Recently, someone who’d just graduated from art school was showing me their portfolio.
It was good.
But nowadays most portfolios are pretty good.
It wasn’t anything special.
It wasn’t different.
And, given there aren’t enough jobs for the number of people applying, this is a problem.
For every ten good portfolios, there is maybe one job.
Now I had heard that this particular person was very creative.
But there wasn’t any special evidence of that in his portfolio.
Just half a dozen good campaigns, TV, print, ambient, like most other portfolios.
I asked him why this was.
He said that he had been going around to agencies getting advice and then doing what they told him.
The people who would mainly see him were juniors, who’d recently been hired.
They all told him roughly the same thing.
Which was how to make his book look more like their book.
How many campaigns he’d need, how may press ads, how many TV, how many digital.
Which ideas they liked.
Which ideas were old fashioned.
So every graduate is going to see the people who’ve also graduated recently.
And then changing his book to look more like everyone else’s.
I asked him if he thought his book fully displayed his creativity.
He said it didn’t, but that was what he’d been told he needed.
He’d much rather do something, more creative.
I asked him where it said, in the advertising rule book, that you could only have one portfolio.
He asked me what I meant.
I said I know you have to have a conventional advertising portfolio, but who says that’s ALL you can have?
How bad would it be to say to a creative director, “I’ve got two portfolios, one that’s conventional advertising, and one that’s full of unconventional creativity. Which would you like to see?”
Doesn’t that make you different to everyone else straight away?
Sure, junior teams want to look at books full of advertising.
But junior teams can’t give you jobs.
Just crits.
ECDs can give you jobs, and they clearly don’t want to see just another book full of ads.
They want to see something different.
Something creative.
It was like a light going on in his head.
It had never occurred to him that you didn’t have to follow the rules.
That you could do something different.
This creative person had been led to believe that the rules for an advertising portfolio were as inflexible as the civil service.
Absolutely everybody had to do it absolutely the same way.
Then I asked him what his favourite agency was.
He said Droga 5.
So the next question obviously is, do you think they are doing everything absolutely the same way as everyone else?
Or do you think they’re doing something different?
Isn’t it strange that everyone admires Droga 5 for breaking the rules?
And everyone carries on obeying the rules themselves?
Maybe they’ll stop obeying the rules when someone gives them permission.