I've been talking, or writing, to some of my clients lately. This isn't because I run an agency now and play a different role than the one I played when I worked at Lowe, or R\GA, or Hal Riney, or Ogilvy.
It's because through the years, I've grown close to a few clients. To the point where--whether I'm working for them or not--the moniker friend might be more accurate than client.
One thing I've noticed more and more is what makes people good at work.
I've worked in the ad business--I've gotten paid for typing--for over 40 years. I've been a Dad for 34 years. I have real children, agency children and friends all over the industry, all over the world.
I've learned through all that what makes people successful. What separates good work from bad. Good agencies from mediocre ones. And humdrum work from human work.
Despite all the textbooks and the mini-MBAs, and the plutocrats of accountancy who have blessed the advertising industry with their almost complete lack of advertising experience, despite all they power-pointerize and SXSW-panel-pummelling and Cannes-sell culturing--there's one thing that all things good have in common.
People, places and brands that do good work...love work.
They love the sweat.
They love the fight.
They love that it makes a difference.
They love the pain.
They love the challenge.
They love seeing their work on TV. Or even on Twitter. They still get a thrill.
I've seen this through the years.
I've seen it from the big directors I worked with--who loved even the banalities of the job. I've seen if from the six Hall-of-Famers I've worked for--people who even after reaching the peaks of the business still enjoyed working--even if all they were doing was writing banner ads. I've seen it from wizened account people and planners and clients. I've even seen it from people at the apex of the industry.
I've also seen it from my children, who aren't in the business. My eldest is a PhD. Clinical Psychologist. Among other things, she runs a summer program for ADHD kids. It's hard. It's intense. Kids scream. Parents, too.
Each summer is a crucible.
Filling the camp.
She loves it. Sure she complains. Who doesn't. But she has what Viktor Frankl, maybe the 20th Century's most-important psychologist calls, "meaning."
My youngest is a marine biologist. She's in the ocean scuba- diving nearly every day. It's cold. It's achy. It's sometimes hazardous. You have to work with people who ignore safety protocols.
But every time she sees a dolphin, an octopus, even a tiny anemone the size of a thumbnail, she loves it. Meaning.
The best people I've worked with--and I've worked with six Advertising Hall of Famers--love what they do.
Even the parts that suck.
That's what this is about.
That's when work works.
It ain't about data. Or hearkening back. Or programmatic.
It's about working hard, fighting hard, digging deep and doing your best. Because that's what we do when we're at our best.
It's about love.