Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A kick in the Annus Horribilis

Thanks to Elizabeth II, Queen of England, Belize, and Australia (among others) for popularizing the term Annus Horribilis.
Her reference was to 1992 - a singularly great year for me, not so much for the Royal Family.
But now it's the last day of 2008, a year that deserves special recognition. Let us raise a glass...


Here's to the whole sorry mess on Wall Street.
Here's to too-big-to-fail.
Here's to corporate jets.
Here's to multi-zero bonuses.
Here's to Madoff.
Here's to Detroit.
Here's to Mumbai.
Here's to climate change.
Here's to negative campaigns.
Here's to the Packers, the Gunners, and the Australian cricket team.
Here's to the ones that got away with it, and the ones who simply got away.
Here's to every single last miserable one of you.
You will make this glass of Costco champers taste that much sweeter.
And a sincere thanks to all our clients, collaborators, partners, readers, commenters, mentors, luminaries, cheerleaders, critics, friends, competitors, spouses, kids, mums and dads. We wish you the very best 2009 ever.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"These tools, bay-beee!"

Mister Weitzsacker arrived mid-term to Pine Rivers State High School. He was an English teacher, but he didn't speak English as we knew it.

He pronounced his 'r's with the tip of his tongue, not in the back of the mouth like us little Aussies. Barrrbecue versus Bahhbecue. Added to his strange accent, he wore hound's tooth trousers and from the neck up was a doppelganger for Gabe Kotter.
That's right. He was an American! How very exotic.
We loved Mr Weitzsacker. But we soon found out that the parallels between he and the sitcom star cut both ways, that if we displayed Sweathogs-esque behavior, we would be punished Kotter-style.
So, one day we transgressed. And Weitzsacker ordered us to leave the classroom and dig some weeds out of the school flower beds.
We wandered off, bemused at this novel penalty, then wandered back again, even more bemused, when we realized we had no shovels, no forks, no hoes.
"Mr Weitzsacker, we can't weed the garden. We don't have any tools."
His 'tache twitched. His 'fro wobbled.
And he held up his hands and waggled them in front of our faces.
"Use these tools, bay-beee!"
That became the catch cry for the rest of the school year, and could just as easily be the lesson for our current times.
How did Obama do it? How did Netflix do it? How did the Somali pirates do it?
By using the tools that are sitting right in front of them, that everyone has access to, that no one is utilizing to even a tenth of the possible effect.
Plenty has been written about Obama's masterful campaign. It's hard to suppress a 'duh' though, isn't it? And now the weekly presidential radio address... on youtube! Duh.
And Netflix. Forget their fascinating search for the perfect recommendation algorithm. That aint simple at all. Instead, the distribution mechanism (Ye Olde Postal Service), and the constant affirming feedback (through plain old email). They're beating the snot out of the more techie solutions. Double duh.
And the Somali pirates. An unpleasant example, but... wow... men in inflatable dinghies overpowering supertankers. Weitzsackian!
We wonder if we're at that place in the communications revolution, where the novelty of what is possible can fade, where the fervor for experimentation can take its proper place in the priorities list, where we can start to harness what's in front of us in new and ingenious ways.
Bay-beee.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feeling the light

One of the many wonderful things about being a parent, even better than Diaper Genies and the reasoning of three year olds, is having a good excuse to go back to school.
As I've mentioned before, my son goes to a terrific one here in Minnesota. He's thriving there, and I'm not doing so bad either.
Here's something I learned on Friday, while attending the school's annual Winter Festival.

A woman who has been with the school for twenty years, and who is the embodiment of the school's culture, shared some thoughts about winter's role in our lives. Though her words were meant for the children in the first ten rows, us parents in the back, craning to catch a few snippets, found an additional layer of meaning.
As I drove back to my office, one particular line echoed around in my head:
"Faith is the bird that feels the light in the dark, that sings of the dawn in the night."
Substitute 'faith' with 'leadership'. Apply it to our New Ice Age economy.
What 'light' can you feel?


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Idea of the week: Skill-Level Airport Security

This is a special holiday travel edition of 'idea of the week'. It was well-spotted by our very own Catherine McIntyre-Velky, who is so very glad the TSA has expanded their 'family line' program. I'll hand it over now to Catherine:
"Last week I was traveling home from a week of work on the road. I departed through an airport in which I don't typically frequent. I checked my bags (I'm a project manager - always packing for every possible eventuality always means over-packing) and was startled to see various security lines instead of one. Expert Travelers this way, Casual Travelers this way. What was this?
Like me, all the people in the Expert Traveler line had the drill down pat: slip on shoes for easy on/off, computer in bag, skillfully packed to be removed for the security bin with one hand and returned in the same manner, no clutter to slow you down, coat strategically removed at the right time so as not to create a wait, ticket with ID at the ready. It was a breeze.
The people in the Casual Travelers line looked happy, too, as the relaxed pace took the pressure off. No more business travelers breathing down their necks. Free to forget that they're wearing a belt with a giant silver buckle, free to forget the keys in the pocket, free to bring a family of four children, each wearing lace-up shoes.
In all the years I've traveled since 9/11, this was by far the most brilliant idea I've seen the TSA create. Why didn't someone think of this before, I wonder?"


Monday, December 15, 2008

Doing Dave Trott the hard way

One of the best advertising blogs anywhere is written by long time London ad hero Dave Trott. It's full of timeless advice, colorful stories, relevant lessons and ruthless logic. Anyone looking to get better, this is an easy, painless way to learn from a master. And make sure you read the open debate Dave had on Scamp. But my post here is not about browsing Dave, it's about Dave and me and learning the hard way...

When I landed in London at the tender age of 24, Dave Trott was already a bona fide legend. His agency was booming, the awards annuals were full of Gold Greenlees Trott work, and his sound bites made for a list of communications commandments.
Dave's agency was built in part on the sweat and talent of a very young creative department. Every few months or so, Dave would take on a few student teams, then have them compete for a more permanent position. Who cared if it was like watching ants fight? If you were one of the combatants, at least you had a chance at working in one of the best agencies in London. Needless to say, I dreamt of being one of Dave's ants.
It was a long, arduous process. I started out by attending D&AD workshops at his agency, in which members of his team would bustle in, lacerate our ideas, then go back to work.
Next, I made weekly visits to the very generous but no less hard-nosed GGT team of Neil Sullivan and Gordon Graham. With their patient guidance, I transformed my book from a series of lame one-offs into a terse collection of eye-popping visuals and straight-to-the-gut headlines.
After six months of this, I had gathered a dozen or so presentable campaigns, so I gathered six of the best into a mini-book, a copy of which I sent to Dave.
No answer. And no getting past the PA, either.
So I put six more campaigns into a second mini-book. This time, Dave’s PA called. He was looking to bring on a few teams, and my mailings had caught his eye. Would I be available for an interview 7pm next Friday night. “Y-y-y-y-yes.”
That Friday, I walked past Neil and Gordon’s office on my way to see Mister Trott. They gave me an encouraging thumbs up - I was representing their hard work as well as mine.
Dave and I spent a bit of time chatting about Australia, John Webster, and some business his agency had just won, then we got down to looking at my work. By now, after sending my best work in those two mailings, the remainder of my portfolio was on the slim side, no matter how many all-nighters I’d pulled the previous fortnight to shore it up.
Dave saw through it straight away.
“This isn’t as good as what you sent me.”
“Ummm… no.” And I gave my excuses.
“And the stuff you sent me… I like it, but I have teams here who can do the same. I don’t need a whole team of center forwards.” Dave being one for the football metaphor. And also for exposing the fatal flaw within the best laid plan.
“You have to run your own race” he continued.
And then, the irresistible wrong. The most awful words spilled from my mouth, each one dragging out the next like links in a chain. I turned white even before my sentence was finished.
“How… do… I… do… that?” I said.
Dave closed my book and looked directly at me.
“The fact that you asked that question makes me wonder what type of creative person you are.”
“I…”
“But thank you for coming in. Now if you’ll excuse me, I've got work to do.”
And he got up and walked out of his office, leaving me alone to survey the stack of junior portfolios next to his desk, the mountainous pile of scripts on his window sill, and the laughing pub-goers out on Wardour Street.
After slinking out, making sure to avoid Neil and Gordon, I went home to lay in bed. For the entire weekend.
By Saturday morning, I’d devised a plan to re-pot myself into a different career. By Saturday night I had uncurled from my fetal position. Sunday morning I managed to choke down a slice of dry toast. And by Sunday afternoon, I’d thought my way back into giving advertising another try, only this time, in my own way.
Two months later, I finagled a job at a small but meteoric creative agency called Still Price Court Twivy D’Souza.
And a week after that, Dave Trott’s secretary called to ask me if I could come in for another interview.
My answer was no thanks. I already had the job I knew was right for me, and that ultimately set me on my path. My own path. But I’ll always be thankful for Dave’s brutal honesty.
Run your own race. Then you'll always come in first.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Idea of the week: Usefulness




So we're all talking about value positions and stories for our brands. There's a spectrum of communications out there, from staring the recession gorilla directly in the eye to ignoring him completely.

I found this ad for the iPhone to be in the very comfortable middle space, co-habiting with our desires for a cool gadget... while making a simple, very practical case. I'm not reminded of how crappy finances are. I'm feeling smart, and even excited about the possibilities of technology.
Each call out explains an iPhone app, be it free or pay, a utility like Quick Voice or a game like Spore. Added up, I'm left with the impression that this shiny trinket is the most sensible purchase I could make in tight times. Neat trick.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

We're no Whopper Virgins

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I remember when senior management at Fallon did their requisite sensitivity training.

In amongst the ever-changing boundaries of what was and was not offensive was the supposedly golden rule: if it offends someone, it's offensive.
This assumes that you're dealing with a relative base level of common understanding. If you're not - oh, and just to be clear, we're not - then you can always find someone who will be offended. (Yes, even that statement will offend some.)
So to the noise surrounding the Whopper Virgins campaign.
Gee, looks like another decent vox pop demonstration to me. Finding people who'd never tried a hamburger, let alone known what McDonalds or Burger King are about. Inviting them to taste the food. Recording their responses. Seems fair.
Food imperialism? A camera crew can't change a village's diet. A new BK franchise, maybe. But that's not what's happening here.
How about promoting unhealthy diet, or ecologically unsound food sources? Well, no more than any other piece of persuasive communications. Which of course doesn't make it right, it's just not more wrong.
On a different note, let's also look at the actual strategy. When we helped McCann pitch and win Burger King (several tumultuous BK-Agency relationships ago), this is the exact angle we took. Despite all the things that people believed McDonalds did better, the one bright spot for Burger King was the Whopper. QSR fans hands-down called it their favorite mass-brand burger. Our campaign created a 'vocal point' for the brand, namely The Whopper, who would share Whopperisms about food and life in general. The line for the effort was "In the land of burgers, Whopper is king" and for good measure, we signed everything off with a flaming Burger King crown.
Unfortunately, McCann held the business for less than six months before yet another client side management change prompted a fresh strategy and agency search. Restlessness is a bad friend.
I like this new Whopper Virgins work. It's on a strategy that had every chance of working last time, before the plug was prematurely pulled. And it's way more direct than the executions we were able to roll out. Teamed with all the other efforts, some excellent, some just noisy, who could argue that BK has improved its brand relevance out of all recognition.
Now, if they could just stop offending people.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Art and Science by Todd Riddle

At some forgotten airport in the past few weeks, I picked up a new biography on Jim Morrison. I'd always liked The Doors, but hadn't really delved too much into the life of Jim Morrison - other than seeing the movie, and having a few of their albums and respecting them as musicians and writers.

This is one of those books that is very detail oriented so whenever an important location is mentioned, the author took the time to give the exact address. That's how I found myself, the next day, sitting on the steps at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard.
8512 was The Doors office in the late 60s. It's where Jim Morrison and the band would hang out, drink hard liquor, take LSD, have sex with groupies, and occasionally black out. Sometimes they'd muster up enough working brain cells to stumble over to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go a few blocks away. There they'd perform - or more like rehearse in front of a live audience - songs like The End, Break on Through, and People Are Strange.
But on this particular day, 8512 was just a shut-down restaurant. Complete with a very official looking No Trespassing sign posted by the local ordinance.
I walked around the free standing building and looked up to the second floor - where Jim Morrison recorded his last musical album, LA Woman. An angry, naked, pieced-together collection of poems and ideas that The Doors and their producer barely pulled together to fulfill the last of the band's six-record contract deal with Epic.
Then, I hopped in the cab that was waiting for me and went to my appointment at a Hollywood studio.
A couple hours later I found myself sitting in a small conference room watching the credits roll on a rough cut of this major motion picture company's new release. I had just watched the very digitized, incomplete cut of their new film - but I was still thinking about Jim Morrison. The only other person in the viewing room with me, a nice woman from promotions, turned to me and asked, "Well, what did you think?"
"I like it," I lied.
How could I possibly tell her how much I not only hated it, but despised everything that led up to its birth? That I had seen the film a thousand times. That it was flat, predictable, unmemorable, and undoubtedly created by formulas, bureaucrats and focus groups. It was horrible.
In one afternoon I had been surrounded by the extremes of two roads of how to create something. One being the raw, fearless, risk-taking, fuck everything attitude of The Doors. Poetry. Guts. Soul. Love. Hate. Instinct. It will be relevant for a hundred years. The other - the sanitized, artistically void film, that is as of this writing already irrelevant.
I suppose I could make all the obvious analogies about how this pertains to what we do. And then give examples of the kind of work we all aspire to be a part of.
But there's no point in doing so. The Doors made that point a long time ago. We can only look back humbly in awe and amazement and aspire to be more inspired.
My favorite part of the book - a moment in The Doors' career that pretty much encapsulates Morrison's life and what it means to take a risk and follow your instincts - is a scene that takes place on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Jim Morrison had just sang in front of a live audience on national television. And despite the fact he promised Mr. Sullivan he wouldn't sing the word 'Higher' (in the song Light My Fire) he did. And he sang it loud and even made sure to accentuate the 'Higher' part.
After The Doors left the stage, Ed Sullivan angrily confronted the band on their way to the dressing room.
Ed Sullivan: You'll never play on the Ed Sullivan show again! 
Jim Morrison: We just did.
Today, nobody watches reruns of The Ed Sullivan Show. But you can pick up a copy of every Doors song ever recorded on iTunes. In no small part because Jim Morrison created something that was inspired by what he felt and observed. Rather than what a focus group said they felt and observed. Or what a bureaucrat said they should have felt or observed.
Scientific study of consumers and markets at times is obviously useful and will continue to be an important part of advertising and marketing. But there are times when the insight gets in the way of actually being able to create an idea, or when it can kill an idea that may not fit perfectly into the perceived precious boundries. If you dont believe me, do your own scientific study to prove it. Just watch television for a couple hours and draw your own conclusions.
Science. When Einstein wrote his theory of relativity he did it for the most part in a single room and on just three pieces of paper and with the aid of no scientific instruments. He simply thought of it. Years later while taking a tour of the most modern telescope ever built, Einstein's host told him that with this new invention man would be able to understand the deepest secrets of the universe and unlock the mysteries of the galaxies. Einstein's wife replied, my husband already did that on the back of a manila envelope with a number 2 pencil.

(Our friend and collaborator Todd Riddle over at BBH wrote this piece a while ago. He's kindly allowed us to repost it here. If you're a reader - and especially if you're a collaborator - with an intelligent, provocative original article in your bottom drawer, send it along.)


Friday, December 5, 2008

Idea of the week: Samedi

We're hoping this becomes a regular feature of our site - if only we can lift our heads up from our work long enough to recognize interestingness elsewhere in the world. This first entry is from Australia, natch.

Evidently the team from Clemenger BBDO literally consulted the New Orleans voodoo spirit
 Samedi to develop the communications for a new energy drink.
Here's the website, and here is a post on Campaign Brief with more info and credits.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Slaves to symbolism

In what seems like a move in the right direction, the executives of the big three domestic auto companies are planning to leave the corporate jets at home next time they have to visit DC. Instead, they’ll each be driving one of their products.

Progress, right? And great marketing stunt too, yeah?
Well, if I was a stakeholder in any one of those companies – hey, come to think of it, we all are – I think I’d want my leaders leading the company, not sitting behind the wheel on a thousand mile road trip.
I know there’s plenty to be said about how Detroit’s troubles are self-inflicted.
But isn’t it sobering to see another side of modern ‘actions-speak-loudest’ thinking we’ve all been talking up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What are you doing for the Ice Age?

Minnesotans know a thing or two about extended periods of sub-zero.
The financial weather report that came in on Monday was a big duh to us. Every last easy dollar went south over a year ago. So we’ve spent quite some time steeling ourselves for the oncoming economic Ice Age.
The challenge, as always, is to see the opportunity in the problem. Here’s a thought:
Take your dinosaurs out for a nice walk in the fields, expose them to the bitter freezing wind, allow them to die a nice, natural death.
We know of one retailer that spends a fortune on direct mail sales catalogues, and has lost money on them for years. They do it because that’s what they’ve always done, and because of the many vendor business relationships that support the development of the materials. Well, that’s a dinosaur. Go play in the snow, Steggy.
Another friend has multiple agencies working on his business, each one alternately competing over the lead client relationship, then standing and watching major opportunities go untended, like a bad tennis doubles team letting the ball pass between them. “I thought you had it.” “Well I thought you had it.” That’s dinosaur behavior for sure. Let’s take it ice fishing.
Needing six months to develop an idea: dinosaur.
Seeing everything through the lens of TV: dinosaur.
Layers, fiefdoms, silos, blackboxes, theory vacuums: all one great La Brea Tar Pit’s-worth of dinosaur.
As Rahm Emanuel says, never let a crisis go to waste. An Ice Age is a crisis… if you’re a dinosaur. Or it can be a bracing slap in the face.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Business schmodel

Ever since we first started to harbor devious thoughts of owning our own company, we’ve picked up on the incessant chatter.
“What’s the business model? The model is broken. We must find a new business model.” Etcetera.

Though we here have done plenty of thinking about our own business model, and created something we believe is right for the times, differentiated from many others, and will give us a shot at feeding ourselves, I keep getting this nagging feeling that building your business by imagining into existence a business model is a big fat red herring. Or at least, a herring that needs a healthy dose of salt.
Here’s my theory.
Stick twenty people in a room. At a long, long table. Make sure their skills are complementary, and that they have general agreement on what’s wrong and right in the world. Tell them to go solve marketers’ challenges. Ta-daaa.
Get the right people. Get it done. That’s the business model.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Just wondering

Just wondering what to do with all this stuff

and i just don't know

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Where is the human voice?


Our conversations in marketing tend towards two kinds. In flush times, or even flat times, we talk more in terms of vanity, fantasy, aspiration. And in tough times, the subject zags completely to grim reality: budgets, wallets, value, value, value.


I fear that as we all help steer our clients towards transactional ‘you get this for that’ messaging, we will miss the underlying humanity.

This morning I heard a delightful excerpt from an NPR interview with the late Studs Terkel.

Studs was my introduction to real American culture (versus Hollywood culture). When I first moved to Chicago from London, I picked up a second-hand paperback set of his books and read them one after the other. The paper smelled of Chicago, the writing more so.

Here’s what Terkel said in his interview that got me thinking this way. He’s riding on an automated airport shuttle train, with automated voice commands over the PA, automated doors, and passengers too numbed to even smile at each other. This by now very old man turns to a baby cradled in its mother’s arms:

“And I said to that baby, ‘Sir or Madam, what is your opinion of the human race?’ And the baby started to giggle. I said “Thank God! The sound of a human voice!’”

We have a lot of problems, to say the least. But let’s remember that our customers aren’t just balance sheets. Let’s keep the human voice front and center. I believe the brands that remember this will differentiate over the next year. They will bring much appreciated light. And their customers will remember them for it once we return to business normal.

Image by trustynick

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh, Ad Agency, how we love thee




Isn’t there a joke about paranoia that goes something like “sure, I’m paranoid, but I have a million good reasons why.”


That's the spirit in which we sympathize with our agency friends. They’re paranoid - restlessly, eternally so - and who can blame them, when the foundation of their entire business is in constant upheaval, one plank after another is being removed from their shelter, every column inch written and ANA speech given on the subject is full of criticism… added on top of what was probably already a fraidy-cat line of work.
We’ve been reminded of this through a few recent conversations with agency-side collaborators. We’d be talking about some of the new partnerships we were bringing into our offering (media, digital, strategic planning, design etc). And the knee-jerk response would be summed up as ‘just remember, the more you have to offer, the more that’s a problem for us… we will see you as competition’.
Agency collaborators, hear ye:

We are not your competition. We do not want to compete with you. We do not want what is on your plate. We do not hanker after your clients.

We don’t even stack up as competition. You: corporation of thousands of employees, ranging across scores of disciplines, serving clients across multiple continents and multi-year contracts. Us: a small group of idea creators, looking only for projects, more than willing to sign non-competes.

We want to work with you to help make your product better, to help make your brand as brilliant as it can be. All we really want to do… wait a minute... maybe we should shut up and let Bob Dylan do the loving:

“I ain’t lookin to compete with you Beat or cheat or mistreat you. Simplify you, classify you, Deny, defy or crucify you. All I really want to do Is, baby, be friends with you.”


Image by TOMOYOSHI

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chin to the wind



Everywhere I go, everyone I meet, from clients to collaborators to next door neighbors, they’re all asking that question: “How are you guys doing?” And always with a slight gathering of flesh in the center of the forehead, meant to denote that this is not just casual small talk.

Then there’s my LinkedIn in box, suddenly alive with colleagues suddenly in transition, suddenly very interested in linking in.

A soft economy will do that to a social circle. The storm is all around us. What do we do?

Well, we’ve been through this once before, at our previous company Cream. It was 2001/2002, and the Nasdaq money that had funded agency investment in new business activity (our specialty) went from an Eden of riches to a dreary salt flat.

We responded at first by fleeing for the exits. Not liking what we saw at the fire escapes (namely, them good ol’ traditional ad agencies), we decided instead to knuckle down and do whatever it took to stay in our preferred game.

So, we hit the phones hard. But more importantly, we decided to innovate our own offering to meet the new realities: Agencies still had to pitch new business. They had even less senior people than before to run those pitches. And they didn’t have any excess funding to pay for external idea resources like ours.

Our answer was some ‘disruptive pricing’. We went from arguably the highest price point to absolutely the lowest. We cut our day rates from the ceiling to the carpet, in exchange for a success bonus should the partnering agency win the new business pitch. The bonus would more than offset the bet that we’d made in slashing our fees, and it could be paid out in installments to tap into the new revenue stream.

The forward leaning agencies knew a great deal when they saw it (and incidentally, are still profiting from some of the new business we helped secure, years after our bonus schedule expired) and the stuck-in-the-quicksand agencies - funny story this - said ‘hey, love that idea… paying next to nothing, great! Only issue we have is paying a bonus. Can we nix that part of it?’ Oh how we laughed.

Well, we survived… and we ended up thriving, too.

Which brings us to today, and our forward-thrusting, begging-to-be-punched chins.

This is the time for creative thinking on all parts of your business. It’s the time for innovation, not just in the name of survival, but also for new growth in new directions. On our own business, aside from taking care of the day-to-day, and loving our clients like never before, we are suddenly in a purple patch of innovation – new partnerships, new product offerings, new ways of engaging.

Call us Pollyannas. Call us reckless idiots sailing headlong into a Perfect Storm. We just happen to believe in all that chaos/opportunity stuff. How about you?

Image by tommorowstand

Monday, October 27, 2008

How to brief your agency




My friend Paul Isakson has done a huge favor for a mystery client colleague of his by soliciting the opinions on that thorny subject ‘How Should A Client Brief An Agency’.

There are lots of good comments on the post. Having come late to the conversation, I intended to make my thoughts succinct for fear of repeating what had already been said, but after I posted, I saw with horror and amusement that I’d rambled on for longer than anyone. Can anyone say, or even spell, logorrhea?

Anyway, here’s my comment, seeing as it is of blog-post length...

The most important thing to remember - marketers, strategic planners, and other creative thinkers - is that creativity is a misunderstood animal. (And I focus on creativity because I believe that that is the number one quality an advertising agency can provide to its client partners.)

Creativity is not a stage in a process. it is THE process. It doesn't happen when the layout pads get dusted off, it's a constant lateral discipline all the way through, from client chairman to agency producer. Many of the creative people I admire are not called creatives, they're called entrepreneurs - people such as Robert Stephensat Geek Squad. While I agree with all the above comments about not prescribing bridges and so on... it's another matter all together to actually pull this off in the real world. Finding the people who are not only trained lateral thinkers, but who also have a head and stomach for business, is not an easy task.

Something else creativity is not, as many suggest through their behavior and legacy business models, is something fragile to be protected at all costs. Rather, it is more nimble and powerful than any of its enemies (time, budget, committee etc). Perhaps creativity's only true kryptonite-enemy is fatigue. And that can be cured with fresh legs and copious amounts of caffeine.

So, my advice, based upon a history of successful and unsuccessful briefs, is this:

1. Make sure you're briefing the right people. Out-and-out specialists don't work in today's world. The people you need at the table have to be creative, strategic, and business focused. All three. All in each person. All engaged in your challenges.

2. Let it all hang out. Warts and all. Don't try to 'control' the bedlam that exists within every business. It will only conceal the shoals in the water. Again, creativity is a more nimble creature than anyone gives it credit. Lay the whole scene out, in all its complexity, and let creativity find the path.

3. One enemy of fresh, relevant solutions is the constant layering of interpretations from various steps in the development process. By the time a brief makes it to an agency, it might already have been through a number of iterations, each time being added on to by someone naturally inclined to prove their worth to the company. By all means, have opinions, but also allow your agency team to see the naked, original facts on the ground.

4. Lay out some very real goals. Not fantasy real ones. Realistic real ones. And don't be afraid to make them the same ones you, personally, are being measured on for your own performance. Assuming that the reason those bonus measures are there is that they're important company goals.

5. Dust off all your research. How much money have you spent on research over the last few years? Make a return on every cent by putting all that paper on the table, even if it's information that has since been discredited, or was authored by an unpopular figure, etc etc. Again, you don't know - no one knows - the connections that creativity will find. That's it's job.

6. Be real with your agency partners. Don't say you're looking for the next Nike or Xbox or Apple, when you know you can only gain internal consensus for something more conservative or traditional. In fact, I would say don't even have this conversation. Brilliant ideas aren't brilliant because they're brilliant, but because they solve tough problems. Solve the problem, let the solution speak for itself as a consensus maker.. and if other marketers start referring to your communications in THEIR agency briefs, pat yourself on the back and go ask for a raise.


image by jonas_k

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Such good manners at DEEPSPACE


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Thanks to Paul Isakson for the kind invitation to speak a bit more about Manners for the Modern Brand. It was a great night at DEEPSPACE - lots of challenging and constructive dialog, not to mention the Guinness, that helped lubricate both the vocal chords and the synapses.

Paul rightly urged all to "Stop Campaigning And Start Committing". And Adrian Ho asked (and answered) the question "Can Modern Brands Be Built With Traditional People".

All presentations, as well as news of upcoming events, will be found here.

Dreck + Time = A Weird Kind Of Cool

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This is a legendary Australian retail TV commercial, from 1974. I used it as a reference in my recent Manners for the Modern Brand presentation. I'd been looking for an example of loud obnoxious retail advertising from my early days in Australia - I recall long tedious summer nights of watching TV, the re-runs punctuated every five minutes with barrages of screaming hucksters, pushing everything from cars to swimming pools. One memorable series featured refrigerator salesman waving frozen chickens at the camera, yelling that with every fridge sold "Ya get a free chook!!!"


And who else remembers the early, magical days of Chyron supers, and the ability to flash large prices on and off in a strobing, rainbow-colored fashion?

Anyway, I thought it might be of interest to look at the history of the "Where do you get it" spot. It was written byJohn Singleton, apparently from concept to finish in one day. Here's a bit of background on Singleton:

"...Singleton opened his SPASM agency in 1968. His accounts were largely local Sydney retailers but Singo's understanding of his audience enabled him to reach out to the entire nation. Rather than using prim presenters, Singo celebrated the voice and image of the average bloke from western Sydney. One of his most successful advertisements was for David Holdings wholesalers. It simply outlined the retailer's prices before repeatedly chanting the catch-phrase 'Where do you get it?"

Though I intended the spot to be an illustration of the bad old days, I have some concessions to make:

One - the spot was enormously successful. Pinheads like me can moan all we want, but we can't argue with success.
Two - there's a clear limit to the idea of 'manners' within the clamor of free enterprise.
Three - after all these years, it has an oddly refreshing quality to it. I wonder if it would be more loved than hated today.
Four - therefore, it didn't make my point all that well. But I just had to share it. Thanks to my super secret contacts in Australia who uncovered a copy for me.

By the way, John Singleton is considered one of the most influential figures in Australian advertising and media. Whether you like his work or not, he's well worth reading up on. For example, there's a really good interview with him here, in which he talks about such supposedly avant garde concepts as creating your own products and marketing them, something his advertising agency did forty years ago.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rushing to judgment

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Social media has allowed us to criticize faster than the real world actually moves. Where will it end?

Say, a candidate makes a speech.

She says ‘My…’

And the scribes immediately jump.

‘“My?” How selfish, like it’s all about her. What about us, the people you represent?’

The candidate continues.

‘…fellow…’

The critics are in a lather. Just two words into this important speech, and she’s already blowing it.

‘”Fellow?” How pandering. We’re not your friends yet, lady.’

‘…Americans…’

‘Oh right, like it’s all about America. This is a global economy. We can’t afford someone to be so plainly out of touch.’

Yes, I exaggerate.

But only to make a point about the new Microsoft campaign.

Seeing as this is my second post about Jerry and Bill, you’re going to start thinking I either have a sad obsession or an undisclosed stake. I don’t. My problem is the culture of criticism combined with the ability to unleash it rapidly and powerfully.

We’re two films into a sizeable communications campaign and each one has been stomped on by the pundits.

Let it breathe. Enjoy.

And if you want my punditry, I say film number two is a very enjoyable piece. It’s Bryan Buckley at his finest.

I can’t wait to hear the speech in its entirety.

Too big to fail


Image by emily-well-mannered

It’s dangerous for us advertising types to sound off about industries we know next to nothing about, but when has that ever stopped us? In fact, you could almost say that’s our business.

The news this morning that AIG has been adjudged to be too big to fail struck a sour note.

We’re glad there are people who can divine the difference between too big and not big enough.

What’s disturbing is that this is coming from an industry that has advised all of us to never put too much into one basket – to balance our portfolios.

So, AIG, a collection of mostly successful, profitable businesses, is pushed to the wall by one division. Their own portfolio was unbalanced.

And the financial industry as a whole has allowed a number of companies to become “too big” - in effect too much of our collective money has been placed in the hands of too few. The portfolio of the entire industry is unbalanced. Catastrophically so, it appears.

What can we learn from all of this, in our own small corner of the world?

Well, to us, it’s one more reason to embrace the brand molecule concept put forth by John Grant in his milestone (IMHO) book Brand Innovation Manifesto.

Having one, monolithic (love that word) brand communications idea is essentially unbalancing your communications portfolio. Much smarter to have a cluster of efforts, all working towards a common goal.

Obviously, the metaphor only goes so far. While a small investment portfolio can be balanced, a small marketing budget needs to be more focused. But somewhere into your brand’s growth, idea diversification becomes very wise business.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The beginning of our era went thump, thump, thump.


Image by Nicole Marti

When the Energizer Bunny marched off the set of that commercial long ago, the modern era of marketing communications began.

The fourth wall was broken. Ideas no longer began and ended within the confines of a media unit. They carried on, out there somewhere in the world. That they turned up from time to time in commercials seemed only a matter of the cameras being on hand to record the moment.

Fast forward to now and see how technology has enabled (demanded) that brand ideas break free of the boxes to become free-floating notions. Conversations if you like. Or worlds. Or stories.

Listen to Bogusky when he says (or whoever it was who said it first) “bring me the press release”.

Listen to Droga when he calls for “ideas with momentum”.

The stand-alone commercial or the stop-start campaign, as interfaces between brand and customer, are lost opportunities at best. Even the singular, 360 brand idea as we know it has its shortcomings.

The challenge we all face is to weave stories, conversations, actions, and, of course, traditional communications, into a cohesive something that can represent a business through time. Thump, thump, thump.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why they don't like your idea


Image by Nemo's great uncle

I used to think it was because they thought I was a hack. Or that they resented how clever I was. Or that they took my idea as a challenge that they had to beat.

It never occurred to me that the knee jerk rejection of an idea by other creatives was anything other than nefarious.

Yes, that’s right, nefarious.

Then, I had an ah-hah moment about… the ah-hah moment.

The reason creative people don’t like other people's ideas isn’t anything ill-willed at all. It’s because they – we – use that feeling we get when we generate something wonderful, as a signal that something wonderful has indeed been generated. If we do not generate the idea, we do not get to experience the eureka, and therefore we do not trust the idea.

It isn’t a matter of ‘not invented here’. It’s simply ‘not experienced here’. Think of that next time you're dealing with some seemingly recalcitrant creatives. Pity them that gut instinct is the best judge yet invented.

The only measurement that matters


Image by karindalziel

We’re big on measurement at Persuasion. It’s sorta weird for a supposed creative company to be this way about numbers. The way we see it, if only someone somewhere could figure out a way to truly measure the impact of ideas on a business, we’d fancy our chances.

But while we’re big backers of people like Carol Phillips and Don Sexton, we’re also pragmatic. Who knows when we'll ever get a level playing field? In the meantime, we must all do what we can do.

Which brings us to the only measurement we know of that matters: the one your client has their bonus based upon.

If you haven’t already done so, ask her next time you’re out at lunch. “What measures do you have to hit, personally, in order for you to have a nice annual bonus?”

It could be visits to a website. It could be sales figures. It might be credit card sign-ups, or calls to a 1-800 number, or amount of foot traffic.

Forget that this is perhaps not just a pragmatic approach but also a cynical one. Trust, instead, that these measurements are put in place by the company’s senior management for good reason.

Then make sure your communications help hit that goal. Make your client a little richer, personally. You know that matters.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

7 cents worth on Microsoft

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Seeing as everyone is piling on to the new Microsoft ad starring Bill and Jerry, and I'm really energized by community activities, here's my own piece...

1 cent: Everyone is piling on. When was the last time this many people had anything to say, positive or negative, about a Microsoft communication? Score for CPB.

2 cents: It's one ad, the first salvo in what is going to be a much, much larger effort. I find it odd that the people criticizing this one single ad are the same people who say successful marketing communications takes more than one single ad.

3 cents: The ad itself is funny enough. It warms Microsoft up, which of course it sorely needed.

4 cents: The underlying message that Microsoft is bringing you the future is a fair enough place for them to play. For the vast majority of computer users, it's the truth, no matter what we Apple nuts think.

5 cents: Every creative who has ever touched a Microsoft brief for the first time has wanted to use Bill Gates in their work. And every time, the suggestion has been shouted down. Congratulations to CPB for finding the path.

6 cents: Using Seinfeld in a commercial, doing Seinfeld, has the same creative freshness that using John Cleese doing John Cleese once had.

7 cents: For some, the presence of Seinfeld will make Bill Gates, and by extension Microsoft, look cooler. For others, me included, the contrast will not be a positive one, only confirming their prior opinions. Jerry is funny and natural, Bill is geeky and forced.

There. 7 cents worth. Which coincidentally is the royalty that Microsoft first charged IBM per installed copy of the DOS operating system.* Now that was a great idea.

*Okay, I made that number up. It was actually $1 a copy. But who can find 100 cents worth of stuff to say about one, single opening message from a $300 million effort?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Persuasion Chocolates



While Autumn Cleaning the other day (see, we ZAG, people. No mundane Spring Cleaning for us) we found some left over boxes of chocolates from last Valentine’s Day. How they escaped consumption, we do not know.

Our “8 Assorted Tactics” were…

Powerpoint.
Twenty-eight unrelated flavors crammed into one place.

Boozy Lunch.
Expense account indulgence with Amaretto chaser.

Reason.
Dark chocolate with a sobering hit of caffeine.

Sweet Talk.
Sugar-caramel with infusion of saccharine.

Violence.
Blood red center of raspberry pulp.

Legal Action.
White tiramisu sprinkled with asterisks.

Hypnosis.
Dizzying spiral of chocolate and hazelnut.

Sex.
Cherry lost in a thick blanket of chocolate.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The other side of simple



I learned a lesson in simplicity the other day, courtesy of my three-year old daughters. (It might be kids who go to school, but it’s us parents who get the education.)

Anyway, I had a rare day with my girls, no work, no big brother, just them and me. My knee jerk impulse in these situations is to go for the over-achievement – perhaps there’s a ballet we could go to, maybe go find an elephant ride, or a zero-gravity simulator.

Fortunately, none of these were available this particular Labor Day weekend, so instead we went for a walk along Minnehaha Creek.

We came to a foot-bridge, arcing twenty feet over the stream.

The girls spent the next hour completely absorbed in finding different leaves to float down to the water’s surface, watching to see which ones would survive the rapids.

And as I watched them, I realized that this is what simple is all about. As a visual thinker, I'd always thought of simplicity as the art of reduction. But a process of elimination can result in spare, sometimes Spartan imagery.

I wondered about the other side of simplicity. A dedication to what is essential. Like wondering if a maple leaf would make a good kayak.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Valeria Maltoni - the new Miss Manners?



We’re delighted to announce Valeria Maltoni as the moderator for our “Manners for the Modern Brand” panel at SXSW.

Valeria could well be the hardest worker in social media. For sure she’s one of the most prominent thought leaders, as the many readers of her blog Conversation Agent can attest.

Her approach is always thoughtful and considerate – we could not have wished for a more perfect catalyst to our conversation.

Thank you Valeria, and thanks to all who register and vote for our panel. The SXSW Interactive Panel Picker closes this Friday, August 29th.

Brand, behave!



This children’s book was published in 1946.

Tim Brunelle, one of our collaborators on our “Manners for the Modern Brand” panel at SXSW, brought it in as a piece of illuminating evidence.

Read this quote from the book with your brand and customers in mind:

The two biggest questions to ask ourselves in life, at any age, are: “Are most of the people I know glad that I am here” and “Am I glad that I am here, myself?”

What a great way for brands to think of themselves today.

More crucial is the title of the book itself, specifically the last word “…Why.”

Some of the comments we’ve had so far on the idea (and thank you all) have tended towards the feeling that manners are a nicety, that broad adoption would be utopia, either in the idyllic sense (hurrah, this is the way the world should be) or the unattainable (worthy but unenforceable, it’ll never happen).

If the ultimate answer to “Why?” isn’t “Because your brand will make more money” then we ought to give in. The premise is not that “it’s possible”, or “wouldn’t it be great”, but that every brand now lives in a small town, where everyone knows your name. Good behavior will be rewarded, poor behavior will get you ignored at the dance. There is no escape, no seclusion.

Here is a longer list of the questions we will be aiming to answer in Austin:

Are brands members of society?
What rules of society apply to brands? And what new ones need to be created?
Does a common set of rules negate brand differentiation?
What are the consequences for ignoring or breaking the rules?
And what are the rewards for brands that “behave”?

What would you like to know about “Manners for the Modern Brand”?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That hunted feeling


Image by fusiasa

Who else squirms when they hear the word ‘consumer’?


There’s something about it that conjures up an image of a human being as a tube, one that pays for the privilege of processing any goods and services we shovel into its entrance.


There are other terms we use on a regular basis that are just as revealing of the attitude we have towards our customers. Words like “target” and “roadblock”.


Then there’s “guerilla marketing”, as if our customers are now insurgents, to be fought in hand-to-brand combat. If Howard Gossage railed against outdoor advertising, what would he have to say about urinal cake ads, selling, selling, selling even when we thought we had a private moment to ourselves?


All of which brings me to Alan Wolk’s excellent jujitsu move, otherwise known as ‘Your Brand Is Not My Friend’.


Social networks were invented to bring friends together. But many brands have been quick to pursue us into what should be – was hoped to be – a safe haven, without even recognizing that a threshold has been crossed, or that the rules are different here.


Alan has put together an excellent panel for SXSW ‘09 to debate the challenges brands face in a social media world. I highly recommend you vote for his idea. It’s an important one.


To register, go here. To vote for “Your Brand Is Not My Friend”, go here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Manners for the Modern Brand™



There is only one rule that approaches advertising etiquette, and it goes something like “you appear uninvited in the living rooms of your customers – don’t be a boor.”


We all know how well observed that one is.

But brands are social now. They no longer sit behind a glass wall, talking loudly about themselves. They move through the world just like the rest of us. We gossip about them, spread warnings about the brands to avoid, we introduce brands to our friends, we choose the brands we are seen with. The rude or thoughtless or plain dull brand today can easily find itself with a very public shunning.

It stands to reason then that brands need to sign on to the same social contract we humans have all been living by for eons.

How helpful it would be to have a common set of guidelines for successfully navigating this complex world.

I’m calling it Manners For The Modern Brand, sort of an Emily Post-style primer for brands and the people who guide them. Here is the bare scraping of the surface. I’d love suggestions from readers.

Apologize – quickly, and graciously. Even if it wasn’t really your fault.
Avoid disturbing others with unnecessary noise.
Help those in need.
Behave in a manner suitable to the occasion.
Do not pry.
Do not interrupt.
Thank your customers for their loyalty.

It goes on and on.

In fact, in partnership with our friends at Hello Viking, we have put together a panel submission for SXSW 2009 on the subject. If you like the idea, please vote for us. We’ll put a permanent link up in the right column. Meanwhile, register to vote here, and vote here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's not a beautiful game, yet.


Image by txGeek

I’ve played football since I was seven. (That’s soccer to you North Americans.)

That first season is a dim memory of frantic, giddy confusion… twenty players, and sometimes more if the goalies abandoned their posts and joined the fray, huddled around the ball, scrambling from one random part of the field to the other in a storm of dust and kicked shins.

This scene came back to me as I was attending deepspace mobile, an excellent half-day dive into the state of mobile marketing, laid on by space150. (And more thankyous, btw, to Billy and Co for your vision and your enterprise.)

As all these fast plunges go, it was a dizzying day of ups and downs. At the end of it, I was left with the half-comforting, half-distressing notion that nobody really knows where anything is going, not even the experts by their own admission.

And in terms of making it all work together, those experts are arguably even more baffled than the outsiders, as they commonly use other digital elements of the marketing mix as their only points of reference.

Kind of like a scrum of would-be center-forwards not quite aware there's an entire field to spread out on.

Who can be sure if we’ll ever have an orchestrating mastery of all the tools ever again. Technology moves so fast, we may never catch up. In which case it will always be interesting. It will always be experimental. And the breakout successes will go to the brave.

One thing is for sure - you have to be in the game. Mobile is the next wave of information technology integrating into our daily, no – second-by-second, lives.

With that in mind, we at Persuasion Arts & Sciences are proud to direct you to our new, mobile version of Persuasionism. See that little graphic up top of the right column? You can also put this url into your mobile device: http://persuasionism.mofuse.mobi/

Happy playing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You suck. Get used to it.


Image by auraelius

Listening to a report on NPR the other day about the presidential campaigns, I heard a comment that every single ‘gotcha’ moment from either candidate is immediately recorded, broadcast, and criticized. Every moment of McCain’s and Obama’s day is there for scrutiny and, each side hopes, derision.

The venues for this massive lab experiment are, of course, the same ones we are all working with on behalf of our clients. And the intense pressure the candidates are under is only an extreme version of what our brands go through today.

I’m hoping that the current state is a passing one – that we will become tired of being outraged about the imperfection of our heroes (or politicians, or brands) and that we start to ride with the untidy edges.

Not to say there’ll be a time where we should give poor behavior a free ride – just not so much self-righteousness when a politician is caught making an off-color aside, for example.

Politicians are human. Brands are human too. We could use the imperfections as proof of that.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bridge(s) for sale


Image remixed from Molas

We’ve all read Marty Neumeier’s “The Brand Gap”, or at least checked out his highly popular slideshare of the same name.

To recap the premise, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Brian Alvey:

Alvey: What is a "brand gap"?


Neumeier: The brand gap is the distance between business strategy (what the company wants to be) and customer experience (how people actually perceive it). The brand gap has its origins in the way our brains work. Strategic thinkers favor the left side of the brain (the logic), while creative thinkers favor the right side (the magic). Since these two ways of thinking reside in different people, there's always a gap between brand logic and brand magic.

There is another, related brand gap out there, and it exists not between business intention and customer experience, but within the brand development process itself.

On one bank is theory. It might be a simple advertising brief. Or, it might be the final report from a six-month, seven-figure market research study.

On the other side we have reality, namely the various people whose job it is to interpret that theory and turn it into design, advertising, product innovation, brand behavior etc etc.

And between the theory and reality, we have a yawning chasm. It represents time lost, arguments had, relationships frayed, focus diminished, and invariably disappointment from the theorists when they see their fine work (that they’d sold through to their bosses) come back unrecognizable.

The funny thing is the gap is invisible. You sure won’t see it called out in a development timeline. But again and again, there it is, suddenly bringing all momentum to a halt.

Why is this so?

I think it’s because we’re all optimists, for a start. We’d all like to believe that the translation of business fact into creative expression is smooth, even propulsive. (“I am engaged by your business challenge, and inspired solutions are already springing from my head” is the fantasy response.)

The other reason is that it’s very difficult to plan for the very real differences between the two types of minds that attack each side of the problem.

If I step back and look at what we’ve been doing at Persuasion, and before that at our previous company Cream, whether working on the client side as brand consultants, or collaborating with an agency on a new business pitch, it’s been re-interpreting fact into something more actionable for creative people. We’ve been building bridges and selling them.

The fact that it accounts for maybe ninety percent of our business suggests that the problem is more prevalent than anyone is aware of, and that it deserves to be planned for.

Have you ever had to re-write the strategy to fit the creative? Have you ever had to hire a second brand consultant to make sense of the first consultant's work? Have you ever found yourself staring at the climactic powerpoint slide, agreeing with every box, arrow and bullet point, but having no idea how all those squiggles will ever turn into an action?

You might want to find yourself some good bridge builders.

Friday, August 8, 2008

All the pretty titles


Image by LouisDavid

Here’s a bit of fluff for a summer’s day.

Crispin Porter Bogusky helped rewrite the way advertising is done by pouring creativity and intelligence into overlooked communications mediums. Yes, the need had been there forever - and “the shelf wobbler” had always been included as a symbol of the far side in the most ambitious creative briefs.

But it was all mostly lip service until traditional media finally buckled under its own oppressiveness. CPB was there to take advantage. They (and the award shows) glamorized non-traditional, making it the creative darling it is today.

Thank you Alex, Chuck, and crew. You are partly to blame for the glorious chaos we swim around in today.

Something else of note from Boulder, Florida is the new-new age job title. CPB's staff list reads like a time-capsule of advertising manufacturing, circa 2008.

Here’s a recent sampling from LinkedIn.

Director, Quality of Life
Senior Cognitive Anthropologist
Front End Architect
Interaction Manager
Interactive Conceptualist
Quality Assurance Analyst
Application Developer
Service Desk Technician
Content Manager
Director of Business and Cultural Insights
Budget Analyst
Visual Effects Supervisor
Senior Strategist
Information Systems Manager
Director of Partnership Development
Senior DFX Artist
Cognitive and Cultural Radar (intern)

What will the agency staff list look like five years from now?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who's your maniac?


Image by lchance

I did a poster once for a telephone company in New York. The visual was a row of guys with letters of the alphabet carved into their hair. The client approved it, we shot it, we ran it, and then we got a complaint that the idea was racist. So the client pulled it.

I took great offense at the charge, and despite the fact that the ad wasn’t the best execution in the campaign, and despite the fact the ad had already run, I decided to go to the mat.

So I set about to prove to the client that all we were doing was reflecting a sub-cultural phenomenon. I took a producer (footnote: Peter Cline, who went on to be one of the founders of 180), a camera, and went down to Astor Place barbershop in Manhattan to interview the people who sport these weird haircuts, and the artists who create them.

The finale of the mini-documentary was a to-camera appeal from me to the client, asking them to reconsider their decision. At the very last, I whipped off my baseball cap and turned the back of my head to camera, to reveal the word ‘please’ carved into my hair.

A bit of an over-reaction to the situation, you might say, and looking back, I would have to agree.

But looking around at the companies that succeed wildly, and the ones that don’t, the difference is not in talent, or dedication, or luck, or connections. It’s really the ability to balance all that stuff with an uncomfortable amount of unreasonableness.

Unreasonable hours, unreasonable expectations, unreasonable ideas.

In short, every business needs maniacs (embarrassing haircuts optional). Who is yours?

Monday, July 14, 2008

The best idea does not win


Image by R80o

I’ve come to a conclusion that is disturbing for someone who pays their mortgage by creating ideas for people.

Our business is not about ideas, it’s about agreements.

The logic goes like this:

If traditional communications have become devalued;

And if the actions a brand takes are more truthful and therefore more persuasive;

It follows that the most important initial audience for an idea are the people within the client company charged with bringing the idea to life. They are the ones that will make the brand act in a certain way. They are the ones you must co-operate with each other, working from the same place and to the same goal.

So, what they need is not a great idea, but an idea they can all agree on.

Sure, let’s do everything we can to make that idea as great as it can be… but remember it isn’t great until it works. And for that, every idea needs an agreement.