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.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cleaning up the mess we've made

image by corypina

Here’s something you all know, boiled down into handy dandy aphorism size.

Apparently it came spilling out of my mouth during a class at Miami Ad School a few weeks back, and it’s come back to me a couple times since, so perhaps it’s worth sharing formally:

“Communication pollutes, actions communicate”

Okay, so it’s not exactly Oscar Wilde.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Neophyte Network strikes!

A couple months back I wondered if, instead of proclaiming our areas of experience, us advisor/consultant types ought to wear our deficiencies on our sleeves.

The thinking being: the reason we’re brought into collaborate in the first place is because of our outsider perspective.

In that rant, I took the first step, by naming categories in which we are/were entirely virginal. In our case, entertainment, pharmaceuticals, government, and a couple others.

For anyone who believes in these sorts of karma/self-actualization things, I present you with another exhibit. No sooner had the post been thrown out there to the ether than the ether replied with a project promoting an upcoming film.

The above is a pic from the meeting room where we presented our thinking. No prizes for guessing who the client is. (But prizes to client for fanatical devotion to brand touchpoints!)

So, not that one project makes us entertainment pros, we do have to take that category off our Neophyte Resume. Which leaves toys, government agencies, pharmaceuticals and auto parts. Waddya say, ether? And what about you other Neophtyes? Stand up and be clueless.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crying wolf once more


You've probably seen this video. It got lots of views, news coverage... the stuff we often measure success by.

Yes, it is another stunt on the edge of plausibility, the "reality" of the idea enhanced by its delivery mechanism, namely good old youtube.

“Woah… look at that girl jump, can you believe it? And did you see that one with the sunglasses/jeans/etc?”

Well, as James Frey knows, claiming reality sure does add another dimension to the power of your story. But when that story turns out to be not real… look out!

It seems to me we are mistreating our fellow citizens yet again - conning them into showing some interest in us.

It’s entertaining and all. But won’t the attraction of ‘reality’ wear off as soon as people tire of the trickery?

Worse still, aren’t we deepening the basis for mistrust?