“You’re probably better at this than we are,” admitted Associate Creative Director Jordan Eakin to a roomful of VCU Brandcenter students. In fact, that was the not so smooth but completely sincere title of the presentation given by him and his fellow VCU alums, ACD David Sloan and Account Planner Kerry O’Connor. The truth is, while Brandcenter students are some of the best-prepared future advertisers, they still can be gobsmacked by all the stuff they didn’t learn during their two years in hot pursuit of creativity. But no worries there, because Jordan, Kerry and David took the students on a journey from client and creative briefings to creative testing, the shoot, the mix, the edit — all the way to bringing the baby home. Here is some of their hard-earned wisdom:
• Client briefs can be the most unbeautiful documents you’ll ever see. But if you learn their business, learn their language, the stuff you see won’t shock you as much. You’ll know it’s important and why it matters. Remember, clients expect you to make work that will move their business. “In fact, there should be a class devoted solely to understanding how clients make money,” said Kerry.
• Don’t just sell to your client. Listen to your clients. Give them as much ammo as you can to help them explain why your idea will grow their business. Give them a way to help sell an idea internally.
• Help teams find the awesome at the creative briefing. Don’t schedule it for 6 p.m. when everyone is tired. Don’t present the brief in a crappy room. Think about mindset, energy and moods. You want everyone in the room to find the awesome — so help them do it.
• Have an idea worth producing. Know that whatever idea you put in front of a client might be the very one they choose. If you think you might get stuck with an idea you weren’t wild about, don’t offer it up in the first place. The test? Only present ideas you are willing to leave your wife/husband/partner/kids/dog/cat for.
• “The idea is just the beginning, and the shoot is just one of many steps, said David. “There are literally dozens of interworking pieces of the production process outside of the shoot itself — everything from casting to wardrobe to director treatments to music to edit to post effects and all the shit in between. And any one of them, done wrong, can wreck a spot. Remember: Everything is important.”
• Don’t touch anything on a set. Guaranteed, somebody will yell at you. Go get a bagel instead.
• A 45-minute break on the set does not mean you should eat that second or third bagel. Stay away from craft services. And be non-hungover for the edit. Remember, 17 hours of footage becomes your 30 seconds.
• And the most important advice of all? Wash your hands. A lot.