Portfolio, Portfolio! Wherefore Art Thou, Portfolio?

Remember the days when your resume was enough to get your foot in the door at a company? In 2013 if you are a Creative, chances are your portfolio is more important than your resume. As a recruiter I’m finding that, especially with recent advancements in digital media, having a resume just isn’t enough anymore. Your portfolio is your visually attractive representative, which should speak volumes about you. Ya know, kind of like an online dating: a hybrid of content and images.

Here are a few recurring issues I see with portfolios and how to fix them:

Thing 1: “The User Experience”

User Experience (or UX) is exactly how a person feels about using a system. For example, ever try to purchase concert tickets, or airfare online and can’t find anything you are looking for? How do you feel about that? Probably not motivated to go back to that website, right? Here’s the deal: your goal when creating a portfolio of any kind is to make it as easy as possible to navigate through and get to the areas you are looking for.

Thing 2: “I’m Ready For My Close Up”

Copywriters, listen up. I’m entering your portfolio to review the concepting behind the taglines, short form, or long form copy you have written. Screen shots in super small font are not only frustrating for the individual, but raise concern that you are “trying to hide” your work and just showcase the prestigious client/brand. If I need to move reeeeeeally close up to my computer screen, my first constructive criticism will be to ask you to change the font.

Thing 3: “A Little Make-Up Never Hurts”

Hi again, Copywriters. The reality is this: we are looking at your portfolio to see your content and how conceptual you can be. But a little visual stimuli can go a long way (remember, we want our viewers to have a positive user experience, right?). So, I would definitely encourage you to pump in some color, contrast, images, logos, whatever you think is going to best showcase your sense of individual style.

Thing 4: “Can I Have a Bedtime Story, Please?”

Well hello, Information Architects and UX professionals. In addition to seeing samples of your user personas, workflows, wireframes and sitemaps, I want to see a storyboard. Talk me through the process of “what goes on.” How did you get from the requirements to the end product? Everyone loves a good story.

Thing 5: “Separation Anxiety”

Okay, this is my major pet peeve and it ties into Thing 1. If I’m looking at Copy or Art samples in the Health and Wellness category, it would be a time saver if there are labels which differentiate the Health Care Professional work (HCP) and the Direct to Consumer (DTC) and Director to Patient (DTP) work. Why? Because even though recruiters analyze portfolios, we kinda, sorta need you to spell it out for us. That’s why you are the awesome, talented Creative and we are the Talent Finders. Make it easy for us! Group your pieces in the Health and Wellness category, but differentiate the goods.

So, what have we learned today, class? Make your content easily readable, add a little panache, talk us through your work and differentiate your materials. Why? Because the end goal is to engage your audience and create a positive user experience which will increase the number of clicks your portfolio receives every day.

For more information on job opportunities, portfolio advice, or interview skills, connect with me on Linkedin and get on my radar!

Jana Kleinman Photo
jana kleinman graduated from suny buffalo in 2005 with a ba in psychology and concentration in marketing. she began her career in media buying and planning at Universal McCann and Cline, Davis, Mann in nyc before discovering her true calling as a talent scout for advertising and media agencies. jana pursued a bs from the school of psychology and education at touro while working full time as a recruiter. with 6+ years of talent networking experience, want to get on jana’s radar? connect with her on Linkedin.

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guest post: a woman’s personal brand

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forget sheryl sandberg for a second. let’s focus on joan holloway. christine hendriks’s character on Mad Men is a ship’s figurehead on the turbulent seas of the late sixties. she makes the most of her admirable figure and her character’s fashion sense, portraying a woman far smarter than she is given credit for, or gives to herself.

she attempts to make an executive decision and is put in her place by a coworker who knows the dirty secret of how she came to be on the board. her fellow board members will always take her side because they know she’s their company’s true brand, for a mix of right and wrong reasons. you can feel her ruminating about this for the rest of the episode as she winds up emotionlessly kissing strange men and putting herself down when conversation arises about her title and experience. “don’t forget she’s also a mom!” the writers remind us as joan’s mother leaves her baby boy in her lap.

joan’s struggle with self is far more complex than don draper’s, whose past was laid out for us long ago. don is the son of a prostitute and an adulterous liar with double standards. his wife can’t even kiss a man on camera for her acting job; nope, that makes her a whore: i’m so mad at wifey now…i better go sleep with my neighbor’s wife! oh and how it must hurt don that the invincible peggy, now the competition, has even taken his catchphrases to land a client. the women are stealing his soul! succubi!

i’ve just had a heated discussion with a client about the concept of brand consistency. contemplating this after a shower, i wrap myself in a towel and stomp outside to share with my husband some important words on his company’s brand, as he’s developing ideas on the porch. i stand there in a towel, freezing and dripping, reminding him i do indeed know what I’m doing. no argument there…and why did you come outside in a towel? ok, so at least I’m passionate about what i do. i get dressed, dry my hair and put on makeup. me time, but a distraction nonetheless.

women may always struggle to find their personal brands. in addition to many forms of pressure, there are more appearance-based choices — each with their own perceived implications. almost any men’s clothing department is a boring banner of military sameness: navy blue punctuated by little bits of bright color for the adventurous. the focus is on the man, not the suit. virtually any women’s clothing department is an explosion of color and style, always changing with the season. i can never keep up and don’t try to. Chanel may be timeless, but for those of us who can’t afford her, “when in doubt, wear black.” i just punctuate my black with full strength magenta: done.

then in a delicious irony, my dear friend velvet d’amour calls from paris to have me do the layout for the current issue of her groundbreaking body image/fashion magazine, Volup2.
hell, yes! if you are not familiar with velvet’s work as a photographer and gorgeous plus-size fashion icon, you must Google her bold strut down the runway wearing a t-shirt that reads PLEASE FEED THE MODELS. this is a chick who knows her brand.

–michele gilman

michele

a creator of copy + visuals for Trader Joe’s, michele also has years of improv comedy experience and brings a signature quirkiness to her blog at www.whatisabrand.wordpress.com. she’s currently working on a Mediabistro advertising certificate, and helming Designvoice, Inc. (when not enjoying her 7-year-old daughter). follow her on twitter at @mamagills.

your brain on your sleeve & your heart on the table

before coming to ad school, i had a question that was never sufficiently addressed: just what is ad school?

i tried the logical cartesian approach. there were two parts — advertising and school. so that must mean that it’s a place where you get the rudiments of commercial messaging, a sort of 3 r’s approach for the marketing set: reading, writing and return on investment.

but the more i researched, and the more ad school portfolios i read, i found that no two were alike despite being produced by people who’d had, ostensibly, a similar experience. instead, i found creative and smart people offering solutions to all sorts of real-world challenges, from how to make a search engine as useful as it could be to reducing homelessness in major cities.

and then i started hearing stories about what people were doing once they actually started working. and these pursuits were even broader. but i needed clarity, so i decided to drop into miami ad school for a visit.

i toured with the advisor, eva, and she showed me a few classrooms, all of which were outfitted with every tool a digital creative could dream of. then she pointed out the ping-pong tables in the common space and said, “this is where a lot of our students knock ideas back and forth.”

after that, we sat down and had a long conversation about motivation, creativity and success. ad school was turning out to be like some exquisite stone turned up on the beach. the more i turned it, more colors appeared.

so i decided that if i was to ever know for sure what ad school was, i’d just have to attend. and i did attend miami ad school. i’m still in my first month, and i still don’t have an answer to my question. i’m not sure i ever will.

this is what I’ve noticed so far. the idea reigns supreme, but no one will listen to you if you’re a jerk –– so don’t be a jerk. you’ll be presenting all the time, and since insincerity lacks luster, it pays to keep it real. besides that, it doesn’t really matter who you are as long as you’re willing to always wear your brain on your sleeve and leave your heart on the table. and be curious. it’s questions, not answers, that matter most.

by evan burton

Evan Burton bio picevan burton is a writer from brooklyn. he thinks there’s no metaphysics on earth like oysters and champagne. you can reach him at evan@evanburtoncreative.com

work with a staffing firm: yes or no?

some of you talented individuals may be wondering about the benefits of partnering with a staffing firm.

every staffing firm operates differently, but we all have the same common goal: to match our clients’ job openings with the best candidates for the job. if you’ve never worked with a staffing firm before, or had a poor experience, here are the top 8 reasons you should consider developing a relationship with a talent agent:

benefit #1: we have access
staffing firms have been in business for a while, so we have really gotten to know our clients inside and out. we have access to their job openings, particularly the freelance and unique, hard to fill ones, before they hit the open web.

benefit #2: we “get it”
we have been partnering with our clients for years; we know their personal interests, their preferred work styles, sometimes even their favorite dessert. we can relay these insider tips to you before you interview with them, offering you more common ground than the average candidate.

benefit #3: we have the inside track
clients have a million jobs to do. they don’t really have the time to sort through the tons of resumes entering their web portal, so they put their faith in talent managers to send qualified talent that matches their needs.

benefit #4: we do our best to get feedback for you
ever submit your resume to a job and get no response…for months on end? if a client isn’t interested in your background, we do our best to find out why. this will help you improve your resume and interview skills or figure out what types of roles to be applying for to save you time.

benefit #5: building relationships
if you partner with a talent agent who has nothing for you on tuesday, it’s very likely by friday morning your phone will be buzzing with the opportunity you’ve wanted. by staying in contact with a recruiter, you can continue to access openings for years.

benefit #6: help
we genuinely want to help you get a job. why? because we all benefit and prosper as a result. so we provide constructive criticism in order to help you succeed — perhaps interview pointers, tips on whether or not that trendy nail polish is the right fit for the client you’re meeting, or letting you know if it matters whether the resume paper you’re using is thick or thin. we answer those questions for you, in advance — when you need it most.

benefit #7: we provide referral incentives
every agency works differently, but in my experience, a decent talent manager will have the authority to reward you in some way or another for referring talent if a placement is made. why? it’s good karma for you (you got your buddy a job!) and it also paves the way for an introduction that would never have existed without your help. so we want to demonstrate our gratitude.

benefit #8: money, money, money
while this isn’t always the case, we usually understand our client’s budget parameters. a professional talent acquisition partner is someone who will be very forthcoming with you about the budget in advance. why? because it does us no good to offer you a mid-level copywriting project when you have acd level experience. we always attach a price tag along with your resume so everyone is kept in the loop about salary expectations.

so…should you work with a staffing firm? sure — just be honest and transparent about what you are looking for and give it a shot.

Jane Kleinman Photo

jana kleinman graduated from suny buffalo in 2005 with a ba in psychology and concentration in marketing. she began her career in media buying and planning at Universal McCann and Cline, Davis, Mann in nyc before discovering her true calling as a talent scout for advertising and media agencies. jana pursued a bs from the school of psychology and education at touro while working full time as a recruiter. with 6+ years of talent networking experience, want to get on jana’s radar? connect with her on Linkedin.

guest post: quickly learn the lingo of brandspeak

perk up your work with a word list

perk up your work with a word list

work on any account and you’ll quickly discover that every industry has a language all its own. on top of that, you’ll notice that every brand has its own special way of saying things, too.

when you’re writing for an account for a while, both brand and industry lingo become second nature. but when first starting a project, the words and phraseology of that trade may not be so obvious. and if you’re presented with a looming deadline, you’re going to need to learn the vernacular fast.

whenever i’ve been thrown into this situation, i’ve devised a little trick to get “word savvy” and build creative momentum. before ever writing a line of copy, i create a “words & phrases list.”

quite simply, i scour both the client’s and competitor’s websites and marketing materials, and jot down 50 to 100 industry-related words, phrases, and expressions for inspiration.
for instance, i recently started writing website copy for a brand of coffee. to avoid using the word “coffee” a gazillion times, my research provided me with alternatives such as blends, brews, roasts, beans, and grinds that i could sprinkle in.

and while i’m sure the coffee is “delicious,” it would be pretty boring if i kept describing it that generically. some alternative adjectives I came across for my list included aromatic, bold, balanced, complex, decadent, delicate, exotic, flavorful, full-bodied, handcrafted, indulgent, lush, premium, rich, satisfying, smooth, and seductive.

because coffee was not top of mind prior to starting this project, would these words have popped into my head without doing this research? probably some, but not all.
another good way to find helpful terminology is to Google industry-related news stories, and to choose the “related words” options at rhymezone.com and the OneLook.com dictionary.

putting the list into practice

during my first week, when assigned to write emails promoting a $5 sampler offer, i pulled out The List. With a menu of coffee-related words at my disposal, the process of generating strategically-sound headlines became that much easier. here’s the result:

SIP, SAVOR AND SAVE.
Try these blends for just $5 each.

GET BEANS FOR BEANS.
Find new favorites for just 5 bucks.

New Perk for New Customers:
BUY & TRY FOR JUST $5.

while wordplay like this may be frowned upon by some brands, others just love it. so know your client.

beyond words, are phrases. and if you’re working on an established brand, chances are, they have an established way of saying things. as writers, we should all strive to develop original and inventive copy. however, some clients are loathe to veer too far from their approved terminology, which they prefer to use again and again to “reinforce the brand.”
so, if in your brand word audit you see the same expressions used over and over again, you may want to throw them in here and there to put a smile on the client’s face. for this particular brand of coffee, pet phrases i massaged into the copy included:

– Distinctively rich, smooth taste that’s never bitter.
– Make your life rich and flavorful every day.
– Experience a uniquely luxurious coffee indulgence at home.

once you’ve compiled your word and phrase list, you then have a database of thought starters you can refer to whenever you need inspiration.

something to keep in mind: the word list may not be the best approach for highly conceptual projects, which initially, are less about words and more about big ideas. but when faced with fast turnaround for a brand or category that’s new to you, the word list could be just the thing to quickly get your creative juices flowing.

what writing tips and tricks work for you? share them here in the Copy Lab!

by mitch lemus, copywriterMitch

over the course of his copywriting career, mitch lemus (www.mitchlemus.com) has written about everything from automobiles to airlines, fast-food to fashion, and technology to travel at some of new york’s top agencies. accounts include Wendy’s Hamburgers (The Kaplan Thaler Group), Ford (Razorfish), and Citibank (Atmosphere BBDO). mitch has also worked directly with Barnes & Noble, American Express, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Capital One. when not getting people to buy, he hopes he can get them to laugh — reading his short stories, parodies and social satires on Pen & Pixel.

dispatches from ad school: meet elina of Miami Ad School

elina rudkovsky, our ad school blogger

introducing elina rudkovsky, our ‘dispatches from ad school’ blogger

i was first introduced to advertising at 19, after dating an art director who worked at GREY advertising. it wasn’t long after that, that i became enamored with an industry i knew almost nothing about except that everyone had a funky haircut, checked their blackberrys incessantly, and referred to themselves as “creative.” i always thought being “creative” meant that you didn’t hate the 45 minutes you spent in art class, or that you’ve been to every museum in new york city, by choice. looking back, i’m not sure what it was that i found appealing but i began to feverishly pursue advertising even after my relationship was over.

the truth is, i think i may have always been a “creative” despite my dislike for the MET (sorry, everyone). i am a writer, always have been. however, coming from a moderately conservative family, i was reluctant to deviate from the norm to become one, professionally. what was i going to write about? did i want to publish a book? was i ready to take on the role of starving artist? i wasn’t sure, but i did know that writing was a passion of mine that i couldn’t just give up on. for years i found comfort in the rips of an old leather couch harbored inside a neighborhood coffee shop, where i spent weekends curled up with my laptop, allowing my imagination to take me on adventures that only the power of the written word could.

i decided on the copywriting program at Miami Ad School after i realized that getting a job in advertising is like trying to have a child without a partner: sure there are ways around it, but ultimately you need a mate and in this case, a portfolio and an art director to bring it to life. starting Miami Ad was similar to starting kindergarten. everything was new, writing no longer seemed innate (wait till you get to Photoshop, it’s like learning how to walk again), and there’s a strong chance you might cry, maybe even on your first day. i’m serious.

during one of my first weeks at Miami Ad, a peer of mine said “we are all in this together” as we stood on a snowy stoop outside the building that is 10 jay st, waiting for our partner to show up to a group meeting. on a saturday! however, what she said was something that has always stuck with me. it has become my comforting go-to thought whenever chaos ensued, and chaos ensues a lot.

i could sit here and bore you with the technicalities that come with ad school and spew out words like “shop” (fancy ad word for agency), “spots” (fancy ad word for commercials/radio announcements), “pixels” (still don’t really know what this means), addy’s (advertising award), but it won’t really capture the essence of what this experience is all about. that’s what ad school is, in a nutshell, an experience. here’s the thing: you will work really hard and as result you will fall in love with your work and just as quickly you will begin to hate your work. you will get over it and move on. you will feel pressure. you will learn about rejection. you will become okay with rejection (or as ok as you can get) because criticism will motivate you to do better. you will get competitive. you will not become an asshole, and if you do become an asshole, do everyone else a favor and pick another career choice because nobody will want to work with you. you will become overwhelmed, and if you’re anything like me, an ” emotional neurotic wreck but funny and composed when necessary” (direct quote from one of my past instructors) you will cry, in the stairwell. but you will not be alone, and in that lies the silver lining. there will always be someone with you on that same stairwell, whether an instructor or a peer, reassuring you that can do it. whatever the “it” may be. i consider myself exceptionally lucky to have found a group of people that are (although in direct competition with me) incredibly supportive, making life seemingly unimaginable without them.

if there’s anything that i hope you take away from this post, it is that ad school is not just an environment where you go to work on your book, but rather a place where you will learn of the greater picture. from concepts, to brands, and yourself as a person, your mind will shift perspective and grow. for me, it’s been a challenging albeit a life-altering experience thus far that i know will be hard to say goodbye to come next december, and i hope it is the same for you.

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com

guest post: nail polish and power tools

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“are mermaids real?”

“i’m not really a waitress.”

no one creates deep-seated want based on name alone like the makers of nail polish.
those are actual names, and yes i’m the sucker who bought that shimmery purple and that garnet red, convinced into purchase by clever names. ok, it didn’t hurt that they were cheap too, but if they had simply been called purple and red, I might have thought twice.

why? what is it about a great name that worms its way into the lizard brain and drives desire? in the case of frivolous stuff like nail polish, it’s the abstract concept; like Infiniti first sold the idea of a car, products like this sell the idea of the color.

the right name makes you smile, conjures images of personal meaning, maybe makes you laugh til you pee a little. imagine if nail polish were sold the way power tools are: “OPI red: 8 grams polyethylene sparkles per ounce, spreads easily.” yawn.

speaking as a woman who’s handy with jigsaws, nail guns and drills, i know i’d be loathe to purchase any power tool marketed like nail polish. Dewalt would lose respect overnight if they created a women-only power tool campaign.

who are you? an opalescent-tailed mermaid? a reliable carpenter installing that hot tub I want in my bathroom? don’t condescend, tell me a story. engage me to dream about what I could do with your brand. speak to me in the voice that makes sense for you.

michele gilman

a creator of copy + visuals for Trader Joe’s, michele also has years of improv comedy experience and brings a signature quirkiness to her blog at www.whatisabrand.wordpress.com. she’s currently working on a Mediabistro advertising certificate, and helming Designvoice, Inc. (when not enjoying her 7-year-old daughter). follow her on twitter at @mamagills.