A bit of my story and the best lesson I have had in advertising.
When I finished the high school I was confused. What to do now? In Brazil, you have basically to choose what you are going to do forever when you’re are 17–19 years old. You make a choice of what course you’re going to do in the University you would like to be and pass the exams. The average candidates per position is something like 1 position per 50–80 candidates If it’s a public University, and the private ones are a bit less, but they are all expensive.
So I decided to be a teacher. My first job was giving computer lessons in a charity program for poor kids and adults when I was 17. It was great. Very rewarding. So I was in love with the possibility of sharing knowledge. But what to teach? In the school, I really liked biology and that was my choice. I passed the exam in one of the best private Universities in the city and I studied biology for 2 and a half years until I figure out that biology wasn’t for me.
My dad used to be a designer in the army. He was in the very old school art of making posters and drawings for the Brazilian Army. I grew up looking at his talent and I was always in love with his skills. He taught me how to draw, gave me the tools and I practiced a lot copying comic books and album covers of my favourite heavy metal bands (specially Iron Maiden).
It was clear that Biology wasn’t my thing and working with design or art direction was in front of me all the time. I quit the biology University and made another exam for a different institute and started the BA in Communications / Adverting.
I always tried to work in agencies from the very beginning of the studies and some people I worked with, didn’t realise how much they were important. I try to learn from every single sentence or attitude of every single person. Everyone has something to teach you.
I have been working in ad agencies for some years since then, but the very first lesson was the one I will never forget.
I got an art direction intern opportunity in one of the best local agencies in town. The creative director trusted me from the beginning. My portfolio was awful, but he had seen something in there. Maybe the fact that I was super excited with the opportunity to work with him counted a lot.
He was (still is) a brilliant copywriter and I think about his lesson everyday.
That’s the story:
It was my first week at the agency and I got the first briefing. Me and my copywriter partner had 2 days to make a simple print ad. So we sat down in a room and started to have ideas. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so forth. We spent the whole afternoon sketching and having ideas. In the end of the day we went to the creative director to present our ideas.
We presented one by one. “No, No, No, No, No, No. Keep thinking”, he said.
It was the end of the day and we went to the room again to have more ideas. A couple of more hours and the creative director came to the room and said: “When do we need to present to the client?”. We said we should have layouts by 4 pm next day. He said: “Go home and rest. I don’t care. Just go home.”.
Me and my partner went home. We agreed to go to the agency very early in the morning to start the work. When the creative director arrived we had more 5 good ideas. We presented to him and “No, No, No, No, Not yet.”. We were hopeless. Where to go? We had only a couple of more hours.
We sat down again and then 3 more ideas came. It was lunch time. We had 4 hours until the presentation.
The creative director said: “No, No and No”.
My career was ruined. I was about to be fired in my very first week. Oh my God! But he completed the sentence: “So, now that we don’t have more time to think, go with the very second one you guys presented to me yesterday”.
I was: “What?!”
I was angry!
But it went well. The ad was approved and ran in the following week. I was super happy. The first work printed!
A couple of months later I get it.
He was pushing us to the limit. Even if the second idea was the best one, we were still thinking. Maybe something better could come. But it didn’t. Sometimes that’s how it goes.
Every time I’m thinking and having ideas, I evaluate if I can go further or keep thinking. Good enough is not enough. We should always try to do the best work we can. Sometimes is the first idea, but often we need to think more.
I used to say that good art directors are not the ones who knows where to start, but the ones who knows when to stop.
Thank you Amilton Coelho for the best lesson I have had in advertising.