Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising
by Thomas Kemeny
2022 Oct 15
2022 Oct 16
There are a lot of great advertising books, but none that get down in the dirt with you quite like this one. Thomas Kemeny made a career at some of the best ad agencies in America. In this book he shows how he got in, how he’s stayed in, and how you can do it too. He breaks apart how to write fun, smart, and effective copy-everything from headlines to scripts to experiential activations-giving readers a lesson on a language we all thought we already knew.
This book is not a retrospective from some ad legend. It’s a book that should be instantly useful for people starting out. A guide for the first few years at a place you’d actually want to work.
Traditionally, advertising books have been written by people with established careers, big offices and letters like VP in their titles. They have stories from the old days when people could start in the mailroom. They are talented.
That’s been done.
Who wants another book filled with seasoned wisdom? This is a book written by somebody still getting his bearings. Someone who has made an extraordinary number of errors in a still short career. Someone who has managed to hang onto his job despite these shortcomings.
Notes & Highlights
TV or online or vidoe or whatever it’s called now.
YOU’RE THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST THE EASY WAY.
It’s up to you to get everything you want on film, in edit, in audio, everywhere. There will not be a chance to redo it.
Generally you won’t have to push too much, but if you do, it’s better to have people on set roll their eyes than your CD when you get back to the office.
This isn’t the “trust yourself” speech. It’s the “it’s your ass” speech. Be stubborn, but kind. It’s how winning work is made.
YOUR GUTS WERE ALL OVER THE PLACE.
If a scene feels off it’s because it is off. If you reluctantly agree to a change, you’ll regret it later. Trust other people’s guts too, but be wary of logical explanations for errors. No person will be there to explain to every home viewer why it is the way it is.
When in doubt, go with the Swedes
Follow the “light as a feather” rule; if it’s any more difficult than lifting a feather, most people won’t do it.
Goodbye, nights and weekends
The idiot-proof manifesto is this:
“Blah used to be great, but then blank happened. Shit started to suck, we lost our way and/or times changed. But now there’s product. Changing the way/getting us back to the way we blah. Because in today’s world we need more blah. Product—cleverline.”
Losing a month’s work in five seconds
YOU WILL BE STARTLED BY THE NUMBER OF WAYS AN IDEA CAN DIE.
Your ad is a Fabergé egg rolling through a minefield. Students just make ads good. Professionals make ads good, then watch them die for no reason, and then do it again as if nothing happened.
There’s a lesson I learned from a creative director early in my career that has served me well. Don’t use the word “cool” to describe an idea. Use the word “smart” instead. This semantic switch can have a huge effect. Why? Because when you tell a client an idea is “cool” a voice in their head answers, “you know what’d be cool? If you moved some fucking product!
In reality, clients would ease up if they had any idea how much time and thought went into every piece of communication we create. If they knew that a dozen conversations at three levels of the organization occurred before arriving at 13pt italics. Let the client into your thinking a bit and give them a tour of the process. It’s easier to buy work when you know it’s thoughtful.
ONCE IT’S SOLD, STOP SELLING.