April 13, 2010
 

Keith's "Any Wednesday" Columns

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The play "Any Wednesday," was about a man who used his mistress's apartment as a tax write-off. It ran for two years on Broadway in the '60s. Keith's "Any Wednesday," memos written ran weekly for 23 years.

23 years.

To quote from an article, titled, "Last Wednesday," by Tim Nudd, reporter for Adweek in 2004, ""Any Wednesday" featured an image of a torn-out sheet of lined, spiral-bound paper, with breezy observations about the ad industry written sideways on the page. "There was a great Spanish poet named Juan Ramón Jiménez, who said, 'When they give you ruled paper, write the other way,' " Reinhard explained.

There was also a stock character, "Vic" (as in, "very important client"), who would make his own piquant observations. For example, Vic would often inveigh against the scourge of jargon. "Whenever someone uses jargon, I suspect they're trying to sell me something, rather than trying to help improve my business," he would say.

"I got a lot of great feedback," Reinhard said. "I did get flak once for using the word 'intrusive' as a positive. One time I printed the winning design for a paper-airplane contest on the back, in case anybody felt I was wasting paper on the front side."

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Here are 10 (+ 1 bonus) of our favorites:

Arguments about whether advertising agencies should be big or small are irrelevant. Some clients need us in 20 countries, while others market their products in only one region. Some agency functions are best done big-media buying for example, while other activities need a more personal touch. Modern-day advertising agencies must therefore learn to be bog and small at the same time. And know when to be which.

The question "What would we be like if we were the world's smallest agency?" produced the following list of virtues at a recent planning session:

Fast, fun, flexible, nothing to lose, mean, daring, lean, hungry, distinctive, need to be crazy, great parties, no history, no politics, permission to fail, very creative, very aggressive, we'd know what we stand for, creative tension, easy communication, concentrate on output, simple processes, instructive.

I see no reason why we shouldn't embrace most of these qualities, even though we are one of the world's largest agencies. By doing so, we can become more efficient and more fun. And, in the end, even bigger.

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I was once asked to list the qualities for good account managers. On reflection, I think they apply not just to account managers, but to all of us.

1. Common sense. (Better still, uncommon sense.)
2. An eye for a problem and a knack for solving it.
3. A gift for speaking and writing the language.
4. An urge and a talent for selling.
5. A preference for work over idleness.
6. A willingness to join the team with a dream of one day leading it.
7. A resilience that recognizes change as a normal condition of life.

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I'm told that, as a schoolboy, Picasso was a terrible math student. What the teacher asked him to write the number "4" on the blackboard, Picasso saw it as a nose and began doodling to fill in the rest of the face.

Seeing the familiar in a fresh new way is at the heart of what we call creativity.

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Many theories have been advanced over the years as to how each of us can release the creative posers stored up inside us. But not enough emphasis has been given to the first rule of creativity:

Be prepared to look foolish.

If you are unwilling to risk derision from those whose conventional wisdom is threatened by your idea, or if you are overly bothered by the snickers of those who take comfort in the "tried and true," it's unlikely you'll be very creative.

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We all understand that there is no scientific formula for great advertising. It involves art, intuition, and magic.

The magic is the same as that which makes for great paintings, defines great literature and permeates great music. It brightens the stage for theater and ballet and punctuates the highest achievement in sports.

This being true, those of us who seek to work magic in our craft should learn to recognize it and applaud it wherever we encounter it. Which means, we not only need to exercise our talents, but nourish them as well. Or, as Goethe put it:

"Once ought, every day to least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words."

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A group called the Daughter of St. Paul put together a list of words they consider to be the most important in the English language. Here it is:

Most important 6 words:

"I admit I made a mistake"

Most important 5 words:

"I am so proud of you."

Most important 4 words:

"What is your opinion?"

Most important 3 words:

"If you please"

Most important 2 words:

"Thank you" (continued on next page)

Most important 1 word:

"We"

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A Japanese client shared this thought: "Genius is perseverance in disguise."

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Ludwig Mies vande Rohe is credited with the observation that "God is in the details," and Mark Twain one observed that the difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between that lightning bug and the lightening bug and the lightning.

Our friend Roberto Duailibi, Director of a Brazilian agency, DPZ, provides an eloquent reminder of the importance of details in our business.

"Word here, an illustration there, the space between characters, the colors of the photography or the illustrations, the choice of the models, the scenario, the overall mood of the text and photo, the choice of type for the heading, and then for the copy, the weight of the signature, on which page to place the ad, at what time to run the commercial...details minutiae. In the end they make all the difference."

Evan as we think big in shaping our organization to meet the global needs of more and more clients, let us never forget the think small by paying attention to every detail of every detail of creativity, craftsmanship and client care.

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I was asked by a member of one of our creative departments how I reconcile the apparently conflicting ideas of asking for "breakthrough creative" with the need for "client loving." My response:

1. You won't succeed at selling "breakthrough creative" by telling clients they are wrong, or implying their intelligence if inferior.

2. "Breakthrough creative" must also be right. A good question to ask is: "Would I invest my own money in this idea?"

3. The braver the creative idea, the more trust is require. Clients don't buy much of anything from people they don't trust.

4. "Digging in" is a concept alien to salesmanship. It suggests a kind of arrogance and confrontation which is hardly in keeping with the art of persuasion.

5. Enlisting the client's early involvement in strategy development helps create "ownership" of the brave creative ideas which result.

And finally:

6. You can't sell "breakthrough creative" to a client who's fired you.

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"That was then. This is now."

Those are the words on a large sign posed on the door of the CEO for one of our clients in the U.S. Another important client has a marketing team which has a "five year rule" - Don't tell us anything that happened more that five years ago." These clients join a growing list of companies struggling hard to transform outmoded cultures into organizations geared to the marketing challenges of today.

Advertising agencies are trying to do the same, although it seems ironic that an industry which takes such pride in creativity and innovation has often seemed more concerned with celebrating its past than creating its future.

We do well to honor our heritage and traditions, and take inspiration from them. As long as we remember "That was then. This is now."

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David Ogilvy and I were once discussing the pressures of the advertising business. He shared a favorite quotation of his which has since become a favorite of mine. It is an observation by St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury:

To be under pressure is inescapable. Pressure takes place all over the world: war, siege, and the worries of state. We all know men who grumble under these pressures, and complain. They are cowards. They lack splendor. But there is another sort of man who is under the same pressure, but does not complain. For it is the friction which polishes him. It is pressure which refines and makes him noble.

May our men and women never lack for splendor and nobility under pressure.


MACVIDEONY Creative Work

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Sarah Fay in wwwLand, Parts 1 thru 3.

Alan Chapell Goes Public on Privacy, Parts 1-3.

800 lb Gorilla Fandango Makes Noise at App Planet

Agency Rich Media Lovers Boogie as Palm Gets "Flash-y"

Churchill @ the Mobile UpFront

Google's Buzz Gets Stoned @ the WMC

Don't Go Into the Bathroom!

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