Guest post from Ryan Carroll on why you need to be more than just a CW or an AD.

Your substitute teacher today is Mr. Carroll.
Your substitute teacher today is Mr. Carroll.

Okay, class. Today’s substitute teacher is Mr. Carroll. You remember Mr. Carroll. He was here two weeks ago. I expect you to give him the same respect you give me. People? Settle down, people.

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T-shaped skillset. I hate using this term since it’s so overplayed, but the truth behind the word is important. As a CD, I don’t want just a strong writer; I want a writer that can flex other muscles – shoot and edit content, or write code, or who are DJs at night, or write for McSweeney’s. I need to be able to lean on you for other skill sets beyond advertising writing or art direction.

Any given day, we may be building prototypes for clients, shooting and editing stop-motion videos for Instagram; we even develop new products. There isn’t a “Miscellaneous” department at the agency that handles this work. It’s up to our creatives to execute.

And beyond the tactical value of having these skill sets in the building, when you have skills beyond your core craft, it shows me you’re a hard worker. It shows me you’re a well-rounded thinker and you have a curiosity that pushes you to discover new things.

Side Hustle. I love juniors who have entrepreneurial drive or at the very least have built a their own brand. When I see an art director who has 20,000 followers on Instagram, it shows me they understand branding. When I see a junior writer who built an online Queso business, it shows me she thinks like a businessperson.

It’s this kind of junior who intuitively understands the realities our clients live and breathe every day. Combine this side hustle with the other things I [wrote for this blog two posts ago] and you’ll be an unstoppable force. The days of “crazy creatives” with crazy ideas are gone. Budgets are smaller, problems are aplenty and it’s nearly impossible to find a client who will gamble on an idea that isn’t directly tied to solving an actual business problem. That’s not to say audacious ballsy ideas aren’t still needed. But when they’re tied to a solid strategy and solve a business problem, they aren’t audacious anymore. They’re just smart.

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Ryan’s bio: Hello. I am a Group Creative Director at GSD&M. My work has been recognized by Cannes, The One Show, Communication Arts, The Webbys, FWA, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Early Show on CBS (which made my Mom proud) and Maxim magazine (which made my Dad proud).  I like tacos. Follow me @digiryan

Examples of Work –

Guest post from David Baldwin: On creating great work.

Pisses me off that he's both handsome AND talented. Would it kill ya to be just one, David?
Kinda pisses me off that he’s both handsome and talented. (Would it kill ya to be just one, David?)

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with my old friend David Baldwin and was reminded again of why he’s held in such wide esteem by the ad industry. First off, for you students who don’t know his name, you should. I pasted his bio at the bottom, but by way of C.V., it goes: started in the biz 1985 >  Hal Riney > LeonardMonahan > Cole & Weber >  McKinney  > his own shop Baldwin& > board of One Show > and now I believe stores his awards in one of those POD thingys; not sure.


Anyway, I found an old article he wrote for CA magazine and excerpt it here for readers who are ad students. To those young ad geeks I’ve worked with, I direct your attention to the very first two things David lists. Ring any bells?

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Come up with ideas that generate other ideas. Don’t operate in a world of coming up with a commercial (unless that’s the assignment, of course.) One shots are just that. No one ever won a battle with one bullet. If you’re working in print don’t try to think of headlines. If you start from a big enough place it will actually be easier to come up with more ideas. The best ideas lead to other ideas. What do I mean by a big enough place?

Start with human truths. No matter what you’re working on use logic and emotion as your guide. My first filter when judging an idea is to ask myself if it’s true. Really true. If it is true, is it well articulated. Often I see great ideas that aren’t well-articulated or executed. Having trouble finding the truth?

Arm yourself with the facts. Nothing replaces relevant information. You cannot create around that which you do not know. You cannot get to the truth with knowing the reality. One other piece of advice, go offsite and concept in a bookstore like a Borders or a Barnes and Noble. You’ll have all sorts of reference within a minutes reach.

Ask the right questions. If you’re hitting a blank wall when trying to come up with something just start asking questions. To yourself and anyone else who will listen. Often by asking the right questions you’ll lead yourself right into some great answers. And coincidentally, right back into the truth.

Be fearless around bad ideas. There is no such thing as a bad idea when concepting. Often the worst ideas are your tour guide to the best ones. It wouldn’t be a cliché if it weren’t so damned true. My ratio of bad to good is probably 50 to one. I fill pages with bad. I build a monument to good on a trash heap of crap. I have worked with some people who almost never seem to come up with a bad idea. But it’s rare, and I’m certainly not one of those people.  If you are one of those people, congratulations. The real challenge is knowing the difference between the good and the bad.

Be honest with yourself. Come on, you know if something is good or not. You really do. If you don’t, that’s your problem right there.

Share your ideas with others. Bounce them off your spouse or your friends. If they don’t make sense to someone you know they won’t make sense outside of your agency.

Like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it. It’s like working out in a gym. You get in shape and you’re able to lift more weight, do more reps and the like.

Remember it’s not supposed to be easy. That’s why they call it work.


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See you next time with more great advice on getting a job from my buddy Ryan Carroll, GCD at GSD&M.
David’s Bio: One of the most awarded copywriters and creative directors in the advertising business today, David Baldwin is the founder of Baldwin& which was named Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year after only three years in business and the Four A’s O’Toole Award for best body of work from a small agency after only five years. The former Chairman of the One Club in NYC, David was also an executive producer for the Emmy winning film, Art & Copy, and an associate producer for the Emmy and Peabody Award winning film The Loving Story, and a guitarist/songwriter for the band Pants whose CD, “Twice the snake you need” can be found on iTunes or His work and writings have been featured in numerous publications and college textbooks on advertising.

Guest post: Ryan Carroll, GSD&M, on getting hired.

This is Ryan. His partner, Scott Brewer, is much better looking.
This is Ryan. His partner, Scott Brewer, is much better looking.

I met Ryan Carroll when I worked at GSD&M in Austin. He was a young writer then, and now he’s a big shot, group creative director and won’t take my calls. It was his team that came up with last year’s Radio Shack spot on the Super Bowl: “The ’80s Called.”  You can read a bit more about that spot and about his partnership with Scott Brewer on FWA. On a recent phone call he told me he was frustrated, looking through too many junior books to find a good creative hire. I said, dude, write a guest post for me, and he did.

Most student books look/feel/sound alike and most CD’s I’ve talked with agree. This shouldn’t be too surprising. There are really five or six solid portfolio schools out there. Schools teach a method and students apply that method and so perhaps it’s no surprise most books look similar. The gene pool is pretty shallow.

So as you build your book and your site, it’s more important than ever to find your own voice and style. Just like you do for the brands you work on, you need to make your own brand stand out; to take those lessons you’re being taught and make them your own.

Here are some things I look for when reviewing a book:

1.) I want more than just ads. I want to see you solve business problems. Identify a problem for a brand and then show me how your idea can make the client money. How your idea will attract more customers or make people look at the brand in a completely different way.

Here are two great examples from a student book. His name is Maxx Delaney and we just hired him.



As you can see in the video, for Citibank, he (and his partners) invented a product that would attract an entirely new group of investors. And in the Netflix video, his idea gives millions of users an entirely new reason to use the product. These are the types of problems modern creatives need to be able to solve. This is much more than advertising. It’s about business.

[HeyWhipple’s note: I love Maxx’s About Me paragraph: “Maxx Delaney likes to think about stuff and then write about those thoughts that he thought while he was thinking about things.”]

2.) More than integrated campaigns, I want to see you execute an idea brilliantly with a given technology.

Too often, I see this – an integrated campaign that shows me how your pantyhose idea can work for TV, works on Facebook, works in a bus shelter and then – drum roll – an iPhone app. (Because we all know people can’t wait to download another brand’s app.) The problem is that the extension ideas are rarely as strong as the initial idea.

When I see this, I believe the student is trying to convince me it’s a big idea because, look, it’s in all these places. Instead, just pick a technology (mobile) or platform (Instagram) and show me a brilliant idea that makes the most out of that technology or platform. Make me look at using Instagram in a way no one’s thought of and I will love you forever. Or at least hire you.

[Ryan had lots of other cool stuff to say and we'll be posting that in a week.]