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9 ways to improve your portfolio

3 min, 34 sec read
11:31 AM | 8 January 2014
by Jim Compton-hall
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Judging the merits of creative work is less objective than a Daily Mail article on immigration (well, almost). But here's some tips that we believe in (most of which have been lovingly stolen from the mouths of creative directors over the past year).

1. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Make sure your ideas are incredibly simple, straight forward and that anyone no matter age could instantly understand the concept. 

2. Pick generic products

Water, beer, insurance, bank, orange juice, bread, deodorant, etc. A little bit of niche work in your book is fine, good even, but if your advertising a product with a unique selling point then it's not going to be that much of a test to create persuasive advertising for it. Whereas if you think of a really interesting, creative and original way to sell a current account then your skills will be more apparent.

3. Choose recognisable brands and products

If the brand is well known then the idea will be easier and quicker to understand.

4. Avoid the really huge brands

It's tempting to pick brands like Nike, Orange, Coca-Cola,  to work on. But don't. When it comes to the biggest brands, everyone in the industry has an opinion on how they should be done. It doesn't matter how good your work is, if it doesn't match that person's own ideas then they won't like it.

5. Print is king

Yes, it's important to show off how awesome you are across multiple media. And different agencies will want to see different media. So by all means, include a few campaigns that utilise different media.

But print gets an idea across in a matter of seconds. One look and and the creative director gets it. They don't need to sit there for 90 seconds watching a video and paying attention to every word of voice over. They don't need to consider the functionality and practicality of an app. They don't need to read through your radio script and sound out SFX.

Whilst we'd always love to have a fully engaged and captive audience, we don't always get one, even when you have a creative director sat right in front of you.

6. Include non-advertising work

This one may be a little controversial. Some agencies love to see non-advertising work. Others hate it (in our experience, Wieden + Kennedy and Fallon are definitely the former and DLKW Lowe are definitely the latter). We love it because it can show off your personality, passion for creating and the way your mind works. It also gives people something different to look at, helping you to stand out and be more memorable and interesting.

7. Tailor your book to your audience

Of course, this isn't always possible the first time you go to see a creative director. But if they don't hire you the first time around, always grab the chance to go back to them with an improved book. Creative directors all like to see different things (there's that subjectivity thing again). Some like campaign ideas, some like clever executions, some like a balanced mix of the two and others an imbalanced mix.

Once you find out what someone likes, you can take out everything they don't and add more of what they do. And, in their eyes, you can go from being someone who does some good work to someone who produces great stuff every time without actually becoming better at anything (and sometimes without having to do anything at all if you already have enough work to swap in and out).

8. Proofread, get someone else to proofread and keep on

OK, this one may sound obvious. Spelng errors make you look bad. Grammatical make errors your work harder to understand. Most of all it's embarrassing when, during an interview, a creative director points out a spelling error in a piece of writing that you've looked over hundreds of times since writing. Multiply all that by 100 if you're a copywriter. Also you'll save a lot of time and money if you don't have to keep reprinting work due to errors.

9. Don't take all advice

If you bend over backwards catering to every piece of advice you ever hear about your book then not only will you be stressed, exhausted and thoroughly confused, you'll also end up with a bad book. A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

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