Better books. Please.

May 15, 2008

I sat down with a young guy recently to review his book. He’d gone to a good, graduate level creative school.  I liked him.  Turns out we had some commonalities in our life and background.

But nothing about his portfolio of work excited me.  It looked like so many others I see.  There were spec print ads that used quirky visual solutions – but not in a very sophisticated way.  There were the out-of-home guerilla-ish ideas.  Books these days are often so formulaic, it’s unbelievable.

So, as nicely as I could, I asked him if he ever did digital work – anything on the Web.  “Oh, yeah, I love that stuff.  But I’ve been told to keep that stuff out of my book because it will just typecast me.  I’ll get stuck just being a “Web guy.”  Typecast?  The fastest way to be typecast is to show work that’s not reflective of our current reality and where the world is headed.  This guy should get a refund on his tuition because his professors gave him such profoundly bad advice.

A creative book is, after all, simply a means of showing a prospective employer how you think.  How you solve problems.  What kind of intelligence and insight you bring to a creative challenge.  I suppose it does level the playing field to some degree when all books have essentially the same kinds of work.  Then it’s all about the quality of the ideas – the creative thought – rather than how it’s delivered.

Except that’s presuming that how and where you tell a story – and in what combinations – isn’t nearly as important as what you say.  I know there are agencies out there whose go-to media continues to be TV, print and radio.  At DDB in Seattle, our world is very different.  And we need to see candidates who reflect a new way of tackling the world.  How do they think about sight, sound and motion in a digital age?  How will we consume information a year from now? What about social media?  What about surrounding your audience rather than using a single media in hopes of snagging them?  Imagination in the delivery of ideas is a lot about what creativity is these days.  It’s what makes campaigns greater than the sum of the individual executions.

Well, if your book is tradition bound, it’s going to be tough to excite us.  Some of the people I’ve been most excited about hiring recently are those people who clearly understand communications in this digital age, but also have the knowledge, desire and skill to ideate in traditional media.   They know how to bring it all together.  To surround an idea.

Without those skills, a candidate isn’t likely to find a job here.

PS  I’m not just talking about creatives, etiher.  The same is true if you plan to be a great planner, media strategist, or account person.  It’s a new day.


The value of eyeballs

April 19, 2008

Scrabble screen

This is going to be a grab-bag post.

First, I was on my way home from work listening to Marketplace on NPR.

Tangent number one.  Am I the only one who waffles between liking Kai Ryssdal Kai Rysdalor thinking he’s incredibly smug — getting depressed by his subjective encapsulation of the day’s economic news? But I digress.

The main point of this post was the Marketplace story that talked about the market value of social media sites. The thrust of the story was that there is essentially no real model for how they are going to make money on a site like Facebook.  Last year they made about $150 million but the market cap is $15 billion.  That’s 100 times earnings. With IBM and GE trading at roughly 2 times earnings, it does seem pretty out of whack.

I don’t know what to make of it all.  But I do know this.  I actually spend a lot of time with my eyeballs on my Facebook pages, and I know a LOT of people who do the same.  At some point, in some way, that’s going to prove to be very, very valuable.

Which brings me to tangent number two. What would compel me to hang out on Facebook? Well, it’s generally entertaining.  But I have a dirty little secret. I am totally addicted to Scrabulous. And I spend a lot of time looking at those screens.  I have seen ads for personality tests, online savings account, the Cirque show that’s coming to town and lingerie. Now, unlike when I’m at Google, I’m not in research or buying mode. I’m there to play Scrabulous, so I’ve never clicked.

What does it all mean?  Does it mean that advertising doesn’t work in social media situations? Or that the quality of creative and targeting just hasn’t improved to the point of being compelling for me?  Or that digital applications like this should be judged as equal parts branding and direct response?

Seems to me that where lots of eyeballs are, there’s a very viable business model to follow.  What do you think?


Art, Jeff Bezos, and social media

January 23, 2008

william powhida- everyone i've ever met from memory (that i can remember) detail
Yes, I will string these thoughts together.

There are few things more exciting for me than finding an artist whose work I have trouble putting out of my mind.  A friend told me about this Brooklyn-based artist, William Powhida, after seeing his work at the Platform Gallery in Seattle.  In particular, he had one drawing “Everyone I’ve Ever Met from Memory (that I can remember).  A detail of the drawing is above.  He’s also done series these visual lists of Enemies and Allies (The New York Enemies List, The New York Allies List, The Seattle Enemies List).  There’s plenty to like here.  I love the irony and the sense of humor.  While there’s definitely a big wink, there’s a commitment to living a life wide open, to getting on a soap box and telling the world what you think.  And then there’s just a certain documentarian view of life that is hard not to admire.

Which is what made me think of Jeff Bezos.  bezos_j2_210x313Years ago, when I was doing quite a bit of work with Amazon.com, I remember someone telling me the story that Jeff Bezos carries a camera with him at all times and takes at least one picture a day.  As I understood it, he started the practice as a way of documenting his life and the wild ride he was on with Amazon.
As it turns out, it sounds like Bezos hasn’t gotten much farther with his idea than shoeboxes in his closet, but the data’s there.  Maybe when Bezos is old and retired and decides that rockets aren’t all that cool, he’ll pull out those shoeboxes and start scrap-booking.

Which brings me to blogging and much about social media.  It’s the modern-day intersection of the scap-book, the journal and the soapbox.  Powhida turned his real-life social networks (and his opinions of them), into art.  Bezos has it all tucked away in a decidedly private and non-technologist way.  And more than ever, millions of us are choosing not more privacy, but to live our lives  with an unprecedented degree of openness.

I find that fascinating.