My Dad always told me that “you can’t always guarantee you’ll be the smartest person in the room, but you can always make sure you’re the nicest person in the room.”
Luckily for my Dad, he’s frequently the smartest person in the room too. So it’s a bit easier for him to say it.
But it’s a mantra I’ve always been enamoured by. Particularly so when working in advertising.
Advertising is all about relationships. The relationships you have with customers. The relationships you have with clients. The relationships you have with each other.
Yet too often in the advertising industry I see people hellbent on appearing to be the most important person in the room — at any cost.
Which, in reality, seems to simply mean being the loudest and last voice you hear in a meeting.
These people are rarely the nicest person in the room. And often they wear this as a badge of honour.
You get the Creative Directors who enjoy being the person ‘you don’t want to anger — but leave them alone and they’ll come up with something magic.’ You get the suit who will win a new piece of business and take pride in pissing everyone off along the way. There are the strategists who take a quiet (or sometimes not so quiet) pride in confusing the process just to prove their elevated academic acumen.
I accept the need for mavericks. I accept they can be difficult at times. I accept the creative process isn’t linear. And often it’s important to challenge a brief, challenge a theory and challenge conventions.
But I also believe that there are many, many exceptions to the aforementioned set of personas. I believe you can be challenging without being an arsehole. And I believe that our industry is full of those people who are often the smartest and nicest people in the room.
These are the people I want to learn off. These are the people I want leading our industry. These are the people I want to sit down with, have a beer and discuss the future. Because they’d do it in a way that’s free from ego but full of insight.
So that’s what I’m doing. Taking a list of people who inspire me, contacting them and seeing if they fancy a drink and a chat. It’s as simple as that.
The criteria to choose these people is fourfold:
They have a genuine passion for the industry and those who work in it
They’re respected for their craft and are leaders in their field
They have insights, opinions and experience we can learn from
They’re the type of person you wouldn’t mind meeting outside of the office
The conversations you’ll read are taken pretty much verbatim. I know we’re in an era of ‘snackable content’, but sometimes it takes a long read to really delve deep into someone else’s world.
I’ll meet people from all parts of the world we call advertising. From creative heroes to agency founders, media chiefs to industry hacks. We’ll find out from Creature’s Dan Shute and Adam & Eve’s Ben Priest what it really feels like the day you open your own agency. Copy guru Vikki Ross will tell you why you really should respect your Copywriter a little bit more. And Twitter’s David Wilding will reveal the tweeters we all should be following. That’s before we’ve got to Amelia Torode, Pete Edwards, Mel Exon, Jonathan Harman, and a whole lot more.
This is only the beginning. I aim to meet and learn from as many lovely and smart industry people as possible, until I’ve pestered them all so much they stop taking my calls. And I’ll publish the conversations here on a fortnightly basis, broken down into topic areas so you can skip to the bits that really interest you.
I hope you find each and every one as inspiring and entertaining as I do.