Whelp, I'm still alive. That was an embarrassing stint away from contributing to the blogosphere, but I'm ending that unfortunate run. The only excuse (no, not hospitalization) was a period of self-evaluation. The amount of things I've learned over the past year was a bit overwhelming. Do you know that feeling when you've heard the most amazing lecture or someone has given you complicated directions in a foreign city and asks, "Well, got that? Any questions?" It's a bit like that, and I feel like I've had time to gather my thoughts.
Haha, except not. Instead of ending the school year and hanging out an extra week to catch graduation week and lagging festivities, I instead complete my finals dead week and then took the red-eye to NYC to start my internship at Ogilvy & Mather. While I'll have more details on my learnings there (as they are abundant), I'll start with inspiration.
What's not inspiring about New York City? There's something interesting everywhere. Even the way humidity really brings out the smells of the city. Can you say hot garbage? Most other things are much more inspiring though. Take for example, one of my new favorite places in the world: Central Park.
Over spring break I went to NYC for an art department program called "Art & the City." As part of the program I kept a blog, and now you can check out a record of my experience in Art + the City. I'm hoping to upload my pictures soon as well. There will also be an exhibit this week featuring an art piece by each student on the trip inspired by our art-consuming travels.
My taste in music is pretty eclectic. This is a small sampling of what I've been listening to. For the most part most everything I've been into has very distinct vocals. Two of my favorite bands right now are the Decemberists and the Silversun Pickups. For the women, I've been playing Sia, Cat Power, Corinne Bailey Rae, Regina Spektor and Lily Allen. Right now I'm having my first listen of the new AIR album "Pocket Symphony". So far, it's wonderful. A haunting electronic blend. I love the piano running through the album and when it's woven with the Japanese koto. It's atmospheric.
On a similar note, I finally caught up a bit on music videos. I've been too busy to watch any. My favorite video out is "Sewn" from The Feeling by director Caswell Coggins. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The Modest Mouse video for "Dashboard" was great too.
On the topic of doing things. I've been busy working on and playing with different advertising + art moments. Here's one from my basic design class. The guidelines: Video 20-60 seconds must have (interesting) credits no music allowed (only sounds) it has to be "about a space" (dodges the problem of bad student acting)
This was a fun first project. Now I feel I have my toesies wet in stop motion techniques. I'd like to take on another project soon and keep playing. Here it is:
Well, I know it's been a while since my last post, but fortunately it's because I've been busy making stuff. More on that to come. In the meantime, for those of you who haven't seen it, here's a video I find quite relevant and inspiring as I think about process: Truth in Advertising.
WARNING: Contains salty language. May be unsuitable for the prude.
We got a very complete tour, met with a few employees, and we were lucky enough to meet David "Jelly" Helm, creative director and executive director of W+K 12. I had no idea what to expect from all of this. I had a bit of a Charlie Bucket moment. Would there be Nike-wearing Oompa Loompas shuttling around Starbucks? Would there be lick-able wallpaper in the reception area? I wasn't sure if I should peg Jelly as more of a Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp. I anticipated some other cinematic moments. Perhaps Dan Wieden in the background, "I am the great and powerful Oz...pay no attention to that man behind that curtain!"
The itself building was amazing. It's a gutted warehouse masterminded by Allied Works Architecture located in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon (previously an industrial area turned into a trendy, artsy, urban hotbed thanks in part to the move of W+K). It's a veritable creative playground that would put a twinkle in the eye of any giddy ad student. There were video games, plasmas, a basketball court, kegs, and a number of things that illustrate that W+K values those that it employs and facilitates their creativity. Let's just say there were a few things to tell my sister, but I won't give away too much in case there was a Mr. Slugworth figure lurking in the building.
The most valuable part of the experience was talking to those who actually come to work there each day. I especially liked hearing the stories of the younger hires who almost seemed to chance upon their employment. It goes to show that getting a great job in advertising might be (mostly) talent, part interest, part planning, and part timing rounded out by a chunk of destiny (and who you know). It was interesting that most of the people we talked to didn't study advertising. I'm not too surprised. Not that I don't think it's valuable, but I think ultimately most people really learn about the industry from actually working in it. When it comes to hiring, not even a degree can outweigh the curiosity, talents, personality and passions of a prospective employee.
One of the big moments of our W+K experience came when we got to meet and chat with Jelly Helm. he struck me as immediately likable, curious and engaging. He set aside a generous block of time for questions, but he also had a few of his own. We went around the table and he asked each of us our names and why we wanted to be in advertising. No PR responses either. Great question. I see that question inferred each time I look into the eyes of someone who asks me what I'm studying.
I don't always know that answer because it's not like when you were little, and you wanted to be a dancer , doctor, veterinarian, head of state or moonlight as an inanimate object. In the third grade I could have told you that I wanted to be a prosecuting attorney because I really liked my role in our mock trial and had a lot of fun trying to secure justice for my client, the Troll, against the defendants, the Three Billy Goats Gruff. A year earlier I could have told you that I wanted to tap dance for the rest of my life because, well I loved to dance and idolized Shirley Temple.
Now it's not as easy, but I know the feeling the creative process gives me and the path I took to confidently seek advertising (and digital arts) as my major(s). Consequently my answer was a stream of consciousness verbal exclamation about my incoherent love of advertising that included something about art, tap dancing, pop culture, mention of Billy Gillman, being a nerd and who knows what else. "So you're a nerd then," said Jelly. Absolutely. "Well, there is a lot of tap dancing in advertising," remarked Jelly. So true.
In light of my response, my colleagues, and Jelly's, I'm nearing the point of articulation. Why do I want to be in advertising? It's not because I want to sell things. I hate most advertising. I hate when others hate advertising.
I like being able to combine all my interests into a career. I love (and love to hate) pop-culture, people, art, music, food, traveling, history, sports, fashion, movies. I don't like rampant consumerism, but I'm invigorated by the idea of change. I love smart brands and businesses. I love advertising that doesn't look like advertising. Many people mentioned change. The idea of having a new set of challenges each day is exciting. Working against routine is cool. Maybe more than I realized, I love solving problems. Creativity is essentially problem-solving. "Q: How many creatives does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?" People also talked about meeting so many great people in the industry. The type of people you become addicted to. I love working with cool, fun people. It's a bonus when they're better at what I do than I am. Before you know it, everyone's doing better work. I like the mix of camaraderie, collaboration & competition.
Jelly talked about why he liked advertising. He didn't know that he wanted to do it when he was going through school. He touched on some points that other people mentioned; change, problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, and others. What I found interesting was that he started mostly focused on creative aspects, but that now he was taking a greater interest in the business aspect. "Businesses hire you to help tell their story," he said. He strikes me as someone who loves a good story.
We had time for a few questions, and I got the opportunity to ask Jelly something. There were so many questions I had thought of earlier, but what I felt at the time was to ask about balance. I looked around at Wieden and saw a lot of very hard-working people who love what they do. That's how I've felt lately. I get busy, but I love what I do and work hard and play hard. I try to make as much time as I can outside the walls of Allen Hall to hang out with my non-ad friends and chat with my family. Still, I wondered how everything balances out when advertising is your career. Not that I wanted to know how you can still be a creative machine and baby-maker, but can you still achieve balance?
No, not really, was Jelly's initial response. He went on to explain that in a general sense, in the whole of your life, yes, you can have balance, but there will definitely be some out-of-balance times where you work really hard and prioritizing changes, particularly when you're first starting. The advice in that was that it was all about choices. "The hacks don't get to make choices," he said.
I think I can do that. I'm in a point of my life where I like the long hours, and I've still been able to achieve a sort of compromised balance. That will change in the next few years as I put my book together and go out to try and get a job. What I took from my trip to Wieden+Kennedy (it was my first visit to an agency) was that this industry is somewhere where I can see myself. I didn't exit the building feeling intimidated or doubtful, but rather excited, confident and eager. Yes, I definitely have my work cut out for me, but maybe there's a W+K in my future. Stay tuned.
Honestly, what really comes first? I see the forest, and then my eyes eventually settle upon a nice, little tree. What comes first? The idea or the strategy? I'm still working on that one. In one of my campaigns I have had so many different ideas, a veritable forest of deciduous and coniferous and every variety in between. I know the perfect tree is nestled in there somewhere.
What idea in there is really going to best express the message and resonate the best with the target? Which will make them take a lasting notice? Maybe I need to step back and gaze more at the forest. My tree might be hiding. Maybe I should take a strategy class (oops, next term). Alright. I'm going to keep looking, and hope a bird or something lands on the little guy today. It's ironic that this is for the NRDC campaign.