradition? Let us obliterate your past, and we'll send you 20 bucks! You can buy some liquor with that! BALLER!"

Seriously. This is some sad, sad stuff. Can you imagine opening packets of someone's keepsakes, and chucking them into a cauldron to be melted down for next year's shipment of Grillz?
Ah, yes; the American Dream comes to Canada. Err... on second thought, they can keep their nightmares.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Leibovitz attempts to "De-douche" Vuitton

I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Leibovitz. I don't know what it is. Her conceptual eye? A vague nostalgic quality to modern photographs, maybe? Anyway, she's been shooting for Vuitton as of late; trying to associate "old-glamour" or "forgotten heroes" with the brand. I see this as a De-douching (TM Geoff Vreeken's pithy verbs 2009) strategy to contend with shit like this:

Or this:

Sooo, anywaay, here's what they've cooked up; I kinda dig its subtle attempt to re-class the suddenly tacky brand:

There's Keith "Dude where's my coke?" Richards

Or Gorbie

Dame Deneuve (Am I insane, or is she still hot?)

Don't forget the Coppolas. Now available in Africa.

Finally, this got released today. Some old people who are clearly lost.

So what do you think? Is this saving the luxury brand? Does it need saving? Or should it go further into the ghetto fab realm?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Small brand done it right #1

As a new series here on Vancopywriter, I'l be doing quick profiles on local Vancouver brands that are bucking this loserfest of an economy to create styled-out thriving companies in our (recently blazing-hot) city. They understand the power of design, conversation, and transparency.

I believe that small and authentic is what will drive Vancouver's new culture and economy going forward, and I want to help foster it.

First but not least is a boutique (scratch that -- hate that word. Let's go with "small" instead) gym upstairs in one of Gastown's old bricked out warehouses. Located at 21 Water St, Versus21 is all about battling the inner lazy douchebag and realizing that carving your Pabst-chugging ass into tomorrow's Ryan Reynolds is mostly a mental barrier.

They run a bunch of bad-ass classes that are meant to work just as well as personal training, at a fraction of the cost. They also have a ton of fight-training stuff. Which scares me... I'm frail.

Anyhow, they've taken the time to create an engaging space, with a directed unique aspect (the group personal training), and built it all into a good-looking website that *gasp* is actually updated with regular new content.

Not to mention, they're all up on Twitter, Fbook, and all that free shit that actually engages people when done honestly.

Anyhow, I've started working out there; largely because of their marketing.

See how fickle we consumers are? Engage us! Pander to our tender vanities and weaknesses! Pleeeeeaaase?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dear Media: You're too Damn Late

As I do every day, I got up this morning and read the poorly worded punny headlines of Marketing Daily. I'm really glad I'm paying $200 a month for them to throw pop-up ads in my face while I inhale Raisin Bran, but I digress.

I noticed their headline today was "Most economists see end to U.S. recession in ’09".

Ha ha freaking ha, says I. This is their little positive spin effort after seven months of 'round the clock soul crushing coverage of THE RECESSION? Only now, as giant corporations go bust, and agencies layoff unheard of amounts of creatives, does the media finally see the error in their fear-mongering ways. Newsflash there you ravenous blood-thirsty journalists: you did this. You just created the shytestorm that we're in. Now you're getting laid off too. Boo freaking hoo.

It's a new world out there in the ad biz, and it's gonna weed out anyone who's less than %100 talented, and %200 committed.

I'll tell you what, peeps: no amount of positive spin will take us back to the way it was, and I'm fine with that. 

It's a new world of smaller operations, independent media, and talent that's forced to be the very best iteration of themselves. I for one, am in.