The other evening I went to a degree show.

A student began showing me the work in his portfolio:

“This is an app for a phone, it starts recording three minutes before you press it…”

I stopped him.

I said “Hold on a minute, don’t just read me a list of what it does: you’ve got to get me interested first.”

He looked puzzled.

I said “I’m a creative director, make it relevant to me.

Try it this way:

You know how you have your best ideas in the pub, because you’re more relaxed.

But because you’re having a drink, you haven’t got a pen and paper and you forget to write it down, right?”

He nodded.

I said “So we thought, how about immediately you realise you’ve had an idea you press the phone, and it records everything for 3 minutes before you pressed it because it’s on a loop. So you wouldn’t lose any ideas.”

He nodded.

I said “Selling your work is like doing an ad, you don’t just read a list of what the product does.

Talk about my life, what’s in it for me?

Get me thinking “Yeah, I’ve had some great ideas in the pub and forgotten them. I could use that.”

He agreed and he started to read me the next ad.

“This is a radio commercial about how dangerous it is to use your phone while driving…”

I stopped him again.

I said “Don’t just tell me what it is, how did you come up with the idea?”

He said “Well, we were driving along listening to a phone-in show on the radio.  One woman said she was calling from her car. We thought, wouldn’t it be terrifying if she had a car crash live on air? So we turned it into an ad.”

I stopped him.

I said “That’s fantastic, can’t you see that’s much more exciting than just reading me a script off a page. That’s how you sell work.”

And we went through his portfolio doing that for every piece of work.

There’s a belief amongst students that you don’t have to sell the work.

You just open the portfolio and let the work sell itself.

This is true if you’re a genius.

But you’re not.

As a creative director I can tell you 90% of portfolios look the same.

Because everyone’s done the same classes, at the same colleges, with the same teachers, learning the same things.

So how do you make yourself different?

That is after all what advertising is.

As creatives, we take the same thing and sell it better.

And that’s how it is with our portfolio.

You have to sell the work, it doesn’t sell itself.

You have to sell the work the way an ad sells a product.


Unless you’re a genius, which you’re not.