Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Exit politics

Somehow, just being creative isn't enough if you want to break trough in advertising. Politics inside of the agency seems to be just as important. How to deal with the clients and account directors in a diplomatic way, how to make sure the next big campaign assigment is coming your way, how to delegate photographers, directors, designers and retouchers. Above all, the creative business is a human business.

As soon as the news is out that somebody leaves, the politics become a whole different ball game. The rules change. You're not getting the big assigments anymore because there might be a chance that you cannot fulfill the entire execution phase. Moreover, there are other teams waiting for a cool assignment. On the other hand, your workload also gets less. You get little shitty assignmenst that nobody else wants to do and if you just do your job, nobody bothers you too much so you'll have a peaceful last few months in the agency. It feels like you become invisible...

And that's something that doesn't work for me. Especially not while I'm still working with a Miami Ad School student who has brilliant ideas. So this week, when I heard that we were put off a big assigment and got a small briefing to write headlines instead, I immideately ran upstairs to ask what is going on. I assured everybody that we have enough time for the headlines and the big assignment. I don't know how long I'm still in the agency, but I know one thing for sure: I'll be working my ass off until the last second I'm there. Even if it means I have to prove myself over and over again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Leaving Duval

It was almost a month ago... I was drinking a beer with Roel and Wietse, two Dutch creatives who are working at TBWA Brussels. While I was talking to them about the agency, I had a moment of clarity that even the wine and beer couldn't mess up: I'm going to make plans to move to another agency. All of a sudden I was really sure and I told my Dutch friends about it. I'm going to leave Duval Guillaume Brussels.

Once I have something in my mind, I'm going to do it and I won't look back. It doesn't seem like a decision that you make spontaneously while drinking a beer but of course it's just the end of a long process. For 1 year I've been working without a permanent teampartner. Instead, I've worked with an intern from the Miami Ad School every quarter. Which has been good, because all of the interns could work just as good as a senior creative. But recently I started to miss working with a permanent teampartner and there's no budget to hire an art-director at Duval. I think it's still a brilliant agency, but at the moment it's not the right place for me.

So these last month I was looking for a job again. I'm improving work, selecting work, sending e-mails to agencies and headhunters, updating my resume, making a presentation and I've also contacted a former teampartner. And because I want to make sure I'm going to end up at an agency that's right for me, I'm going to look all over Europe and especially in Germany. Most of the agencies and creative directors give me a reaction back, which proves that the days that I have to do crazy stunts to get into an agency are definitely over. Instead, my resume and portfolio are enough to give an agency a clear idea of what I stand for.

I don't know which country I will go to. But before packing my bags, I'm going to see first what Belgium has to offer. At the moment, I'm talking to a few agencies that I admire and believe in, most of them are interactive agencies. Which doesn't mean I'm not open to traditional agencies. I will take any offer seriously. No matter which agency or which country it's in.

It's an exciting time. Is my life going to make another 180 degree turn?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Night of the Station

The wristband we got at the entrance of the party

Let's talk about an agency I admire. It's a Swedish agency called FarFar. It is known for its excellent online campaigns. But they claim they're not an interactive agency. On their website they say: "we provide the audience with entertainment in exchange for their sacrifice of time in the relevant presence of a brand. Mind you it's not 'branding', it's 'liking'".

I think they understood very well how advertising should be. People have less and less time so why would anyone take time to see your ad? Going to the bathroom is already more entertaining than the average commercial break I see on television.

This weekend I was entertained. There was an excellent party in Antwerp called the 'night of the station'. There were DJ's playing in a unique location: the train station itself. We had to go down escalators to arrive on the dancefloor, which was located in a hall between the train tracks, about 30 meters below. Now that's what I call an underground party. 

But the party wasn't exactly underground in the figurative way of speaking. It was totally sponsored. The railroad company organised the parties as a tool to recruit new employees. At least, that's what I read before in the newspapers about the event. One problem is that in Belgium the railroad employees have an even lower status than a garbage man. One of the main reasons is that there are morons working around the trains (see this earlier article). I was afraid that they would probably put flyers in our hands to show how great it is to work for the public transport. Or maybe they'd put posters everywhere or shout radiocommercials during the DJ-sets? But I saw or heard nothing of that during the evening. It was just a great party.

So how did they reach the people they need? This morning I took a good look at the wristband that they put on at the entrance and there it was: "Looking for a job?" and after that the URL to the website. It's as simple as that. You're not bothering people into going to the website. They just let people have a good time inside of the station and the next morning they read about the job offer. Not advertising, but entertainment. The only flaw in this campaign is the integration: their jobsite is boring as hell. That's a bit of a hangover after being successfully 'brand-ertained'.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Production line

What's nice about living in a new country is that you have vacations that you don't know of. Yesterday the office was closed and I could enjoy a nice day of doing nothing. The disadvantage is that in an agency a day off isn't exactly a day off.

That's because for today we have a few very strict deadlines. Which means we have to think of an idea for one project and we have only 2 hours. And then we have to work on the other project and we have only 2 hours. I get phonecalls and e-mails all the time from people who are in panic because an idea should be presented in a few hours over the e-mail.

I'm not sure how to cope with stupid deadlines like that. I don't know whether these deadlines are there because people fail to make a proper planning or because there are not enough creatives available to do the work. I just know that I'm not going to panic. We'll just plan in our time very well and see what comes out of it. I'm not a production line in a factory of ideas.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

'Easy' clients

Another week of concepting. The presentation for the client last week went surprisingly well. Which doesn't mean anything will be made, is my experience ;-) One of my commenters wondered why a client like that is going to Duval Guillaume. It's a good question.

The thing is: at every creative agency there are always clients that doesn't belong there. Even at Saatchi New York there were clients for whom everybody abandons all hope. Moreover, these uncreative, annoying clients are usually good for half of the profit. Giving up on making creative work for those clients is not an option for me. Because the fact is, for one of these 'difficult clients' two of our best creatives made a radiocommercial that won a Cannes Lion last year.

The prejudice about super creative agencies is that there are only easy clients who want award winning work. But the award winning work is just a tip of the iceberg. In my opinion, the difference between clients in an agency like DGB and an agency like McCann-Ericksson (which, when I started there was known as the worst agency of Holland) is minimal. The only difference is that the employees at Duval Guillaume are better. Most of them -whether they work creation, account or planning- are fanatics who live for their job. In an environment like this, you must make the best work possible for every assignment (or at least try).