What considerations go into the teaming up of art directors and copywriters? Leon Meadow and Ben Spiegel, in this taped interview with Sandra Karl, talk about teams, training, and what they look for in hiring for DDB's copy and art departments.
INTERVIEWER : Mr. Meadow, you're administrator of a large copy department, and yet although you're not a full-time writer, your peers in the advertising industry recently voted you one of the top ten copywriters.
Len Sirowitz, the A/D on it, and I, got a tremendous amount of mileage out of this very small but very satisfactory account.
That perhaps had more to do with publicizing my name in the industry than anything else I've accomplished in all the years I've been in advertising.
INTERVIEWER : What you seem to be saying is that sometimes award-winning is not just a matter of talent but of luck in working on an exciting campaign.
MEADOW : One of the problems with awards, and I know we all like to win them, is that they are judged by people who think to themselves,
"I wish I had written that" or "I wish I had art-directed this" and not "I wonder how well the product sold." I don't think that awards in general actually reflect the effectiveness
of the work.
INTERVIEWER : In assigning copy and art teams, what considerations are paramount? Complementary skills? Temperament?
SPIEGEL: Leon and I get together and make sure the people are compatible chemically and from a talent standpoint.
We each pick someone we think is right for the job, and then we consider, can they work together temperamentally.
INTERVIEWER: Do you ever have people come back and say "I can't."
SPIEGEL : Oh, yes. We have people come back and say "I can't work with that art director or that writer."
That's the chemical part.
MEADOW : It's a very intimate relationship, this copywriter/ art director marriage.
And if you keep them in a room, and they're staring at each other, and they decide they
get on each other's nerves because of the way they approach a problem or because of the smallest kind of physical habits, then I would say that this isn't going to make-for a nor the creation of good advertising.
INTERVIEWER : When you discover that a team works very well together, do you keep them together permanently?
MEADOW : No, it's not possible.
It would result in too great a rigidity in the structuring of the department to assign them on a permanent basis.
We keep them together where it's possible, but there are many other considerations that are involved in running the department which have to take precedence-for one thing, the general distribution of work for everybody.
INTERVIEWER : Even if a team wins all kinds of awards together?
MEADOW : Even then we don't keep them together to the exclusion of working with others. Besidesthey don't always continue to work- well together.
Sometimes what such a team needs after a while is -newblood on one side or the other.
What's also very helpful is taking a seasoned art director and putting him with a not-so-seasoned writer or vice versa in order to bring along the less-seasoned half of the team.
INTERVIEWER : Do the "seasoned" ones ever object?
MEADOW : No, not if they're
Most of them understand that they have a dual role: to turn out great advertising and to make a contribution to the general upgrading of the departments themselves.
We are what we are because the great writers and art directors here have imparted a great deal of their knowledge and skills to the younger ones.
At least 98 percent of our success has come from within the agency.
We have rarely hired in the art or copy departments at a supervlsory level.
Our supervisors were once the young writers and art directors.
And the tradition and knowledge is in turn handed down to the biginners.
INTERVIEWER : How are the young A/D's trained at DDB? Is there a formal program?
SPIEGEL : No, it's on-the-job
training, which is the best way.
They work in the bullpen, and what they do essentially is paste-ups, preparing things for the engraver.
They learn from the jobs they work on, by observation, by looking around the agency, speaking to art directors who are very friendlyhere, getting ideas, working on their
portfolios on their own.
And sometimes they get together with one of the young writers and do some ads.
It's mostly observation.
And when we need an assistant art director, we don't promote them on a basis of seniority. They send in their books to me, and I go through them with Bill Taubin and/or Bob Gage.
We pick out the one we think is most talented-not the one who's been here the longest-and he gets the job as assistant art director.
Once they become assistant art directors, of course, they're working with an art director; they watch what he's doing, and as assistants, we give them opportunities to do trade ads.
And there they learn again.
It's a gradual step-up program, which we have found to be very successful.
INTERVIEWER : How many have made it from the bullpen to full A/D?
SPIEGEL: Stan Block, Jim Brown, Lew Byck, Dave Clark, Vinnie e Luca, Gary Geyer, Steve Graff, Joe Gregorace, Alan Honig, Paul Jervis, Aaron Koster, Bob Kuperman, Andy Langer (now an assistant supervisor), Barry arcus, John Mariucci, Bob Matsumoto, Carl Overr, Mel Rustom and Mel Santo
INTERVIEWER : Training for art directors seems to be very systematized.
What about training of the copywriter? What kind of training takes place?
MEADOW : For copywriters, there is no such thing as pre-training.
You've got to be on the job, putting an ad together and actually doing the writing to get your training.
You can't, as they do in art school, teach people to paste-up things or cut pictures and generally be useful in a bullpen and while they're being useful in the bullpen from time to time put together an ad.
Nobody knows what makes a copywriter. They may come from the Borscht circuit, from the journalism schools, from disappointed television writers, from very bright secretaries (e.g. Jane Talcott and Ellen Perless). They come from every place.
It's terribly hard actually to teach how to write.
There has to be a feeling for language.
There has to be a feeling for written as well as verbal rhythms. And it's extremely difficult to teach the sense of timing so necessary to great writing.
This is a matter of cadence and rhythm, and although the reader or the listner may not be aware of this art, it's what's actually doing the work.
You can't teach originality, but you can teach brevity, you can teach presentation of the argument in beautiful, orderly fashion.
You can teach how to write a beginning, a middle and an end ...
INTERVIEWER : Do you? I mean, do you have trainees?
MEADOW : Right now, we don't have more than one or two who can be considered trainees.
We've had 20, maybe 30 trainees in the time I've been Administrative Head.
The chances of success are very small, even though we try to be as selective as possible. For one reason or another they don't seem to stick it out.
And when they become very good very quickly, they sometimesfly the coop.
The salary that you pay the trainee is, of course, no great expense. What we have to
consider is the supervisor's time, and that's very expensive time.
INTERVIEWER : What do you look for in a portfolio?
SPIEGEL : We try to get people who've been trained in all aspects of graphics. Very often, it's on their
own initiative that they take all the courses necessary, because they can get by with courses in concept and graphics only.
But I like to know that they can do some lettering, that they've done some drawing, and that they're well-versed in graphics, not thinking that all they have to do is put a picture up with a little headline underneath and that's
all there is to it. We look for interesting concepts and graphics in the work they've done, and unusual thinking, fresh thinking, instead of the trite and true.
MEADOW: In a portfolio, I want to see the basic thinking on the selling approach.
Then I want to see how these ideas are developed in actual writing. I find today that:right most young writers are perhaps\ stronger in concept than they are in writing.
This may be because they're influenced by televisionwhere somehow the writing seems subordinate to the concept.
It shouldn't be.
Concept, of course, is
of vital importance. Without the concept, you can forget the copy, but the concept only opens the door.
If the concept doesn't keep that door open long enough to make the sale, then it too has failed.
INTERVIEWER : What else do you gentlemen look for in a portfolio?
MEADOW AND SPIEGEL : Genius! !
★ ★ ★
Why did Anne Flynn's parents allow us to use this picture?
There were two reasons,
First---because Anne has now had proper treatment, and everything is fine. with the seeing problems of all children.
They want parents to know about trouble signs that arn't, as obvious as Anne's.
That go undetected. Or may be overlooked because they don't seem very important. Play it safe, See that your child gets professional eye examination before age three. Certainly, before first starting school. And once a year thereafter,
Above all, remember this. Most Vision prohlems begin without any warning. But there are some sign, such as the following,
that call for your immediate action:
1. Persistent tilting of head.
2. Excessive frowning or Squinting.
3. Excessive rubbing of eyes.
4. Shutting or covering one eye.
5. Holds books too close to eyes.
6. Headaches after reading.
7. More blinking than usual.
8. Cnusual repeated eye movements.
Belter Vision InSIi!ule
You're asking a tough question. Because you're asking, in essence, "Which is your favorite child?"
Some, I guess, are more favorite than others.
But no ad I can recall ever brought me greater satisfaction, both in the doing and in the results, than this one.
The doing, apart from creative considerations, involved getting the parents' consent, since Anne Flynn is a real child named Anne Flynn.
It took some doing, Anne's parents were understandably afraid the publicity (Life Magazine) might cause their child serious embarrassment at the hands of her friends.
But, in the end, the Flynns saw that the good this ad could accomplish far outweighed their personal misgivings.
They were right. The ad elicited a great deal of heart-warming reader response. From parents who were encouraged to go ahead with operations similar to Anne's. And from parents who were immediately otivated to make appointments for their children with ophthalmologists or optometrists.
More reward than this a writer can't ask of an ad. Or a client, for that matter.
I,cann't read body copy, sorry.
My last ad is always my favorite ad. The problem was to do an ad on an issue of Life, that editorially would be completely about Picasso. I remembered a series of photos of Picasso wherein he looked like he was taking over the world. This made us think of the headline. The other part of us is Ross Rosenberg.