Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Do you believe? Roger that!

Recently my agency Joe Berkeley LLC  made a commercial for Shields MRI starring Tom Brady that went viral. It's had millions of views and been covered by every major news outlet.

The punch line of the spot, "roger that" has showed up on tee shirts, headlines, everywhere.

Adweek, which named Droga5 the Agency of the Year in 2016 the spot I wrote was better than Droga5's. They had a lot more people than I do, but to be fair, I had a really, really great Labrador retriever on my team.

So what did it all come down to?

You gotta believe.

I believed in the script. The client believed in the script. The director Bobby Farrelly believed in the script. Then the greatest quarterback of all time, TB12 believed in the script.

There are large organizations out there that have entire departments of people dedicated to disbelieving. They find the faults, create concerns, and water the work down until it's just bland.

In my opinion,  "Roger that" is short hand for believing in yourself, overcoming the odds, staying positive and never ever, ever, ever letting the bastards get you down.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What does your head shot say about you in the digital economy?

There was a time when I was molly coddled in the warm womb of a large corporation. Assignments came my way and if I applied nose to grindstone the flow of work was steady. At the time, a friend created a head shot for me and I eagerly launched it on social media.

The shot was inspired by a nickname a wonderful co-worker had given me, "Joe Joe the Dog Faced Boy." All good. I had some good laughs at my own expense.

A few years later, it wasn't so funny.  I'm running my own business now and this is probably not an image that fills potential clients with confidence. Recently I took a head shot seminar with Peter Hurley, a Canon Explorer of Light, who is widely regarded as the best head shot photographer in the world and he did a bit better than my co-worker. 

Hurley's goal is to create an image that makes the subject appear confident and approachable. I studied with him, took the lessons to heart,  and have created head shots for others. Lisa is the head of her own strategy company. Her credentials are impeccable. Her head shot was intended to convey her collaborative, friendly spirit. 

Olivia's goal is to work in film, television, and theatre. She is finishing up her studies and is going to launch her career. She is competent, confident, friendly, and well schooled in her skills. 

What does your headshot say about you? Does it say you can do a keg stand? Does it matter? Studies indicate it does. The story below talks about how first impressions stick in the digital age and people who will give you work or go on a date with you are certainly going to have a look at your digital footprint. 

If you're ready to leave the "life of the party" photo behind and replace it with a professional image, make one of your New Year's resolutions a new head shot. Reach me at 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Year in Review

The fact that I haven't written an entry in a long time is a good sign. Year three of running my own company has been busy and productive.  There were a lot of highlights and I'm not writing to brag. I'm hoping that if you found your way to this site you're looking for hope. 

In 2016, I've had some epic adventures and made some great work with amazing clients. Here are a few of the highlights.

I made a commercial with Tom Brady. I wrote the script and the checks. The spot received more than 1 million views on social media and energized the client. Amazing. There were about 10,000 ways this project could have died. I believed in the idea and did my best to will it into existence.

 I wrote and directed a film in Sydney, Australia. This was an amazing adventure and it was a thrill and an honor. To make a film on the other side of the world, what a life changing experience.  

I wrote the script, directed the film, and shot the stills for a blue chip client. This was a great experience and it changed the way I think about creating work.

I wrote and shot a feature for Sailing World, the Bible of the sport. In my opinion, if you can write and shoot for a national magazine you can sure as hell write and shoot for a commercial client.

Most importantly, I changed my mindset and my business charter to be a content creation company. 
Purchasing a camera, a Canon 70D was a good start. Fortunately, it broke on a tech scout. Then I rigged up next to Pulitzer Prize winner David L. Ryan at a Laser regatta and he insisted I buy a Canon 1DX mark II, the best pro body in the world.

I was nervous that the investment wouldn't pay for itself. My wife listened to the facts and said, "Shut up and buy it."  Soon enough, the 1DX mark II went to work shooting stills on the blue chip client assignment and was B camera on two video shoots. 

The next step was to train with the best professionals in the world. Onne van der Wal is the greatest nautical photographer of all time and Peter Hurley is the number one headshot photographer in the world. Both are both Canon Explorers of Light.  If you want to up your game as a shooter, take a seminar from either of them.

For me, 2016 was an epic year because I believed in myself, had the support of my spouse, focused on the positive and ignored the critics. I hope you do the same. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Freelance Equation by Collin Sheehan

The Freelance Equation
by Collin Sheehan, 7/16/2016

I just got back from a month on the road. No, I wasn’t on some epic car shoot in Dolomites. There was no pitch involved. It wasn’t even for work. It was (gasp) time off. Mostly, anyway. For four weeks. An obnoxious amount of time.

I’ll note here that I didn’t set out to be gone that long. It just so happened that my life was fluid enough to roll with it. Longtime friend schedules a big hike on a Wednesday in the middle of the summer? No problem. Wife’s family reunion is the entire week after that in the Cape? Sure. Got drunk one February evening and signed up for a two-week homebuilding class in the woods of Maine which just happens to fall immediately after the midweek hike and Cape vacation? We’re pushing it a bit, but yeah, go ahead. Oh, and Newport Folk Fest kicks off the same day you graduate from aforementioned drunken building class? Fuck it, just go.

This is not a typical month in the life of a freelancer. There are trade offs to pulling away for huge amounts of time. The most obvious is watching your checking account tick down like a debt clock in reverse. That said, if you cut your overhead and left the appropriate amount of padding you won’t sweat through your mattress over it. At least not all the way through.

That homebuilding class had some major opportunity cost attached to it as well; a firm I really wanted to work with finally reached out and I had to pass. Maybe they’ll call back, maybe they won’t – but at least I know how to disassemble a chainsaw down to the pistons and thread four ought aluminum wire into my home circuit breaker without dying. Neither of which I had a clue about 30 days ago. Those are life skills. Hard to quantify, but more valuable (at least to me) than a week at my day rate.

The whole month wasn’t a total financial bonfire. I was able to get a couple of projects completed from up in New Hampshire before the hike and again while I was watching ospreys circle over the water from a midcape beach. Life could be worse.

I’ve always felt like people who freelance use images like that writing-on-the-beach one I just whipped out as a justification for their life choices. I am likely doing that right now, at least at a brain-stem level. The result of this tendency is that full-timers romanticize freelance in much the same way that wealthy yuppies romanticize farming. “I’ll wake with the sun! I’ll live with the ebb and flow of the seasons! I’ll grow something real for a change!” Some of that will inevitably be true, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to be covered in shit and muttering to yourself in a field much of the time.

Freelance has similar built-in contrasts. You meet some cool people, but most of it is a very singular affair. You find yourself going out of your way to help old people at the grocery store (they’re the only ones there at 11am on a Tuesday) just for some human interaction. “What’s that? You need help grabbing that box of Grape Nuts? I CAN DO THAT!” Like a fucking superhero.

Then there’s the gigs where you actually go in and see what other places look and feel and smell and sound like. Most of these experiences are quite pleasant, and those that aren’t are at least somehow interesting and/or informative. Sometimes you’re working on things the rest of the ad world would consider fun. Many times it’s the kind of work you didn’t even know existed when you were living the agency life. Spoiler alert: The latter can be tough to swallow. But then you remember the tedious, hear-tearing-out shit that came with your previous life. If you have trouble remembering, just ask your friends, family and loves ones. If they still talk to you.

At the end of the day, no one is casting their crutches away or feeling the tingle of a shrinking tumor as a result of your work, no matter what it is – so take it seriously, but not too seriously and you’ve got a better shot at survival.

I’m about a year in at this point and have come to understand that freelance life is just an equation and you’re in control of weighing the variables. Your freedom (F) is at one side of the equals sign and on the other are multiples of effort, risk and happiness divided by financial viability. If one variable goes out of whack maybe you have to to lower the value of F for a while and plug back into the grid. Get the taste of those sweet bennies on your lips and forget what it’s like to send a staggering amount of your paycheck to the government (rest easy, I’m still a liberal).

There are plenty of forces that can, and likely will, change my freelance equation someday (kids, extra bedrooms, health mishaps, etc.) For now though, after a length of self-directed time that I haven’t seen since I graduated college (the 90s!), I’m thankful I can make it work.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m headed to Market Basket to make a bunch of old people’s day.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Turning your life into a passion project

There are a few things I miss about working at a big company; the resources, the interesting colleagues, the steady paycheck, the office supply closet with all of those free pens.
One of the things I don’t miss is having someone walk into my office on a Friday afternoon and announce that I would be spending the next two months of my life working on a project for Satan Incorporated. You know, Satan is really turning over a new leaf, and we can really make a difference, if we, you know, show the positive side of Satan.
 Oh my.
 Running your own company creates time for passion projects. Whether it’s writing a story for a national magazine or shooting photos to change the image of a town you love, passion projects bring out the best in you as an artist.
 But a funny thing happens.
The passion projects change your day job. You find yourself taking on the projects that you genuinely have the love for, and taking a pass on working for Satan Incorporated, or his subsidiaries, Evil Inc, Shame LLC, and Horrendous Worldwide.
So when I get an assignment to create a :30 radio campaign, I have just as much love for it as a side project. After you’ve shot 2000 frames of people enjoying the beach you love (see Tyler above) and written 50 stories about the sport you love, you actually have more love for creating a perfect, tidy, :30 radio campaign.
No matter where you work, or what stage of your career you’re at, a passion project will do you a world of good. You can write about something you care about, photograph something you love, paint, dance. It doesn’t matter.
Just be ready for your little side project to change your life for the better in ways you never expected.

The Tiny Squid

Allison Peterson is the owner of She recently posted this, and I believe it is worth a read. Congratulations, Allison.

Four years ago today was a blessing in disguise. Coral was only nine months old, we had just thrown every pinched penny into a remodeling project (to make way for the inevitable Mr. Calvin,) and I was told that I would be jobless in a few weeks.
Until that point, I always had a “real job” since I was 16. Sometimes two jobs at a time. I had a good time beating myself up about how I had “failed.” But I quickly realized I needed to suck up my pride. I asked some of my friends, former classmates, and previous freelance clients if they could write a recommendation for me on LinkedIn. I told you I was in a pickle and could really use your help. I cannot thank you all enough for the help you’ve given me over the last four years.
Tonight I put up this message on my website: "Please note: July 2016 is my first available opening for new clients. Contact me today to reserve a spot in my schedule this summer.” Four years ago I was struggling to find just one project. Today I am consistently booked a quarter of a year in advance. I haven’t updated my website in over a year and a half because I’ve been too busy to deal with it. I get sent RFPs without asking for them. Strangers recognize me when I’m out and about. I get to make fun stuff and be home with the kids. I thought it was going to take a decade to get to this point. 
I am beyond humbled and forever grateful. I know that most people reading this message have sent at least one project my way in the last four years. THANK YOU and know how much I appreciate giving me the opportunity to create your logos, newsletters, websites, centerpieces, annual reports, photography, package design, copy, social media strategies, branding, invitations, and environmental graphics. I LOVE IT! Here's to another four years.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ageism in Advertising, by Joe Berkeley

I first became aware of the world’s desire for fresh young faces when I was an on-camera commercial actor. At the age of nine, I dressed as a tiny Patriot in tri-cornered hat and posed with Mr. Pillsbury and his Dough Boy. On another gig, down cobbled street I rode my red Raleigh Chopper while Anita Bryant belted out a jaunty tune about orange juice. Then I got my big break.

I was the featured actor in a commercial about a bar of soap that grew fur. The product, called Fuzzy Wuzzy, sat upon the bathroom counter and over time gained a beautiful coat of fuzz, which in hindsight looked a lot like mold. My on-camera line was, “Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?”

I hung in there as a child star for a good two years and even made the cover of the McDonald’s board game, another ill fated endeavor. But at the age of 11, I was just getting too old for this shit so I took a break to focus on other matters, like climbing trees, sports, and being a kid.

In high school, a call came out that Seventeen magazine was looking for some talent and I obliged. Naturally, I was chosen to appear in the stately publication, as no one could resist the allure of the Joe Fro, a mop of hair that had a life of its own. Editorial didn’t pay much, but the exposure had to be good for my future. Sadly, Amanda Kelly, who never kissed me, not even once, was not impressed.

As college began, my cruel Irish genes turned on me and my beauty began to fade. It was very difficult to endure. I can only imagine how Carrie Fisher feels when she looks back in time and sees herself in the Princess Leah bikini.

Given that my career as a model and actor was effectively over, I figured I should give the other side of the camera a try. The good news was a washed up Seventeen model is a fine fresh face for the advertising industry.

While I did not know it at the time, youth is the fuel that feeds the advertising machine. I found an internship before graduation, and was working 50 hours a week and taking classes. The agency paid me the princely sum of $50 per week, or $1.00 per hour. At the time, the minimum wage was three times that.

But if you wanted to get in the door, you had to start somewhere. This was before the days of advertising finishing schools like Creative Circus, Portfolio Center, and Hyper Island. To start, you had to take a job in the mailroom, or as an intern, or as a driver.

We worked long hours and did our best to create beautiful things. In return, we got awesome benefits like free pizza, tee shirts with the agency name emblazoned upon them, and the chance to carouse with our co-workers. Between the age of 20 and 30, this seemed like a good deal.

Coming of age at 30 meant that you wake up one morning and realize you can’t buy a house with a tee shirt festooned with an agency logo, and no one really cares about the fact that you won a Hatch Bowl award for an ad.

In large meetings, you notice there are older people who are “in management.” They review the ideas, hug the clients, get the deals signed, drive fancy cars, and have big titles. You have to get in on some of that.

Between the ages of 30 and 40 is a beautiful period for the employee of the agency as well as the agency itself. At this age, you are seasoned enough to know what you are doing, and you are okay with working seven days a week. You’re starting to make enough money to do things like put a down payment on a home, purchase a car, and have a family.

The people at the agency talk about how you are “a family.” This makes you feel good because you work long hours and are often travelling to some far away location to meet with the client and talk about an important issue like the crunch-ability of a cracker. Then you go to the shoot, to post production, and finally, after a month, you arrive home.

You hit play and your spouse views your work for 30 seconds, then says, “You were away from home for a month for that?”

Up the ladder you go, becoming “essential personnel,”, running new business pitches, and meeting with clients. There are chicken dinners for good causes that make you think about jumping in front of a train. There are conference calls at all times of the day about items of note, like the cheese viscosity of a new fast food offering.

Between the ages of 40 and 50 this whole “we’re all a family” thing gets a bit dodgy. After all, your mother never laid off your brothers and sisters. So why are people who were in the family on Thursday putting their possessions in cardboard boxes on Friday and heading for the elevators? Ah, well, it all comes down to money.

For every 40-50 year-old the agency tosses in the ash can, the agency can hire between two and four twenty-something’s to pull upon the oars. As a result, there are fewer and fewer 40-50 year olds in the agency.

Rather than focusing on the work, the mature executives who still have a seat at the table plot and scheme to kill the other mature executives who are still at the table. Some of the Executive Vice Presidents are leveraged up to the eyeballs, and they have a couple of houses, giant mortgages, useless spouses, and kids who are going to expensive colleges. They will do anything shy of murder to keep their seat so the politics get sporty.

The good news is for those seasoned Creatives who leave agency life to go freelance, you have skills. You can make things. And the less time you spend in meetings, the more time you have to create. And best of all, it is a fresh beginning. You are no longer an “old staffer,” you are a new freelancer. As a rule, advertising loves new.

Joe Berkeley has created work for more than 50 clients including Liberty Mutual, Nike, and Harvard Medical School. He has published more than 100 stories in Sailing World, The Boston Globe, and The Laser Sailor. His work is at