In case you missed it, check out some great work from Greg Bell.
WS: What do you look for in a student book? And what impresses you?
GB: Here’s the truth: the vast majority of student books suck, so students are already going in with a strike against them. Usually, you’re opening it thinking, “Oh God, here we go—a bunch of stuff that will almost certainly be hard to understand, almost there, and rough around the edges.” So usually, your expectations are pretty low. You just see so many books as a creative director. It’s mind-numbing, really. I’m looking for something that wakes me up. Something surprising. Something that screams at me to pay attention. Even just one ad.
WS: Are there any traps that you feel a lot of students fall into? Or what would you not look for in a student book?
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WS: Do you think that just a book of sketches can be enough these days, or do you think books need to be finished?
GB: It’s such a cliché for a creative director to say, “It can be on a napkin if it’s a great idea!” Yeah, maybe when you’ve already got a job! In the world of today’s portfolios, you’re competing with so many people—the drudgery of looking through all the books that are out there…your chances are not improved if you’re peddling sheets of notebook paper. It’s just human nature. When you’re on the cereal aisle, the generic boxes don’t get your attention, do they?
So it’s sad but it’s true, the schools that emphasize polish really do have an advantage. The great ideas that also have polish make a CD think, “Ah! I could hire this guy today and put him to work on real-live ads tomorrow.” The guy with the homemade-looking book, you don’t have that same confidence.
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WS: Do you have any other tips for someone who wants to get into the business who’s just starting out?
GB: Spread like a virus. What was the classic old ’70s shampoo commercial where, “They told two friends and they told two friends” and so on and so on and so on? It really works in terms of doing your job-search blitz. You need it to be a quick blitz when you’re out there because you get put on a time clock the moment you get a job offer. “Oh shit, Grey is offering me a real, living, breathing job in advertising and they want an answer, but I haven’t even had my interview over at Goodby!” I always tell students: Put your list together, aim for the best places first, your B-tier places second, C third. Say, “I just want an informational interview” and, “I’m trying to break into this business. I’m not asking for a job, I just want some information.” Then make sure that, for each person you see, you get two or three names out of them. Then, from each of those people, get more names. If you’re not an asshole or a complete hack, they’re going to feel for you and cough up some names. It works every time because it’s not cold calling. If a friend calls a friend, you get your meeting. Definitely use all your school alumni contacts, friends-of-the-family contacts, anybody who will get you in front of people you couldn’t get in front of yourself.