Modern advertising alchemy


I know you. You’re a junior creative on a job no one wants. Maybe even a creative director (but not the executive one), on the same job that really, really, no one wants. You’rea brand marketing director on a not-so-cool product. You’re a sucker.

Well, that’s what you think.

Life sucks. Oh yes. You want to meet Doc Emmett Brown and get in the DeLorean to start over, in a time where the budgets were obscene or maybe to go in a distant future to have all the A accounts, the slick brands with the fat budgets and even better, have all the glory and walk the red carpet at Cannes.

Good luck.

Life sucks. Sorry to be the party-pooper this time, but if this is your master plan, time travel won’t be available for the next few months.

Maybe Google is on the case. Who knows?

But you got it all wrong. Life’s sweet. You’re lucky and you don’t know it. The easiest way to get what you want is to pull when someone pushes.

Judo. I was 10. I hated it. My opponents smelled and it was sometimes painful. But I learned to get the best out of my misery. I learned to pull  – the main concept behind the fighting style. It’s a simple dynamic: pull when someone pushes.

Wow. What a revelation. No need to be strong or to have the extraordinary DNA of a winner. I just needed to be clever; to change my point of view and act accordingly. I WILL win because ALL is against me. Neat, nest-ce pas?

I know you. I was you yesterday. I was an expert at ending up with the lost leader accounts. For, well, almost 20 years. I had the little, the ugly, the no-time, no-money projects. And when there was money, I had to split it between French and English or do a year-long project. But guess what? I asked for them. I wanted them. Unlike you, I was not whining, I was winning – often and with small stuff. I was winning more often than my colleagues with the nice juicy mandates.

Life’s sweet. You have the best job in the world and you don’t know it. You can surprise everybody where they least expect it. And it’s easy – well, kind of.

You’ve just got to turn lead into gold.

Consider this if you want to be a modern alchemist:

1- You’ve been given a budget to achieve something. And you are paid to do it. That’s a good start.

2 – That same money, and it probably isn’t much, can be used to hire the best talents. Yes, the best. You need them. Trust me. They will agree to jump in your boat if you’re passionate. The word passion is the secret weapon here.

3 – If you want to innovate, or you have the will to push some boundaries, #2 will be a walk in the park.

4 – Perspective. Mindset. Stop seeing problems. See opportunities. Create opportunities. Be a leader. Show what you are made of.

5 – You need a great idea. A shit idea always creates a shit job. Don’t waste your precious time. Our job is also to prevent those shit ideas from existing.

6 – Think small. It worked then and it’ll still work today. Don’t spread yourself thin. You don’t have a big budget. Learn to do only what is important, what is necessary.

7 – Sometimes, perfecting an “old” media is okay. Or at least try to be as good as the “old” ad masters. Your money will be put on the strategy and on the best execution instead of trying too hard at some new tech despite not having enough money to do it properly. I guarantee you, this is as good a path as other ones.

8 – Talking about strategy, please, please be strategic. Don’t sell your soul. Don’t settle for cheap gold. No sympathy for the devil. Do the right things. Even a small, very strategic project, very well executed is better than a false, fake project building nothing. Resist. Represent.

Making the best out of our time is our responsibility. Your influence on our field of work won’t start when you finally get up the marketing ladder. It starts now. Enjoy your time there and make the most out of it. It’s fun and totally rewarding.

Take your time. Stop complaining. Go do some alchemy. Turning a lost cause into gold doesn’t mean only winning the top award, it means you know the basics laws of physics.

You might sweat a little at first, but you’ll learn to pull in no time.

Published in Strategy Magazine,April 21, 2014

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