Actually there are two things, from two different days, that I’ve promised you.
Did you notice?
The one thing, the longer thing (a sprawling, “needs some work and some editing” thing) is still in the incubator. And it’s behind a few other things, so don’t be expecting it tomorrow because it isn’t coming your way until the weekend. (It’s currently slated to be post 54 of 56; that’s my plan, anyway. This post? It’s #51.)
Anyway, the other thing was just a hint I dropped when I wrote about a brand promise and the 4As training, the training that gave me two life-long gifts: the ability to write (and use) a tight creative brief, and this second thing that I’m now going to tell you about.
You’re still waiting…
Are you curious?
We’ll do this another day, when you’re ready.
What’s that? You are ready?
First, let me set the stage.
I’m in one of those hotel meeting rooms, a small one. There are about a dozen of us in the training seats (meaning, at tables, with hotel notepads and pens and mints and pitchers of water). The trainer is at the front of the room, as she has been for all three days. But for the first two days she was in Corporate Attire. Today she’s in jeans and a t-shirt. She’s relatable. She’s sitting on the table, not standing at a podium. We’re friends now.
Our 12 trainee brains? They’re full. We’ve done our exercises, taken notes, learned strategics and tactics and all the lingo to do our work well. So today she signals a different tone, that smart trainer lady. Today we’re just talking shop, we pals. Today is all about the reality behind the fancy storyboards, the stuff only we who are in-the-know will ever actually know. It’s like a secret club.
We’re all at full attention now.
She tells us: The hardest part of the work, for an ad agency account executive (the title all 12 of us had, at our respective agencies), is the mystical, magical art of selling the client on the big creative idea that would actually make a big impact, the idea likely to scare her/him to death but that would, ultimately, pay off big time.
How does one sell such an idea to someone who is risk-averse, set in their ways, not entirely convinced of the true power of good marketing and advertising, nervous about budgets and possibly also navigating corporate politics? We’ll get to that. First, skip ahead five years.
Five years after I completed this particular training, I was working at a large telecommunications company, trying to climb that corporate ladder. And I was frustrated (as happens in such situations) by all the deaf ears at the top.
Because I was exceptionally lucky (and that’s just the truth of it), I worked for someone who took a keen interest in my professional development. Day in and day out, he listened patiently to my frustrations, offered home-spun advice that didn’t sound remotely threatening.
And one day, when I’d exhausted all of my breath on a rant about those deaf ears at the top, he said: Pull is stronger than push. Stop pushing so damned hard and build the ties that will pull you up.
I could easily have decided he was a stuffy, pompous, old-school old man giving me stuffy, pompous, old-school, old man advice. But I knew he was right, because of a woman in jeans and a t-shirt who’d taught me something years earlier.
She said, in effect:
There’s going to be a day when you and the creative team have a big idea for one of your clients. You’re going to be so excited about it that you’re going to want to call an emergency meeting, pull all the stops, make a big, splashy presentation RIGHT NOW. You’ll be electric with enthusiasm over this idea.
And you’re going to sit on it.
You’re not going to call an emergency meeting, or make a splashy presentation.
Instead, you’re going to start dropping hints, in your regular meetings. You’re going to say, casually, in the course of an ordinary conversation, “I know we’re short on time today, and I’m not ready to do this today anyway, but one day soon I want to show you an idea we had for (a product, a campaign, a something).”
And then you’re going to change the subject. Move on.
The next time you meet with this particular client, you’re going to drop a second hint, right at the end of your meeting.
You’ll keep working it in this way, drip by drip, until one day that client interrupts you, or starts a meeting by saying, “I know we have other things to discuss today, but I really want to hear about this (thing). Can we set a date for that?”
And that’s how you hook a fish.
That? That’s pull. And it takes remarkable patience. And calculation. And willingness to accept that the client (or whomever) might never, ever get to that point of transformation. There might not ever be pull.
In that case? There’s no value in pushing. Because the client – or friend, or boss, or deaf ears at the top, or whomever – has made clear that s/he won’t ever be interested in change or transformation or creative approach. And no one – not you, not some magician, not anyone – can change that dynamic.
Pull is stronger than push.
If you can generate pull – pique interest, spark desire, stimulate curiosity – then everything gets easier. It really does.
Ah, look; it’s 11:30. Again.
See you tomorrow.
This post is 51/56 in a self-directed challenge to write (or at least post) something (SOMETHING) every day – a birthday gift to me from me, because writing gives me a place to put the clutter that lives in my head.