A local state university president, already facing a budget deficit, is quoted in the paper suggesting that “more cuts are needed” and that the Coronavirus is destroying their ability to enroll students. This is not the message to send, even if it may be true. There is no urgency in her plans, because she assumes the university will survive, will be bailed out, she’ll have another job. The future is not something we can control, but it’s also inevitable and it’s your job to adapt and plan to win, not to admit defeat and attempt to manage.
Need proof? Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 and the company was on it’s death bed. New products, including the innovative iMac were a year away. The first thing he does is look for a new ad agency. Chiat\Day, which had been the agency that gave him the iconic “1984” spot introducing the Macintosh had been off the account for 10 years when they were invited back to pitch. Now, one of the hottest shops in the country, the plan for Lee Clow and Rob Siltanen was not to pitch- to walk away if asked, so when Jobs demanded spec work, Siltanen was ready to walk, but Clow said they’d be back.
The campaign they came back with, “Think Different” didn’t show photos of computers. It wasn’t even grammatically correct, and Jobs had said he didn’t want TV, but they came back with a rip-o-matic rough cut of a 2 minute spot showcasing famous folks who walked to the beat of a different drummer set to the song “Crazy” by Seal. Only problem was, it was 2 minutes long and they needed something more compact. After Siltanen did his best to write a new voiceover- Jobs trashed his work and alienated him. Another writer was brought on, Ken Segall., and he gave us the final script for “Here’s to the crazy ones” which was as much an ode to Jobs as to the people featured in the campaign. It was the right bet, and set the stage for Apple’s comeback. The string of products, from the iMac, to the iPhone to the iPad changed the world- all as predicted by the campaign which was as much manifesto as it was aspirational, because Apple was down, and almost counted out. Jobs wasn’t throwing in the towel, he was focusing his brand on attaining greatness, which is the exact right thing to do in a crisis.
With the whole world in shock over the Coronavirus crisis, many leaders (and university presidents) have thrown in the towel. Most have directed their agencies to do ads that all sound the same “in these unprecedented times” and “we’re all in this together” kumbaya bullshit.
“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” — General George Patton
It’s so bad, you can cut them all together and get- well, someone already did:
This is not the answer. Ever. Doing what everyone else is doing is exactly the point that “Think different” railed against. Now, of all times, is the time to launch your brand with a new message, a new way of doing things, a new commitment to reach new heights. It’s called adapting, and it’s critical to evolution. We were adapting before the crisis- to the new gig economy, to software as a service, to a new media landscape where “fake news” was somehow acceptable.
The pandemic was just a unforeseen misdirection to most. Yes, Bill Gates saw it coming, but didn’t do a good enough job of raising the alarm. Now, the question is, will you rise to the challenge? Will you adapt, overcome and succeed? The PhD flails and fails, the college drop out swings for the fences. It’s easy to be a “leader” when things are predictable- but the true test is when they’re not.
“A leader is a dealer in hope.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” — President Theodore Roosevelt
The funny thing is, Steve Jobs was inspired by Nike’s advertising and looking for his own version of it when he came back to the sinking Apple.
“The best example of all, and one of the greatest jobs of marketing the universe has ever seen is Nike,” Jobs explained. “Remember, Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, they don’t ever talk about their products. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they’re better than Reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do? They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about.”
He wanted to do the same for Apple’s brand. “The way to do that is not to talk about speeds and feeds. It’s not to talk about MIPS and megahertz, it’s not to talk about why we’re better than Windows,” Jobs said.
Jobs went on in the talk to announce Apple’s newest ad campaign, which used the tagline “Think Different,” and featured pictures of legendary thinkers like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King and John Lennon. The ads didn’t describe Apple computers’ specifications or functions, but instead gave a sense of the company’s mission.
And when you want to see a company give the right response in troubled times, Nike, with their agency for life, Wieden+Kennedy, get it right, right now:
Because, once you admit you are down, if you don’t start talking about a comeback, you will never have one.
“We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower
We’re not saying we have the answers for the Coronavirus crisis you are facing, but, we’re here to help brands find a voice that is uniquely theirs and projects hope for a better future. This is what advertising does- it creates lust, evokes trust- and triggers an emotional response. If your campaign doesn’t inspire folks while they are desperate for a comeback, don’t even consider running it.
When the “Think Different” campaign launched, Apple immediately felt the boost despite having no significant new products. Within 12 months, Apple’s stock price tripled. A year after the “Think Different” launch, Apple introduced their multi-colored iMacs. The computers represented revolutionary design, and they became some of the best-selling computers in history. But without the “Think Different” campaign preceding and supporting them, it’s likely the jellybean-colored and gumdrop-shaped machines would have been viewed by the press and general public as just more “toys” from Apple.
We at The Next Wave consider ourselves students of the craft of advertising. We continuously seek out and study the best thinking in the business and then, share it.
Two of the greats in advertising recently were interviewed in podcasts; Alex Bogusky and Lee Clow. Lee gets his own show- which is a bunch of shorts. Alex gets a longer interview than most in the series of one hour interviews that you may find informative and enjoyable. We’ve included links to Apple iTunes for these free podcasts, but they are widely available on other platforms.
The first podcast is called Talking to Ourselves which is produced by Omid Farhang who is now Chief Creative Officer at Momentum. It’s a bi-monthly podcast that he calls his “selfish excuse to get the marketing industry’s most admired leaders to share advice, reveal process and routines, maybe tell a few stories, hopefully uplift a few cynics, and divulge secrets to a fulfilling career.” It’s produced in partnership with The One Club, and JSM Music.
While there are a bunch of episodes, the one that got us started was the 75 minute interview of Alex Bogusky. The best gem was that he tried leaving his own firm a few times when he grew exasperated with Chuck Porter. Things were lining up for him with Wieden + Kennedy to run the Amsterdam office until supposedly Dan Wieden saw his book and put the kibosh on it. Bogusky also is a recurring theme through many of the interviews- because Omid keeps sharing the story of when Bogusky asks him if he had seen the Dudley Moore movie “Crazy People” where Moore is an ad exec in a psych ward who gets the patients to work up ad campaigns that are brutally honest. His takeaway- working in advertising should be a lot like that movie.
He’s just wrapped up season 1- and the list of advertising superstars is impressive including David Lubars, Gerry Graf, David Droga, Rob Reilly, Andrew Keller- note, the list is heavy on Crispin Porter + Bogusky alumni.
One of his favorite things to say is how creative work ages in dog years- what was fresh 5 years ago- often feels ancient, especially after everyone has copied the big idea. Almost every episode he ends with the same two questions:
What was the most horrific response you’ve ever had from a client at a presentation?
“What was the one big idea that you loved- that never got made.”
The answers are varied and insightful.
Almost every guest has worked at one of these five hot shops:Fallon, Wieden + Kennedy, Chiat\Day, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Goodby Silverstein at one point in their career.
Andrew Keller talks about his being in a band as the thing that most prepared him for being in advertising. Working together in a small group and putting things together so that they are interesting.
John Norman, partner and Chief Creative Officer at Translation (They parted ways after this podcast was recorded and before we posted).makes a unique distinction between design and advertising: Design is to make something worth keeping, beautiful, useful - and advertising is what slos it down on the way to the trash can. Not an exact quote- but- it stuck- so it must at least be advertising…
David Lubars tells the story of how his father worked in advertising and he caught the advertising bug when his father solved the business problem Listerine was facing once Scope came out, with the line “The taste you hate twice a day” which he called a smart way to say that what made the stuff taste bad is what made it work well. That’s what great advertising does.
John Mescall, global ECD at McCann Worldgroup tells the story of the birth of one of the most awarded campaigns ever: Dumb Ways to Die. Considering it was a PSA client that nobody every heard of, the way they arrived at the strategy, the execution, is an amazing story. Mescall also shows his respect for the work of CP+B talking about how it changed the game, and it wasn’t necessarily with perfect craft- but driven by a great idea.
The discussion with Gerry Graf of Barton F. Graf, turns to awards shows and CMO’s and if any of the work that wins actually sells stuff. Makes Graf a hero in our book. Graf also gets a lot of mentions in “The A List” podcast- because he was a teacher at AdHouse NYC and- he also worked with a bunch of the people who make it onto these shows. Put him at the top of my list of folks I want to sit down with at some point.
Jaime Robinson, co-founder of Joan, may win an award for the foulest mouth, yet, since her agency is the newest, you get a sense of wonderment at some of the questions about time allocation and following your gut, even as far as to go with something that comes up right during a client meeting. They are so new, they don’t even have a site up as of this writing.
Rob Reilly talks about how a term “delusional positivity” as a phrase from his Crispin Porter + Bogusky days has made it over to McCann. He believes that they can do anything- which is how incredible work gets done.
Susan Credle, CCO of FCB talks about work life balance. Her answer was to quote something she’d written- and was one of the best I’ve heard for people who might be defined as workaholics: “I’m writing for you, Huffington Post, on a Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and I want to take a walk in Riverside Park. But as I sit typing and reflecting on these questions, I realize that my work is my life. When I separate them, I resent the work. When I adjust my thinking and realize that this work fulfills me, being asked to answer questions about work on a day off isn’t a frustration but a privilege.”
The Chief Creative Officer of Anomaly, Mike Byrne is almost too self-deprecating. He seems to put a lot more effort into relationships- within the agency, than outside of it. His discussion of his daily journaling and having lunch with someone somewhere other than the office as highpoints of his day are poignant, as are his gritty truth-telling about the fact that his daughter is shooting video and editing it right on her iPhone- and timelines have compressed. He says he’s not as talented as others- but willing to work twice as hard. Anomaly is a different kind of super agency- probably because his DNA is a bit different than other folks.
Susan Hoffman at W+K started out horribly, making a really bad joke about her parents profession and sounding very uncomfortable, but quickly redeemed herself with stories about how the Beatles/Revolution spot got made and the bullets they sweated when the agency was sued for it. The key insight she shared was that hiring people with “a voice” got them honesty, reality and truth. Which is critical to advertising. The Nike campaign for women (If you let me play(- was Charlotte Moore, Janet Champ and Stacy Wall- talking, not just ad people trying to sell you something. It’s not just the mantra “Fail Harder” that makes W+K great- it’s that the people have passion for their craft.
Jeff Kling shares his insight on W+K: “Dan and David believed and still believe in the power of the individual voice to do something special. It’s because they have a real philosophy and approach that believes in that. They’re essentially renting individual voices, visual and verbal voices, they’re renting those voices to brands, and in the process letting people do wildly special, unique and individual things, and making the brands on whose behalf of those people who express themselves, very human, very relatable. That’s why Wieden creates brands.”
One of the most interesting interviews for young creatives looking for career advice comes from Justin Gignac, the co-founder of Working Not Working. In a gig economy, building a body of work requires some investment in real, long-term relationships, and the long term growth potential in a real job vs a gig job is exponential.
The second podcast we’ve been enjoying is “Lee Clow will only say this once” which comes with the following description: “Listen up. Lee Clow is only going to say this once. For the 50th anniversary of storied advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, legendary advertising savant Lee Clow answers 50 questions from colleagues, industry leaders and industry newcomers. Talking with Clio editor-in-chief Tim Nudd, Lee shares his wealth of knowledge and experience, discussing topics both personal and professional. From from his early years at Chiat\Day, to the agency’s celebrated partnership with Apple, his personal creative process, the industry’s future, and even his favorite Twitter account, there’s no shortage of wise words from an even wiser man.”
One Clow gem is what he thinks makes someone good at advertising: arrogance and insecurity. Arrogance in that you believe you can change the world and insecurity that you may be fooling yourself. He also talks about having to lead clients through the idiot forest- ain’t that the truth. That phrase is also talked about in several episodes of “Talking to ourselves.”
We’re always looking for resources to expand our knowledge of advertising. It’s part of the reason we’ve always had our Booklist on this site. If you have some recommendations for podcasts, video channels or other resources, we’re all ears. Leave your suggestions in comments.
(a few months later) Another podcast we’ve since started listening to is “The A-List” (link to iTunes) which comes from our friends at DiMassimo Goldstein. It’s their Executive Creative Officer, Tom Christmann. It’s much more raw, unedited and sometimes the sound quality is so bad it’s painful. If I had a dollar for every stutter, uh, ah, or time he said “the kids” I’d be buying the Washington Post and divorcing my wife.
It’s supposed to target young creatives, to introduce them to the old guard, and sponsored by Ad House NYC. Yet, making jokes about how kids won’t understand what paste up is, or pre-internet advertising isn’t really helpful or interesting. Neither is Tom’s habit of talking over his subject, interrupting frequently and name dropping- Dan in Portland, Rich in San Francisco, Lee in LA, uh, yeah, I know who these people are- but don’t assume your target market of young listeners do. (update- many episodes in) Christmann gets much better as he gains experience and slows down.
That said, he also feels it’s very important to talk about where he worked with the person in the past and sometimes wanders off into what could be considered office gossip. A good editor could cut these in half- and still have a lot of good content- except because of his “interview style” of talking over people- it’d be edit hell. He has some of the some people “Talking to Ourselves” has- and between the two, I’d always prefer Omid’s interviews so far, but because he’s so unstructured sometimes he gets lucky and gets a few extra tidbits. He’s also more likely to interview people Omid wouldn’t- so you get to hear from some journeymen instead of just the stars. Calling it “The A-List” may not be truth in adverting, but, if you are looking to expand your horizons or learn more about how folks rose to prominence- this works. Hopefully, Tom will read this, write a brief for his podcast so he stays on point, and works on both audio quality and his interview style and this podcast improves to actually warrant its lofty title. (again- it does improve over time. I think later episodes are really good).
Update: Aug 20, 2021- The A List featured our founder, David Esrati on an episode. Tom’s learned a lot about Podcasting- he no longer interrupts or talks over his subjects- and he’s now the dean of AdHouseNYC - and working freelance. Take a listen.
If nothing else, think of these as a kind of time capsule of the industry- interviews of people who made a difference in Advertising- at the start of the internet era. Much like StoryCorps- but for advertising.
In the land of ad agency cover letters, what stands out?
You are selling yourself to people who sell things for a living.
Make every word count.
Leave out all the stuff about being a team player, or motivated. Actions speak louder than words. Show us that you not only want to work for us, but that you actually took the time to learn about us.
Some actual cover letters (painful examples):
“To the Next Wave Team,
As a (Insert your majors) Studies major, I have taken it upon myself to seek out opportunities that aim to integrate my knowledge into practical application. With that, I feel that your open internship position would be a worthwhile endeavor to expand my skills and tailor them to the objectives that best serve the The Next Wave.”
Rule #1 - Make it Personal
Find out names of the people you are approaching. This isn’t an ad to the masses, it’s an ad to a real live person at a unique firm. Do your research.
“Hello, my name is (your name) and I believe that I could be a huge asset to your team. I am a graduate of (Insert Favorite) University with a degree in (some related field) and extensive experience in (skill 1) and (skill 2).”
Rule #2 - Know your Audience
What you think is great, sure, but what I think is all that matters. Talking about your school or your experience might be great, but there are legions of people who can say the exact same thing.
“As a confident, articulate and goal-driven production professional with (X)+ years of experience, I am an ideal candidate for this role with The Next Wave. I am a creative problem solver with a demonstrable record of helping organizations meet their goals. My positive attitude, world-class work ethic, and attention to detail have helped me succeed in a variety of operational projects. I take my work seriously and approach every undertaking with enthusiasm, diligence, and positivity.”
Rule #3 - Show, Don’t Tell
This one is important. Instead of talking about skills you think you have, demonstrate them. Your cover letter is an introduction, your resume the reference guide, and your portfolio should be the shizzle/sex appeal/show.
Not that we love to have our ego stroked, but, demonstrating a knowledge of the firm you are applying to says more about how you approach a client than how you get a job. If you want to sell BMW that you are the person who has the skills necessary increase BMW motorcycle sales, the cover letter is where it starts. Same thing with selling yourself to us, or anyone.
Make it easy for us to see that you know something about our firm, our culture, our clients, and how you will be an asset.
This example is overkill, but, when Chase Zreet, who was trying to get a job at Wieden+Kennedy to work on the Sprite account he did a whole video, with real production values. This is what your competition looks like:
Of course he got the job. Even the client noticed.
So, key takeaways: The cover letter shows you know something about your target market (the agency you are applying to), you have some unique or interesting insight or skills, that will help them make money if they hire you, and it’s memorable. Some people think this means delivering your message like a stunt- wrapping it around a sandwich, which may be attention getting, but, I’m more inclined to be impressed with something that can spread, cost effectively, like both of the job pitches above. You aren’t going to buy the masses sandwiches to buy your product.
Your portfolio, speaks for itself. Including a client brief summaries , as well as Key Performance Indicators Met are the only additions to the work. The work should speak for itself. Clearly state what your part was in the project. Don’t show work others did without giving proper credit.
Resume: Clean and simple. Where you worked, what you did, what you learned. Include hobbies, interests, because, well, interesting people work in advertising. Even working at Burger King can be valuable, if the agency is working on a fast food account- if you can share insight you gained while working there.
And, lastly, make sure your resume has your name in the file name. Make sure it’s a PDF. If you have links in it- make sure they work. There is nothing worse than saying, “i want to look at that Bogusky kid’s portfolio again” and you search your computer for a file with his name attached that was named “My 1989 ad portfolio.” Sorry Alex,
Now, go get ’em killer.
note: I’d asked Alex Bogusky to review this post in an earlier form, and it went tangential, and the post got a re-write. But, here is the advice the Creative Director of the Decades gives:
The advice I give kids is pick three place that you would die to work at. Learn everything you can and do everything you can to weasel in from every angle.
1 place is okay too.
When you are talking top of the world beating agencies the weasel factor is key, because it’s you against everyone else who thinks they’ve got the next big thing in them.
How did Michael Jordan meet Mars Blackmon (aka Spike Lee)? Borrowed interest. Did Nike or MJ have a hand in the movie “Do the right thing”- the breakthrough film for Spike Lee? Nope. Did their ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy create the character for the movie- nope. They saw a cultural phenomena and tied the two together. That’s using borrowed interest successfully. Two things that seem to go together- but, wouldn’t happen without help.
The king of borrowed interest may be Weird Al Yankovic, who borrows the familiarity of famous songs and just re-writes the lyrics, turning Michael Jackson’s mega-hit “Beat it” into “Eat it.” Familiarity opens doors for your message to get through.
Almost any and every celebrity endorser for a product is borrowed interest. Do we pay more attention to Lincoln ads because Matthew McConaughey is in them. Is Lincoln really his brand- or was he bought? Bets are the big paycheck makes the difference.
Remember the annoying guy for Verizon- “Can you hear me now?” Why do you think he’s now pitching Sprint? Borrowed interest.
And while Google’s new Snippets feature places this definition on top:
“Borrowed interest is the intentional association of an unrelated theme, event or image with a product, service or subject being presented, to attract attention otherwise not anticipated.
which it pulled from some previously unknown self-proclaimed guru Susan Finch, borrowed interest is a key tool for brands that aren’t that well known and looking for some connection to something bigger than them. Which brings us to our little fun experiment.
Youtube Vlogger Peter McKinnon has hit the photography/videography community like a lightening bolt, going from zero to a million and a half (and counting) subscribers in a little over a year. We enjoy his tutorials, even though almost every single one could be shorter by about a third. Do I need to know about his favorite coffee to make a better video, of course not- but, it’s his thing and he almost uses it as a prop- as in let’s meet over coffee- but, I digress.
Everyone wants to know what McKinnon’s secret is to growing a community so quickly. We even watched an annoying video explainer (with the writing hand) that got over 287,000 views, by a guy that only has a few over 20,000 subscribers.
He’s making money on the pre-roll ad, using shared interest. His analysis isn’t rocket science, but, it’s quickly become one of his most popular videos, and all that in 2 months.
So, we thought, what could we do to attract Peter McKinnon’s fan base to take a look at a video we made? How can we introduce our agency to people who may need help with advertising, marketing, building a better website- or are interested in creating a borrowed interest campaign of their own. And, how can we have fun?
We think the main reason we watch Peter is because, well, all those crazy noises he makes. Remember all those late night infomercials trying to sell you hits of some past generation? Well, we decided to make an infomercial to sell the fictional “Peter McKinnon SFX library” guaranteed to get your video channel to grow subscribers like a rocket- and to introduce his viewers to us. We’ve also bid a large contract that we’re hoping to win and collaborate with Pete on, but we have to win it first.
So, order yours before midnight tonight, the complete, completely fake, Peter McKinnon SFX library, yours for only four easy payments of $24.95, get it before these custom, exclusive, McKinnon SFX become as tired and old as the old standbys of breaking glass, doors slamming and sirens wailing- all served up with a heaping portion of good old borrowed interest.
September 23, 1977. Steve Jobs walks into a conference room to introduce “Think Different” internally. Khaki shorts, long sleeve black turtleneck with the sleeves pushed up- looking tired.
It’s an 18 minute presentation that anyone looking to turn a brand around should watch.
It’s not about speeds and feeds. It’s not about a better product. It’s about the core values of the company- and where does Apple fit in this world.
Yes, he begins with the product line being too complex, the distribution channel being too long and heavy, and that they spend a ton of money on advertising- although “you’d never know it.” He doesn’t blame his predecessors. He looks to the future and thinks about what kind of people he wants to build products for: “we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”
They get to use people that had never appeared in an ad- or ever world- for any other company. Partially because they aren’t talking about themselves, and partially because their leadership understood that doing great work comes first.
He cites examples- the milk processor board spent 20 years advertising “Milk is good for you- even though it really isn’t” and sales didn’t move- and then, Goodby Silverstein comes up with “Got milk” - which actually advertises the lack of the product and sales climb.
Jobs says that Nike, who makes a commodity- shoes, doesn’t sell shoes, and does advertising the “best of anybody” by honoring great athletes and athletics. Side note- Nike, for the most part has used Wieden and Kennedy for the brand since the start. Believing and trusting your ad agency is another good lesson. Jobs went right back to Chiat/Day for this campaign for a reason.
The result- is the “Think Different” campaign. Which literally changed everything. People listened to an ad. they watched it over and over- before YouTube. The words from this ad, turned into posters, were remembered as a eulogy for Jobs because it was so different.
Watch the video about the introduction. Learn. (sorry the actual commercial has the music cut out- you can watch the full final spot below).
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