When people ask how I've written a blog post every day for almost 15 years, I usually answer with a metaphor.
Imagine, I say, you're a baseball scout.
Not in an area rich in baseball talent like the Dominican Republic or Southern California. But say in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. Where prospects are few.
But you don't get paid unless you find people.
So you never stop looking.
You look for kids throwing snowballs who have a good motion. You look for cross-country skiers who seem to not get winded. You look for kids skipping stones across a pond who can side-arm like an overpowering reliever. You look for big-muscled boys with broad shoulders, long arms and thick wrists.
The same as me writing a blog.
I have to be constantly on the look-out for something to write about. And I have to believe that that always-on-ness makes me better at your job. A better observer. More attuned to my surroundings. Harder working and more efficient.
I'm well past my second year running GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company, and I've noticed that this blog-derived always-on-ness is helping my business.
Like an old Lakota Sioux, I have my ear to the ground, listening for the far-off rumble of the hooves of a million bison. Or the arrival of a thrush that marks the beginning of spring. Or dragonflies that tell me the trout are back.I think agencies used to be this way. Studying various trade magazines, Automotive News, Beverage News, Womens' Wear Daily, the Cold Cream Chronicle, for business opportunities for their clients. For successes they could trumpet. For competitors whose weaknesses they could exploit.
Since the beginning of civilization, access to information--whether it was Phidippides running from Marathon to Athens to warn citizens of a Persian attack, or the Rothschild bankers who gained insights from their family members from around the Hanseatic League, information wins.
Today, we've gotten stupidly Baroque about it all, and we call knowing more than the other guy an "insight." That's way too complicated for me.
Knowing more, like thinking more, like working harder, like writing better is a business advantage. But only if you put them to work. For clients.
Sometimes it's as simple as getting up earlier in the morning. Or finding a news source that no one else has noticed.
I remember a client telling me in late 2007 that bad economic news was just over the horizon. Credit-card defaults, which had averaged around 2.5-percent had leapt to 4-percent. No surprise when the Global economy melted down a few months later.
On Friday night I noticed some news in the LinkedIn feed of a client of mine. Not a retained client, but someone I do work for probably four or seven times a year.
I read the news again. Oh boy.
Went away and came back and read it again. I was on my way to pick up Mexican food for dinner but I let my burrito turn into a brrrrrito.
I said to myself, "This is major. It's too big not to run a dozen or so ads about. This is their reason-why. It's shouting at me and I'm not sure anyone else notices."
I sat down at my computer and I wrote a dozen ads. Right then and there. (When your ads are based on news, getting the news out is what gives them stopping power. Cleverness is a bonus. Succinct reporting can be enough.)
I clipped the article I had seen and pasted it to a document and included the dozen ads I had written. I wrote an apologetic note to my client.
She hadn't asked for these ads. I'm not scoped to do them. And I didn't want to come across as a gonif.* But I felt the ads had to be done, shared and pushed. I even said in my note something I pretty much never say. "No charge for these. But I felt they were important to do."
I think thinking is missing from the agency business today.
Not thinking in its entirety. But the most important thinking.
We think about awards.
We think about who's going to shoot this.
We think about staffing it.
We think about creating a 127-page brief.
We think about if something's in scope or not.
We think about the revenue we'll generate.
We think about how it will work in social.
We think about how 44-percent of the staff is concepting on stunts and do we bring in freelance?
We think about whether the assignment will get us our swagger back.
We think about the margin we'll earn.
We'll think about the 17-nos we have to go through to get to a yes.
We'll think about the trouble that's caused when a creative does work without waiting for a brief, for account consent, or for his boss or the client to have had the idea first.
We think about various noses that will be out of joint and how out-of-joint noses can bite you in the ass.
But what we don't think about is the client.
The client's success.
The client's business.
How their rise can add up to our rise.
As an industry, advertising has turned inward.
Inward and myopic.
Inward and myopic and narcissistic.
Inward and myopic and narcissistic and self-referential.
We think by improving ourselves, our culture, our this that and the other thing, we'll improve our entirety.
We forget to think about some semantics. The semantics that are literally in our very name.
Agencies are "agents."
And that agents succeed when their stars succeed.
And that our clients are the stars.
We're so busy thinking about our success that we've forgotten to think about our clients' success--which is what drives our success.
To do work that drives our clients' business.
To be thinking, always.
In service of our clients.