Monthly Archive: February 2010

Respect The Craft, Respect The Craftsman

Advertising is often referred to by its makers as a craft. It’s an assessment I’m fully on board with, but it’s one that usually needs a bit of clarification for it to make perfect sense to someone outside the business.

Craftsmen start out as apprentices, they become journeymen and, if it’s in the cards, they eventually become masters of the craft. Some people like Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter & Bogusky master the craft early (he became a creative director at 27). For others it’s a long, strenuous journey to arrive at mastery. Either way, if you’re any good at making ads, you’re part of this unnamed, but still very real, guild of craftsmen. You’re on a journey, constantly learning from the masters and incorporating new things into your practice.

For the moment, let’s compare our work to that of a haberdasher’s. When an expert tailor makes a suit, it’s meant to bring out the best in a man. The new suit flatters but it doesn’t “make the man,” as some have argued. The same is true of advertising. A company’s product or service offering is what it is. No new suit, or updated brand identity, changes that. In other words, you don’t go to a tailor in order to lose 50 pounds, you go to a tailor for a suit that fits, whatever your weight.

To play out the analogy a bit further, there’s an implicit trust developed between a man and his suit maker. The man may express his tastes in a suit and his preferences regarding fit, but ultimately the tailor has to make the suit. In advertising, it’s common for the client to request several rounds of changes based upon all sorts of feedback received in hallway chats and other questionable quarters. If the same client tried to steer his tailor in this fashion–and the tailor, wanting to be paid more than anything else, allowed himself to be so handled–he’d end up looking like a clown.

Great work that ends up moving the needle for a client is always a result of mutual respect and the kind of client/agent relationship that allows for constructive feedback and constant learning on both sides. One of the charter goals here at Bonehook is to do work for our friends and for people we want to be friends with. Partly, that’s to ensure we’re always working for good. And partly, it’s due to the fact that it’s the only way great work is consistently made.

I Iterate, Therefore I Am

I got an education in Iterative Marketing this week thanks to Dave Allen at Fight. Please see “Fighting Words,” my story on AdPulp for the full rundown.

Fight is a new strategic marketing agency that emerged last year after Allen and Justin Spohn left Portland-based Nemo to join with Rob Shields of Razorfish. Fight’s big client is Pacific Gas & Electric, and their main message to marketers is THE BIG IDEA’s time has come and gone, thanks to the rise of the Internet and the cultural impact created by that watershed event.

I’m making note of it here because I believe in supporting other creative professionals in Portland (and learning all I can from my colleagues). In days gone by my instinct might have been to compete, not to share ideas and the spotlight. Today, I think it’s clear we all need one another to survive, and no one firm can do everything right. For instance, I pride myself on my strategic abilities but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Fight as a strategic partner, if I felt that was the best solution for my client.

So, what’s Iterative Marketing and why should we care? It’s a process where a brand takes many small steps towards solving its marketing problems, versus large and expensive steps that can’t be tweaked midstream or easily undone. Each step allows for data gathering, analysis of said data and the ability to fix or change the creative on the fly. In other words, it’s the way things are built online. Take this site, or Fight’s for that matter. We’re up and running, but we’ll be making lots of improvements as we go.

Given the importance of ROI to every marketer, I believe we’re going to see and hear much more about this new framework. Personally, I came up in the industry at a time when THE BIG IDEA was sacred. But after discussing the matter with Allen, I am for the first time open to the concept that lots of small ideas, properly managed, can outperform one BIG IDEA.

It’s also interesting to see digital culture’s impact on business. Our clients and our agencies might come from the 20th century, or the 19th in some cases, but we’re in a new time now and it’s our job as communications professionals to understand what’s going on around us and to adapt our own businesses and our clients’ marketing to the new realities.

Exhibit A: The Bonehook “B”

I’m working with Portland-based designer Aaron Draplin on the development of Bonehook’s brand identity, and while we’re not all the way there just yet, he provided me with some incredible initial ideas.

Exhibit A:

[UPDATE] Draplin’s on business in Germany right now; yet, he somehow found time to get me round two. I’m honored to have such a hard working, and insanely talented designer on this job.