Be Fearless Or Be Forgotten

Advertising isn’t for the faint of heart. Ad people need to be fearless or be forgotten.

Howard Davidson Advertising

Think about everything you know about advertising. We wage campaigns; so did Caesar and Patton. We invade homes like cat burglars and plan like Hannibal Smith (and don’t we LOVE when a plan comes together!).

And none of that does any good if we aren’t being seen.

According to IFLscience.com (and we FL IFLscience.com!), 2.5 quintillion bytes of content a day is posted to the Internet. How much is that? Well, 90% of the data humans have ever generated has been generated since 2016. Shakespeare? Thomas Jefferson? Erica Jong? Pfft.

So knowing that, you will be heartened, as was I, to learn about Jade Delaney, also known as #FearlessGirlBristol. Delaney, you see, was fearless in her quest to find employment fresh out of school as an ad copywriter.

So she did what no copywriter had done before. She painted herself up like Jill Masterson in GOLDFINGER and sent a LinkedIn message to McCann Bristol managing director Andy Reid advising him to look out his window for a fearless girl (like the statue in New York’s financial district) “adorned in gold” who would make a difference in advertising. It worked. She got the interview. Then her portfolio got her the job.

In advertising, we make pitches, we cold call prospects, we go to ad functions, we buy email lists. It’s all for naught if we don’t get the prospect’s attention. The great advertising copywriter and creative director, Bill Bernbach explained it plainly: “In advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal.”

The worst that could have happened to Jade Delaney is that nobody at McCann Bristol would have seen her. But you know what? Nobody had seen her, anyway. She had nothing to lose. Frank Miller, the creator of SIN CITY and 300, once wrote the following advertising line when he was creating comic books: “If you intend to die, you can do anything.” Not getting a job? That’s like dying. Not selling a product? That IS dying.

So when I start to work on a project, I remember first and foremost that I have to break through in order to have a chance. Yes, it’s true that, if you don’t ask, the answer is no. But it’s more true that if you don’t get anybody’s attention, you won’t have a chance to achieve your goal. There’s a reason we have lighthouses and not just a small sign at harbor entrances.

Big gestures break through. Even people who never saw SAY ANYTHING remember the image of John Cusack holding a boombox over his head to win back the woman he loved. Even people who never watched a baseball game know Babe Ruth, who pointed to centerfield in the World Series to tell the opposing pitcher where he was going to put the ball. Actresses show up at the Academy Awards dressed to stand out, not fit in. That’s for seat-fillers.

(Hey, sometimes rich guys even shoot sports cars into orbit.)

In advertising, be fearless. Break through the clutter. Because if you’re going to avoid winding up in the email junk box with the other 269 billion emails sent today, being lost among the 656 million tweets, or unwatched among the nearly 6 billion YouTube videos looked at today, you have to stand out. As Seth Godin points out, “By definition, remarkable things get remarked upon.” In advertising, if you’re not remarked upon, you don’t exist.

Jade Delaney, if you’re out there reading this, best of luck (not that you probably need it). And that goes for the rest of you, too. After you read this, do something to stand out. Paint your front door purple. Wear a suit made out of duct tape. Turn your online portfolio into a game show. Do what David Bowie did and promise to not be boring.

Howard Davidson

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