I'm glad I never did that.

When I look back on my first forty years in advertising, I can realize I’m very thankful for some things.

I never worked for an oil company.

Yeah, we need oil and I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful people working in oil companies, but these days there’s a lot not to like. Apparently, they’ve known their product would destroy the planet for a long time and did everything they could to hide the fact. And now that’s it out in the open and the evidence is everywhere.

This is rather rude don’t ya think?

They own most governments, including ours, and do everything possible to keep pumping, no matter the cost to our children and their children. They spend vast fortunes convincing us they’ve got “synergy” or some such shit but in reality, they’re doing everything in their power to keep the needle in our arms.

So screw the oil companies. I never worked for them and I never will. I feel good about that. If you work for them, you might consider doing something else. Something you can tell your grandkids that will make them proud.

Coke. When I grew up in LA, everyone referred to any soda as a coke (notice the small c).

“You want a coke?”

“Sure thing…”

“What kind you want. We got Pepsi, 7-Up and root beer.”

It was tasty as a kid but not something I had that much access to. Now when I drink a sugar soda I feel like death for an hour. It’s garbage. Pure and simple garbage. All that carbonated sugar or fake sugar, let’s be brutally honest here, is pure garbage.

When I get stuck watching TV commercials I am utterly appalled at the money that’s thrown at convincing people to drink canned syrup that’ll give them diabetes. Billions of dollars have been spent, people have gotten rich and the john’s in this big porkfest got fat and sick. For decades they’ve convinced us that if we drink carbonated water dripping with chemicals and sugar, we’ll have more fun, hang out with beautiful people and live rich, fulfilling and exciting lives.

It’s crap.

No thanks. I’m glad I never did any of that.

Personally, I drink water or beer. And yes, I know beer isn’t manna from heaven but it’s pretty damned close on a hundred degree day in Texas.

“But isn’t your beer choice driven by advertising?”

Nope.

Look at the zillions spent on beer ads and for me personally, it was a waste. I’ve tried a ton of different beers and for the most part I didn’t like them and never went back. I only choose to drink three beer brands because I like the way they taste on a hundred degree Texas day. Like manna from heaven. 

The list of awful products and ideas can go on forever that I’m glad I never did. Guns, bombs, cults… Managed to avoid all that.

I did wander briefly into the dark side of politics.

I’d spent a lot of my wasted youth in Direct Response Marketing.

Junk mail.

I murdered acres of trees selling software and Disney and TurboTax and gold coins and other silly things.

I knew how to build out direct response campaigns so I got asked to do some political stuff for a local shill. I didn’t know him or his politics but a buck is a buck right?

It was awful. It was evil. And he was the total opposite of me politically.  He turned out to be a bit of a crook and after a short stint in politics, went back to pulling the wings off flies.

I guess this is all leading to advice to you younger ad types.

You can afford to say no.

If you care about other humans and the very fate of our planet, you can afford to say no. You can keep your hands clean from lousy businesses and ideas. You can simply walk away from the slimy crap that is seeping in through all the seams.

Spend enough time in this business and you gain superpowers. Use those superpowers to fix all the things that are broken, and that list seems to go up every day.

This is something that gives me hope about you Millennial Types that so many people gripe about. You’re not buying into a lot of the mythologies previous generations swallowed whole. Let’s hope you continue that way.

So not many regrets. I pursued the kinds of clients I wanted to work with and if a client was a crook or was selling something I didn’t agree with, it was a short relationship.

Some day you’ll look back on your career and hopefully you’ll be able to say the same thing.

I’m glad I never did that.

 

What price loyalty?

I understand loyalty.

I’ve worked on loyalty programs for years and I’m very conscious of how corporate behavior affects my own loyalty. I’m as jaded an Ad Guy as could possibly exist so I can see through all the loyalty programs you could ever dream up and they probably won’t work on me. For me to feel actual loyalty to ANY organization is a bit of a miracle.

So this is an open letter to Home Depot.

I’ve been a loyal Home Depot customer for years but that got cranked up to eleven recently.

We just moved into a little lake cabin on Lake Travis that we’d owned for years. It’s not far from our long time home outside Austin, Texas and for a dozen years it was the office for my old ad agency, The Ad Ranch. It’s a 1950’s open cabin on a cove on a couple acres of big oaks.

Great little place. Downsizing with a cushion.

But the place needed a lot of work, new appliances, floors, tile and major grooming of the woods.

And a lot of contractors.

So it’s been going back to Home Depot, sometimes every other day.

Buying a new fridge, Julie (I know many of the people there by now) suggested I get a Home Depot credit card. No interest for six months. Not a bad idea. Sign me up. Five minutes later I’m good and for the next month everything goes on The Card.

Then… Catch 22.

“That’s some catch that Catch 22.”

Come to find out that only purchases over $299.00 are interest free. Otherwise, the interest rate burns up the ozone.

I’d been feeling all warm and fuzzy about my friend Home Depot until then. Now much less warm. Much less fuzzy.

Now I don’t want to burn up pixels to bitch about this and that. I just paid off the balance and said lesson learned. But I have a point here.

Companies spend a fortune trying to get their customers to LIKE them. But when they sneak in a gotcha, whatever little bit of profit they can wring away turns off the warm, fuzzy tap.

What is the cost/benefit? How much did you make Home Depot by slipping that in and how much did you lose? Now my online purchases are going somewhere else. Now I only go into the store if it’s closer than another retailer. My feeling of being invested in a retailer is gone.

How much is that worth?

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re in some sort of business that depends on customer loyalty so my point to you is simple. Look at everything you do and question your profit centers. Are you sneaking in a few bucks here and there because you can but in doing so, you could be losing valuable loyalty?

How much is loyalty worth anyway?

I don’t really know and I’m sure there is an algorithm for that, but I do know in my own business it’s valuable. We started HeroBracelets.org a dozen years ago to help raise money for the families of fallen soldiers. We’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and sold a lot of HeroBracelets and there have never been any Catch 22’s. There have never been any gotchas and if someone breaks a bracelet, even after years, we try to get them a new one at cost. We appreciate loyalty and take it very seriously and we’re a little, tiny, little project. Nothing like the Home Depot juggernaut.

The moral of the story? Customer loyalty is a game of GO. If you’re not thinking 30 moves ahead you’ll end up losing.

The Edge. It's out there.

Hunter S. Thompson could have made a great Ad Guy for one reason. He didn’t play it safe. He knew that the only way to break through the constant noise is to make a completely different noise. See what everyone else is doing and not do that.

But that’s a risk.

Taking a risk should be tempered by experience and good judgement. Is it worth it? Personally, I think it is. And the clients who’ve given me the room to work have agreed. It’s all about finding The Edge, and then having the judgement to dial it back… Just a little.

HST wrote this piece as part of a novel about the Hells Angels. It was wedged somewhere in the middle of the book but I’ve always thought it was one of the most powerful things ever written. And it’s the perfect preamble for an Ad Guy Manifesto. Read it and see if you agree…

“So it was always at night, like a werewolf, that I would take the thing out for an honest run down the coast. I would start in Golden Gate park, thinking only to run a few long curves to clear my head…but in a matter of minutes I’d be out at the beach with the sound of the engine in my ears, the surf booming up on the sea wall and a fine empty road stretching all the way down to Santa Cruz…not even a gas station in the whole seventy miles; the only public light along the way is an all-night diner down around Rockaway Beach.

There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves. the momentary freedom of the park was like one unlucky drink that shoves a wavering alcoholic off the wagon. I would come out of the park near the soccer field and pause for a moment at the stop sign, wondering if I knew anyone parked out there on the midnight humping strip.

The into first gear, forgetting the cars and letting the beast wind out…thirty-five, forty-five… then into second and wailing through the light at Lincoln Way, not worried about green or red signals, but only some other werewolf loony who might be pulling out, too slowly, to start his own run. not many of these … and with three lanes on a wide curve, a bike coming hard has plenty of room to get around almost anything … then into third, the boomer gear, pushing seventy-five and the beginning of a windscream in the ears, a pressure on the eyeballs like diving into water off a high board.

Bent forward, far back on the seat, and a rigid grip on the handlebars as the bike starts jumping and wavering int he wind. Taillights far up ahead coming closer, faster and suddenly—zaaapppp—going up past and leaning down for a curve near the zoo, where the road swings out to sea.
the dunes are flatter here, and on windy days sand blows across the highway, piling up in thick drifts as deadly as any oilslick … instant loss of control, a crashing, cartwheeling slide and maybe one of those two-inch notices in the paper the next day: “An unidentified motorcyclist was killed last night when he failed to negotiate a turn on highway I.”

Indeed… but no sand this time, so the lever goes up into fourth, and now there’s no sound except wind. Screw it all the way over, reach through the handlebars to raise the headlight beam, the needle leans down on a hundred, and the wind-burned eyeballs strain to see down the center line, trying to provide a margin for the reflexes.

But the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right … and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You cane barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. the only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it … howling through a turn to the right, then to the left, and down the long hill to Pacifica… letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge…the Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. the other—the living—are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.

But the edge is still Out there.”

Hunter S. Thompson. Hell’s Angels, a Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

The world is fucked and it's my fault.

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The world is fucked and it’s my fault.

I’m sorry.

Really, I am. It was all my fault. Well, not entirely MY fault but the fault of my generation and the people in my business.  

I’m a Boomer type and I’ve spent my whole life in the ad biz.

I’ve loved it, don’t get me wrong. I still love the creative ad biz. It’s wonderful that people with wild-ass imaginations can make a decent living making shit up out of thin air every day. Those of us that are probably miserable at most other things can live in this weird astroplane of people who are better at making shit up than remembering things.

If it’s you, you get it.

You wake up in the middle of the night with a head full of ideas. You meet a new client and an hour later you’ve totally rethought their universe. You see things nobody else sees. You see dead people.

You’re the kind that moves big ideas and nobody knows how you did it and you wonder why everyone doesn’t think like you.

But you screwed the pooch here kiddos.

Especially if you’re getting old.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s say you were born somewhere in the 50’s. You had this idyllic childhood, at least by today’s standards. You grew up in a world with big possibilities. You could grow up to be President. Nobody knew where you were or what you did and there was no permanent record of anything. You could go to college cheap. You learned to drive in big ugly American cars that sucked gas but who cared. You believed that the world was there for you to conquer.

You were an American Baby Boomer and Gods Own Drunk and a Fearless Man.

You got into advertising because of course you got into advertising. You grew up watching Darren Stevens make stuff up on the fly and live well doing it.

Who wouldn’t ride that train?

But...

But…

But…

You and your brethren gulped gas.

You and your brethren wrapped everything in plastic.

You and your brethren lived WAY above your means in big ugly houses and bought mountains of crap and ate mountains of crap and it was normal.

And you were in the ad biz, you helped sell all this crap. You did great, convincing campaigns to sell stuff to dumb people who bought it by the truckload. You told them to eat this, buy this. Throw this away and open another one and trade this in for the newest model.

You created a culture that’s going to flush the planet down the toilet.

Ka-flush.

Congrats Darren, you sold 24-7-Disposable-Double-Sugar-Pig-Bladder-Mega-Soda.

And now we’re screwed.

We don’t have to money to go to another planet and we won’t get off our car seats to save this one.

We’re screwed.

Is there any possibility that we could be uncomfortable enough to do something about it and save our planet?

Not a chance.

This is all my fault and I’m sorry. I helped sell a ton of stupid stuff that, now, years later, is apparently just a load of stupid stuff.

Big packaging for lousy products that end up in piles.

Cans full of sweet poison.

Silly wasteful junk that you simply must have. Kill someone for their shoes. Drink this because it’s got electrolytes. Eat this because it was designed to appeal to your psychographic tastebuds.

I did a great job. WE did a great job of convincing everyone to make terrible decisions.

But I’m over it.

“She turned me into a newt… But I got better.”

I’ve become a Man of A Certain Age whatever the flying frick that means.

How about it means that I can look at life now and realize what a big load of stupidity it was that drove me to take money from people with terrible ideas and then help them sell stupid things.

A Man of A Certain Age.

Fallow is The Field in Which My Fucks Are Grown.

This means I have the freedom to be brutally honest and face down the demons around me. I have zero fucks to give. I can spill the beans on the tragedy that our junk-possessed lives have become.

I still have great clients in the ad biz. I do lots of brand work. My cohorts at The Fallow Fields Agency still love this business but we’ve all grown a spine and can turn down projects that make things worse and not better. And if we aren’t afraid to tell clients they’re heading to disaster with a lousy campaign. It’s rather liberating to finally cross the threshold into fucklessness.

But back to all this mess being my fault.

I’m still sorry.

And here’s some advice for y’all in the ad biz getting opportunities to brand and market stupid, wasteful products. Those who get hired by oil companies to make them look kind and thoughtful. Or cigarette companies. Or terrible political hacks. Or crap sugar drinks. Or big, ugly cars that spit out  poison. 

You can say no. Really, you can. You can choose to use your powers for good instead of evil. Then some day when you’ve finally realized your field is also fallow, you don’t have to write (or, in fact, just copy/paste) this article.

We’re fucked, and it’s my fault.

But I’m hoping there’s hope.

Trainwrecks and Rainbows. Confessions of a Jaded Ad Guy.

I’ve been in the ad business a long time and I’ve always loved it. Where else can you work in three different industries in a single day. Plumbing fixtures in the morning, enterprise software for lunch and beer in the afternoon.

I’ve spent most of my career in Austin, Texas. I got here from LA in 1994 just in time for the internet. I clearly remember the first day I used email in my agency. What a miracle. And I remember my first spam email. I responded to them letting them know they got the wrong person, thank you.

I learned.

Austin started exploding with technology companies around that time and I watched internet startups crop up daily and it always seemed to be a mad rush to be first to market with the next big idea.

It was a great time to be in Austin. The traffic didn’t suck yet and there were spark flying everywhere. Someone will write a book about this time and I’ve got boxes of branded promotional goodies my agency designed for many of these startups.

Because it was such a mad race to get to market, a lot of crazy stuff happened and I was lucky enough to be right in the middle of much of it.

I had a big enterprise software client that was notorious for hiring the smartest grads from the top schools. They’d throw a lot of money at these kids, amp them up on a full 7-11’s worth of junk food in a massive break room and give away Porsche’s at trade shows.

I was in their office meeting with the Marcom Director on a project when someone came in petrified in fear. They’d spent $50K designing a beautiful invitation inviting thousands to an upcoming high dollar event. The whole thing was very impressive save for one tiny detail.

The invitation didn’t have the date. No date at all. You’re invited to this amazing event and boy we sure wish you’d come but we’re not going to tell you when it’s happening.

The quick thinking Marcom Director leapt into action… “That’s OK, we’ll just reprint tomorrow and Fedex overnight…”A fine solution…

I asked her if she’d knew the cost of an overnight Fedex (which at that time was around $15 each, times thousands). She had no idea. I told her. It wasn’t pretty.

I was in their office another day when I spied a kid going through a huge pile of response cards from last week’s trade show. They were giving away a Porsche at the show. He was clearly frustrated at the quality of these “leads.””These are, like students and assistants and stuff.” Clearly not decision makers who would spend a million dollars on an enterprise solution.

I couldn’t help but interject, “You’re right. Those aren’t CIO’s. Those are people who want a free Porsche.”

I pitched a startup on a complete branding process for their new company. The guys were obviously pretty smart and the company had all the markings of a startup. Nothing on the walls and Dell boxes everywhere. They may not have had a clear understanding of American culture judging from their thick accents. I’d been hired many times to name companies and products but they already had a name and they were going with it.

Expeditrix.

I told them it sounded like someone in black leather with a whip. They were not amused. I didn’t get the job. But it does reinforce the concept that before you put up something on your church sign, run it by a 14 year old boy.

I did some free stuff for a startup that was put together by a couple of my musician friends. It went public. They gave me stock. I bought a house.

I took a lot of stock in startups. I have a lot of stock certificates in a drawer somewhere. I think.

I had a client that was a partner to a big local company. The big local company was having a users conference/tradeshow here in Austin and the minimum cost to be a sponsor was $60K and that got your name on bus seats that took the couple thousand attendees to a concert across town. They asked me what else $60K could get them.

I had some fun with this one.

We hired a booze stocked party bus to pick people up at the airport. We posted a guy at the airport with a big sign for the event and he handed out goodie bags including a lanyard that got you free shuttle transportation to the event and around town for the duration of the show.

We chose a route to the convention center and bought up every billboard for the month with our client’s message. It looked like our client owned the whole city.We covered the sidewalk around the convention center with their message with chalk. We gave out drink coupons to the local bars and every one had our banners hanging inside.

We hired a guy to buzz the VIP golf tournament in a biplane towing a 60 ft banner which prompted the CEO of the big company to complain that he hated us but he wished he’d thought of that.

And we made the event coordinator with one of the world’s biggest technology companies cry. They’d sponsored that concert and we stood outside sticking big glow-in-the-dark buttons on everyone who went in. It’s the only thing you saw as you looked into the huge, dark arena. A sea of our taglines, glowing like a million points of light.

She was furious. She’d paid around $100K for the event and we owned it for a buck a pop.

People came by the client’s booth assuming they had put on the whole event.

I did an ad for a startup called iChat. Yes, it was chat software. The image was Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt sitting in a courtyard in Yalta in what became known as The Yalta Conference, discussing the division of Europe after the end of WWII. It was a beautiful, stark black and white photo and the headline was “Never underestimate the power of a little chat.”

To this day, it’s still my favorite ad.

I had a terrible client. I had presented a great campaign to all the company executives who just didn’t get it. I told them then obviously they should hire another agency and I’d be happy to give them recommendations.The CEO begged me to stay. I was right, it’s a great campaign. We want to keep you as our agency… OK, I’ll stay (but I had major bad juju about it).

The CEO fired me a week later. It just had to be his idea.

I had a spinal hardware company who’s original logo was a silhouette of a person with the curve of a complete spine. It was terrible. And to top it off, the little register mark, the “R ball” was at the bottom of the spine.

I’m in the conference room pitching to the executive committee that they should hire my agency for their rebranding and behind me was this logo, painted on the wall around six feet tall. I was getting nowhere until I just turned around, pointed at that anatomically correctly placed R ball and just said it.

“And that R ball looks like an asshole.”

The room went a bit shocked until someone said, “Oh my god, he’s right.”

We did the redesign and it was beautiful and they got bought up by a much bigger company with internal marketing resources and we lost the client.

I had designed a lot of annual reports over the years. Once the CEO changed the colors on the cover because his wife painted the bathroom that color and he hated it. Another time, the CEO insisted that the illustration on the cover be done by his brother’s son. It sucked and that’s where the phrase “Nephew Art” came from.

We pitched what would become the first free city web site. It was going to be a production of the local newspaper, The Austin American Statesman.

This was around 1996 and nobody knew how it would make money. Could you sell ads on a web site? Would people use this new interwebs thing to find out what’s going on in town? Would anyone care?

My agency got invited to pitch against a half dozen other Austin agencies and I cooked up a plan.

Schedule our pitch at 11:00 (the agency pitching magic hour). It would take around an hour to pitch our ideas and the next agency was set to come in at 2:00 (the agency pitching hour of death).

I’d drawn up 50+ ideas. Big sketches on newsprint paper. Headlines, drawings, ideas. It painted a pretty complete picture of how we’d make a real brand for something so new that nobody knew where it’d go. They’d brought in a dozen execs from around the country for the pitches and I’d timed it so we finished right at noon. The last headline was “More links than Elgin sausage.”

That was the signal for the doors to fly open and the rest of our crew to bring in 50 lbs of great Texas BBQ. All the executives ate and ate and ate and the whole building smelled like BBQ. We cleaned up after an amazing lunch and shook hands and left.

The next agency, who was our biggest threat, came in at 2:00 and gave their pitch. We got the account.

A couple years later I asked the head of marketing how that next pitch was. “Oh hell, I can’t even remember. Everyone was so full and tired that I don’t think anyone paid attention…”

I told him that was my plan from the beginning. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

My office at the time was overlooking Lake Austin and the 360 Bridge. The client was set on calling the new venture Austin Cyber Limits but the lawyers from Austin City Limits would have none of it so it was up to me to come up with a name. I sat there looking at that damn bridge… Austin 360… Get Around Austin… Now when I go to the Austin 360 Amphitheater I feel like I should get free tickets or something.

I’m just scratching the surface of my life in adverting. If you want to get into this business, I’d be happy to try to talk you out of it. The hours are long. Every day you have to make something out of nothing. Starting out, you’ll make lousy money because so many crazy people are dying to be Darren Stevens when they grow up.

But if I can’t talk you out of it, you’ll love it. It’s easier on your back than digging ditches.

ExxonMobil took it to the next level by pushing the envelope with a cutting edge, win-win, paradigm shifting creative campaign for gasoline.   They call it “Synergy.

synerfuckingy.jpg

Seriously ExxonMobil.

“Synergy.”

WTF.

Who was the creative genius that dug back through those 80’s corporate pocket folders (as in, call our 800 number and we’ll send you a pocket folder) to find “Synergy.”

Cross that chasm.

Take it to the next level and drop that ball.

Drink that Kool-Aid.

“Synergy?”

How can one of the largest, richest companies in the world, a company with fingers in every government pie, with thousands of employees, a company with our planet’s very soul held hostage in a dirty oil drum in Klusterfukistan… Do something this stupid.

“Synergy.”

It’s apparently got seven magical ingredients that do magical things for your engine while frying our atmosphere. But how can gasoline be bad if it’s got “Synergy.”

I looked up Synergy and it’s officially defined as something to do with various organizations working together for a better result. Maybe an evil mashup between energy and symbiosis.

Whatever.

It’s this kind of miserable business cliché that corporate types like to throw around with “client-centered” and “offline” and “actionable.” It’s crap. It may tell the other corporate types you’re trying to impress that you know the secret language but don’t throw it at the rest of us.

Am I being brutal? Absolutely. The emperor is naked as pickled hell and someone has to say it. That’s the whole paradigm shift of our out of the box envelope pushing new agency, The Fallow Fields Agency.

We’re a bunch of jaded ad guys who have seen it all and we’ve decided to use our experience to save the universe from stupid advertising.

Our business model is simple. Give us a little money and we’ll go through your upcoming creative and tell you if you’re going to get forever voted off the creative island for going public with it. If you’re an agency, let us punch holes in your pitch. Let us rip into everything you’re doing and ask a lot of awkward, brutal questions. If you can’t defend your thinking to us, what’s the client going to do to you? We’ll help you be asshole proof. It’s worth it.

If you’re the client, let us tear up that smarm the agency just pitched. You’ll be armed to go back and have them fix it before that email goes out to your colleagues that you’re “pursuing other opportunities.”

It’s actually a brilliant idea. Before you push the button on spending a mountain of money, let us have our way with your precious creation. If we can punch holes in the idea, go back to the drawing board.

Pretty smart eh? And cheap.

Now back to “Synergy.”

It’s stupid. Dump it. Better yet, fire up the time machine, go back six months, hire us, let us tell you it’s stupid and save yourself millions.

I give “Synergy” Five Sink Holes. (That’s our new rating system for lousy advertising. The only thing worse than a fallow field is a fallow field with sink holes.

 How’s that for a true value added, win-win proposition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nattering Nabobs

We love you. That’s why we’ll beat the hell out of you. 

We love you. We really do. 

But sometimes you need someone to come along and kick some sense into your head. And the only reason we can say that is because it’s happened to us a zillion times over the years. 

We’re a bunch of jaded ad guys. We’ve created and pitched a thousand great ideas and probably a thousand lousy ideas. We’ve seen our ideas take root and climb to the heavens. And we’ve seen our ideas crash like a (something snarky). 

 What does that mean to you? 

That means that you can benefit from all the beatings we taken over the last so-many-years. 

That means you can get creative as hell and know that if we can beat up your idea and it survives us, it’ll be bulletproof. If you’re an agency, you’ll go to your clients knowing they won’t destroy your genius. If you’re a client, you know your agency won’t destroy you. 

Pretty crazy business model isn’t it. 

We make good money beating the hell out of ideas but we don’t take great pleasure in our destruction. We do it because we wish like hell someone would have done it for us when we were young and optimistic. 

All these years in the ad biz has jaded the hell out of us. Be glad you’re not us. 

But know you need our nattering nabobs of negatism to keep your big ideas from blowing your career all to hell. 

Want an example? We got a million of them. 

Here’s a great one. 

I was working for a company helping them launch their loyalty app into midsized towns all over the country. They had a limited budget so I was trying to come up with ways to get their name and logo engrained into the fabric of these towns. I came up with a lot of cool ideas and then one in particular hit me. 

A big, open top double decker bus! 

I could wrap it in our logo and use it for ferrying the locals all around town. Hire a bus driver. Offer it to the retirement homes, the bridge club, the scouts etc. A big, fun free way for everyone in town to love us. I found a bus and a company to wrap it. Everyone loved it, the CEO loved it, we were  a go on my Big Idea.

I spent time in each city we were going to launch and got to know the local business community, the Chamber, alliances etc. And I spent a lot of time walking around. 

I had the specs for this bus and then walked through a lot of intersections. 

Then I realized that if grandma was standing on the top level of the bus as it drove through town, dear grandma would have been cut in half by the low traffic lights. 

Suddenly I had this vision of my wonderful bus on CNN in China, having beheaded a gaggle of bridge players. 

I called up the CEO and pulled the plug. 

And probably averted one of those “don’t do this” articles that’ll be in every ad textbook forever. 

That’s why you need us. 

Considering the shit-storm we’ll keep you out of, we’re a bargain.