When addicts stop using drugs and alcohol they are commonly beset by drinking and drugging dreams. Usually occurring within the first year of abstinence these dreams can be strikingly vivid. The addict often wakes up highly agitated, believing completely he or she has fallen off the wagon. Even upon realizing it’s only a dream, the phenomenon can be highly disturbing. Addicts and alcoholics feel as though they have betrayed their sobriety, almost like a relapse.
Not to connect the dots but…
Having left Adland 5 months ago, I had my first (recollected) advertising dream the other night. I was younger (a man can dream!) and working on a luxury car account. The crux of the dream had me pitching concepts to one of my first bosses and mentors, Ted Bell. (Ted is now retired from advertising and a best-selling author of thrillers like Warlord and Assassin.)
If he was my boss that means the place was likely Leo Burnett and the account Oldsmobile… even if the car in my dream was a snazzy convertible, unlike anything Olds used to make.
Regardless, I remember trying to make wordplay about drivers having an “open mind” for the open top vehicle. I can’t recall the exact copy but either way Ted wasn’t buying it. “People don’t need an open mind to want one of these cars,” he kept repeating. Why I kept fighting him on the point I don’t know; but I was. Needless to say, the boss is always right. Even in your dreams. Upon waking, I realized my idea was silly and sophomoric. Very “spec book.”
Yet, what disturbed me most about the dream wasn’t the mediocre concept but rather my dogged determination to prevail. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I kept trying to make a case for my silly open minds concept.
Sound familiar? Who among us doesn’t remember pushing way too hard our first concepts? The relentless young creative is so commonplace it’s basically a cliché. In a recent AdAge interview, famed adman and now teacher, Luke Sullivan stated his biggest regret was “having an insane amount of certainty” as a young copywriter.
And there I was trying to force my boss to have an open mind!
January 5, 2011
As a beginning copywriter at Leo Burnett, I had two mentors who helped me immeasurably. The first was Ted Bell, a creative director plucked from Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York. He’d made a name doing some of the later adverts in the famed Chivas Regal campaign. He and his partner, John Eding (both perhaps mentored by the great Helmut Krone) had just been hired by Burnett to bring daring-do and expertise to our agency, specifically on the Schenley (now Guinness) account. Both men did just that, reinvigorating the moribund Dewar’s campaign. Their effort (and ours) would gather many creative awards for the agency. To this day, I hold the craft of print and poster making in the highest regard. And I owe much of that to these two exemplary creative people and, in particular, the writer, Ted Bell.
Wanting to impress my boss and/or emulate him was key to my development as a copywriter. When you watch Mad Men observe how Peggy busts her ass to impress her boss, Don Draper. It was not sort of the same for me. It was exactly the same. Working all night –hell all week- to craft one paragraph and then, heart in my throat, presenting it to Ted was everything. At the time it just seemed normal. I wanted what they had and I was prepared to go to great lengths to achieve it. And Ted and John were almost always there for me. In addition to copywriting, Ted taught me, by example, the fine art of presenting. Watching him sell work was a privilege. He owned the room. Again, I think of Don Draper.
The other mentor I was born into. My father, Larry Postaer was and still is a model creative director and consummate writer. Obviously, I didn’t work for my dad but his influence on my chosen career was critical. Among other things, my father taught me about loyalty to company and client as well as the near-sacred nature in trusting one’s team and partner. While these qualities have lost meaning in today’s creative department that doesn’t make them in any less precious.
I felt if I could bring the best of Larry and Ted to the office each day I would be set. Easier said than done. But that was my aspiration and that is what mentoring is all about.
Now that it is my turn to be a good mentor I know I often fall short. Being an introvert, I am not as inclined to work with others as I should be. However, I do try. My door is always open. In a very real way, I set up this blog to help newbies in advertising get a leg up. Fact is when I write here I imagine my audience as younger than I am. Always have.
So, whatever happened to mentors? My fear is that beginners in our field are less interested in being mentored than I was. There is a Keyshawn Johnson mentality pervading our industry: Just give me the damn brief! I have the know-it-all gene in me but I was smart enough to look up to others and ask for help. Being teachable is a virtue no matter who you are or what you do but it is especially valuable to the young in Adland.
Maybe they think, Hey, I’ve got X followers and Y friends so what do I need U for? By definition, social media breeds narcissism. A less cynical view: the average 25-year-old is afraid of asking for help. Or is the average 40-year-old afraid to give it? Probably some of both. My best response is the only response: Don’t be.
November 8, 2010
According to Adweek, the United States Army is down to four players in its search for a new advertising agency. Worth between 15 and 20 million dollars to the winner, the competing agencies are Draft FCB, Y&R, Grey and the incumbent, McCann Erickson. Big process driven agencies chasing a big process driven account, whichever one prevails, it won’t be a surprise.
I was at Leo Burnett when it picked up the army account in 2001. The agency had the tall order of replacing N W Ayer’s iconic “Be All You Can Be” campaign slogan, created in 1980. (For the record, I never worked on the account.) Burnett’s idea was “Army of One.” Arguably, not as good as BAYCB, it wasn’t a bust either. I do know Burnett excelled at putting the army onto the Internet, the importance of which should not be underestimated. The brief is, was and always will be about recruiting. Reaching young men and women online is key.
Presumably recruiting is easier during a bad economy. Conversely, it’s made harder by controversial wars such as the ones we are waging in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet after 9-11, the resulting patriotic fervor made recruiting for these same wars a relative breeze. Needless to say, doors open and close. Marketing strategies must change accordingly.
No matter what your politics or person feelings, the armed forces pose unique marketing challenges. We feel for the troops but we grow weary of the wars. We appreciate the security our superior military affords us but we resent the responsibility. We adore the hi-tech but we abhor when it’s used for killing. Contradictions abound. Subsequently, the army brand is a volatile and moving target. Like nuclear power I suppose, helpful but also maligned: radioactive.
Among the various reasons given for leaving his post as the most famous creative in Adland, Alex Bogusky cited (or implied) ethical conflicts with two of his agency’s biggest clients: Dominoes and Burger King. I wonder what Alex, and others like him, would think about working on Army. Before answering, I would remind all of us that a successful voluntary army pre-empts the government from resorting to a draft. Food for thought all you twenty-something’s building gnarly campaigns at CP&B and elsewhere.
From a copywriter’s perspective, I’d relish the challenge of trying to crack the army’s difficult code. For me the winning strategy would be something along the lines of convincing young men and women to do the right thing even if it sometimes feels wrong. I might not believe the notion, but I know I could write and sell it.