Criticize me, baby

It was the great Alexander O’Neal, who, in his 1987 hit ‘Criticize’, said ‘Don’t criticize my friends, criticize my ideas.’ The thing is, what if I would prefer it if people criticized my friends? My ideas are precious, intimate corners of my mind and soul, laid bare for the world to see and pick apart at their discretion. My friends are just people called Beth and Michael that I go to brunch with. Criticise them all you like, quite frankly. That’s their problem.

My partner and I are pregnant with our first portfolio child. We’re only in the early stages, and it’s sort of all over the place, but we’re being told to go to X amount of book crits per week. To extend the metaphor, it’s like thrusting your baby scan in peoples’ faces and expecting them to go ‘it’s BEAUTIFUL!’ and ‘I’m so excited’ and ‘it looks just like you!’ etc etc. Some people will say it, but you know it’s not exactly true. It’s a little bit deformed and everyone knows it. You don’t even know which way to look at the damn thing. But here we are, emailing agencies anyway, begging them to take a look at our creepy little book and somehow expecting them to feel charmed.

With our various commitments we’ve barely had the time to do our briefs each week, nevermind go to crits and actually implement their feedback. But in order to stay on track, we’ve been going anyway – turning up on Zoom between meetings and clumsily attempting to explain our fruit-picking sex party campaign that we were certain made sense when we made the case study video at 2am on a Thursday night two months ago. There we are, beads of sweat forming on our foreheads, as we try to pass the mic over to the other person and deflect responsibility away from what is currently happening.

Responses to our book have varied. We’ve had mostly positive crits, telling us it’s a really good start and to keep going. But it has to be said that some have been a bit perplexed. They might pick a really specific, insignificant thing and say they love that – like ‘hey, it’s amazing that you use divider slides between campaigns!’ or ‘that contact us page is neat!’ Others will pause for a really, really long time after a campaign and then admit that they aren’t exactly sure what is going on. It’s hard to bare all like that, especially when you’re aware of how much work there’s still left to do. Instinctively, you want to hide.

We’ve now got quite a lengthy bank of critiques and feedback to implement, but the crits keep coming. It’s relentless. I’ve begun to grow weary about continuing our venture for recognition. It’s a double edged sword – on the one hand, book crits are a great way to establish connections with agencies, and we have some decent early work to show. On the other, it welcomes the opportunity for them to think you’re a moron before you’ve even had the chance to enter D&AD. I’ve been feeling confused about it all, so at our Christmas party, I asked a couple of mentors for advice. The first said ‘Don’t burn too many bridges too early.’ Then I asked another. ‘Go to as many crits as you can, as soon as you can,’ he said. ‘Show them your work, get feedback, and then they’ll be impressed when they see how much you’ve improved.’

Having been to the mentors and hearing their wisdom, I came to a conclusion. The conclusion was that they have too many contradicting opinions, and, therefore, proved useless to my dilemma. For now, I guess we’ll just roll up our sleeves, swallow our pride, and sell our baby book with confidence. Even if it does sort of look like an alien.


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