September 25, 2013#

Your brand is not a logo.


I work for a brand experience company, aka design agency. We help businesses define their brand and use our design and copywriting skills to reflect it. We have pretentious titles like Brand Artist (Designer) and Brand Navigator (Account Executive). But we know image isn’t everything.

No matter how hard we try to portray a brand in the materials we produce, it only goes so far. The rest – sales, customer service, product development, quality control – is up to the client. If the client doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain (and it can be like herding cats), it’s all for naught.

Your brand is the living, breathing expression of why you do what you do. It’s the walk, not the talk. Advertising, point-of-sale, packaging and design play an important part in reinforcing your brand values and refreshing them in the mind of the consumer. All things being equal they can give your brand a competitive advantage. Just make sure your product or service lives up to the same standards.

Image from Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising


September 15, 2013#


creative briefI write my own briefs. Sometimes it’s because there isn’t one. Usually it’s because the brief I’m given is full of holes. It doesn’t tell me enough about the target audience, what their problems are and how the product I’m selling is going to solve them.

Of course that requires meetings with the client, researching the target market and coming up with a promise that’s relevant to the audience. Ideally the client and agency (including the creative director) have signed off on it before the creative work begins. But that hasn’t happened for me in years.

The good creative briefs started disappearing when I worked for a digital agency (back when there was a divide between traditional and digital). Part of the problem then was the account execs were inexperienced and poorly trained. And there was no planner. Briefs were copied and pasted from previous briefs. So I had to do the account executive’s job before I could do mine.

Most of the time I was guessing. Often I wouldn’t get clear direction from the client until after she’d seen the first round of creative work. It’s an inefficient way to work. As Lincoln said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” He would’ve made a good CD.

September 8, 2013#

If at first you don’t succeed…

Swimming from Cuba to the Florida Keys, a distance of 110 miles, is an astonishing achievement. Diana Nyad did it at the age of 64 without a shark cage. It was her fifth attempt.

The first time, at age 28, eight-foot swells stopped her. The second time, at age 61, strong currents, shoulder pain and an asthma attack brought on by jellyfish stings ended her attempt. On her third and fourth tries, box jellyfish stings which “feel like you’ve been dipped in hot burning oil” stopped her. Box jellyfish cause more deaths each year than shark attacks.

When she announced her plans for a fifth attempt, few people were optimistic about her chances. Beset with fears, nausea and exhaustion, her mantra was “find a way.” Good advice for long distance swimmers. Great advice for copywriters who throw up their hands at the first hurdle. No one said it was going to be easy.

September 2, 2013#

How do you like your ads, fast or good?

Big Wig from holding company:  Speed is our competitive advantage.

Copywriter:  What happened to great work?

BW:  We’re changing the paradigm.

CW:  You’re telling clients we can do it better faster?

BW:  Exactly.

CW:  But good work takes time.

BW:  Not anymore. It’s a digital world.

(BW exits)

Art Director to CW:  How can we be expected to do great work when we don’t have time to think about it?

CW:  Work longer hours.

AD:  I’m already working 60, 70 hour weeks. My kid hardly recognizes me.

CW:  It’s the new paradigm.

AD:  Fuck you.

CW:  Listen, clients will demand good work… eventually.

AD:  And in the meantime?

CW:  It’s a digital world. Try FaceTime.