- What would you be doing if you weren’t in advertising?It would be Summer. I could be anywhere, on a boat. Any kind of boat. With no agenda and no particular destination.
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- What’s the title of your autobiography?“Why do I care so much?”
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- If you could be in a boxing match with anyone, who would it be?I would like to be in the ring with myself. Put me there any time that I could beat myself up for not being a better husband or father, a better person or a better boss.
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- What’s your biggest pet peeve in this business?People who lack substance. People who are unethical. People who masquerade to be more than they are.
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- The one change you’d like to see in the world?I wish there were no reasons for war. That people of the world could respect our differences and at the same time see our common morals as human beings.
I have to admit, I am a bit of a scrooge [hold the commentary Jigsawians]. I find that the pressures of work, the added stress of all the holiday activities and the fact that both tend to keep me from doing the things I already don’t have the time to do makes me not the cheeriest guy during this time of year. But that doesn’t mean I get to ditch sending out a Jigsaw holiday message once a year.
Searching for an idea, I did some thinking, mumbled “Humbug” a few times, and even wrote a post that got rejected [too dark... go figure]. And then, poof, it came to me. Or rather Matt O’Donnell came to me and stuck a half-finished holiday card under my nose. It was our client holiday card. “We need a line for this,” he said. A moment later I wrote, “It’s the time of year we count our blessings—we consider you to be one of them.” Poof. Holiday card. And hey, maybe, a holiday post.
Now, while I do truly count our clients as blessings, it should be no surprise to you that I don’t count all the blessings in my own life. I tend to focus on all the things that I find wrong, that are burdensome to me. So I had to search for information on counting one’s blessings. What I stumbled upon was what I needed—some proof in the pudding, to be cliché. It was a research study that tracked psychological well-being as measured against different control groups—most interesting to me was that one of the groups was asked to count their blessings and another counted their burdens.
This was not a survey in a magazine or random web-sourced study, this was serious research. You can read the results of Robert Emmons’ and Michael McCullough’s study, but of significance is that it is one of the only studies on the topic and it was conclusive that focusing on the gratitude found in your life did correlate to higher indicies of positive feelings in life. Hmmmmm… really? Just by focusing on the blessings and not the burdens?
After discovering their findings, I did an experiment of my own. I started by counting my burdens, as I seem to do in daily life. Hassles at work, paying the bills, struggles with raising kids, finding time to keep a marriage alive and well. I will spare the details, but I found enough burdens to count on my hands and a couple toes. And then it was hard to continue.
Then I counted my blessings. Inspiration at work, being able to pay the bills, the amazing gifts of children growing into adults, having a patient and kind wife. But when counting my blessings it is so easy to find more. And to find blessings in smaller things that mean so much more. A new day, our health, parents who are still well, brothers and sisters in-law who I care for, friends, pets we have known, places we have discovered together. Sorry, but I also find joy in Sharpies, mechanical pencils and Zebra pens among other things [like Costco, where your can buy the aforementioned at great prices and large quantities].
Suddenly, I ran out of fingers and toes to count on. Where would I put Friday night ferry rides to Washington Island, that where made possible by all the blessed jobs I have been fortunate to keep in my career? And where can I count every one of the attributes that my wife and my children have that I take for granted, but are so much more important than the criticisms I share that cause our relationships not to be their fullest? Where do I count all the events, occurrences, people, talents and opportunities that have been given to me in the past seven plus years since Jigsaw was born? Suddenly, I felt better. And I was only starting.
The point of my experiment was not scientific. Nor do I have the data to prove my results. But I bet you, if you are counting your burdens, you’d be happier and more settled if you sat down and took inventory of your blessings. Starting out by finding the blessings in what you consider burdens. Then, think about all the things that bring the most joy. And I bet, that without trying, you will continue to list the smallest things that bring you even a little bit of joy. And you will feel better about your life.
The secret would be to do the same thing, all year round. Personally, I like the way I have felt the past few days after I did my experiment and spent time with my family this weekend. I believe it’s the start of a happier holiday and fresh new year.
So, happier holidays everyone—I leave you with this:
Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
It’s not new news, but most of the time, even in our changing world—many advertisers still want to talk more about themselves than their consumers. In their version of the advertising strategy, features outweigh benefits in key messaging platforms. Especially with limited dollars, “more bang for the buck” comes with cramming every nook and cranny of a spot with something to say about the product. I’m not casting judgement. I get it—with the pressure to succeed, and success ever more tied to ROI, it’s tough to be a marketer. But I urge us all to still focus on the consumer. Something I think we did well (along with our client) in these recent spots for HSHS (Hospital Sisters Health System) in Green Bay.
You may have read a post here months back, on a 60 second spot we shot with Michael Prince for the brand. Well, these are the harder-hitting siblings of that spot. What we’d call the “service line” spots for cancer and orthopedics. These spots carry some pretty heavy loads—boasting that “we provide the most treatment options,” that “we beat national survival rates” and that “we are among the nation’s best” when it comes to cancer. Product features, not benefits. But notice how the facts are surrounded both visually and verbally with “life”, “hope” and “a new belief.” Things I believe every person with cancer wants as much as the latest and greatest treatment.
By identifying that what we see in a cancer patient is a path to new life, we brought context, benefit and a personal connection to what would be a list of ingredients. Kudos to the team and the client on recognizing the fine balance between logic and emotion, especially when it comes to our health.
While I haven’t been too vocal about it, it’s true—I got asked to judge the Clio Healthcare awards. What’s that? Well, it’s a newer awards competition, a sibling contest, similar to the long-standing Clio Awards, that is supposed to recognize the challenges that health care presents advertisers and agencies. Why me? Well mostly because we have won several statues in the three-year old competition. And given it’s an international competition, I’ll remain incredibly flattered. Especially since my peers include the likes of Helayne Spivak, former creative head at Hal Riney NY, Y&R New York, Ammirati Puris/Lintas, and JWT New York. And current CCO of Saatchi Wellness in NY. Winner of every creative award that matters to anyone who looks like me—CLIO’s, One Show, Art Director’s Club, and Cannes. Just to name a few. Among the others, there are impressive names from every corner of the globe. And then there’s me, from Jigsaw, in Milwaukee, WI.
Impressive jury, but that doesn’t change the way I approach my job. To me, a great idea is a great idea. And there are no excuses. not even in health care. Not legal resrtictions or any other excuse. Just because the lawyers require 15 seconds of a 30 second spot for pharmaceuticals be legalese, doesn’t give that spot a handicap.
There were entries from around the world. Humbling, quite frankly. And there were plenty of great ideas. And there were plenty of bad ideas. But like any good awards competition—judged by professionals, mostly creative-types—by round two, the “wheat was certainly separated from the chaff.” While I am sworn to secrecy about the judging, I can tell you the Clio Healthcare Awards is growing fast and in the right direction. Because it’s growing from a model set by a respected award show. The results are in tabulation and the show in October in NYC.
Thanks to all who run the competition, to my fellow judges and to the entrants. While I didn’t get a chance to go to NY to judge (it’s online), I doubt that getting the cast together that formed the jury would be possible any other way. I appreciate the chance to participate. I appreciate the recognition that we have accomplished in the short time Jigsaw have been in existence. I look forward to what we will accomplish in the future.
It was a day like any other when one of my colleagues said, “I can lead a horse to water… but if there’s no water there… well… I don’t know how to help you.”
I said a day like any other, because the tone was sarcastic and he was being facetious—and the comment ended in the room bursting out in laughter. A day like any other, because most conversations here have a dry sense of humor and a lot of “inside our walls” meaning—which would explain why all of us were rolling on the floor laughing, and you’re probably not. So let me explain.
In the past, one might refer to that old cliché and say, “Advertising can lead a horse to water, a great concept could make him take a drink.” And in the past, I believe that was true—even in the world where there were no clear product differentiators. We did campaigns for parity products quite often, and most times the best campaign and the best media buy won. Providing the product was at least on par with the competitors. In those days (not many years ago), we’d be thrilled if we got a key differentiator or two. That made our job cake.
The humor, irony, sadness, and truth about the observation my colleague made is in the definition of “water.” A little context is in order: the comment was made in a conversation about how the marketing funnel has changed. How, the “water” that we referred to in the past as meaning “the product,” now means so much more. It is also ironic that we had this conversation before Sue’s trip to SXSWi and her post on Joseph Jaffe’s book, Flip the Funnel. The point of all of this is that it is no longer just about you as an advertiser spreading the word about your product or service.
It is no longer about drawing consumers into the marketing funnel and into the vortex of advertising, until they get dizzy and start to believe you and then buy your product. It’s now all about ensuring that there’s really good “water” at the destination. Think exceptional customer experience. Truly differentiated product features. And just as importantly, a way for loyal customers to become evangelists. In other words, these days, if we lead a horse to water and there’s an abundance of clean, clear, refreshing water, that horse will tell three friends and those friends will tell three friends—all by tomorrow morning. Hence, the marketing funnel has been flipped into a megaphone and the message is carried by customers.
There are still plenty of brands who believe that advertising should do all the work. Or that success is achieved in the marketing mix. Or conversely, that the answer is digital, or social media, or that their website is the be-all and end-all. Those are all important, but the best brands have realized that it starts at home—great product, exceptional service and a medium by which to share. But that doesn’t mean a brand is alone to create the ultimate “watering hole.” The last part of my colleague’s comment was, “…I don’t know how to help you.” Well, that too, was purposefully overstated and he was again being facetious. Because if there is not substance there for a consumer to quench their thirst, all of our hard work goes for naught.
Today, the lines have blurred between clients and agencies. That’s if we are doing it right. Today, much of our work is as brand consultants, customer experience representatives, and deacons for the evangelists. We can even be product developers if we need to be. We are realists when we have to be. A good agency is a great Litmus Test, because if the water is tainted, the word spreads faster than if it is pure.
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