800 Post-It Notes. 75 Campaigns. 6 Countries. 3 Days.


What happens when you get creative teams from six countries in a room together and ask them to solve a global creative problem?

In a word: magic.

For the past few days, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented people. We gathered in a conference room at the Westin hotel in Hamburg, Germany. Creative teams from the United States, Germany, Italy, France, Brazil and Argentina were represented. Planning and Account from the USA were also on hand. I was the host and session moderator.

We began with a simple briefing. Our creative brief was easy to understand and everyone instantly got it. The charge was given. Then the exercises began.

We began with a post-it note exercise that everyone felt was silly. We did this for what seemed like an eternity. Nobody was sure what we were trying to accomplish. “Trust the process,” I kept saying. “It will all eventually make sense.”

Next we took our 800 post it notes and divided them into categories. The stranger the name of the category, the better. Think outside the box. Stop thinking logically. There was lots of laughter. An equal amount of confusion. “Trust the process,” I asked. “It will all eventually make sense.”

Next we chose random post-in notes and wrote stories. The stories were interesting and revealing about the type of work we would create. My favorite story was titled “The Silence of the Dolphins” about a woman who works with hearing impaired dolphins.  Almost 20 stories were written. “Trust the process,” I said again. “It will all eventually make sense.”

But now the fun part began. Take everything we’ve created. The categories. The brief. The stories. And whip them into a brand manifesto for our product. I could see it in their eyes. It was beginning to make sense. Everything we had created to this point had a purpose. To add dimension to the brief. To give it a tone. To give it language. To give it passion. Now, we were about to give it a point of view.

The teams went off to work. Over dinner that night, we read our manifestos to each other. We drank wine. We sang opera. Reading manifestos in a 17th century, candle lit, wine cellar in Germany was surreal. You could feel the passion. You could feel the stake being planted in the ground. You could feel ideas beginning to be created.

But most of all, you could feel a team coming together.

Over the next 36 hours, we created over 75 campaign ideas. They came from the brief. They came from the categories. They came from the manifestos. But mostly they came from the  brilliant minds of the teams.  But not just the creative teams. Our planners jumping in with teams to create. Our branding director drew ads. The account leads wrote headlines, too. And yes, even I threw in an idea or two.  We laughed. We worked. We presented. Eventually we voted.

15 campaigns made the next round. We refined a little. We pushed. We pulled.

Then we presented to the clients. Nine clients from four separate global regions. We presented for almost two hours. We talked. We agreed. We disagreed. And in the end, we all aligned on 5 concepts to move forward.

We all stepped back and said, “The process worked.” I smiled as it all really did make perfect sense.

At the end of the three days, we did more than create a lot of work. We created global bonds that will help us stay on course as the work progresses.  There is a lot yet to do. The timeline is very short. But we’re confident in where we are heading.

Thank you to everyone who participated.

Thank you to everyone who worked over the weekend to help out.

And thank you to our client who trusted a process that they have never done before.

It was a fun few days.



SIDE BAR:  A meeting like this is impossible to coordinate. We brought in a professional meeting planner from our of our companies. Everything ran like clockwork. Amazing job. Holly – if you’re reading this – you were the secret weapon. Thank you so much!




I just got a gift: 45 minutes

The greatest thing just happened. Someone booked a meeting for 90 minutes and the meeting ended in 45 minutes. So I was given a gift of 45 minutes with nothing scheduled. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, it only means one thing; you are not in meetings all day long.  For me, it was a huge break in my day.

I am in a meeting from the moment I arrive until the moment I leave. As an example, on Monday my calendar looked like this:

8:30 – 10 AM

9:30 – 11 AM (Yes, I was double booked for 30 minutes)

11 – 11:30 AM

11:30 – 12:30 PM

Noon – 12:30 PM (Double booked again)

1 – 2:30 PM

1 – 2:30 PM (Double booked again)

2:30 – 3:30 PM

3:30 – 4 PM

4 – 5 PM

4 – 5 PM (Double booked again)

5:15 – 5:45 PM

5:30 – 6 PM

6 – 6:30 PM

My meeting calendar has gotten so bad that I’ve begun scheduling 15-minute meetings. Get in. Get out. Made a decision. Move on. While very efficient, it’s not very personal.

I have tried to keep every day from noon – 1 PM free from any meetings to allow myself time to meet with people one-on-one. But something always pops up.

So I have to start doing something differently. I need to stop scheduling meetings in my office, as there are days when I never leave my personal space. I need to get off my backside and walk around a bit more.  But mostly, I need to insist on shorter meetings. A shorter meeting will mean more holes in my schedule and more time to do other things.

Now you may be thinking – “I have an idea, I’ll book Rich into 60 minute meetings when I only need 15 minutes, and I’ll be a hero.” Please don’t. That only means that I’ve schedule other people on other days to provide you with 60 minutes.  So now while I may have a few minutes free today – tomorrow is shot to hell.

And I do want to compliment two people who have figured out the how to get in to see me without an appointment. One person shows up at 5 minutes before the hour or 25 minutes after the hour hoping that what ever meeting I was in ended 5 minutes early. And virtually 100% of the time he’s right.  The other person has taken the time to book lunch with me once every few months. No agenda. No bitching. Just lunch. And I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a real lunch and a real break in the day.  I’ve had three lunches outside of the office in 2013. Two have been with her.

So, what did I do with my 45 minutes?

1)   Had a phone call with a freelance team about an upcoming project.

2)   Spoke to a client about a workshop I’m hosting next week.

3)   Met with three creatives about a new training program.

4)   Did my timesheets.

5)   Approved expense reports.

6)   Went to the bathroom.

7)   Answered 17 e-mails (By the way, I get hundreds of e-mails a day).

8)   Met with a member of the account team about a competitive campaign.

9)   Registered for a seminar.

Oh, and I did one other thing.  I wrote this post. But now I have to go, I don’t want to be late for my next meeting.



I’ve created a fantasy football monster.

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 12.23.13 PM

I introduced my son to Fantasy Football.  Now we have two people addicted to the score and stats of the NFL. Him and me.

The fantasy league actually began several years ago by my nieces and nephews.  They thought it would be fun to have a custom league that is made up only of family and friends.  After a few years, I was invited to join.  And I will admit, it is a lot of fun. And while the football part is competitive, the real fun is the smack talk between family members and the funny team names people give their individual teams.

Some of the names that have appeared in the league over the past few years:


Tampon Monsters

Dan’s Pillow Biters

Vaginal Infectionist

Baron Uterus

Green Bowl Packers

Beeej’s JOO’s

Atomic Punk

Aggravated Mayhem

Hold Mah Vick


Electric Boogaloo

& I Did Big Ben

I know, low-ball humor (no pun intended) – but what can you expect from a league named ‘the cumbacks.’

But now that my 11-year-old is in the league (named Max-imum Velocity), I’ve noticed the names have calmed down a bit. But the smack talk has not let up a bit. In fact, my son is about to go 2-0 on our league – and he’s dishing it out.

The other thing I’ve noticed is how excited and nervous he gets on game day. Yesterday, after the first 3 minutes of the 1st quarter, my son announced to me that he was ‘benching Aaron Rogers next week, and playing Eli Manning instead.’  Of course by the end of the first half, he was claiming how brilliant he was for picking Aaron Rogers.  (Rogers-54.20 points, Manning-21.73)  He also was talking about cutting his tight end Jermichael Finley – right up until he starting catching passes and a touchdown.

I’ve also noticed he’s a shrewd GM. Last week, he picked up the Kansas City defense because they were playing Jacksonville. And what happened?  KC promptly has 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown.  All while holding Jacksonville to 2 points.  In the entire Yahoo Fantasy universe – only 4% of people started the Kansas City defense.  My son scored 34.00 points.

But now, in typical fantasy football team owner – he’s taking it a bit too far. He’s beginning to look ahead. “Dad, I play Atomic Punk on a week when New Orleans has a bye week – so he has to sit Drew Brees. I think I can win that game….”

Right now, all is good in the world.  His team is undefeated. He’s sitting at #2 in the league. The schedule looks good for the next few weeks.

That is until week #9.  That’ll be the interesting week. That’s when Max-imum Velocity plays Tastee Sub Shop.

Yes, that week – he plays me.  Let the smack talk begin.

— to be continued.



19 hours from Kansas City to New York City – 9/11/2001

I was on an airplane flying to focus groups in Phoenix on September 11, 2001.  I left Newark Airport on Continental Airlines flight CO1535 at 7:00 AM. I was sitting in seat 9D, next to the window.  We were going to test concepts for a new campaign that was about to launch for Verizon wireless.

We never made it.

When the pilot came over the public address system and told us we were landing, we had no idea of the horror that was happening back in New York. We had no idea that we were the lucky ones. We had no idea that hundreds of people had already lost their lives.  All we knew that “due to a national emergency, we are instructed by the FAA to land at the closest possible airport.”  We were about to land in Kansas City.

I was flying with three co-workers, John, Rick and Dave. While the announcement got our attention, the speed at which we landed was scary. I have flown hundreds of flights, but never before had I been on a commercial airliner that landed so quickly.

Only when we were getting off the plane did we find out what had happened. Shock. Tears. Concern.  The first tower had already fallen by the time we got out of the terminal.  We made it to Avis, rented a minivan to begin the long drive home. By the time we left the parking lot, the second tower was gone, too.

Four co-workers in a minivan, starting a long drive home to our families. For the first few hours we barely spoke. We listened to the radio. We saw Air Force One and its fighter escort in the sky over Iowa. We saw American Flags being hung on every overpass along the interstate.  We had a deep feeling of loss.

We drove in shifts. We barely ate. We stopped only to get gas and to find a car lighter adapter for our cell phones at a local Wal-Mart off of Interstate 35, ironically near the town of Liberty.

At some point our cell phones began to work. We had a very hard time getting through and it was hours until our friends and families knew we were safe. We didn’t have a plan except to get home. We had an overwhelming feeling that we needed to get home. No matter what it took. No matter what roads may be closed. No matter how long the drive. We needed to get home.

We drove all day and all night. From Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Near the Delaware Water Gap we started to make plans on how we would get home. The bridges and tunnels were still closed. Nothing was running. But we kept driving.  We noticed at a gas station in New Jersey that the post cards of the Twin Towers had been sold. People were beginning to fill up spare gas tanks. People were bracing for the worst.

I dropped off Rick and then Dave.  John somehow got home to Brooklyn from some place in New Jersey that he thought he could get in.  I was now alone.  I was also one of the first vehicles allowed over the recently reopened George Washington Bridge.

That’s when I saw the smoke.

That’s when the tears started to flow. I had driven over 1,300 miles and was emotionally spent. Everything that had happened over the past 19 hours finally descended on me. I was alone. I was tired. I was in shock.

I’ve never been able to go downtown to look at the 9/11 Memorial. Maybe someday I’ll be able to do it. But not yet. I do carry with me one reminder of that day. In my wallet I have my boarding pass. Flight 1535. Seat 9D. I keep it with me as a reminder of that day. As a reminder of people who were not as lucky. As a reminder of the bond that was formed with John and Rick and Dave.

Today, in Phoenix, our agency is testing work for a new television campaign for one of our clients. I couldn’t bring myself to go.