Saturday, September 23, 2017

Notes from Skype Mentors: What Doreen does when someone else can say it better.

As many of you know, my classes include a session with a “Skype Mentor.”  I ask former students (many now at ECD and Principal level), industry leaders and all around nice people with extensive experience – the jobs, awards and kind of books you want – to spend an hour one-on-one with my students. 

Students show their work, get advice, discuss industry trends – exactly what, I’m not sure.  These sessions are private between student and Mentor.  If anyone wants to share, I love to hear.  If not, that’s fine too.  

Since I started doing it, we’ve had (look for their agency and/or portfolio sites) creative giants including David Baldwin, David Glaze, Nick Cade, Ryan Martindale, Robert Clifton, Rich Toltzman, Robyn Cohen, Allison Hammer, George Logothetis, Josh Shelton, Sara Steinberg, Cal McAllister, Derek Barnes, Britton Rice, Jameson Rossi and others.

 If I've forgotten anyone, let me know.  I'll make it up to you somehow. 

This term I asked my students to send me a short paragraph or two about their biggest takeaway from their Mentor Session.  Nothing personal, just something I could share here on the blog to inspire others.

If you really want to be impressed, google some of the folks who participated.  Their work, of course.  But also their accomplishments. 

Skype Mentor: Britton Rice

“Brit told me that there will always be times where your writing doesn't fit what the client and/or the agency wants but don't take it personally. He said the difference between creatives who went to Circus and the ones who didn't is Circus grads take the criticism, hit the ground running and come back with even stronger work. 

“He also told me to always stay curious because you never know when something random you wanted to read about might spark your next idea.”

Skype Mentor: Alison Hammer 

“Alison told me it may feel necessary — as a junior — to be first to speak or give feedback in group settings. We may feel pressure to assert ourselves in an effort to prove worth but don’t. 

“Fight the urge. 

“Not last to speak but not first. Listen more talk less. Whatever words we choose to use during conversations/feedback should always aim to add value

“This is something I’ll remember forever. So true. So important. But takes practice.”

Skype Mentor: Jameson Rossi

“If you ever get really stuck or burned-out on an assignment, forget about the strategy and previous lines. Start as far away as you can from everything. Start going "What if [blank]" and go as messed up as you want. You can always dial it back later.”

Skype Mentor:  Sara Steinberg
“Even if I don't have work I'm happy to share, get it on a site now. That way I won't be scrambling to figure out how to do it later…

“The way she works: getting a brief and going off alone to write headlines before she meets with an AD or anyone works best for her. Headlines help her come up with concepts.

“Talked about where to work, small vs big shops, freelance, how to find your place/niche, etc.a)... She said while your first two jobs should be a small shop and a big shop, smaller shops are scrappier. There you wear more hats, less going through the higher ups and higher higher ups.

“Lastly, we talked about the difference in San Fran industry and other major cities. She said other spots are really big on the extensions [outdoor, e-media, social, broadcast, environmental, promotional, etc.], and there's such thing as "concept writers"... people with ideas that can only go so far, and they don't actually do much WRITING.

“She said she's heard the big guys talk about young writers who have lost their craft. They're all about executing quickly, getting shit done. But what you need to be able to do is WRITE.

“She gave me some people's books to check out (Ken Ziegler, Dave Adams, Jeff Lam, Jeff Greenspan, Ivan Cash). They're really cool, each for different reasons.”

Skype Mentor: Nick Cade
“It's all about the ideas — particularly for a student book. CDs want to see big ideas and executions that make them sit up and take notice. This is particularly true of transgressive ideas — things that take guts to execute, regardless of if you get support in doing them. For an example, check out his hack marriage campaign at It was low-budget, high profile, and it took just three guys with vision and courage to make it happen.  
“Interestingly, he also said that the industry is primed for writers right now. He downplayed his own skills as a writer, and said that now people want to see good copy decks. People who write well are in high demand. That's good news for us.”

Skype Mentor: Ryan Martindale

“Find someone who can take you under their wing, to teach you the things school doesn't (how to talk to clients, how to navigate the politics of agency life, etc.).
“Also, remember most CDs are old-school. They appreciate someone who can write their ass off. Incorporating new tech is great and important, but writing is your craft and you have to do it expertly.”
Thought these nuggets would get you thinking.  Would like to add one more, this for a former student now working in Singapore, paraphrased (probably badly).
“If you’re not a US Citizen and want to work here, enter every award show you can.  No matter how silly, insignificant or prestigious it is.  Anything you can add to your resume to show your unique talent will help at VISA time.”

This food for thought, along w/everything else published here at, is ©Doreen Dvorin/KamikazeCreative™

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Going over last week’s revisions, it occurred to me this (September 9th) is our last meeting before Finals. What are Finals?

Finals are everything you have done for this class, revised, edited and proofread to the nth degree.  The copy deck (A1.V6-A6.V2-3) should include it all, even if I have previously marked it FINAL.  That’s all, folks!

Be prepared for questions.  Some I will ask.  Some you’d best ask yourself before you turn in your work for the term:

      Have I read Sway?  Can I answer questions on it?

      Have I read Steal Like an Artist?  Can I answer questions on it?

Is my writing active?

     Do I use “is” (in all its forms) and “and” too much?  Can I recognize them as a strong hint I         need to work on my structure?

Do my lines run downhill, weighted by downer words and end preps?  Trailing energy?

Do I use too many articles?  Do I use the best articles?  Have I even thought about it?

Do I change tones when I mention product/features/benefits/client?

Do I integrate the idea of product/client early on?

Do I have an introductory line/paragraph/or two I really don’t need?

Is that a headline?  Or is that a cliché?
 I    If it’s a cliché, have I given it a kiru?

Is that headline blind?

 Am I selling Category or am I selling Brand?

 Or am I rationalizing?

 Did I read my headlines and body copy aloud?

 Did I listen when someone else ready my headlines and body copy out loud?

 Did I trust spellcheck?

 Does the paragraphing/spacing work?  Does it add to the tone and isolate important

      Is that verb active?

 Is that verb weak?

 Did I check everything against my personal Kamikaze Copy Sins list?

 Did I check everything against the entire Kamikaze Copy Sins list?

 What other questions, issues, asides, hidden lessons have we discussed this term I'd best       not forget?

      Once again, I bow to the devils fighting between Word and blogger.  I apologize for spacing, alignment, etc.        losses -  Mercury may have just turned Direct.  Obviously, no one told whatever program lost publishing this.

          Once again, this entry and everything included in this blog from the beginning is (c)2017, Doreen Dvorin/KamikazeCreative(R)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fun with Periods. Commas, Exclams! and Blank Spaces

It’s not my job to teach you grammar.  It’s my job to teach you to manipulate grammar you already know. Doreen returns with some help from Master Copywriter/Creative George Logothetis.    

These. Brakes. Have. Amazing. Stopping. Power. 

A while back I asked George Logothetis, former student extraordinaire, to share his portfolio with my class.  (Not only did he oblige, he thrilled a current student as one of my Team Skype Mentors.)  Among the Jay Chiat Award-, One Show Pencil-, Cannes-, Effie-, Webby-, Addy-, Etc.- winning pieces ( I found this ad for BMW motorcycles (George served as BMW bikes’ de facto CD for years).

It stopped me. In. My. Tracks.

One of the most important aspects of writing copy is controlling how prospects, talent and others process content, place verbal and content emphasis. One of the simplest ways of doing this is with creative use of punctuation, copy breaks, paragraphing   Spacing      Etc.

For some it's instinctive.  For others, an overly paranoid battle of If it’s not good grammar should I.

The Gospel According to Doreen - Why not?

If you understand what they mean in sub-conscious interpretation, bending breaking rules of grammar/punctuation works.  As long as you don’t take liberties so jarring, your copy’s dismissed as amateurish or ignorant.
To make it work, understand both the visual and verbal clues you give your readers. (1)

Take periods (in bullet points for all you Millennials; no more than four lines/bullet/paragraph for the web specifically, most writing in general):

  • A period is a stop.  In headlines they make a bold statement and/or force the prospect to consider the headline before continuing into body copy
  • Eliminating them allows the line to linger in the prospect’s mind, continuing its thought to the body copy.  This is not the same as breaking a line between headline/opening line in the first paragraph, with or without an implied subject (gerund – ing ­ form of verb, which classically turns verbs into nouns).
  • Using periods between words and short line fragments forces the reader to follow the visual and subconscious cue to pause.  George’s headline is a brilliant example.  It controls the reader.  Expresses the benefit of the product being.

The contradiction of commas:
  • An accelerator and a speed bump.  Commas divide, pause or push a reader through a line. Which it does is up to you, the visual/verbal connection and subconscious prospect grammar takes.
  • In grouped individual words and/or phrases, a comma says consider this word, then consider the word(s)/phrase(s) following.  The entire line is consumed as being connected, cuing relational words/phrases to follow.
  • Oxford Commas – technically those after a clause preceding, and, or.  In a list of three or more words, or clauses.(2)  Never in ad copy (regardless medium). 
  •  People don’t volunteer to read commercial writing.  Any pause gives permission to stop reading.  Combine a comma w/and, it’s a double visual and subconscious cue there’s lots more coming, stop reading while you can.
  • Commas are the most mis/overused punctuation in business/commercial/advertising writing.  Too many cause visual confusion and kill readability.  Create pauses instead of flow.

The rule on Exclams:

Don’t do it.
  • Exclams are fine in personal correspondence, love notes and tweets from thirteen year old girls (3).  In commercial writing, they scream Amateur! Doesn’t know how to create emphasis with structure, space and other tricks.
  • The exceptions, using exclaims stylistically when mocking Late Night TV pitchsters, love notes and tweets from thirteen year old girls.

 About     those    blank    spaces:
  • Amazing   how   slowly   you   read   that   line,   isn’t it.  Extra spaces create separation visually.
  • I used them in headlines    of    course.
  • It’s best not to exceed four lines/paragraph (a hard rule in web writing, as the computer screen causes different visual reactions to type than print)   sometimes   even    four    lines   can appear too dense for voluntary readability. If all you care about is three or four words in the middle, spacing them out can render them top take-away. 


Another way to create
visual emphasis
  • Stacking is first and foremost a writer’s decision, not the prevue of Designers and Art Directors.
  • If you intend to use stacking for emphasis, flow and/or separation, make sure your graphic partner doesn’t change the stacks

and even
changing the

·        A more easily digested stacking of that same line (pay attention to other minior changes):

Even changing

A big difference in two visual treatments of the same line.
A big difference in the way the same line is/isn’t read. (4)

A segue to the last bit of grammar for today, Capitalization:
  •          Initial caps can be hard to read.  If you have a headline without an active verb, you  really have a title.  The Capitalization Conundrum.  Like a book title, in three-five word  headlines, initial caps (capitalizing the first letter of important words) create a strong  statement by naming it.
  •       In body copy, they do the same.  You can name Anything, creating emphasis.
  •       You can also use initial caps in quotes, to avoid the visual distraction of what Doreen said is, The visual clutter and disconnect of “”s.

I use these and many other little Fun with Punctuation Tricks.  Done right, most readers don’t notice.  Done wrong – expect everyone to call you on it.

Obviously, there’s more to all this.  One of the best ways to learn, read innovative poets, novelists, essayists, columnists and video narrative.  Listen to the way people talk to each other (good copy is an intimate conversation between people who know, like and respect each other).

Get your words together.


See how punctuation,   spacing   Capitalization, etc. affect how what you write is read.

And Oh - Follow This Blog.

   (1)   I isolated this line in its own paragraph for emphasis instead of using italics or bold face.  The latter would have made it stand out, but would have interrupted the smooth visual flow of the copy.  Causing readers’ eyes to jump, possibly right off the page.  (Here, an implied subject eliminated “and,” a run-on and sped the reader through the line, further accelerated by the comma after jump.
   (2)   You may notice I use a – to both create spacial isolation and to push the reader into the next word, phrase - whatever.  As a connector, hyphens and dashes create a visual slide into what’s next, even when it’s isolated by extra space.
   (3) Notice I didn’t hyphenate thirteen-year-old.  Yes it’s correct.  No I didn’t want to create the visual emphasis.  
(  (4)   Yes, I did repeat the first three words in these two lines.  It’s called Parallel Structure.  When it works, it creates emphasis, controls flow.  When it doesn’t, the can make the Prospect think the exact repetition is an error.  Why read if it’s a mistake?  But that’s a discussion of structure, which I promise to take up soon.

   Apologies.  Something strange happens copying posts in Word, then moving them into Blogger's compose block.  I've been wrestling with spacing, bullet points, etc. for an hour now.  Mercury is Retrograde.  Blogger wins!

This post and all original content in this blog ©Doreen Dvorin/Kamikaze Creative ™

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

7 a.m. in Memphis - I called the FCC, both my senators and my congressman

Have you called yours?  Google Net Neutrality, go to - they'll connect you to everyone, give you a script to put into your own words.

Or you can not call and complain when no one can get to your Portfolio Site.

It's your world.  Take control of it.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

July 12th – More than the day before I teach my first class in two Qs.

If you have no problem reaching this blog, it’s because a long hard fight was won in the name of net neutrality.  Under Donald Trump’s new chair of the FCC, net neutrality – the right of all web presence to be accessed equally, with privacy protections and regardless of ads/no ads, paying/not paying fees escalating with bought and paid for speed – is in serious danger.

Instead of this blog, you could be getting “This site not available, try later” or “Unable to access, try later.” “Use html version.”  Under the new “tax refunds for 2% vs. health care for everyone” administration, proposed rule changes will allow Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and others to charge fast lane fees, slowing traffic to this blog and millions like it to a slimy snail’s crawl.  All to allow bigger, paying customers to hog the web.

If it seems an insignificant change, consider this: the mom and pop t-shirt shop I use for A and Copy Sin shirts will lose enough site traffic to conceivably put a family and the student designers they employ working for Walmart.  Those specialty sites you use for whatever?  The portfolio site you’re building?  You’re smart enough to be reading this.  You figure it out.

I shop Amazon, but what is it really?  A clearing house for small businesses paying to be included.  Squeeze out the little guy and if you want to read this blog, I’ll be paying someone -  an aggregator like Amazon or a Comcast – so you can find the blog and read it for free.  

I might be forced to accept ads, school and agency sponsorships. Implying endorsements I am very careful to avoid.

Even more worser, you may need a paid subscription to read information I now share freely.

When you go to work for an agency, you'll not only be using your creativity for readership, awareness, commerce, click through.  You'll also work on accounts in the slow lane and you'll have to figure ways to beat it.  If you don't that client - and your job - may not recover.

Know the ancient arcade game, Frogger?  Trying to cross lanes of fast moving traffic without going splat?

Without net neutrality, we’re all Frogged.

July 12th is Net Neutrality Action Day.  Net neutrality and privacy advocates will be drowning officials with demands for free access and privacy. Put your words in gear, call or write your Congressperson.  Senators.  The FCC.  Google net neutrality, you’ll have a million options of petitions, phone connections, letter forms, protests. 

The web’s your world, not mine.

Own it.  Fight for it.  Create the free world you want to live in.

This post, along with everything else on this blog, (c)2017 or earlier,  Doreen Dvorin/Kamikaze Creative

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Holy Kamikaze! In which Doreen corrects an earlier confusion and reminds you who we work for

Two terms ago, David Baldwin met w/my class to initiate my “Team Skyper” sessions.  It’d been a long time since David team taught with me.  As usual, he was fabulous (the shirt’s in the mail, David!). 

He also reminded me I was remiss in my teaching.  At one point in the sessions, he said (in a coded message to me, I’m sure), “Everything we do is Objective Based.”  Score One, David.

The last time David and I team taught, I was experimenting with my first class in Object Based Kamikaze Creative Strategy.  It was something David, David Glaze (then of genex/LA and Designatory, now of Amazon) and Minsoo Pak (Sparks Grove/Atlanta) and I had been playing with.  Making the medium the concept.

I taught it at the Circus.  Blogged about it (6/1/11, 7/30/11 + sprinkled throughout).  Reworked the Kamikaze Creative Work Plan.  Then seemed to forget about it.

I was still teaching Kamikaze Creative Strategy, but dropped the Objective Based Thinking.  When David, David, Minsoo and I were trying to figure out how to teach it, we were way ahead of the curve.  The curve caught up.

Last term, I went back to emphasizing (and did my Friday seminar on) Object Based Kamikaze Creative Strategy.  Will be doing a seminar on it at the Circus tomorrow (if you’re in town, 9:30 a.m. at the Circus, tell the security station/receptionist you’re here to see me, they’ll direct you to Carol Vick Bynum Auditorium).  In the revisitation, I realized I made a mistake earlier.

I should never have moved the Objective ahead of the Prospect.  On the form. In the teaching.

It’s failed logic.  Objective Based KCS (Kamikaze Creative Strategy) does make meeting the Objective part of the Creative Concept (CC or KCC).  Knowing the Objective doesn’t mean squat, however, unless you have a good handle on your Prospect.

In Objective Based KCS, Prospect still rules.

What good is knowing you want to introduce something if you don’t know who you want to introduce it to?  Ditto creating awareness, branding, rebranding, positioning and every other Creative Objective.

Objective Based Strategies are first and foremost What are we trying to do.  Concepting the media mix, vehicles you can use creatively (innovate and/or reinvent/invent) to meet the Objective.  Putting the product in front of the Prospect so they cannot ignore it.  Integrating it organically into the fabric of their lives.

To creatively meet your Objective, you must know who you’re reaching for inside/out.  Same as for every other Kamikaze Creative Strategy. 

As in all things Advertising Creative, Prospect still rules.

The form is correctly as follows:
1.      Prospect Definition
2.      Creative Objective
3.      Prospect Problem to Solve
4.      Competitive Information
5.      Promise
      Reasons Why*
6.     Kamikaze Key Fact
7.      Mandates & Limitations

Mea Culpea.  Even Doreen is not perfect. 

GRRRR...for some reason, cannot get Reasons Why to show as its own bullet point.  It is.  Sorry.

This post, along with everything else on this blog, (c)2016 or earlier,  Doreen Dvorin/Kamikaze Creative

Monday, July 11, 2016

Forgive me, Mother, for I have sinned

Last term I asked other writers/CDs, ECDs, Innovators - some former students, some not, to team teach my Skype sessions.  I know I have a strong, seemingly unbendable voice.  I put more emphasis on Professionalism and personal responsibility than I am told others do.  I also recognize mine isn't the only - or even the best - way to do/teach. 

I want students to hear other voices, other points of view.  From people they respect, whose work they admire, whose success they wish to emulate.

The experience showed I'd been guilty of one of my major "nevers."  I let several classes of if-they're-not-in-my-facebook/twitter/linked/gram/buzz group-they-don't-count students get to me.  So tired was I of this insensitivity and egoism, teaching became tedious, almost impossible. 

How could I teach people Prospect Centric/Objective Based Creative Strategy if all they cared about were self-reflections on a four inch screen? (See blog entries 5/7/15, 6/21/15 also one posted earlier today)

Growing up, my mother instilled in me an insatiable appetite for learning how those outside my immediate world thought, felt, lived.  Attending fourteen different elementary schools fed it.  Living my life to its surprising, fearless-if-foolish fullest filled in the blanks.

A woman ahead of her times, my mother filled our dinner table with people of all sexual orientations, religions.  Different nationalities, colors, social and financial strata.  Sometimes opposite philosophies, politics.  Before the years of marches and protest rallies, she did it out of an innate respect, caring and curiosity about people.  A gift she passed on to me.

Unknowingly, Diana raised an instinctive creative strategist.  Someone unafraid to confront those different from - even threatening - me, how I thought. What I did - and didn't - understand about faces in the crowd not like mine.  (See blog 3/1/15)

Last term, David Baldwin (look him up - he's the guy you'll spend your entire career trying to work for) team taught two sessions with me.  David said a lot of important stuff - some of which reminded me I had become so myopic teaching structure, content, style and smart less-wordiness, I no was longer focusing on - or even including - an aspect of Creative Strategy I tried to introduce ten years too soon.

"Everything we do is Objective Based," David told the students.  Reminding me of a class I taught on Objective Based Creative before most agencies knew what it was.  I invited three ahead of their time CDs to that class, each to give Objective Based assignments, then return to help critique the resulting work.  (David Glaze from LA/now Seattle, who will be team skyping this term, David Baldwin from Raleigh and Minsoo Pak from Atlanta participated.)

I never totally abandoned Prospect Centricity.  I used it as a tool to teach young copywriters how to write/relate product to prospect.  Focusing on what they wrote, how.  On the Kamikaze Copy Sins, integrating product into copy/concept.  

David reminded me I had to do more.  Time to get back to Objective Based/Prospect Centric Kamikaze Creative Strategy.  Look back in this blog - way back, to entries from 12/13/12, 7/30/12, sprinkled throughout others.

If you're in Atlanta, attend my Creative Circus Open Workshop (required if you're in my class next term) Friday, 9:30 a.m., 7/15/16.  I'm not doing Kamikaze Copy Sins (although too many writers need it).  I'm doing Objective Based/Prospect Centric Kamikaze Creative Strategy. 

If you're not a Circus student, tell Security you're here to see me. We're usually in the auditorium. All are welcome.

If you opted into my Creative Circus class this coming term, be forewarned.  Yes, I'll be picking apart your copy, requiring revision after revision after revision.  Translating thoughts.  Avoiding Copy Sins. 

The big difference:  I'll be skewing the way I teach writing to meet a Bigger Objective, not just calling out cliches, run-ons, reminding you we deal with Prospects and Products.

I'll also be hitting up friends, colleagues, former students for team teaching sessions.  Am working on a new Kamikaze Copy Sin list in response to changes I've seen the last few terms.  Challenging you, I hope, to earn one of those "I nailed Doreen's..." A shirts.

As for my Mother, thank you, Diana.  You gave me the people addiction which lead me to learn everyone and anyone who's not like me - has a part that is.

Ryan Martindale also team taught last term, but due to scheduling issues, worked with recent and soon-to-be grads, leaving each of them gushing praises and thank yous.

On a personal note, I am now living in Memphis, TN.  Loving the conflicting reality of a city living music in the face of some of the worst poverty I've seen outside Third World Countries.  

I'll still be teaching at the Circus.  Hope to continue my start-up consultations and freelance.

Once the moving in's over, getting back to helping deserving students (A shirt or not) hook up with creatives and creative directors to find their first great first job.  I'll also be more regular and focused on this blog and several other writing projects I've been struggling with.  Even Doreen gets lost sometime.  Time she found her voice again.

(c)2016, Doreen Dvorin/Kamikaze Creative