I wanted to leave the students with the idea that there are no limits on what can be achieved for a client, and that some client “at-bats” are more important than others.
During the Q+A following my slides, I was asked some great questions. One question that I thought was smart to ask, was:
What do you know now about working in the ad business that you wish you knew when you entered the business?
I said I wish I took seriously just how fragile one’s reputation inside the industry is, and that somehow we all must find a way to be nice, likable, and a pleasure to work with…without losing our standards or creative edge.
There’s a wealth of highly specialized marketing talent available to brands today, but few brand managers know exactly where to look to find a good fit for their most pressing needs.
Sure, the brand manager may read the trades — and maybe she has a robust network of peers to tap for recommendations — but that’s not the most reliable pathway to take when the business need is acute and the need for an answer is long past due.
Enter the request for proposal. RFPs are commonplace today, and they are often dismissed by savvy new-business professionals as a waste of human resources. If a client sends out 20 or more RFPs and then has a handful returned to sift through and assess, there will be more losers than winners. That’s just math.
In the article, I discuss how the cultures of an agency that builds brands and tech startups are fundamentally on separate pages.
Going to market with a minimum viable product is common practice, but it’s not good for a new brand. From a brand impression perspective, anything you do that is underwhelming is a major ding to your image. Yes, iterating rapidly is required, but in brand communications, you do not “move fast and break stuff.” You make a map of the customer journey and meet your VIPs (a.k.a. customers) at every step along the purchase consideration path.
My team moves faster than most. We are lean and we can do that. Even so, we follow a well-developed process that produces desired results, and it all takes time. And time requires trust, a financial investment, and a long-term vision.
Who has time for such things?
Companies that invest in ‘brand’ and truly care about the experiences they create for customers are the companies worth significantly more at the end of the day. This is why it’s worth it and why great brands make the time and invest the money to do it right. They’re playing the long game.
I was honored when a colleague reached out to me recently and requested an interview to run on his company’s blog. Todd Anthony and I have been in the same social media orbit for years. Todd, who is executive creative director at Pinwheel Content in the Bay Area asked to meet on Zoom. He recorded our chat and then transcribed it, which gives the text a conversational tone that it would otherwise not possess. Here’s a small sample from our chat. Click over to Pinwheel Content for the full interview.
David: Honestly, they’re all over the place. Writers are artists. Narrative artists. They can be difficult, strange, and un-business-like. They’re misfits, yes, but I think of all that as being a very good thing. If you can bring that to the suits and their corporations, who are stiff and boring and scared, you can make a difference for their customers…and that’s important.
If we have to be the court jester, well okay, there’s something to that, too. I remember many times going over to Coors and the clients were looking forward to it. They’d say, “Here come the creatives, they’re going to tell us stories and make us laugh for an hour.” That’s really valuable.
So we’re the court jesters of the advertising and marketing world. It’s because we’re the storytellers. We’re ready to walk into a room and captivate. And that’s not done with your notes and screens. That’s done with your personality and your intelligence.
Yuhang Wang graduated from F&M in May with a B.A. in Art.
Last summer, Yuhang reached out to me via F&M’s True Blue Network, and asked if I could help her find a job or internship. She showed me her student work in theater set design, plus her fine art, and I knew right away that she’s an extraordinary talent.
I extended her a paid internship offer and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in years. She’s an outstanding intern and a wonderful person.
“You want to see the fine artist in a designer, just like you want to see the writer in a copywriter,” Burn said. “Thanks to what we’ve learned at F&M, we’re prepared to infuse the business world with art, writing, and meaning.”
One of the goals of the internship is to help Yuhang find and land a great job. Thanks to recent client wins at Bonehook, I am now hopeful that I can provide the job she wants, starting in January 2021.
David Burn and I had a lively discussion about what it’s like to create a media that predates the existence of Youtube, Twitter, and even Facebook. How much the advertising and media world has changed since. How Internet advertising keeps missing the absolute basics of marketing. How students need to grow a thick skin because your ideas will be shot down a thousand times over in this business, and it’s nothing personal. The death of the holding companies. The trade magazines who are in bed with the companies they write about leaving us with no journalists properly reporting on our industry, and much more.
Creative Mornings provides a monthly talk on a chosen topic (for free) in cities around the globe. Unlike Ted, it’s not exclusive. You can sign up or walk up and enjoy a donut, coffee, and interesting ideas about architecture, design, culture, and so on.
Creative Mornings is also an excellent marketer. The organization is featuring members from around the world on its Instagram page. I am fortunate to be one such featured member.
The answers I provided were in response to a prompt in the submission form. I now have more room to elaborate. I wasn’t happy working in the traditional agency structure, because of the daily diet of shit sandwiches that are required of most ad agency workers.
When you can’t be honest with your clients or with your peers in the agency, you can’t deliver what’s required—thinking and doing that provides a path for greater growth and a fuller understanding of brand value.
The person who runs the Communication Arts Twitter account likes to promote my writing. I am grateful. CA is the creative industry’s standard-bearer, and each Tweet sent from @CommArts is seen by a segment of the magazine’s 81,300 followers.