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In Memory Of A Co-worker, Friend, Family

Consider yourself fortunate when your co-workers are your friends.

Consider yourself blessed when your co-workers are more like family.

Meg was family.

Monday morning hit like a gut shot when I got the news - Meg passed away unexpectedly dealing with an illness. She was an art director partner of mine at Lowes Campbell Ewald for a number of years. We became good friends, while working on Michelin and USAA.  

She leaves behind her husband Mike, son Holden (11) and daughter Allison (8). Friends and family are raising money for an education fund for the kids.

I'd be grateful if you could give.

Yes, she's a stranger to you, but she was family to me.

Thank you. God bless.

So What If It's Been Done Before.

I'm paraphrasing the saying, "There's no such thing as an original idea anymore." People are far too quick to point that out when criticizing good creative work. Here's are some recent examples:

A young woman, Leah, sent a Lego kit of herself along with her resume to various agencies, trying to land an internship. She went viral and will very likely land a JOB. Personally, I did a similar concept years ago. I never went viral, but it helped me land my last two jobs. (and my packages sat on my creative directors' shelves for years). Sadly, I'll never be able to do it again, because everyone will now think I stole the idea from Leah. 


Deutsch L.A. just launched a series of brilliant ads for Taco Bell breakfasts, endorsed by real individuals named... Ronald McDonald. Yea, W+K did a campaign for ESPN featuring everyday people who share names with popular sports figures. 

That was sports. This is food. 

The average consumer isn't comparing the two. Right now, they are smiling and considering a Waffle Taco over an Egg McMuffin.


So I say congrats to Leah and Deutsch L.A.. When you create work, don't worry if it's been done before, as long as you take steps to make it yours... Add the unexpected twist... Give it a different look and tone... It's also beneficial if the concept hasn't been done recently by others.

People will still criticize you, but if the execution is done well, those haters will secretly wish that was their idea. 

Some Take Notes. The Rest Doodle.


A student once asked me, where does my inspiration come from?

I doodle.

I doodle all over my creative briefs.

I doodle in my notebook.

I even have a doodle app on my phone.

I doodle during meetings.

It's not because I'm not listening.

It's because I am listening.

Even a copywriter knows sometimes it takes more than words to generate an idea. Sometimes I doodle to get out my frustrations in hopes that an idea will come.

CBS Sunday Morning recently aired an episode about "The Higher Purpose of Doodling." My creative process is suddenly justified. Check it out. Trust me, it won't be a waste of your time.

A Favorite- Charlie Brown Ad Agency Xmas

It's that time of the year again. Enjoy this Christmas classic. Happy Holidays!

The Fiction Is Truthful In Advertising Novel



If you want to know what it's like to work at an ad agency, don't rely on Mad Men and The Crazy Ones. (Our lives aren't that dramatic.) Even AMC's The Pitch doesn't capture ad life as it truly is. 



I recently discovered one of the better fictional accounts is actually a book, Truth In Advertising by John Kenney. (I actually purchased the book last January, but taking a train to work every day has now given me the luxury of catching up on my reading.)



The story centers around copywriter Finbar Dolan. He's a star creative at a New York ad agency who has just had Christmas canceled on him, because he's leading the work on a last-minute Super Bowl commercial for a diaper account.

Working during the holidays isn't a big loss for Fin, since he was planning to vacation alone. He recently dumped his fiance right before the wedding and he's not close to his brothers, sister and their families. His holiday is thrown more off course when receiving word that his father is dying — the same man who walked out on Fin's family when he was a child. Understandably, Fin's siblings want nothing to do with dad, but the whole matter causes Fin to examine his life and choices.

As an experienced creative, Kenney describes a pretty accurate day-to-day of an ad agency. I found myself identifying with a lot of it and laughing at some inside jokes. I, too, know what it's like to work on Christmas and struggle to come up with Super Bowl campaigns. The brainstorming sessions described are so true to life, outsiders may have even less respect for the work we do.

In an overall enjoyable book, the one flaw to me is Finbar Dolan. Being a "flawed" character, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to like him. For example, he's attracted to a co-worker in the story and I kept thinking she could do better. Fin also gives off that snobbish creative vibe, so I couldn't see us hanging out in the real world. But despite his issues, I enjoyed watching him work.

Throughout your advertising career, friends and family will never truly understand what you do for a living. This book will give them (and you) an idea of what it's like (minus the personal drama - you can create your own).

So if this book hasn't been on your radar, seek the "Truth" as your holiday read.

Professor Ad Man Grade: B+ 
(My feelings for Fin robbed it of an "A")

Don't Get Creative About Quiting Your Job

Marina Shifrin may seem like the everyman hero today. She quit her job in a fashion most of us only dream about - and she went viral.

We've all had jobs from hell. Your boss, clients or co-workers could even be Satan in human form.  But do yourself a favor - take the high road. Don't turn quitting into a spectacle (and please don't go viral).

It may feel good at the moment, but you may feel the pain in the end.

Advertising is a small community. We all know each other. Or we know someone who knows you. That means you may not be able to escape your reputation.

Potential employers don't think very highly of prospects that may embarrass them in the future (especially when you hand them proof). So don't give your new employer reasons to have second thoughts about hiring you.

Also, people in the ad industry move around a lot. There's a chance you may end up working with those hated co-workers again. (So much for your fresh start.)

Same thing applies when you get laid off. You may feel betrayed, but don't burn bridges. Leaving with dignity may open doors to options you never thought you had. 

But what if you've won the lottery or suddenly become independently wealthy? Then burn baby burn...

Want To Be Creative? Move To Detroit.

Sure, it's the largest city in history to file bankruptcy. So what? Bankruptcy is not an ending. It's a chance to start over and rebuild into something new, something better. So if you're looking to launch a startup or pursue what seems to be an unreachable dream, Detroit may be your perfect launch pad.

I was a copywriter at Campbell-Ewald (now Lowes Campbell Ewald) for 12 years. During that time, there was always a rumor that we'd move from suburban Warren to downtown Detroit. Now it's finally happening (it figures, after I leave). Recently, my former co-workers created a video pitching Detroit as the nation's next creative mecca.
 

Maybe soon the Motor City will be claiming that line made famous by the Big Apple: If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere...

Got big dreams?

It's up to you, De-troit, De-troit.



New Accounts: Win Some. Lose Some.

You may or may not have heard, my former agency Campbell-Ewald in Detroit was part of a big win. Hopefully, that will mean a lot of people will keep their jobs and the agency will be hiring.

Over at Fallon, I'm hearing some may be out of a job.

These are the ups and downs of winning and losing the Cadillac account — or any account.

This is the nature of the business. Your ability to work in this industry is based on how well you handle the wins and losses. So if you can't handle the stress of uncertainty, don't work in advertising.

To win:
  • Look forward to a lot of late nights. Pitching new business is a pain.
  • Then keep up the same creative energy that helped you get the account.
If you lose:
  • Put your energies toward the remaining accounts to sustain you. (If you can't work on them, there may be a layoff in your future.)
  • Always make sure your portfolio and resume are current.
  • You may be able to follow the business to the new agency. Sometimes ad agencies need to staff up for a bigger account. They often look for people who have the experience needed to help them hit the ground running. So it's not unusual to see the same faces working on the same accounts at different ad agencies.
  • Always make sure your portfolio and resume are current. (Deserves repeating.)

How To Weather A Brainstorming Session.

Creatives either like to hash out ideas alone or have a meeting of the minds - brainstorming. Sometimes brainstorm sessions can be so intense, they'll go on for hours, even days. (You'll look at your co-workers differently when they are glassy-eyed and haven't showered.) Here's some tips to weather your next brainstorm and make it more productive.

  • Walk in with ideas. Take some time to gather your thoughts. Get the ball rolling quickly with some thought starters. There's nothing more counter productive than staring at each other until an idea pops into your head.
  • Go first. Yes, this is an ego thing. Don't wait to see if someone in the group has a similiar great idea. Put yours out there first and get credit for it.
  • Never remain silent. You where brought in to speak your mind. No one can read it. Here no one has use for a deep thinker who can't share.
  • Share every idea. People say there are no bad ideas. That's not necessarily true. There are ideas you use and ideas you don't use. An unusable idea helps strengthen the current big idea. If you have nothing to compare the big idea to, it's easy to doubt its strength as a concept.
  • Don't get defensive. If they don't like your idea, let it go and don't attack others for it.
  • Accept ideas from all sources. Don't let egos blind you to a great idea. I was once in a session were an art director came up with a better theme line and tag line than mine. Yea, it hurt, but I had to admit it was good copy - and the clients loved it.


    Image courtesy of stock.skink

What "Old" Ad People Can Learn From Roger Ebert.

Today, Chicago pays its respects to America's favorite film critic, Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times reporter who passed away last week. Friday, I tweeted an article, " Ebert showed willingness to adapt to new media."


Basically, it stated Ebert never allowed himself to become "that old newspaper guy," someone set in his ways and is slow to change. Decades ago, he made the jump to television when that was rare for newspaper reporters and he was an early adopter of the Internet and social media.

The mentallity "adapt or die" (or adopt, in this case) is why he flourished. You won't find too many people in their 70's working in a newsroom.

At age 45, like it or not, this business considers me to be an old ad guy. I don't allow myself to think like one. If I did, I should quit the business right now. I keep myself relevant by:

  • Education. I'm back in school studying for a master's degree in new media.
  • Reading. Aside from school books, I read as much relevant material as time will allow - from books to blogs.
  • Networking. I talk to vendors. attend ad club events, go to seminars.

    I may be a "senior copywriter," but by no means am I a senior. I put in all of this work to keep me open to new ideas and opportunities. There's no room for old thinking for this "old ad guy."

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