Friday, January 30, 2009

New client

Even for a well known, creative agency like Duval Guillaume it's inevitable: reorganisations. During a recession it would be common sense to go to a more creative agency for your advertising, because only creativity can make your advertising stand out if you don't have a lot of media budget. But in these times the last thing companies seem to use is common sense. Everybody is scared, fearing for their job. Brand managers put their head in the sand like ostriches.

These last months I've been fearing for my job as well. My art-director Yigit has only 1 month to go and in the meanwhile the creative floor is shrinking faster than the Northpole. You end up thinking: "when is it my turn?".

Fortunately, Duval Guillaume recently won a pitch for a big telecom client. Last week there were two agencies left and on Monday we all had to be in the agency at 8:30 because the client came there to visit. On Wednesday we all got an e-mail in which Andre Duval told us that we won the pitch. I felt relieved... Of course I'm really glad for my agency that we turned out to be the winners. But on a personal level, I feel more comfortable because the chance they'll want to let go of me are minimalized. It doesn't solve the fact that I'm working most of the time alone now. But at least I can stay where I am and there's a pretty good chance that there will be a bit more budget for a new art-director in the future.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nothing to work for

After a week of working for nothing, a week of nothing to work for had started. It's the beginning of the year and I guess it's normal that it's a bit quiet. Everybody who works in an ad agency knows these quiet times. At times like these it's easy to get lazy. Watching funny movies on the internet seems useful, because it's a way to get inspiration. But if you're really honest, surfing the internet doesn't involve a lot of thinking so it's also a form of laziness.

And I hate having nothing to do. I get restless. So Yigit and I used our time to finally make some free work. Some creative side projects that we'd like to make for our book or to win awards with. But after we decorated the entire wall with new online/integrated concepts, I start to feel useless as well. If you make something that's not an assignment you can do anything and there's no real drive behind it. So yesterday I sent out an e-mail, begging for more work.

Sometimes that's just a necessary thing to do. No agency can have an overview over all the creatives at the same time. Afterwards it seems that there is work (we'll get two new briefings this week), but nobody thought of giving it to us immediately. And I can imagine in our case. It's difficult to be seen as a strong team at the moment because Yigit leaves after only a month. It's sad, but despite everything I still hope for a little spark of last-minute creativity that leads to outstanding, award winning work. After all, the best ideas come when you least expect it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Working for nothing

Sometimes when you're working in an ad agency you have the impression that you're working your ass off for absolutely no purpose at all. Like yesterday. I was working with Dutch intern Marlon on an assignment for a couple of days. Yigit was in Istanbul. Marlon's teamparner Reinier was in Holland so it was a good moment to work together. We've been working our ass off for an assignment to get everything ready for the presentation. And then it seems in the last moment that, because of technical/political reasons, our concept was impossible to get produced.

This meant 1,5 days of work down the drain. Marlon and I both reacted like "okay, well nothing to do about it". How else could we react? Nobody could do anything about it and it was nobody's fault that this happened. But it's just typical. Working in advertising sometimes means days (or even weeks) of working without any result, or even without anybody noticing that you worked your ass off. On the other hand, sometimes you get an assignment and in the first second you have the idea and that's it; and that same idea is winning awards. Moments like those are rare, but I hope there's one of these moments coming soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Photoshoot with the new Miami's

Shooting a melon at Heikki's studio

Since last week new Miami Ad School students arrived. Welcome to Maja and JJ. I have done some assignments with both of them already. And last Friday they already had a small photoshoot for one of these assigments.

We went to food photographer Heikki because we had to make a photograph of a melon with candles on it for a mailing. It was a simple assignment, but the photograph turned out to be really good. And I had a lot of fun at the shooting with the new Miami's.

Today the mailing is finally finished. And because Yigit is temporarily in Istanbul I'm working together with an excellent Dutch intern called Marlon. Nowadays I seem to be switching teampartners more often than switching shoes. In a way this constant change works for me. Working with new people keeps me sharp and motivated.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Surviving the recession

Recently I've heard a lot from talented young creatives who have a difficult time getting a job. It makes me sad cause it reminds me of the time when I was young, talented, in a recession, out of work and running out of money. But no matter how difficult that time was, I kept on trying. Sometimes you have to be really determined to stay in advertising.

For some it might seem like a downward spiral that you cannot get out of. The problem is this: all agencies had to cut back on their expenses and probably fired some creatives by now. The agencies that managed to keep all of its staff is certainly not taking the risk of hiring new employees. It's hard, but that's just how things are by now.

The reason I'm telling this is not to demotivate people, but to warn all jobless young talent not to make the same mistakes that I made. Actually, the only way to 'survive' the recession is to put a big stroke through your initial ambitions and expectations. It means being more open to other opportunities. I'm going to tell what I did wrong when I got fired in 2002, in the midst of the recession, and what I should have done.

1. I wanted to go for a top of the notch agency. Which is very ambitious, but not realistic in times of crisis. I'd say go for any agency that pays money. In these times there's no shame in having a paid job, even if you're forced to make shit work. One of our best young teams worked at a less known agency before and they're doing pretty good now.
2. I wanted to stay in Holland. No matter where you live, your country or your region is too small during a crisis. There are lots of opportunities abroad and in some countries you seem more interesting if you're from abroad (simply because you're different).
3. I became a freelancer. Which is too difficult if you haven't got at least ten years of experience in the business. There are exceptions, but these exceptions already won a few Cannes Lions. And telling people you're a freelancer means the same as unable to find a job.
4. I made debts. And then I thought of going for a regular job at a callcentre. But I regret that I didn't do that before. If you're out of money, just go for any job. Even if it has nothing to do with advertising. The funny thing was, as soon as I started to make a living again, I got more self esteem at job interviews at agencies. I only worked at the callcentre a couple of months cause I finally got a job offer.

Furthermore, lot of agencies try to make creatives feel that they might offer you a job somewhere in the future and that they just have to keep in touch. There might be a lot of 'almost offers' from agencies. These might be realistic chances but don't stick around 'almost getting' a job. The best ting to do is to set a deadline for yourself. A date after which you promise yourself to do things differently. So after this deadline you either go abroad, get any job you can get your hands on or...and that's my last advise: go back to school. Going to the Miami Ad School is what got me back on track for sure. Taking a step backward was actually a step forward when I look back at it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mindless buying frenzy

Sales have started and it seems to have got the entire Belgium population in a money wasting buying frenzy. And this sales period started off big time: this weekend the stores sold 20% more than last year during the start of sales. The recession must have something to do with that. People postpone their purchases so they can totally freak out during sales. Cause then they can buy more stuff for the same amount of debts that they put themselves in.

I'm not in favor of having more stuff. I was very materialistic in the past. But during the years I learned that having more stuff makes you vulnerable to get attached to it, which limits your freedom. But even I was tempted by all the discount-stickers on the stores. So this weekend I bought a new pair of shoes, a pair of pants and a small vacuum cleaner. I needed those things anyway, so why not for once mingle with all these drooling discount-zombies standing in line at the cashiers?

But I must admit that I felt the same dopamine-rush that I used to get in the past when I was walking through the city with three or more bags from different stores. But I also realized that happy feeling is only temporarily. Soon you get used to all the new things you've bought and you'll only feel unhappy when you lose it or when something breaks. And that you need to buy even more next time to get the same good feeling. No, I think I've had enough of shopping for the time being. I only need to replace my broken headphones of my iPod and then I have everything I want.

If more people would just be satisfied with what they've got, instead of buying what they don't need, I think the world would be a much happier place.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back in Brussels

After a vacation of nearly 2 weeks I'm back at Duval Guillaume again. I started off bad because I have this dental gum infection that gives me an attack of horrible pain every now and then. And no pain killers can stop it.

It must have been partying during Christmas/Newyear and the sudden cold weather that did it. It lowered my resistance, and that makes me vulnerable for such a teeth infection. I haven't been drinking tea or coffee the entire day and I haven't smoked for 2 days. Only to get rid of this terrible pain. It's so bad that it's getting in the way of my work and that pisses me off because I was so terrible motivated again to make any kind of work. Even a translation job would've made me happy after two weeks of absence. Cause I love my job.

Anyway, enough rattling about my teeth. They are bad and the rest of my body seems to be invincible to any kind of disease, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I had a great time in Alkmaar during Christmas. I'm not very fond of mandatory activities during Christmas, but you can never spend enough time with your family or drinking beer with friends I haven't seen for a while.

During new year's eve I went to a big party in Antwerp called Go for Happy. Which afterwards seemed to be an ironic name cause the people at the party were everything but happy. There wasn't enough personnel to handle the jackets and to prevent that the angry riot at the wardrobe would storm over the fences the police stopped the party earlier and kicked everybody out. Not a very subtle thing to do but at least it was quite a sensational way to start the new year.

At work things started slowly, but immediately there were new briefings on our desks. The job planning in Duval runs smoothly, that's for sure. If only this damn toothache disappears like magic, my day would be perfect.