Crazy Dream

As of this writing, 10 millions views since the ad broke last night.


So I have seen the ad, all two minutes and five seconds of it. Same messaging you always get from Nike: Hard to argue with, nice sentiments, blah blah blah. Until you get to the spokesman.

Yes, you have this figure that “gave up everything” to pursue something crazy. Something he believed in. But let’s put this in context:

Kaepernick “sacrificed” his NFL career? Hardly! He lost his job because he sucked – he couldn’t make the cut in the NFL. Had he not pulled this stunt, he would already be long forgotten. And that’s where this ad goes off the rails.

If Serena or LeBron, mentioned in the ad, sacrificed their career to pursue something bigger than themselves, something extremely difficult but an idea they believed so passionately about that they had to choose between the belief and their career, then that would be a brilliant ad.

Think about Patrick Tillman, who gave up his NFL career to go do something incredibly hard, and paid the ultimate price for following that idea when he died in Afghanistan.

THAT is a crazy dream, one I CAN believe in. One I can respect.

Kaepernick is a punk, who a savvy group of writers wrote some beautiful words to put into his mouth. Talk about inauthentic.


Don’t Do It

I go to great lengths to not be political with my blog. There are many issues I feel quite passionate about and a blog is a perfect place for me to express my views, but I choose not to.

The reason is simple: This is a blog about ideas on branding and marketing, creativity, leadership and design. The last thing I want to do is run people off, start an argument or open myself up for attack. The very last thing I want to do is polarize and piss off potential readers.

Pissing people off should not be the purpose of an ad campaign, but that is exactly what Nike has done this week. In one fell swoop, they’ve taken their brand to a whole new level, and depending on who you ask, it is either elevated to new heights or plopped in the toilet.

If you’ve read other posts of mine, you have seen me call into question the validity of brands taking on social issues. Making commentary and judgements on the morals of those who do not believe like some corporate giant is just plain wrong. I am 100% a believer in free speech, and I do not want to tell any media department how to spend their money, but this move certainly cannot be good for business.

Especially for a company like Nike who in the past has been accused of all kinds of heinous acts.

If you are a for-profit enterprise with shareholders to answer to, you are irresponsible for picking a side in an argument. By taking a side you are consciously choosing to alienate the other side. That’s bad for business, and you’re in business to make money, not political statements.

Full disclosure: I have been a fan and ardent defender of Nike for years. As noted, Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog was one of my favorite books. I’ve run in various Nike’s for years. And I have always loved the notion (because it’s more than a slogan) of Just Do It. Not so much any more. I will not be burning my running shoes, shorts and such. But if they are trying to create change, they’ve done it. I won’t support them any longer.

Consumed this Past Week

Forget Ted Talks: The Richards Group Wants University Students to Tune In to Stan Talks Instead 
The series offers lessons from ad legends like Keith Reinhard, Lee Clow and the late David Ogilvy

Subscribe to Stan Talks here

Keeping the Faith with the God of Creativity
FCB NY Chief Creative Officer Ari Halper offers up an assessment of what went wrong for the ad industry and why the industry deity – creativity – might just save us after all, writes Laura Swinton

An oldie but a goodie.

10 Modern Proofreading Tips to Catch More Avoidable Goofs
Traditionally, proofreading is a separate task from editing. And I still treat the two as different activities. However, the creative benefits of a consistent proofreading process surpass the classic definition of proofreading.

No more fixed budgets, rigid marketing calendars and long lead times: meet the new ad agency model
Why are not these Facebook “unicorn” success stories as common amongst clients managed by agencies?

Here’s Why Good Design Isn’t Negotiable For Your Business
Good design can make or break your business. Here’s why you should invest more in your design team.

Why Laughter Is a Key to Success, Especially at Creative Agencies
Owning your energy in a collaborative business

Milton Glaser on Making New Work at 89 and Why ‘Retirement Is a Trap’
Milton Glaser is the leading voice in the design world and has no plans of relinquishing that title any time soon.

When Europeans set sail for the New World, there were two key tasks explorers needed to plan for: first, how would they know if they were heading the right way; and second, who could tell them where the treasure was when they got there? From the findings in this year’s report it seems like the global strategy crew need to know their role in how they find the gold. But it’s these two things, direction and interpretation, where they can add most value to the modern-day exploration of uncharted territories.

Why Lego is ‘upping the ante’ on its in-house creative agency
Lego brought creative in-house a few years ago to ensure creative has “a seat at the table” and improve transparency, productivity and innovation.

Why Design Thinking Works
Occasionally, a new way of organizing work leads to extraordinary improvements. Total quality management did that in manufacturing in the 1980s by combining a set of tools—kanban cards, quality circles, and so on—with the insight that people on the shop floor could do much higher level work than they usually were asked to. That blend of tools and insight, applied to a work process, can be thought of as a social technology.


Paying Attention

God has spoken to me.


The event wasn’t so much like Moses and the burning bush as it was something more like this:

Back in the late 90’s, when I worked at JWT, I had been plugging away on some pitch material for a few weeks. It had been a grind. This was back in the days before we had the luxury of having a color printer in the office, so every time I needed prints I had to run down to the nearest Kinkos. Needless to say, I got to be on a first name basis with those guys.

On this particular morning, I had finished up at the Kinkos far out on Westheimer about mid-morning. I was tired but felt good knowing that I was finished with the comps. Time to get back to the office. I hopped in my car and drove a couple of blocks when I heard this voice:

Michael, turn at the Half-Priced Books.

Who said that? Nobody but me in the car but me.

Coming up quickly was the Half-Priced Books, so I turned, parked and went inside. For the uninitiated, Half-Priced Books can be  hit-or-miss. Sometimes you find treasure troves of goodies but other times it is a barren wasteland of musty smelling books.

On this particular day it was a jackpot.

I walked directly to the section with the art and design books. There, sitting innocuously on a lower shelf was a first edition of George Lois’ The Art of Advertising in excellent condition. I picked up this unbelievable find and promptly bought it.

What a reward after such a long, arduous few weeks.

Had that voice not prompted me to take a break from life, I’d have never uncovered this hidden treasure.

Years later I had the privilege to meet Mr Lois at an Ad Fed luncheon in Houston. To this day I cannot imagine there were ever so many four letter words used in the Junior League presentation. After his talk, I had the opportunity to shake his hand and I told him this story about God talking to me. He was congenial. And a little tipsy.

I’ve been a Catholic my whole life, but I am far from religious. I try to practice what the church preaches but more often than not fall short. But this isn’t a story about church. Or belief in God for that matter. It’s a story about listening and paying attention.

I do believe in God. I do believe He speaks to you, but in ways you have to be willing to accept. You have to be open, ready and aware.

Where creative ideas come from has always been a mystery to me. This is a subject I’ve studied for years as it is my stock and trade. Sure, you can believe all the stuff you hear these days – the books, article on the internet, TED talks – but if you really want to know where good ideas come from, they come from somewhere else.

Maybe even Someone else.

But you have to be paying attention.




The Much Revered Uniform Resource Locator

I had this conversation yet again last week. The question came up once again:

Why do we have URLs on adverts?

It really cracks me up when a URL is on a banner ad. Isn’t the point of a banner ad — you can just click on it and to the site?

Print applications, though, are my major gripe. Ever been driving down the interstate at 70 miles an hour, when you come upon the most amazing billboard (ha!) and been so moved that you release the steering wheel to type in the URL posted in the lower lefthand corner only to die in a fiery crash as you careen off a cliff? No, me either.

Or been walking through an airport, see the catchy short URL on a duratran and miss your connecting flight because you were so terribly engaged with the ad’s web content? I didn’t think so.

My favorite URL is on a podcast or tucked inside an audiobook. Isn’t there are smarter way to help people get additional information rather than rattling off a long string of characters that even the world’s best typist won’t be able to catch?

Or better yet, why even bother? In this day and age it should be evident that if someone wants more information about something a company is offering, it can be found online. If the message is good enough, people will actively search for it themselves.

Focus your energy on creating those messages, and quit hanging your hat on the URL.

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