A Manifesto for Professional Progress

A long time ago now, I was going to university for design and photography. In addition to my intellectual, creative and conceptual skill pursuits, I wanted to learn as much from the “masters” of design and design thinking; not just the principles, but the philosophy as well. My journey brought me to a designer named Bruce Mau; a man who started in design but broadened his application to focus on architecture and philosophy. Mau developed a set of principles in the late nineties called, “The Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.” The list of principles and guidance made its rounds in the design community and ultimately to me. I was so inspired by  his humility and direction, I never forgot them.

More presently, I have made my own manifesto for professional progress; a list of directional thoughts, axioms and inspirational ideas of things I’ve learned throughout my career. This manifesto is meant to direct and inspire; a living, breathing list to light the way as I continue down my professional path. 

ebreakdown incomplete photo

Part of this exercise is share and inspire others through stories and creativity. As a result, I give you my Manifesto for Professional Progress:  

  • Always Bring A Notebook: Take notes, turn the page, repeat. Doesn’t matter if you don’t go back to read them, at least you have your thoughts captured so you can go on to the next
  • Keep Creating: Creativity broadens the mind and soul; offers new avenues and a refreshed perspective
  • Listen Loudly: Intently and without compromise, always listen to what people are saying. You will never learn anything new from others if you’re always the one speaking.
  • Allow The World To Change You: There are so many perspectives, experiences and events outside of your bubble, allow those to change you, your thoughts, perceptions and beliefs – it’s the path to growth. 
  • Go In Uncomfortable Directions: The path unknown is more interesting than the one you always follow. Being uncomfortable means, you’re tuning into something new and that is progress.
  • Debate: But Don’t Argue: The civil act of debate, the sharing of ideas and perspective is essential to progress as a person, but make sure you’re not just arguing and that you’re allowing and recognizing a different perspective. 
  • Embrace The Passion: If you leave your passion at the door, then you’re always going to leave yourself behind
  • Do A Dance: Sometimes you just have to let it out, even if you look like a fool, you may inspire others. Don’t take things too seriously. 
  • Forget Process. Start Anywhere: Don’t get stuck in process. Start where you think you should start; progress is individualistic. 
  • Close Your Eyes: Take a pause, close your eyes, think; progress doesn’t need to be evergreen. 
  • Shower Daily: Routine Is important: You can’t move forward smelling like that, can you? 
  • Wake Up Early; Find Quiet Time: Start each day as early as you can but take a moment to appreciate the new day in all its grandeur and to listen to your thoughts for the day.   
  • Push The Convention: Just because everyone did it that way, doesn’t mean you should. Try new things and push against what has always been done; progress doesn’t exist if we don’t move beyond what has always been done.
  • Use A New Framework; Make Your Own: Don’t always follow the rules, find a new way of thinking. 
  • Work A Late Night Once A Month: Something special happens when we’re sleep deprived and under the gun.
  • Work Smarter Not Harder: Don’t work as hard as you can, work as smart as you can. People notice when you figure out ways to work more efficiently and productively. Additionally, working harder leads to stress and stress is not an ally for any type of work. 
  • Always Tell Stories: Knowing where to go means you need to know where you came from. People like to know how you got to a conclusion; they like to know how you got there. 
  • Free Flow Ideas: A river carves out its own path; you never know where your ideas will take you, flow with the current
  • Forget About Clichés: They’re so old-fashioned.
  • Be You: Like no one else can.

Notable Advertising and Marketing Quotes – Part 2

Previously, I wrote a blog post with some of my thoughts about advertising and marketing that I had posted to Twitter. With anyone in the industry, we all have opinions and best practices or even mantras about the world of advertising. That being said, here is round two of that thinking, or more to the point, my thinking, thoughts and learnings about the industry and creativity.

What are your thoughts?

The #KingJames #HardWorkTogether Nike Spot Needs a Better Insight

Nike Basketball, in partnership with Wieden+Kennedy, released a LeBron James comeback spot titled, “Together”. It is an “emotional” spot depicting King James’ return to the city of Cleveland. It has been getting a lot of PR and positive reviews lately, especially in the creative industry. Where it is an emotion-provoking spot, beautifully crafted, I began to wonder if the insight was correct.

Let’s take a step back in time. Back in 2010, LeBron “announced” to the world that he was leaving Cleveland to join the Heat in Miami. LeBron’s ego-driven press conference was not well received, to stay the least, in Cleveland. You even had the owner of the Cavs, Dan Gilbert, say that LeBron’s actions were a “cowardly betrayal” and went on to say, “the good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.” These are pretty heated words born out of a lot of negativity, disappointment, disgrace and betrayal. We all began to wonder if Cleveland would ever want a part of LeBron again.

Now, without going too far into LeBron’s resigning with the Cavs, I think it’s more important to note the negative sensitivity that existed in Cleveland only four years ago. Now, in 2014, all of a sudden it is the “return.” LeBron is welcomed back with open arms by the city he put behind him in the most publicly and somewhat humiliating way? That being said, let’s look at the spot.

Hard work, together. It’s an inspiring and hopeful phrase. The film depicts the entire city coming together and building themselves to a hopeful epoch. It’s the Hope campaign all over again. As I watched this and I remember the past, and as a strategist who prides himself on human truths, I wonder if “Hope” and “Togetherness” was the right idea for the insight. Or, more specifically, I wonder if the insight was correct.

LeBron Together Spot - Nike - Arena

To me, this whole “return” is more dramatic than simply positivity and hope. It’s more than holding our hands and singing kumbaya. It’s more than just the gritty black and white film, it’s more than just giving back to a city that was once destroyed by an ego. And it’s way more than just showing people coming together. To me, the insight is more about the prodigal son returning.

The age old story about a son who disavowed everything and everyone who helped raise him. It’s a story about not being mature and only realizing that once he is out in the world. It’s more about coming home and being humble. It’s about being more than just a star, it’s about giving back, making amends and more so, it’s not about playing a game of basketball to ask for forgiveness.

Together also reminds me of another spot, “Made in New York featuring Derek Jeter. This was a film right on message. It conveyed the true feeling New Yorkers and all those who love baseball had about Jeter. It summarized his character and how the city, how the world truly felt about the man, then the sport. It wasn’t about ego, it was about thanking people.

Just as much as the Gatorade ad, the Together spot is beautifully crafted, it does have the “goose bump inducing” feeling. The ad has a grit to it, it has a feeling of truth and it has an emotive undertone. But the message of Hard Work, Together is about a city rising from the ashes, not about an NBA star telling them how to do so.

#Burberry’s Global Christmas Campaign is Beautiful, But Needs Some Refinement

Burberry has just launched their first global Christmas campaign. The campaign launched with a four-minute spot featuring Romeo Beckham, yes, the son of David and Victoria. Additionally, it features a new audio track from Ed Harcourt which will be released in December. As far as we know so far, since this is just the launch of the campaign, “the campaign will include outdoor, cinema, and social media advertising to generate interest in Burberry.”

Now, you assumed that Burberry typically does Christmas campaigns and they do, but what is different is this one is global. Yes, that was a bit redundant for me to say, however, coming from my experience working on global accounts, I want to talk about how global campaigns are somewhat difficult to undertake. Firstly, when creating global campaigns, relevancy in all markets (or a select few primary focus markets) is essential. Music choice, voice-overs, time and more importantly message is important as well. Global campaigns are extremely complex, expensive, highly criticized and difficult to produce.

It’s not my place to tell Burberry what to do with their first global campaign, nor is it my place to assume what their global objectives are. However, what I can do is review the creative from the lens of my experience on global accounts and my experience working in advertising.

Burberry Christmas

It’s beautiful, but needs some refinement.

  • The Idea: Let’s start with what I assume the idea is, “Christmas is the time for love and giving.” Christmas is also the time for the enjoyment of idealism and merriment which can be transcribed into song and dance. Christmas is tough, it’s tough to differentiate yourself within the Christmas season, especially if you are a clothing retailer. The campaign does feel a bit scripted and predictable, however, the song and dance is a nuance that not all brands can leverage or, furthermore, own.
  • Music: The new track by Ed Harcourt is brilliant. It captures the essence of the Christmas season and the feeling of idealism and love. However, it doesn’t feel as though it “fits” with visuals. There are some relevant cuts and timing with the dance and the storyline, but all in all, the track feels a bit forced to be a part of the story. At times, the music with the spot feels as though they are two disparate pieces of creative jammed together; less of a solution and more like a suspension. Additionally, I’m not sure why the track is not available until December. It would make sense to release the track at the same time of the campaign launch.
  • Choreography: “Burberry used 50 dancers who perform a dance inspired by classic musical films in front of theatrical London street background.” The choreography is beautifully done and expertly timed. Along with stubble cinematic undertones and perfectly timed cuts and pans (timed according to the dance, not the music), it almost appears that it’s out of a Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly film, or better yet, an early 20th Century stage performance.
  • Art Direction: First off, Burberry did not disappoint with the art direction. They have always been at the top of their game when it comes to finely crafted spots, beautiful tones and color, and the perfect balance of product and lifestyle. This spot almost feels as though it’s a print ad, Burberry print ad come to life. The look and feel of Christmas does come out, however subtly. Christmas is a magical time of celebration and merriment, regardless of which religion you are apart of. The snow showers and the dancing in the snow whilst wearing Burberry coats and scarves perfectly encapsulates Christmas from a Burberry point of view. All in all, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate the art direction in this film.
  • Four Minutes: I’ve experienced this time and time again, the four-minute “film” on YouTube. I understand that this is more of a music video, more of a campaign launch film than a TVC. However, as marketers, we do have to understand the consumer and determine whether or not one has the time to sit through at four minute film on YouTube. According to Google, after the first 15 seconds of every video on YouTube, that’s when viewers are most likely to drop off. That being said, there’s something to be said about crafting great pieces of art and content. Just as much as we talk about viewership, we also need to keep in mind the types of devices consumers use to watch YouTube videos; there are certain markets in the world where consumers are more likely to watch YouTube on a mobile device than on a laptop. So, who actually watches four minutes on a mobile device when walking around? In the end, let’s keep time in mind when creating spots.
  • Celebrity Casting: Don’t even get me started about celebrity casting. Yes, I see the buzz value in casting a celebrity for a campaign and leveraging their influence to generate buzz and excitement. However, as we have seen in multiple examples including Honda’s latest “Type R” campaign, it’s not entirely necessary. I believe the Burberry Christmas campaign would have the same influence whether or not they casted Romeo Beckham; especially since I just found out he existed. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a cute kid and a “cute kid” works for this execution; just not sure if it was necessary to cast Romeo.
  • Global Relevancy: This is a big one! Now, we haven’t seen a lot of the secondary executions to the spot just yet. They do have some images being leveraged on their Instagram account, but global relevancy is more than just platform activations; especially for a Christmas spot. The subtitle to the campaign is “From London with Love” and that’s all well and good, but London is not the globe; it is a global city, but not necessarily global. How would a market, let’s say, Brazil react to a spot like this? (Especially since during Christmas it’s Summer in Rio). Additionally, we need to look at ethnicity too. This spot is very heavy up on caucasians and doesn’t address the complexity of a diverse set of ethnicities in the world. The campaign is scalable, but not necessarily regionally relevant.


Burberry Romeo Beckham

Overall, it is a great spot, but it is lacking alignment with audio and visual; it really needs some refinement. Perhaps, the fix would be as easy as choose a different audio track to complement astounding visuals? It will be very interesting to see how Burberry runs with this idea in their longer-form campaign. Will there be further owned nuances to the idealism? Will there be more song and dance? Will they focus on giving rather than buying? One thing I do know, Burberry are excellent marketers and I can’t wait to see how they make this a case study that we all will use in the coming year.

Painting: Chicago Creativity Explosion

Twice now I have gone to Chicago and had a creative explosion. No, I’m not talking about meeting up at creative expos, meeting creatives or even taking photographs. I’m talking about painting.

Most times when I’m in Chicago, I like to visit with one of my closest and most cherished friends. She is creative person by nature, as am I. So it’s no wonder that we sometimes just hunker down and start painting.

Painting, for me, is an emotional release; an exploration into myself through color and shape. Since most of us are busy all the time, we really don’t stop, paint and enjoy the process and the outcome.

It’s always a great time seeing her and so amazing to spool up the old creative energy and lay waste to canvas. So, with that said, I have some pics here to share with you.

An item of note: I didn’t actually finish any paintings, but that’s fine. Also, in one of the photographs is one of her paintings. I feel like I should say that so as not to take ownership of her creativity.