Friday, August 28, 2009

One hour

You often hear urban legends about advertising. About the idea for a Nike-commercial where they play soccer on an airport is actually created when the creatives were actually at the airport on the way to the presentation. About a big campaign for a Dutch airline company from which the scribble is fished out of the trashcan. You never know if these stories are true. But if you're working in advertising you know one thing for sure: these stories can be true.

Especially the part about re-using old ideas must be very recognizable for creatives. Yesterday I was working with Hannah on a big billboard campaign. It's one of the biggest assignments in the agency at the moment so we were working on it for 2 months already. After we found out one of our best ideas was already done, we had to find a new campaign. And we had only one day before the presentation.

Lunchtime was the only time when we could find a gap in our busy working schedule. So we had 1 hour to think of an idea that's so good we couldn't come up with it the entire 2 months. So at first we looked through all the concepts we had before. Just for the sake of having something, we decided to present some ideas that were second choice or simply forgotten because of having better ideas at the moment. It was like taking old scribbles from the trashcan.

And guess what? From the old ideas one of them was chosen in the review and presented to the client today. Together with some new ideas for ads that we've made that same day. It seems that we did the job in just one hour. Like we had some magical moment of creativity. But in fact, what happened was that all the previous work, all the research and all the old concepts came back in one hour of panic. The work was done successfully, but it was actually done in two months plus one hour. The Nike-commercial, the big campaign for the airline company; the stories are probably true, but secret behind all these seemingly coincidental rushes of creativity is obvious: hard work.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Every day when I walk from the trainstation to the agency I walk past the jobcentre, the place where unemployed people have to apply for welfare. It won't be a surprise that lately there are more people than usual standing in front of the door, sitting on the pavement. With a depressed look on their face, probably still thinking of the moment when their boss told them they were made redundant. The people sitting at the jobcentre outnumber the prostitutes in the same street and that says a lot.

These are hard times and anybody who feels confident enough to think he/she can get an advertising job in no time, should be more realistic than that. Even really good, award winning creatives are on the street right now and soon they will apply for a job at agencies that are below their standards because the really creative agencies are not hiring. Some creatives become postmen, work in a supermarket or become freelancers (which, in 90% of the cases, means they just can't find work).

My teampartner Hannah did an internship at Ogilvy in Paris. She told me that there was a guy who waited in front of the agency with his portfolio every day - for 2 months! Just to get a job. And when Hannah left he was still there. If that's what people are willing to do to get a job in a creative agency, it makes one wonder what you have to do to get a creative job nowadays. One thing is for sure: no matter how good you are, just sending an e-mail or a USB-stick with your work isn't going to do the trick. Anyway, tough times like these make me realize that still having a job is a privilege.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shooting day

Me holding the symbol of a famous Belgian TV-show

No space is unused during the filmshoot

Last week there was so much to do at work that I was never home before dark. And the night comes very late this time of the year. A lot of projects run simultaneously. Prepairing for the shooting on Tuesday was only one of the hundred projects.

Yesterday we had a shooting for three 5-second TV-commercials. In the meantime, I've done quite a lot of shootings in my advertising career, but every time I'm surprised at how many people and how much equipment is on the set. For a small, steady shot commercial where there's one actor, the entire house is filled with lights, reflectors, monitors, catering and a big camera. Oh, and in the meantime about 15 crewmembers are running around to do all the work in the planned time.

Everything worked out very well and I'm very proud of the end result. Usually I think it's nonsense to show TV productions as small as a 5 seconds, but I like one of them so much that I'll put it on my blog as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We try harder

At the moment, our average working day is 12 hours and I even worked in the weekend. And so did other creatives. Thanks to the fact that half of the creative floor is on vacation, we get a lot of chances to make a lot of work.

It also means that there is so little time, that it's impossible to do everything perfect. And that can be annoying. By now Hannah and I already had our less than perfect reviews, but we're still doing pretty well.

You see, at Duval Guillaume they have a way of making you work harder and harder for any job. Peter, our creative director, simply calls all the okay ideas 'longlist material' and asks us to make better work. The account director just feigns total boredom with every scribble that we put on the table.

Reviews like these can make you feel very uncreative sometimes. On the other hand, I learned to cope with these little disappointments. In the end, what they're searching for is the best idea possible and that's what I'm trying to make every assignment. No matter how insignificant the briefing seems to be. "Well, whatever will happen after the next review", my teampartner Hannah told me, "at least we tried to get the most out of it". I agreed with that and when I looked around I saw that we were again the only people left in the agency.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Silent night

Funny how fast things can change in an advertising agency. A couple of weeks ago I asked for more work, and we got it... lots of it. We're drowning in briefings. While we're working on an execution of one project, we're supposed to work on another. Which is impossible. So we work in the evening. And we're trying to find the right balance between sleeping enough to stay mentally fit and taking time for brainstorming. But there's not enough time. As deadlines are getting nearer, brainstorms are getting shorter.

Hannah is going back to Hamburg for the weekend and she took her plane today in the afternoon. After that I rarely left my computer. Even after all the work was done, I still couldn't help to work on the execution of a free idea. After eight o'clock I was the only one left in the agency. It's always good to work in the evening. By day there are about 80 people making noise in the building. By night the huge building is empty and silent. No phones ringing, no e-mails about text corrections. No people asking for files that I try to send by e-mail but it is too large so I have to put it on an USB-stick and run around the building to deliver it in person. No, nothing of that in the evening. The only noise comes from the sirens outside.