Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mmmmm, scotchy, scotch, scotch

Last week, a campaign of banner ads I worked on was nominated for a Webby Award. It's not like I'm clueless about this arena, but I'm told the Webby is a very prestigious award. I guess that makes me all digital and shit.

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to add that little bit of knowledge to my online portfolio page. It also spurred me on to make some subtractions and additions. And that's when it occurred to me that a good deal of the work on my portfolio page is actually spec.

For those of you not in the biz, spec work is work that was never produced. More often than not, it's the kind of work you expect to see in a junior copywriter or junior art director's book. Not someone who has been in the business as long as I have and who is fond of calling himself Methuselah.

The truth is, I have enough produced work to fill three portfolios. But as I often counsel younger creatives, just because something has been produced doesn't make it book worthy.

In fact it's often just the opposite. If it has been produced, it means there have been compromises, concessions and a good deal of just out-and-out bending over. In other words, not book worthy.

I prefer to showcase work that hasn't been tainted by Big Data, planner-speak or committee-think. In other other words, the stuff that doesn't get produced.

For example, years ago we were pitching the Chivas Regal account. It was never going to bill a lot of money, but it was high profile and the name carried a certain cache. My partner and I, both in our thirties and both sons of scotch drinkers, made an interesting discovery. We both started to develop a taste for whiskey and, in different ways, we were becoming more and more like our fathers.

That became the springboard for our campaign.

As I might have telegraphed earlier, the campaign was rejected by Chivas Regal. They weren't particularly interested in insight. Or human truth. Or anything that didn't feature a woman in a red cocktail dress and a huge tumbler of their scotch poured over crisp, chunks of jagged ice.

My partner and I loved the rejected campaign (5 additional print ads not seen here) that we carried it in our portfolios. 

And while Chivas Regal never saw the value of our insight, the folks at Canadian Club did. 

Because a few years later, they ran an entire campaign built around the same concept of "the whiskey your dad drank." Moreover, that campaign went on to win all kinds of industry praise and shiny ad awards. Awards that should be in my garage, gathering dust in a box next to my camping gear. 

This phenomena happens everyday, not just in advertising, but in TV, film, music, the arts and literature. Any where creative people are seeking the approval and financial go-ahead from non-creative people.

The bottom line is, clients get to decide what goes on the air, what gets in the magazine, and what shows up on the Internet. But I get to decide what goes in the portfolio.


Carrie Talick said...

Damn. I want to become your father. Great ad, Rich. One that begs reading and then satisfies on the completion of said read. On the subject of non-creative people judging creative work, it is a sad necessity in any artistic endeavor (I supposed advertising is included in that in a fringe element sort of way). But when i think of true creativity, I think Vonnegut put it best when he said “Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. It's like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.” I need a drink.

Jeff said...

I've always loved that ad. The truth of it, the poignancy and how ultimately emotional it is in the way it sneaks up on you at the end. Ironically, the more times you read the ad the more you feel (exactly the opposite of what happens with the more Chivas you drink). Would love to see the others in the campaign. Again, it's an ad I wish I'd written. You have to stop that.

glasgowdick said...

Thanks Jeff. This ad made my mother cry. For obvious reasons. Then again, she could cry over a ham sandwich.

glasgowdick said...

Oh, and thank you Carrie. Very kind.

@rebrivved said...

A young writer who's very proud of a mediocre banners she managed to get produced for a high-profile client asked me recently if she should put in her portfolio. I told her "I don't give a shit if they're produced. If they're not as good as the best piece in your book, leave them out".
I'm with you, Rich. I'd rather see how a writer or art director thinks when no one's watching than see some crappy ad for a big name brand.
Bottoms up to you & your dad.

Steve Silver said...

Man, that's a great ad, Rich. Skol.