Steve Red, who works as the chief creative officer at Red Tettemer, a longtime Philly advertising agency, and I caught up with each other on Thursday at Portfolio Night, sponsored by the Philadelphia Ad Club Young Professionals. His job was to critique the portfolios of up-and-coming advertising talent, be they illustrators, graphic designers or copywriters. Each participant's portfolio was reviewed by three people like Red. I wrote about the event in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.
Red liked some of the work that he saw, but he said, "I'm always amazed at how schools don't prepare them for the real world," he said. People will show him a portfolio full of work that may be lovely, but it is too scattered.
"I tell them to slim it down and leave me with an impression of what you stand for," he said. "The work is always gorgeously crafted, but ultimately I want to see three wonderful ideas that are fleshed out. Show me how it works in a guerrilla advertising campaign. Show me how you are going to inject it into social media. Show me that you understand today's marketing."
Douglas Cooper, a recent graduate from Temple University's Tyler's School of Art, took Red's advice to heart. But it isn't simple. Cooper, a very personable young man with a firm handshake and an ability to look someone right in the eye, very confidently, showed his work to Red and to a Razorfish Health tag team of Kate Davis, creative director and Suzanne Fee, a former Tyler grad and art director.
They too told him to hone his work. "They all said, `Edit,'" Cooper said later.
But how? Davis and Fee loved his advertising campaign for the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York and urged him to think about translating his campaign to some interactive form for online marketing. "It would be beautiful and it would play very well, because it's smart," Davis said.
Red didn't like the campaign -- not because it wasn't attractive, but because the hotel's brand is so strong that it would be better to leave it alone.
It just shows how subjective the business can be, but the underlying message of finding your best work and capitalizing on it is probably good advice for all of us, regardless of our professions.