Feed Your Creative Team
David Ogilvy used to visit prospective hires in their homes before making a final decision on whether they were going to get to work for him. He wanted to see what books they had on their shelves, what magazines they read, what kind of art was hanging on the walls.
When we were in New York, new staff members were astonished that our creative director, Mike McCormick, could be deep into reading something while weaving through the lunch hour crowds on Madison Avenue and jaywalking without getting killed. Mike reads all the time, and he learns things that pop up in his direct marketing ideas. In a way, what we do is the end result of an ongoing study of what makes people react, and you find clues everywhere.
Make It Fun
I suppose some people do great work when they're feeling miserable. I just don't know any of them.
Bobby McFerrin had it exactly right: "Don't worry, be happy." I think you do better than usual work when you're happier than usual. I sure do. That's why it used to amaze me when I saw agency creative directors—or worse, the "suits"—bullying writers and art directors as if they were trying to "beat" ideas out of them. Who can work like that?
Years ago I worked at Poppe-Tyson. The chairman, Fred Poppe, made everything fun. His smile and confidence were contagious, and he got wonderful ideas out of his people.
A few years ago, our agency was working with a health insurance client in Manhattan. It was a great client. The people briefed us, listened to what we had to say, asked for "different" creative, and were enthusiastic when they saw it—and they usually bought into it. Then the client hired one of those efficiency experts to streamline processes. It was a hairy thing to watch. Once he was finished, our contacts had changed. Now organized into teams, like the teams in Dilbert, nobody would approve anything! They were so nervous about everything, they worked hard to make sure the creative was unassailably bland. I didn't even recognize it when the teams were through with it. It also didn't work.