Judging By The Cover

If you’re a creative on a job search, you may be trying to figure out the best way to present your work. New technology has made the decision tougher than ever. Many creative directors and recruiters say they see everything from traditional books to Web sites—and we’ve even heard of creatives using Memory Sticks. Adweek asked a handful of industry players for some guidance in navigating this tricky element of personal marketing.

The book

The pros: It’s tangible. “I like looking at the ads in my hands,” says Kristen Evanoff, creative services manager at Colle + McVoy in Minneapolis. Patrick O’Neill, a freelance creative director who left TBWA\Chiat\Day as a group creative director in May, adds, “I think most people are familiar looking at print in a way they’re used to seeing it in magazines, which is real, on paper, and you can turn the page.”

It’s sticky. “If you have something concrete, you usually do spend a little more time with it,” says Deutsch New York executive creative director Kathy Delaney.

Harder to ignore. “If [books are] sitting on a conference table, they’re reminding me to be familiar with them or ask someone’s opinion,” says Edward Boches, chief creative officer of Mullen in Wenham, Mass. “They have more presence in my office.”

The cons: More expensive than digital versions—hundreds of dollars compared to less than a dollar for a DVD. The days of elaborate, leather-bound books have generally passed, but even today’s more common minibooks can be made out of wood or leather.

A book can get stuck on a shelf, and there’s a chance it will be forgotten or even lost. Plus, you only have one (unless you’re mass-producing minibooks), which means it can only be viewed by one agency at a time.

You might be tempted to be too “creative” with presentation. O’Neill sent a portfolio in 1989 that was covered in pink fur. “We’re in a conformist era [today],” he says. Adds Jamie Flynn, creative recruiting manager of GSD&M in Austin, Texas: “I would advise against becoming so creative it distracts from your work.”


The pros: Makes a nice complement to a book. DVDs with broadcast work are easy to include, but attach them well.

Easier to navigate than traditional reels if done correctly. “Make sure your menu is easy,” says Jae Goodman, co-executive creative director of Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco. “Give me a ‘play all’ choice and maybe a ‘by client’ choice.”

Computers are more up-to-date than three-quarter-inch or half-inch machines. “I don’t want to see a three-quarter [inch] anymore,” says Guy Seese, who will be joining Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco in March as a cd. “That means you’re old-school. If you send me a half-inch, that means you’re a youngster.”

The cons: Like books, but unlike Web sites, it can be lost. However, a DVD can crash computers.

Not always a great way to showcase print work. “If you’re a writer and there’s lots of body copy to read, that’s probably not the best way to present it,” says Seese.

The PDF book

The pros: Easy to send along with a digital résumé. New York-based headhunter Ellen Abrahams likes to send agencies her candidates’ PDFs or Web site URLs with their résumés. “We’d rather entice them with the work off the bat,” she says. “It’s a great way to make an introduction.”

Cheap to produce. “It’s a more cost-effective way to send work out,” Flynn says.

Simple to store. “There’s a lot of convenience to it,” O’Neill says. “I can put it in a folder and it’s never lost.”

The cons: Potential hazard. “It’s not like I’m consciously saying, ‘There may be a virus in this kid’s book,'” says Goodman. “But in this culture of e-mail, there’s a hesitation to open an attachment. And if I’m on the road, do I want to open up this big file right now?”

Authenticity in question. An ad “doesn’t seem as real on a PDF,” O’Neill says.

May require an extra step. “Often times, I will print PDF books,” says Flynn. “It’s not ideal—it’s more really a tool for me to be able to sit with it a little longer.”

The Web site

The pros: Great way to show range of work, especially integrated campaigns. “I love to see a tight campaign that includes TV and wraps it with print and the Web site, but that doesn’t show so well in what would be a traditional reel,” says Seese (who didn’t submit anything to Goodby, which called him, except a 15-page article in Graphis magazine featuring his work).

Widely accessible. “I can e-mail [a URL] to more than one person in the creative department, and sometimes people may not be in the office, but they can access their e-mail,” says Monica Buchanan, vp, creative recruiter at BBDO New York.

Extra creative outlet. “It makes everyone’s work look more impressive,” says O’Neill. “If you’ve got enough wherewithal to put it together, it’s another way to showcase your brand of creativity.”

Inevitability. “I think the industry is getting used to the idea of Web sites,” says Abrahams. “Many people have books and not Web sites. That will change.”

The cons: Could irritate viewer if not well-navigable. “Web sites are sort of a nuisance to me,” says Evanoff. “They are time-consuming to look at. You always have to navigate back to look at different pieces, whether it is print, broadcast, direct or interactive.”

Can’t be spread out on a conference table. “It makes it a little harder to look at work with other people at the same time,” Boches says. “I’m forced to look at it on my desk.”

E-mails containing links can be overlooked. It’s generally not a bad idea to make a follow-up call. “Tenacity goes a long way,” Goodman says.

The truth: Not one option wins out above the others. And to make things even more complicated, you can’t predict which way recipients want to see your work at the moment they’re ready to take a look. Are they working late at the office, sitting at home with a glass of wine, or 30,000 feet above Des Moines, Iowa? Some creative directors’ and recruiters’ advice: Send an electronic version and a physical copy.

Fortunately, there is a somewhat comforting bottom line. “It really comes down to the work inside,” says Flynn. “We’ve hired people with color copies and a DVD held together with a binder clip because it’s about the work.”