38 YEARS OF WISDOM?
September 2015

Last night I gave a 10 minute chat to the Orlando Chapters of AD2 and AD FEDERATION. It took place at a restaurant/bar called Embers, and it was just a very relaxed casual setting. Honestly it was a bit of an experiment on their part - having someone speak for 5 to 10 minutes in an outside, somewhat noisy open environment. I was the guinea pig. It was fun.

Because the "speaking" time-frame was so short, I decided I would just make a list of things that I had picked up over the past 38 years in this business and begin to share them - nothing formal. Of course I only got through about a quarter of the bullets I had listed. So I decided I would put the full list of "wisdom" that I was prepared to talk about on our blog - for all to see, or not. So here they are, in no order of significance.

>YES, the logo and the font should be bigger! It’s about the audience, not the graphic designer.

>Culture does matter! But walk into most ad agencies today and you see individuals in their office, looking at the computer with ear buds plugged in for music. So how do you define culture?

>You will always have someone in your agency that doesn’t like you and who will be trying to trip you up – it’s just the way it is. You have to learn how to deal with it, work through it, or work around it.

>Sad to say, but you cannot stop people from gossiping. Unhappy people gossip. It’s just the way it is. Why do they gossip? They want you to feel just as miserable as they do. Here is a tip – you want to rise to the top? Stay away from gossip.

>In the day, advertising people did drink as much as they depicted on Mad Men. I was there…I lived to tell about it. CHEERS.

>No matter what technology might suggest, if you can’t write well, you will not make it in the advertising agency business long-term. If you can’t write a strategic brief, a marketing plan, an RFP, find a way to learn.

>Successful people ask better questions. It’s True. Do your homework. Ask good questions. Don’t ask questions just to ask questions. And the old adage “there are no dumb questions”, not true. There are dumb questions. Try to avoid them.

>Expertise is typically overrated. Sometimes you have to rely on feedback to grow. Yup, no matter how brilliant you are, you ultimately have to listen to others to succeed.

>Always tell the truth…Clients will always, eventually, find out about the lie. Mistakes happen. How you handle it matters. Don’t bullshit people – just say I’m sorry, I blew it…AND MEAN IT.

>The best innovators are almost uniformly good strategists. Always ask yourself, what is the strategy?

>There may be people who have more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you. I’m a living testament to that.

>If you don’t have a burning passion to be in this business, then you will likely not succeed in it long-term. Yes, people who love this business are a different breed of characters, and we like it that way.

>If you have not figured it out yet, we are in a business of storytelling. You should relentlessly obsess about your story. Know what your story is. In our business, emotional communication is more effective than rational communication – its why creatives want to focus on storytelling rather than product attributes

>You never know who has the ability to help you in your career, so you better assume everyone can. Over the past 38 years, the most unlikely people were incredibly valuable to my career.

>If you’re checking for new email every five minutes, that’s 24,000 times a year. Responding is critical – but not at the expense of focus.

>Getting things done is not the same as making things happen. People who make things happen tend to establish long lasting relationships – at work, in their personal life, with clients.

>Embrace silence. In a time of instant gratification we all feel compelled to answer now; don’t. Instead wait, pause, withhold.

>There will be fat times and lean times, learn to manage them both.

>People will forget what you said; will forget what you did; but WILL NEVER forget how you made them feel. Be that person who makes your peers and team members feel good – feel like they are part of the action.

>It is more forgivable to sell a bad idea really well than it is to sell a good idea really badly

>“Focus. Most Important.” Who said that? Mr. Miyagi. More is not necessarily better. Focus on what’s important…to you…to your company…to your clients.

>There is still no silver bullet that will allow clients to save money and yet broadly impact consumers in the marketplace.

>In today’s marketing mix, understanding technology, and having the capacity to use technology to unleash creativity, has become really critical.

>Has technology been good for our business? Of course. But there is a danger to our overall connectivity. More megaphones don’t equal a better dialogue. We’ve become slaves to our mobile devices and the glow of our screens. We walk the streets with our heads down staring into 3-inch screens while the world whisks by doing the same. And yet we’re convinced we are more connected to each other than ever before.

>Transparency seems to be the rage, but authenticity matters more. The average consumer doesn’t care how you make the toothpaste…they just want to know that it gets their teeth clean.

>Always remain true to who you are as an individual.

>Advertising agencies have one big advantage – ignorance. In other words, objectivity. Clients tend to be too close to their company/products. There is a pure, humanly relevant essence to every business…the soul of the company. This is where the ignition point for business marketing lives.

>People will never admit that they like advertising…they watch it, use it, talk about it…and tell you they hate it.

>There is no such thing as a perfect brief. Just smart, hardworking teams blurring the lines between account, strategy, creative, production, technology and everything in between.

>Life isn't fair, but it's still good. Try to live each day as if it were your last.

>Ask yourself, in 5 years will this ad, campaign, conversation, strategy matter. Hopefully it will.

>Be compassionate to everyone no matter the level of connection. Make compassion a core business value.

>Advertising can be a really fun, challenging, fulfilling career if you want it to be.

Joe Bouch
CEO