Product Design
  • Interview Excerpt: Mike Lear, VP/ACD, The Martin Agency, Richmond

    In case you missed yesterday’s post, check out some of Mike Lear’s work here.

    WS: What do you look for in a student what impresses you?

    ML: Great, simple thinking. In many different forms of media. I still see a lot of books that consist of print campaigns blown out into other media. And that’s not what I mean. That just tells me they don’t get it yet. I want to see great ideas, that are totally media agnostic. Maybe it’s an idea of how to use Twitter in a way I’ve never seen. Or…well, just lots of digital. I personally think all ideas should lead with digital, and there might be posters and traditional stuff that support it. But never the other way around. And students: Please, please, please stop trying to do TV. It’s never good. Ever.

    WS: How important is finish? If ideas are the most important thing, can sketches be enough? Do you look at actual books anymore, or is it all websites?

    ML: We never look at actual books here anymore. PDFs are how it starts, or websites. I don’t remember the last time I saw a physical book. And the finish question…yeah, that’s an important one. Some people, and schools, think finish isn’t as important anymore because the thinking and the ideas are what we are paid for. “We can find anyone to build it how we want it,” they say. Not so fast…I think you have to have both. And what’s wrong with that? But ideas are the most important thing. I would rather see a sketch of something killer over a gorgeous piece of dumb. But the idea of, “I’ll figure out my craft later,” no way. You would be dead here. We need people who can hit the ground running.

    WS: How important is copy? Do you need to see long-copy ads?

    ML: All I want is some sense of voice from a writer. Maybe it’s long copy, but maybe it’s just a few lines on a website that are lovely. But in my opinion, gone are the days of the mandatory long-copy campaign. Prove to me you can write well. That’s it.

    WS: What do you think of showing work that is not advertising? Things like art, journal writing, photography, hobbies, etc.

    ML: As long as they’re ideas. Journal writing: I don’t think so. Photography: eh, maybe. But I am going to hire you because I see thinking that I wish I did. That’s it. That’s my meter. When I see a campaign that makes something inside me just a little sick, a little green…that’s what I want. Sometimes I see a campaign that I just go, “Ugh…dammit.” And that’s it. You have me. So, no, I don’t care if they’re ads. The ultimate example is Banksy. He’s an artist, sure. But what makes him different is he is conceptual. His ideas are sickeningly great and tight.

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