Friday, February 22, 2019

Give yourself a deadline.

If I were asked to speak to a group of young people about some of what I've learned during my 35 years in advertising, I'd start with a really simple thought.

Give yourself a deadline.

Not the deadline your boss gives you, or a project manager, or account.

A deadline you give yourself.

If you're a writer and your ads are due for internal review on Wednesday, give yourself a deadline. Say to yourself, "By Monday, I will have nine ads written, some body copy and a be able to, according to the brief, make a strategic recommendation.

Having done that, having pushed yourself extra hard, you can take a walk around the block, get home in time for Jeopardy! Or read the newspaper.

Then, get in early the next day. Before other people are around to distract you, you can look at your work again. Cross some things out, rewrite others, add a few ideas and so on. You're still ahead of schedule, and you're making your work better.

Better still, you might want to befriend your planner, or an account partner and show them what you're working on. It doesn't have to be formal, just a chat. 

Do they like anything? Is there anything that sucks? Is there anything that's missing? This might take an hour or two, you're still ahead of schedule, and you're sharpening your work. You're finding out what people respond to and what sounds sour or off.

Finally, on the day your work is due to your boss, or to another boss, or to another boss, why not get in early again? Come at your work cold and cynically and fresh. Read your brief over again, then look at your work again.

Have you done what you've been asked to do? Have you made the brief better? Most important, did you make something good?

In the day-to-day sturm and drang of agency life, I see too many people who work up to the absolute last minute. Who spend all their time creating and none of their time improving. They do their work, they don't necessarily think about what they have done. They rush up to the very last minute, without ever taking a pause.

My two cents is it's what you do after you're done that really matters. That requires distance, looking at things upside-down, and a different perspective.

I realize, of course, that the pace of agency life has been so accelerated that often getting something done early seems all-but-impossible. 

And maybe I'm able to do it because I'm old and I've written literally thousands of ads (I worked in-house at Bloomingdale's and wrote 500 ads/year for three years.) 

But what working this way usually comes down to is trusting yourself. Trusting that you've worked hard. Trusting that you've listened. Trusting that you're asking for help when you need it. Trusting the input of others. And trusting that you're good.

Many years ago I was brand new at an agency and working directly for Steve Hayden, the copywriter who wrote Apple's 1984 commercial--the most famous commercial ever.

Scripts were due on Monday. So I came into the office, and worked all weekend, and wrote about 50 I was happy with.

Of course, I was nervous. I was intimidated. I felt very alone (Then as now, I had no work partner.)

On Sunday night, I walked around the block a couple times. I might have cried by myself while my office door was closed. I read the scripts again and trashed a few.

Then, I pressed the 'send' button.

Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. And so, the most important.

Giving yourself a deadline.

And trusting yourself.

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