Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wonderful crap

Translation: don't fall for percentages (the city is calles Percentages)

First of all, I´m usually not the type of guy who says bad things about work of others. I´m perfectly aware of the fact that difficult clients, agency politics or a bad creative day can lead to bad work. I think it´s also too easy to say something negative about an ad. For that refrained from showing a lot of bad German ads I saw in the subways of Hamburg last year. For the work above I´d like to make an exception. The reason is that I´m not completely negative about this work.

The client is a bank. The translation of the poster is ´don´t fall for percentages´. It means that the interest banks have to offer are not always a good reason to join a bank. Not a bad message. How did the creatives solve it? By showing two people who actually fell in front of a (real existing) city called Percentages. Don't fall for percentages! Get it?

An ad like this is considered total crap in advertising. I'll explain why. Instead of adding something to the message with the photograph, the creatives decided to make the text literally in the visual. In other words: the photograph has no function at all. It's only there to make a joke.

Nevertheless, I laughed for half an hour about this ad. Even when I was home. I have to say that I'm a big fan of everything that's pulp. To give an example: I truly enjoy the strange Japanese commercials in Cannes, no matter how bad they are. This one is so crap that it becomes funny again. And it's always better than making a boring ad that nobobdy reads, so this ad is probably more effective than average.

Does anybody know who made this wonderful piece of crap? And whether the creatives were aware of the fact that it's so bad that it becomes good? (I think they knew. The photography is actually quite good and it's a big client. The creatives can't be that bad).This kind of stuff makes me curious. And it also makes me laugh. I'll repeat: I'm not just negative. I'm not even sarcastic. I mean every word I said in this post. And why not? It's better to laugh a little about each others work than to be negative behind someone's back.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

IMPORTANT: phone lost

Do you ever have these days when one misfortunate event happens after another? I'm not talking about the really bad things like: somebody dies. I'm talking about small strokes of bad luck that cost either money, time or dignity. These are moments when life throws shit at you. It happened to me this weekend and it sucks.

At first I was really looking forward to my only evening of going out this weekend. I went into Brussels with a Rumanian Miami Ad School student Dan. We were in the Fuse, because he wanted to go there. Unfortunately, after 20 minutes Dan got sick of the place. "It totally sucks", he said, "let's go somewhere else".

We ended up in a situation that I call a 'mega loser evening'. It happens when you go into a big city without a plan. You walk from club to club trying to find a place where you can get in, but everywhere you crash into a bouncer who says it's full or who makes up an entry fee you wouldn't even pay if the pope was playing techno. If you have a mega loser evening in Amsterdam, you'll usually end up in the Cooldown Café. Dan and I ended up in some shitty Irish Pub together with other losers.

But it can get worse. At the end of the dissapointing evening I felt in my pockets for my phone and it wasn't there anymore. I tried to call this morning, but I heard a voice mail so my guess is that it is stolen. The biggest problem with losing your phone is not the money (I'll get it back from the insurance). The biggest problem is that 4 years of collecting phone numbers is all of a sudden down the drain. So if anybody thinks: why doesn't this bastard call me back, this could be the reason.

I can track down most of the numbers, but some of them are lost. So anybody who thinks he/she might have a number that's hard to retrieve, please send me an e-mail (robinstam@hotmail.com). I'll buy a new phone in two weeks when I'm in Holland. But until then I'm mobileless. Feels like being handicapped all of a sudden.

Friday, February 23, 2007

We're on a roll

This week Daniel and I have been working almost without interruption. The briefings now pile up and in the meantime we have to execute work or prepare work for the client's presentation.

One of the coolest things to do was to produce radio commercials. For that we went to WHAR Production, a sound studio in Brussels. I was glad to make radiocommercials again. For an impatient person like me, radio is the best medium to execute your ideas. You have direct control over the output of the ads, you can work with famous actors or singers who do the voices and you usually have the spots in your hand the same day you make them.

Usually. Yesterday we made a spot that is so complicated that the sound technicians had to work on it after the actual recording. In the commercial you can hear music that is made with sounds purely made on the human body, such as clapping, cracking and snapping. Tonight I got the result by e-mail and I was really impressed. You can just hear the amount of work that they put into the music. The commercial still need some finetuning, but the start is definitely there.

This weekend three campaigns of us are going to be sketched and this weekend we heard that a really cool print campaign for Top Interior is going to be produced. Hm... exactly two weeks before the end of the internship things really start to roll. How ironic.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Today all the Miami's, me, Daniel, Dirk, Dan and Yigit, went all the way to Antwerp for a class from Guillaume van der Stighelen, one of the founders of Duval Guillaume. We went to Duval Guilaume corporate where we waited for an hour in a big office on the top of the building. So we had enough time to talk, brainstorm and to go outside to enjoy the view over Antwerp while smoking a cigarette.

"So you want a class about how to get ideas?", Guillaume said when he got in, "You don't find ideas, ideas find you". The 52-year old founder of Duval Guillaume started with a quote I heard before, but which -in my opinion- can't be said often enough. What he meant by that is when you push too hard to get an idea, it usually doesn't work. You have to play your way into an idea, walk around until an idea hits you.

I've got two very good examples of that. I won my first award with a radiocommercial that me and my former art-director Peter made up in the radiostudio. I wrote it in half a minute. A year later we thought of an idea for a mailing during a photoshoot. The representative of the photographer wanted to use the idea for his own company and within a week it was actually made. We won a direct marketing prize with it. If only advertising was always that easy...

Guillaume also said some interesting things about ego. "You should have a large ego as a creative. Having an ego is not a bad thing, using your ego in a wrong way is a bad thing". What he meant by 'ego' is not arrogance, but the inner drive to make the best work ever because you want to please yourself. You want to make work that gets you on the stages of the award festivals. "The best creatives", he said with a smile, "wake up in the morning and think that they are a gift to the world that they exist".

The bad type of ego is the one that blocks you, that prevents you to listen to other people. The one that makes creatives feel that they are better than other persons. And it's easy to fall into that trap. You can talk for hours about whether an idea is good or not, but you can't discuss the years of experience or the amount of prizes somebody won. These last two are often used as a weapon to win a discussion.

Being on a stage when you're as young as 24 is especially dangerous. You have the award (and the ego) of a senior, but everybody still sees you as a junior. Five years ago, me and my former collegue Peter were in an editing room for a commercial We had a fierce discussion with one of the account managers of my agency. In the next editing room they could probably hear us swearing. Afterwards I was totally exhausted. I spoke to the director of the commercial. "Sometimes," I said to him, "this business is forcing me to have a really arrogant attitude towards people. I don't want to look down on people. I just want to work together to get the best result possible".

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Guests, party and comedy

My art-director Daniel stucked in elevator

And the prize for the club with the best atmosphere in Brussels goes to... The Wax Club. I've been there this weekend with friends from Holland (Maarten, Mandy and Lianne) and it was great. There was good music, the entrance was free and the people were cool. Too bad I discovered this place this late in the quarter.

A good second place is for the party at Ric's boat. This is one of the party boats of Brussels. The DJ in the beginning of the evening managed to draw a dancing audience even before the place was crowded. I've been a DJ in Holland and I can tell that's a very good accomplishment.

My guests from Holland were quite lucky to come here in the weekend when there were really good parties. Today I'm exhausted. I've been at the agency, but I was so slow that it took me half an hour to write an e-mail.

By the way, my mother doesn't have to be worried whether I eat good enough or not. My New Zealandish flatmate Tim just bought 4 kilos of mince meat. He wanted to get 4 euro's of meat, but the butcher understood it as 4 kilos of meat. When he saw the giantic package of meat on the counter he felt too embarrased to say something about it. And if that wasn't funny enough already, today Daniel got stucked in the elevator. After 10 minutes of entrapment, he managed to get the elevator down by jumping in it. With flatmates like these, who needs comedy?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Conveyor belt

No matter how cool a certain job might seem, in the end everything becomes a job. I once saw a documentary about techo-god Dave Clarke. He was sitting in his dressing room right before a gig and had the same dead beaten expression on his face as somebody who just got out of bed to prepare himself for a 9-to-5 day at the office. But when he got on stage, he spinned his records like a freaking madman.

There's no exception for advertising. In the beginning advertising seems like a creative playground where everything is possible. There seems to be no other business where you can think of your own ideas and use just about every creative discipline -whether it's film, music, graphic design or writing- to bring these ideas to life. But in the end also advertising becomes a job.

There's only one way to become good in this job: work really hard. Some people say it's about talent. I don't believe in talent and I don't believe that people are born creative. Of course there are people who show more potential than others. But this only works for them at the start of their career. Later on they come to the conclusion that in order to become better you have to keep on working - a lot.

After a year on the Miami Ad School, my opinion about this matter hasn't changed. The students that excel are not the ones who have the most talent, listen the best to the teachers or have the most experience before. Those factors all play a role, but what really separates the average from the best is that the latter simply makes more work. A simple calculation proves this: a student who has worked all night to make 10 campaigns has more chance that there's something good than a student who made 1 campaign and watches television afterwards.

Today Daniel and I were mass producing ideas. We were drawing sketches as if the empty sheets roll by one by one on a conveyor belt. At the end of the day we had a total of 16 campaigns. A record for this quarter. (not my all-time record, see http://robinstam.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_archive.html). We simply reduced our chances of failure to almost none by making a lot. You never know what happens if you do creative work, but one thing's for sure: the only way to get a little security is to get on the automatic pilot and to mass produce. Think of ideas until you get a headache, scribble until your fingers hurt and present them like a DJ plays in front of a live audience.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Another visit from Holland

Me and my sister Elina in club Dirty Dancing

Since I live in Brussels it's easier for people to come over. The result is that I get visitors every weekend. This weekend my sister came over together with her friend Eloïna.

Because a preference for electro-punk and underground parties doesn't run in the family, I took her to a more commercial club. So I went to a club called Dirty Dancing. Although it was a good evening with good music, it was the last time I go to a commercial club in Brussels. First of all the drinks are too expensive. You pay three euro for a small bottle of Heineken. And if you're unlucky (like me) you meet a girl who wants a wodka Red Bull and you're nine euro poorer.

And I'm not particulary fond of the people in the club. They try really really hard to be trendy and cool by wearing dandy clothes. But because they try so hard they're anything but trendy and cool. Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging people by what they wear, but if they think having an attitude is also in fashion I start to dislike them. Just one example: a guy who was on the guestlist thought it was necessary to go through the normal entrance, where he had to push himself and his friends through all waiting guests. Come on, have some fucking decency!

Of course most people are okay, but if you put annoying people like that on the guest list, it fucks up the atmosphere right from the start. Despite these minor issues I really enjoyed the evening. The music was as good as minimal electro could get and my sister and Eloïna were big fun. But if I go to a club like this every week it will get annoying. Anyone who visits me after this weekend will have to come with me to parties where people are crazy instead of plain stupid.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Duval Guillaume

All the Eurobest awards the agency won this year

At the reception of Duval Guillaume there are not less than seven Eurobest trophy's that they've won this year. The Eurobest is a prize for a European advertising festival. I remember having a nomination for the Eurobest when I worked at McCann-Erickson Holland and the agency was already happy with that!

No matter what you think about award-shows, with seven Eurobests you can't deny that this agency must be doing something right. And these statues are not the only awards they've won. Upstairs there's a big cupboard with hundreds of prizes in every color and shape imaginable.

I already noticed that this whole agency is about good creation. When there's a good concept, they go for it for 100%. Everybody has one goal and that is to make excellent work. Everybody, including the account and planning department.

This week Daniel and I had lunch with the creative director of the company, Peter. He explained us another thing that makes Duval Guillaume so succesful. One of their policies is that they don't make work for pitches. Maybe they show a couple of examples of what they can do, but they don't let their employees work day and night on a full campaign for a potential client. This way, they can fully focus on the clients that they already have and the employees don't get overworked.

I also noticed that in the first month that I've been working here that there's a very down to earth mentality. I haven't seen any creatives who walk around thinking that they are god. Nobody is considered better than someone else, no matter what function, experience or amounts of prizes won. And (as in all agencies) there can be some discussions between accounts and creatives, but it never seem to get out of hand.

This is by far the best agency I've ever worked and a perfect place for my first quarter away at the Miami Ad School. I still have one month to go, but even if I don't make any work anymore this internship has been worth it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

City of comments

Recently, my blog has been the center of attention of some very popular Belgian blogs. The reason was my post 'city of sirens' (http://robinstam.blogspot.com/2007/01/city-of-sirens.html), in which I talked about how strange Brussels is to me. The articles were reason for a lot of discussion, looking at the amount of comments on the post.

On the websites they shared my opinion to a certain extend, but they also said that I just know a very small part of Brussels and that the city centre is not representative (phooh, that's a relief!). I must admit that I exaggerated a lot in this article and that maybe I emphasized the negative parts a little too much. So to make it clear: I don't think Brussels is a dangerous city. I just said that one might think it is because of the sirens. I have to walk through the most dangerous part of Brussels to get to the gym and I never feel unsafe.

To see the articles on the weblogs, go to http://www.pietel.be/archives/2327 (Dutch) and http://www.emich.be/fr/2007/02/05/chicagosursenne/ (French).

There are always more people reading the weblog than expected. Last week my creative director Peter joked to me: "you complained on your weblog that you don't get enough work here, so we'll give you a lot extra!". He was joking of course, because I said in the article that I'm finally in a busy workflow. And I still am. The whole week we've been working day and night to get our work done and today is not going to be an exception because tomorrow morning we have to present our ideas for a big campaign.

In my opinion, every reaction on my blog is a good reaction. And if it raises discussion, it's even better.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Memorable weekend in Brussels

Bas and me in the elevator

Alex in the Turkish store at the corner

Remco and Ben in my appartment

Some weekends I will always remember. This was certainly one of them. On Friday three friends of mine (Bas, Alex and Remco) came to visit me. There was a party on a boat, at about 5 minutes walking from my appartment. The boat was very small and the audience was very young. But there were a lot of advantages: the atmosphere was good, there were great electro-punk live acts, and the beer was € 1,50. We enjoyed it a lot and after having seen very commercial (read: expensive) clubs in Brussels already, I really needed a party like this. It was different than anything else I've seen here.

The next day Benjamin also arrived. After we picked him up from the station, I showed everybody the most touristic places in Brussels (I even saw the statue of the small pissing man for the first time). In the evening we went to a club called The Fuse. A famous DJ from Germany called Sven Väth was playing there. It took us 1,5 hour to get in the club and hang up out jackets, but the party was worth all the trouble. We had a really good time and we danced till we dropped.

We tried to get into a taxi with the five of us, which is usually not allowed. As soon as we tried to get in, the cabdriver told us to get out immediately. When we stepped out, the guy started to swear at us. "You know you can't get in the cab with five persons", he yelled, "you Dutch people have no respect!". I told my friends that unfortunately this is how some Belgians think about the Dutch. I think there must have been some really rude Dutch tourists in the past who spoiled it for the others.

We decided not to take a cab, but to walk home. I knew the road because (as you can read in an earlier post) I walked it already. "It's really easy," I said, "we just have to walk straight ahead on one road". So we walked for half an hour and we crossed the whole centre of Brussels on just one road.