Monday, September 24, 2007

An 'MagiCal Experience?

You ever have one of those days where you wonder, "You know, has everyone just been humoring me this whole time?"

Yeah, today was one of those days for me.

It was either going to be that, or a really good day.

Let me start back at the beginning. A couple weeks ago, I heard about this thing called ImagiCal, which was the UC Berkeley Chapter of the American Advertising Federation. This member came in before one of my classes and said that there was some sort of competition to make an advertising campaign for AOL. One of my fellow classmates and I exchanged glances. "Hmm, this sounds like a case competition. We should check it out."

So, I went to the info session (the other guy missed it). What I found out, there, was that it was not a case competition; at least, not in the common sense of the word. It was actually a group, a team. Officially, it's "a student-run advertising agency whose primary focus is to create a multi-million dollar communications campaign for a corporate sponsor and present it at the AAF National Student Advertising Competition." It was a year-long thing, and it was split up into several departments:
Public Relations
Media Productions

Er, what was that? Creative? And what was their job? Basically, after being told what the strategy for the advertising campaign would be, they would think up what the advertisements would be.

My jaw dropped. I don't think there could have been a more perfect place for me. After all, as I say, I'm one of the most creative people I know. I think many would agree that I'm pretty blessed in that respect. And I love the art of advertising. This ImagiCal was a gift to me. It was the major thing (outside of RAing), the major thing that I could do. I'm not a frat person, not even for the business frats. I needed something, and this would scratch that itch.

And, as fate would have it, the Creative Coordinator was actually an RA. He was from another unit, but we still knew each other. So even though that wouldn't be factored in, I at least had some sort of relationship with him, and wasn't approaching a bunch of strangers.

So, I filled out the application, and I think I did a pretty good job of it, too (if confidence was the only factor involved, I'd've got the position the first night). Now, they said you could include some works to give them a better idea about you. So, I took full advantage of that. I first went to my blog and showed them a couple of old posts that, as it turned out, related directly to advertising. I also showed them one of my skits, and a couple of other posts, just to show them the variety of things I could do. Now, because Media Productions (the department that actually made the ads) was my second choice on the application, I included some of my more sophisticated Photoshops. Hell, I even included a storyboard of a commercial that I had thought up, just to show them that 1)I know what the hell I'm doing; and 2)I take initiative on these sorts of things.

So, I turn in the application, and later get an email that says I've been offered an interview. Now, let me clarify a thing: there were three rounds of the recruiting process. After each round, the applicants were reviewed, and a certain portion were eliminated.
Round 1: Applications
Round 2: Personal Interviews
Round 3: Group Case Interviews

So, with Round 1 out of the way, I was that much closer to getting into the group. So, we signed up for interviews, and I got the second to last time slot. (As it turned out, one of my coworkers at Unit 2 was encouraged by the Creative Coordinator to apply. He ended up getting the last personal interview time slot.)

So, a week passed, and I finally got ready for my interview. I made sure to come prepared. We were supposed to bring a portfolio with us if the Media Productions was in our top three choices. I brought with me a writing portfolio, and a image portfolio. I even brought my laptop, because, as I explained to several people, a lot of my work doesn't translate well to paper. However, with a scant 30 minutes to the interview, we never even got to that stuff.

However, I did manage a sneaky little thing. One question I was asked by my five interviewers was, "Are you more of a visual person or a word person?" My answer: "That's really a question I can't answer, because I really think I'm both. I'm very much a writer, but when I write, I'm literally just transcribing the movies that play through my head. Would you...would you mind if I presented something to you?" They said they were happy to see anything I had brought. So, I took out five copies of my book and passed them to the interviewers. I tell you, their collective surprise was so palpable you could bottle it. I presented that as an example of my wordsmanship and my initiative (after all, it takes some drive to get a book published before you graduate from high school).

All in all, I think the personal interview went great. I was able to answer their questions without skipping a beat. Some of my answers:
1. Ad Campaign I Really Thought Worked: Sprite's Sublymonal Ads
2. Bad Ad Campaign: PlayStation 3 (Especially in Europe)
3. How to advertise a new "Extreme Power" Toothpaste in commercials: Zoom in on guy brushing his teeth to show his teeth as winter wonderland. Zoom out with him happily releasing a foggy breath.
4. Make Up Your Own Product (it didn't have to be realistic; I asked): "The Time Weaver," a time-manipulation device that could freeze time around you, make certain things go back, other things go forward, give you the physics to walk on water and air (by slowing down gravity), etc.
So that's how the interview went. I was quite confident after that point/

Then they scare me half to death when they call me the next day.

Her: "Hi, Andrew?"
Me: "Yes?"
Her: "This is [NAME] from ImagiCal."
Me: "Oh, hi."
Her: "Hi. We've been looking over your interview and application. We'd like to begin by thanking you for applying with us."
Me: (Off the Phone) "Goddammit!"
Her: "And we'd like to extend you a group interview this Sunday."
Me: "I, uh...thank you."

Now, if any of you ever become an employment offer, and you're not eliminating someone from the recruitment process, do not begin your conversation by thanking them for applying. That just screams "you didn't make it."

But I did make it, past Round 2 and onto Round 3!

Because my interview was at 11am Sunday morning, I set my alarm for 9am. Then I set two more. I was not going to miss this. But, I probably didn't even need them, as I was afflicted with what I call the "Christmas Morning Jitters". You know, when you're anticipating something so much that you wake up early? (I'll admit, I still wake up at 5am on Christmas morning.) Same thing here. I ended up waking up at 7am. Go back to sleep. Wake up at 8am. Go back to sleep. Wake up at 8:30am. Go back to sleep. Wake up at 9am to a barrage of alarms. Here we go.

So, I get myself dressed and prepared. The only thing I forgot to do was shave my whiskers from two days prior (though mine grow so slowly that I could have easily played off that they were from the day's progression). But overall, things were good.

I arrived 20 minutes before my interview, and eventually met up with the rest of the people who were going to be in my group. They seemed like a nice bunch. And when we finally did get to the interview (there was little actual interviewing; it was mostly them observing how we worked on the case). One thing I noticed about myself was that I was able to come up with campaign slogans on a dime. One thing I was called out on, though, was the fact that I never used the name of the product of the product (Ion, a hypothetical MP3 player). I told them in the interview that in the time provided, I couldn't think of any viable slogan using the product name that matched our campaign theme. (Only later in the day did I think of slogans like "InspiratIon" or something like that.) But hey, they had to cut us some slack; we only had 15 minutes to figure out the whole thing.

Overall, though, the group seemed pretty satisfied with how things went. Things seemed to be okay.

When I got back, I drank a bottle of Mexican coke (more on that later) to celebrate my getting through it all. All that was left was to play the waiting game (also known as doing homework until you hear something). That waiting game ended at 5:31pm, when I got a call from one of the department coordinators. I awaited his answer with bated breath. And that answer was:

"I'm sorry, but we can't offer you a position on the team this year."

(I'll admit, you probably saw that coming, considering the first two sentences of this post.)

My answer? A bright and chipper "Okay. Thank you." He told me that as a 3rd year, he recommended that I try again for the position next year. "You know, I think I'll do that." He apologized for my not getting on. "Oh, no it's okay." Did I have any questions? "No, that's cool." He told me to take care. "You too, and thank you for this opportunity."

I closed my cell phone and said with a smile, "Well, that's the end of that dream."

...Then I closed my room door and proceeded to go into breakdown mode for about fifteen minutes.

I then called the guy back, just because I wanted to put my mind at rest. I called and said, fully professional and chipped, "You know, you asked if I had any questions, and I think it would be foolish of me to waste an opportunity like that. If I were to apply next year, what would you recommend for me to improve upon what I did this year."


His response: "I'll be honest. There were a lot of applicants, especially for Creative. It was by far the most popular department. Just the fact that your were able to make it to the third round means you're qualified. In fact, you're fully qualified. It's just that we only had three openings, and we wanted to make sure we had a team that we knew could work together for that department."

Translation: "It's not what you can do, but rather who you are."

And so it comes down to what is effectively a personality thing. Apparently my personality wouldn't work well on their team. Or, at least, not well enough.

This was a pretty harsh blow on me for three principle reasons:
1) This is exactly the kind of thing I should be doing at Haas. 110% my niche.
2) I'm trying to get an cold internship (that is, one they didn't advertise for) in the marketing department at Nintendo of America this summer. I was going to add ImagiCal to my cover the moment I heard I got in, if that did indeed happen. Being part of the American Advertising Federation would have given me a huuuuuge leg up in being considered for an actual internship. Now, I'm not blessed with that advantage.
3) The fact that this is not the first time I've been rejected for something in this same way. Always, they say, "You're perfectly qualified, we just don't have enough room," or "we couldn't find the right place for you." That's my curse, I suppose. I'm "good" at everything...just not good enough.


...Okay, I'm done.

Now, don't worry about ol' Andrew. I'll get by. I just needed to let off some steam. It was just supposed to be a really good day. And I have the distinct feeling my coworker got the position. Not that it would create any animosity between the two of us. It would just be weird.

Okay, next time you're here, I'll have something a little more upbeat to talk about (unless something bad happens between now and them). Until then, ugh.


Anonymous said...

Ob-la-di-ob-la-da...Life goes on. From someone who has lost more student government and federal elections than most congressional representatives have participated in, I know what you're talking about.

Well, I always knew advertising was an evil (though very important) tool. Although I still hate the sublymonal ad campaign, but I naturally hate most adverts.

-Comrade Chavez

Anonymous said...

Hello there Andrew,

I stumbled upon this blog meanwhile reading up on some stuff on Magic the gathering.

Well, I found this blog entry and I thought it was like a message from God. Why? It's because I am also in the process of applying for a position in an advertising business. I would only be working as an intern though. Thats if I am accepted in the first place.

Well,the project that they left for us is to develop a 20 second advertisement for a fast food locale of out choice. I would really like to know what you think of my idea.

Its for a fried chicken place named "Towne's Fried Chicken". Just so you know...

My commercial would begin with a family sitting down and opening a bucket of chicken. As they open the bucket of chicken the song "Brown Sugar" comes on by The Rolling Stones. The catch being that instead of the song saying "Brown sugar! How come you taste so good?!" it will say "Fried chicken! How come you taste so good?!"

At the end of the commercial the father will look at his drumstick (the music will stop) and he goes "Fried Chicken...Why DO YOU....taste so good?" He will then laugh to himself a little bit and bite into it.

The song will come in again and the commercial would end.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe you can think of other songs will I can change some lyrics to fit the theme of friend chicken.

Really, any advice would be great.

- Willy Peterson

P.S. Whats your favorite card to use in Magic?

Andrew Schnorr said...

Hi Willy!

Thanks for writing. I think I'll answer your postscript first.My favorite Magic card is Jareth, Leonine Titan. While that may seem random, there are a few things that make it clearer. First, I'm a very casual player (oh, I play to win, but if I don't have a fun time winning, that's a moral defeat). Second, my favorite color is white (though interestingly, I play most with black and green). Thirdly, although I technically started playing around Mirage, I didn't really start getting involved until around Onslaught block. Jareth was one of my first "big" cards ever (not to mention one of my first rares and legends), and so it has a lot of sentimental value. Plus, if you attatch Serra's Embrace to him (as I did), he became a beatstick of the highest order. So there you go.

Now, as far as your advertisment goes:
I really like the idea, especially when you only have 20 seconds to get your message across.

One possible obstacle I might see (and I'm not sure if you were supposed to take this into account) is that using a Rolling Stones song, even if its a parody, might be somewhat expensive (I'm unfamiliar with copyright laws regarding parodies).

...Buuuut, if you're not concerned with finances (often someone else is), then I guess that's a moot point.

As far as the content of the commercial goes, I like the music coming in. As I'm learning in a class on the Poltics of Music, song can be one of the biggest influencers out there.

One thing I may want to change about it is the father's line. Even if he uses different emphasis, you may not want to have the "puncline" be something that was already said in the song lyrics.

Perhaps you could change it to the father "answering" that question. Maybe he could say something to the effect of "Who cares, it just does." Or "Why? It's from Towne's, of course!" (If you've ever seen commercials for Apple Jacks, that's kind of what I'm going for here.

Basically, you may want to have the song repeat the same line twice, but you wouldn't want the father to repeat it a third time (see this for a good example why). You'd need him to break the cycle, injecting a new thought into the idea, and grabbing the audience at that moment.

So there's my thoughts. One last thing I would say is to storyboard the commercial in a pretty detailed manner. You have only 20 seconds (2/3 of a normal commercial), so you have to make every one count. Make sure you have adequate time for each element.

So there you go. I hope you see this (partly because I hope you return to the blog :P). The best of luck to you!