The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial: Part Three - Art Direction

Ah yes, ladies and gentlemen. It's time for the Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial again. So far we've covered radio and viral. Today in Part Three of our ongoing series, we bring you the advice you need (and don't) on Art Direction.

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The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial: Part Three - Art Direction.

Professors: Brent Hahn, John Backman, Alec Long, Jesper Hansen, Åsk Dabitch Wäppling, Brad Zabroski, Clayton T. Claymore, Michael Deane, Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua, Noah Rosenberg, Jane Goldman, and Alex Stone (in no particular order.)

Sincere Art Direction advice for those unfamiliar with sarcasm:

Chapter 1: Concepts and Layout

You always *must* use original photography, at least one nude model and a tropical location.

Avoid all sources of creative stimulation other than advertising. Only read awards annuals. If you must open a magazine or a newspaper, only look at the ads. If you must watch TV, it's only OK to watch the commercials (TiVo through the other so-called "content") and NASCAR, which is a bunch of ads whizzing around at 200 miles per hour.

Run important words in headlines right off the page. Your audience will search past your layout and right into the arms of your client for that emotional connection.

If It's Not Distressed, It's Not Done.™

Don't bother learning how to draw.

All type needs at least one Photoshop filter.

Make your headlines look like they've hijacked beer bottle labels, band aids, bronze plaques, bumper stickers, clothing labels, Wal-Mart circulars, anything that can be considered remotely relevant. That way you don't have to go through the trouble of picking your own type style. You can just copy what already exists.

Semen sells.

The amount of colors in layout should be in exact reverse proportion to the amount of colors in your closet, which should be filled with black turtlenecks and square rimmed glasses only. In your life pastels should only ever be used on paper.

Show off all the funky fonts on your computer by using as many as possible in one layout.

Starbursts are da bomb.

White space is for suckers. Cram as much in as you can. If you still have white space add a starburst, or three.

Instead of photos, take snapshots with the office digital and trace them in Illustrator to look like airline instruction manuals.

Can't think of a photo? Shoot some fashion models making out on an expensive couch. Place product suggestively.

A close up, B&W head shot of your imagined customer counts as a concept. Always use as fall back.

Fourth wall? What fourth wall?

Always make the logo as small as possible, And if you can fit it in any other corner than lower right hand you are on your way to a Lion.

Can't think of a TV concept? Show old people using your product. Show a monkey eating your product. Show a guy in a mascot suit dressed as your product benefit.

Don't bother imagining how your spot should look. Just get your writer to put, "We will hire the best effects artists to make this look really cool" into the script.

Insist that headlines must be written in negative versals.

Always refer to the time you met with Tarsem and he told everybody that they should call him when they had a good idea. But always insist that the idea at hand isn’t right for Tarsem.

Never, ever, under any circumstances, should you read the copy as you're laying it in.

When the copywriter brings back your layouts and asks you to remove words like "[NOTE: This section should be italicized]", get pissed and complain loudly about how you now have to print them again.

Spend all day doing the edgy layout YOU think the client should buy, then complain loudly about having to stay late to do the on-strategy layout your creative director liked that morning.

Don’t spend too much of your valuable time concepting. A concepting/getting layouts ready for presentation ratio of 10/90 is perfect.

In meeting deadlines, be quick by grabbing images off the web for dirty layouts. When they make it to final print, claim that you were inspired by the technology-look and meant to do that jaggedy jpeg thing.

Chapter 2: Presenting and Clients

Wear expensive shoes at all times so everyone will know you're not the copywriter.

NEVER wear little round eyeglasses. Otherwise they'll think you ARE the copywriter.

When presenting, use forms of the word "exercise" as much as possible. Example: This was the result of a branding exercise. We exercised various color schemes before we nailed down this one... We want them to have a full sensory "workout" and leave them breathless when you have completed.

Listen to the changes the client suggests. Say you completely agree with their suggestions and will get right to them. Then deliver the next round of proofs without making the changes the client wanted.

Agency Prez' monitor setting: 640x480, maximum
Art Director's monitor setting: 1600x1200, minimum

Use an exotic accent when asked to speak during meetings and pitches. Even if it is your 2nd or third. This will give you that "international" edge. Especially an Irish accent. That gives you the leverage to use descriptives such as "bloody fucking" in the same sentence as logotype and they will listen.

Chapter 3: Tips from the world of recruitment advertising

Remember, you're presenting to HR people here, not marketing managers. Be very afraid.

1) When producing comp layouts for expensive ads, only use Rights Managed library shots – the client will inevitably freak out when you tell them the cost and you get to do original photography.

2) Forget the above, it doesn't work.

3) If you use a royalty free library shot in a layout, client will buy it, but ask you to find a shot that has people on it who 'don't look American'. This is an impossible request. As is getting exclusive usage of a royalty-free shot.

4) If you do one-stroke scamps, don't make them too good, or the client will think they are buying THAT illustration.

5) Same goes for marker visuals.

6) Fuck it, go for type-only.

7) HR people think Courier is a fun font.

8) HR people LIKE that shot of business people on a running track. Don't even think about it.

9) Recruiting for call-center staff? Want to achieve market stand-out? Use a picture of a smiling person in a headset. But make sure it's a better one than the one that will be on the ad next to yours in the publication.

10) Diversity. Remember: you can never show just ONE person on anything, because you will doubtlessly insult the types of people you don't represent. Always put a black woman at the front of any group and, I'm sorry, but trying to explain to the client that the caucasian man you've featured in the ad is actually a Jewish transsexual whose prosthetic limbs are just out of shot doesn't cut it.

11) Despite all logic, the main selling point of any recruitment ad is NOT the money.

12) Phones. People on phones. Or better yet, wearing headsets. Even better: attractive, well-groomed, churchgoing, obviously holding advanced degrees, wearing headsets, smiling, and thrilled to be working the graveyard shift for minimum wage.

Chapter 4: Photo shoots, filming, etc

When art directing a photo-shoot, make sure to do as many of the following as possible:

1) In a small market: at 3pm demand "exotic" models for the shoot that MUST take place tomorrow.

2) Approve the choice of a brunette model for a shoot then, on the set ask the stylist to "make her a blonde."

3) Tell the photographer that the product to be shot is a simple "object on white for stripping--it should only take like an hour," then show up with a 100% reflective surface product like a silver ball.

4) Regale the photographer and the end-client at the shoot about how great it was to work with some other photographer.

5) Book a last-minute shoot for 8am the next day and don't show up until 10am, leaving the photographer to work with the account executive.

6) Complain about how much the photographer is making for the shoot though he's driving a 1998 Subaru Outback, can barely make his health insurance payments, and just invested $25K in new digital equipment, while you've got a Audi TT, just got back from two weeks in LA shooting a spot with Christopher Guest directing, and are leaving next week for (paid) vacation.

7) Show up at the shoot with no layout and no concept, then ask the photographer to, y'know, just shoot it a bunch of ways until we get it.

8) Bring an image and ask the photographer to copy it, saying "we didn't want to pay as much as they wanted to use this one."

Insist that you must do the scanning at the Mill in London.

When shooting a helipad, insist that the entire pad be painted pink. Then insist that it must be done in camera, not post, because video pink is not sexy enough. Then pick a shade of paint that ONLY comes in 1 oz bottles like the kind you use to paint model cars when you were a kid. (Don't laugh. This actually happened to me!)

Chapter 5: If you made it this far, here's some actual good advice:

Remember that people are actually supposed to be able to read the copy.

You're not making "art" but a piece of communication.

A layout is never an idea.

Always start your layout from the ugliest part in it - which is more often than not the logo. Make the whole ad the logo if you can (logo colors, logo style).

Bus posters should legible from 30 paces. They should also be read fast - whittle the headlines down to five words or less. People read those things as they drive or cycle past, if you let them.

Since poster headlines should be short and quick to digest, poster visuals have to be equally easy to decipher. Don't make the most important detail too small. This isn't the movies, this is theatre - they need to see you from the back row.

If the ad you are working should be done both on posters and in press, insist on having two shots done. If your agency is too stingy for that, shoot only the poster version.

Make the logo the size YOU want it, and then shrink it by 30%. When the client sees the layout, he will ask for the logo to be bigger. Increase logo by 10%. By the next meeting, he will want the logo bigger once again. The client will only bother to ask this three times, each time you increase 10%. In the end, he gets his request for a bigger logo met three times, and you get the logo in exactly the size you wanted it in the first place.

Use no more than 2-3 different fonts in one layout.

Be careful with reverse type. It's not always going to reproduce as nicely as you'd like.

Don't fall for fads.

Remove everything from the layout that doesn't help communicate the idea. Kiss Kiss, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Missed a tutorial? No biggie. Check them out here:
The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial Series - Part One: Radio
The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial Series - Part Two: Viral Advertising
The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial Series - Part Three: Art Direction
The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial Series - Part Four: Holiday Ads
The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial: Part Five - Account Executives
The Official AdLand Advertising Tutorial: Part Six - Creating TV commercials

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caffeinegoddess's picture

Ack. I just realized we forgot to add: "If you're advertising something to women or girls...use pink and lots of it."

Dabitch's picture

sad but true.

Robbotman's picture

You guys slay me.

fairuse's picture

TAAT part 3 - Chapter 3: "Tips from the world of recruitment advertising
Remember, you're presenting to HR people here, not marketing managers. Be very afraid."

I would not wish on anyone the task of having my wife as client. There is not enough booze on the planet. OK, that was harsh; She is a kitten really, all HR Bosses are. Note: Double check TAAT for a 'W' typo - In the wrong place gets you sent to HR for one of those training sessions.

Yah'll ever think of adding some more stuff? Reading all of the tutorials. ;-]