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"Two Young Creatives of Equal Talent". Written by David Lubars

"Two Young Creatives of Equal Talent". Written by David Lubars

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Published by Youssef Sarhan

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Youssef Sarhan on Apr 23, 2012
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Two Young Creatives of Equal Talent
 David Lubars, Executive Creative Director of BBDO North American
Originally published in Communication Arts July Illustration Annual 2001
You and your buddy are just starting out. You’re a couple of juniors from ad school, or wherever. You both have killer books; maybe you’ve scored in the One Show collegecompetition. You’re excited and juiced. You have tons of potential.Flash forward fifteen years. One of you has become the creative director of a brilliant agency.The other is brain dead in Punxsutawney.A fascinating scenario, and one I’ve tried to make sense of in the twenty years I’ve been atthis. If you’re a kid, this is written to try to help you avoid the mistakes some of your talented but misguided predecessors have made.Here, then, are nine attempts at understanding why some people fall off the face of the earth:First, it seems that these people somehow get it in their heads they’re
artistes
and poets. Awrongheaded and dopey notion. We’re businesspeople who use creativity as a vehicle todeliver brand messages. This is different from being someone who uses advertising as avehicle to deliver pretentious crap.Second, some people speak about their clients with condescension and loathing. Again, dumb. Not to mention counterproductive. Think about what it’s like to be a client for a second. Youworry that you’re paying the agency big money to help, knowing it’s your ass if they don’t.You worry about whether they’ll create work everyone inside and outside your company canfeel good about. You worry about whether they’ll penetrate the issues as solvers of business problems or just ad makers.But then when the agency people come through for you, you become less worried. You beginto see them as a secret weapon. As time goes on, you allow them to guide you into newterritory because you trust them. The point being, it’s hard work to earn and maintain clienttrust, but it’s been the foundation of every great campaign ever created.Third, some people don’t seem to recover well when their first or second batch of work iskilled. After a couple of rounds, they decide the assignment isn’t good anymore and returnwith garbage. Bob Moore, our Fallon/Minneapolis creative director, points out, “This is a sureway of becoming a hack. Five years down the road you’ve got no book and you’re bitchingabout how lousy your agency is. Who made it lousy? You did.”This is an important point. You should know that most creative directors don’t assess yousimply by how creative you are. We also consider how deep, how fast, and how willing toreturn to the well you are. And how much of a pain in the ass you aren’t.A freelancer and early mentor of mine, Ernie Schenck, was telling me about someone he’d
 
 worked with who wasn’t able to rebound: “This went on for a few years, so nobody wassurprised when he turned into this pathetic, defeated little puddle of awesome talent that never amounted to jack.”Sad.Fallon account manager Rob Buchner says, “Stamina is a constant virtue I see in the bestcreative people; emotional and intellectual stamina. Without perseverance, their talentsurrenders to the uglier dynamics of the business.”Fourth, while still developing their talent, some people decide to follow the scent of moneyinstead of continuing to follow the trail of great work. One of my partners at Fallon, Mark Goldstein, says truly great creative people are able to recognize “quicksand” agencies. Theseare places where no matter how good you are, the internal processes and culture conspire tomake you horrible. The lure is the short-term financial gain. Goldstein says, “That’s because bad agencies are happy to overpay for badness; they don’t know the difference.” But you’llknow the difference.Fifth, some people become intoxicated with the idea of titles, puff pieces in the trades, and becoming “a manager.” Fallon legend, Bob Barrie, warns, “The first time you do a decentcampaign you’ll get calls from bad agencies. You’ll decide to ‘move up’ and join one of themand then you’ll disappear. Never make a decision based on coin. Do brilliant work and you’ll be rewarded more in the end anyway.” As far as managing goes, Bob says, “You can’t managetill you’ve done tons of great work yourself. How can you be a credible judge of other people’sstuff when you’re still figuring out how to do it yourself?”This segues nicely into my sixth point. Some people appear to be unconcerned with building a body of brilliant work over time. A question: who’s had the richer career, Neil Young or Donovan? Young has been making brilliant records for 35 years. Donovan had some hits in themid-1960s. Many of you may be wondering, who’s Donovan? Exactly. The point is, you can’t put together a few good campaigns and hope to live off the fumes forever. You’re only as goodas the last thing you did, and you should’ve done that today. Current greats like [Lee] Clowand [Phil] Dusenberry are Neil Youngs.Seventh, some people seem closed to new ways of doing things. Another Fallon partner, RichStoddart, says, “The successful creative is totally objective about his or her own work. If it’snot working, if it isn’t right, they just move on. Bad creatives only think ‘protect, protect, protect.’”Eighth, some people don’t exercise their brains enough. Our planning director, Anne Bologna,observes, “The awesome ones are extraordinarily curious and ask ‘why?’ all the time. They’re part planners in that they’re empathetic to the human condition. They don’t see the worldthrough their own eyes only.” Stoddart adds, “They’re sponges. They read everything they canget their hands on. Two or three newspapers, novels, business magazines—everything. Whenthey sit with clients, they’re better able to understand the context of people and business.”

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