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?

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