I Believe the Children Are Our Future

(Until They Become Marketing Directors...)

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One of the favorite things I've managed to eke out of my career is the opportunity to judge both the London International Advertising Awards and the Radio Mercury Awards. It's fun to hear what other people are doing out there and, selfishly, it can help in gleaning some new ideas or directions.

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
For the most part, Canadian, European and Australiasian spots are more aggressive and tend to make a much more profound impact. I'm sure the creative cultures and less-than-Puritanical approach of certain societies can push that assertive style more effectively. Not to say strong examples of good radio can't be found here in the good ol' U.S., but the body of work is somewhat limited (and limiting) compared to elsewhere.

The 2007 Radio Mercury Awards ceremony is slated for June 7, in New York. I judged two categories this year, one of which was student work. This category has a special place in my heart. I teach an advertising class out here in Portland, and I always appreciate the enthusiasm of a fresh, none-too-jaded approach.

Without divulging much, it's safe to say the student work blew "professional" work out of the water.

In fact, the student scores were higher overall than those for people in the industry. The group of professional spots I judged were not quite as up to par as in years past. Notable exceptions aside, a great disparity existed between the haves and have-nots (at least on the CD of spots I received). Here's what I think made the difference.

  • 1) Youthful Exuberance
    Kids are fresh-faced, doe-eyed and don't have a care in the world. They get an assignment or a brief and let their imaginations do the rest. One overused phrase I can't stand is "theater of the mind" -- I'm sure plenty of emails will roll in about my derision -- but that's what a lot of these young'uns are doing. They also lack the benefit of being as jaded and bitter as us grown-ups. I suppose that comes with time and a few slaps around the real world, but I appreciate their enthusiasm for trying to create something exceptional.

  • 2) No Fear
    Hell, there's no money on the line, so why not give a big idea a chance? We professionals can begin with an amazing idea and end with mediocre results rather quickly. I've done it. You've done it. We've all done it. We're reluctant to offend anyone and we certainly are willing to give up the Donny Deutsch "Big Idea" to ensure we'll live to see another day. I'm not saying we don't push, but a lack of pressure makes it easier for these students to try new things.

  • 3) The Craft
    I won't call it "wordsmithing" -- another term that makes my freshly-dyed hair stand on end -- though it seems kids today are keen to make every word, sound and piece of the spots count more. In it to impress their teachers, students spend more time wiggling the message and perfecting the execution. Even without a budget, kids are resourceful and find a way to make it work. I can sympathize after spending so much time on the radio side of this business.
Look, I realize I might be attacked for implying we professionals aren't as good as students, but in some cases it's the sobering truth. Judging by this year's Radio Mercury Awards, it is the truth. Working with students from the Art Institute of Portland, I'm reminded how fun it is to go out on a ledge and risk the possible. I find their vision and effort impressive.

Maybe we could learn a few things from them before they become like us.

Quick Hits

Have you worked/do you work with students? What is your experience with them? What kind of work or attitude do you see?

Do you like Donny Deutsch's show? I haven't watched it recently. What's he been talking about?

Get to Know

2007 Radio Mercury Awards

Art Institute of Portland

The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch


Last week's winner is Peggy Carroll from Chicago. Her response was simple, sweet and made me laugh out loud. She wins a gift card from Auto Zone or Red Lobster.

This Week's Contest: What is the most poorly juxtaposed music supporting a spot? For example: Royksopp's "Remind Me," for Geico, makes sense, but what about The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights," for UPS? I mean, it's The Postal Service. Don't they compete with UPS?

Best response wins a $20 iTunes card or a $25 gift card to Red Lobster.* Your choice.

*Editor's Note: Games and game prizes are not sponsored by Advertising Age. They come directly from Doug Zanger's mind and pocket, respectively.
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