WHICH DOCTOR WOULD YOU WANT to have perform your next surgery? The doctor who has one introductory biology textbook from college collecting dust on the shelf behind his desk? Or the doctor whose office is a library of the latest medical texts and whose desk is buried under the past four years worth of the New England Journal of Medicine?
I’m serious. Which doctor do you want standing over you with a scalpel? Well, in terms of expertise, is what we do here in advertising any different? If we propose to sell ourselves as experts to our clients, we actually have to be experts.
I implore you to read. And learn. And learn a lot. There is no shortcut to being the best. No easy way around it. You have to know your stuff and know it cold.
The short list of books and online resources I’ve included here is only the beginning. They happen to be my favorites in the creative area. But there are many other disciplines you should be studying – marketing, branding, interactive – all of which will be relevant to your craft.
There is no shortcut. This is how we learn it. Bit by bit.
Let’s start with books focusing more on digital. The first one I recommend is Teressa Iezzi’s The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era. It’s not about writing for print anymore, folks.
Check out Frank Rose’s The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories. Rose describes the changes in today’s audience, what they want, and how that is changing everything from movies to advertising. This one deserves wider readership in the ad industry.
Converge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology is authored by Bob Lord, the CEO and CTO of Razorfish, one of the top digital agencies. A must-read for any creative who doesn’t want to be a print dinosaur.
Then there’s Creative Direction in a Digital World: A Guide to Being a Modern Creative Director, by Adam Harrell. It’s a short read that provides designers the tools they need to craft compelling digital experiences across screens, devices and platforms.
To keep up with the evolving marketing opportunities on Facebook and Instagram, I recommend visiting Inside Facebook www.insidefacebook.com.
Advertising star, PJ Pereira edited a marvelous book, The Cannes Lions Jury Presents: The Art of Branded Entertainment. To write chapter 11, I quoted from this smart collection of essays from jurors on the 2017 Lions Entertainment Awards. It’s basically a masterclass.
Also read Stefan Mumaw’s Chasing the Monster Idea: The Marketer’s Almanac for Predicting Idea Epicness. This book deserves wide readership. It is one of the very best books to fully describe what we mean by a “big idea.”
If you’d like to be part of the generation that moves advertising kicking and screaming into the 21st century, I heartily recommend David Baldwin’s The Belief Economy: How to Give a Damn, Stop Selling, and Create Buy-In. It is the first and best book on how brands can start living the promises of connected capitalism; of doing something more in the world than just making money.
Read The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy: Open Your Mind to Greater Creative Thinking by Tom Monahan. I quoted heavily from my friend Tom’s book to write chapter 8. In Lobotomy, you’ll find chapter after chapter with useful methods for rewiring your brain. I highly recommend it.
Ernie Schenck, long one of advertising’s premier copywriters, is also an author. In The Houdini Solution: Put Creativity and Innovation to Work by Thinking Inside the Box, he discusses the counter-intuitive notion of generating more focused, more powerful ideas by accepting creative constraints.
Cameron Day, another respected veteran copywriter, shares Chew With Your Mind Open: An Advertising Survival Guide. It’s a great mix of advice for juniors as well as war stories from a life in the trenches of advertising.
Thomas Kemeny, newer to advertising than the last two authors, has nonetheless written a great book for students and juniors, appropriately titled, Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising. I quoted from it liberally for my chapter on copywriting. It’s a fabulous read, and I love his attitude. You will, too.
Probably one of the best books I’ve read about writing is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win your Inner Creative Battles. It’s little book with a huge message about getting off your ass and actually sitting to write.
There’s also Warren Berger’s book, Hoopla: A Book about Crispin Porter + Bogusky. It’s expensive but it’s the best look inside the agency which reinvented advertising in the 1990s. Berger’s newest book, also extremely good, is A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. It covers more deeply some of the stuff discussed in chapter 8, “Rewiring Your Brain.”
Truth, Lies, and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning, by Jon Steel, is on how smart brand planning adds value to the whole creative process. Steel is also the author of Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business.
Advertising: Concept and Copy, by George Felton, is a wonderful textbook on the craft. Excellent, detailed advice on how to think, how to write. Good stuff.
The Advertising Concept Book, by Pete Barry. To hammer home the point that idea comes before execution, every piece of advertising in Barry’s book is a pencil sketch. I’ve used this book in my own classes. Get the third edition.
Scott Belsky (Behance founder) has a couple of books out, but the one you must read is titled Master Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. It’s a short book that covers more of the stuff I wrote about in chapter 15, “Creative Mind vs. Monkey Mind.”