As a fresh bunch of new young creatives put the finishing touches to their books (or rather online websites) at universities and colleges across the land, me and my Art Director must once again decide on what makes a good book, or rather a good placement team? What makes them standout from the crowd? And most importantly, what makes them a team you just have to get in… and hopefully one-day hire?
It seems painfully obvious, but rarely do we see team books that are actually filled with great campaign ideas. Yes the books have clever app concepts and designs. Yes they have beautifully mac’d layouts and yes - some even come with 5 minute case studies that look like they’ve been produced by Mr George Lucas himself. However, do they have a collection of brilliant strategies and simple ads? More often than not... no.
For us we’d much rather see a book (yes one of those paper things with plastic sleeves) filled with simple creative strategies and ads which have been quickly scamped up with a trusty N60 – than a beautifully designed website created with the latest version of Photoshop or InDesign. After all, why spend hours behind a Mac when you could be thinking of new ideas and ads?
I still fondly remember seeing a student book with scamped ads for PC World, the endline read: ‘Nerds where you need them’. Simple, I get it, I can write ads off it. I wish I’d thought of it. We don’t need a fancy designed film to understand that the strategy ‘Dirt is good’ is brilliant for Persil. The line alone is more than enough. Saying that the ‘BIG IDEA’ is everything maybe a cliché these days, but it’s a cliché for a reason… it’s true. Your ‘BIG IDEA’ is the foundation of your ad, if it’s boring or predictable or wrong the most wonderfully designed and crafted Mac visual won’t save it.
Once you’ve secured a placement it’s time to shine. And remember, as a full time creative it won’t take you long to become confined by brand guidelines and client concerns about what is right and what is wrong. You’ll constantly question the tone of voice, the styling, the execution… and if you’ve ‘seen it before’. In fact, without even realising it, you’ll end up writing ads that are ‘bankers’ ads you know or rather think the client will buy.
Thankfully, as a fresh young placement team you don’t have to worry about any of that. You have creative carte blanche – enjoy it while you can! Remember, when you’re on placement no one is really expecting you to write the next big campaign for Nike or Natwest (that’s what the seniors are for). So be brave, be outrageous and write ideas that can’t be bought by clients, because chances are they’ll be the most refreshing ones on the wall. Plus, a placement is your chance to show off your thinking, not how sensible you can be. Fill the walls with ideas others are too scared to think of and get yourself noticed. Bring energy to the creative department that people will miss if you leave.
Before we went out on placements in the second year at uni our tutors sat us all down and explained we needed to arrive before the CDs and leave long after they’d set off for home… or the agency local.
We were told not only to crack the briefs we were given, but ask for more. And failing that, nick briefs off desks. Do it all.
Why? Well being a creative is one of the most competitive jobs in the world and if you’re not willing to give it your all then there’ll be a hundred teams behind you who are. Don’t get us wrong, never sit in an office and wait for your seniors to leave if you’re doing nothing – but then again there’s no excuse for doing nothing.
Ask for the agency’s client list and go through the Metro in the morning and write topical ads… and then do it again with the Evening Standard if you have to. When you’re on placement it’s your chance to shine, to learn and to work out the kind of agency you want to work at. Don’t waste it.
Oh and be nice. It’s a small industry and we all talk like teenage girls at a sleepover when we’re down the pub. So be that great placement team who are also great guys or gals who we’ll want to hang around with and take down the pub at the end of the day.
Remember you’re only one brilliant idea away from your first job in one of the most exciting and rewarding industries in the world. So keep thinking, keep creating and keep knocking on the doors of the agencies you’d love to work at. Oh and creatives love being complemented, so if you see a piece of work you like on TV, online or on a tube card, find out who did it, call them up and tell them… then ask for a book crit, they won’t say no.
Good luck out there. And for book crits (and hopefully placements) drop us an email or give us a call.
Baz and David.
Call: 0207 478 0510
Published by: Baz Hayman in Creative