Author: adminmose

Latest Work: Grand Canyon University

With high school seniors everywhere beginning to make their college commitments, we thought now would be a good to time to show some of the work we’ve been doing for Grand Canyon University. Few industries are more competitive than secondary education. There are thousands of colleges a high school student could consider, and making it to the final consideration set can be a challenge for any institution of higher learning. You’ve probably seen our television spot if you live in the southwest or in southern California, but that’s only a small part of how we’re helping this private christian higher education stay top of mind for graduating students and parents.

One of the more dynamic projects we have undertaken was a personalized digital site for potential freshman. Instead of simply providing a form to fill out, we took the opportunity to build an authentic GCU experience catered to that student, that also demonstrated a bit of GCU’s personality. Yes, it lead the student to ask for more information, but we wanted it to be more. We included a multimedia introduction to the school, a campus tour, downloadable content, and a chance to further customize their experience via an interactive dorm room mini-fridge where they could load their own Instagram photos from their feed. Students could then share their creation on their Facebook news feed, which in turn invited their friends to initiate their own look into GCU. When it was all said and done the site saw a 13% form conversion rate and helped turn interested students into advocates for the GCU experience.

Digitally speaking we built the site initially as a parallax site (which ‘fakes’ dimension and movement by letting the mouse scroll mimic a change in the viewer’s perspective.) This has been a pretty hot trend in development over the last few years, but we ended up adding enough substance and narrative to it that the effect took a back seat to the content. In other words, it wasn’t a shallow experience. By showing them a taste of what the university is all about and connecting that to them as individuals, we didn’t need to ask the students to fill out a form. The experience was so engaging it convinced them to seek out a relationship with the school of their own accord.

You can try it out by typing this url:  FirstName.LastName.futurelope.com

8 Semesters

On the more traditional side, we also concepted, designed and produce two separate viewbooks for Grand Canyon University. Acting as the proverbial first impression, these viewbooks needed to transport potential students into picturing themselves at GCU. While the parent viewbook needed to give enough information about the GCU school experience that they would feel comfortable sending off their precious offspring. For the students we decided to walk them through a whirlwind tour of what 8 Semesters of student life would look, feel and be like at GCU.

For the parents, we wanted to show them what college life would be like for them too, as well as provide them with all the information they would need to make a sound decision for their young student. These books are sent to any interested student by mail, to hundreds of high schools, and handed out personally during campus tours. One can’t overestimate their importance, especially when they have to stand out from the crowd. Every school produces a viewbook, we had create a compelling way to share the Canyon story and facilitate a student’s vision of becoming a ‘Lope.

GCU Outdoor Campaign

Phoenix is in the middle of becoming a college town and GCU is becoming the city’s university. In an effort to paint the town purple, we’ve developed an outdoor campaign that utilizes the look of the 8 Semesters piece above and shares a little message about the university along the way. These outdoor boards were done in both traditional and digital formats, and are all rotated around the city, so that a resident will gradually see almost all of the creative. They are big, bold and if you live in Phoenix—you can’t miss them.

hese are just a few of the projects we’ve been partnering with GCU on; there are plenty more in the works. And if you have a high school student in your home, we believe we’ve made a strong case why Grand Canyon University should be one of the school’s you consider visiting this year.

‘Lopes Up!

Why do so many advertising people hate advertising?

I had a striking revelation the other day that will surprise a lot of people who see all the glitz and glamour associated with the rock-and-roll of the business world. That realization is this: A lot of people hate advertising. No, I’m not talking about consumers. I understand why they may hate advertising, and too often rightfully so. I’m talking about ad people. A lot of them either hate their agency, hate the work they help create, hate their clients, or simply hate the industry entirely.

Let me elaborate with three recent examples.

1. Sunshine shines a light on the industry.

A few weeks ago, a video featuring a McDonald’s commercial production in China went viral. The film, Sunshine, followed a producer named John Benet while on a shoot in Shanghai for agency, TBWA and was directed by Doug Nichol (of Partizan) who just happened to be the director of the two McDonald’s spots. Behind-the-scenes and out-take videos are quite common but this video was a little bit different. This video featured Benet speaking to his personally disappointing career and frustrations with the industry and himself for squandering his talents on such commercial projects.

Making matters worse for both the producer and director (who will be lucky to ever work again), is that neither TBWA or McDonald’s gave them permission to shoot or release the film and both were none too pleased given the brush with which both parties were painted. Quoted on AdAge, Benet is quoted as saying, “I have to admit, if I’d known Sunshine was going to become what it has I would have been more careful about the things I said, but I guess since I never expected so much to come of it — certainly not that I’d be defending it in a magazine article; I just said what was on my mind, which maybe isn’t always the best idea, especially in terms of my job security.” No kidding. For someone who isn’t sure he wanted to work in advertising, he (and the producer) may have just gotten their wish.

Much to the chagrin of its two stars, Sunshine will also be making the rounds in the film festival circuit. The film is a bit long at 15 minutes, but it’s worth watching. There are some truly funny moments (often at the expense of the companies who were paying the tab), but you realize quickly that the ad guy featured is not so Sunshine to borrow a theme.

2. The Gawker point, counterpoint, Counter-counter point.

Coincidentally, it wasn’t a week prior that a series of articles on Gawker caught the attention of ad folks everywhere, and hit on a similar tune. Hamilton Nolan first wrote an article titled simply, “Do Not Go Into Advertising.” Nolan starts out by generalizing that most ad creatives are forced into the industry due to economic forces beyond their control and somehow rationalize that decision to themselves, and in turn justify it as a legitimate career choice to other creatives. While I would argue against the purpose of his article, I would agree that there are (unfortunately) a lot of creative folks who fit his description. Working in advertising because, “I just kind of fell into it” or “to help pay for my real artistic passion” or “because my parents wouldn’t pay for art school.”  These are things I’ve heard with my own ears. There seem to be a lot of sad souls working in a business they don’t enjoy.

There was a response on Gawker by Drew Magary, posted a mere three and a half hours later called, “Counterpoint: What the Fuck Makes You Too Good for Advertising?” In it, Magary starts out by listing a few talented artists who have worked in the industry which included James Joyce, David Fincher, and Salman Rushdie among others. I would have added a fellow by the name of Theodor Seuss Geisel for more emphasis, since his advertising career was almost as impressive as his books. But that’s just me. Regardless, the point that many talented folks have worked in advertising is an easy case to make.

Magary then lists a few reasons why these people flourished after working in advertising. Summing them up:

  1. Advertising forces you to get to the point, and reduces self-indulgent tendencies.
  2. Advertising gives you the variety which helps you improve as an artist.
  3. Advertising teaches you persistence and the ability to generate more and more ideas, often better than the first one you thought was so perfect.
  4. Advertising teaches you that your creativity isn’t so precious, and that everything doesn’t have to be about you.
  5. Advertising teaches you to be a creative professional. Within a budget, within rules, and on schedule.

The gist of his piece is that advertising can teach creatives how to be successful both artistically and commercially. It’s important to note that I agree with Magary on all of these points and would say that advertising can build your creative muscles by making you faster, more resilient, and better creatively. It’s definitely a tough fitness regimen for your artistic skills. No question. The problem here is that all of these points are made to suggest that advertising makes you a better artist, but not that advertising in itself is a legitimate way to ply that creativity. Is advertising not something worthy of creative pursuit? Is it only worthy as a mere stepping stone to something better?

Magary ends the article this way: “I worked in advertising for ten years. It’s not the greatest job in the universe, and it’s an industry as prone to nauseating self-congratulation as any other. The clients are dicks. The creative directors are dicks. The account people are morons (I know because I was one). It’s a terribly frustrating job for anyone trying to be an “artist” or whatever the fuck. But that’s precisely the point. You’re not an artist. You’re just a shithead, and it would serve you well to learn how to work within limits, and with other people’s creative input. Who says you have nothing left to learn about how to be a writer or a director or a designer? Who says working in an actual job can’t help you become better at what you do?

What if what I really want to do IS advertising? And what if I don’t think clients are dicks, but actually people trying their best to do their jobs like anyone else? It is a service industry, right? So, while I want to like this piece, it turns out that Magary is just another ad person who didn’t really want to be an ad person at all. It’s also important to note that Nolan rightfully counter-counter-pointed (barely one hour later) Magary with this article titled, “Says the Guy Who Got the Fuck Out of the Advertising Industry.” In it he responds, “I encourage you all to go to prison,” you tell them. “If you should be fortunate enough to escape one day, you’ll have great survival skills that can be put to use in something worthwhile!

Let all this soak in for a second—advertising is prison!—while I give you one final example of more ad people hating advertising.

3. The Bogusky Effect.

On July 1, 2010, Alex Bogusky announced to the world via press release that he was resigning from MDC Partners, the parent company of perhaps the most famous advertising agency of the last 15 years or so, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. When interviewed by Fast Company later that day, Bogusky declared that not only had he quit MDC and the agency that he helped start, but that he was also quitting the ad business entirely. When interviewed by the New York Times on the same day, he had this to say,

“You start to search for the more genuine version of yourself” at a point in your life, “and I’m doing that.” “I’m exploring and figuring out what is that genuine version,” he added, “and it’s not really consistent with corporate life” because in that realm “you’re kind of in the ‘get yours’ mode.” “I don’t think I’ll do much advertising” moving forward, Mr. Bogusky said, because “I’ve done plenty of it; I’m not able to find challenges in it.” “Mostly, what I want to do is participate in this cultural revolution that’s happening,” he added, “happening mostly outside of advertising.”

So, even the King of Advertising (sic) doesn’t find advertising to be fulfilling or worthy of his talents? What the heck is going on here? Why are there so many miserable people working in advertising? Why is someone like Bogusky suddenly above working in the industry, or better put, why is advertising below him?

Two years later, Alex Bogusky is still working in advertising even if he calls it something else. His Fearless Movement and social innovation group, COMMON, are both thinly veiled versions of a traditional advertising agency. Check out their services, sound familiar?  He can afford to soft-sell his skills because he’s wealthy beyond most of our imaginations. He sold his agency and was paid handsomely for it. He reaped the benefits of that sale and the advertising business for many many years. He can do what he wants, but this declaration that advertising is somehow illegitimate is troubling at best and hypocritical at worst. All due respect Mr. Bogusky, you didn’t leave advertising. You just started your own agency. No need to be ashamed.

As an aside, you can see this shame expressed industry-wide over the last few years in the form of advertising agencies and schools and people refusing to call advertising advertising. They’ll call it anything but, under the guise that we’re all post-advertising somehow. Or somehow above advertising. My own alma mater and a place that I hold dear, the VCU AdCenter, is now called the VCU Brandcenter for crying out loud. Rest assured, they are still teaching wonderfully talented people the craft of advertising and doing it better than anyone else. Sure, there are many more tools we utilize these days but it’s still selling. Why is that somehow a less prestigious part of a product or service getting to market? Call it branding, communications, insurgency, or whatever else you want, but there is no shame working in advertising unless you bring it. But that’s a different article for another time.

I have done a lot thinking on why it is that so many people in advertising are unhappy working in advertising and here’s a short list pulled from my experiences in this wacky business.

6 reasons why so many advertising people hate advertising.

  1. The Unhappy might work on huge multinational clients and are disillusioned with the effect they feel they are having in the world and feel somewhat guilty from profiting from it. (Our poor Sunshine star seems to fit the bill, here.) They feel like sellouts because in some way they are. They are producing not just advertising that is visible to the world, but more importantly advertising that is usually bad. Any artist would be miserable creating bad art or art they don’t believe in. (Few are the folks working on large global brands that are producing quality creative on a consistent basis. Few but not zero.)
  2. The Unhappy believe they can convince people (as if they were sheep) to consume more and more like some sort of pathetic zombies. Perhaps they’ve read a lot of Ad Busters or something. They don’t see their consumers as smart beings capable of discerning their own wants and needs, but as victims of the Unhappy’s crimes. Personally, I think within reason, people can make their own decisions and discern advertising messages for what they are.
  3. The Unhappy work in agencies owned by global holding companies (which are really just banks) and are miserable because those holding companies treat them like numbers. They are relegated to mere billable hours not strategically creative individuals with something unique to offer the world. (For a few shorts years, I was one of these poor souls.) To be fair, they may simply be good people in the wrong situation who would otherwise be happy. Perhaps. But they are miserable nonetheless. I have a few friends that would fit this description, and I look forward to their exodus. They know who they are.
  4. The Unhappy are people like Nolan who simply feel like advertising is not a worthwhile or legitimate way to spend their time, effort and talent. These people should just quit. They aren’t doing themselves or their agencies or most importantly their clients any favors. Why they don’t simply go back to school or pick up another trade that IS worthwhile is beyond me.
  5. The Unhappy might be people who were drawn to the industry expecting all the glory and fun that can come with it, without fully grasping all the hard work. What you don’t see in ‘The Brochure’ is the super long hours, weekends at work, stress, service-industry role, the ever-evolving skills one must learn to adopt or die, and the vast number of times you’ll start over. It’s a tough job. The fun stuff is part of the reward, sure, but for the right people (and agency) the process is the real joy. It’s actually more of a blue-collar job than most people realize. When done correctly, anyway.
  6. Finally, The Unhappy could simply be unhappy people in general. Nothing we can do about that. They just need a few sessions on a black couch somewhere.

Would you hire a plumber that hates plumbing?

You might at this point be asking yourself, why does it matter that so many people in advertising seem to hate advertising? Why should a client care if they employ such a place full of such people? Well to use another blue-collar example, I would rather go to a plumber who is wholeheartedly enthusiastic about his craft versus a plumber who always dreamed of being a pilot. Wouldn’t you? I would rather not pay a plumber who is only doing it because of the money. Or a plumber who feels like being a plumber is somehow beneath him or her. Or even a plumber who is part of a large, uncaring network of licensed plumbers. Why? Because I believe that a happy plumber would be excited to work on my project. And because of that happiness, he or she would be willing to invest all of their energy into being the very best plumber they can possibly be and my project the best that it can be for the money they are paid. I also believe that happiness would go freely into their work and they’d be more detail-oriented and way more likely to take pride in their craft. They’d probably spend their spare time thinking about how to be an even better plumber. To put it simply, I’d trust a happy plumber about 1,000 times more than an unhappy one. I have no research to back this up, but I don’t think anyone would argue with this.

Finding an advertising agency that actually loves advertising.

The same is true when hiring an ad agency. The next time your company is looking for an advertising agency, do yourself a favor and find one full of people who are thrilled to be working in advertising. (If you look closely you’ll be able to tell. Happiness can be a tricky thing to fully fake.) Find an agency that is not just excited to take your money but one that is thrilled to be solving your problems, one that you’d suspect would solve your problems for free, if they didn’t respect their industry or themselves enough to make you pay for it. Look for an agency whose building has a few lights on way past closing time. (To generalize, too many lights on means people are forced to stay. Hate. Just a few means people are there mainly out of choice and because of passion. Love.) Try to find an agency that when pitching solutions to you, they don’t transform into smarmy car salesmen, but remain the same people you met in the honeymoon phase.

Try to find an agency that not only loves advertising, but one that studies it, stays current, and one that lives and breathes it day in and day out for your benefit. But also for the fun of it. Find an agency that is fulfilled by the work they do, not just at the top of the org chart but at the bottom. Do yourself a favor and find an agency that considers advertising every bit a part of the manufacturing process and every bit as valid as turning a wrench, producing a shoe, or shipping a box. The people that respect the industry like that tend to produce the best work and sleep better at night. And we all know how a good night’s sleep can make you a happier person.

In order to find such an agency you may need to look past Madison Avenue, or high-profile industry celebs, or even the shops featured in The Pitch. It might even take a bit more time and wit to sort the happy from The Unhappy. It may require a slightly less-traditional pitch process or selection criteria, as well. But whatever you do, don’t pay an agency that actually hates advertising. Do this and you’ll eventually end up hating the advertising they produce for you. (Chances are, they hate it too. That’s another dirty industry secret.) Like a happy plumber, you’ll trust a happy agency a lot more.

If you need help finding one, I can point you in the right direction.

Take five with Jason

Jason Smith has returned to Moses Anshell as a Vice President and Creative Director. From 2003-2005, he was an Associate Creative Director at MA. Jason brings his award-winning creative back to the Valley after working around the world, most recently in San Francisco for Engine Company 1. He’s a proud graduate of the VCU Adcenter (now Brandcenter,) a program for which he now serves as a mentor. It’s already summer in Arizona – but we’ll turn up the heat as he answers five burning questions.

Take five with Jason:

1. How does it feel to be rejoining our band of agency misfits? I’m thrilled to be back at Moses Anshell. Louie was a huge influence on me as a creative and as a person so it’s great to be able to pay that back by helping him redefine what a small, independent, creatively-driven, post-digital agency can do today. Helping build the next version of MA is going to be a lot of fun.

2. Why Moses Anshell?
 Moses Anshell has a history of producing award-winning work, building long-term client relationships, and using its independence for good for three decades. We are in a unique position to have such a long and rich heritage, but also to have the courage to completely reinvent ourselves when necessary. I don’t know many agencies that can match that combination of legacy and vision, or our appetite for changing the rules. Our best work is in front of us and that is saying something.

3. UAE, then San Francisco… then Phoenix? I’ve been all over the world, worked for agencies big and small, with clients of all descriptions, alongside people of many diverse backgrounds. And this is exactly where I want to be. Not in New York or even my beloved San Fran. Not at Goodby or W+K (Great shops, obviously.) And certainly not toiling away inside a shop owned by one of those monolithic global holding companies—they’re not good for employees or clients, by the way. I want to be here because of the talent that walks through the building each day. The pieces are in place for us to be THE agency where clients can come for inspiration, advice and strategically-creative answers regardless of the medium or technology required.

4. So much has changed in the industry in the last few years. What’s your read on all of that change? Some people are frustrated with the constant change and chaos in the advertising and communications industries. Quite frankly, some people are scared. Bedlam is the norm. But honestly, I feel like the industry has come to me a bit over the years. Never before have more tools been available for us to tell our clients’ stories in a meaningful way, and that is terribly exciting. When I look around Moses Anshell, I see many other people who have embraced this upheaval and owned it too, so we all share this common bond of sorts. Where some agencies are scared, we’re confident that we know what we’re doing.

5. Where is the creative bar set for Phoenix?   Phoenix has the potential to be the next creative hub in the U.S. I believe Moses Anshell will — like it has for most of the last three decades — lead that charge (though in ways Louie may not have ever imagined when he opened the doors). Our competition isn’t with local shops, whether little digital boutiques or branches of larger networks, or any of those types of Phoenix agencies. Moses Anshell will be competing with the biggest and best agencies in the country for the hearts, minds and loyalty of the most savvy of clients. In the end, this will be a very good thing for the collective creative cred of the city.