There’s No Monopoly on Good Ideas (and Other Cliches)

If you’re a dedicated LinkedIn user, you’ll know that posts detailing ‘lessons from my extensive experience’ are hardly in short supply. It’s remarkable how many life-coaches there are out there. Given the mass of free advice it’s extraordinary that anyone, anywhere ever fails at anything.

It only seems right that as a paid-up member of the ‘Are You Still Here?’ Society I too should share some thoughts that might (you never know) be of some benefit to all those young media agency people out there. Assuming that is there are any left that haven’t already gone to Facebook, Google or the management consultancies.

So here goes. 10 homilies to make you a better you.

  1. Do as you would be done by. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a position of power and authority. Be nice. That does not mean be a push-over. Just treat people as you would like to be treated, with respect, fairness and honesty.
  1. Never forget the business you’re in. I have always believed firmly that I am in the advertising business. That suggests an interest in ads as opposed to in blocking them. As a media guy my job was to improve the chances of the ad being seen, remembered and acted upon. So, shouldn’t I know what the ad says? When I hired people my killer interview question was ‘What’s your favourite ad and why?’ It really didn’t matter what they said as long as they said something and argued for their choice enthusiastically and with passion.
  1. Watch what you do. Media people are reasonably at home with surveys and numbers. Sometimes we forget there’s people behind the stats. People like you and me. How do you shop? What are the thought processes you go through in choosing a brand? How do you consume media, when and where? If you really want to go crazy, watch your friends, family, colleagues and fellow citizens too. You’ll learn something you won’t get from surveys.
  1. The client rules. Ultimately for most of us the client pays our salaries. Look after him or her. Meet your deadlines; take the calls; work every hour to help him or her deliver. Be interested in what they do, their problems, their challenges. Buy their product, or at least try it (McDonald’s always used to insist on their agency teams working in store for several days – a brilliant idea). Be respectful, but stick to your principles (after all they’ve hired you because you know more than them on your specialist subject). Be honest and open as to what you can and can’t do. Don’t over-promise. Don’t pretend you know everything. You don’t. No-one does.
  1. There’s No Monopoly on Good Ideas. You’re not the fount from which all creativity springs. You may be a fount, but others have good ideas too. Collaboration is hardly a new notion: I sometimes used to ask media owners in to meet our creative teams at Leo Burnett, and to ask them to discuss with us ways to use their particular medium in as impactful a way as possible (a hole cut in the front cover of a magazine was a particular highlight). Involve. Collaborate.
  1. Never Stop Learning. Read articles and books. Go to serious conferences. Follow interesting people online. Be forever curious. Contribute to industry committees and debates. Appreciate that not everything good was done for the first time in the last few years. Principles don’t change all that much, whatever the latest shiny thing.
  1. Treasure Your Contacts. The people you know or have met are a great source of wisdom. Keep in contact; your address book is a valuable asset.
  1. Send the Lift Back Down. I started my career in a full-service agency as a messenger. I was helped by many kind people, to whom I owe a great deal. You owe it to others to help them. Have a coffee with them; take the call; answer the email; support mentoring schemes. No-one is so busy as to be unable to do something.
  1. Have Fun. We work in an industry populated by creative-minded people. OK, it may all be a bit ‘holding-company’ these days but there’s still fun to be had. Especially in independents.
  1. Be thankful. You could always have been a lawyer, for goodness sake.
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