Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Patton must have worked in advertising

General George S. Patton must have worked in advertising, because he said, “Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy.” And it's true. People never see your strategy. They see an ad. Or experience a website. Or hear a radio spot. And if it's clever or exciting or emotional, they'll connect with it. Maybe Patton was having lattes with Mike Lescarbeau and Luke Sullivan and overheard them say that big ideas are like nuclear bombs, in that neither has to land precisely on target to work.

Joseph Stalin must have worked in advertising, because he said, "Quantity has a quality all of its own." And it's true. If try to come up with one big idea, it'll probably take you two weeks to do it. And it'll be terrible. But if you dare yourself to have 50 ideas, they effortlessly pour from your brain onto paper and at least a couple are always, always brilliant.

Robert Kaplan must have worked in advertising, because he wrote that the battlefield is more intellectually stimulating than the Potomac, because "ideas can only be tested through application." And it's true. There are people working in the advertising industry who position themselves as "strategic thinkers" purely because they don't have any actual skills. Fuck 'em and their ability to work phrases like "30,000 foot view" into everyday conversations. Nobody lives at 30,000 feet. Spend all your time up there and the lack of oxygen will fry your brain. If an insight doesn't lead to a great execution, get a new insight.

Napoleon Bonaparte must have worked in advertising, because he said, "The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation." And it's true. Lots of people have good ideas. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways for those ideas to die. A great creative knows that coming up with an idea is only the first step. Then you have to sell it and watch it die and be willing to go back to the well over and over again until you find an idea that lives. And then you have to tirelessly pursue your idea through revisions and updates and productions and post-productions. Napoleon must have traded text messages with Paul Arden just after he wrote, "Energy is 99% of the job. If you haven't got it, be nice."

Or maybe none of them worked in advertising. Maybe advertising just feels a lot like war.

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