I recently had lunch with my roommate from Florida State University – we attended in the mid-70’s – and it was good to reminisce about all that has happened in our careers and life.
The business world has certainly changed since I embarked on an Advertising Agency career on Madison Avenue in New York City, and my roommate at one of the largest advertising agencies in Chicago.
As we pass the 40-year mark in the business, we reflected on lessons learned that perhaps might be worthy of passing on to our kids, and those getting ready to embark on their own personal journey. What indeed were the threads that have run though all the experiences that Jack, and I have had, and the outcomes?
We Leaned In!
From day one, starting with our time at Florida State University and then the advertising program at the University of Illinois, we always strived to do our best, with the intention of succeeding at every phase. There was never a time when we didn’t lean in, focusing on a meaningful outcome. Never has our work been a “series of exercises”. It was always about a designated outcome.
From several internships at advertising agencies as well as the St. Petersburg Times, to graduate school, and then working at some of the most iconic advertising agencies in the world:
- Leo Burnett
- Compton/Saatchi & Saatchi
- Cunningham & Walsh/NW Ayer
- Bozell Jacobs
- Moroch Partners
Everything had purpose. Everything! Two Florida boys who were driven and passionate about making it on the big stage. We both wanted (and needed) “our gigs” to work out! We had no family money to fall back on. If we were going to buy a house, get married, raise a family, we needed a successful career.
So, lean into everything you do, and make it your intention to try everything possible to make “Plan A” work.
Don’t Forget What You Learned Along the Way
Throughout our 40-years, Jack and I always kept our game sharp and current, but never ever forgot the TIMELESS INSIGHTS we learned that are still relevant today. Said differently, keep current, but never assume “old school” is obsolete. One thing for sure, analytics/data will never tell the whole story. Yes, data is an amazing tool to have and use in building a plan, but never forget that every aspect of the customer experience should be part of the toolbox, and perhaps our greatest tool for building a strategically smart communications platform comes from “old school”
Data is data, but it won’t lead you to tell consumers what your business was born to do for them. There is a pure humanly relevant essence to every business – the soul of the company. This is where the ignition point for business marketing lives.
We Knew How to Deliver Regardless of Budget or Size of Agency
When we had our chance, we didn’t make excuses and whine that our hands were tied behind our back. We just made it happen with smart thinking, hard work, and timely collaboration.
The creative work at 78Madison, a small boutique agency in Orlando, Florida is very different than what the agencies that Jack and I worked for in Chicago and New York delivered, yet it is every bit as solid & inspired, if not more so given the size of budgets we typically have to work with. Whether an agency is large or small, the expected outcome is the same – to develop an idea and communicating it in a simple but universal way. It’s about letting a story carry people to the idea, whether using a long-form video, or a design on manhole cover at Ocean Reef Club. Our job is always focused on helping clients find the magic inside their brand.
Katherine Graham was the owner of the Washington Post. One day, a young reporter was complaining to her about how hard a particular story was to investigate & develop. Graham responded, “Yes, I know it’s hard. That’s why these are called jobs, not hobbies.” Think about that quote for a moment, and then consider how it might apply to the gameplan for your career.
My father showed me the meaning of true commitment. From humble beginnings, I watched as he built groundbreaking success as a football coach and educator; a life that valued integrity as much as success. He intently listened to peers, mentors, players, and family, then committed to delivering higher quality and more value year in and year out. It is this foundation, these same principles, which guide us at 78Madison. Every year, there are thousands of choices made at our agency that are driven by just one objective: to let our clients know that we care about their well-being and success. Everyone wins when you start with a dedication to quality.