Breaking into advertising is obviously a tough nut to crack or they wouldn’t have written a book about. I’m really not one to ask about this as: (1) I didn’t go to school for advertising/design/writing/what-have-you (2) I didn’t even go to school (3) Since I didn’t go to school, I didn’t intern anywhere & (4) I had no aspirations as a kid to one day be a creative director – no way, not ever.
It may sound cliché, but what me got to where I am today and what keeps me from shagging golf balls; is blood, sweat, tears, the ability to laugh at myself and a life outside the office.
I broke into this business by via the backdoor. I came into advertising after having worked 6 years as a rep/buyer/marketing director in the action sport industry before I took my first advertising job. For me, there was no school affiliation, past internship, or spec work to rely on – just my street smarts. So, a book focused solely on “breaking into” advertising via the above didn’t really apply to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and work my ass off daily to get better at it. But, I took risks and put myself out there and said fuck fear and just went for it. My skill is I have a knack for creating ideas and communicating them to people, but just cause I can do that didn’t mean that an agency recruiter was going to spot me at the mall and sign me to a contract as a creative. Far from it (but, wouldn’t that be something?!?). Let alone, pick me out of a file cabinet full of others with the same skill set.
No, I cut my teeth smiling & dialing for an agency in their new biz department hoping against hope that some brand manager would pick up the phone and just listen. I beat on doors pitching creative ideas that didn’t exist yet, but were cobbled together with quick glances of what I saw on that person’s desk or wall. I searched out the communication weaknesses, found the story gaps and put the missing pieces in place that would move the needle, nod heads, and turn skeptics into evangelists.
Maybe you need a book to tell you that, but I was less than impressed by Vonk & Kestin’s 240 pages of PICK ME. If you want a cheaper version (read: FREE) of the book, check out http://ihaveanidea.org/askjancy/ where they got the material for this book.
Where PICK ME does strike a chord are the interviews from some of advertising’s greatest creatives like, Neil French, Mike Hughes, Chuck Porter, David Droga and Bob Barrie. It’s in these interviews where you’ll read about guts, courage, and the fearlessness I believe it takes to crack the nut of getting a gig as an advertising creative.
Lastly, I’ll quote a McCann CD I met while honeymooning in Paris. After we sat and bullshitted over a cup of coffee asked me what I was doing for a beautiful afternoon in Paris. I said, “my wife and I are going to Père Lachaise Cemetery” and he said, “you know what they say about cemeteries – they are full of people who thought they were more important in life than they actually were.” At which point, I kindly excused myself and went back to living life outside of the office.
On September 12, 2008 I was on my way up to Madison, WI with my buddy Disch to see The Walkmen play a show with Okkervil River. Both bands were on tour, but just so happened to be sharing the bill at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison. We had just pulled up to our hotel when over the car radio NPR reported that David Foster Wallace was dead of an apparent suicide.
Disch was crushed. I mean despondent, down and out defeated. As a recent MFA graduate and a working librarian, DFW was near and dear to his heart. He was only one of a handful of folks I’d known who had loved (let alone finished) DFW’s seminal work, Infinite Jest. It was an incredible literary loss, but I didn’t know that at the time.
I had tried to read Infinite Jest multiple times. Disch and a mutual friend of our’s, Eric kept telling me the book is amazing and all I had to do was get passed the beginning (read 300 dense, punctuation & paragraph barren pages). But I couldn’t muster it. And like 99.999999% of the people that attempt to read it, getting through the beginning (read: junior tennis in Arizona) was a no go. So, I compromised and read some of his other works including Consider The Lobster, Broom of the System & This Is Water. Then I re-read This Is Water. Then I read it again and then again and again. I could read that novella/speech/rallying cry over and over.
Foster Wallace writes with such a simplistic beauty in This Is Water. He deconstructs our every day rat-race/struggle/monotony and spins it backs to us in a way only he knows how. And when we read the words on the page we aren’t interpreting them with our brains, but with our hearts and inner voices. The same voices that we shush and shut-up with our conscious minds - cause adults don’t think like that. It’s in these heart to heart conversations that we rebel against our conscious ego and take back our actions, our perceptions, our choices and ultimately our lives.
This Is Water is an ethos, a tenet, a call to pause and think, is this the path I want to take? It’s a reminder that the road goes both ways, that options exist, that we’re not trapped, that we can stop and go a different direction. It is the heart’s “capital T-truth” and it’s all wrapped up into a 25-minute essay David Foster Wallace wrote in his commencement speech for the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College.
The takeaways from this book are bountiful, I mean you can read the whole thing in under a half hour, but what rang truest to me is the last paragraph, which is quoted below.
“I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital- T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”
So, why include this book in 52n52?
Because we need to be reminded that what we do for a living is not as earth shattering as we make it out to be.
Because, we need an ego check, slap in the face, simple pause…that there is more to our existence than a title or an award or a stellar book.
Because life is about living.
Because this is water, this is water.
For the last few months I’ve been in the ‘car-buying’ mode. You know, where every other car you see makes you think, “I could see myself driving that”. Well within the past three weeks, I’ve been a lot more serious about it; even test driving different makes and models. I’ve checked out Korean, German, Japanese, and American manufacturers. I’ve felt the handling, the horsepower, the torque and the heated seats. I’ve been overwhelmed by the many dashboards that do everything from reading your texts to finding you dinner reservations. And I’ve listened to the litany of sales people expound on why each and every car I drive on their lot is the car for me.
Through all of that, countless reviews and the power of a Google search, I’ve narrowed it down to the VW Jetta SportWagen TDI. Why, after all that information, driving experience, miles, and bad coffee did I net out with VW? Because everything I wanted out of a vehicle had been baked into the SportWagen.
It all started the moment I got out of my car. Unlike every other dealership I had been to, Mitch, my sales person, waited for me to make eye contact with him; instead of feeling like a pound of ground beef thrown in a shark tank. He wasn’t interested in selling me a car, but in finding a solution to my problem. He was attuned to everything I said and didn’t say. He read my body language and visual emotions. We talked about everything but cars. The speaking he did do was to talk me out of cars that I didn’t need.
The difference for me was Mitch listened. And Mitch listened because VW listened and they’ve been listening for years. Making big and small tweaks to their vehicles to affect the lives of their consumers for the better; because in the end, a happy customer is a repeat customer.
This is exactly the sentiment that Bogusky and Winsor share in Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses that Market Themselves. Baked In is a guide for creating new relationships with brands and their consumers. The old way was to create a product then market the shit out of it hoping to gain the attention of your consumer. The new way, as proposed in Baked In is to create new products and build the marketing right into them. Bogusky & Winsor argue that within the product itself is that a brand has the most leverage with consumers. They continue, “that the message is not the product, but the product is the message”. The book contains 28 recipes to follow that cover the gamut of baking in better marketing into your product, service or specialty.
Bogusky & Winsor are no stranger to brand development. Alex Bogusky is the former chief creative officer/partner of the MDC owned agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Under Alex’s tutelage the agency grew to more than 900 employees with offices in Miami, Boulder, Los Angeles, London and Sweden. His work (on brands like Mini, Burger King and American Express) has won hundreds of top industry awards. He was inducted into the Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement in 2002 and the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 2008.
Jon Winsor is the founder and CEO of Victors & Spoils, the first ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles. He was formally the VP/Executive Director of strategy and innovation at CP+B. He joined the firm in 2007, with the purchase of his research and strategy company, Radar Communications. Winsor is also the author of Spark: Be More Innovative Through Co-Creation, and Flipped: How Bottom-Up Co-Creation is Replacing Top Down Innovation.
Bogusky & Winsor have woven past work they’ve created into their recipes for relatable examples of best practices; from Mini’s big entry into a SUV dominated market to Best Buy uniting employees online via Blue Shirt Nation. Baked In isn’t a CP+B tell all to creating gold pencil winning work, instead it’s a rallying cry to brands/agencies reminding them that the product, not the campaign, is the most important piece of marketing in their arsenal.
Before I got my start in advertising, I worked in sales. I was an outside sales rep for multiple surfing companies selling accessories to surf shops up and down the west coast from Whistler, B.C. to San Diego. It was traditional sales, 100% commission and I drove door-to-door racking upwards of 5,000 miles on my car a month. I make it sound much worse than it actually was – great pay, open schedule and the fact that my 9 to 5 meant ‘working’ every day doing something I loved – being active outside. I did this for 3 years before transitioning into an internal marketing position for one of my brands and then into a position as buyer for one of my accounts, an international action sport retailer. What I didn’t know moving inside from outside sales, was that you never stop selling – ever.
This is the central tenant of Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell Is Human, that selling is in fact fundamentally human. He contends that the line between seller and buyer has been blurred and that everyone, regardless of occupation, spends the majority of their time selling something – an idea, a schedule, an item – to somebody, somewhere. Pink argues that sales now exists in a new state he calls non-sales selling, the act of moving people to do something other than react with their wallets.
Daniel H. Pink knows a thing or two about writing on the art of motivation. His two New York Times best sellers, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future have collectively sold more a million copies as well as being translated into thirty-three languages. Pink’s TED talk, The Puzzle of Motivation is one of the top twenty most viewed talks of all time. Thnkers50 named him one of the most influential management thinkers in the world. Needless to say, the guy has some serious chops.
To Sell is Human, is not a sales textbook on learning more effective selling techniques, it is however an insight into the act of selling. The book is broken down into three distinct parts. Part one talks about the state of sales and how we’ve moved from the Fuller Brush Man of days past to the twenty-first century salesperson. Part two gets into the three qualities that truly move others. Pink breaks this down in his ABC’s of selling. Not the Glengarry, Glen Ross idea of ‘Always Be Closing’, but instead as Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. Finally, having mastered the ABC’s, part three describes what to do next, i.e. pitching, improvising and serving.
Pink defines attunement as the ability to bring oneself into harmony with individuals, groups and contexts. Within attunement are three guiding principles – increase your power by reducing it, use your head as much as your heart (passion) and mimic strategically. Attunement is where Pink reasons why extroverts rarely make good sales people.
Buoyancy is the ability to keep oneself from sinking when rejections feel like tidal waves. It’s not the ‘I think I can’ mentality, but the ‘Damn right I can’ mentality. Keeping the talk track going internally and keeping yourself motivated when things aren’t going your way. Buoyancy is the daily pep talk from your imaginary on-the-shoulder coach.
Lastly is Clarity or the ability to see people and situations in fresh more revealing ways. Instead of always trying to solve the problem, look instead to find the problem. Clarity requires slower more methodical thinking in the approach to serving your client.
For the interest of time, your attention span, and so this doesn’t feel like a Cliff Notes edition of To Sell is Human, I kept my focus to part two, as it felt like the crux of Pink’s argument. Don’t get me wrong though, the “why of selling” and the “what to do next” are just as important, but if you don’t have the know how, then you really can’t expect to sell much of anything at all.
Has reading To Sell is Human changed the way I’ll approach selling? Sort of. While Pink makes a good argument about everyone being a born salesman, at the end of the day someone has to sell the work, the idea, or the agenda.
I was recently going through one of my groups on LinkedIn and the question posed was, “What books should be in the personal library of a young person in advertising?” and the resounding answer was Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. Not really a surprise, seeing as how Luke Sullivan has captured what it takes to make a great ad in all mediums – tv, print, radio, guerilla, and now digital media.
Hey Whipple has surpassed Ogilvy on Advertisng becoming the new go-to guide for creating great creative and better creatives. Now, don’t get me wrong Ogilvy on Advertising is a fantastic book, full of interesting and relatable anecdotes and the subject of my first review [link out] but, David Ogilvy never released newer versions to reflect the changing mediums and the way consumers interact act with advertising let alone brands.
Sullivan is on the 4th edition of Hey Whipple (the first one was released on this date, 4/4, in 2003) and with it came a litany of revamped material. At times this read felt like a new book all-together. I have now read all four editions and with each read I come away thinking differently about the way I think, concept, write and manage.
Another wonderful thing about Hey Whipple is Sullivan’s approach to engaging with the reader as if they themselves are a part of his creative team – willing your work to get better. Hey Whipple isn’t only a spot on guide to great work, but it also captures what it’s like to work for a great creative team; complete with stories of his own past. What it’s like to work for great creative directors, horrible ones, egomaniacs, and slash weasels, how to work with and not against account service, and basically the ins and outs of agency life.
Luke Sullivan has 30+ years experience at some of the country’s best shops including Fallon McElligot, The Martin Agency, and GSD&M and is now the advertising chair at SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design). Luke also has a trophy shelf with more awards than most agencies (20 One Show pencils), been honored by D&AD, Cannes, as well as every other ad awards show including the 4-H Club (j/k), and he’s been twice named by AdWeek as the top copywriter in the United States. Bottom line, he knows his shit.
Of all the books in my ad library, this is by far my favorite and to be honest, I don’t think this review does it justice. There is an abundance of relatable/actionable info on each and every page that I could do lengthy reviews on the chapters alone. Just buy the damn thing and when you finish buy another copy and pass it on.
Okay, I admit I’m getting a bit lazy with these reviews. Scientific Advertising and now A Technique for Producing Ideas are both light reads – the latter being more of a bound white paper - seriously this book is a scant 48 pages. The issue is I’m knee deep in the 4th edition of Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple Squeeze This and really taking my time absorbing it all (more on that next week, hopefully, but pick it up cause there’s a whole lot more that wasn’t there in the 3rd edition).
A Technique for Producing Ideas works and has been working for the last 74 years. Young wrote this in 1939 but it wasn’t published until 1965 and since then his little tome has helped thousands of copywriters push past their own mental blocks (read: ‘self doubt, I suck, total hack’ thoughts) and go on to produce amazing ideas. This book doesn’t give answers, but it does give tools, suggestions, and outlines on how to get your brain thinking – that is after all what we do. We think. We concept. Then we write. There is no print, radio, broadcast, outdoor, or even banner ad without first having an idea.
A Technique for Producing Ideas is that reprieve you so desperately need when you’ve hit the proverbial wall. The 48 pages I mentioned earlier are held together in a book no more than 6”x4” with double spaced lines and leading wide enough that the simple thoughts and insight have room to breathe. There are no charts or graphs or percentages or other crap to dilute what the true message is all about. Instead it’s just one creative’s easy thoughts on getting to good ideas, simple as that.
Bill Berbach (the B of DDB) sums up Technique for Producing Ideas best in the first couple lines of his forward to the first edition, “James Webb Young conveys in his little book something more valuable than most learned and detailed texts on the subject of advertising. For he is talking about the soul of a piece of communications and not merely the and bones. He is talking about the idea.”
Each time I finish this book, I’ll hand it off to a junior writer or someone I see that is struggling to create. It’s like one of my favorite creative directors once said, “you’ve gotta give it away to keep it.”
Writing these weekly reviews has had a huge impact on my available time and by time I mean that part of the day where I’m catching up on TV or losing myself in a game of Black Ops 2. It’s been good and I’m learning and relearning more and more as each book passes through my cue.
My most recent read was Claude Hopkins’ classic Scientific Advertising. Hopkins was the Ogilvy of the early 20th century and the really the godfather of modern advertising, direct mail and market testing. In fact David Ogilvy said of Scientific Advertising, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.” Claude was the go to for branding/advertising of his time. If Claude were around today, he would be a heavy hitting freelance sniper you call in to win a pitch or change your creative game around.
Outside of Hopkins’ many storied accomplishments, the book is a great peek into life of an advertising copywriter circa 1915. The guy is partly responsible for some of the biggest brands in CPG history – Palmolive, Pepsodent, & Goodyear Tires to name a few.
I really empathized with Claude as he broke into this business like myself, without a college degree and as he put it, “I spent those four years (college) in the school of experience instead of a school of theory. I know nothing of value which an advertising man can be taught in college.” The book is full truisms of digestible information that makes sense even in today’s convoluted advertising market. One of the many that stood out to me was this one, “The men who succeed in advertising are not the highly-bred, not the men careful to be obtrusive and polite, but the men who know what arouses enthusiasm in simple people.”
Scientific Advertising is a surprisingly simple read, one that will take you all of a day to read, but according to David Ogilvy that puts it right around 2 weeks total. I’ll definitely refer back to this book in the future and am glad to have picked it up in the first place.
One last thing, since Claude has since passed, I don’t think he’d mind not getting the royalty for your purchase, so you can read the whole thing here: http://www.scientificadvertising.com/ScientificAdvertising.pdf
This was an amazing insight into why I do the things that I do. See, I’m a creature of habit, from my clothes to what I eat to everything in-between. My greatest obstacle I face is change (or in this case, breaking a habit). 40 days ago, I quit smoking. I had been a pack-a-day smoker for the last 20 years. It was every bit a part of my daily life – keys, watch, wallet, smokes. Then one day I had enough. I broke the cycle.
What I loved about this book was the basic principle for identifying habits and why we continue to do them. Duhigg explains habit as a pattern. First there is the cue, “I’m bored, tired, anxious, indifferent” which is followed by the routine, “smoking” and lastly there is the reward, “Ahhhhhhhhh, sweet sweet nicotine relief”. This pattern is followed ad infinitum or in my case ad nauseum until we break the habit.
The Power of Habit is a great read for understanding consumer habits and how retailers have leveraged them. Target for example is profiled for exacting data that can target when a female consumer is pregnant (to the trimester), then focus coupons and offers that will benefit her most as she goes through her pregnancy. Or how Tony Dungy leveraged the habits of professional football players to re-wire their thinking on the line of scrimmage to in turn change the play and to take a losing team, the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory. Lastly the explanation of the racetrack in a grocery store was especially insightful.
I recommend this book to anyone trying to get a grasp on personal habits as well as understanding basic human behavior. Whether by nurture or nature, habits will continue to be an integral part of how we live or want to live our lives.
So, a couple of months ago I took on the arduous assignment of reading 52 advertising/marketing related books in 52 weeks for my agency’s blog, area2oh3. Needless to say, it’s been a quite an undertaking, but I’ve been diligent and on-time, until now. I’ve decided to suspend the project there. I will however continue to read & write reviews, but they will be posted onto this blog.
I’m currently 3/4s through Baked In by Alex Bogusky and will have a review up by the end of the weekend. I’m open to requests and will re-post all 13 reviews in a subsequent post.
Thanks to any and all who have been following along with my reviews.
More to come.
All the Best-
Today I will run.
I am angry, but I will not hate. I am heart stricken, but I will not cry. I am confused, but I will not question. I am inspired, but I will not boast.
Instead, I will run.
In time, we will get answers. We will mourn. We will honor. We will bring those responsible to justice. In time.
But until then, I will go outside. And I will run.
I will pass schools and restaurants and churches and homes. I will pass a thousand signs of life. I will be reminded of the incredibleness of living in this time and place with every stride I take, no matter how many miles I travel.
I will also pass other runners. Others who embrace the challenge of something difficult, only to arrive back where they started—exhausted, yet somehow feeling better than when they left.
That is why I will run. Because running is about pushing through. It’s about conquering your initial instincts that tell you to complain or give up. Running reinforces the faith you have in yourself and it reminds you to embrace the encouragement of others.
To run is to trust that hardship is always worth overcoming.
So today, I will not hate or cry or question or boast. Today I will run.
via - Brian Janosch