From the Freelance Files…

November 29th, 2007 | Posted in Freelancing

Last week I posted the final artwork for an ad job I did for Hardee’s Restaurants that was supposed to be used in full page ads in Rolling Stone and other magazines, but ended up not being used at all due to ad budget cuts and instead was used for some internal promotion.

That may seem outrageous but that is what sometimes happens in the advertising business. Companies often just burn up money producing images and designs for ad campaigns that never get off the ground. I’ll get paid full rates (and advertising generally pays a lot better than editorial) to do finished art that is only used as part of a pitch to a client… one of several different ideas to advertise the client’s products. If the one I worked on is not chosen, then it doesn’t see the light of day. Even though I get paid in full for the job, it’s sometimes a little disappointing not to see the work in use.

This is a job from a few years ago that illustrates that point. The end client was Taco Bell, and the concept was to create a large display image for a new kid’s meal toy concept called “Cleat Peepers”. These were small, plastic baseballs about the size of large marbles that were fused together like two pool balls touching, and then were affixed to a clip that would wrap underneath the shoelaces of a pair of tennis shoes or baseball cleats. They looked like eyeballs on the tops of your sneakers. One pair lit up along the “laces” of the balls, one had pupils that googled around weirdly, one squirted water (??)… can’t remember what the fourth one did. Anyway the client wanted a fun, cartoony sort of illustration that would be loaded with text and used in those standing displays with the real toys affixed and displayed somewhere on the image.

After some roughs it was decided we would use baseball cards as the placeholders for the display toys, and anamorphic cleats with the “eyeball” type cleat peepers on them in a baseball stadium. They wanted simple, colorful and a little goofy. Here are the resulting roughs:

This was more of a “kid as the player” approach

This was the pro player version with the full stadium, uniform, etc.

They liked the pro version. The old fashioned baseball graphic element at the bottom was axed and we went ahead to final art. This was very big (18″ x 21″). I did the inks and then colored in layers:




I did the “cards” seperately and dropped them in on another layer, for the final art:

Click image for a closer look

Text and other graphics where to be added by their art department. They were very pleased with the peice. They sure put me through a lot of revisions on the pencils and color (sorry I didn’t save all those steps), but that is another thing about advertising… they pay very well but expect even the most minute changes to be made no matter the stage.

As it turns out this never was used. I believe they test marketed the toys in certain areas and kids didn’t like them, so they dumped the project. I spent all summer eating Chalupas every day for lunch looking to see some of my artwork in Taco Bell, and all I got was an extra ten pounds around my midsection. Again, I was paid well and promptly by the client, but it was disappointing not to see the piece be used… it would have been cool to think how many people would have seen that artwork in all the Taco Bells all over the US.

Now I’m hungry for a Chalupa…


  1. eric wiese says:

    Great drawing Tom. I really like the way you handled the crowd in the stadium. Just out of curiosity, why was it handled differently (looks like a photo) on the baseball cards? Was that a client request?

    I work on animated TV adverts, and we have much the same problems with clients not using work they paid for as the budgets, or strategies change. Its frustrating, but the pay is the same.

    My first comment by the way, but I read your blog every day. Thanks for taking the time.
    Your Fan,

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks, Eric… I’m glad you enjoy the blog.

    I can’t remember about the cards specifically but I believe it was decided that since the actual toys would be affixed to the cards, they wanted a real picture of a crowd as opposed to a cartoon one. I’m not sure about that, but it rings a bell.


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