Nancy is forever poking fun at my “job” — and I am currently working on an elaborate metaphor to explain what it is that I “do” all day, but it’s not ready yet. In the meantime, I recently read the following in Creativity Magazine and thought it provided at least a glimpse into the environment and its challenges. Some of it even applies to (wait for it…) Real Life! I have this article posted at my desk for what motivation it inspires, and it has provided much dialogue among my team at work. So take this for what it’s worth and apply what you can where you can.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think our trade magazines are trying to scare the living crap out of us. To date, there have been approximately 87 b’gillion articles about the death of traditional ad agencies. And about as many predictions that Google will take their place.
Not exactly the most encouraging way to enter the new year. And for those of you who just spent $35,000 on ad school, I imagine that predictions of your career coming to an early demise can be somewhat disheartening. So exactly how do supposedly enlightened creative folks like ourselves deal with the sense of uncertainty that has become so common in our business? How does one stay motivated while at the top of the endangered corporate species list?
Resolution 2017: Ari Merkin’s 10-step New Year’s Resolution Plan to keep from becoming irrelevant by 2017
1. Create an agenda-free-environment. If your agency or group doesn’t act like a team, there is little hope for the work. Some simple advice? Never “agree to disagree.” I hate that. Have the decency to fight it out until somebody wins.
2. Recognize that different media require different skill sets. We can’t expect every art director and every copywriter to be a master of every medium. Like medicine, the industry could use more specialists.
3. Be more paranoid and insecure. Anyone who’s every worked with me knows I’ve got this one covered. You probably don’t, so get cracking. Just because work is sold doesn’t mean it’s finished. If it’s not yet printed, on-air or live, there’s still a chance to make it bigger and better. Doubt is a beautiful thing.
4. Keep finding new ways to use old media. The best work has always pushed our industry forward, even if just a little. Think of every project as an opportunity to do that, and a few of them just might. Hey, remember Target’s buyout of The New Yorker? I was depressed for weeks.
5. Create a new process. OK, this one’s boring but important. Creative leaders also need to become process inventors. Consider that to create BMW Films, Fallon spent weeks just figuring out the logistics of pulling it off. They had to reinvent their own process before they could reinvent media.
6. Wake up, stupid. The minute you get comfortable or think you have all the answers, you stop being a creative and start becoming, well, a game show contestant.
7. Love the job anyway. The Aflac Duck probably has more fans out there than the Geico Caveman. Our parents still don’t understand what we do. Oh, and by the way, the hours are impossibly long. Yes, it’s true that the job may be a little thankless at times, but I still consider it a gift to be able to go to work every day doing something I love with people I love.
8. Learn to say no. It doesn’t matter how sexy that big brand looks on your roster. It’s always going to be a struggle if it doesn’t have the right people on the client side. Give yourself permission to work with great clients instead of just great brands. Be as particular about choosing clients as clients are about choosing agencies.
9. Don’t do trendy for the sake of trendy. Whether its TV pilots or user-generated commercials, agencies will always feel the pressure to embrace the next new thing. And while I like to think of myself as someone who considers options, I’m guessing that a 60-second radio spot might still be a really smart way to hock a 99-cent value meal.
10. Never forget that our business is about creating ideas that solve problems. Looking forward to what’s ahead, there’s no denying that we have some catching up to do. But while scary headlines about the death of advertising agencies do a good job of selling magazines and newspapers, it’s still our job to sell everything else. And it will be for quite some time. Have a happy, prosperous and highly relevant new year.
Ari Merkin is co-founder/executive creative director at Toy, New York.