Monday, May 04, 2015

That’s JUST the way it goes.

Last week, I learned that the Government of Canada ignored the national petition/protest from professional designers and students and announced the "winner" of their Canada 150 speculative logo design contest.

Of course they did.
Why wouldn’t they?
This is not the beginning of this dire trend that has plagued our industry, so why be surprised?

I have said it in the past and I will say it again.
As long as there are people willing to do the work…

In this case the winner was a young University student.
I get it. Competition upon graduation is fierce. You want to put something cool in your book. Why not take a stab at such an opportunity? Why not try to win and make a name for yourself?

I’m not going to discuss the winning work, even though the Canadian Government got what instantly appears to be (to this professionally trained eye) an amateur’s design*.

I totally believe that if a design like this is what they have deemed acceptable then all the power to them and to the rest of us, too !@#$ing bad.
We lost the fight against contests a long time ago.
As my title states, that’s JUST the way it goes.

People expect free work because we give them free work. As long as we are willing to give it away we will always have design contests popping up.
We will always be taken advantage of.
Not only have I given up speaking out in regards to contests, it appears that I too recently and shamefully fell into this trap.

I’ve been working for the past 8 years in a home office in midtown Toronto. Recently, I have begun looking into new career options because the LRT/subway (I call it a subway because it’s an underground train) is about to be dug practically under my feet with 2 massive boring machines.
The last year has been a nightmare. My desk shakes constantly, the noise is endless, and I’ve decided I have to get the hell out of here during the day because I have at least 5 more years ahead of me until the LRTs’ completion, and it’s about to get MUCH worse.

My options are to either open a new office/agency with interested partners or join a well-oiled machine that can use somebody with my skills and experience in a CD position.

Thanks to LinkedIn, I was given an opportunity very recently to explore the latter, and I got called in to an interview for a CD position with a massive and prestigious Canadian corporation. It will be left unnamed but it’s one that the majority would know.

I was highly intrigued. I gave my salary expectations in my cover letter (so that was out of the way), and I concluded by the middle of the interview that it was definitely a place where I could see myself working for the next 5 years.

The final question I was asked went as follows…“We are asking our final candidates to participate in a presentation and were wondering if you would be interested?”

I found myself nodded yes but in my head I was actually asking myself, “wait a second, did she just ask me to create SPEC WORK?”

I COULD have screamed “NO” but I wondered how many RFPs I have written over the years where I spent at least 3 days on the thing and got absolutely nothing in return? At least I’m at the final table in this tournament, so I figured I really had no choice but to take a shot for the win.

I got the brief on a Friday. The briefest brief I have ever received. Only a few words. I asked them what it meant but they wouldn’t elaborate.
Oh, and here’s the best part, I was to present on Monday morning.
Present what?
That was entirely my decision.

I had a massive party to attend on the Friday night, a 50th birthday party on the Saturday night, and in between, I found myself working like a dog all weekend on a wide array of ad concepts, social media executions, and a video/TV storyboard that resulted in a large presentation which (production wise) ended up costing me over $100 out of my own pocket.

What a complete sucker I was.

They made me wait over a week to tell me the news that it wasn’t the direction they wanted.

I regretfully took part in a contest and STILL can’t believe that even a high level creative position had such strings attached.

The last 20 years of my work and experience didn’t matter. We didn’t sit around a boardroom table and discuss objectives, projections, aspirations, or brand strategy, they just held a contest amongst the candidates and looked for their winner.
How is that ANY different than a cheap logo design contest? Other than the fact that the reward is a 6 figure salary for the next 5 years?
Are architects rounded up and forced to present blueprints when they look for a job? Do mechanics get put in a garage with a stopwatch and a disassembled engine?
I used to get at least $5k to present such concepts to a corporation, now I’m expected to give it away for free with their lure of a decent position?

On the topic of lures, when I hung up the phone, I was in the middle of a frozen lake, ice fishing with a friend.
I sat back down in silence for a while as I jigged my rod.

You upset? My buddy eventually asked.
“No.” Came my reply.
How ARE you feeling? He inquired.
“Like I need a shower” came my answer.

Congrats to the student on her winning design.
Right now, she might be smiling and enjoying her moment, but eventually, she’ll discover that she was part of a process that saw us being used, and nobody will even remember her name.

As for me, I promise I will NEVER participate in such a contest ever again. I’d honestly sooner leave the industry.

As a wise man in a movie once stated…

“Show me the money Jerry. SHOW ME THE MONEY.”

* The kerning is awful. Look at that huge space/gap between the 5 and the 0. A pro would have manually adjusted it so it’s perfect. It honestly makes me cringe.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The year of the mobile-friendly site.

This week, Google tilted the search engine algorithm in favour of mobile optimized sites.
In laymans terms, if your site is not mobile friendly, it will be moved down the search engine ranks giving your competition an advantage.

Google discussed the algorithm update in its Webmaster Central Blog: 

“Today’s the day we begin globally rolling out our mobile-friendly update. We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.”

Every business in 2015 MUST have an online presence and now, according to Google, they should also be mobile friendly. And chances are your current website isnt.

To find out if your website is mobile friendly, click this sentence.

If your website has passed, GREAT. You are up to date.

If it didnt, and you are currently working with a web designer, make sure to ask them to optimize your website so it also works on mobile devices.

If you are NOT currently working with a web designer and need a newly designed site, or want your current site updated and/or transformed, I have a special on complete
packages at this moment that will be extremely gentle on your budget.

Become Mobile-Friendly HERE

Friday, September 05, 2014

Just THINK of the recognition!!!

I love when potential clients state “we know our budget is extremely low but think of all the RECOGNITION you will receive”.

Here’s my answer...

Two designers won the logo design contest for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games.
Their work was everywhere on a global scale.

Name ONE.

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.


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”...

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…

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...

(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)…

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...

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...

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...

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…

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...

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.