This is an exciting and challenging time to be entering the advertising business. Nike FuelBand, a digital platform and utility just won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Yet Apple still puts a huge hunk of its budget into billboards. Brand events that no one sees in real life find millions of views on YouTube. But paid TV advertising budgets don’t seem to be diminishing. Ad agencies still hire creatives who can conceive the basic print or poster idea made out of words and pictures. But the newest most exciting work is built using HTML5, accelerometers and the hacking of social media platforms.
So, what does a young creative or college student just learning about the industry — work, agencies, strategies, teams, processes, decision making — put in a portfolio? Print ads? Yes. Video or TV spots? Yes. Social media ideas? Yes.Utility and apps that leverage new consumer behaviors? Yes.
Now that we have that down, let’s move onto an equally important question. What skills should someone learn? Copywriting? Art direction? Programming? User experience design? Animation?
Well, if you were to ask me, and perhaps any good, forward thinking creative director, the answer might still be idea-generation. The ability to come up with an original, relevant, useful, worthy idea — be it an ad, an app, an experience, a video or a digital platform — that solves a problem. Even if the problem itself isn’t overtly obvious.
This fall, I teach Portfolio Development to students at Boston University’s College of Communication. I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to guide and coach students to think creatively and to discover their own creative talents. While believing that everyone is creative, and anyone can develop the muscle, I’m also pretty sure that I can’t actually teach anyone to be creative. I hope, however, that I can inspire them.
To that end I worked up this E-Book, 20 Tips for Creating Your First Portfolio. It is by no means complete. But it should offer some guidelines and reminders and criteria for how to think and what to include.
I welcome any additional thoughts or suggestions that you might have, and of course, invite you to use it yourself should you find it of value. If you want more, you can check my syllabus at Lore.com, as well.
As always, thanks for reading, engaging and offering your support.
Recently there is a lot of talk about doing social at scale. In fact, Sprinklr, the well-regarded social media management system, just asked me to join the esteemed Mitch Joel, Joe Jaffe, Chris Brogan, and Jason Falls in answering the question, “How does the enterprise do social at scale?”
My first answer is they can’t. It’s not possible. Why? Because most enterprises aren’t social. They may do social. They may use social. But that doesn’t mean they are social. Big difference. Sure, plenty of brands have shown us some version of success. American Express enables existing communities (small business), supports customers and businesses via Foursquare, and attempts to market on Facebook with Link, Like, Love. Axe took the web by storm for at least two days with their realtime, Twitter inspired videos. Best Buy launched Twitter-based support with TwelpForce. Burberry has perhaps done the best job, transforming itself into a media content company in order to create truly social experiences for its customers. And, of course, early social pioneer Dell turned its customer service over to its customers.
But to get to scale — and by that I presume we mean extending social engagement and interaction across borders, divisions and product lines, effectively serving multiple communities in realtime, and harnessing social data to inform future programs and products — it might take more than Sprinklr’s very intelligent “Must Haves,” six suggestions for what enterprises need to be doing.
Here’s why it won’t happen for most enterprises and brands.
Too many companies practice old media tactics in the new media environments
Just the expressions “Follow us on Twitter,” and “Like us on Facebook” suggest that what companies really want is to have you opt-in as an audience. No different than tuning into a broadcast network to receive cleverly disguised sales pitches. How many media properties and brands, for example, do you see that serve up nothing more than information about themselves, hoping that it might be of interest? There is still a lot of pushing.
They start with themselves not their community
Granted this is marketing, but it appears that most efforts are fueled by answering, “What do we want them to do?” rather than “What can we do for them?” The future of marketing is service and added value through utility. Done well over time that will lead to the conclusion that a company serves me and therefore deserves my business. See this old Nordstrom’s story.
The people who execute social media remain isolated
For a lot of companies, social strategy and execution is treated as a function, performed by the social media or PR organization or maybe the service department. But until social is integrated throughout an entire organization, used for everything from consumer research to product testing, crowdsourcing, real time response and access it will be near impossible to scale for the simple reason social behavior won’t be practiced on the community’s terms. Listening and measuring is great. But one-to-one real-time connections should be the ultimate objective.
Thinking remains short term
Advertising taught us to think in campaigns. Run a campaign, see immediate results. You can do social media that way, for sure. To launch a product, open a store, generate buzz, leverage a cultural event. But until marketers and those who approve the budgets for resources, technology and training recognize that social is also a long term investment, scale will be a challenge.
Most companies use social, but it doesn’t mean they are social
You can have a Facebook page, multiple Twitter accounts, even a state-of-the-art command center that monitors the conversation. That is using social. Being social, however, has less to do with platform presence and more to do with a philosophy that results in transparency, participation by the constituents who might be affected by a decision, a senior management team that sets an example, and a willingness to give up some control.
This is hard. Despite what we’ve seen happen to Nestle, Bank of America, Netflix and the Gap, a lot of companies can’t change their DNA and muscle memory when it comes to marketing.
The desire to scale social without making the commitment to being social reminds me of all the brands that want to be like Apple. They covet Apple-esque advertising, Apple-like design, and Apple fan loyalty. But they fail to understand that the culture of simplicity making all of that possible isn’t an execution (ads, product, store) it’s a deep-rooted culture that drives every decision the company makes along with those it chooses not to make. (Read Insanely Simple and you’ll understand that story.)
I also believe it’s easier to be social than to be Apple. Many companies will inevitably get there. But I fear they’ll have the platforms, multi-channel management, corporate governance and analytics in place before they’ve changed the most important obstacle. Their way of thinking.
I was one of the early users of Lore.
It was nearly a year ago when Boston University student Maurice Rahmey, hearing that I planned to teach a course at BU, implored me to use the new social teaching and learning platform then called Coursekit.
It didn’t take long to get dependent on the service. Lore let me post my syllabus, organize the semester’s calendar, enter assignments, add links and resources and post grades, which were automatically dispatched to students.
But Lore’s real value was it’s social quality. It took learning — in the form of discussion, debate, and discovery – beyond the walls of the classroom to a Facebook like stream where students and teacher could share blog posts, creative ideas, videos, images and commentary. It made teaching and learning interactive and collaborative.
No surprise I quickly became dependent on the service.
Then last Monday, Lore introduced a slick new upgrade to its site. Now you could invite auditors to your classes, integrate your calendar and stream, and present a more marketable profile (good for students, especially).
All great features. Except for one problem. They didn’t work. At least not for me. And since Lore hadn’t let me know the changes were coming, or what to expect, I wasn’t prepared for being down an entire day.
WTF I am pissed
Many of us tend to get pissed the moment Facebook changes something, or Twitter adds promoted tweets, or Instagram sells itself, or Lore doesn’t work. Count me among them. But are we entitled to get that upset? We receive these services for free and enjoy a multitude of benefits from using them.
(Wait a minute, you say. Lore is leveraging you and thousands of other teachers to attract students to the site. All of who will reveal information about their majors, their interests, their career aspirations, etc. In an age when the interest graph is rapidly offering brands and advertisers a more efficient way to market, a platform that has thousands and maybe millions of students along with all the data they’ll provide becomes pretty valuable. Maybe we’re doing them the favor and they do owe us.)
True. But in so many cases, Lore in particular, what users are getting is more than a fair return. Our lives are easier. Our content is better organized. We have digital tools that enhance both teaching and learning. Maybe we should not feel so entitled.
Patience is a good thing
For the first six months of this year I worked with Springpad as its interim CMO. So I witnessed first hand the time, effort and diligence a small team puts into launching a new upgrade – testing, debugging, then going into crisis support mode when something neglects to work as it should.
I took a breath. I imagined the 15 or so people at Lore in a heightened sense of urgency when they realized that everything didn’t perform perfectly, that users were locked out, that the system couldn’t withstand the increase in traffic.
Instead of dashing off the angry email or tweeting about how screwed up things were, I informed them of what wasn’t working, what it looked like on my screen, and asked for an update. Having to wait a few hours, or even a day, was in the bigger scheme of things a small price to pay for having such a powerful platform.
OK, maybe I did issue one unhappy tweet.
But the less reactive approach elicited a much better response.
Personal attention goes a long way
To Lore’s credit, their CEO Joseph Cohen responded almost immediately. And his staff kept me updated constantly. I knew what they were working on, had assurance that my content was intact, and had the clear sense they were aware of my status. All of which made it OK that the service was down even if I’d lost access on a day I really needed it.
More importantly, the impression made by Lore and its team– that they genuinely cared, that they appreciated users’ needs, that they understood the inconvenience imposed – made me, and I’m sure others, even more loyal users and advocates.
Users have a responsibility, too
The start-up phase for any new platform is trying. No matter how much load testing gets done or internal rigor is applied it’s inevitable that developers need users in real world situations to tell them if something does or doesn’t work. Or how to make it better. Or to offer suggestions they hadn’t thought of. So perhaps it’s not enough just to be users. Perhaps with the privilege of getting that invite early and to having a first crack at a new service comes the responsibility to help make it better.
With ideas, reactions, suggestions. Maybe even an occasional thank you.
So Lore, and all the folks there inventing the future of education, thank you.
Up for a moment, back toward their lap.
Up down. Up down.
In rush hour traffic they’re the ones who get caught off guard when it’s time to start moving again. Or who slam on their brakes at the last second with a startled look on their faces as they buggily turn right and left to see if anyone else noticed that their near accident was due to texting while driving. But of course no one else did because they were texting, too. Statistics waiting to happen.
I admit it. I was once an on-the-road-texter. But as I started to notice out my rear view mirror that drivers behind me had no idea how close they were to the back end of my car – it’s hard to notice stuff like that when your eyes are pointed at your crotch, which is where most people seem to keep their phones despite research suggesting that’s not such a good idea — I realized that it might be wise to pay better attention myself. Just in case I have to swerve out of the way, accelerate to avoid someone driving into my trunk, or worse, dodge a drifting lane invader.
So I stopped.
But now that I have one less distraction while driving I can’t help but notice that I’m the only person not texting while driving.
At least in Boston.
Given we’re a city known for insane drivers and risk-taking pedestrians this has me concerned. The police do nothing. Unless of course a texting driver kills a pedestrian or takes out a fellow motorist. And while I don’t want to sound like one of those reformed smokers who feels compelled to lecture those still practicing, I am thinking that maybe I’ll start calling out people who text and drive. See if it becomes a movement or starts a new behavior.
It’s not hard, and it’s comparatively safe. I simply turn on my voice recorder before I start to drive and as I see road texters behind me or in front of me I record their license plate along with car make and model into the recorder.
For example, here are couple from this morning. The guy in the white Subaru, Massachusetts plate 74ES19, must have been 65 or 70, white-haired, texting away as if he were a teenage girl. Not your stereotypical texter at all. The women in the blue/gray Acura, Massachusetts 96VW17, appeared to be a professional worker on her way into the city. Both of them nearly hit other cars, but miraculously managed to avoid any impact. No way I am buying new car as long as I drive in and out of Boston.
Anyway, if you’re interested in outing texters on the road, let me know. We could put up a website and upload license plates of texting drivers.
Then again, some of our anti-texting community might get carried away. Start snapping actual photos. Putting them on Instagram or Facebook. Perhaps even doing so while they, too, are driving.
It would be sadly ironic if an anti-texting citizen watchdog got into an accident while photographing the texting driver.
Screw it. Maybe I’ll just get Hummer.