I saw a young creative team last week.

They sat down and got ready to open their book up for a crit.

I said, “Before you do that, let’s look at the problem.

How long have you been going round getting books crits?”

They said, “About two years.”

I said, “So, two years of getting book crits hasn’t got you a job, and you want another book crit.

Do you think maybe you’re approaching this in an uncreative way?”

Naturally enough they asked what I meant.

They were getting book crits because that’s what everybody does.

Everyone does the rounds.

Everyone goes to see the same people that everyone else is going to see.

Who give them the same advice they just gave everyone else.

Which is how to make your book look more like everyone else’s.

So now everyone has a good book.

See, in the old days most books were crap.

The mere fact of having a good book was enough to make you different.

That isn’t true anymore.

Nowadays everyone has reasonably good books.

That’s entry level.

The numbers are simple.

Number of colleges with advertising courses, multiplied by number of students in each class.

Add last year’s students who didn’t get jobs yet.

Divide that into number of jobs available.

And you come up with roughly twenty to one.

Twenty people, with similar books, chasing one job.

Why does one person get it, and the other nineteen didn’t.

What makes that one person different?

Well the question is the answer.

They’re different.

New-media guru Faris Yakob wrote on his blog, “In a world of over-capacity, differentiation is everything.”

That’s how advertising works, that’s how advertising’s always worked.

There’s too much stuff.

Too much of everything, everwhere.

Which is why the first, and most important, part of the job is just standing out.

As Bill Bernbach said, “If no one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”

So what’s the answer?

The answer always lies in one of two places.

What you’re selling, or who’s buying.

The product, or the consumer.

The ‘product’ is obviously the physical object.

The ‘brand’ is the impression you make on the consumer.

In the old days, your product (book) was your brand (impression).

A good book was what made you different.

But nowadays everyone has a good book.

So you have to find another way.

You have to work on the brand (impression).

If your product is the same as everyone else, how do you differentiate the brand?

You look for the answer in what you’re selling (yourself) and your target market (creative directors).

Research both thoroughly.

The first thing to do is work out what makes you different to the competition.

In this case, everyone else who wants a job.

I can’t tell you what that is, you have to work that out for yourself.

If you can’t work it out, make it up.

Try different things, see what gets you excited.

You can change it as often as you like

As long as you attack it with energy, a pattern will emerge.

And that will be your brand.

Then your target market: creative directors.

What do they want?

Use your common sense, what would you want in their shoes?

The truth is this: you are the most important thing you’ll ever have to advertise.

You are the product, the brand, the creative dept, the media dept, the client, account handling, and planning.

For the only time in your life, no one can tell you what you can and can’t do.

The good news is, you have complete freedom.

The bad news is, you have no excuses.

Everything you learned about advertising at college was a rehearsal for this.

This is the real thing.

And how you behave becomes your brand.


College starts when you leave College.