Aug 13, 2008

Joker’s 20 on 20 -- Make the Logo Bigger --

Second in this 20 post series, we have a most special guest, Bill Green of Make the Logo Bigger. If you need a condensed dose of all things random and a variety of news links and smart writes for your intellectual feeding, you should DEFINITELY check out his blog. I had twenty questions, he had twenty answers and the gall to ask me whether he had to trim them or not. My friend, screw editing and I am extremely grateful for having you speak your mind. That's the whole point of the series. Cheers.

1. How and why did you get into advertising?

It was either go into cooking or design/advertising. I always liked coming up with ideas for things, and combined with a hatred for smelling like kitchen, the decision was an easy one. Graduated from UConn and started out as a designer in the traditional sense, eventually becoming an art director.

2. 5 most interesting news stories of 2008?

Even though we’re only eight months in:

- One of the top stories will definitely happen in November.

- The collapse of Team Clinton and how an African American candidate has a real shot at winning the presidency.

- How the auto industry is scrambling to develop alternative fuel vehicles after dragging their feet for so long.

- Greyhound bus headless guy and follow-up protests. (

- Anything with Tom Cruise or Gary Busey.

God Bless Gary Busey's toothy smile. :D

3. How many blogs or publications do you read?

Too many. I read 10 or so favs each day. The rest I scan their headlines via Google Reader for blog content. (Not enough time to read every blog all the way through.) Breaks down like this:

- Approx. 40 ad blogs. (10 are favs)
- 12 or so for weird/odd/gadget stuff
- 8-10 design-related
- 8 infotainment-rumor blogs

I also used to scan a lot of marketing/PR blogs, but thanks to sites like Twitter, you get flooded with links, so why bother. No shortage of someone there always willing to shill their latest blog entry.

My friend, Johnny 5 has shit on you regarding input.

4. What do you think of youtube and its effect on our industry?

It’s changed not just the industry, but everyday life. Youtube is already a ‘TV’ network of sorts, even though real networks still regard it as a place to grab whacky clips. It’s the ultimate public access cable show though. What other medium lets you watch clips of the latest network/movies and then mash them up—or make your own content as thousands of people end up either hating or loving it?

As for the industry, people scan it for so-called inspiration, then make commercials from what they find. (Taco bell drive-up rapper spot had already been done by a few dudes driving around and messing with cashiers.) It’s just like art directors I knew who scanned Communication Arts for ideas, copied them, and just swapped out a logo.

The problem is that the brand fucks it up by making the agency add in marketing speak and product features. I know, silly concept: A brand actually wanting product benefits in its commerical. Point is, when Team Mentos and Diet Coke come out of nowhere with that video, people go nuts—and none of it had anything to do with Diet Coke’s one calorie or refreshing taste.

There’s no way the brand would’ve approved that ahead of time from the agency either: “Um, yeah, we want to take two guys and see what makes Diet Coke explode.” Yeah, right. Unless of course a major shop was behind it from the start and I’m wrong, this just shows the real strength of Youtube, which comes not from the agencies who upload their real fake ‘virals’, but from some dude in Indiana with a propane tank, your product—and a dream.

This answer actually spawned two fortune cookies, you'll notice.

5. How does going viral affect a brand?

The V word is a double-edged sword. It can be a negative or positive for a brand. The concept of it though has always been about word of mouth, not just views. Maybe Seth Godin planted the idea with his book title and that’s all people can think of, who knows. But if something bad happens and someone blogs that experience, like the Jetblue lawsuit: or Radiohead gives its latest CD away:, those things have a viral quality to them.

To most agencies though, views are the only goal they’re after. If they get millions, in their mind, they got the brand’s name out there. But how many actually achieve that without serious help seeding or promotion. (Think the Ray-Ban tossing vid and dude jumping into his Levi’s just blew up big by themselves?) Imo, true viral should cost you nothing to spread the word; the only costs being for the actual content.

But what if people watched and hated it. Like the old PR mindset that says any press is good press, what effect on your brand will putting out a shitty video or promotion have in the future? How many major brands have spent a ton on webisodes, only to see a cute :17 second baby video get four million hits—to their 3,000? Why not spend the money on a better consumer experience that could create a more loyal customer, and more of them.

I also think the nature of what is and isn't viral is lost to clients and execs in that they think views instantly translate into results which makes you pnoder the validity of efforts based on virals. Seems that in most cases though, image has overtaken experience and quality of service and product which just begs the question, what good is advertising if your service or product don't hold up to the bargain?

6. Worst project you've ever had to work on?

Not brand-specific, but any one of the several ‘personal’ projects a boss has needed done over the years, like their kids’ soccer team t-shirt design or a brochure for their spouse’s start-up business. Those things always become nightmares, involving endless rounds of revisions—on your time.

I had to write the obituary for a boss...... the worst part was getting revisions for that "job". What balls.

7. People always talk about the Golden 80's, what are some of the
biggest changes advertising has gone through from that era to the one
we currently live and work in?

Technically? Computers. We came up doing type by hand and rendering comps with markers. You learn the intricacies of typography that way because hand skills were drilled into your head. Many students in school today seem to lack that, not that it’s critical anymore. Conversely, Adobe has made it possible to do some amazing things that could have never been done years ago, at least not as quickly. A sense of design and proportion are still key though, no matter what era you talk about. No app can teach you that. However, with the media shift away from print to Youtube, I don’t think it matters for some anymore. People want their content now, who cares how it looks.

Thematically? Long copy was king then. Now, it's all visual puns.

I always pay attention to people talking about how things were done in the oldschool. Revisions were real nightmares and ad work included a lot more physical work interacting even more with what you created. As for long copy, well i've had a couple of projects where I've been asked for long copy... those days I smile a lot.

8. If you could design an internship program what would it include and why?
Several things are missing from intern/student programs and agencies in general.

- Think brands first, not just agency. Everyone focuses on agency life for an intern. What about the client and their brand? Ryan is still in school as a designer and got probably the greatest experience a student could get on the recent Plaid Nation tour. (Shameless plug). He saw how brands work by hearing their stories and their problems, then saw how we talked to them about solutions.

He also got out on the road to experience stuff most interns don’t. Typically, a large agency floods their shop with 25 students who get stuck doing photo searches for art directors, chained to their cubicles. Maybe free beer on Friday if they’re lucky.

- Ethics. (Aka, reality check.) Yeah, go ahead and laugh. But nobody talks to students about using music in a clip they have no rights for. Or the art director who steals an idea off your desk and presents it to the group the next day as his own. Or the project manager who starts acting all ghetto in front of you just because they‘re working on an urban campaign. Or the account team who wines and dines a client to win new biz when you thought your pretty design would win it.

How do you help a student deal with shit like that which they’ll certainly face, especially when going along with the crowd is a safer career move.

- Get them be on a project from beginning to end. From concept to delivery. Every phase of the project, regardless of their position.

- If you didn’t take a psych class, read Knock The Hustle. Hadji WIlliams wrote a great book on all the various agency personalities and schemes out there. Knowing the mind games people will play with you becomes easier when you can recognize it ahead of time. Seriously, it would’ve saved me years of frustration had I read it in school.

Don't laugh at the ethics part. Actually applaude it because like you said, it's missing from many agencies and best to be preemptive with that sort of thing.

9. The perfect AE should do this: __________

STFU. Aka, Don’t unsell an idea. Too many times after a campaign is presented and everyone is feeling the love, there’s nothing more to say, so the right thing to do is move on. But no. An AE will inevitably turn to the client and say: “You know, if you don’t like the color of the background, we could change it to...”

Ideally though? The best AEs are ones who are able to come up with an idea or contribute something without inhibiting the creative process. It’s rare. I’ve only met two who could. The rest watch the clock and come back to the art department every hour wondering if the layouts are done yet.

10. Who are some of your heroes?

I don’t have heros. People whose work I admire maybe, but not as heros. I was a major OJ fan as a kid and even got to see him play. But after all that shit came down, guess the hero worship thing went out the window.

Yeah I can see how that whole hero thing would fall apart after that. Still love Norberg though.

11. How did you start blogging?

After deciding to revamp my book a few years ago, I wanted to document the process a little and everything I was going through. It was after a particularly uncreative time on a freelance assignment that started it all actually. I needed to vent basically. It was that or they were close to interviewing my neighbor on CNN: “Gee, he was always so nice to me.” I had read Copyranter and a few others and thought holy shit, they wrote pretty honestly, about themselves and the biz. (Didn’t want to spend money on hosting either so I went with Blogger. ;-p )

12. If you could direct a movie, which would it be and why?

There hasn’t been a killer movie about the ad business and all the bullshit that goes on. (Mad Men? Ha, okay. Whatever.) I know exactly how I’d do it. Other than that, I have a few scripts I’ve written for other things, mostly comedies. Just need some financing. Know anyone?

People who in the future might actually be able to help. Who knows? And what would you say if I told you I was working on a W.A.S. movie script?

13. What are some brands you actually root for?

Mt. Dew and Apple. Typically though, I’m not a brand freak that way. I might stick with a brand I like, but I also don’t wait on Steve Jobs’ every word like it’s scripture. (No, I don’t have an iPhone either.)

Bless you and your iPhone resiting ways.

14. What makes plaid so great and how many articles of clothing do you
own that are plaid?

I think I have like, one shirt with plaid in it.

As for Plaid being great, It’s more that Darryl treats everyone the same, unlike other places I’ve been at. He seeks input from everyone and listens to all opinions. They were always a traditional and interactive shop, so it’s not like they have to scramble to understand the space, whereas many other shops might have to partner up with an interactive shop to shore up those online capabilities. And of course there’s the schwag and donuts that Plaid is big on. But seriously, you have to respect someone who, when you suggest getting in a POS van and driving around the country, goes, “Okay, let’s do it!”

I have 6 plaid shirts and think you guys are on the right track. Best of luck with all things plaid.

15. If your blog was a meal, what would it include?

The whole thing is a mix of different stuff for sure, but for dessert, you know those apples under the foil in a Hungry Man TV dinner? Yeah, lots of those.

Hell yes to the apple thingamajig. Many a time did I eat a TV dinner be it from swanson or Hungry Man. :D

16. What role does writing play in your life?

As an art director, I think I’m okay as a writer. Other times I suck. Didn‘t think it mattered much early on when I started out because then, there was a definite separation of church and state when it came to copywriters and art directors. Now, it seems like it’s more about thinking creatively, regardless of your specialty. Writing more seems to have helped me clarify things and wrap my head around stuff better. Editing is a big part of it too, but judging by the length of my blog spots and some of the responses here, I still struggle with that concept.

I think art directors really underestimate their copywriting skills. True proofing they suck, but coming up with great lines comes as second nature to one of my closest ad partners. As for editing? Screw it.

17. Three movies that should be made but haven't?

Movies to be made:

- Amish disaster movie.
- A Quentin Tarantino Christmas.
- Different sequel to Slapshot to replace the disaster they ended up making. (Stephen Baldwin can be good for no sequel.)

Possible title for Amish movie: The world that Churns
Tarantino flick: Elf hunt
Stephen Baldwin..... ummm...... what happened with THAT Baldwin.

18. A Bill Green T-shirt has ______
Four holes, no pockets.

19. What skill do you wish you had?

The Sunday morning TV evangelist thing where you get people to send God money, but you’ll like, hold it for Him in a bank acount.

20. What would you ask me?

If you could have one person, dead or alive as a guest columnist on WAS, who would it be and why?

Serioulsy? Bill Hicks. I think he would have a couple of reasons why advertising sucks. Besides, he made way too much sense, was viciously smart and would probably put an awesome twist no anything you threw at him. Truly a comedian I could never get tired of and a human being I would have loved to have been in contact with.

Thanks for the great answers and I hope it was as enjoyable to write as they were to read. Cheers.


Me said...

These 20 on 20 series ARE FUCKING EPIC!!!!!!!!! Jesus, this has to be the best idea ever...

A Tarantino's Xmas? Genius.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Loved seeing this input from your next victim, Joker. Great interview. Thanks, Bill. Lots of great stuff here. Salient thoughts on youtube & viral. And ethics!

Thinking In Vain said...

Oh awesome, I love Bill Green. :D

In reference to #7, I took old hand-drawn comps we had here before the ACD threw them away. I love looking at the craftsmanship.

And I took a psych class but I'm off to Amazon to buy that book.

I love this question series!!!

Make the logo bigger said...

Thanks Joker for the questions. I was literally typing the responses out on top of a microwave oven in the middle of moving. (Which, if you need a new topic: 20 reasons moving sucks, lemmee know. ;-p)

Thanks to everyone else for their feedback too.

TIV: I really tried hard to resist throwing in: “These kids today.”

Thinking In Vain said...

@MTLB - Hey, I'm one of those kids. :p

I'm going to frame them (the hand-drawn comps I saved). :)

But I originally went to school for Illustration and I realize how much more time intensive it was versus now. My painting instructor had handwriting that could be a font.

shaun. said...

that was awesome....

i laughed, i cried, i did the macarena. awesome idea.

"The Sunday morning TV evangelist thing where you get people to send God money, but you’ll like, hold it for Him in a bank account."


shaun. said...

and im buying that suggested book. because i slept through all of my college psych classes.

Warren said...

I had to write the obituary for a boss...... the worst part was getting revisions for that "job".

How? By ouija board?

Thinking In Vain said...

I hope "Knock the Hustle" is at my library... Amazon has it for $50 in paperback.

Joker said...

@ me: Not sure about the best idea, but they are fun to write and read. As for a Tarantino X-Mas, I can only wish.

@ adbroad: Ah these wonderful victims who give such great answers.

@ TIV: glad you love and as for knock the hustle, didn't find it on Ebay so maybe it's time to go back to a library.

@ Bill: Thank you for the answers. Not just because they're fucking fantastic, but because you took time while moving. As for the 20 reasons why moving sucks, you can talk with Me on that one much more than I (sorry must do what I can to avoid confusion :D).

@ shaun: I started off in psych, had honors and then changed to advertising.... yeah... i think I DEFINITELY need a shrink.

@ warren: heheheh, it was for his mom, but he was the one that opened the job, hence the revisions were for him. Trust me, I wouldn't contact that fucker if he died because getting a link to hell THAT directly, can't be good.

Make the logo bigger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Make the logo bigger said...

@Joker, no prob. It was a blast. It was good to take my mind off all these fucking boxes.


Everyone else interested in KTH, sorry, didn’t know Amazon would have a shortage. You can order directly from Hadji’s site for $20 here.

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