Archive for November, 2010

The “a” word.

Things happen in my professional life that either make me proud or make me cringe.

For those of you that don’t really know me, my name is Michel and I am an advertising creative. My title is Creative Director, I fancy myself as a creative story teller. My discipline was that of an Art Director, I will explain that later.

The two events that happened week were related. Here’s the story…

Be Different

On last Wednesday, I attended the annual Cincinnati AdClub Cannes Awards luncheon, brought to us by USA Today and sponsored by(crap I can’t remember). We had a dude from Bridge Worldwide talk beforehand about his french y french riviera experience. It was interesting and I have to admit some envy, OK a lot of envy, raving frickin’ jealousy, but I digress. The one thing that I do remember because it’s still stuck in my craw like a hamburger stick with the little red plastic crap on the end.

He said there was a discussion about removing the “Advertising” from the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival which they actually did. Henceforth it is now the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. WTF!

When exactly did Advertising become a four letter word or the “a”-word.

On Saturday, I attended the Kilgour Fall Event. They made me feel great by gushing about what a good job I have done over the years on their “graphics.” In my line of work(advertising) it is very rare to receive platitudes or be celebrated and I truly appreciate being appreciated. My pro-Bono work gives me great satisfaction in that respect, because it’s great to be able to give back when I have gotten so much.

But. I did more than just the “graphics.” There’s a concept in there some where.

Splitting hairs, you ask?

In my mind, Advertising is the root/core of what I do. Webster’s defines advertising as 1 : the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements. I would add the word “persuade’ in there and targeted public too.

It’s the concept behind the action above. It starts with the homework of finding out what exactly we’re selling and to whom we are selling to. It involves the emotion of the experience of the brand and how to tap into that emotion to persuade them(whoever they are) to action(buy). I’ve found over the years that there’s only one way to do this well.

Tell a story.

So I use all of these tools to tell a story, starting with a objective, then strategies to reach the objective(s), executions of the strategies using a plethora of creative techniques and concepts, and finally the craft of art & copy to create the thing. I said thing because this works for campaigns, ads, the ugly trifold pamphlets, Outdoor, POP, websites, banner ads, TV spots, tweet campaigns, facebook fan pages, all that voodoo that medo and my friendsdo so well. Why we make it so complicated is beyond me. Confession, I do know why, it’s all about billable hours.

To me, Advertising is the Genus of the species and Branding, Packaging, Interactive, Graphic Design, PR, TV & Radio production, and many others are the sub geneses of the species. All very are important to a marketer to deploy on their brand development. But, the creative CONCEPT has to be KING, all the other stuff is delicious icing on the cake. Mere delivery vehicles. It doesn’t matter who creates the concept! So often I see stuff without a core concept, just snappy or sloppy technique.

When I started my career, thirty years ago, I had two paths from which to choose. One path was to go into te graphic design side of the business and find work at one of the many fine Cincinnati Design Studios. They did mostly packaging work for a huge dualithic consumer package goods marketer and soap maker. The second path was to land a job at one of the local/regional advertising agencies. They work on all the big companies advertising campaigns and that meant my first love TV and second Radio(storytelling). I chose the later. Proudly.

Lately, I have seen the Design Studios become the dominate force of the local creative scene. The advertising agencies have gotten smaller and more scarce. It’s a shame and I don’t like it. Admittedly , ad agencies have caused much of their own demise by over charging, excessive mark-up and blantant arrogance. We made it too damn hard to do business with us by bring impossible to work with. Too much beatdown is not good for business.(Ask any client)

Now, LPK, Landor and the likes offer services that ad agencies used to do, product and market research, branding, packaging, the spinoff were the Digital agencies like Bridge and Hyperquake. They design and create. They craft experiences and content. It’s all good. But what about the storytelling? What about the selling? The persuading? The art? It’s there, but you have to hunt for it.

So what do I care if they take the Advertising out of Cannes or I’m applauded for being a gifted graphic designer. I guess I don’t care all that much, but it’s not me.

I’m advertising artist and storyteller and always will be.

My Last Elementary School Horrah!

Tonight is my final Kilgour Elementary Silent Auction and Bid N Buy.
I’ve been supporting my little excellent, public school now for 9 years running.

Once they found out that I had some skills, I became the go to guy for graphic help. I did this gladly, it is a noble cause which i have trouble saying no to.

But I have some scars, here’s the story.

9 years ago, our boy Cary was in kindergarten with Mrs. Braffman. We love her. Her class was controlled chaos from start to finish. Judy is the kind of teacher that loves her kids, and with who knows how many years, she’s got the teaching down pat. So when asked to do something for her year-end present, I jumped at it. I did a ink drawing of the school and Jen Raabe had a matte made with all the kid’s fingerprints on it.  It was very cool and hangs on her wall to this day.

Now the deal was, that the gift was to be put on the bid ‘n buy table  at our school carnival and the parents of our class would bid it up to make money for the school. We had a new principal, Angela Cook, that year, it was her first carnival, as well. Ms. Cook started bidding against us. She wanted the drawing. It got crazy, we finally out bid her BUT I got corralled into doing another drawing specifically for Ms. Cook. So I did the drawing, made a scan, silk screened 100 prints for the next year’s Bid ‘n Buy and gave the original to Ms. Cook. All was hunky doorey. So I thought.

That class of parents were, shall we say, very enthusiastic and overly involved, and I was sucked into a 9 year project of public school branding project. The old logos were pathetic. We had a Bronko instead of a Mustang. The typography was horrible, the wareables was a mess. So I agreed to take the branding project w with a committee of Kilgour Moms. They kicked my ass….for months…version after version-rejected. The Mustang  was too mean or  to happy. The school logo was too artsy or too plain. Finally the year ended and  Ms. Cook made the final decision on a new school logo and a new sports logo. God Bless her.

From there, it was March Madness t-shirts(which were fun to do), and sports booster newsletters(also fun) and the brand style guides that everyone ignored. I was actually told that my sports tee shirt designs were …well, one mom said “We need to design some shirts that kids(her kids) will actually want to wear”. Zing.

I did a website design for the PTA only to be ripped for being too…corporate.

At Kilgour Elememtary, we have a Spring Carnival. Did I mention that we are a Cincinnati Public School? It’s a real money maker with a 5K race. My designs for it were shitcanned.

Then we moved the Silent Auction to the Fall, four years ago. I, of course, was asked to do the invitation and other campaign materials. It was nice, pedestrian. Very successful. The next year, my friend Amy let me do my thing, no committee, just do it. We were moving back to our newly remodeled school and I did a panorama photoshop number of the new addition. I’m very proud of it. Amy set a new standard for me on all these kinds of projects and I  want to thank her for that. It’s gotten better every year since.

From then on, when asked to do a Kilgour or any other pro bono project, I lay out my rules of engagement, first. I will do the best ______insert project_____ for you that I can possibly do but you have to accept the artwork as is. No committee, no meetings, no presentations. I’ll get everything donated or as cheap as possible. It’s worked out great since then. This is my last Kilgour Event. It’s a little sad.

But that original class of parents that I mentioned before. They are all at Walnut Hills HS, now. They call then the Kilgour mafia because they(we) are taking over. I left my mark on Kilgour, my logo is on the gym floor, on the wall and on the flag.

Don’t forget me, Kilgour.|I won’t forget you and the friends that we made while involved with our wonderful neighborhood school.

The quest for my inner positivity.

I’ve been told that I’m negative. I put off negative vibes, I’m pessimistic, ornery, that I bitch too damn much, I’m a complainer, whiner, narcissistic, the power of no and all that.

Well, it’s time for that to change.

But I have questions that need to be answered first.
Like if I disagree am I supposed to keep my mouth shut?
What if I’m being asked to go against my principals?
Am I not allowed to dislike something?

I’m not a hateful person, at least I don’t think I am. I don’t hate you. I don’t hate Obama or Olberman or Oprah(I don’t like them much, though). I’ve been told that if the idea wasn’t mine that I thinks it sucks, sometimes… I just want to improve upon it. Is that bad?

I think that that is my core problem, I want to make things better. And my better may not be the same as your better. I don’t like stupidity or goofyosicity. I don’t like meanness or selfishness or righteousness. I’m guilty of all of this from time to time.

Another problem I have is that I have trouble saying NO to a noble cause. I’ve gotten better at it by applying some basic rules of engagement for my non-profit-do-it for-free projects. Simply put, let me do what I do and I’ll do it for free. If it’s work, you have to pay for it.

I’m not a bad guy, I think I’m a good guy. I worry about what people think of me and what I will end up being when I’m done being. I worry about taking care of my family. I worry about my business and my career and how it plays in the scheme of my life. I like my life but want it to be better. I like where I live, my city, state and zipcode. I want it to be better too. And if there’s anything I can do to make you better, just ask.

I realize that being positive has to be balanced with a wee bit of the neg. Otherwise, I’ll just be annoying.

So what do I do? How do I become the Mr Positivity that I want to be? But do you want me to be Mr Positivity? Really?

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