Thursday, May 15, 2014

No corporate fun.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Like, Seriously?



Back in 1992, I did something that only a small group of people could achieve.
I graduated from one of the most prestigious art and design schools in the world as an advertising art director (with a minor in graphic design).

I put in 4 long years toiling at a drafting table.

Thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent on art supplies, pencils, rapidographs, layout boards, markers, Letraset, etc. etc. etc., while studying under some of the best design instructors and artists in the world, to perfect the skills (and craftsmanship) it took to enter these professions.

Over 1300 applied to the college from around the world every year.

But only (roughly) 300 applicants were accepted.

You had to present a full portfolio of work (which I had completed through 4 years of after school programs and life drawing classes during high school) to a panel of 3 instructors and a student.

In my last 2 years at the college, I had the honour of becoming one of those students and sometimes, I wonder how many went on to lucrative careers thanks to my thumbs up?

After the first grueling year studying a wide array of courses, you had to apply again to be accepted into the “Communication and Design” program for the next 3 years.

Again, a select few would make the cut with approximately 60 students making their career aspirations a possibility.
Somehow, with a lot of work and determination, I was one of them.

When we graduated, there was a high sense of pride.

4 years of study.
The same amount required to become a lawyer, or an accountant, or any other white collar professional who made a very decent living and earned a degree of respect in the workforce.

“What do you do?”

I’m an art director and designer.
“Sweet. Which agency?”

Those (like myself) who found their way into ad agencies and design studios were handsomely rewarded for the skills they were taught.

Amazingly, in those years, I had to tie back my ponytail, take out my earrings, and put on a shirt and tie for job interviews.

Anyway, yada yada yada…there’s a brief history.

I’m not going to bore you with yet another tale from the good old “Mad Men” days of this industry.
My blog is filled with these stories (see “I love the smell of rubber cement in the morning”).

Now, you may be asking “Ronnie, what is the point of this post?”


Yesterday, I’m doing a search and I came across a job listing.

It was when I saw the bottom line that my heart sank.

As I said, those of us that were selected to put in 4 long years of study before the days of computers, Creative Suite, the internet, crowdsourcing and design “contests” were a well-respected bunch who belonged to an exclusive club.


Our profession had mystery. It had prestige.


There was a sense of jealousy and awe to those who learned what you did for a living.


Now, here we are in 2013 and once again, I’m just shaking my head.









Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bald Logo. The bald truth.


I had a lot of angry friends and colleagues calling me this month.

“YOU NEED TO HIRE A LAWYER!!!”

It appears an idea I once came up with has gone worldwide.
It’s been getting GLOBAL recognition.
Only, I haven’t received a single ounce of credit for it.

It is now a few weeks later and I have been lying VERY low. Trying to push emotion aside and act rationally. Wondering how I should approach a situation where I have been completely dismissed.

If there are lawyers to get involved, that to me is secondary at this very moment.

Now, this whole story may sound like sour grapes but as a friend of mine pointed out, it would be impossible for it NOT to.

Lying awake, staring at the ceiling trying to figure out my options, I have decided that what I want at this moment is for people to hear the truth.

It’s not because I’m bitter. I’m well past that.
It’s not about me speaking up because my ego was bruised.
It’s because, as a self-proclaimed “creative industry advocate”, I believe it’s my duty.

It’s because as a professional advertising creative director and designer, I believe in intellectual property rights.
I believe the creator of an idea should be given his proper dues.
I believe business is all about personal integrity.

This is what my parents have instilled in me and this is what the business world has taught me.
Personal integrity means everything.

With this said, here is the story…

Back in 2008, I was busy creating a bunch of promotions for a few different ad agencies and I decided to open a unique company. I was going to put advertising on bald human heads.
I named this company “Bald Media”...

http://ronnielebow.blogspot.ca/2009/10/bald-mediaa-new-launch.html

In 2009, “The Canadian Poker Expo” was coming to town and they were looking for vendors. I thought of a poker pro I had played with and befriended that year (at the WSOP in Las Vegas) who had recently opened an online, virtual poker training institute, and I believed my hired head models would be an amazing and unique way to promote his business at the show.
I decided to pitch him the idea.

I teamed up with an amazingly talented airbrush artist named Josh Andrews (Hi Josh), and we did a test run for 2 promotional videos.
One to show off the idea…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Wfsuywl4c

and one to pitch the poker pro/potential client (be sure to take note of the name)…


He didn’t buy into it. But it appeared he liked the concept.
At this very moment, it appears in his public Facebook photo album...

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1058631325794&set=a.1058631005786.8817.1826240023&type=3&theater

(If that goes missing, I’ll be sure to provide a screenshot).


EDIT May 2013: Of course they had it removed. Here's the screenshot....




The online videos I made for the pitch and my request for bald models on an employment website got discovered and I ended up making quite a bit of national press (here is one of them featuring the poker pro’s logo on my head)…

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/bold-bald-statements/article4297378

I pushed the concept to a few large corporations in North America and although there was some interest, the recession in 2009 had hit many marketing budgets pretty hard and they weren’t ready to spend the additional money. They were all trimming the fat.
I did however, hookup with one company who wanted me to come out to California etc. to see if it could fly.  With 2 young children at home, I wasn’t about to start flying across the country to launch a start-up in another city during one of the worst economies in my lifetime.

That year came and went, and I have been busy since then with my work as a freelance creative director.
I put the idea into my back pocket.

The Canadian Website Domain Registry decided to change a whole bunch of their rules (and I was getting annoying non-stop reminders from them about it) so I eventually let the website go (quite recently in fact, I’m guessing at the beginning of this year).
The truth is that I really didn’t feel I needed the website.
Corporations were not online SEEKING such a promotion.

I believe that a promotion of this nature needs to be kept unique. You need the right client, at the right moment and the right event to make it successful. Unleashing it on the masses for anybody and everybody just cheapens the medium and makes it quickly boring. “Oh look, there’s another guy with a logo on his head… Next!”

I wasn’t looking to have people walk around the city with ads on their head for “Joe’s air conditioning repair”. That’s not the clientele I wanted.
Also, a brand can be affected by the actions of the models that are hired.
How the models act in public would be completely my responsibility.
I made sure to screen each and every single model/candidate on my roster to see if they could represent a major brand in a respectable fashion.

I did however, have the right opportunity present itself when a journalist called to bring in my service for his charity fundraiser...

http://www.torontosun.com/news/columnists/mike_strobel/2009/11/13/11731991-sun.html

Flash forward to a few weeks ago.

I was at my desk drinking my morning coffee, and I opened my email to find an industry newsletter to which I subscribe.
At the same time, my phone started to ring.

On my screen was a guy making international news for an AMAZING, ORIGINAL, and UNIQUE idea he came up with...

http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/austin/using-his-head-as-a-bald-billboard

Once I saw the name attached my mouth literally hung open.

To make matters worse (and what has TRULY horrified me) is that he is taking FULL CREDIT for coming up with the idea.

I don’t need to post any links to these claims. You can easily find them yourself.
Just start with his company website.

Recently, some angry designers etc. that follow my blog (and who remember the press I got way back) have begun commenting on his videos etc. and brought some attention to the origin of HIS great idea...

https://www.facebook.com/ModernSalon/posts/380194515407472

Their comments have been quickly and continuously erased from his YouTube videos and I'm guessing this is the reason why the question of where the idea originated are now being skipped.
Like, for example, on live Australian television…

http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/-/watch/31288814/cashing-in-on-baldness

The company video on YouTube now sits at over a quarter of a million hits and he’s being hailed worldwide as a creative genius.
Original and unique.

It even got mentioned on the ELLEN show, and one female blogger actually offered to be his girlfriend...

http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-11-30/be-my-boyfriend-guy-who-rents-his-bald-head-as-ad-space

Now, I must admit, the video is well done.
He also took the PR to a MUCH higher level than I did.
This work is actually commendable.

But after being in the advertising industry for over 20 years this is what I see…

I see a guy who walks into a creative director’s office with a portfolio full of ads that aren’t his.

I see a guy who strolls up to the podium to receive an award for somebody else’s idea and then pats himself on the back for it.

You are allowed to make money as a competitor. As they say, imitation is flattery.
But as a creative professional, it’s the idea that is respected.
Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if the idea flies. That’s just a bonus.
That’s why some award shows have a “Best idea never produced” category.

As an art director, if I win an award in this business and a copywriter helped to come up with the concept, their name ALSO goes on the award. So does the account person who helped sell it. So does the client who actually had the balls to buy it.

It’s only right.
It’s only fair.

That’s what people with integrity do.
They give people their proper dues.

I’m glad I got that off my chest.

And I will from this night forward sleep soundly because I believe deep down in the back of my mind that karma is an absolute bitch.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Basic formula to freelance success




I have now been working as a professional freelancer for 14 years.
In the last 6 years, I’ve been successfully working from the location of my choice - a comfortable home office.
When I am at work, I truly ENJOY being at work.
And of course, I also enjoy all the many perks that a single staircase commute has to offer.


I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a giant rollercoaster filled with ups and downs.
It has.
Many of them grace the entries on this blog.


I have learned that in order to run any successful business, especially in the service industry (which is what we, as freelancers, are), it takes a LOT of time and effort to get the machine up and running smoothly.
In order to get to a point where you have an ongoing stream of great clients and a steady flow of decent income for the service(s) you provide, it also takes something that many don’t often understand…


It takes extreme willpower.


This has been a really busy year. And for the most part, I’ve been enjoying every single second of it because it appears that the basic formula I’ve stuck to for years has finally been paying off.
It is an ideology that I have no problem sharing with you.


Now, I must point out that I get e-mail blasts and newsletters almost every single day from companies etc. wanting to sell me the secrets to success. They offer new technologies and seminars and everything else under the sun to help me become more successful.


I find that much of this info is quite useless. They are simply salesmen peddling a product.
As Public Enemy once said, “Don’t believe the hype”.
Here, in my opinion, is the ONE real way to do well as a freelance professional...


It’s to keep saying NO.


No, to crappy clients.
No, to crappy projects.
No, to crappy fees.


And it ACTUALLY turns out, that when you keep saying NO to those things, the ones to which you say YES will generally ALL be positive and beneficial to you in the long run.
This is what you will have to look forward to as you continue to build your business…


Great clients.
Great projects.
Great fees.


Sounds easy? It’s not.
There’s more to it…


Not only must you find the clients who value you while getting rid of those who don’t, you must build solid relationships with them through a high level of trust and understanding.
You must also have a great work ethic and be completely reliable.


Become “their guy” (and when I say “guy” that of course, also includes gals).


Their guy that can take a project from start to finish without the need for any hand-holding.
Their guy that can take care of their marketing challenges and creative needs successfully.
Think you can do that? Not everyone can.
And this is what separates you from the competition.
Business will keep coming to you when your clients value and appreciate what you bring to the table.


Once your clients understand your value. When they know they can count on you, and that the huge pile of work they just got handed when the company downsized and fired their partner, loading it onto their plate without so much as a raise, is now in your capable hands, you can basically name your price.


To sum up, it’s easier to relate what I’m trying to say in a quick story...


Unfortunately, my automobile mechanic died tragically this summer.
I’m REALLY feeling the loss.
Will I be able to find another mechanic? Probably. Eventually.
But in my eyes, he will forever be irreplaceable.
Why? Because of the relationship and trust that we shared.
As a client, I can honestly say that the work was great and he always took care of me.
I NEVER asked him about the price for the repairs.
I simply walked in, told him the problem, and dropped my keys on the desk. Whatever he told me, I always knew it was going to be fair and worth every penny.
This relationship will be extremely hard to replace.
It will also take time to develop this rapport with somebody new.
Why? Because he was MY GUY.


His garage was always ridiculously busy.
Busy because to everyone who came in, he was THEIR GUY.


Work towards being the professional (and getting the clients you want) who simply come in and drop their keys on your desk.


And to the rest that just aren’t worth your time or energy, be sure to keep on saying NO.


Over time, all of the positive ones to which you say YES will add up.




Until next time, keep dreaming.