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Recently, every agency in gyro’s global network convened to watch a live broadcast from our worldwide CEO & CCO, Christoph Becker. It was the anniversary of our company and the man wanted to say a few words.

Our boss is relentless that way. When it comes to driving agency culture, he is a force of nature. Whether speaking about our creative product, various tenants of our philosophy or introducing some new theme (usually all of the above), Christoph is adamant about making it a matter. Whatever anyone thinks about gyro, I can definitively say we are not an agency built on memos and behind closed doors. Gyro wears its heart on its sleeve, and Christoph is both our head coach and number one cheerleader.

God bless him.

After his presentation, I admitted to a colleague that one of the many reasons I mightn’t ever run an agency on a worldwide level is my inability and/or unwillingness to drive culture that way. Don’t get me wrong. I adore making creative presentations. And I love this company. I just am not super comfortable putting the two together on a daily basis.

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Sometimes it just feels like pimping.

Alas, certain days I can’t get it up. Maybe I’m distracted or preoccupied by something at home. Perhaps I am upset with an individual at work. Or is it I’m simply not in the mood. Whatever the issue, I’m not always ready, willing or able to do the deal. I like hearing myself talk but I get sick of me as well.

In the end, I prefer working on ideas. My default mode is to dive into a project. Let someone else coach. Just give me the goddam ball. I like to think of this as leading by example. but I’m not naive. I know one needs to be far more than a worker among workers in order to really lead. Doing the deal 24/7 is a special talent. One needs to be all in. That means celebrating every win, every new person, and every milestone. It also means creating a blueprint for a creative culture and sticking to it through thick and thin, against failure and criticism, versus even crippling self awareness which can make doing all of the above seem like a parody skit from SNL.

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The Age of Real-ish…

San Francisco Chronicle movie critic, Mick LaSalle condemns the new Avenger’s movie, Age of Ultron for bunches of reasons: It’s loud, chaotic and interminable. Read the review yourself. I haven’t seen the film so I have nothing to say.

However, something in LaSalle’s review does beg my attention. He writes:

“The action scenes look fake, yet make you wonder if fake is the new real. It was once a mark of shame to make scenes that reminded audiences of computer screens, but that may be the coming aesthetic.”

Hold that thought.

Last week, at work, a group of us were discussing the use of CGI to create human beings for an advertisement, thereby saving us the trouble of casting as well as our client the costs associated with hiring real actors. Not long ago this conversation would have been a non-starter. Replicating ordinary people for ordinary commercials was just not done. Yet here we were seriously considering it. Sure, most of us were ambivalent about using CGI created people instead of actors, because –duh- they would look “fake.” But that’s when I wondered aloud the very same thing LaSalle wrote in his review. That looking not quite real, or computer generated, “may be the coming aesthetic.” In other words, people would not take note of the difference nor mind it.

Think about that. Popular culture is becoming inundated with CGI people, places and things. From big budget movie franchises like The Avengers (Marvel) and Toy Story (Pixar) to special effects laden TV spectacles “Where are my CGI dragons!” and especially the rise of gaming culture, artificial reality has become the new normal.

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“Don’t be calling me a cartoon.”

When was the last time you heard the phrase “virtual reality” let alone used it? It’s just reality now. The more we live in our screens the more comfortable we are with projections. Content is content. We don’t care anymore. Realish. It’s the visual corollary to truthiness.

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Like anyone, creative people get angry. The competition for ideas and constant criticism of them gets to us. As can a power mad account executive or yet another contrarian for a client. We see it all the time in TV shows but anger at work is seldom a topic discussed in a serious way. We may experience anger as online vitriol or behind closed doors. Occasionally it takes the form of a blow-up during a meeting. I’ve been on both sides of all of the above scenarios.

Anger, as we know, is almost always directed at a person or group of people. We may lose our temper and go off on that person. Or we stew in resentment, grumbling and sulking, remaining silent as a stone. If we are mature, we ask for a meeting with the subject of our anger to clear the air.

Alas, many of us are not reasonable when we’re angry. After all, anger is a volatile emotion and it often interferes with sound thinking. It does to me. I have trouble thinking straight. It’s almost like a bad trip. A strange, primitive rush overtakes me and I become flush. I may say and do regrettable things. I am outside myself looking down upon a beast. Mr. Hyde. The Hulk. God help those in the path of my wrath. Fortunately, for most of us this kind of anger is quite rare. Resentment is far more common. Passive aggressive behavior can spread like weeds in an ad agency –or any company. The petulant child is less overt (obviously) than tantrum maker but just as hurtful in the long run.

We always hear about the negative effects anger has for those on the receiving end of it. But it is also hurts the deliverers. Being in anger might be useful in therapy or righting certain wrongs but by and large it is a negative emotion and a defect/disease for those who are in it.

The angry outburst is ugly. But I feel the aftershocks are even uglier. An emotional hangover is debilitating and often leads to more bad behavior (lying, backstabbing, gossip, etc.), which, in turn, hurts our nestlings and us worse than the initial tantrum. Unless one is a Teflon tyrant these disorders degrade us professionally. But they kill us on a personal level, too.

We will be shunned but deeper down we rot from anger. Enough rot and we become garbage. Even a little rot is intolerable. To be reasonably healthy, as much rot as possible must be excised. All of it to be happy. That is why I would rather have the flu than carry around an emotional hangover. Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk famously said “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” What the comic book does not tell us is how much you are despised a day later.

Have a nice day. It’s better for all of us.

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When I was coming up at Leo Burnett, promotions were celebrated via “pink” memos, written by one’s supervisor, which would appear on the desks of everyone at the agency. These notes were pretty special, something to show your parents and put in the scrapbook. While memos and scrapbooks have gone the way of the dodo bird I still think there’s something powerful about “seeing it in writing.”

Therefore, I am going to share the “memo” I wrote on behalf of three people, who were promoted at my agency. At first I wondered if this was too private information to post here, but that’s silly: It’s good news for all involved. Besides now these men have a link they can send to their kin!

(For the record, mentions of clients and projects have been redacted.)

It has been years since anyone in the creative department has been promoted. To my knowledge none in our department, past or present, has ever been made an Associate Creative Director. Well, that is about to change. As part of our “intensification” plans for gyro SF we are asking three individuals to step up in their role and responsibility to the agency.

During his time here and over the last couple years in particular, Toby Petersen has elevated his game to heights even I hadn’t thought possible. Happily, I was wrong. His efforts have brought gyro some of our finest work to date. His skills as an editor and with motion graphics are well known to us. More recently, he’s demonstrated a keen understanding of art-direction and become a valuable asset in that regard. For these and other reasons, please welcome and support Toby as Associate Creative Director. In addition to helping Steve with overall art direction, Toby will oversee our burgeoning adventures into film and video production.

No employee at gyro exemplifies deeper loyalty to his fellows, a passion for creative excellence and sheer hard work than Eric Flynn. Often first in and last out, Eric demonstrates a work ethic we all learn from and benefit from. Perhaps more importantly, Eric is a fountain of good ideas that never seem to run out. Basically, he has contributed critical and even brilliant ideas on every project he’s worked on. He gets social. He gets mobile. And he knows how to write well and fast. Therefore, Eric Flynn is now Associate Creative Director, overseeing copy for the agency.

Jonathan Kochan walks softly but carries a big stick. His ability to create and produce work is well known to all of us. How many times have I heard and said, “Where would we be without him?” I don’t want to know. Jon produces digital assets for our clients with quiet calm and unparalleled grace. More than a showman, Jon is a craftsman. I want him to keep doing what he’s doing and to be recognized for doing it. Therefore, Jon is now Associate Creative Director, specializing in Digital.

On a personal note, we also realize that these individuals will need to make personal and professional adjustments as well. Instead of pointing out problems and issues, they will be required to help solve them. Walk the talk if you will. More than a two-way street, this is a busy intersection and everyone has a right of way. We do not want or need traffic cops. I’m beseeching our new ACD’s to humbly collaborate with everyone here so that we may achieve new heights together. Maturing gracefully into positions of true leadership will take extra effort from them and all of us. To be effective, they will need your support as much as we need theirs.

We want everyone here to feel their efforts and achievements mean something. Your careers matter and therefore so do promotions. I have no doubt in time more will come – in all of our departments, for all of our people. Building a great creative culture and an agency culture in general depends on it.

And here they are, in pics I snagged from the fellas’ Interwebs…

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Jonathan Kochan

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Toby Petersen

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Eric Flynn

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I love it when I crack the code on a piece of creative. You might not believe me but I love it even more when someone in my group cracks the code on a piece of creative. Either way, this was, is and always will be the best part of my job.

Which is as it should be. It doesn’t matter how big or small the job or what medium it’s in. That first peek at something that works, that will work, that will please the person paying for it, is bliss. You won’t believe me again but seeing a set of banners that totally nails the brief is as intoxicating as looking at a tight and right storyboard for a TV commercial. Knowing to one’s core that a piece of creative is capable of winning the day is, if I remember correctly and I do, like that first sip of that first martini: so freaking good!

Whether it comes right away or is the result of toiling, bearing witness to the birth of a healthy campaign is why I get up in the morning and go to work. Everything else -operations, meetings and conference calls- is work. It’s the job part of the job. The creative piece is the gift. And as with any good gift the giver feels as good or better than the receiver. Which is also as it should be.

Within the last two weeks I’ve gotten to see such a thing. Twice. Two different projects. With differing people involved, and me to a certain extent. How lucky am I? While it would not be professional of me to discuss specifics or showcase the work, I most certainly can write about the joy that it brought.

So much of what we do in Adland is fraught with anxiety and stress. We bicker over strategy and deliverables and what’s right and what’s wrong that we often forget that in the delivery room are babies (and I don’t mean the creatives). New campaigns, hours old, are things worth celebrating. Of course, we seldom do. They’re fragile here. And besides now we must prep them for clients, tightening the copy, tweaking the art direction, responding to the pokes and prods of our fellows, and otherwise getting them ready for that precarious run up the flagpole.

But sometimes even in this newbie state you know everything is going to be all right. You just know. Internally, with the client, and even the consumer you know you are holding the Ace of Spades.

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