Welcome, Surfer

“Originality is dependent upon the obscurity of your sources” according to British ad legend John Hegarty. Picasso is credited with “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” We want people to read this handbook- and use the ideas in it to build marketing strategies that work, that create emotional responses, that become cultural touch points.

We say “Steal this handbook” on the cover as an homage to Abbie Hoffman a political/culture jammer from the sixties who wrote “Steal this book” as a guide to fight the establishment. We hid the title in plain sight using “razzle” camouflage that the allies used in WW 1 with the hope of hiding warships on the horizon with bold geometric patterns.

What we want you to take from that is that when we do our job, people won’t even know they are looking at an ad

How we became “The Next Wave” was thanks to Alvin Toffler who wrote the influential book “The Third Wave” which defined civilization cycling from the agrarian society through the industrial revolution and then the information age. It’s almost impossible to track when these transitions happen until much later. We’re not worried about that- we’re focused on the next wave.

With change, almost always comes resistance. You’ve probably heard how people resisted cars, thought electricity wasn’t important, or that there was only a market for maybe 5 computers, or that the Beatles were just a fad.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

People often attribute this to Gandhi, but he never said it. Why do people insist on putting these words in his mouth? Because even though the words ring true on their own, and there are examples of it everywhere, it feels truer coming from him. Whoever actually came up with that quote wanted to be like Gandhi, they wanted their words to carry as much weight as his would. In short, Gandhi evokes trust, and creates lust.

Some waves are bigger than others. Some can cause untold amounts of destruction, while others create little resistance. Some waves combine into larger ones, others crash and cancel out. As long as the moon gravitates around the Earth, there’s no stopping the tides, and there will always be another wave around the corner.

Working here is not about identifying current trends, the “new wave.” While being culturally connected and current is critical,
you’re here because we trust that you can identify and work to expand and draw outside the lines of the constraints that slow innovation and adoption of the big shiny new thing. Whether it be a product, an idea, or a movement, we want to get people talking about it.

No, we don’t sell surfboards. In fact, we don’t sell advertising. Peter Drucker said that companies only work with two things: Marketing and Innovation.

We can do him one better. We sell Marketing Innovation.

Every morning when you come in to work for The Next Wave, you’ll see a sign that reminds you why you’re here and what we do:

If you aren’t here to

change the world

please turn around

and leave

Have a Sense of purpose

No one should get into this business with the sole aspiration to sell a whole bunch of stuff and make a boatload of cash. Use your abilities and opportunities to improve the human race, illuminate the human condition, or in the words of the sign which adorns our lobby, “change the world.” Awards and recognition are great, but, we define our own rewards.

Do the best possible work that exceeds expectations and we will fulfill our mission.

We Hire Smart people

There is an abundance of bad advertising out there. 95% of it is mediocre at best. The best ads work because they speak on multiple levels, connect with people in ways they can relate to and usually are anchored by a universal truth. Really smart campaigns look amazingly simple, obvious, easy. They aren’t. The reason clients work with us is because of our thinking, not our tools, not our past performance, not bullshit. We’re consultants who create big ideas. That requires smarts.

Your ad begins as an interruption. Make paying attention to it feel like a reward. —Lee Clow


Yes, this is a company handbook. But, we serve at the pleasure of our clients. This doesn’t mean we’re their slaves or property. One of the pleasures of being a small business is doing business with people we like. We are open and sharing. We ask clients to be the same. There is nothing worse than seeing clients doing work without coordinating it with us, just as we don’t do work for them without coordinating it with them. Respect is a two-way street and the secret to maximizing results. It is our job to properly plan and strategize with them so they don’t have to suffer from the universal law of advertising: you can have good, fast or cheap- pick any two.

We ask that clients invest in teaching us about their business, and we try to return the favor. Having a complete brand history, sales data, access to a well organized asset library are all expected so we can work together to discover the insight that will guarantee growth and profitability. We can’t do what we do without clients, and it’s our job to make sure they can’t surpass their goals without us.

We’re in the business of making their business better. So it’s important to know about advertising AND business.

Creativity is intelligence having fun. —Albert Einstein

Blur the Line Between Design and Art

Bring yourself or your “soul” into the work. Borrow from great works of art just as much as advertising history. Nothing is totally original. Stealing is fine, as long as you put an original twist on it, or frame it with a different context. Steal from the best, if possible. In fact, we hope people steal this handbook.

Which is harder, anyway? A work of art can sit in a closet or in a private collection for hundreds of years before getting the respect it deserved. Advertising must be immediate and successful from the moment it is consumed. At it’s best it is not disposable or easily forgettable. When your ad becomes a framed poster you’ve done something special.

Build A Tribe

Fake it till you make it is a solid marketing strategy. Getting people to believe in you is too. Ooze confidence, share the spotlight, turn customers into brand ambassadors and cheerleaders. And always think of ways to connect like-minded peeps into a tribe. More than ever, people want to belong. When they tattoo your brand onto their body, you know you’ve succeeded.

In advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal. —Bill Bernbach

Respect Nuance

There are few instances where you are 100% correct, where an idea is 100% successful. Always debate and understand opposing viewpoints in order to strengthen your own.

Beware The Fallacy of Composition

Just because you like something, or believe something, doesn’t mean everyone does. This is the most dangerous trap in advertising. Do the research. Test the theory. Go with your gut, but remember, “most people” aren’t like you or your circle of friends. Ever.

Have Tough Skin

You will not improve and your work will not be as effective until you run it through the team’s gauntlet. This means admitting your weaknesses and accepting your mistakes. It means taking criticism as a metric, not as an insult. Experience builds confidence, but, there is also a lot to approaching problems with “beginner’s mind” open to all options and ideas. Use critique as a tool to uncover the fundamental truths of what you are working on, not as a measure of self.

The only people who care about advertising are the people who
work in advertising. —George Parker

Trial By Fire

You should receive more from your time at The Next Wave than just a paycheck. Each project should come with it a new or improved skill, the best version of you. Don’t be afraid to accept jobs you may not necessarily know how to do yet. Make it a learning opportunity. Learn something new everyday.

Silence is golden, and the golden rule is, too.

Speak when necessary. Make every word count. Show, don’t tell. Let your art breathe. Don’t insult anyone’s intelligence. The simplest code is usually the best. And above all, create ideas, and let the team test them and refine them. We don’t have content calendars, or feel a need to be seen just because we haven’t been.

Please treat other people the way you want others to treat you. The golden rule is still the best advice, and we all know it. So as a group we don’t have any tolerance when we see a lack of respect for each other. Everyone is important and has the right to be treated with respect.

Slow your know

It took W+K a long time to fully understand the brand, and
come up with “Just Do It” and although clients may want
instant success, the process of learning their business is slow.
And when your team has an idea, slow your no as well. Try to
build on ideas, not shoot them down. Look for the insight in
every idea.


What’s risky is to spend money on something that no one pays attention to. —Alex Bogusky

Staying Small

Not just because we wouldn’t be able to fit 50 people in our office, either. Large scale brings with it bureaucracy, deepened alienation, cults of personality, and loss of purpose. Politics are great, office politics are not. We work as a team.

Social is social, media is media, and message as strategy.

No one goes on social to be interrupted or to be pandered to. People consume media in lots of different ways- some tolerate interruption, some don’t. How we reach consumers best is when they are receptive and opted in, and then sharing with their friends. Give away our message, earn friends, influence people. The message is what matters not the delivery if it’s on target, valuable and appreciated. It’s why we encourage folks to “steal this handbook.”

Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and
sometimes it’s an ad. —Howard Luck Gossage


Think of it as a fancy way of saying “have an open mind.” We’re one human race; never let our work reflect exclusionary ideologies like racism, sexism, nationalism. Never feel “too old” to understand cultural trends. Accept that your perceived bias is real, and fight like hell to make sure that it doesn’t adversely influence our work.

Everyone has their own cultural expertise. No one knows everything. It’s our job to culture jam, more than be culture creators. Think cultural insurgents.

Privacy and data

We love data. We also know how valuable and dangerous it can be. What we learn about our clients and their customers is proprietary business information of great value. It is not to be discussed outside our business, and it is not to be shared, lost, leaked or sold. Buying data or third party data is OK, but creating and owning our own data is exponentially better. The integrity and growth of our business and our clients business will be one of an honest, open relationship with full disclosure. Cookies are good with milk, tracking cookies are ticking time bombs with devastating data breach disasters.

Open Source is always > proprietary.

The most powerful element in advertising is the truth. —Bill Bernbach

Advertising isn’t all we do, ever.

We’re here to grow businesses, start movements, change minds. It’s why we’re not an advertising agency, we’re a marketing innovation agency. The idea drives the solutions. The data tells us if it’s working, rinse and repeat. The best ideas get talked about, earn exposure on their own, go viral, create discussions. Advertising is an intrusion- what we do is help people feel better about themselves by connecting with our clients. It can be a new product, a new sales tool, a different channel to the customer, a refreshed retail environment, to a new way to deliver a service. Innovation is half our mission.

There are plenty of examples of great “non-advertising campaigns” that did more to promote a brand, business or idea. That’s the kind of things we talk about in the office, we share, we discuss. It’s the kind of thing we aspire to be known for.

We want consumers to say, “That’s a hell of a product” instead of, “That’s a hell of an ad.” —Leo Burnett


The Next Wave

Delusional Positivity

This was stolen from the CPB+ handbook.

There is no way we could do what we want to do here without a relentlessly positive attitude. We think it’s our most powerful business tool. It shapes our future. It creates our momentum. It keeps us moving forward when we’re pushing the boundaries of possibility.

We imagine an endless stream of positive outcomes and try not to spend any time with what might be considered negative. We call it delusional positivity. The “delusional” word makes the idea easier to digest for people who still have a foot in the cynical and negative world and are just discovering how powerful a positive attitude can be in their lives.

The world, the man, the game, is stacked against underdogs. We will rise, together as a team when we embrace building on our ideas and principles, always adding a “what if” or “wouldn’t this be great” instead of saying things like “that will never work” or “the client will never go for this.” If it’s on strategy, our job is to sell it like selling fish on the value of water.

This business is tough enough. Magic only happens when people expect to be amazed.

Our biggest challenge is helping clients see the power in doing things that have no precedent, haven’t been done before, that sound risky or make them uncomfortable. Apple wasn’t sure they should run 1984, it took CP+B account execs pitching “Whopper Sacrifice” 11 tries before the client bought it. It’s a battle we face everyday and is one we come to work for- the battle is real.

No boxer goes into the ring to lose a championship. Mike Tyson reminds us that “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Ours is always to get back up, and continue the fight.

It’s our job to make a thousand dollars work like a million. —The Next Wave

It’s not the tools, it’s how they’re used

Lots of money may give you greater access, but it does not create greater ideas. There have been feature films shown in theaters shot on phones, great albums recorded in bedrooms.

Insight and intelligence out perform big budgets and more media. Proverbially “the best idea is boss,” not “the man” who signs the checks.

X (it’s a variable)

Everyone brings something different in a collaborative effort. Their own personal values, their own unique perspectives. A list of shared values can be great to find others on the level, but until we figure out human cloning, it’s never going to be a perfect match. Embrace change. Embrace weirdness. Embrace the team you are on and the objective.

Don’t tell me how good you make it; tell me how good it makes me when I use it. —Leo Burnett

Truth in Everything

Truth in advertising isn’t just a legal issue, it’s an integrity issue and a business model. We are brutally honest with each other. We are honest with clients. We’re honest with consumers, because there are enough liars out there, and in the end, lying is bad karma.

There has been a new phenomenon that we don’t like. “Fake news” and data driven manipulation of large groups of people is evil. When we made the t-shirts “Make Orwell Fiction Again” it’s because we believe with great power, comes great responsibility. The difference between advertising and propaganda is that advertising must be true.

An ad is finished only when you no longer can find a single element to remove. —Robert Fleege

Speed is Everything

stolen from CPB+

Great ideas happen fast. So speed and momentum are virtues. Creativity thrives within all sorts of constraint. Fewer words. Simpler visuals. Smaller budgets. Less time. It’s the same with art.

The Sistine Chapel took a long time because it’s huge. NOT because it was ever overworked. Look at the brush strokes on God’s hand. Fast and fluid. Too much time turns all art into mud. We make art.

Stolen from W+K- Fail Faster
Try, test, learn, repeat.

Showing Up

You’re an adult. Things come up, some stuff can’t wait. So when you’re here- be here, present, contributing. Focused. Get the job done. Fill in time sheets, document your work, your code, and make smart file naming conventions that other people can understand. But when you come in late, you lose all rights to talk about what you did last night, or catch up on what’s been going on without you. Disruption is disrespectful. The game only starts when all the players are on the field ready to go. Respect your team, show up ready to play.

Our friend and client, Luke Sullivan says “If you only have one great idea a day, you’ve done your job.”

Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires. —George Lois


Spend our client’s money as if it was our own.

Someone will always offer you more money after you’ve worked at The Next Wave.

Money follows great work.

Our books are always open to you- and to our clients.

The best compensation is to not think of work as work, and to be able to spend 8 hours a day with people we like, working on interesting, challenging stuff, for clients we like and respect us. The best reward is being able to have a work/life balance.

You are here for a lot of reasons, we know it only takes one to leave. If you’ve got something bothering you, it’s your job to let us know so we can fix it.

We rise and fall together.

I’ve learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a
real genius to keep his hands off a good one. —Leo Burnett


There are two kinds of meetings at The Next Wave. Ones to talk about advertising that’s good done by others. Ones where we meet to make marketing • innovation that’s great. In the second type of meeting, it’s critical that we’re focused and working on solving the client’s problems. The billing clocks are ticking, and so we have rules:

  • Only people who can accomplish the work are in the room.
  • Everyone is focused, present and participating.
  • We interrupt only to add value, insight or critical data.
  • We leave with an agenda and tasks to solve the issue.
  • The shorter the meeting, the better.

Using our virtual tools to collaborate should be our first
inclination every time.

If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative. —David Ogilvy

Putting it in writing

Every time a client relationship has gone south, it’s because we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain. It’s critical that the bargain be in writing, and that it be reviewed with the client regularly. Contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, if we don’t follow them, and deliver what we promise.

Under-promising and over-delivering is the best way to keep clients happy- and keep us in business.

We meet deadlines, we deliver data to back up our performance, and we do it according to a written document. This is part of the value of having us as partners, it’s why we justify a retainer.

When the terms change- we do a change order, and have the client sign off on it.

You have to be daring and make something that doesn’t look like
anybody else. —Lee Clow

Strategy, planning, the brief and the way, grasshopper

stolen from CPB+
At a glance

  • What is the most relevant and differentiating idea/ insight that will surprise consumers or challenge their current thinking of the brand?


  • What is the psychological, social or cultural tension associated with this idea? What makes our target tense about the idea?
  • Cultural truths are always moving, so tensions are everywhere. The most interesting tension needs to make you squirm a bit. That’s where energy lies.


  • What is the question we need to answer to complete this assignment?
  • The question should release the tension by shifting culture, making it controversial and related to the product truth. If it wouldn’t generate conversation over dinner, it’s not big or provocative enough.

Talk value

  • What about the brand could help us start a dialogue between the brand and our consumers, among our target and/or within pop culture?

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. —William Butler Yeats

What we won’t do


  • Booze
  • Tobacco / Vaping
  • Politicians (we don’t believe in)
  • Corporate, for-profit medicine
  • Pharma (ads for prescription drugs) we will do naming and public health campaigns.)
  • Pot


We will do pro-bono work for causes that mean something to us.

If the company doesn’t pay anyone 5x more than anyone else in their business.

If it makes people think, we’re in. If it’s just to make people donate, probably not.

Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch
to save time. —Henry Ford


  • Believe in yourself
  • Believe in your team
  • Be positive
  • When in doubt, make something
  • Share observations on things that make you think
  • Play
  • Check your ego at the door
  • Take Responsibility
  • Share the credit
  • Ask for help
  • Give respect
  • Be honest at all times
  • Re-read this handbook regularly and contribute when you have something to add.


  • Doubt your potential
  • Undermine
  • Say it can’t be done
  • Mock the competition
  • Twiddle your thumbs
  • Forget to laugh
  • Shit on people
  • Duck responsibility
  • Be selfish
  • Silently Struggle
  • Leave others hanging
  • Lie
  • Steal

Create Lust • Evoke Trust
Make our clients more money than they pay us.


Too lazy to steal? Printed copies for only $10 postage paid.

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer M Kuhn

    This is the best employee handbook I’ve ever read. I’ve read a lot of employee handbooks.


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