:21: Listen Up

Yesterday, my Creative Strategist class was enlightened by a visit from Tracy Wong from Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener, an ad agency based in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Wong did a fantastic job in providing insights on the stressful process of advertising. In fact he gave us 6 secrets of the business to help us succeed.

First he revealed that the biggest hurdle for creatives is “your fucking ego”.  The key to being a good creative is to let go of that ego. Many people would feel discouraged to be placed on an account that sells Windex as opposed to Nike shoes, but Wong argues that just because something hasn’t been done, doen’t mean it can be done. In fact, that is exactly how accounts such as Nike become so successful; they did something that had never been done before and it worked better than they ever could have imagined.

Then he estimated that about 99% of any great idea is strategy, which is where account managers and planners come in. Something that alot of creatives forget is that, “this is not art, this is commerce artfully told.” Once you have a solid strategy, all you need is that two-foot putt to get that last 1%.

Wong continued by explaining that the greatest creative weapon is one’s ears. He stressed that listening is easily the hardest part for any creative, but it is important to understand that, “knowledge talks, wisdom listens.” The difference between an open mind and an empty mind is that an open one might be filled to the brim with absolute shit, where an empty mind will accept other possibilities. An example of this can be seen in a campaign to help blue collar workers quit smoking, where they realized that this demographic was sick and tired of ads telling them to quit. They realized the only person to make them quit was themselves and this what they came up with:

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So, creatives need to be able to embrace compromise. When you refrain from fighting with he client, you give yourself much more time to work with the client and collaborate on a project that neither could have imagined possible.

By engaging in the democracy of good ideas, a group of people are able to create something incredible. Wong believes that, “anything is possible as long as no one cares who gets the credit.” Everyone wants to hold on tight to their own specific ideas, but that limits the potential of the whole group to create something special.

Finally, he closed on the secret to guarantee how to sell great work: “Love your client like you love your dog.” If the client sees that you are upset, they will shoot down any idea you have regardless of what it actually is. If the client doesn’t trust that you are on the same page, they will never trust you. Wong clarifies this by pointing out that, “listening creates trust which kills fear.”

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