If you want to meet the wizard, practice some magic

Mark Lewis is creative director at Lowe MENA

“March. It’s always a very exciting, interesting time of year for those of us at creative shops.

As for all heads of business: it’s time to count up the final dollar, dirham and dime to ensure the balance sheet looks beefy for the board. To all department heads: it’s that time of year to sit down hard-working platoons and decipher those wonderful documents called appraisal forms, and work together on building an airtight case for the pay rise committee to approve an immediate increment.  And for the collective: it’s that time of year where we have our very own horse and pony show – the Dubai Lynx – where shiny, cherished prizes are given to those whose work jumps high enough to catch the eyes of the gurus of global advertising. And inevitably, one stable will be crowned best in show.

All of these variables can create a huge shift in the sands in our creative desert and can often lead to one not so radical thought. The thought of leaving your beloved agency.

The reasons for this are: some of you would have won or lost at the Lynx, some of you might have won or lost your case at your appraisal hearing, and some of you might not have won anything, but feel that you’ve got what it takes to join the agency that did.

If the latter is the case – you’d better ready yourself for interviews. Unfortunately, from what I’ve picked up over the years in this region, not very many creatives are even marginally close to being ready.

I understand that over the last decade the trusty postal service has been replaced by the email, and the beautifully crafted portfolio book has been replaced by online portfolio sites, blogs and other DIY approaches that cost no more than pocket change. But my issue is – what happened to the art of creating an impression (especially a lasting one) on creative directors?

Back in the day, even managing to wangle an appointment with a creative director was a humongous deal akin to getting to see the Wizard of Oz. It was nearly impossible and mostly impossible. And so we needed to be inventive. From tap-dancing in an agency’s lobby in a banana suit to simple basics like a creatively-written covering letter (designed, kerned and crafted to the hilt) and the delivery thereof – everything was in aid of gaining an audience with the wizard himself.

I remember starting out in the industry. I sent the head of one of London’s top shops a box of mushrooms with a message saying: “I’m a fungi to have in your agency.”

He sent back a truffle. Point taken.

Those who conjured up enough creative flair to impress were invited to The Emerald City. But the last things they’d be hoping for would be courage, a heart or a brain. Those assets are mandatory. They’d need a heap of creative ideas and great ads. Failing this, they’d need a spellbinding personality and enough energy to convince the wizard of their future potential – all within the time frame of the wizard’s smoke break.

Sadly, with today’s modern technology doing all it can to make our industry look better, create more things in so many new ways, and in a puff of
smoke share with an audience of millions, I feel that the art of creating impressions has suffered, if anything.

I find it quite bizarre that our latest creative crop – “the Facebook generation”; who are knowingly working amidst the biggest global economic crisis in which a permanent contract in an agency is almost mythical; simply email us creative directors with little more than ‘Dear Sir. Please see attached.’ I find it even more bizarre when they ‘rock up’ during lunchtime in flip-flops, and with no laptop or iPad to showcase their work. This kind of thing is strongly not recommended. It makes the wizard very angry.
So although meeting the wizard is a feat in itself, don’t forget to impress him while you’re there, and believe it or not the onus is on you to do so, otherwise you’ll be pointing your flip-flops back down the yellow brick road.”

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  1. Barry Rotter says:

    As I ended an interview in January, I was convinced that my ideas aren’t magical enough.
    Then I thought it would be an amazing feat of wizardry if some guys were to make their own work appear from behind all the smoke and mirrors.

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