Christoph Becker (CCO, gyro), Me and Robert Ray (President, gyro SF)

Talk about jumping into the pool headfirst… Day One at gyro I greeted my team in San Francisco and then flew across the country to St. Augustine, Florida for meetings with gyro leadership from around the world.

It’s been a whirlwind. Not only did I meet a slew of new people but I dove into this young company’s remarkable culture. Hyper Island facilitated our sessions and by all accounts (mine not withstanding) it was another milestone in gyro’s inspirational trajectory. A few weeks ago, I did not know this company. Now I am flush with gratitude for the opportunity the gods of advertising –nay, God Himself- has put before me.

Being the newest member of gyro, I won’t get into the particulars of what transpired these last few days. This is not the time or place. But I will say this much: I’ve been to my share of global agency meetings, in far flung places with lots of very important people, but at none of those was I ever as excited and delighted as I was as this one.

I don’t know maybe it’s me. But truthfully, I think it’s them. Starting with the two men you see pictured above. My inspiration: gyro is well on the path to greatness and I’m going to help them get there.

I beg your pardon for the self-centered bent of my last couple of posts. Please cut me slack. I haven’t felt this way about work in a long, long time!

From this... this!

Now that I’ve been outside agency walls a short spell, I’ve had time to reflect on some things that challenged me most when it came to true integration and moving from good to great. Oddly, the following observations are seldom discussed. I’m not sure why. They’re true, more or less, for all advertising agencies. Solving for them strikes me as critical in terms of which agencies compete and win.

1. The myth of good work at all costs. Unfortunately, that simply is not possible. First of all, “good” is entirely subjective. The agency’s most successful campaign may be a dog at award shows and vice versa. In addition, as we all know, some clients are less willing to take risks with creative than others. Forcing them to drink from the well never works. You might get one “good” piece of creative but the client will most likely hold a resentment and eventually move their business elsewhere. Few agencies are flush enough to call their own shots, especially now, during times of economic instability and seismic changes in media. None of this is new. But when agencies rhapsodize about doing brilliant work and then don’t the disconnect hurts inside the agency as much as out. For example, an account that does so-so work but generates millions develops a dysfunctional personality within the agency.

2. The myth of 360 campaigns. Rare is the client that wants all its marketing from one agency. Despite our much pimped credentials to do it, we have precious few clients that want 360 marketing campaigns from us and us alone. This is a bigger deal than one might first think, impacting the people, the place and the work. For example, if an agency has a sizable client that only does work below the line, say direct marketing, catalogue and digital, then the agency has to staff accordingly. Those employees tend to be specialists, whether they like it or not. I say that because though the employees may be virtuosos at creating direct mail campaigns chances are they want to expand their skill sets, doing TVC’s for example. Because the agency has allocated them primarily for doing this work on that client, these individuals can feel pigeonholed, which frankly they are. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had my hand slapped trying to use some of these people on other projects. “They are not paid by that client. You have to look elsewhere for help.” Your staff becomes resentful and demoralized. “I thought this was an integrated shop,” one might say. “But this is all I ever work on.” In the long run nobody is happy with this arrangement. Employees complain and/or defect. If they stay their work becomes rote.

3. The myth of digital nirvana. The proverbial elephant in the room, so-called digital shops have begun to recognize that even their best and brightest people want to do something other than online campaigns. If these staffers perceive their shop to be digital-only they get antsy. This is why so many of those shops are exploring ways to build out their advertising capability. They want to make fabled 360 marketing campaigns just like everyone else, and not just because of increasing revenue streams but because their people want it, too. The creative staff craves the permanence of print and the notoriety of TV. Ask any headhunter. Despite all the talk of digital platforms killing TV, TV is precisely what many so-called digital specialists want to be making!

I’m reminded of the Dr. Seuss fable, The Sneetches, whereby the plain-bellied Sneetches (traditional creative) desperately want stars on their bellies like the star-bellied Sneetches (digital creative). Midway through the story the tables turn and, well, everyone feels slighted.

Many people, including me, have written about future creative departments containing hybrid personnel, capable of working all channels. However, we won’t get there if agencies keep holding onto old ideas about who works on what. Caste systems have always existed in agencies and now the matter is exasperated. Breaking down barriers in creative, production, and account services is the only way to true integration. And not just on our beloved, bloated agency credentials but in our hallways as well.

“Look mom, they gave me money for drawing!”

Like pro athletes, advertising creatives are notoriously bad when it comes to figuring out money, especially when it comes to their employment contracts. Unlike pro athletes, however, we don’t have agents and managers to help us along. Honestly, most creative people never even took a math course in college -if they went to college. Or, like me, they took “dummy math” with the athletes!

In addition, I doubt any so-called ad schools cover the nuts and bolts of employment agreements in their curriculum. Maybe they should. With most ad jobs existing in holding companies these things can get pretty complicated. (They have to in order to be lucrative.) Unfortunately, the typical ad practice isn’t going to provide enlightenment. Why should they? It might cost them money. Frankly, nothing pleases agency bean counters more than an incoming creative who states: “I just want to do good work.”

Given the economy and tough times in Adland, I’m assuming the average creative hire is, indeed, just happy to be there. Don’t get me wrong. Gratitude is a desirable virtue but not when it impedes your ability to garner the best contract possible. With that in mind here are a few tips.

The first thing one needs to be aware of is that salary is just one aspect of your potential contract. Granted, it’s an important aspect but it ain’t what made the fat cats fat. True wealth comes from equity. And while most companies aren’t offering stock or options (particularly to newbies) that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Ask. Then ask again. If you’re a hot commodity or have other offers you just might score. If you’ve been at a firm some time and are successful then continue to pursue equity. Ask what will it take for you to get equity? Fact: Stock beats a raise in almost every equation. It’s amazing how many creative people (even the great ones) never think about this stuff until late in their careers, if ever. Equally amazing is the star creative who only focuses on salary. It’s a ghetto move. There’s a reason companies are reluctant to give out stock. Cash is far cheaper.

Somewhat easier to negotiate are incentives. Or bonus agreements. Here you’re asking the company to pay only if you achieve certain targets. Said another way, you’re betting on yourself. For example, you could base incentives on awards won or new business. Frame it as a win/win, which it is.

Easiest of all to procure are various perks, like parking, transportation allowances, education stipends, extra vacation days, etc… If you phrase your interrogative properly a prospective employer shouldn’t blanch. Things like Second City (presentation skills) and Hyper Island (digital training) are invaluable and worth every penny. Ask your company to pay those pennies.

Yet, most kids starting out (especially now) are, indeed, just happy to be there. But if you’ve been “there” several years, and are successful, maybe it’s time to ask what’s behind door number two.

Part of the dilemma is deep down we creatives consider contracts and money a “hassle.” Worrying about that stuff gets in the way of “doing good work.” We think, “just pay me a good wage and get out of my way.” With this attitude we are screwing ourselves. And what’s more most of us don’t even know what we’re missing!

Scene and be seen: Une soiree Majestik Hotel

So, I was heading to the Palais des Festivals for the awards ceremony honoring radio, media and outdoor Lions, when I noticed a cocktail party taking place on the swank, poolside terrace beside my hotel. Not being a drinker, I could care less about the open bar; it’s the people that make these things work.

And man, did I see people. Kraft Foods was hosting a gathering to honor one of their guests, who was featured at one of the better-attended events at the Palais, none other than the famed auteur, Spike Jonze.

For those unawares, Jonze directed Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and more recently, Where the Wild Things Are. Two of these films are in my top twenty of all time and all three are universally regarded as brilliant. In addition to revolutionizing music videos, he’s also made numerous groundbreaking films for our industry, including one of the best commercials ever created, Ikea Lamp, which garnered every award possible the year it came out, not the least of which a Grand Prix at Cannes. This year he has a 30-minute film in the show about robot love. The piece can be viewed here: Spike Jonze Film \"I\'mheremovie\"

Confession: Hours ago I played courier in a futile attempt to deliver my novel, The Happy Soul Industry and screenplay to his hotel. Yeah, I know, a total mook move. But a guy can dream…

Along with Mr. Jonze, attending the party were Bob Jeffries, Howard Draft, Dana Anderson, Ron Bess, Jonathan Harries, David Jones, Mark Figliulo, Abbey Klaassen, Diane Jackson, Lisa Wells, Tony Weisman, Edie Weiss and leadership personnel from USA Today, Hyper Island, MJZ films and countless other Ad Land movers and shakers. To appropriate a phrase from high school: it was like the C-Suite “on acid.”

Needless to say, I missed the awards ceremony. But that’s the thing with Cannes. Everywhere you turn is an existing/potential boss, partner, competitor, or client and, most importantly, mentor. To meet some of these people, however briefly, is a privilege. And besides, even if Spike Jonze has little interest in my book, I can now say I had a meeting with him!

To view a wide selection of Jonze’s work: Spike\'s ouevre.

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God damn the pusher man!

The good people from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America gave me an Ipad for hosting the Obie awards a few weeks ago. Thank you so much, OAAA. I got mine just as our agency was debating how to parse the two it had purchased for lending out. Many were eager to sign for those. I was tickled by not having to borrow one.

Perhaps not as heralded as the Iphone or Ipod before it, Apple’s Ipad is, without question the new, new thing. Clearly, Apple has done it again. Their track record would be unbelievable if not for their track record. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s Joker: “How do they make those wonderful toys?”

When I pull the device out from my briefcase my young daughters cease to see their father anymore. In his place is an Ipad being held by someone. Not for long, however. My girls abscond the Ipad and refuse to give it back, let alone share it with each other. I am only able to retrieve it when they succumb to sleep. My children’s reaction proves how mighty the Apple brand is. I have never seen my daughters more excited. Ever. And bare in mind I have seen them on Christmas and Easter mornings.

With its vivid, black screen and iconic silver casing, we are attracted to Ipad out of the box. The tension between coveting one and sharing one is like having good drugs. I want to share the high with those around me but I don’t want to give up my stash. Something like that, anyway. Let’s just say it’s powerful. I’ve seen the effect it has on my kids. I’ve seen it with my peers as well. Even the tech savvy people attending my Hyper Island Master Class in digital training were enamored of the device. From digital neophyte to social media guru, everyone seems to possess strong affinity for Ipad.

Except me! That’s right. I’m not addicted to my Ipad. For instance, I just took it on a business trip but only used it once and that was to show it off. I’m not a hater. Far from it. I’m just saying I’m not hooked. Which is weird, given my addictive personality and the passion I have for Apple products in general. Give it time, right?

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