Thursday, January 30, 2014


Years ago when I worked on IBM at Ogilvy, I was having quite a nice run. (I've written about this before, so skip this post if you've heard it already.) During this run, it wasn't unusual for me to have two or three full-page 4-color ads in "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" on a single day.

So-called colleagues, of course, resented my success. They thought my success at producing ads came from the strong relationships I had developed both within the agency and at the clients. They thought, somehow, that I could write just about anything and it would magically appear unmolested as a headline in the Times.

The truth, naturally, was different. I keep very thorough files, and each ad I produced was the product of dozens and dozens of headlines and twenty or so re-writes of the copy. What looked easy from the outside looking in was the result of hours and hours of labor.

Because the ad industry today lives in an Empire of Illusion where the best we produce never actually ran for real clients, many people mistakenly believe that they have the right to be frustrated if actual clients change their work. They think everything should be as easy as a phony ad.

Life however is not phony.

And the trick to surviving in our business isn't fake ads. It's doing the thirty rounds of real ads and not letting them be ruined along the way. In fact, it's about making them better along the way.

I'll close this with two thoughts.

The first is from Bill Bernbach, who purportedly carried a card around in his wallet. It read: "Maybe he's right."

The second is from my mentor, Steve Hayden, who said: "The best revenge is a better ad."

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