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March 12, 2003
Baby, You're Money And You Just Don't Know It

So why the pale skin? Clinched fists? Blood dripping from your puffy eyes? Gum in your hair? It must be award show season, a time when hopes run high and self doubt cuddles up next to us by a roaring fire. You've got the bug, don't you? You want validation. You want to give your parents yet another reason to love you. You're waiting for that letter or that phone call. And not the one that starts, "Dear loser, thanks for the pile of cash and the glossy stack of 11x17 kindling, but…"

Here's what I know. Concept is king. Period. It can also come in any form. I repeat, it can also come in any form. This means there are no "throw-away" assignments. Concepts aren't required by law to fit inside of a magazine spread or a piece of film. It's true. Think about this for a second. If magazines and TV stations went out of business tomorrow, you'd still need to make money. Right? That's a true fact. So what are you doing about that? Don't pigeonhole yourself. Be an idea person, not an ad person. There's a bigger future in ideas. Trust me. Clients like big ideas, and judges like big ideas, too.

So if concept is king, let us call him Caesar. That means bad craft is Brutus. Brutus kills Caesar. That's too bad because Caesar had a good career in front of him. He had the potential to be in all the books. But Brutus got to him first. Bad craft can make the best idea forgettable. Not being lazy can usually eliminate Brutus quickly. But it's human nature to settle too early for things. I think this is "good enough" for this client. I feel "comfortable" with this. It's "not bad." These statements never lead to great work. Always be your toughest critic, and after you've done that, go find someone tougher. You don't want to find yourself saying, "I could've been a contender if I'd kerned the word 'chicken' better." You're a professional, so take care of your business.

OK. So you've got Caesar in your back pocket, and hopefully Brutus is swimming with the fishes. Now you're looking pretty good. Ask yourself one question. What is the person that sees this potentially Oscar-winning ad suppose to do when they're done looking at it? Buy something? Go somewhere? Call somebody? Join something? So often we fail to tell people what to do next. Why is that? Because judges ask the same question when they look at your work. Don't leave your consumers, your clients or your judges hanging.

Great. Now you've got a great ad. Pat yourself on the back. The client loves it. You love it. Your boss loves it. Your grandmother loves it, even though she loves everything that you show her. The truth is, you've done your job and you've done it well. But honestly, you don't need some judge to tell you you're great. That's the real point of this little ramble. Be your own toughest judge. Because everyone has different tastes, different points of view, and different theories. No ad can impact every person. An award show judge's panel is no different. Sometimes judges are right and sometimes judges are wrong. Sometimes judges love ads that don't sell product. And sometimes they hate ads that do. Being a great creative isn't just about winning awards. Shiny things on desks are nice, but they shouldn't be the driving force behind what you're doing. Your job is to find great ideas to sell more product. Don't lose sight of that fact. Especially when you think you've done a great ad and all you have to show for it is a happy client. Happy clients pay more than award shows. That's a fact

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Something interesting is brewing in Virginia and its called Arnika, a 16-month-old ad agency, get this, composed entirely of recent VCU Adcenter grads. Led by president and creative director, Michael Ashley, Arnika is producing work for The Martin Agency, Clipper City Brewing, Carmax, and many others. 

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