Friday, May 17, 2013

That's Advertising For You

Even though book covers can be considered a form of advertising (as almost all illustration can be), When an artist refers to an 'Advertising' job, they usually referring to a specific niche of illustration, usually one dealign with magazines, film, billboards, national campaigns, music, etc.

Advertising jobs differ from book cover jobs in a lot of ways. Firstly, the budgets are usually a LOT bigger. Which is expected, since the workload, exposure, and money at stake, are all much larger.

The other difference though, and the one that often discourages a lot of illustrators from doing such jobs, is that instead of working with a single Art Director, the art approval process usually happens by committee... very large committees.

The typical result is, a lot of revisions.

And I mean a lot of revisions.

Of course, the client pays very well for these revisions, but are we really in this field for the money? For many, there comes a point when the money just isn't worth the frustration of a having a client change absolutely everything you just did for seemingly no good reason... only to then change it back.

One of the reasons for this problem is inherent in decisions made by committees. The fact is, you can't please everyone. If everyone gets their say, what you get is a mediocre mess.

(If you're ever speaking to a veteran illustrator, just ask them about their worst advertising experience. Without a doubt, they will have a nightmare story to relay.)

Take for instance the latest iteration of the 'Little Debbie' logo.

If I had to guess, the advertising agency in charge of this revamp likely spent 10's of thousands of dollars on this. They probably hired multiple artists to do something specific, then picked their favorite, and had that artist revise it until they were happy.

And what did they end up with?

Well, a logo that looks pretty much like what they had in the first place. And that's OK. It's good to revise things every now and then.

But the real question is, how many revisions did it take to accomplish this?

How many times did they send this picture back to the artist because he painted too many freckles... or he made her look 6 years old instead of 6 1/2... or her hair just didn't look juuuust the right amount of messy?

Care to guess how many times?

16 !

16 revisions, and a year to complete it.

You can read more about it HERE.


  1. I work in the world of live events for my day job and am all too familiar with the culture of 'design by commitee'. I don't know what's harder to take: the constant, never-ending nitpicking or the fact that you get to watch your own ideas be unravelled each time by a room full of clueless people.

    SIXTEEN revisions?! It takes a certain kind of person to stay strong in the face of that much messing about!

  2. As someone working in the field, sixteen revisions for a high-visibility corporate branding refresh doesn't seem excessive to me. You keep working at it until the client is pleased, even if it occasionally takes all that time and effort for the client to realise they were actually happy with what they had at the start. If that seems slightly surreal, well.. it's somewhat of a surreal business by nature.

    "All in the game, yo, all in the game."

  3. I can say without exaggeration that 80% of my work in an office for a well known brand is revisions.

  4. I suspect 3/4 of people on committees are in fact idiots. That many revisions would suck the life out of my soul.

  5. Committees are the graveyards of good ideas.

  6. Advertising is a nightmare I seem unable to wake up from. At times it feels like we are just hired hands skilled with pencil/brush/computer and our knowledge of aesthetics mean diddly.

    Have to say though, when submitting the bill with added hours, the look in their faces when they regret making soo many changes is ... somewhat pleasing ;-)

  7. If a book cover ranges from $2500- $5000 how much would an artist expect for an advertising illustration? I know there are many variables but can you give a ball park? Is it usually priced out at a flat fee or by the hour? Thanks so much!

  8. It seems that more and more book cover work is becoming too similar to advertising work.
    Some months ago it took 8 different sketches (for eight different ideas), two revisions on sketches and five revisions on final art to get a cover approved. Too much power of decision on marketing departments means little knowledge of what makes an image work.
    This kind of approval by committees creates what I like to call "Frankensteins' artworks". Little pieces from here and there that create something that isn't really alive.
    At least there are still some clients who are a pleasure to work with. Every revision makes sense. That makes this profession more satisfying :)

  9. "A committee, is a group of the unwilling chosen from the unfit to do the unnecessary."

    Don't know who said this but it sums up advertising/marketing perfectly.

  10. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!



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