Today the New York Times is launching a major website redesign. It looks beautiful—embracing great web typography and big images while breaking away from a bunch of bad old industry habits—and I hope it is a transformative moment for the web publishing industry.
I’ve been an advertising agency creative director in one form or another for 25 years—and not always a very good one. In fact, very few of us start out as outstanding CDs.
We are typically promoted to the position because we can do good advertising. But that doesn’t necessarily prepare us for the main function of a creative director—which is to inspire all those around us to do good advertising. There are very few ways to learn this elusive skill, other than daily classes at the school of hard knocks.
But for those who don’t want to painstakingly acquire the leadership qualities, vision and emotional intelligence that make a great CD, here are four shortcuts to being a truly awful one:
- Chase awards and glory at the expense of everyone outside the creative department.
Build a wall around the creative department and declare everyone inside it as the agency elite. Prove your brilliance by doing all you can to win every award the industry hands out. (There’s no shortage.) Ignore strategy and budgets in pursuit of shiny gold statues. Don’t acknowledge anyone outside the creative department—account managers, media planners or clients—for their contributions.
Moral: Yes, awards and recognition are gratifying, but first-rate creative directors are inclusive, collaborative and work tirelessly to build a positive agency culture.
When I started my PR career 15+ years ago, the earned media landscape was very different (yes, that’s a major understatement). Long before online tools and databases were the norm, I’d pour through a Bacon’s directory (21st Century practitioners know it as Cision and it’s online) four inches thick building out the perfect media list. I’d diligently craft my pitch and blast it out to the masses. I subscribed to the thinking that more is more. If a list of 100 contacts was good, 200 was better, right? This was a day and age when you could actually earn media coverage using traditional media relations tactics such as press kits and media call downs. The intersection between paid and earned media was forbidden. Social media didn’t even exist.
Fast forward to today. Some will say the traditional PR is dead. I disagree.
My sister-in-law used to be a customer service agent for an airline. And man was there a lot of collateral damage. People get really angry at airports – at the weather, at mechanical delays, at the lack of window or aisle seats. Someone had to bear the brunt of people’s displeasure and it was usually her.
Which gets me to customer service Twitter feeds. Those social media managers are in front of a million-man firing squad on a daily basis.
I recently heard Jeff Bezos speak about innovation at the opening of the Bezos Center for Innovation at MOHAI in Seattle. (Shameless self-promotion, C+F partnered with MOHAI to launch the center and developed this “little” napkin project in the process.) Now I won’t comment on the recent press and opinion flying around about Bezos. But I have to admit he got in my head.
As I listened to Jeff (yes, we’re on a first name basis now…in my mind), I thought about how these elements need to apply to all industries, but especially ours and especially now. Creativity applies to everything. This is how a grown-up innovates.
- Practice divine discontent. It’s not good enough. It can be better. Always. Walk in to a room and ask people to poke holes in your work. Be open to it. Thank them.
- Innovate in increments. Each innovation doesn’t have to be monumental. In fact, the minimal innovations you make in better processes, communication, client representation all pave the path to that really big light bulb going off because it gets the little shit out of the way and opens everything up. Baby steps. Take them and don’t settle for the “way it’s always been done”.
Batten down the hatches, folks. You’re about to be flooded by a torrent of messages about new health insurance plans resulting from the Affordable Care Act.
Since you’re reading this blog, you’re clearly enlightened and informed. So you’re fully aware that the ACA requires virtually all U.S. citizens to have health insurance in 2014. Federal and state governments have set up exchanges—online marketplaces that enable shoppers to compare and buy plans.
It’s an entirely new delivery system for health plans, and marketing will play a major role. The federal government, state governments and private health insurers are promoting their offerings with multi-million dollar ad campaigns that will fill our TVs, magazines, newspapers, mailboxes and computer screens for the next several months. (Open enrollment starts today and runs through March 31, 2014.)
It’s interesting to see the different approaches these advertisers are taking.
“Someday, someone is going to do a great campaign for that boring account you’re working on.”
These words were spoken to me many years ago by a creative director and mentor named Chuck Damon. He was a great teacher, a dedicated craftsman, and a wonderful human being who loved the advertising business and the pursuit of surprising, memorable work.
Chuck’s wisdom was a whack upside my 25-year-old head.
His message was both a challenge and a life lesson: You have two choices when you come to work every day. You can bitch about the unenlightened clients, boring brands and dim-witted account executives in your life. Or you can hunker down, work hard, respect those around you, and come up with a great idea for clients and products, regardless of the real or imagined obstacles in your way.
Our tongue-in-cheek celebration of the Publicis-Omnicom merger has sparked a global response—including this feature on Fox Business News.
Ad Age asks the question “Will the Next Hot Agency Title Be ‘Professional Vinographer’?”
While that might be a bit of hyperbole, recent developments in mobile video—Vine and Instagram in particular—are groundbreaking, exciting and full of creative possibilities. C+F has been eagerly exploring the storytelling potential of Vine since its release this January.
For Visit Seattle, we created a Vine Gallery featuring dozens of six-second glimpses of our fair city. We started with a shot list of known favorites and added surprises as opportunities came up.
In the article, Ad Age weighs the relative advantages of professional vs. crowdsourced content. As the line between professional and amateur gets blurrier with every new high-powered creative tool, talent becomes the big differentiator. Sometimes a contest might find you the talent you need and sometimes you might need to find yourself a “Vinographer”.
We’ve been on a roll with new clients here at C+F. On Wednesday we launched our latest creative work for our newest client West Marine. The campaign will initially roll out in three markets and consists of outdoor, online and radio. Read the press release and check out a few creative samples here.