English is a tough language. We’re very content oriented. But we were struck recently when we were satisfied with some new content that we felt content with. To Paul’s Norwegian, French, Spanish and Japanese students it just doesn’t make sense that those two words have totally different meanings. Do you marvel at language? Or just try to make sense of it?
The best thing about partnerships is the bounce. Bill Bernbach understood this when he created the idea of creative teams—copywriters and art directors working together. It’s a 1+1=3 proposition. Bouncing ideas creates more of them. Two heads are better than one. And the critique from the team is lots easier than editing oneself. Do you partner up in your projects for bigger, better ideas for business—and other endeavors?
Your team is only as strong as its weakest link. We’ve seen it time and again when making or judging new business pitches. There was one company we worked with where the weakest link—in that case the creative guy —stood up and said “and now the good part.” He not only submarined a brilliant strategic set up from the account planner, he also sunk the agency’s chances of winning the business. There’s an old poker expression that says, “If you can’t spot the turkey at the table in the first 15 minutes…it’s you.” How do you identify and manage your weakest links?
Not so long ago in the TV biz we talked about appointment viewing (i.e. tune in to Friends and Seinfeld on Thursday nights). But today, media is all about personal networks. Audiences can pretty much watch what they want when they want—on demand, on Hulu, Netflix and scores of other vehicles. When the burden on content is that the audience can opt-in, the content has got to be outstanding. The good news is there is lots of great content out there. The question is what do you program (regardless of the message or the medium) and how do you inspire your audience to select your content?
Steve’s on the road 70 days a year or so. He only needs two things to make his trips enjoyable: The daily NY Times and a movie theater that shows independent films. Those two criteria, however, separate the “nice, little towns” from the “small towns.” When last we checked, he was driving around the wilds of Arkansas and southern Missouri looking for both. What are your minimum standards?
There seems to be no bottom to reality TV shows. In fact, some of the more obscure ones even require subtitles so you can understand the regional English. We always wondered who these people are and then it hit us: Is the issue the content…or the audience? Is there anything you’d be willing to do—or watch—on a reality TV series? What do you have to say about this, Honey Boo Boo?
We’ve never believed in “writer’s block.” Maybe it’s because we were paid to write and were expected to come in every day from 9 to 5 (at least) and produce something. Steve believes what people call “writer’s block” is actually “writer’s logjam.” It’s not a dearth of ideas, it’s too many ideas trying to get out all at once. When young writers come to him and say, “I’m stuck,” Steve sends them back to their office and tells them to write down EVERYTHING that comes into their minds for the next 15 minutes. Song lyrics. Grocery lists. Anything that’s rattling around. Almost invariably, they return to say they’re no longer “stuck.” What do you do to get unstuck?
We were in Macy’s the other day and noticed the names in the boutique men’s section, including Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Bahama. It’s a new classic story: Brand makes good. Builds a reputation for style or quality. And then comes out with a cheaper line in order break into another retailer. Are standards compromised or are more people invited to the fashion party? And what does all this say about the brand?
Steve used to do his best writing between 6am and 10am. After that, almost everything he wrote went into the round file. As a firm rule, he avoided breakfast meetings because they cut into his “creative time.” But over the years his rhythms have changed. And he’s noticed his best work seems to happen between 4 and 10pm. Are you tuned into the rhythms of your work—and how do you take advantage of them?
It’s originally a newspaper word. A pun on “by line.” Meaning either you got your article in on time or you were dead. The story wouldn’t run. We admit that there’s nothing more bracing than a deadline to whip both of us into action and churn out a voluminous amount of work in a short period of time. Do we make it a habit? No. But like a little wasabi, an occasional tight deadline “wakes up the palette” and gets us going. How do you manage deadlines?