Archive for the ‘Mad Man, I’ Category

Hemingway and the Art of Being Concise

December 10, 2013

mmi

For sale: Baby Shoes, never worn.

Six words, one very full story.

As the legend goes, famed author Ernest Hemingway won a bet with those six words. While lunching with friends at the Algonquin, he wagered ten dollars to everyone sitting at the table (and probably a bartender and a few waitresses) that he could craft an entire story in just six words.

And then he did—on a cocktail napkin.

Six words. That’s all it took to make an impact. Hemingway proved that you can get right to the point, without missing it.

He’d probably punch me for saying it, but he would have been one hell of an ad man.

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There’s a lot of similarity between that storied literary tale and advertising; beyond scribbling something on a cocktail napkin, a concise message must tell a whole story, and it’s worth far more than a few ten dollar bills over lunch.

It’s the difference between making your point, or blending in with the rest of the white noise.

The average focus-attention span for a human is 7 seconds, and it decreases annually—that’s two seconds shorter than a goldfish. Divide that time in half while in motion.

That isn’t a lot of time to make an impact.

You don’t have time to explain every detail, but if done correctly, it’s enough to stimulate the desire to know more.

How does one say so much with so few words?

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It’s a matter of selecting the words carefully, and with both sides of the brain—and what is left between those words, is the true craft of writing.

Be it humor or wit, a touching moment, the beginning of a mystery or a desire to grab a person by the shoulders and scream, “LOOK AT THIS,” the only way to say more is to get their attention in the first place.

In about six words or less.

Hemingway proved it can be done. Now it’s up to us to continue doing it correctly.

What will your six words be?

newestrings

The economics of thought

April 29, 2013

len1I’ve been studying thought a lot lately.

 

Not the abstract idea, the literal exercise of thinking.

 

More to wit, how to think more efficiently to produce the work I want, with the results I need.

 

I know how to think; we all do to a certain point. It’s an innate mechanism of being a human.

 

But there’s a difference between the average moment of decision, and a deeper exploration of the challenges at hand to find a better solution.

 

Everything I learn garners three more things I need to research.

 

I’m still formulating my ideas of how thought is both useful, and used within my profession. There’s a lot more to learn.

ms1

Ultimately, I’m just trying to find the best pattern of thought to produce the best work possible. Work that satisfies the soul, the psyche and even the statistics I do my best to ignore in the early stages of a concept.

 

Most recently, my research has lead to me to behavioral economics, which is normally used to predict the market. There are a lot of aspects of this I believe can be used to dictate the market, rather than react to it.

ms2

So many people look for the easy solution, the fast payoff. We live in a world of immediacy, and far too often this causes rash, poorly planned strategies.

 

Those that step back and think; they are the ones that create trends, rather than follow them blindly.

 

I will always be a student in the school of thought. But now, I choose the curriculum.

rs

Rain

April 26, 2013

rn3

Sometimes, a gentle rain can be my muse.

The sound—as it hits the roof of my car, silently drawing tear stained trails down the windows. The low thunder pushing the normal sounds of the city far below, turning the world outside into a silent movie.

Sometimes, a gentle rain is all I need for that moment to arrive.

rn2

I was beating my head against a wall this morning, failing at every attempt at wit or aspiration in my words. Distractions didn’t help, they simply lived up to their name.

So I stepped out into the rain.

I neither lingered nor ran. I simply lit a cigarette and walked to my car, with sky speckled glasses.

I wasn’t in search of a warm, dry refuge.

I was in search of my muse.

A tangle of smoke, a tear drop of rain and perhaps a small spark that I might turn into a fire.

Inspiration comes from anywhere, if you let it.

fndlygrphc-Recovered

Mad Man, I: Selling Thought

April 18, 2013

madman

Sometimes, this business is built on a vicious series of reactions, rather than solid strategy. Far too much time is spent speaking to the existing message, rather than changing the conversation entirely.

Now, as a Creative, I could very easily (and often do) simply blame the Account team. Their sole objective is maintaining a good relationship with the client’s money by virtue of keeping said client happy.

Far too often, what keeps the client happy in the initial phases of a campaign are the very things that sabotage its impact upon launch. If we back down from our strategies, we aren’t going to succeed and risk losing our client. But if we push too hard for our ideas, we risk losing our client.

It’s a very thin tightrope that must be walked.

By someone other than me.

I have never been an Account Executive, but I was married to one once.

Once.

mtchmid

By the estimations of most Creatives, it’s the Account’s job to take our ideas and convince the client they were theirs; it’s about providing the client with the confidence to let us do what they hired us for in the first place—convincing people to buy things sold by other people.

If Creatives don’t think deeply and thoroughly, we fail our ideas, and our client. If an AE doesn’t sell our ideas, they have failed us.

But they cannot sell what they don’t understand. They have to believe in the idea before anyone else will. And that requires a deeper collaboration between two very opposing schools of thought.

That requires the Account people to trust our ideas, as we must trust that they know what the client ultimately requires to remain a client.

newestrings2

As a Creative, I get to hold tight to my ego by virtue of a false artistic integrity. I only have to think of the challenge at hand, relying on my creative prowess over statistics and test marketing, human nature over strategic complacency.

Because I can.

Where others in the business react, I get to step back, light a cigarette, have a cocktail, and just…think.

Deeply.

I’m not discounting the importance of research. Research is crucial at the beginning and throughout every process.

It’s just not always right.

It’s not about what people do. It’s deeper than that. It’s about what makes them do what they do.

What truly influences their decision?

Peer pressure? The color red? Celebrity endorsements? Sex?

Yes.

But…why do these things influence a decision?

That is at the root of every client challenge I face as a creative strategist.

To work in the creative part of this industry you have to be one part temperamental artist, one part psychologist and one part fortuneteller. You have to change a person’s perception. More challenging, you have to make them want to.

I suppose, that’s what the Account Executive does too, on a more singular, personal level.

So we have to come up with an idea, they have to convince someone it’s good.

Which one is really the Creative?

Simple.

Those who think. Deeply.

 

It’s the best strategy we, as persuaders, can offer a client.

ashtry

Tangle of Lights: Perspective.

April 9, 2013

rs

Perspective.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but not in the capacity gained through time and space—more a literal approach to the exploration.

This isn’t a dear diary, self-help post, after all.

This is art, dammit.

The idea of perspective has interested me for a fairly long while.

It’s been a consideration in both my visual art and my novel, Fondly.

 newestrings

I originally began writing Fondly in third-person, with a non-linear timeline. It became hard to follow and even more difficult to write.

It became hard to believe in.

So, after a lot of consideration I went back through what I had written, kept the timeline but switched to a first-person narrative. This is all fine and good, and the voice works well, even in a jumbled time frame.

Now I sit at another crossroads, as I consider the notion of putting both narratives in, but all from one singular voice. This is a design to better push the slow mental breaks within the main character, and I think it could create a very interesting way to tell a story.

My concern is the readability of it. The flow.

Though framed as small vignettes that elude to other periods of time and the propulsion of a plot, I don’t want to lose the reader by switching too much.

But.

If I do it correctly, there are a lot of ways I could take this style of narrative to push the story arc, and add to the symbolism and complexity underneath.

mtchmid

I’m also working on a fairly large-scale piece for an upcoming gallery show at the end of the summer. I don’t usually  have enough time to put a decent amount of thought into submitted work, or to actually work on it. There are enough deadlines in my life, both at work and at play.

But.

This time, I have time.

I have time to really think deeply about what I want to say, and just as important in the visual arts, how I want to say it.

Writing is an entirely different kind of execution with far more immediate results.

Think it.

Write it down.

Rinse and repeat.

It’s not quite the same thought process, or energy extolled as creating something visual.

Honestly, I love them both, and perhaps it’s the variety in my process that keeps me spinning in so many different directions most of the time.

But.

I digress.

 pen

This time around, I actually have time to think about the piece. Really think about it, from multiple directions.

Tonight, I’ve been working on the approach and execution, not the imagery itself.

I had a thought. Okay, it’s more a stolen idea.

But.

I stole it from myself, so I can sleep at night…or at least stay up with a clear conscience.

A few years back, or maybe just one, it’s hard to keep track, I conceived a campaign direction for a re-brand for a client that was having some mild identity issues.

Most people hadn’t heard of them, and those that had, hated them.

Once we convinced the client to make some large adjustments to some underlying problems, it was our challenge to get people to give them another try.

Of the ideas, I was most excited by one of mine called “Shift Your Perspective.”

It was designed to utilize a variety of media executions, all revolving around a “different perspective” illustrated through various optical illusions, negative space, building installments, anamorphous perspective and many, many other executions. I was inspired by all the great street art, which I often think is more appealing than just about any billboard I’ve ever seen…

This would not only help reinforce a change in the client and the consumer’s current opinion but would be an engaging, impactful approach, grabbing the consumer’s attention, forcing them to pause and spend more time with every billboard, print ad, television commercial, guerilla/environmental installation, etc.

If you can’t change someone’s mind, shift their perspective and let them change it on their own.

This could have been the type of campaign that would have made me known throughout my industry, if executed correctly, or…you know, if executed at all.

I spent a lot of time researching some interesting eye-benders and how they worked, and feared I would never get to use all this new information.

We presented a variety of directions. They went with the safe option. They always do. All of them. The client literally told me it was too intelligent of an approach for their demographic. I tried to explain that I was trying to get them a better demographic.

 madman

Short story long, I’m taking one of the outdoor print executions and using it for good, rather than the cruel mistress that is the fickle client.

I know what I want the basic idea of the image to be, and a fair idea of how to create it. The message is there and it’s just ambiguous enough to make you draw your own conclusions. I even have the general idea of how it should work, in theory.

But.

It’s the construction and ultimate final execution that must be figured out first.

Now I must rely on science or something.

My plan is to create a large-scale lenticular, to hopefully tell a full story, but only once you’ve seen it from both angles.

So I made a miniature mock-up. I’ve been known to do that from time to time.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the images themselves, I just threw something together through the miracle of selfies and photoshop for example’s sake.

I started with two images.

len

Then I cut them up and rearranged them.

len1

After that, I printed it out and corrugated it.

Here’s a shaky, lo-fi example of my shaky, lo-fi mock-up…just imagine this being about 5-10 feet wide or so…for starters.

The real question is, where can I push it from here?

newestrings2

In both cases, I’m utilizing the literal idea of perspective to push the more metaphysical meaning of the word out to the viewing audience, but without screaming it at the top of my lungs. Nobody wants to be told what to do.

But.

If they’re not careful, they just might accidentally get a fresh perspective from my work.

ashtry

Mad Man, I: The greatest work you’ll never see.

March 18, 2013

madman

For close to a month I’ve been in campaign mode at work. It’s the best part of the job, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the audition process, as well as the overall production, filming, and editing. It’s nice to see something develop from a tiny spark into a fire.

But it’s that spark that gives me the most fulfillment as a writer in this business.

It’s all about the concept. That big idea that everything is built upon. That underlying voice, tone and strategy. The message. It is the beginning.

The beginning of everything.

It has to be. Without a concept, all we have are pretty pictures that miss the real challenge of convincing someone to stop, pay attention and ultimately, consume.

The challenge doubles, then triples the more times you have to sell the same thing.

Moleskines are filled, and walls are covered in staples and tape, as if our brains have exploded outward.

This moment is electric. The big idea. I’ve had a few now, but none have ever seen the light of day. Not how they should. Because ultimately, there is always a client, and I’m not always there to convince them to make the bold move.

This campaign, I poured myself into five different directions, all of which could be effective and successful, one of which would truly stand out: A simple story about a boy, a girl and some olive juice. A direction that saw me working late into the night, and early into the morning for weeks trying to create something effective and cohesive; something beautiful, relevant and most importantly, something real.

Something strangers would invest their attention in.

Tomorrow, when we make our pitch, it will most likely fall to the wayside with so many other ideas. But we’re a better agency for offering it. And I’m a better person for having thought of it.

The toughest part of this job is letting go of something. Our best work is crumpled up on a creative director’s floor.

I create the greatest work you’ve never seen, and I’ll do it again and again until someone runs with it. Then I’ll keep on doing it.

pen

Mad Man, I: Marketing v Advertising

June 7, 2009

mmi

I’ve worked both sides of the coin.

I’ve been that guy wearing hip bulky glasses and a black turtle neck riding around the office on a scooter and playing foosball. Yeah, I was that guy…

I’ve also been that guy who dresses corporate casual and sits in a cubicle all day working for the same client day in day out…

Advertising Agency v In-House Marketing Department…they both have their pluses, they both have their minuses…

When it all boils down, I’m just happy to be employed during these trying economic times

I could lament for weeks on end about the two…but I think it’s much easier to use visual aids to show the difference…

so here it is, in a nutshell…

Advertising Agency:

and now, a great example of what it’s like working in-house…

pen