The So Called Talent Crisis

You can buy this poster at The Keep Calm-o-matic. Click on the image to take you there.

You can buy this poster at The Keep Calm-o-matic. Click on the image to take you there.

You go to university, get an advanced degree, graduate, and then disappointed – no pissed – that the offered salaries aren’t what you think they should be, or worse, your talent is not valued. So says this piece in Digiday.

I get it. You’ve been told – no you listened to – all those experts (and educators) who said that the best education, nurturing the best talent, would land you in the job of your dreams with the salary and culture to go along with it.

You may be bringing some awesome new ideas and talent to the agency, but you just got out of school.

You have no experience. You are unproven.

You have never sat across from a client who is telling you, “I want something marvelous and innovative”, but is a) unwilling to pay (much) for it, and b) has a specific idea which he will personally art direct. To. Death.

And it doesn’t matter who you are, that breathtaking portfolio – created in the dreamy (albeit competitive) world of the classroom – has nothing to do with reality.

The creative that sells stuff is, unfortunately, reality.

Oh, I know what it’s like to know you have a lot more bankable talent than anyone is willing to pay for. But you have to learn the ropes. And that’s not the old way to do business; it is the way to do business.

When clients are squeezing every single cent out of an agency, there isn’t a whole lot of cash to go around. Especially for someone who is extraordinary but hasn’t a clue on how agencies make money.

So I don’t have a lot of sympathy for new grads who aren’t willing to do the ugly work at an agency.

Ugly is where reality lies. If you want to live in a fantasy, stay pissed. If you want to be in advertising, get real. Go to work for a crappy salary (agency salaries are always crappy at the beginning) to get some real experience.

If you pay attention and drop the arrogance, you’ll learn really important things – like where your talents can take you; learning to do what you do efficiently (aka make a profit); aligning with the people who will teach you the reality of agency life and how to work it; and how to really get what you want without whining.

Talent crisis? I think not. It’s just that the talented aren’t willing to invest one second beyond graduation in learning. It is an investment, but one with a big payoff if you’re willing to do the work, and yes, even work in a place that doesn’t have a game room or a keg of micro-brew in the break room.

Take it from me kids, I’ve been in the business nearly 40 years (even kept up with technology too – unimaginable at my age, I know) and there’s still a ton to learn.

And by the way, there are a million ad folks out there – with real, live experience – willing to teach. It’s the cheapest, most useful class you’ll ever attend.

The Best Damn Creative

Another hero of mine Robert Ryman. 

Another hero of mine Robert Ryman. 

Today it’s about the heroes of the agency, the ones who get the credit. The Creatives.

Of course all that great creative doesn’t happen without a support staff, but I usually write about them. So it’s time to give the creative staff some love.

Here you go.

I have worked with two brilliantly talented creatives. Both named Jeff.

Jeff the Creative Director acted like a creative director - strong opinions, absolute direction, intolerant of mediocrity. He was from the copy-side, and came to our agency from a larger market and bigger clients. He required a higher-level of creative than we had ever produced. Our agency was noticed. We began winning awards. Oh yeah, the by-product of that was clients were pleased and doing well.

He did something else too. He nurtured his creative team in a thoughtful and positive way. He never coddled, but always asked for better. He was the definitive creative director.

Besides being a brilliant creative, he is highly intelligent. He not only introduced me to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, he demonstrated how to develop great creative talent without damaging fragile egos.


When we are just being observed, we behave differently.

Jeff the Designer cares more about great design that anyone I have ever met. I have witnessed his process which he takes very seriously. He is an award winning designer; and again, a brilliant and intelligent creative.

Oh, yeah, and he hates advertising. Or more accurately, abdicating to individuals who don’t respect great creative and the thoughtful process it requires. He is cynical and has the most delicious speaking voice I've ever heard.

I was a graphic designer. After meeting Jeff I knew I had no business calling myself such. Talent like his is rare. He cares that the final result suits him.

When individuals believe so strongly in their own work, they go on to do it outside the confines of others. That’s where extraordinary creative thrives.

I love great creative. I love a well-written headline. 

I’m not great at either of those, but my passion lies in ensuring everything else is in order so great creative can happen. I am extremely fortunate I had the opportunity to work with both of these guys and come away knowing I have to clear the path so they - and people like them - can do their work.

If I preach anything (over and over again), it is this one thing: Get your agency in order so great creative can happen.

Distraction destroys creative, morale and profits.

Easy to understand. Now contact me.

Who Knew That Meth-Resistant Would Be A Selling Feature?

I can only imagine the creative sessions for the ad I saw last night. The one for Zephrex-D. I saw the spot twice, and the first time I really didn’t pay attention. Then the second time I stopped – whoa!

And in a touch of irony, the spot featured a teacher, in a science class no less. 

How original.

You can check out the spot here.

Meth-resistant was the selling feature. Safety in your community too - oh, that's a by-product of meth-resistance. I can’t remember exactly what they said, but yes, that was the crux of it. Wow, and I didn’t know this was something that was high on the list of pharma development - like vaccines or antibiotics.

What the heck is meth-resistant?

Intrigued by this notion, I had to Google it. So I found this article on MarketWired. (they write about Nexafed which is the same thing (in my super-educated opinion) - Zephrex-D is from a different pharmaceutical company and has a snappy name.

So the drug does what Sudafed® does (keeps our sinuses clear), but the bad guys can’t turn it into meth.

Evidently, in order to make meth, the stuff in Sudafed crystalizes (which is good) but Zephrex-D turns into a goo (which is bad).

From MarketWired:

“The study measured the ability of NEXAFED's IMPEDE technology to disrupt the extraction and conversion of PSE by meth cooks using common clandestine meth lab processes. When simulating large scale manufacturing to extract and convert pure PSE into meth, researchers found that NEXAFED's IMPEDE technology yielded no measurable PSE extraction, representing a significant impediment compared to the control Sudafed(R) tablets (Sudafed(R) is a registered trademark and product of Johnson & Johnson). When tested under the "one-pot" conversion method, the study indicated that current IMPEDE technology tablets had an approximate 38 percent yield, nearly half the average meth recovered compared to the control. Currently, Acura Pharmaceuticals is improving its present formulation and developing new IMPEDE 2.0 technology, which yielded no measurable amount of meth with the one-pot conversion method in initial testing of a prototype formulation by an outside laboratory.”

This all makes perfect sense to me. So now I guess we should look forward to IMPEDE 2.0 technology. I already feel safer. No more one-pot meth on the streets. Well to be accurate, Zephrex-D® uses Tarex® technology. I'm sure they're all the same thing that keeps us safe.

I wonder how the ad guys will translate that?

I don’t know, it seems like a whole lot of work to buy enough Sudafed to make meth. I guess I don’t have enough initiative to do drugs. Or buy drugs.

Well, I’m not exactly their target market.

So I have to ask: WWHD?