Pounding the Pavement - how to show your portfolio

Pardon me while I adrant.
by moi, a cynical pounder, who still hasn't found the ideal job.

To show your book around is painful, frustrating,and time consuming, what should one do?

We've all been there. We've all seen the two-faced ad men talk bullshit straight to our faces. We've all pounded the pavement with our books, wasting far too much time talking to the wrong people and getting the wrong replies.

You come straight from school/Uni/College, you have a painfully worked up book, with photographs and great type and endless hours behind making it look oh-so-good and working on the ideas, and all you get in response is;
-Geez, you shouldn't have worked it all up to print. It's the idea, that counts y'know.

You set out in the world with a new book, a book full of marker roughs, concept ideas, pitch work, and clever campaigns. They reply;
-"Do you know how to use the computer?"

You work up yet another book, one that will blow them away, with crazy new media solutions and twists and great lines and outrageous visuals. They say;
"- You are just what we are looking for, you are the future of advertising!"

They hired you, you scored! Gleefully happy you arrive at work and realize that all your time will be spent on doing Pampers ads and Procter&Gamble don't wanna change a thing.
Your "future of advertising" buzz dies in the first week.
Your brand new conceptual crazy ideas are shot down.

Unless you sleep with/make real close friends with the creative director who later steals your ideas and calls them his own, your brand new ad-concepts that blew them away at your interview will never be made.

By then you have started to pound the pavement again. What do you do?

Choose your agencies wisely.
If you don't like what they do, you'll probably hate working there, 'cause those are the kind of ads that they want, or at least their clients and account men want those ads.

Never ever meet with a creative recruiter.
I don't know who these wankers think they are (or who died and made them God so that they suddenly got all the power to interview all new creatives): But a four year BFA in English reading Shakespeare does not qualify these people to criticize the typography in a book made by a creative with six years of art and two degrees behind them. NO, IT DOESN'T!
Also, ever hear of a design manual? Most clients have a set standard of fonts one must use so please for the love of GOD, look at the damn idea! These people seem incapable of giving good pointers on your book. They'll be happy to make you cringe and try for a full hour though. They'll give daft comments like: "(first name of CD) doesn't like these kind of ads",  though not understanding the concept at all, or actually knowing what the CD likes and does not like. (and please, constructive criticism should be a little more precise than that - define "kind".....)
Only the CD knows what he/she likes.
Meet him/her, even if you have to sleep naked outside of their house for months to get an appointment.
Creative recruiters hate when you bypass them, and steal their only moment of glory and feeling of power that they have in their mediocre lives, so make damn sure they don't find out, they'll do anything to stop you from seeing the CD, as that's their main purpose on this planet.

I've met nice creative recruiters as well as terrible ones. The nice ones were fired (and became Headhunters) and the terrible ones still work at the Wieden and Kennedy's and TBWA's around the world. Avoid like the plague.

Personally, I don't quite understand them and a lot of agencies claim to not use them. They are lying. All agencies use headhunters no matter what they say their policy is.
Goodby's official policy was 'no headhunter', yet the Art Director (who's name escapes me right now) that did some fabulous Art Direction of the Rolling Stones covers was, you guessed it; headhunted over to Goodby.
Get a good one and call them once a day, reporting on where you are going next and who you saw yesterday. Headhunters gossip, meet ad-people and smooch full time, it is after all their job to know what is going on everywhere, and therefore can provide the necessary backdoor, even if it sometimes might seem they are one step behind you.
Not really valuable to creatives until you already have a big name, in which case you probably don't need one. Catch 22.

Can't get to the CD? Meet the team right under the CD, chances are, if they like you, so does the CD, and they'll go out of their way to show your book to him/her if they think it's good enough. (To score ass-kissing points themselves and maybe jump up a notch in their careers.) Chances are that they'll steal your ideas as well, but that's a risk you have to take. Besides, do you really wanna work for thieves? No great loss.

So you've found the place that does the kind of ads that you like, yeah? Well, the thing is, so have a hundred other creatives. They'll be swamped with resumes and books at their door. Make sure yours stands out.
Change the color of the outside of your portfolio, paint your name/logo on it, hell, make it a little printed booklet that you can leave there if you like, anything so that even the outside of your book gets attention and makes them have a look.

Make sure they remember you, by sending them 'thank you for seeing me/my portfolio' reminders.

Smooch, stalk and kiss ass. But stay within the limits of the law. This is a very fine line to walk and is the hardest trick a creative can master. You call and send too many things too often, and they'll start to hate you. You call too little or don't send a reminder and they'll forget you and hire the next person at the pounding their door. You have to be at the right place, at the right time, and see the right person, with the right book and be the right thing (CW, AD or team) and perhaps then you'll get lucky.
But most likely, they'll hire a friend of a friend that they partied with last Friday instead.

Make sure that your book is half and half. Even in the states, where 'up-to-print' worked books are the norm, they don't always receive the applause that they are worth. A real quote from Bob Pullham when he was at Citron Haligman Bedcarre.

"This guy came in with a book that he had spent two thousand dollars on, having a photographer shoot his ads and beautifully worked up. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the ideas really sucked."


You don't want that reaction, works things up whenever possible, but marker roughs make a good change...Most of the time.

Unless of course you show it to Linda Harless, creative recruiter at Goodby (or used to be).
"It would be a shame if Jeff Goodby didn't see this book, because the ideas are really good, but he wants to see work done up on the computer."

I have not talked to Jeff Goodby, I don't know his preference, computer-or-marker roughs, but what is a damn shame is having to take a creative recruiters word for it.

Go back to all the places you liked three to six months later with a brand new book to prove that you are still interested, and that you still work all the time, even if they didn't hire you the first time.
This is especially useful in the first year/years after graduating school. As you revisit you may build up a mentor/prodigy relationship with your favorite creative/CD and they'll open up, criticize you harder, expect more and maybe even teach you a thing or two.
Many people have eventually gotten hired this way.

Come never early and never late to interviews.

A CD will accept no excuse if you are late, even if he lets you wait for over an hour in reception (something that has happened to me far too often, remember they are God and you are a little sh*t)
An early person throws off their tight schedule even more (a mistake I once made, being an hour early after changing to spring-time) and they'll see your book with thinly veiled contempt, hurrying through on their way to the next meeting planned.
Be right on time.

If you are going to pull a stunt, have the book to back it.

A young girl who had been calling and harassing John Hegarty 's PA of BBH for nine months, suddenly realized that it had been ....nine months. She promptly put a pillow under her shirt to look pregnant and ran crying and screaming into the PA's office saying that John had to see her now 'and he hasn't returned my calls, for nine months!'.
The shocked PA let her in to John's office, and for a few moments, John Hegarty searched in his memory of his whereabouts and activities nine months ago.
There was silence. Then the young girl said. 'I got good news and bad news, the good news is, this isn't real -she pulled out the pillow- the bad news is, you have to look at my portfolio.'

John looked, and she wasn't hired.

Either he really didn't appreciate the stunt, or her book couldn't stand up to the stunts standard.

And the tip that has helped me the most so far. Bring a notebook to all interviews. Watch what they look at, watch their body language and as soon as you come out of the meeting, write down everything you can remember that they said, about your book and anything at all.

Not only will you quickly spot your weaker ideas, and remove them to make a stronger book. But you can also read it years later, like I just did to write this, and have exact quotes from everybody you've met at your disposal.
It's good for a laugh. A friend of mine who has terrible memory and bad handwriting brings a dictaphone in his pocket to interviews, that's good too. Pregnant pauses can reveal a lot about what they actually think about your work.


Finally, don't give up. You will find the right place with the right CD eventually. It will probably take time, good luck!

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Dabitch's picture

Everyone, not all creative recruiters are bad. I had just had one helluva couple of years basically being cock-blocked when setting up meetings with CDs who mentored me when I wrote this. Not cool, yo.