Working The Weekend

A career in advertising is a lot of fun.

But it also means working nights and weekends.  If you don’t want to work on the weekend, don’t try a career in advertising.  Try something else.  Because the only way to be successful, the only way to pay your dues, the only was to go from good to great is to put in the extra time.

It’s not all that bad. Here’s one of the advantages of working on the weekend.  First of all, there are usually very few people in the office, so you get really good quality time.  I can usually do 2-3 days worth or work done in one day.  The phone isn’t ringing.  The e-mail isn’t going off.  And there are not a lot of meetings. And finally, someone is bound to buy lunch.  So sometimes it’s a pretty good deal.

Of course, in the Winter, you have to remember to ask office services for heat. And in the Summer, air conditioning is an important request. And don’t forget your building pass, because there’s nobody at reception to let you in the building.  But other than that it’s OK.

Now, why is there a crew working the weekend.

Because we haven’t cracked the big idea for one of our clients.  It not to say that we don’t have a lot of ‘almost’ big ideas, or a bunch of ‘really good’ ideas.  But not THE idea.  So we don’t stop. We keep going. We keep trying.

We know THE idea is out there.  We just have to reach into the deepest recesses of our brains and find it.  That’s why we made to the choice to be creative people.  So solve these problems. To come up with the big idea. To be heroes

And sometimes that means working weekends.

Great, Good & Garbage

There’s a fine line between great and garbage.

I see it every day.  And the difference isn’t always right in front of your face.  For example, today I was looking at a portfolio of someone who has been in the advertising business for years.  Over 10 years to be exact.  I was looking at his work and I started to ask myself “how much of this work is really great and how much isn’t?”  Of the 15 campaigns in his online portfolio, I decided that exactly zero were great.  Don’t get me wrong, some were executed really really well. But at the end of the day, were they game-changing ideas?  I had to say no.  Then I asked myself “how many were good and how many were garbage?”  And I realized that good should be garbage.  In fact, good ideas are the most dangerous.  Because you can easily settle for a good idea.  We’ve all said to “wow, this is really good.”  But how often do we say “this is great.”  A creative director I know always said that good is the biggest obstacle to great. It’s not focus groups. It’s not legal requirements. It’s not bad talent.  It’s an idea that’s good enough. That’s because many will stop at good enough. And not aspire to great.

I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s book about Steve Jobs.  In the first 100 pages, he quotes the Apple founder countless times as saying ‘this is the greatest thing ever’ or ‘this is complete crap.’  There was rarely anything in between.  No gap in his decision making that says ‘good.’  Only ‘greatest ever’ or ‘crap.’

I have to respect that kind of courage.  And the courage of every creative team who aspires for great.  And won’t settle for good.

Good luck.  And mind the gap.

It’s Going To Be A Bumpy Ride

I’ve made my choices. The phone calls have been made.

I’m hiring potential.

80% of the votes said that I should hire to person who some day may be great, but isn’t quite there yet. One person said it best, “potential can be molded.” I do think this is the right way to go. My gut was telling me to hire potential. You helped me confirm that was the right thing to do. Thank you.

Now I know that this route is going to be more difficult. That all of my teaching skills will be tested. And for those of you who know me, I can be brutally honest when it comes to looking at creative work. I will try to be nice. I will try to behave.

I can’t make any promises.

So now I have a different choice to make. Should I assign the interns to one creative group for all 15 weeks, or rotate them through three different experiences every five weeks. Or a rotation every three weeks. I’m leaning to the five week rotation.

What do you think ?

Of course, there’s another option — don’t assign the interns to any specific group, and have them work where ever the greatest need may be on any individual week. It could be fun. It could be a disaster. OK, I just talked myself out of that idea.

No matter what I choose, I know it’s going to be a bit bumpy. But just like bumper cars at an amusement park, it’s also going to be a lot of fun.

Have a great weekend. Talk to you on Monday.

Round and Round and Round I Go

So I have this question that I’ve been debated around and around in my mind…do I hire the intern that is ready to jump in to the workforce, fit in immediately, and potentially get a job right away ? Or do I hire someone who has good ideas, and doesn’t know how to get them down on paper ?

Do I hire potential ?

For the past two weeks I’ve been meeting students from FIT for potential Spring internships at the agency. But I’ve been also looking for people who could fit into the agency with a full time job once they graduate in May.

What I saw was both great and not so great.

A few students were ready. Their work was crisp and well thought out. They could present their ideas clearly. They had a clue. I hired one on the spot. She starts soon.

But then there were the other students. Their work was OK. At best. One student (and I’m not exaggerating because I counted) used the work “like” 17 times in one sentence. “So, like, I was like thinking, that like, I’d like try to like get people to, you know, like be interested in like going to ……..” this is about the time when I stopped listening and wanted to poke a pencil in my eye. Here’s the sad part, she had talent. But I couldn’t hire her.

The next student had work that was presented in such a sloppy portfolio that I couldn’t believe it when she told me that she had been working on it for over a year. Really ? A year ? And this is the best you can do ?  And again, the sad part, she had real talent. She could be very good.

Then there was a student that perplexed me. Her ideas were good. Her presentation of her portfolio was fine. But her best work was still in her brain. What she was saying during the interview was far more interesting than what was on the page. I’m debating whether to offer her a position.

And I’ve been going around and around on this for hours.

I really can’t decide. Reward those who have worked hard and who are ready ? Hire potential ?

I’m making my decision by the end of the day. If you happen to be reading this, I’d love your thoughts.

Twists and Turns

This morning is a beautiful day. And yet during my walk to work, I was thinking about the twists and turns my career has taken. First a newspaper reporter — that didn’t work. Then my first ‘advertising’ job at the in-house department at a department store in Philadelphia. Then Baltimore. Then St. Louis. Then New York City. Hired. Fired twice. My own agency. Working on the client side. And now my latest turn, back in New York City.
I’ve had amazing highs, and crazy lows. But I have to admit, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love creating something from nothing.
But I also love that I never know what will happen on any given day. I love the twists and turns. I love the uncertainty. I always say, if I wanted a 9-5 job I would have chosen something else.
And now after all these years in advertising, I can safely say, I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Platform People

Ever notice that people don’t look at each other on a train platform.  Or if they do look at you, it’s because they suspect you’re going to harm them in some way.

How have we gotten to this point?

I say hello or compliment people every day. Some people — it freaks them out.

But some, smile and thank me.  It’s amazing what a little act of kindness can do.

Take 1 minute out of your day and do something nice for someone.

Make eye contact. Even if it’s uncomfortable.

You may just make someone’s day


My 10 block walk

This is the beginning.

To give you an idea of what this page is going to be like, here’s what you can expect.

Every day, I walk 10 blocks from Grand Central Terminal to my office on 33rd Street in Manhattan. And every day I see something I didn’t expect to see.  A man in a Superman costume selling handbags, a glee club singing in the park next to an upright piano, you name it.

And all of these things that I see end up in advertising campaign ideas.

I don’t think I even realize it.  They just show up like uninvited friends at a party.

So here it goes.  I have no idea what I may see or what I may write.  But let me know what you think. What you saw. What inspired you.

…. and we’re off