Thursday, November 29, 2007

Question from a former MAS-student

The good thing about the Miami Ad School is that you get to know a lot of interesting students from all over the world. And every now and then you hear from some of them again. José, a former Miami Ad School student and former quarter away student in Hamburg, sent me an e-mail this week with the following question:

I was wondering since you got a Lion and went to New York and all (congrats!), if you could tell us how it happened to you; how difficult, disappointments, excitements, revelations, then and now and so forth.

I told him that I didn't win a lion, but that I'm already happy with a nomination. Furthermore, I don't consider myself yet as somebody who really 'made it'. It's not out of modesty, because if I did something good I let the whole world know. But it's because I think you should not be too satisfied with the work you've made in the past. It's the future work that's important.

Then I told him that the reason that I did well, was a combination of my experience (5 years in Dutch advertising), working really really hard and luck. And you need luck to win at award shows. If you work hard enough, it's not a guarantee that you always have a good idea, but you make the odds that you make award winning work in favor of you. The nominated ad (Kneipp bedside lamp) was actually based on an idea that I had about 2 years before. I showed it to my art director, we talked about it and slowly we got the winning idea. I was lucky that my teacher from JvM believed in it and that he wanted to make it. Then with his help we improved the idea until it was perfect.

He was glad to get the answer and told me I should put it on my blog to inspire others. If I have any notion that someone might find information useful, I put it on my site, so that's why I dedicated a post about it. Not because I have the need to write some success story because I think I still have a long road to go. Maybe a job at my next agency will become a success story. Or maybe I will stay unsatisfied during my entire career. But that's actually a good thing. Because sometimes the road is more interesting than the destination.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Class with Arno Lindemann from JvM

Judging by the photographs on my blog, it looks like my whole life takes place within the four walls of the 8th quarter room. Which is not very far from the truth. First of all we've got a lot to do and second of all I don't have internet at home. So to be able to connect to my friends and family in Holland I'm dependent on the internet at school. I spend so much time in this room that picking up printouts from the printer room downstairs is already an adventure.

Today, we were all in school for the final presentation for a big electronic client. Our teacher was Arno Lindemann from Jung von Matt. He gave us a briefing that had "confused client" written all over it. It was so complicated that we all hardly thought anything good would come out of it.

I don't present the final results on this blog and that says a lot. To be honest I'm not too proud about the creative level of the work that I've made for this client. None of us seems really satisfied with the produced work. But when I saw all the final campaigns hanging on the wall I realized that all of us managed to make at least something really original and outstanding for an extremely difficult client. And that is something really valuable.

The fact that Miami Ad School students can actually cope with difficult assignments is probably something that a lot of agencies don't expect. We only put our most creative work in our books, because that's what we truly stand for. But behind every freewheeling, creative campaign there's just as much craftmanship; real campaigns based on real briefings made for real clients.

And this quarter it often got more strategic. That's because we're working together with students from the so called planners bootcamp. This bootcamp is a course of 2 months in which the planners get assigments and workshops from different planner guru's. One thing I learned about planners is that a lot of them have blogs. It's the same with the students. Here's a very visual and funny written blog of Jef, one of the Belgian students. And here's the blog of Joanna, an extremely passionated planner from Poland. So if there are agencies that look for young, talented planners: this week, after 2 months of locking themselves up in the school, the bootcamp students will get their well-deserved certificates.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What a Friday

The proof that I made at least one good ad in my life

Presentation with Hermann Vaske

It's almost weekend. But I wouldn't go enjoying my well deserved spare time without leaving a post on my blog. The last post was not very stunning, but luckily in the meantime a lot happened.

Especially today! We had a presentation for a German radio station and one of the people we had to present to was none other than Hermann Vaske. According to our headmaster Niklas our presentation was a "disgrace to the whole school" and if it wasn't for the good ideas that we presented, he would have killed us. I'll see that as a real compliment for the presented concepts.

And today one of my former teachers Philipp Barth was in school. He's the creative director from Jung von Matt that made my ad for Kneipp possible. And he brought me the certificate that proves the ad was shortlisted in Cannes. Of course I knew long before that I was on the shortlist, but to have a tangible proof of that made me really happy. And because I'm such a big show-off I showed it to the entire school.

But the showing off has to stop somewhere. I think it's important not to look back too much. The nomination is just a sign that I'm in the right direction. After graduating I'm going to start all over again. And whether I'm going to do something in Cannes again or not, I know one thing for sure: I'm going to aim for making the most creative work possible. This means the absolute top. This means using Cannes certificates as wallpaper for my room. Maybe I will not reach that goal next year or the year after, but I think I'm well on my way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writers blog

What if in a whole week nothing special happened? What if you've been working the whole week to execute campaigns and working on your book. And that even the weekend has become pretty predictable. I mean I saw a great show of Miss Kittin and the Hacker, but that's not really something new for me cause I already saw them two times before. Well, if the week has been one big repetition of other weeks there's nothing to write for your blog.

So what do you do then? Maybe wait until something actually happens? But then there's this big time lapse between the posts. So, the answer is just to write about how you're sitting behind the computer, squeezing your brains out to find any shitty subject to write about and that you can't come up with anything. You should write it in a way that other writers can identify themselves with this temporary writers block so it gets funny and interesting again. Oh, and you should always end with a little joke.

Let's hope that this week a meteorite falls right in front of the school so I have something to write about.

Friday, November 16, 2007

44.7 MB

Wow, it's almost been a week since I wrote my last post. Time flies when you've got things to do. This week has been the busiest so far but also the most productive. We had to execute a lot of ideas for our projects and in the meanwhile work on our portfolio.

But today the first draft of my book is finally ready. When I dragged the last picture in the document I felt kind of emotional. I mean, I was just clicking my mouse but as I was doing that, I realized that this is the moment where I've been working towards for the past few years. Two years of brainstorming, executing, learning, swearing and sweating is put together in a file of 44.7 MB.

After that it got even better. I printed out all the pages and bound them together so I have a black and white dummy of my book. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it because I wanted to make the dummy as soon as possible. So all of a sudden two years of Miami Ad School is tangible and you can flip through it.

I said in other posts that I enjoy every minute, every second I'm in this school. I still feel the same. In less than a month it's over. But that's actually good, cause it has to end somewhere. This week I realized that making student work is motivating me less. I'm still making good work so that's not the problem, but it's hard to top the campaigns that I already have and I miss making campaigns for real. That's going to be my next adventure. I'm glad to say that I already got an offer from a top agency. But five years of working in Dutch advertising learned me not to start partying before the signature is on a piece of paper with the words 'contract' written above it. So in the meantime, I will work with furious passion on my final portfolio. Less than a month to go... so I will exploit every single second.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Certain winners

From time to time the relevance of advertising awards is under discussion. Some say too many awards go to fake campaigns that are published only once in a local magazine. Some say too many creatives focus on making award winning work instead of making a campaign that the client really needs.

I personally think that awards are a great motivation for creatives to push their work further. Okay, it is true that a lot of award winning work have nothing to do with the daily work in an agency. But I think awards keep the fun in advertising, it's motivating creatives to extend their creative limits and therefore they will be able to make better work with 'normal assignments'.

But recently I started to doubt the relevance of awards. The reason is that the work that did something at awards shows is the least good work in my portfolio. I got a shortlist nomination in Cannes with a one-shot that could have been made 10 years ago. My more interesting work does nothing in the student award shows. There was even a discussion in school about a campaign that won the Student of the year award at the German ADC. Everybody said that the winning idea is not very good and that it won because of the execution. I thought that this was the final proof that you cannot take awards too seriously.

Until I looked on the website to see the winning work... When I saw the striking visual of the ad, I held my breath for a while. And I think the idea isn't small at all. It's simple. But often simple ideas are mistaken for being small ideas. In my opinion, it totally deserved the big award. See the campaign (it's the one for Leica with the zoom lens) here. For me that's this proves that if you made really good work, it will be a certain winner. And it's the certain winners that you should always aim for when you're making advertising. Congratulations to Muco, Clemens and Alexander for making such a great campaign.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Russell Davies

Today the planner Russell Davies came to our school for a guest speech to Miami Ad School. I had no idea who he was before, but according to some people from the planning bootcamp, he's really famous and I should have known him. I can hardly even remember names of famous creatives, let alone famous planners.

Until today. Because Davies is a name that I should have known. Right now he's a freelance planner and before that he worked for Wieden & Kennedy, both in Portland and in London. His weblog is a dosis of daily inspiration for planners all over the world.

Davies told us some interesting things about changes in advertising. I must say that they were things I've heard before: how advertising is changing towards making consumers participants instead of target audiences, that the single minded proposition doesn't work anymore and how internet is gaining importance. But it's not so much what he said during the guest speech, it's the way he said it that was really convincing.

I've always been sceptical about change. Ten years ago agencies started to anticipate on the so called internet revolution. After that dot-com companies went bankrupt as fast as they arose. It says to me that you should be careful with wanting to change. Agencies are conservative and so are their clients. Nonetheless, it seems like the internet prophecies of ten years ago finally come true. Only it's different than people expected. Print still exists and the 30-second commercial is still there. Only we now have more choice of media to show this commercial on. But it's a slow change. I think change in advertising is an evolution rather than a revolution.

What I liked about Davies speech was that he kind of gave us a summary of what is happening now, instead of making too much predictions. And he told us something that I told in one of my earlier posts: consumers can nowadays choose what they want to see, so the most important aspect of advertising is that it has to amuse instead of transmitting a message that nobody wants to hear. "If it's entertaining", Davies told us, "people will pick it up anyway".

This week I found out why that is true. In Stockholm I made a campaign for a toy manufacturer that I finally finished this quarter and which I put on one website. I never expected it, but within no time the campaign was all over internet and there's even a French art magazine that wants to write about it. There's also a disadvantage to this sudden popularity: the campaign got so much attention that even the agency where I made it got angry phonecalls from the client. That's one of the reason why I don't show the ads on my blog.

The funny thing is that the campaign doesn't even make a lot of sense. It's just amusing to some people. Maybe the new rules for making good advertising is: just make something entertaining. It's that simple, and's that hard.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend in Berlin

Autumn in Berlin

The price you pay for studying abroad is that you can't see friends and family for a long time. But it's something you get used to. And with programs such as Skype and Messenger you can still be in contact with most people. I speak to some friends even more since I went to Germany!

And when you get back it seems like you've never been away in the first place. I had the same notion this weekend when I went to visit Edwin, a Dutch friend who lives in Berlin. I haven't seen him for over a year but he didn't change a bit.

This weekend I also had to work for some campaigns. A review on Friday went really good and as a result my art-director Julien had to execute some ads and I had to send him more copy by e-mail. It starts to get really busy in the Miami Ad School now and soon enough I'll probably be in school in the weekend as well. I'm glad I went to Berlin now, because this was probably the last weekend I'm able to leave Hamburg.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Back on track again

The rest of the week could only get better than Monday and luckily it did get better. The only bad thing that happened was that on Tuesday my internet at home was disconnected, but it's something that I already knew. And if you're prepaired for something it's not really bad luck.

I wasn't prepaired for the fact that this week's review for Jung von Matt would go well, but it did. Our teacher took three of our campaigns and one ambient idea back to the agency. We worked our ass off for that assignment so I was relieved to see that our hard work it payed off.

This morning I got another surprise that made me really happy. I got an e-mail from a Korean girl named Myung Jin. She mailed me a couple of months ago because she was interested in Miami Ad School. I read today that she applied for the school and she got accepted. Whenever somebody asks me about the MAS Europe I never even promote the school. I always tell them the advantages and the disadvantages. This way, people will know for sure they make a good decision. So I'm sure that Myung Jin will have a great time here. And to hear that somebody made a life changing decision based on something that I wrote is very rewarding for me. My day can't go wrong anymore.