Monday, December 21, 2009

The Unplanned Vacation: Why I didn't post while I was laid off.

Last week I started a new job at a new agency. For about a month and a half before that I was laid off. My old agency, WonderGroup, did some restructuring, and my continued employment there was not in the plan. I wasn't the only one.

I don't have much bad to say about my old agency. I had fun while working there and did good work. I met great people and not so great people, but everyone I met had something to teach me. The pay was (relatively) low and the benefits were nonexistent, but in the current economy, I felt lucky to have a job.

My new situation is better. I was lucky to secure a job for better compensation than I had before. A lot of people can't say the same, forced to take jobs for lower pay than before—a fact our unemployment statistics hide.

I didn't post while I was laid off for a few reasons. Firstly, writing and even reading blogs is leisure activity for me. I do it during lulls at work, or when I feel I've earned or require a break from what I'm doing. Being out-of-work, I felt like I didn't deserve leisure time.

Secondly, I'm not brave in my vulnerability. I remember reading Erik Proux's Please Feed The Animals when it first started up and being impressed by the guts it took to put oneself out there after being canned. Erik's whole project still blows me away, especially when his wife posts about making things meet from the spouse's perspective. It's easy (at least for me) to get overwhelmed by feeling sorry for myself, and Mrs. Proux's perspective makes me think of how my own wife must feel at times.

Now that I've landed somewhere else, I can give this advice to the aspiring ad-boys and -girls out there: Get noticed. Your work may be great, but it probably looks a lot like the rest of the great work out there. Make yourself unforgettable, whether it's with your portfolio design, website, cover letter, or, even better, an interesting or admirable non-advertising project. Do something that will make other people have to meet you, just to see what kind of person you are.

I didn't come up with this pearl on my own. In fact I stole it from PFTA. But I'm still proud to pass it along. With any luck, we'll all come out of this recession better off, even if that only means a little wiser and more grateful than we were before.

Happy Holidays.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Advertising against advertising can suck, too.

I work in advertisement. I also read Adbusters (here). If you know anything about Adbusters, you might let out a confused "Huh?" Adbusters is a publication centered around a movement to subvert ultra-consumerist culture (read American culture) and promote a more sustainable global outlook.

From their website:

Ok, so how do I reconcile these two things? Well, a lot of advertising sucks. There are a lot of things, like prescription medications, that shouldn't be advertised to the general public. There is a lot of advertising noise for products that don't need advertised at all. Example: Coke and Pepsi pour tons of money into ads, but they aren't converting anyone. Everyone out there knows about Coca Cola. Now, they have reasons to keep up the ads, and I love some of the ads these two Goliaths produce, but wouldn't one humungous ad during the Super Bowl be enough?

Anyways, I digress. What I really wanted to address is Adbusters, and their continued campaign to get "subvertising" on television. Again and again, they are refused advertising spots.

Their latest spot, shown below, is an example:

Commercial Breakers from Douglas Haddow on Vimeo.

This spot has been turned down by FOX and MTV, and I, for one, am glad.

I hate this spot for the same reason I love Adbusters. It sucks. It's bad advertising. The typography is nearly unreadable (and they seem to know it, since their last long bit of copy changes typefaces). The actors suck, and it's as much a promotion of hipster fashion as it is an attack on major brands.

Most of all, it's more noise. The reason commercials are louder and more colorful and more frenetic than the TV shows they surround (or that surround them, depending on how you look at it) is an effort to break through the clutter. Adding more clutter ain't going to help.

I'm proud of the ads I've done. Most of them have been interactive (websites) so they are, by definition, permission marketing. You have to want to go there. The little TV and outdoor I've done has been for a good cause, Boy Scouts of America. I feel like, in my own way, I'm reducing the suckishness of advertisements.

Imagine a world where the ads we see are well-done, for products we can make a rational decision about buying, and don't make anyone look dumb just to sell a product. If we can get there, we'll all be a little saner.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sane and Happy

Yesterday was my son's 2nd birthday. It also marked two years since I decided to move from my job as a finish carpenter into one in advertising. The company I worked for built scenery and props for a cruise line, for use in their musical revues. I traveled a lot, and in my travels I met a lot of great people and saw some great places (and some not so great places. Costa Maya, I'm looking at you.) all while making a tidy salary. It was a fun job, but still a job, so there were bad things about it, as well.

When my wife and I were expecting our son, I was out on a job, talking to a coworker. He told a story about his daughter telling her friend what he did for a living. When she did, his daughter's friend said something to the effect of, "Great job. I want to be like your dad." To which his daughter replied, "Don't be like my dad. I don't even really know who my dad is." I could tell it broke his heart. He had been traveling her whole life, supporting her financially, only to have a tentative relationship with her.

I began looking into advertising as soon as my son was born (I had to keep my insurance at least until he was a person in the eyes of the insurance company.) I got my first interview in October, and them immediately went on the road for 3 weeks. My son turned 3 months old while I was out. If I had kept going at that rate, I would have missed a quarter of his life.

I really admire what ErikProulx is doing at Please Feed the Animals. In addition to the site supporting out-of-work ad folks, he's making a movie about how people are taking the lessons they learned in advertising and using them to get the job they really always wanted. Meanwhile I left a job to be in advertising, which is where I really always wanted to be (little did I know). It turns out the grass is always greener on the other side.

In a couple weeks I'll celebrate the 1st anniversary of landing a job as a copywriter. For one year, I've been paid to think. I've been paid to be as smart as I can. My advice: If you're looking to get into advertising, or thinking of getting out of it, don't take for granted that you're being paid to think. In many jobs, including my last job, you get paid NOT to think.

I once heard a saying (and have never been able to figure out who originally said it), "If a man produces great works under external influence, we may admire what he does but abhor what he is." This may sound a lot like the client saying, "I want a print ad, scribblers!" and then you produce it. This is what we do, but in my last job, the designers would say, "We want scenery. It looks like this and moves like that and is exactly this tall. Build it." And we would. So having the freedom to present to a client my vision (or whatever you call the mental version of words) for an ad and having them accept or reject it is tons more liberating.

Advertising keeps me sane and happy. Sane, in that I don't feel like I'm being asked to put my brain in my locker everyday when I come to work, and happy, in that I get to go home to my lovely wife and son every night. That's what keeps me coming back and trying my damnedest. Because if I want to stay in this business, I have to be smarter than all the brilliant minds coming into the job market. I have to be just as hungry. Luckily for me, and unlike most young ad boy and girls out there, I have an extra mouth to feed. And he's ALWAYS hungry.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

When is a penis joke not the answer?

When I first interviewed at WonderGroup, the ACD/Copywriter gave me an assignment. I took home a handful of ads with no headlines, and was asked to create headlines for them. I completed it and turned it in. At my next interview, they told me they my lines were good...except the puns.

In the opinion of the ACD and the then-CCO, puns are easy, and easy doesn't cut it. In some ways I totally agree. Sometimes I think puns are appropriate. Just like rhyme and alliteration, they make things easy to remember, and Recall is one of the ways we measure the success of an ad.
I do agree with puns sometimes being the easiest solution, and therefore the most predictable. When measuring ads on creativity, and not efficacy, being expected is death. This brings me to the ad that brought this topic to my attention.

The pictured in-store poster for Burger King is a perfect example of taking the easy joke and running with it. Let's face it: Almost all foods resemble genitals. If they don't, they probably resemble poop. That's it! I can't imagine the creative team burned the midnight oil coming up with this one.

What makes this worse is that Crispin Porter & Bogusky is BK's agency. Since they took over the account, starting with the famed "Subservient Chicken," CPB's stuff has been very very creative. Like it of not, you can't deny the original thinking. Angry Onion always gives me a "wish I thought of that" moment. So, seeing bad ads like BK's Super Seven Incher come out of that awesome shop makes me cringe.

There are lots of explanations. Maybe BK really pushed this one on them. This seems unlikely to me, though. Wouldn't BK really trust CPB's creative vision by now?

Maybe this was rushed, and low priority. The best creative minds didn't handle this one, and the result was poor. This, too, seems unlikely. CPB has a reputation to protect, so why would they let something go out they didn't approve of 100%?

I think this might have been just a momentary misstep in CPB and BK's plan for "success through fame" and generating buzz. Did this poster generate buzz? Of course! I'm talking about it right now, and when it was released lots more people were talking about it. But where "Whopper Virgins" was controversial, this is just in poor taste. The same kind of buzz could be generated by farting in a job interview. It doesn't make you famous, just infamous.

So, adboys and adgirls, write penis jokes, poop jokes, puns and rhymes. 99 times out 100, they'll be funny, but not worth showing. And occasionally, when no one is expecting it, you'll be able to let one rip. Pun intended.


Friday, June 19, 2009

I don't like U2, but I am working Pro Bono

Happy Father's Day, all you fathers out there. Sorry for the no-post. Daddy needs a vacation.

So, I've had the fabulous opportunity to do a fall recruitment campaign for the local Boy Scouts Council. One of the principals at our agency is on the marketing committee for the Dan Beard Council, and he volunteered WonderGroup to do the campaign pro bono. We're doing print, radio and TV, plus some yard signs, stickers and frisbees...err, flying discs.

Doing work pro bono is a really interesting experience, and is quite different from doing work for a paying client. On the plus side, at least for the creative team, is that the client seems very grateful for whatever you do. We gave them four Big Idea concepts, and they were blown away, just at the idea of having a choice. They're more than aware that they're getting a favor, even if its a mutually-beneficial one. The feedback we're getting is polite requests and suggestions, not the "I'm not buying this until you change it" requests you can get from a paying client.

Of course, getting polite suggestions takes the sting off the feedback, and makes us sensitive creatives more likely to consider it. More flies with honey, I suppose.

The downside to it is there is no money. No money to film TV, no money for a photographer. No money for props or talent. Everything must be done for favors. So far on this project, we've been lucky to get some favors from some really awesome people. However, my first TV concept was too elaborate for the no-budget, so we moved to a, still very elegant, but simpler approach.

This is all a win-win for me, though. I get some great work to put in my book. WG, being a primarily digital agency, doesn't do a lot of TV. I'm lucky to get two TV spots for my reel out of this, something a junior writer might not get otherwise.

So, all you ad-boys and ad-girls: Don't turn your nose up at pro bono work. It's fun, and different. All you have to do is follow the Cub Scout motto, and "Do your best."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Social Media for the Soon-to-be-Hired

As the voice of Jacques, WonderGroup's social media munkey, I have a Twitter search set up to find mentions of our company. So, when someone tweeted (on Twitter— If you don't know what that is, listen closely) that she was excited to have a phone interview with WG, I picked it up. I followed her on behalf of the company and waited for a return follow. None was forthcoming. So I went and checked her Twitter feed. There were a handful of people she was following, most of them celebs, and two followers, including WG's own Jacques Munkey. I was disappointed.

Social media is a big deal at WonderGroup. Everyone here participates in at least one medium (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, StumbleUpon, and the rest) and most people have multiple social media forums. We believe strongly that SM represents a revolution in communication. And, when it comes to ad agencies, we aren't alone (just better).

So, ad boys and girls, if you're applying to jobs, know this: We will look for you in cyberspace. If you have a blog, we'll read it. Twitter, follow it. Facebook, stalk it (if we can). Linkedin, YouTube, podcast— If it's out there, we'll find it. So follow these guidelines:

  1. Get on social media. Really. You have to look switched-on to get noticed in advertising, and social media = current.
  2. If you're on, keep it current. If you're on Twitter (the gateway drug of SM) then tweet now and again. Follow people, not just celebs.
  3. If it's current, make sure it's appropriate. Appropriate doesn't mean vanilla. Just don't put anything up that you don't feel comfortable having EVERYONE see. If you don't mind being asked about it, leave it up.
  4. If its appropriate, make sure it's interesting. Anything can seem interesting if you're enthusiastic about it. Social media should be a forum for your passions, not just proving you exist. Use it to show your personality, without having to tell your personality.
And if you think social media is dumb, and you have no place for it in your life, you're entitled to that opinion. But you might consider writing a blog post about it.

PS: WonderGroup just launched its Wander side of the website. You can check out who works at WG, and see all our social media, plus some non-ad artwork. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No such thing as job security.

I love samurai. Not romantically. Something about feudal Japan just piques my interest. Whenever I get down in the dumps about work (we all do, even when we love what we are doing. Which I do!) it helps me to think about samurai, and how they went to work everyday expecting to die.

One story in particular comes to mind. Miyamoto Musashi is probably the most famous samurai. If someone can name only one samurai, it's usually him. It's because he was the best. He excelled, not only in swordsmanship, but also psychological warfare. He was completely self-taught, and was never defeated in single combat.

He was looking for a student, looking over potential candidates. One guy caught his eye.

"What's your deal?" asked Musashi.

"I sleep with a sword hanging from a thin string poised over my head all night. The string could break, and I could die in my sleep. Because of this I have no fear of death," said the job-applicant.

"Good call," said Musashi. "You got the job."

We're all sleeping with a sword poised over our heads. The economy is bad, but moreover, it's unpredictable. Something could happen, a client could go away or go bankrupt, and we could be out of a job in the blink of an eye. No amount of talent or seniority can be counted on to save us.

But instead of despairing, we can be like samurai. If we think of ourselves as already dead (or fired) it frees us to take risks, go big and, hopefully, win, so we can come back tomorrow and do it again. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009


The other day I came home after a day at the office. Drop my bag. Take out the dog, Say Hi to my son, then my wife. Sit down and take off my shoes. Pull one shoestring. Nothing happens, because my shoes are double-knotted. When was the last time I double knotted my shoes? It was many years ago, I'm sure of it. At some point, you grow out of the need to double-knot your shoes. Something about being a kid makes shoes untie faster. Must be the constant vibration.

Which brings me to why I've double-knotted my shoes. Somehow, in tying my son's shoes (which of course come untied in seconds after his feet hit the ground in left single-knotted) I've developed a habit. When my hands are left to their own devices, without my conscious mind to guide them, they tie a double-knot.

It's not just knots. I've found myself peeling the whole banana I'm about to eat, as if I were about to break it up for the boy. I've almost put bubble bath in the shower.

This post doesn't have a lot to do with advertising, but it does have a bit to do with life. What are your habits? What made them develop? Should you try breaking them?

Switching things up can give you a new perspective, even if it's just on how you take your coffee. And a small change in perspective can be all you need to break through a difficult problem.

Edward De Bono explains that the brain finds paths to follow so it can do its job (controlling your body parts) most efficiently. Breaking a habit can get your brain off a path, and into new territory.

Thanks for sticking with me on this one. Have a happy holiday weekend, if your weekend includes celebrating.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In which Hatchet gets new duties, prepares for a pitch and neglects the blog.

Well, things have gotten busy, and I haven't blogged. I'm a bad person, I know.

Firstly, the economy, and why it sucks: People lose their jobs. Even WG is not immune, and almost 3 weeks ago, two people were let go. Not fair.

I picked up some duties one of them was performing. I regret the way I came to have these duties, but I'm happy to be doing them. They involve being the tip of the spear for WG's social media presence. To see the fruits of my efforts, check out, and feel free to follow the little guy, look at his Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Also, we're preparing for a big pitch. Pitching new business is an interesting project. You're working for two bosses: your own agency and the potential client. On one hand, you have tons of freedom, since there are no budgets. On the other, you have to be even more on-strategy than you ever do with a client, because it's a competition. It's fun and stressful at the same time. Great stuff comes out of it, but it can also make for a lot of tension between coworkers.

Here's hoping we do well on this one. I really have a lot of heart for what we're presenting, and not because it's all or even mostly mine. It's brilliant, and win or lose we have a lot to be proud of.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Daylight Savings Time=False Advertising

Daylight savings time began this weekend, and as I woke up this morning at 6:00, and everything told me it was 7:00, I thought about how DST is really a great metaphor for the old model of advertising.

Personally, if the powers that be, that is, whoever it is that decides we continue the DST charade, came to me and said, "B, we need you to wake up an hour earlier. It'll suck for you, but it will help somebody. Could you swing it?" I would be on board.

They don't do that though. Instead, they sneak in in the dead of night and change the time. When I realize, say around noon on Sunday, that it's really 1:00, I feel like I just lost an hour, and the day is that much closer to being over. They even get my computer in on the action, and my cell, making my trusted devices lie to me.

The old model of advertising talks down to people, and lies to them, and tries to make them feel bad for not participating.

The new model talks to people. It engages them, informs them and asks them to give it a chance. It empowers them, and encourages them to tell a friend if they like what they experience.

So as you look at sunrises again as you drive into work, think about how bad it feels to be lied to, and try not to get in on that action.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Getting Noticed

In advertising, we talk a lot about cutting through the clutter. That is, consumers today are the more advertised-to than ever before. Many of our advances in how we enjoy entertainment involve removing the ads. Think TiVo. As advertisers, we try to make our messaging get noticed, so someone can hear the message.

This make getting noticed when you're trying to get a job in advertising a big issue. If you cannot cut through the clutter to get your message across, how will you be able to do it for clients?

There are a few stories of people doing this really well. One that flies around WG is that of a gentleman sending a cell phone to the CCO, with a note saying, "I'm going to call this number at X:00pm tomorrow." Good approach. Got him noticed and talked about.

Another, and my personal "wish I would have thought of it" is from "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This" by Luke Sullivan (buy it!) An applicant got a picture of one of the Creative Directors at a firm, and used it to make a fake ID. He loaded it into a wallet and loaded the rest of the wallet with business card-sized versions of his work. He then left the wallet in the bathroom at the firm. Someone finds it and returns it to the CD, who knows it's not his, and checks out all the work inside. I believe that guy got a job. He should have gotten a prize.

Then there's this guy:

I wish this guy luck, but this clip brings up and excellent point. With any creative endeavor, there's a pint where your creativity overwhelms or simply does away with the message. The point of cutting through the clutter is to make people hear what you really have to say.

Another creepy story comes from my partner, who say at an award show, an award winner wrote "I need a job" on the back of her check, and stood silently for the whole party holding her makeshift sign. It's no good to get noticed if you make everyone uncomfortable.

I guess the key is the same as the old comedians' adage, "Always leave them wanting more." Intrigue your audience, but don't show your hand too soon. I know from my (limited) experience, advertising is a "fake it 'til you make it" game. I wasn't sure I'd be able to hack it when I got my foot in the door, but I sure tried to make it sound like I was sure.

If you're trying to get into advertising, you're probably already an interesting person. Just let that shine through, and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ponder is back, more embedable than ever!

Ever since WonderGroup started the Ponder podcast, I've been posting link to the WonderBlog and such for you adboys and adgirls to listen in. Well, this morning the technical lobe of my primitive copywriter brain has evolved, and I learned to embed audio on this biscuit.

It turns out, the interwebs is full of non-porn related information as well. I went to the Google Well, cast in one of my eyes and out came pages of info about embedding audio on Blogger.

So enjoy, now in a more convenient package.

Next time on Pig City: Getting noticed!

UPDATE: I t looks like you have to make the jump to hear the podcast if you subscribe through Google Reader. Intertubes wins again.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The protector of creative freedom— The ECD!

As a young creative, there's one person who seems like they are always out to get you. She tramples on your brilliant ideas. She sorts through the nuggets of pure gold you place in front of them, and find the smallest, dullest nugget (still pure gold— after all it's yours!) to show their approval of.

This person is the head of the creative department, be they CCO, ECD, GCD, whatever. Her job (I keep saying her because at WG, she's female) is to make sure all the creative that goes out into the world is up to par. It's not an easy job, I'm sure. Someday I hope I'll know firsthand.

However, crushing your creativity is not all this person does. She also steps in to kick ass when anyone else tries to crush your creativity. This means anyone: clients, account folks, even fellow creatives. Because her job it to protect good ideas, and make sure they have a place to grow.

So appreciate your ECD, even when he or she smiles thinly and silently shakes her head no.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another peek into WonderGroup

I was so busy listening to it, I nearly forgot to post the latest WonderGroup podcast, featuring yours truly! The topics this time include using social media during an office shut-down, using closed social media to communicate with coworkers, and internet radio.

Just to help you figure out which voice I am, I'm the guy who freely admits I did nothing the day the office closed. Enjoy!

PS: Sebastien Schultz is in a band called Bad Veins, and Aaron May is in A Decade to Die For. Look them up.

PPS: If you subscribe through RSS, make the jump to see the link. Lousy interwebs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is that Barack Obama?

So, I've got this kind of weird picture for my display picture. It's also posted up over my desk. No one has ever asked me about it, except to opine that it could be Barack Obama, only smoking and playing guitar.

It is, in fact, a painting of Robert Johnson, a blues singer from the early 20th century. The legend behind Robert Johnson says that to master the guitar, he went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the Devil.

When I think about that, all I can think about is "What a great marketer!" Claiming you had sold your soul for anything was a much more serious claim in the '20s and '30s than it is now. And he was good at playing guitar. It made it hard for his rivals to say they were better. After all, the man was in league with Satan!

What does this have to do with being a young creative? It's all about branding yourself. Give people something to associate with the good feeling your portfolio gives them.

Don't go over the top, though. Johnson claimed to have sold his soul, but he was reportedly a shy, introspective sort. His quiet demeanor added to the mystique. If he got carried away with the act though, people would have gotten tired of it.

In the end, it comes down to be getting noticed, then remembered, then liked. A director told me once that if he has to choose between casting two equally qualified people for the same role, he'll choose the one he won't mind hanging out with.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Go on! Be a show off!

As creative professionals, we all need a portfolio, or in advertising, a "book." You keep it updated with your best stuff, and you send it to people so they'll hire you.

Long ago, people (probably the people you'll be sending your book to) used to make these by hand, out of real-life paper and cardboard. You still need to have a physical version of your book so the people interviewing you can look at something other than the growing sweat-stains under your arms. However, for sending it out with a letter and resumé, nothing is more convenient than an online version.

That being said, there are lots of online portfolio services. I have my favorites, but I wondered if there was a better version, so I did some searching. Guess what? Lots of these places want you to pay! And as I always say, why pay for something you can get for free. is my personal favorite, as you can see by clicking the My Portfolio link to the right. It has a free version, which allows 5 projects and some number of images, and a $12/mo version that gives you a lot more of both, plus videos. Even the pay version is cheaper than the other portfolio hosts I saw. is a portfolio site, plus a professional networking site. I like it, but I like carbonmade more. Behance is a little more byzantine when it comes to adding projects, but I don't think there's a limit to how many you can add, and videos are FREE!

I also used to be a fan of However, I fell out of love with it. But it's out there, so here ya go. If anyone has a better option, feel free to drop a comment in the ol' comment box.

Syndication, the hard way.

I have an AdBlog on ihaveanidea, but they want to charge $50 a year for an RSS feed. I respect that, they have to make their money somehow, and if everyone is subscribing via a reader, they don't get views for their online ad space.

But, I really want people to be able to view my blog on RSS reader, so I'm going to re-post everything from there, here! I'll have a link on "here" to "there" and vice versa.

Here goes!