Saturday, May 9, 2009

A View From A Graduate.

Stuart Chan was a student of mine who was kind enough to email me the other day after one of my Blog items about Alex Bogusky caught his eye. After reading his email, I asked if I could post his thoughts. He simply replied:
"By all means, you may publish it... After all the next best thing to getting inspired is to be inspiring".
Stuart is currently a copywriter at Yield Communications in Toronto, a full service integrated communication company. There clients include, Cadillac Fairview, Sears, Epost, Altimira and 407ETR.

Here are of Stuart's thoughts... unedit, as sent.

From: Stuart Chan
Date: Friday, May 8, 2009 11:35 am
Subject: A Word to the Students

After reading your blog post on DOCTOR Bogusky today, it sparked that memory of the lunch with him we had. I believe... What was it, 3? Total students from our semester were invited? And I was lucky enough to be one of them.

It’s funny how memory serves you, and how things can spark from the slightest hint of other things, but I also remember one day in class now when you told us about the quote: “Always give UP.” and that’s stuck with me ever since.

So I figured since there’s so many prospective "adlanders" coming into and out of your program each semester, I’d write to you with a some words to the students. Not to the advertising students, but rather, to the students of advertising. The ones who have the passion, the ones who become believers of the religion of advertising.

Everything that you do is to add value to the program and I figure I might as well try and help.

Firstly, whether you’re Left or whether you’re Right, the old “1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration rule applies.”

Take your inspiration, beat it to death, and when you’re done doing that, beat it back to life.

The best ideas in the real world always come last. (I know I know, that’s because you got the idea you wanted and stopped thinking about it, but seriously, with each passing idea, you’ll find a new gem.)

Here at Yield, I’ve had many meaningful conversations with colleagues, but the best ones always come with a takeaway that should be applied for the rest of your creative life.

So here are a few things that I’ve picked up, that I hope stick with YOU - The students of Advertising:

It doesn’t matter if you’re junior, senior, left, right, or completely sideways... FIGHT FOR YOUR WORK, until someone can legitimately prove you wrong. Sorry but out here, you’re not always going to get others to fight for it for you.

My creative director here is right about this: “As a CD, I can always bring you back. You can go as crazy as you want with an idea, and maybe I’ll like your 75th, 76th, and 77th concept, because I think your 78th concept will get you thrown into an asylum. But at least you got there. I can’t be the one to help you if you came up with 6 concepts and they’re all crap.”

Get used to killing your babies. This is the reason why you have to be full of ideas, ALL THE TIME. Take this example: You present 20 concepts, your Creative Director likes 10 of them, you present them to the client, the client likes 5 of them, and 2 of them are out of budget range, and another 1 of them is simply not executable. You’re down to 2 concepts from 20, so... By simple math, 18 of your babies died today.

A word on portfolios: Don’t think about building your book as a manner of “This is what I can do.” If you do that, your book will always be second rate. Think about it as building a book as a way of showing “THIS IS HOW I CAN THINK”. That became apparent to me when one CEO (who asked to see me specifically after the CD had already seen me) flipped through my book and asked me the following question: “The whole world is beginning to go engagement and interactive. Can you think like that?” Of course I replied that I could, and all he said was: “Well why is it not in your book?” Doh!

So touching on that topic, I think it’s about the right time now to include more than just print ads in your books. If you are an out of the box, crazy thinker, make sure your book says that about you. Lots of people are going to say “they just want to see ads”. I think that’s incorrect, I think they want to see “FRESH”. They want to see “CRAZY”. THEY WANT TO SEE YOUR 78TH CONCEPT. Because remember, they can always bring you back. They look at ads all day long, what in the world makes you think they “want to see ads” in your book?

Finally, for all of you set to forge your way into the real world: KNOW YOUR TARGET MARKET. No... Seriously... Know them! I’m not talking about the target market of your ads, I’m talking about the target market of your portfolio. I’m talking about the Creative Directors you want to get a sit down with. The same Creative Directors who get thousands of e-mails a day, and probably don’t have too much time for crap, so God help them if they haven’t gotten back to you after you’ve sent the generic “See my portfolio cause I’m a student” e-mail for the 5th time.

Find a way to stand out, and for fucks sake, be aggressive. SELL YOURSELF.

Remember, an ad isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t sell. And guess what... Neither are you.

-Stuart Chan, Copywriter, Idearator, Student of Advertising.

P.S. WRITERS: Never underestimate the power of “Knob Creek”. I landed my job in 8 words or less.

Thank you Stuart. You can contact him at:

1 comment:

Soukvilay said...


Just like my orientation to this program: words from students truly go far in my books.

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