How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

Remember Kindergarten?  I do. It was great. Blocks, snacks, learning to read and being the cutest kids in the school. It was a sweet gig for a 5-year old. And, of course, there were the naps. I remember curling up on my squishy little quadrifold mat. Speckled blue on one side. Flecked red on the other. I zonked and drooled for a few minutes every day. And I always came out of the nap better than I went into it.

For most of us Kindergarten was the last time in our lives we were encouraged, if not forced to take a nap. Now, I want to bring the nap back. But this time for creative professionals. I can’t think of anything that would help my mind perform at its best and  make my days more enjoyable than a regular nap-cation. Even at the office.

Too often we push ourselves until we run out of gas. And you are simply not at your best when you are running on fumes. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should pay great people with great minds great money and have them operate on low batteries. (Yes I mixed fuel and batteries. I’m a hybrid.) 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. Which means they sleep in short siestas throughout the day. But somehow we’ve rejected what the rest of our hairy relatives have heartily embraced.

Napping isn’t just important for creative professionals. In various other lines of work the nap is a must. If you drive an 18-wheeler I want you to stop and nap whenever you need to so that you don’t get your Peterbilt in my chocolate. Doctors, if you’re on for a 24-hour shift, wait, scratch that. ANYTIME you need to make sure you are at your best, you take yourself a nap. I’ll even write you a prescription.

Cultures in other parts of the world highly value the workplace nap. In China you’ll find entire teams facedown at their desk over the lunch hour. I love this! And not just because I would take and post hilarious sleeper pics on Instagram every day. In Spain they siesta. Italy has they rock the riposo. And other countries from the Philippines to Nigeria say don’t worry, be nappy.

My friend and former officemate Vince DeMarinis used to announce every day at 3pm, ‘Welcome to the worst hour of the day!’  But with a well timed nap we could be as great at 3pm as we were first thing in the morning. My Grandfathers were both farmers. And you know what they did between the morning and evening chores to prepare for operating heavy and spinny and choppy farm equipment?  They fed their nap-petites on the couch for a few minutes every day. And their cattle and appendages were better off for it.

So I want to apply the same principle to The Perfect Agency Project. When me and my team are worn down from a long day slinging the pickaxe in the Idea Mine, I don’t want the team to simply push through with caffeine. Or 5-Hour Energy. Or Red Bull. Or Crack. What a fatigued mind really needs is a nap. A nap powers us up like our iPhones plugged into the wall. Only without the electricity and charging cords in our orifices.

I’m not proposing long naps where you shut your doors for a few hours and change into your footy pajamas. A quick cat nap will do the trick. A study by the research journal Sleep found that 10 minute naps were optimal in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. Another study of theirs showed that almost no one reads the research journal Sleep.

NASA performed some rocket science on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. They found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. It even made Tang taste tangier. Since most of the ideators and pencil pilots I work with spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds I find these results highly relevant.

I am planning out a napping policy and facility now. We may have mats, build bunk beds or hang hammocks. But the nap will be used. It will be sacred. It will help us develop better ideas faster. And it will help us be more productive. I firmly believe it will give us a competitive advantage in ideation. I encourage you to consider incorporating naps into your routine as well. And when you do, let me know. I’d be happy to come take some pictures of your team hard at sleep.

 

 

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10 tips every graduate should use to find a job.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors are triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. The smiles, pride and sense of accomplishment last until the student loans come and the U-haul carries the humbled graduate’s futon back home to start life in The Basement. That is unless they can land themselves a job in the mysterious new frontier we call ‘The Real World’. If you are anything like I was when I graduated you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. So here are my 10 keys to opening the door to the first job in advertising (and probably most other fields).

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the agency. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to me you should know something about me and my company. So show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the agency had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

4. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death.

5. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made a good first impression.

6. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much.

7. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

8.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Advertising interviews can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men).  And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

9. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook anymore.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Advertising people are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, that is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me.

10.  Follow up.

After the interview send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who should go to the pitch?

Whoever does most of the talking at the initial meeting needs to work with us the whole time.  -Elise Demboski

When the going gets tough read this.

My career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel like MacGyver racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.

If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly.  Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. The one who wants it more.

Today I read a great quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party  pull it out between rounds and use the quote as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing -Abraham Lincoln

My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.

So keep doing that hard thing. Keep fighting for your ultimate success. Keep your eyes on the prize. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand. Because as he can attest, you never know when you might take an unexpected hit. (What? Too soon?)

Why Peyton Manning should be in the Marketing Hall of Fame.

 

Super Bowl 50 has come and gone. There were winners and at least one very sore loser. There was the expected halftime Pepsiganza and gonzo commercials. But what was particularly interesting to armchair marketingbacks  were the brands that scored extra points outside the 30 second commercial thanks to Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning.

After a historic career Peyton has an open invitation to the Pro Football Hall of fame. But as the clock counts down on his days playing football Peyton Manning will transition seamlessly into his next chapter. Because Peyton knows marketing. And endorsement. And business. Perhaps better than any other current athlete. My good friends at Nationwide will surely want him to share how their insurance and financial products will help him in retirement. Because those guys are on his side (and your side too). But I believe his actual retirement plan looks like this:

  1. Take a stake in a brand.
  2. Market brand at big moments.
  3. Cash checks.

We got a good look at his playbook during the Super Bowl. Just in case you missed it, here’s a breakdown of three of his scores.

The first came just before kickoff. Because it was Super Bowl 50 it created the perfect opportunity to honor the 49 past Super Bowl MVPs. The NFL invited them all to the game. And one by one they were announced to the crowd, emerged from the tunnel to much applause, and took their place in Canton’s West Coast Exhibit. There was, however, one notable exception. Peyton Manning. When they announced Manning’s name the collective NFL fan base wondered what would happen next. Was he really going to come out and join this elite group? Surely not. Didn’t he have someplace more important to be? I had flashbacks to when the Von Trapp Family Singer’s were announced as the winners of the Nazi talent show in The Sound of Music. So what happened next?

Suddenly the television coverage cuts to a profile shot of Peyton, sitting alone in the locker room. But wait! He was dressed to play, football!?! But he is 39 years old!?! How could he still be playing in the Super Bowl? Nobody this old has ever started at quarterback in the Super Bowl. But the answer was right there too. Because Peyton was seated in front of perfectly positioned pallets of performance-sustaining, career- sustaining, camera-shot-sustaining Gatorade. And if that wasn’t enough, the NFL’s ambassador to AARP was shown contemplatively sipping from his electrolyte-laden fountain of youth. Touchdown for Gatorade. Just another day at the office for this veteran spokesback.

Petyon drinking gatorade

The second marketing score was on a trick play. Just as the clock was ticking to zero and all eyes and cameras were on Peyton he started to jog onto the field. But then he stopped. He turned to his left and obviously saw someone worthy of his attention. So he paused before he ran on to the field to celebrate the biggest and perhaps final moment of his career. But who would warrant a delay at such a moment? Archie Manning? John Elway? Beyonce’? Nope. The next thing we saw on camera was a hearty embrace between Peyton and John ‘Papa John’ Schnatter, The Pizza King of Louisville. Peyton obviously plays starting endorserback for Papa Johns. And he own 21 franchises in Colorado. But I was certainly surprised to see that they were close enough and brand savvy enough to get their pepperoni rally  in front of a world stage.

Peyton and Papa

The final drive was for Budweiser. After Old Man Manning won the Super Bowl the world wanted to know, “Are you going to ride off into the sunset now on your Bronco, or Colt or Buick? We waited with bated breath. But Peyton really wanted to kiss his wife and kids before he got himself a little beer breath. Which is what he said next. But not with just any beer. He said this moment called for the King of Beers, Budweiser. Twice he mentioned that he wanted to drink a bunch of Budweiser. Once in his post game interview and again on stage accepting the Lombardi Trophy. Closer examination reveals that Peyton owns a swig of two Budweiser distributors in Louisiana. Which means Peyton was going to celebrate his win by taking care of a little more business.

As you contemplate your next marketing move consider teaming up with someone who can help your brand move further faster. It doesn’t have to be a household name. Because in the social age important influencers are everywhere. They are key employees, consumers, bloggers, tweeters and YouTube celebrities. They can all be important advocates for your brands, dropping natural endorsements for you at important moments.  And the value you receive from your relationship may far exceed the investment. After all, my best performing blog post was the one Vanilla Ice retweeted. But just imagine if I could get Peyton to mention my blog …

 

 

 

3 things every business can learn from Super Bowl commercials.

The greatest sporting event in America is this Sunday. Maybe the greatest sporting event in the world. I know there are arguments that the FIFA World Cup is bigger than our football game. And that the Olympics have more flames, more luge and more cowbell. But neither of those is the Super Bowl. Our Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of all Super Bowls. Which I admit is a super dumb thing to say.

In 2015 more than 114 million Americans tuned in to the big game. And for good reason. Actually there are three good reasons to tune into this spectacle. First, for the football. The game is usually exciting. And this year we again have two great teams and a compelling matchup featuring Peyton “Old Man” Manning vs Cam “New Kid” Newton. (see what I did there?)

Second, the Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon. It’s what everyone in the office will be talking about around the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine on Monday morning. If your office still has a water cooler the talk probably won’t be about the Super Bowl. It will be about why you still don’t have a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

And the third reason to watch is the commercials. The Super Bowl commercials are a fascinating study. Because we look forward to the commercials as much as we look forward to the game itself. Even though the commercials slow down the game and make the whole night last longer than a Wagner opera. But why?

The magic of the Super Bowl is that for at least one night a year we all recognize that the commercials themselves add value to our lives. They are entertaining. And on Sunday night, we as a nation will be in the mood to be entertained. The commercials are usually humorous. Some are big funny. Some are small funny. Some are produced like mini-blockbusters packed with action and drama. Some are touching and cute, usually with an animal tugging at your heartstrings. Which is particularly impressive when you consider that most cardiologists can’t even find your heartstrings.

As a whole the commercials are interesting and engaging. But even the lesser spots enable us to play commercial critic. And as we learned from American Idol, a few train wrecks amongst the stars makes for oddly enjoyable TV.

As you prepare for Super Sunday here are three things every business can learn from the Super Bowl commercials.

Meet people where they are.  As a business you need to put the audience you want to reach first. Understand their wants and needs. Understand their habits and how you can fit into them. If people want to party, like they do during the Super Bowl, party with them. If they want serious information to solve a serious problem, get serious with them. But don’t cross streams. Trust me on this one.

Offer a consistently enjoyable experience. A major reason we look forward to the Super Bowl commercials is that we enjoyed them last year. And the year before. And like Pavlov’s dogs, when we hear talk of the Super Bowl, we start salivating for Doritos, Budweiser and Coca-Cola commercials. So deliver a great experience every time. Because when you do, whether you’re a carpet cleaner, a dentist, a software company or a mortician, your customers will look forward to interacting with you again. Wait, scratch mortician.

Make great things.  Americans love greatness. We have a deep appreciation for things like a well crafted Super Bowl commercial, or say, a well written blog post. Great things get elevated in our culture.  Yeti coolers, iPhones and American Giant sweatshirts are all great products from great companies that generate a lot of love. In turn they help build great brands that command love, respect and a premium price. So focus your business efforts on making things great. And the profits will follow.

I hope you enjoy the game. I hope you enjoy the commercials.  And I hope you enjoy the conversations about the game and the commercials on Monday. But most of all I hope that by this time next year your business is competing in the Super Bowl of your industry. And that you have a long line of customers lining up outside your door.  Unless, of course, you’re a mortician.

My little slice of Alabama’s championship season.

There are a lot of factors that go into developing The Perfect Agency. But the ultimate goal of creating such an ad agency is to create the right conditions to consistently generate great work that has a meaningful impact on the clients we serve.  Just before the college football season began this fall my team and I were working feverishly to bring a really exciting new campaign to life for UPS. The basic premise of the project was that college football has a tremendous economic impact on college football towns. So we profiled these great towns that often double in population thanks to the pilgrimages that occur on football Saturdays.

We talked to local businesses and they shared the opportunities and challenges associated with the swelling demands of game day. And I was proud to hear business owners declare that our client, UPS, played an instrumental role in enabling them to meet those demands.

Thanks to this campaign my football season started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last August in 99 degree heat.  We spent two days covering the town, the school, the Crimson Tide football program and the local small businesses. I came away with a real affinity for the town, the beautiful campus, and the people.  I also developed an even deeper admiration for the championship caliber football program.  And since we brought a film crew with us I left with a video that summarized it all in about 60 seconds. And because my phone has a camera, I’ve included a few images from the experience below.

Congratulations to The University of Alabama on your fourth national championship in seven years.  And thanks for offering us such a great story to tell. Roll Tide. And roll the video.

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Me at the end of a very hot day. I was surprised to find they had hung my initials on the columns to welcome me.
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I beat Nick Saban in a heated game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
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Bear Bryant. The bird that tarnished his fedora was deported.
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If you’re ever in Tuscaloosa stop by Dreamland for some dreamy barbecue.
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And if the contacts start moving in your eyes football isn’t so simple.
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Let there be light. And Alabama football. And a flag. And maybe an umbrella.
It was hot. Not triple-digit hot. But close.
It was hot. Not triple-digit hot. But close.
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Turns out Alabama has had some success turning out quarterbacks. (Although doesn’t that building in Green Bay say that Don Hutson was a Center?)

 

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The Black Warrior River at sunrise. This photo may be upside down.
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You don’t want to hear me drone on about our drone.