When I was 16 years old and living in London, I realized that I wanted to be in advertising. The ads there were so irreverent, so clever. It seemed impossible that you could get paid to do work like that. In the 20 years I've been working in this business, I've found another reason to love it: I learn something new every day. 261 is an effort to drop a bit of knowledge from every business day in a calendar year. I hope you will find some of it as interesting as I have, and will come back to visit often.
Two Hundred Sixty One One thing I really didn’t realize a little over a year ago is that 261 is a big number – a really big number – when it relates to blog posts to write.
Two Hundred Sixty The best way to measure success is very personal. First, you measure work, family, faith, and friendships (and any other categories that are important to you). Then see how you’ve measured up to your own expectation of performance in these matters. The results can be humbling, but can also help reset your GPS for the right coordinates in life.
Two Hundred Fifty Nine The result is the important thing. How you get there – as long as it is both ethical and legal – is a distant second.
Two Hundred Fifty Eight Magazines – both online and printed – are an invaluable tool for the creative mind. The anticipation of the next issue, the routine of where/how/when you like to read it, and the enjoyment of the written word in short prose all provide a great way to educate, inform, and get the creative juices flowing.
Two Hundred Fifty Seven I’ve gotten to the age where I wonder, “What are kids being taught these days?” But when I think back to my own college experience, and how little I knew about the business I’m in before I actually had work experience, I figure that most of us came out of college with more or less the same deficiencies.
Two Hundred Fifty Six Mistakes in business, as in anything else, are to be expected. Chronic mistakes, however, cannot be tolerated. By overlooking a pattern of failings, you are tacitly accepting that level of performance to be acceptable.
Two Hundred Fifty Five Sometimes, the best way out of a funk is not a vacation – it’s a really long, really productive day. I like to load up my to-do list, and knock it out one by one. After 10 or 11 hours, I feel productive, re-energized, and reconnected to my work.
Two Hundred Fifty Four My wife has a great saying for when things get tough: “Life isn’t fair – and one day you’ll be glad.” It’s easy to see the unfairness that is detrimental to us, but very difficult to balance that against all the unfair circumstances that actually work in our favor.
Two Hundred Fifty Three To make the workplace culture as fun and collaborative as possible, try to mandate as few “absolutes” as possible. When things are painted in black-and-white, they inherently give permission for people to stop thinking, stop considering alternatives, and stop working on better solutions.
Two Hundred Fifty Two Discovering what kind of music (or specific songs/tracks) will pair perfectly with different work tasks has been extremely valuable. Whether it’s working through accounting with Billie Holiday, strategic writing with Coltrane, or timesheets with Adele, the time goes faster – and the work is better – when paired with the right music.
Two Hundred Fifty One As my family will attest, I am the farthest thing from a “morning person.” However, I love being the first one to the office in the morning. I can often complete more in 20-30 minutes of peace and quiet than I can during the other 10 hours of a hectic day.
Two Hundred Fifty As a manager, the only way I can get a true view of the performance of an employee who reports to me is to ask their peers. Peer reviews have been hugely helpful in employee assessment – both to recognize exemplary performance and to unearth potentially damaging behaviors.
Two Hundred Fourty Nine Positive energy is not a gift – it’s a choice. When you wake up each day, you have the opportunity to bring positive energy or negative energy to those around you. Some of the people I admire most are incredibly adept at tuning in their positive side.
Two Hundred Fourty Eight If you’re in a creative field, it is better to take risks than to play it safe in virtually all cases. Spearheading a spectacular failure is infinitely more marketable than chairing an uninspiringly average endeavor.
Two Hundred Fourty Seven If you have extremely hardworking people working for you, hang on to them. It has been far easier to teach skills to hard workers than it has been to teach work ethic to prima donnas.
Two Hundred Fourty Six The single best way for me to keep my sanity while traveling is to maintain my workout routine. Jumping on the treadmill for 40 minutes in the afternoon or morning really helps offset the mental and physical effects of Chili’s Too at the airport, Dunkin’ Donuts on the road, or a crazy large filet when at dinner with my client.
Two Hundred Fourty Five Keeping up with timesheets may be the single hardest aspect of working in the advertising industry. While they are critically important to the management of the agency, they run almost diametrically opposed to the way the creative mind likes to work.
Two Hundred Fourty Four Some of the best days at the office are days when we get surprised – someone bakes a big cake for their coworkers, has a new (and crazy) haircut, fills your office with balloons, or brings a new baby in to meet everyone. To be part of a positive change, make it a point to deliver an office surprise on a regular basis.
Two Hundred Fourty Three People like to be complimented. Make it a point to compliment your coworkers on something once a week, and you’ll see a notable difference in the vibe around the office.
Two Hundred Fourty Two Hard work is a part of any great result. Whether you are writing a strategic plan, developing a new business presentation, or concepting the next great ad – you can plan to get out of it in success nearly exactly what you put into it in hard work.
Two Hundred Fourty One Many times, the magic of finding great creative solutions is no more than paying attention. By staying curious, and allowing yourself to observe and perceive rather than creating noise all the time, you’ll see the unusual connections that lead to great creative ideas.
Two Hundred Fourty If you want people to believe in you and follow you – rather than just fear you – participate in as many events as you can. Many managers won’t participate for fear of looking stupid. I’ve found that the “looking stupid” part is what makes us look human, and therefore easier to relate to and easier to believe in.
Two Hundred Thirty Nine Many think you produce great work by being “out there” and creating chaos for yourself. But I’ve always found the best way to produce great work is to be grounded in a routine – whatever your preferred routine is. By providing structure to your day, you allow your mind a tremendous amount of freedom to explore and create.
Two Hundred Thirty Eight While many studies have been conducted on the subject, color and audience reaction to color remain relatively subjective. In order to please the client, be sure to have a solid strategic foundation for the colors chosen. Even if the client disapproves, they’ll appreciate the effort.
Two Hundred Thirty Seven Whenever my thinking goes into “brain-lock,” I get up and go outside. Whether it’s 100 degrees or 12 degrees (or perfect weather, for that matter), it always wakes up my senses, makes me more alert, and pulls me out of whatever rut I’m in.
Two Hundred Thirty Six If you’re a professional runner, you get really nice running shoes. If you’re a professional draftsman, you get a really nice drafting table. Therefore, if you’re a professional writer, you should get a really nice pen. I received one seven years ago as a gift from my girls, and my life’s been a little bit better every day since.
Two Hundred Thirty Five There’s an old saying that goes, “When you find you’ve dug yourself a hole, quit digging.” I think the same is true for creative thought. If you find that you’re beating your head against the wall or chasing bad idea after bad idea…quit concepting for a bit, let the smoke clear, and start over with a fresh slate.
Two Hundred Thirty Four Sometimes the most absurd and offhanded jokes about a subject lead to the best on-target ideas. Always remember that creativity is about surprise and surprising connections, and that humor relies on exactly the same thing. By letting humor flourish and run its course when you’re brainstorming, you discover a greater bounty of ideas that you can actually use.
Two Hundred Thirty Three While we have had to occasionally speak to individuals about time spent on Facebook or Twitter, we have never felt the need to put a draconian policy on its use. Research suggests that an open environment creates a positive attitude that results in a greater sense of ownership of the work, and therefore higher productivity. I choose to judge people on what they accomplish at work, not on how they spend every second of their day.
Two Hundred Thirty Two When a client rejects your favorite concept but loves another you’ve presented, count it as an important win. Just be sure you never show anything – anything – that you don’t believe in, because they will choose it, and then everyone loses.
Two Hundred Thirty One Buy good coffee for your office. It seems like a big expense until you hold it up to virtually any other recurring expense (healthcare, anyone?). And it is a daily reminder to everyone in the office that you love them and want them to be happy.
Two Hundred Thirty Make it a point to get your office out for relaxing social events on a regular basis. In high performing teams, tension can build up like static electricity – and often people don’t perceive that it’s happening. Everyone benefits from getting out of the office, and rediscovering each other as human beings with hobbies, families, and things to talk about other than work.
Two Hundred Twenty Nine You don’t have to redecorate your office to feel like you have. Change out the things on your desk and in that corner you see when you look up from your computer. A few new objects, a different photo of your family, fresh art on the wall, whatever. If you’ve been looking at the same things every day for years, it will feel like you’ve given your mind a spring-cleaning.
Two Hundred Twenty Eight Division of labor in a marketing agency is essential, but it means that everyone involved – Account Manger, Writer, Designer, Creative Director – has to take ownership of the strategic objective of the work they are doing. That’s what leads to great ideas, fantastic collaboration, and work that is more than the sum of its parts.
Two Hundred Twenty Seven Developing print ads often reveals a sore spot between Designers and Copywriters. The Designers want less copy, and the Copywriters want the print large enough to be read without a magnifying glass. They both usually have a point.
Two Hundred Twenty Six If you want to make your time in the office more productive and more enjoyable, try adding snacks. Think of the kind of snacks you like when you’re watching TV or cuddled up with a good book. Anytime I can recreate that snacking moment at work, I feel better about my time spent here and am invariably more productive.
Two Hundred Twenty Five Make time for your family. No matter how much you achieve at the office, you can never trade it in to get back time with your family later on in life.
Two Hundred Twenty Four Being a good listener is more than just being empathetic, being present, or paying attention. It is as much about learning how, when, and where NOT to talk as it is about learning to listen.
Two Hundred Twenty Three There is always – ALWAYS – someone more successful than you are. So setting your sites on being the “most successful” in anything is setting yourself up to fail. Same for the richest, best-liked, or most attractive. Rather than looking at the ideal and falling short, I like to look at ways to improve in increments, and celebrate the small victories.
Two Hundred Twenty Two Few meetings are truly necessary. Oftentimes, a meeting is just a way for someone to fill out their calendar so that they feel (or look) busy. I wouldn’t hate meetings nearly as much if the ones I attended were more necessary or meaningful.
Two Hundred Twenty One It’s not that hard to be nice. It may be a little harder than being rigid and mean on occasion, but being nice offers far more and farther-reaching rewards.
Two Hundred Twenty When I was younger, I used to think, “It surely would be hard to write in a professional voice all the time.” Having done it for 20 years, I’ve found that it is much easier to write in a more rigid, professional voice than it is to write in a real, authentic, and casual voice.
Two Hundred Nineteen No creative challenge is more difficult than keeping a campaign fresh over time. Anyone can catch lightning in a bottle and develop a great concept or series of ads. But following the same campaign strategy and still producing great work year after year – like Motel 6 or Southwest Airlines or FedEx – take true genius.
Two Hundred Eighteen I have a coworker who uses the phrase “with an attitude of gratitude,” and it never ceases to bring a smile to my face. Showing you are grateful – rather than just feeling it or assuming people know it – is a great way to keep your staff loyal, happy, and engaged.
Two Hundred Seventeen If you want to be respected as a good boss, a good coworker, or a good friend, don’t ever walk away from a job after hours when others are still working. It usually means leaving a larger load for those left behind. It always means that someone is working harder (or cares more) than you.
Two Hundred Sixteen If you want to pay attention – truly pay attention – in a meeting, on a phone call, or otherwise, make sure to turn off any electronic devices. I think it’s more than just habit that makes us check our phones, respond to the chirp of a new email, or glance at a computer screen. It’s almost like human reflex.
Two Hundred Fifteen At this point, we have all learned how to control our professional conversations to be politically correct. I have learned that it is every bit as important (if not more important) to control your body language and non-verbal cues. The difference between being approachable and likable – and therefore attractive to do business with – can be as simple as your tone of voice, your gestures, or the look on your face when a new idea is brought to the table.
Two Hundred Fourteen Building a brand is an ongoing process. You can’t endeavor to create a brand and then put it on a shelf. Take stock on a regular basis of who you are and what you serve. Don’t change your values, but change your approach as necessary to meet market conditions. Look not just outside of the organization, but inside – to new employees, new divisions, and new proficiencies – to determine what your brand is today versus what it was 6, 12, or 24 months ago.
Two Hundred Thirteen Because you can’t add more hours to the day, I’ve found that combining mundane tasks can really save time. Brush your teeth while you read email. Listen to podcasts on new Web developments while you drive to meetings. Watch corporate video while running on the treadmill. As long as neither of the tasks requires too much of your brainpower, you can often get both accomplished in half the time.
Two Hundred Twelve Success in social media is no different from success in other marketing areas. Be prepared to deliver good content in the form of entertainment, humor, intrigue, or heartbreak if you want to build a loyal following. If you want to blow the doors off, deliver all four.
Two Hundred Eleven When things are blowing up and stress is high and deadlines are pressing – the last thing anyone wants is a hothead. The best way to win over your team is by calming everybody down, and bringing peace and order to a hectic situation.
Two Hundred Ten 90% of business is simply fixing problems. By going to work every day with a lunch pail attitude of “I’ll roll up my sleeves today and fix some problems,” versus a Pollyanna attitude of “maybe there won’t be any problems today,” we set our internal expectations correctly and give ourselves the best chance to succeed.
Two Hundred Nine Surprising your clients (in a good way) is always a good thing. Take a little bit off the next invoice as a “loyalty discount.” Add to your deliverables by 5% as a “thank you for your business.” Purchase a second copy of that creative award and deliver it to the client. Happy clients are good clients. Happily surprised clients are great clients.
Two Hundred Eight A congratulatory note or kind word from a competitor means as much as a thousand kind words from a friend or an associate.
Two Hundred Seven Winning new business is a combination of experience, hard work, and luck. Category experience (or past experience working with the prospect) is priceless. You must work extremely hard to develop a strong proposal and work up a compelling presentation. Finally, you must get lucky. No matter how hard you work and how aligned your experience is with the opportunity, there are too many factors out of your control to win without some luck.
Two Hundred Six Sometimes, a mistake is just a mistake. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a good trait to be attentive and quality-oriented. But it can be damaging to be obsessive and micromanaging. Taking inventory of the whole situation before reacting can save you from causing damage to relationships and the company culture.
Two Hundred Five Relationships are important to any business venture. People buy from people, and people choose to work with people they like. However, I’ve found that long-term, healthy business relationships are ultimately built on the quality of work and service we produce and deliver.
Two Hundred Four Subrogation, Orthobiologics, Genotyping, Economic Order Quantity, Pharmacogenetics – all fields in which I have at least a passable knowledge. When I set out on this career path more than 20 years ago with a communications degree in hand, I never would have guessed I would have so much to learn in so many areas.
Two Hundred Three When someone praises you for a job well done, defer the praise – whenever possible – to a member of the team who also played a part in the project’s success. You still receive the same charge we all get from an “atta-boy,” but you get the extra charge of making someone else feel good in the offing.
Two Hundred Two If you have (or are part of) a really high-functioning team, don’t send out members of that team to try to “evangelize” other areas of the business. Rather, analyze what is making them work so well, and try to overlay the process or strategy that is leading to their success.
Two Hundred One To determine the value of any given employee, you have to consider what you’d be willing to pay on the open market for someone with his or her professionalism and skill set. Often, I’ve found that I may not be paying someone enough. On occasion, I’ve also found that I’m paying too much.
Two Hundred If you can’t completely unplug from the office during your vacation, at least be protective of your time. Set aside one hour a day for business correspondence, and stick to it. It’s a schedule that keeps you available to manage crises, but prevents you from getting sucked into the day-to-day management of the business when you’re supposed to be recharging.
One Hundred Ninety Nine I like having a job where it’s necessary to keep up with pop culture and current affairs. Now, when I’m watching 30 Rock, or listening to Jay-Z, or Googling “Guy on a Buffalo,” I can still feel like I’m working.
One Hundred Ninety Eight Three things you should always have on your desk: Kleenex, a nice writing pen (preferably black ink), and a picture (or pictures) of those you love. Every one of these will be needed on an almost daily basis.
One Hundred Ninety Seven Establish your boundaries, both personally and professionally, and don’t be afraid to enforce them. Even in a service-oriented business, saying “no” is sometimes not just necessary, but the only ethical and reasonable response.
One Hundred Ninety Six Family is a big part of why someone thinks, acts, or reasons the way they do. If you can get to know the family of those who work with you, you have a much better chance of understanding your coworkers better and anticipating how they will respond in different situations.
One Hundred Ninety Five It is never healthy to waste time bemoaning the success of our competition. Every ounce of energy we waste thinking about someone else’s good fortune would be better spent ensuring our own. Visualize success. Then pour every bit of yourself into making that success a reality.
One Hundred Ninety Four Social media, by nature, is personal. If your brand is not able to speak personally –either due to its nature or its regulatory environment – then avoid social media. It will only make you look disingenuous and waste your customers’ time.
One Hundred Ninety Three Coffee is good, but sleep is better. Nothing is more damaging to your ability to think quickly and effectively than sleep deprivation. To be your best, plan out your rest the same way you would your meetings or meals.
One Hundred Ninety Two Write notes, especially thank you notes, to those who have done right by you. Whether in response to a gift, a reference, or a kind word, a handwritten note is unmatched in its ability to show appreciation for a kindness bestowed.
One Hundred Ninety One In addition to the “don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mom to see” rule for social media, I’d add this: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to read. If it’s not interesting or adding value, it’s merely wasting air space. Just because you can post every mundane, navel-gazing tidbit that pops into your mind, doesn’t mean you should.
One Hundred Ninety No matter how big or small your office is, you can have a positive (or negative) effect on morale. A great way to improve the overall workplace vibe is to find a coworker whom you don’t regularly interact with, and invite them to lunch. You’ll learn a ton about them, they’ll learn a ton about you, and you’ll gain a new acquaintance in the offing.
One Hundred Eighty Nine In order to deliver your best performance consistently, you need to understand what attributes are affecting it. Do you work best at home, in the office, or in your car? What foods stimulate your best thinking? Are you more creative listening to hip-hop, classical, or nothing at all? Do you prefer a clean desk or a bit of a mess? Identifying what factors contribute to your “getting in a zone” is not superstition; it’s a deliberate process that can reap large rewards.
One Hundred Eighty Eight There is nothing more important to sales than identifying the decision maker in the process. Your entire sales pitch should be geared toward the individual who is ultimately going to decide your fate. Make sure that is the person who understands your benefit message and key differentiators, even if no one else in the process does.
One Hundred Eighty Seven I have yet to see anyone effectively “multitask.” Virtually everyone talks about how good they are at it, but the effect of divided attention is always a net negative. Next time you text while talking on the phone while watching a YouTube video, ask yourself what percentage of your brain is going to each task. Then ask if you’d appreciate someone giving you that percentage back at your next sales call, presentation, or meeting.
One Hundred Eighty Six If you want to achieve something – anything – amazing, start with a plan on how to achieve it. I’ve found that building the plan is invariably the hardest part of the process. Once the plan is established and in place, the actual achievement becomes nothing more than systematic execution.
One Hundred Eighty Five To keep your sanity in a business world where more and more is expected in less and less time, you have to find a routine that helps you clear your personal cache. For me, it’s running. I wouldn’t say I love running, or even like it all that much. I would say that it is a critical component of my overall physical, emotional, and mental health.
One Hundred Eighty Four When I see a lame big-budget television commercial, I immediately start reconstructing the agency/client process that led to it. Where did courage fail in the process? Invariably, at some point, someone decided not to trust the audience, or a clever idea was neutered six different ways and is no longer clever. The end result is a half-baked concept, with a whole lot of media and production budget tied to it.
One Hundred Eighty Three In marketing, sometimes the smallest of details matters the most. An unexpected word choice, the difference between two similar images, a slightly different position for the button you want your audience to click, even punctuation: All such meticulous choices can make your message more authentic, your brand more genuine, and your outcome measurably better. Remember, the difference between a 3% and a 3.5% response rate can be huge – so don’t slack off when it comes time for the final spit and polish.
One Hundred Eighty Two When a project appears to be nothing but bricklaying, with few or no creative opportunities, back off of the execution for a bit and focus on what the end result is supposed to accomplish. What is it supposed to do for the audience? What response is it supposed to elicit? How is it supposed to make people feel? A few insights can turn a dull project into an engaging puzzle, resulting in a solution that is both more interesting to create and more effective in the end.
One Hundred Eighty One Make sure you work at a place where the joy of winning overcomes the pain of losing. That doesn’t necessarily mean a place where the company wins more often than it loses, but a place where it celebrates success and embraces a positive culture, versus dwelling on missed opportunities and failures.
One Hundred Eighty One of the best opportunities I get to make a difference for my staff is when I meet someone close to them – a parent, a sibling, or a significant other. It’s a great chance to brag on the staff member, expound on how great they are and convey how much they mean to me and to the agency’s success.
One Hundred Seventy Nine What makes a cool office? It can be influenced by the architecture/interior design, the colors, the music, or the vibe. But the thing that defines cool is the people. Get people who are smart, interesting, unique, clever, and engaging, and you almost guarantee yourself a cool office.
One Hundred Seventy Eight If you want to stay relevant in marketing and communications, you need to stay current with pop culture. It doesn’t mean that you need to spend all your time watching TV, seeing movies, browsing through music, or posting to social media. It does mean that you need to be conversant in each of these and how they intersect with one another.
One Hundred Seventy Seven To make sure I stay grounded in what’s important, I’ve found it helpful to decorate my office with plenty of remembrances of home – pictures, notes, drawings, even birthday cards. That way, when work takes me away from my family, I always have a piece of them nearby.
One Hundred Seventy Six My older daughter likes to tell me that “When you curse, it takes seven minutes off your life. But when you laugh, it adds back three minutes.” In this business, there’s plenty of both cursing and laughing. Fortunately, most weeks still give me a net positive in lifespan implications.
One Hundred Seventy Five If you have the chance to spend an hour on an important project, or an hour on a human resources issue, always go with human resources. Invariably, time spent setting people issues straight is exponentially more valuable to the company in the long term.
One Hundred Seventy Four Every professional has a slightly different motivation. For some (not many), it’s money. For others, it’s recognition. For still others, it’s autonomy. Make it a point to discover the individual motivations within your team, and leverage them relentlessly. You’ll be amazed at how much greatness can be achieved.
One Hundred Seventy Three When in a disagreement – no matter how certain you are that you are right – don’t ever forget that the other person also thinks they are right. Ignoring this fact and pressing your point relentlessly will only create bad blood and move you farther from resolution.
One Hundred Seventy Two Working at an agency is a little like raking leaves or shoveling snow. The more work you complete, the more lands on your plate. At the same time, when there isn’t anything to do, even for a small period of time, it can be very unnerving – until, of course, the next project blows in and buries you once again.
One Hundred Seventy One Wear clean underwear. Wash your hands. Share. Be nice. The principles of preschool never expire. When we’ve mastered their literal meaning, they live on as metaphors. Wear clean underwear; start every day fresh. Wash your hands; clear your head before moving on to the next thing. Share; be generous with ideas, thoughts, and resources. Be nice; being spiteful is not a competitive advantage.
One Hundred Seventy In building the agency, one of the most effective things we’ve done is to avoid silos. No team member works with only one client, and most work with many. By balancing an economy of scale with liberal cross-pollination, we keep our strategists and creatives fresh – while our clients benefit from the thinking of a much larger team.
One Hundred Sixty Nine When there’s a lot of lag time between the start of a project and its final state – or a protracted series of “small changes” – errors are more likely, and the overall integrity of the project can slowly slip away. Keep a close eye on the work. If it starts to look pear-shaped, hold it up to the Creative Strategy Statement and make sure it’s still doing what was intended. If it isn’t, let the client know – and you’ll both be happier in the end.
One Hundred Sixty Eight The most effective brainstorm meetings begin long before the meeting itself. By requiring each participant to arrive at the session with two or three good ideas, you’re guaranteeing that the meeting will begin with a list of great ideas – and that everyone will be fully versed in the project strategy and parameters, and ready to be a productive part of your meeting.
One Hundred Sixty Seven Nothing is more critical to a project’s success than the Creative Strategy Statement (CSS). The CSS is the document that translates everything the client service side knows about the project into everything the creative department needs to know – nothing more, nothing less. It is also the place where the science of marketing transitions to the art of marketing.
One Hundred Sixty Six If you want to stay happy at work, stay busy. If you want to keep your people happy, keep them busy. If you run out of things to do, go find one of your key people, and do something to make them happy. It pays off in the long run.
One Hundred Sixty Five Your value as a professional is exactly where you effectively price yourself on the open market. Be sure to value your time appropriately, charge for it consistently, and be stingy with it professionally. Otherwise, you'll brand yourself as “cheap,” and that's a customer expectation that will cost you a fortune in the long run.
One Hundred Sixty Four If you want to communicate via online video, do these three things:
- Make it short.
- Narrowly define the focus.
- Make sure the presenter is engaging.
Once your prospect gives you the gift of their time, the greatest mistake you can make is to waste even one precious second of it.
One Hundred Sixty Three I think that doing something you love has less to do with the actual job you have than with the approach you take to your work. Build connections. Care about your work. Leave it better than you found it. All these can add up to a great day in virtually any job.
One Hundred Sixty Two I read a great quote from Steve Jobs the other day, and it really struck me as meaningful. He said, "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful...that's what matters to me."
One Hundred Sixty One The elements of marketing aren’t particularly complex. They aren’t rocket science. The only way we can sell our services is by demonstrating that when the right elements are put together correctly, marketing can have the precision and impact of rocket science – or better yet, brain surgery.
One Hundred Sixty Organization can be almost as important to a project's success as creativity and strategy. You need the latter two to wow the client and really move the needle. But you need the former to get everything done efficiently, on time, and on budget.
One Hundred Fifty Nine Knowing who I am, for good and bad, is the most important part of achieving my best success. Analyze yourself. Play to your strengths. Minimize your weaknesses. And constantly ask how you could be even better.
One Hundred Fifty Eight Small disappointments and even colossal failures can be some of the biggest springboards to ultimate success. We learn much more from failure than from success, because in failure we tend to analyze more thoroughly all the minutiae that could have been done differently to affect the outcome. It is in the minutiae that we eventually unlock the keys to even larger successes down the road.
One Hundred Fifty Seven Letting people know we care – with a short note, with a phone call, or just by showing up – can often mean a great deal in our relationships.
One Hundred Fifty Six Lots of people watch TV or movies and say, "I wish I could do that for a living." Outside of the prospect of playing golf professionally, I really haven't found anything that would be nearly as fulfilling as what I do now.
One Hundred Fifty Five A popular technique for improving your golf game is to "visualize a successful shot." I have also found this to be a great way to improve business outcomes. First determine what success looks like, and then visualize how you will get there and what it will feel like. It helps your brain work through the strategies to bridge the gap effectively between where you are and where you want to be.
One Hundred Fifty Four The only way to attract and keep great people is to make your organization the kind where great people want to work. Deliberately, consistently, and unceasingly.
One Hundred Fifty Three If there’s one thing the challenging economy has taught me, it’s how little I control much of what goes on around me. The secret to me keeping my sanity is to put 100% into the things I can control, and rest easy knowing that I’ve done my best.
One Hundred Fifty Two I’ve written professionally for more than 20 years now, and it’s taught me a lot about myself. I am better at clever than I am at funny. I write long copy better than short copy. I write better headlines with good research than I do with good luck. And I’ve had the good fortune of hiring writers who are far more talented than I am.
One Hundred Fifty One Sports have always held a special place in my heart. I don’t know many people more competitive than I am. Participating in an athletic event – either in person or vicariously – has always provided a fix to my competitive need. Marketing has provided a similar fix, with wins, losses, hits, and misses all a part of virtually every business day.
One Hundred Fifty No matter how busy I am with work, I try to be sure to keep up with family and friends. It can be difficult, and even an imposition, at certain times. But I never want to get to the end of a month and realize that those most important to me took a backseat to work or career.
One Hundred Forty Nine Quickly: name the most recently introduced social media platform in the U.S. If you had trouble doing so confidently, you are joined by 100% of Americans. The proliferation of media makes it impossible to keep up with every trend from every angle. Find out what media are important to your industry. Find the outlets that report regularly on these media. And stay as up-to-date as you can.
One Hundred Forty Eight Many people take conference calls as an opportunity to only half-listen while they clean out their email box, write checks, read articles, or shop online. To get the most out of a conference call, I first turn off my monitor, then clear all the media from my desk. It helps me concentrate on and engage in what is being said, and makes that time far more productive.
One Hundred Forty Seven I personally hate the fact that Wi-Fi is now readily available on planes. I’ve always taken advantage of flight time as one of the few opportunities I have to completely focus on a task without disruption or interruption. Next time you fly, take your toughest project or challenge with you. You’ll be surprised at how productive that two or three hours can be.
One Hundred Forty Six We are usually attracted to only two kinds of people: those who have traits similar to ours, and those who have traits we wish we had. The first group is great, but I’ve learned a lot more from the latter. I try to figure out which trait it is that I admire about people in this group, and develop it as best I can.
One Hundred Forty Five You can’t necessarily force yourself to be interested in something you need to know for practical or professional reasons, but you can train yourself to stay well-informed. Set up Google Alerts. Let your friends and associates know to pass on anything they see on the subject. Search Twitter for interesting articles. Look for case studies of successes in the area or on the topic. Spend at least 30 minutes a day researching, reading, or discussing the topic. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can become well-versed.
One Hundred Forty Four My six-year-old daughter, Caroline, is a great stable pony for me. When I am stressed out or overworked or overwrought, I try to have a “Caroline Day.” Get up early. Laugh a ton. Work and play really hard. And when it’s bedtime, sleep the sleep of the righteous. If I can get even one of those days every couple of weeks, everything sort of settles in around it.
One Hundred Forty Three The democratization of media has led to a tremendous amount of substandard and mediocre programming. The same can be said for advertising and marketing. Just because you can design on your desktop, or edit your own video, or publish your own website – doesn’t mean you should.
One Hundred Forty Two I once counted how many different kinds of jobs I had from when I was 13 to when I graduated from college, and came up with 22. Everything from paper boy to gas station attendant to carpet installer. But since my post-graduate career began, I’ve been in only one profession – advertising. It is interesting, challenging, agonizing, and unbelievably rewarding, all at the same time.
One Hundred Forty One While rejection of concepts by the client is never what we’re looking for, it can often be the spark that allows us to take a completely different approach – and ultimately leads to great work.
One Hundred Forty Facebook, Twitter, IM, texting, and email are all very effective ways to communicate. However, they cannot replace the warmth and sincerity of a phone call or in-person meeting. Determine what type of message you’re delivering, and how important the interaction is to your business or relationships. Then choose your communication method accordingly.
One Hundred Thirty Nine With all the deadlines we have in marketing, we are assured of missing at least a few. The best approach I’ve found in this situation is to stay cool, take responsibility, and communicate, communicate, communicate. Even bad news is better than no news at all.
One Hundred Thirty Eight Research is an agency’s best friend. I used to dislike it because it disrupts the creative process, can be costly, and certainly adds time to a project. But gaining insight into a consumer’s thoughts, beliefs, and purchasing habits not only helps with the project at hand, but with all future projects as well.
One Hundred Thirty Seven The best way to win over a new client or prospect does not require delivering the greatest idea (although that never hurts) – rather, demonstrate how well you think and how strong your processes are for developing ideas and solutions. In virtually all cases, our clients want to see that we know how to fish – not see what we caught the last time we went out.
One Hundred Thirty Six Preparing well for a new business pitch involves working through, in advance, what you’ll actually do if you get the job. Then make a commitment to your approach, walk into the room with a strategic, creative solution, and deliver it with passion for the prospect. You may not win every time, but you’ll never be caught up in the “also-rans” who only provided a lukewarm capabilities presentation with no conviction.
One Hundred Thirty Five Never underestimate the power of a well-constructed Creative Strategy Statement to inspire the best – and most surprising – ideas from your Designers and Copywriters. If you fill your creative staff’s minds with innumerable facts, perspectives, options, challenges, and opportunities, the chances that they will generate a pure, inspiring idea go way down. The purpose of the CSS is to give the creative team no more and no less than it absolutely needs to turn a singular strategic focus into executional greatness.
One Hundred Thirty Four When concepting a visual idea, don’t think of the coolest tactic in which you’ll use it (a video, an app, etc.) – think of the most limiting tactic in which it will have to work. You can elaborate a pure idea into a more complex one far more easily than you can retrofit complexity into compelling simplicity.
One Hundred Thirty Three When sending a multiple CC email – especially a sensitive one – be sure to check and recheck the people you have copied into the message. With autofill, it is extremely easy to make a mistake that can threaten your credibility and your business.
One Hundred Thirty Two When presenting creative, it’s always best to take a stand for the best work. When we present a number of ideas without conviction, we lose credibility. When we present ideas that we don’t stand behind, they are inevitably chosen by the client.
One Hundred Thirty One Being strategic with downtime can be as important as being strategic at work. We all need to recharge our batteries, balance our work/life equation, and spend time with those who mean the most to us. Without being too structured, I have found it helps to at least plan out the major parts of the time I'm away from work in order to do the things that are most important to me and to make sure that all areas are getting the attention they need.
One Hundred Thirty The people who figure out what to say when the client is in the room are not always the people who should say it. Your most compelling presenters should be standing up; the behind-the-scenes thinkers should be sitting down, adding insight, answering questions, and generally giving the impression that everyone at the agency is a genius.
One Hundred Twenty Nine The strongest and best leaders all have quality people they consult with on a regular basis. These leaders are always extremely smart and resourceful individually, but recognize the strength of varying thoughts and perspectives to the decision-making process.
One Hundred Twenty Eight A 10-minute conversation can often be more productive than an exchange of a dozen emails. With email, we are required to assume intent, insinuation, and frame of reference – which can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and wasted time. Meeting in person can eliminate misunderstandings and help focus the communication on its most important elements.
One Hundred Twenty Seven If I could pick just one characteristic that I'd want a new hire to have, it would be the ability to problem-solve. What you've done creatively, past success stories, and awards won mean nothing to me if you can't address a new challenge, break it down to its components, and provide solid solutions.
One Hundred Twenty Six I've found that there are really only a handful of "pillars" to strategic marketing. Our key to providing sound strategy is anchoring the myriad of floating possibilities back to these pillars – making sure that each possibility has a reason for being and a firm foundation in solid strategy.
One Hundred Twenty Five Picture for a moment your three or four best performers. Now, without checking your personnel files, answer the following: What are their birthdays? What are the names of their significant others? Their kids’ names? What do they like to do in their downtime? Build the kind of relationships with your top performers that allow you to answer these questions without hesitation.
One Hundred Twenty Four Don't miss the forest for the trees. As media and communications channels proliferate at an astounding rate, we are continually pulled into tactical conversations at the expense of strategy. Tactics may build the mousetrap, but strategy provides the bait.
One Hundred Twenty Three A lot of corporations have begun locking down the internet for their employees –banning Facebook use, blocking instant messaging, etc. While we have certain rules (mostly based on common sense) about internet usage, we are relatively liberal with our policing. I believe that if you want to have an intelligent, creative, well-informed staff, you not only have to give them the tools and opportunity to connect, but you also need to trust them.
One Hundred Twenty Two Many of our direct competitors are my friends and/or former coworkers. To make the competition bearable, I use some of the tools learned when playing many years of competitive sports. The largest lesson: play the game hard, but respect your competition. So far, so good.
One Hundred Twenty One You often hear people say you shouldn’t be friends with your kids, because it jeopardizes your ability to parent them. I believe the same is true for employees – if you are friends with your direct reports, it hampers your ability to effectively manage them.
One Hundred Twenty Creating a good video is a lot like producing a good music recording. There are so many different variables that need to be right – lighting, equipment, talent, location, script – and even when all of that is spot on, a bad attitude or internal bickering can kill the whole effort.
One Hundred Nineteen My daughter visited the office the other day, and it was interesting to see which offices and desks she was drawn toward – usually those with toys, candy, or a lot of interesting gadgets. Then I watched our staff throughout the course of the day, and they were primarily drawn to the same places. If you want to be on someone’s radar, try to be interesting (or at least give out free candy).
One Hundred Eighteen If you want to have a good weekend, try to make Fridays as stress-free as possible. About two years ago, my wife and I declared that Friday night is “pizza night.” By taking care of the kids’ dinner in such an easy way, we took all of the stress out of the end of the workweek, allowing us to work late if needed, and to truly relax and start the weekend once we get home.
One Hundred Seventeen Big solutions and groundbreaking ideas rarely get plucked out of thin air. If you want the next great solution, you have to first develop and communicate the problem that needs solving. Then you have to be willing to keep generating merely adequate solutions, until your right brain and left brain are working together, and the strategic and creative merge into a single puzzle. That’s when the breakthrough happens.
One Hundred Sixteen I try to manage crises using what I call “the Mom principle.” Don’t meet hysteria with hysteria. Rather, when someone brings a real problem to your desk, stay calm. Nurture. Even give a hug. I’m not saying I’ll hug you every time you have a problem (and I’m not saying I won’t), but I’ll always try to bring some calm and peace to the situation before we explore solutions.
One Hundred Fifteen Before I take a hard stance on someone’s performance, I first explore the challenges presented by their recent work and how much they have on their plate. Even our best performers can struggle when given too much of anything or a whole lot of one type of thing.
One Hundred Fourteen If I have too much to do, a list that just doesn’t get any shorter, or especially if I have a dreaded task to complete – I find that the best thing to do is bring up Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue on iTunes. If listening to Miles doesn’t make it a little better, then I know I have a real problem on my hands.
One Hundred Thirteen I have a lot of clients that are my friends on Facebook. So whenever I post, I try to use the same filtering criteria I would in a client conversation: avoid politics, religion, or ideology. Be polite. Be circumspect. And for goodness sakes, don’t share anything inappropriate.
One Hundred Twelve Virtually nothing in business "solves itself." Leaving a difficult issue to deal with at a later time not only makes the problem more acute, it dilutes your credibility. Make time to tackle a trouble area first, and make sure you bring it to a satisfactory conclusion before you move on to the next thing.
One Hundred Eleven Game strategy can be an excellent tool when it comes to managing your work. Think two moves ahead. Consider what your competition will do once you have made your move. And always keep in mind the end game instead of the immediate victory.
One Hundred Ten Lists are always great. But if you’re in a service industry, lists are essential. Every day brings calls, emails, requests, and deadlines – often coming at you from every direction at once. To make sure that all the things that were supposed to be done that day get handled, keep a list – and strike through whatever’s been accomplished.
One Hundred Nine Just because you shouldn't base a decision on a single data point, doesn't mean that you shouldn't have one singular defining idea to your campaign. Using a laser focus keeps your creative teams and your audience both focused and engaged.
One Hundred Eight Don’t ever mistake an acceptable solution for a good solution. If you don’t see the excitement on your clients’ faces when you present your ideas, then you have missed the mark. As much as my team and I can get worn down by a challenge – so can our clients. It is on the agency to keep pushing to find the absolute best solution even when our clients are ready to pack it in and call a mediocre idea “good enough.”
One Hundred Seven Tired is a state of mind – but it is also a state of exhaustion. When I was younger, I could burn the candle at both ends and still perform near the top of my game. As the years have grown on, I’ve come to recognize the value of a good diet, good exercise, and a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep.
One Hundred Six In a crunch, because of stress, time constraints, or otherwise, we all tend to fall back to what is familiar – which is often either predictable or expected. When we can channel the stress into something unexpected, we often come up with solutions that are spectacular.
One Hundred Five A lot of times, we can hurt others unknowingly by what we say and what we don’t say. I have been guilty of both many times. When I recognize it, I try to pull the injured party aside and give a heartfelt apology. It doesn’t undo the transgression, but hopefully it lets people know that it was in no way intentional.
One Hundred Four “Downtime” is a reality of every organization, even during busy times. The key is in how we capitalize on the downtime. I try to make a list of all the things that I don’t have time to get to today, but that I’d really like to learn more about. When a window opens in the schedule, I dive into research – and encourage our staff to do the same.
One Hundred Three Members of our staff not only need to know that they are appreciated for what they are doing today – they need to know that an attractive future exists for them in the company. Even in the most trying economic times, a good manager can find a way to motivate, congratulate, and paint a picture of days to come for each member of their team.
One Hundred Two A well-fed team is a happy, productive team. Thanks to the foresight of our previous Associate Creative Director, we have Fruit Tuesday (which lasts the balance of the week). We supplement this with cheese & crackers twice a week and cap it all off with Fast Food Friday. These may not be the most traditional tactics, but they bring our team together in a way that few other things could.
One Hundred One One thing I’ve learned about time management is how to apportion tasks for the day. During the morning, I tackle all the brain-intensive strategic work that I can. During the middle of the day when I am most tuned in to the office, I handle the personnel issues. Toward the end of the day, when fatigue is setting in, I work through the tactical and administrative tasks that don’t require as much brainpower.
One Hundred In order to produce the best creative possible, it is critically important that we know not only our target audience, but also the conditions under which they will receive our message. Did they search for it? Did it run aside (or inside) their favorite editorial, web feature, or television show? Or did it reach their inbox along with many other messages? These insights allow us to balance the attention-getting and informational aspects of the message, and ultimately decide the effectiveness of the campaign.
Ninety Nine If I ever go back to working for someone else, I will focus on three things: 1) Never take a problem to my supervisor that I can solve myself. 2) Focus on the core elements of my job description before heading out to “value-added” territory. 3) Share resources easily and readily with my peers.
Ninety Eight After working for more than a dozen years with my two partners, I can see why three is the magic number. In many cases, having the third partner as a “tie-breaker” has helped keep the peace. In others, just getting that third perspective has prevented us from making major missteps and mistakes.
Ninety Seven Sometimes, hiring a promising beginner can be more beneficial to the agency than hiring a seasoned pro. First, the beginner has more to prove, and often is more aggressive. Second, the seasoned pro may have a tendency to rest on his or her laurels, rather than chase down the next great idea. Lastly, we can train the beginner to work only within our processes and systems, without having to overcome any different or poor habits.
Ninety Six Whether an agency has tackled a marketing challenge that is similar to the one you are facing is a much better gauge of their potential than whether they’ve worked in your specific sector. While sector experience is beneficial and valuable, it does not speak to the ability to solve specific, and sometimes very complex, marketing challenges.
Ninety Five The appropriate time to share budget information with the creative team is AFTER the initial concept sessions are complete. Because budget should not dictate the strength of the creative concept – only the scale and mechanics of its implementation. Bringing budget to the table too early can create small thinking and even smaller concepts.
Ninety Four One “golden rule” I’ve developed with my direct reports is this: Don’t bring me a problem without also bringing at least two possible solutions. I may not choose either solution, but the process encourages critical thinking among our staff and prevents petty problems from making it to my desk.
Ninety Three When I’m in London, what always strikes me most about the advertising is not the wit (although it is fabulous) – but rather the trust that the advertisers have in their audience. Too often, clients “dumb down” a strong message or concept because they don’t believe their target audience will “get it.” If we would all trust the intelligence and sense of humor of our audience a bit more, we could produce better work.
Ninety Two One of the funniest things that I have ever heard was a message that was left on my mobile phone several years ago. A woman in a warehouse was calling what appeared to be her male business partner, but dialed my number instead. She was at the warehouse and wanted to know what he wanted her to do with all the monkeys. If you’re ever with me and my computer is nearby, ask me and I’ll play the message for you.Listen
Ninety One When a talented staff member leaves our company, it is difficult not to take it personally. The three things I always consider to make it easier are: 1) Clearly, their training and our mentorship prepared them well, so we’re doing some things right. 2) If the employee is looking outside at new opportunities, they are not fully vested in what we are doing and it is best for them to go. 3) In almost every case when we have hired someone else to replace a staff member, we have improved the agency as a whole.
Ninety Developing great professionals is a lot like gardening. If you have the right soil (corporate culture) and tend your garden well (manage), you will yield great results (professional development). However, all that goes out the window if you get a bad bunch of seeds.
Eighty Nine When faced with a choice between a creatively stunning option and a dead-on strategic option, put your money on the strategic one every time. With the right strategy, even mediocre creative will produce impressive results. Without the right strategy, the most outstanding creative execution can produce next to nothing.
Eighty Eight I have read a lot about keyword advertising and search engine marketing replacing direct marketing. I think it’s important to remember that these channels are direct marketing. Applying the artful science of DM number-crunching to keyword and SEM plans will provide a very accurate forecast of success in the medium – and will help set expectations for clients.
Eighty Seven Nothing will bury a bad product faster than good advertising. If a compelling message is getting out to the right audience at the right time with the right call-to-action, and the product can’t stand up to expectations – it will die a quick, and likely well-publicized, death.
Eighty Six Many people regard the advertising and marketing industry with suspicion or contempt. At its worst, it is deserving of both. At its best, though, the craft can and should be engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking, educational, or even heartwarming. I try to measure everything we do against these adjectives, and hope that I am not judged too harshly for devoting my life to this business.
Eighty Five The Peter Principle states that “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence," meaning you will be promoted until you are eventually out of your depth. While this is not always true, it is true that the skill(s) that led to your promotion is not always needed (or wanted) at the next level. In order to succeed, we have to be willing to start over, work as hard, and learn as much in our new position as we did in our old one.
Eighty Four The best advice I ever received as a copywriter came from a class I took my junior year at Texas – “Always look to make unexpected connections.” Oddly, this advice has served me as well in account supervisor and hiring manager roles as it ever did in my role as a writer. Life, and business, are all about the connections we make with others. The more unexpected, the more rewarding.
Eighty Three If you want to keep your discipline sharp – in my case, writing – you have to keep doing it. If management and other responsibilities get in the way during the day, I try to find time after hours to hone my craft. Otherwise, the skill deteriorates as quickly as my confidence in my ability to do it.
Eighty Two When I am having trouble selecting the best creative approach out of an array of options, I’ve found it extremely valuable to get the opinion of someone not at all involved in the project. The objectivity they bring to creative assessment is similar to that which our prospects will bring, and their insights are often more valuable than those of people “too close” to the product or service.
Eighty One Presenting agency estimates and billing is a daunting task, no matter how much experience you have in doing it. The best way I’ve found to deal with client questions about project expenses is to be up-front and honest, and to over-deliver on detail. It doesn’t always satisfy everyone, but it at least takes the mystery out of agency billing.
Eighty The most talented designers I’ve worked with over the years all have two particular traits. One: they are tireless workers who refuse to be beaten down by obstacles and opposition. Two: they all have several other creative areas where they excel, such as music, architecture, and illustration.
Seventy Nine I have seen on average one or two resumes per week for the past 10 years. Out of those nearly 1,000 resumes, approximately 50% have at least one typo. I can honestly say that I’ve never hired one of those people.
Seventy Eight While we can segment audiences more minutely and effectively today than at any other time in existence, it’s important to remember that there are big truths. The most precisely defined, laser-targeted, and surgically executed campaign still does not hold a candle to the perfectly simple solution that makes everyone say “Ah-Ha!”
Seventy Seven Before we ever build a keynote presentation for a new prospect, we consider what they want to hear/see and what they need to hear/see – not what we want to show and tell them. This helps keep us on track and the prospect interested.
Seventy Six If you made a Venn diagram of the traits of an elite athlete and an elite creative, the overlap area would contain both competitiveness and toughness. If you’re not competitive in this business, you risk losing accounts. If you’re not tough, you risk losing your confidence.
Seventy Five After 20 years, I can still predict which concept a client will choose (generally from three options) only about 30-35% of the time. This has taught me two things: to not get married to a concept before the client has chosen it, and to be a particularly attentive listener during the creative unveiling and presentation.
Seventy Four The fastest way to bomb an interview with me is to say that you want to use this job as a stepping stone to a larger market. In a small, specialized firm, we invest a great deal in training and mentoring every staff member. If I think you’re looking beyond this job before you’re even hired, then you’re not the person I need.
Seventy Three Next time you’re in a waiting room, choose a magazine that has you as its key demographic. I don’t care if it’s MAXIM or Cat Fancy. Then flip through the ads. The fact that you’ll usually find 30% that don’t apply to you says that there are a whole lot of media planners and buyers out there doing a poor job.
Seventy Two One thing that I’ve never understood is how great creatives can inject anything with humor. I think of myself as a funny person in life and regular conversation, but I have a very difficult time translating that into an ad or TV spot.
Seventy One Knowing our clients’ business is only half of the equation. It’s equally important to know and understand our clients as individuals. Their tendencies, preferences, and aspirations are all key indicators of how best to serve the clients – and great service is our #1 product.
Seventy My favorite part of the advertising business is presenting. It’s the moment when all the years of experience, the flare for the dramatic, the strategic thinking, and the client knowledge come together. And there is NO better feeling than nailing a huge account with a great presentation.
Sixty Nine In more than 20 years in advertising, I’ve had jobs writing radio jingles, developing direct mail campaigns, scripting speeches, and copywriting ads. I’ve worked in PR, media, production, quality control, and account service. And I’ve managed as many as 12 employees at one time. I can tell you from experience, managing people is the single most difficult challenge in this (and probably any other) job.
Sixty Eight Bringing the right people to the table at a business meeting can be as important as any other element. Everyone from the most junior creative to the most senior Interactive Specialist has a voice. And the voice that the client needs to hear can vary wildly, depending on the need. I’ve learned to ask probing questions when the meeting is requested, so I can have the right team in the room when it actually happens.
Sixty Seven Maintaining great working relationships with out-of-town clients is not impossible, but it does take extra effort. First, we communicate early and often. Second, we document all conversations to make sure both sides have the same understanding. Lastly, we burn up the air miles to make sure we get plenty of face time to go with #1 and #2.
Sixty Six I firmly believe in the power of “no.” I never like to say no to a client, but it is important to maintain appropriate boundaries and parameters for work. As long as it isn’t overused, “no” can be the most powerful word in our work vocabulary.
Sixty Five I’ve never thought it was a good idea to bad-mouth our competition. The fact is, each company has its strengths and weaknesses, and we are in no position to judge another firm. It never makes us look good to speak badly of someone – we’re better off just keeping our mouths shut and working our butts off.
Sixty Four Writing copy is a difficult task, but writing dialogue is diabolical. I’ve been blessed to work with many writers who can write excellent dialogue, and I’ve always both respected and envied them for it. Me… not so much.
Sixty Three People often think of BtoB marketing as boring or less interesting than BtoC. I think this depends on how you approach it. Creativity in delivery of BtoB messaging is at least as challenging, and the ability to measure and see results is thoroughly rewarding.
Sixty Two We always try to “surprise and delight” our clients. This can mean a card on a birthday, a cup of coffee for a morning meeting, or a free “add on” to a campaign. These little kindnesses go a long way in building great, long-lasting relationships.
Sixty One Sometimes, a workable and effective campaign is a better option than a wildly creative campaign. We try to never sacrifice results at the altar of creativity. Of course, a wildly effective, wildly creative campaign is the ideal.
Sixty You know the part in the Mel Gibson movie What Women Want when he presents Helen Hunt’s idea for Nike? Real creative presentations are nothing like that.
Fifty Nine One way we get the most out of our teammates is by creating healthy, internal competition. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an inferno chili cook-off, trivia contest, or Pictionary battle.
Fifty Eight Giving back to the communities where we live and work is one of our core values. However, all pro-bono and charitable work should be undertaken in a strategic way. We always ask the following before engaging: Where can we do the most good? Is this an organization or charitable undertaking that can benefit more from our efforts than from those of another firm? And is this an opportunity to do meaningful work that we can be proud of?
Fifty Seven If you want to feel better about your job, take the next credit card offer you get in the mail and really examine it. Everything from the offer on the envelope and the message inside, to the letter and the contract. Now, imagine yourself writing all the copy for that piece. It’s where I started in this business, and I have to tell you, it ain’t easy or fun.
Fifty Six Our deep BtoB marketing experience makes our work on BtoC accounts stronger. Because BtoB requires rigorous dedication and adherence to strategy, we apply that same strategic discipline to BtoC work and end up with actionable, measurable campaigns.
Fifty Five Providing outstanding service is the easiest and most effective way for us to distinguish ourselves from the competition. Our extra effort on the service side almost always pays dividends in long-lasting relationships, improved communication, and repeat business.
Fifty Four I always try to remember that my clients have their own clients, higher up in the organization. Once we create the right solution for our client’s business, we provide them with the tools they need to present the solution to their superiors as clearly and persuasively as we would ourselves.
Fifty Three Business-to-business marketing is no less of an emotional arena than consumer marketing. It’s just emotional in a sector-specific way, for a very particular audience. If we do our homework, we can instill a widget brand with as much emotional power as a clothing line brand.
Fifty Two Successful products can usually take the truth and make it a proprietary brand trait.
Fifty One There’s nothing wrong with stock photography, as long as we never ask a search engine to do our thinking for us. A search engine can’t create a surprising and suitable visual symbol for a brand’s traits, a metaphor, or a connection. The best approach is to define the exact photograph needed – then go find it.
Fifty Often, the only place to see profitability in the first job for a client will be in the second job, and the third, and the fourth.
Forty Nine When a client makes a decision that seems to make no sense, we try to figure out what would have to be true for it to be the correct decision. We often find that our client has given us new insight into the marketing situation, which we can then use to provide a better solution.
Forty Eight A good strategic analysis turns over every stone. A good marketing strategy recognizes which ones are precious.
Forty Seven It’s inevitable that most of our print ad audience will get only as far as the headline, the image, and the brand. So, we black out everything else with a Sharpie, and make sure the whole story we want to tell is still there in those three elements.
Forty Six When a problem arises in exactly the same arena more than once, it's not a coincidence – it's a pattern. I always try to attack the systemic issue that is creating the negative pattern rather than focusing on the problem itself.
Forty Five We consider being predictably excellent to be the highest praise. Consistency is underrated and too often confused for uninventive.
Forty Four Advertising people thrive on two things: creativity and competition. Some of our best events as an agency have been around creative competitions. Who knew we had so many great chefs?
Forty Three Making someone else look good is one of the best ways to build strong relationships. When we make our clients look great, we are rewarded tenfold down the road.
Forty Two The outcome of our various interactions is often dictated by our attitude going in. If we bring a positive attitude, we can usually achieve positive outcomes.
Forty One In the advertising world, "by Friday" doesn't mean by Friday morning, or even by end of business Friday. It means anytime before the sun rises on Saturday morning.
Forty A lot of marketers spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the "next big thing." We've found that if you start with the marketing challenge, and take the appropriate strategic problem-solving steps, the vehicle will make itself apparent.
Thirty Nine It's OK to let your clients (internal or external) know that you don't have all the answers. Sometimes just letting them know we’re listening to the need and will find the solution is the best answer.
Thirty Eight Perspectives are all unique. The frame of reference that one brings to a particular question or challenge will always have the largest effect on that person’s position or solution. Understanding someone's frame of reference is critically important to collaborative success.
Thirty Seven The absolute best way to get information is to ask.
Thirty Six Being a good partner means managing financial resources in the most responsible way possible. I always try to be as forthright and transparent as I can at all stages of the project.
Thirty Five Even when we find the very best solution, it can usually be better. We should accept criticism and input into our work as a gift that allows us to be even better.
Thirty Four It is in no way guaranteed that great work will be met with accolades and "atta-boys." At some point, we must be satisfied with a job well done, regardless of reaction to the work.
Thirty Three When congratulated for a good job, I always try to be humble and say thank you. This makes the congratulator feel good about the compliment, and makes them more inclined to give another.
Thirty Two I have learned not to forget what my clients like, what their hobbies are, and what events are occurring within their families. It makes small talk much easier and makes the relationship much more enjoyable.
Thirty One Life is not fair. Situations take us by surprise. Other people are unpredictable. The only reasonable approach is to do our best work in every situation and accept what comes.
Thirty No employee will ever give you better insight into their work ethic and potential worth to the organization than during the first few weeks after they are hired. This is when they try the hardest and are most concerned with their reputation.
Twenty Nine When you’re seeking the best possible ideas, no one person is better than a group of people. Understand and accept that fact, and you will achieve collaboration. Achieve collaboration, and you will achieve excellence.
Twenty Eight Always be professional, and always be frank. It won’t make everyone like you, but they will respect you.
Twenty Seven I have yet to meet anyone with whom I don't share at least some common ground. It’s not always easy to find, but if you ask enough questions, you’ll eventually discover a thread with which you can begin to weave a relationship.
Twenty Six Tell a client what you really believe, not what you think they want to hear. They hired you for your expertise, and only by speaking from your expertise can you provide real value to them and earn durable credibility for yourself.
Twenty Five Treat every agreed upon deadline as a contract. Be every bit as hesitant to miss a deadline as you would be to break a contract.
Twenty Four Managing is not all that different from parenting: you need to give positive reinforcement, be consistent, and be caring at all times.
Twenty Three Non-verbal communication can be very telling. It can also be very misleading. If you are ever unsure of where someone stands on an issue, just ask.
Twenty Two Always start a relationship by setting reasonable expectations. If you set the bar too high and miss it once, you’ve inspired doubt that must be managed. If you set it judiciously and clear it with room to spare, you’ve created confidence that you can leverage.
Twenty One Never take anything at face value. That doesn't translate to "be cynical" — it translates to "be inquisitive." By asking questions and delving deeper into every issue, you not only learn more about the subject, you'll be better equipped to create a valid opinion/position on it.
Twenty There isn't any one creative genius, or any one source for inspiration. Genius lies inside each of us, and inspiration is personal. Look for ideas not only in all places, but from all people. You'll be surprised at how quickly ideas will pile up.
Nineteen No matter how sure you are that you can remember something, write it down and put it on your calendar. We never know how crazy things might get in the following minutes/hours/days, and God forbid we overlook something.
Eighteen Saying "I don't understand" at the beginning of a project is better than saying "I didn't understand" at the end of a project.
Seventeen Even the most urgent of problems can probably benefit from a deliberate solution. Not procrastinating, but taking a deep breath and taking time to look at all the factors that may contribute to the best solution.
Sixteen Your clients will never appreciate you as much for your talents as they do for your ability to solve their problems. The best time spent is time figuring out what problems your clients have, and how you can help.
Fifteen When looking for measurement, always start with what's most important. Then build metrics around the most important issue. Trying to apply "standard metrics" to any problem is a lesson in futility.
Fourteen The most complex problem can be solved if you break it down to its simplest elements and solve from there. The key is to recognize when something is too big, and start to break it down. The rest sort of takes care of itself.
Thirteen Winning is a simple human need. While we can't win every time out, it's important to win often. And winning the right way is the best and most fulfilling feeling of all. Those who don't have their own wins tend to hitch their wagon to a winner (read: Yankees and Cowboys fans).
Twelve No one knows everything. However, surrounding yourself with great, smart, creative, and dedicated people puts you in a much better position to deal with the unknown.
Eleven People have been dealing with change since the dawn of mankind. Understanding that the constantly changing world in which we live is nothing new should help it be a little less daunting.
Ten There are five things that will decide whether you sleep well at night: family, spirituality, health, relationships, and work. If you can put any four of those in a good place, you can sleep.
Nine Clients will always remember and reward small acts of human kindness. Commit to and perform those acts on a daily basis, and your business will be better for it.
Eight No amount of technology can replace human connection. Remember that you are talking to people, not statistics, and have a real, meaningful conversation
Seven When developing strategy, past experience is only a starting point, not the solution. First look backward, then look forward, then develop your strategy.
Six Because you share one thing in common with someone is no guarantee that you share more than one thing in common with someone. Don't assume like-mindedness in any situation. Rather, ask questions until you are sure.
Five Different people respond to different things: tough love, criticism, "course correction", leading by example. But everyone, every age, from every background, responds to positive reinforcement.
Four It's easier to start with a crazy idea and make it workable, than to start with a workable idea and make it crazy. When brainstorming or ideating, try to connect the most disparate ideas together. If you can find the glue to make them work, you have the beginning of a great idea.
Three On virtually every occasion, humor is more valuable than smarts. The combination of humor and smarts is nearly unstoppable.
Two You can not do market research by putting a number of like-minded people in a room. Just because like-minded people agree on a subject, doesn't mean the world at large agrees.
One Just because someone is a subject matter expert does not make them the best person to write on that subject. If any art form is more endangered than writing I don't know what it is.