This is that awesome rant I told you about in the PS of today’s Monday Morning Memo.
“Leaders and The Committee.” Here’s how you can reach Mick and the rest of the Wizard of Ads Partners.
Mick Torbay: I need to talk to you about leaders and the committee, and what each brings to the table. I’m going to talk about some brands you’ve heard of, and some brands you might have even had some experience with so that you can see what a leader brings to the table, and what a committee will do with that.
The first one I’m going to talk about is myspace. Myspace was built over ten years, back in 2003. Myspace’s original president was Tom Anderson. You might even have been friends with Tom at one point in your life. By 2005, myspace had gained popularity amongst teenagers and young adults. By February of 2005, myspace met with Mark Zuckerberg about acquiring Facebook. Zuckerberg wanted 75 million for Facebook; myspace turned him down. 75 million was too much money for this stupid thing called Facebook that nobody cared about.
[00:01:00] In July of 2005, myspace was a hot commodity. Viacom and the News Corporation were in a bidding war for myspace. At the time it was the world’s leading social media platform. News Corporation, the parent company of Fox Broadcasting won that bidding war and they bought myspace for 580 million dollars.
Now they (myspace) had the backing of one of the world’s largest media organizations and a team of the world’s top minds running the show. In 2006, myspace surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States. I’m going to say that again because it’s kind of important. In 2006, myspace was bigger than Google. Are you with me?
In 2009, Tom [Anderson] was gone and Facebook overtook myspace as the leading social networking site. News Corporation sold myspace in 2012 for 35 million dollars. I call that a bit of a hit. Myspace ranked number 1,296th most popular website in America; that was back in February of 2015. That was the last year I have good data for.
[00:02:00] Mark Zuckerberg is a leader. News Corporation is a committee. How did one man’s vision beat the best minds in the world? Here are some reasons: myspace was open. You could dress up your page, make it look like anything. Facebook didn’t allow customized pages. You page had to look just like everyone else’s. Myspace saw that as a liability. Facebook demanded honesty. They didn’t allow fake names, nicknames, or BS. You actually had to be the person you claimed to be. If they thought you were faking it, they’d cancel your account. If you opened up an account and called yourself Captain Electron they’d turn you off. Thus, only Facebook could provide users with a real connection to real people. Myspace was full of fakes, phonies, and frauds. Myspace gave you anonymity. Facebook demanding honesty. Myspace was a fantasy world, and Facebook was real. Real matters.
[00:03:00] Where did people gravitate to? Facebook was restrictive. That’s how they started. They didn’t let just anybody in. At first, you had to be a Harvard student. Then they allowed other colleges in the Boston area. Then the Ivy League. Gradually all colleges were invited. Eventually, high school students. In short, they dared to piss people off. “No, you can’t come. This isn’t for you. You can’t do it your way. You have to do it our way.” The committee would never have gone for this, but you see, Facebook wasn’t run by a committee. It was run by one guy. This guy, [photo of Zuckerberg] and he’s still in charge, and he’s filthy, stinking rich.
What did the committee over at myspace come up with to beat them? Yep, you guessed it. They came up with this. Innovative isn’t it? Yeah, really exciting. Was it enough to save them? No. People knew it wasn’t real. It was a move to the middle. “It’s kind of like myspace, but it’s also kind of like Facebook.” The committee to the rescue once again! So do you want to be myspace or do you want to be Facebook? Do you dare stand up to the committee?
You need to understand something. The committee is not evil. The committee doesn’t want you to fail. The committee has nothing but good intentions, but the committee can’t innovate. More than anything the committee wants to look good to the rest of the committee. The committee is afraid of looking stupid.
[00:04:00] Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid of looking stupid. He put his new invention, the Macintosh, completely unproven, on TV during the Super Bowl. The committee can only spot problems, downsides, possible pitfalls, but the committee can’t invent the iPod; for that you need a leader, so don’t be surprised that when you present a really, really great idea to a committee, the only thing you’re going to get is a reason why that idea won’t work. One reason for every member of the committee. The committee will always pull you to the center. The committee will help you avoid risks, but you see risk and reward are two sides of the same coin. If you avoid risk, then huge success now is out of the question. Are you okay with that?
Myspace and Facebook; one guided by the committee and one by a leader. Myspace had all the money and all the talent in the world, and Facebook told the committee to fuck off.
Let’s talk about leadership, Apple, and the committee. Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. You’ve heard two of those names before. Mr. Wayne sold his shares back to the other two for $800. It’s interesting to note he thought he was getting the better deal out of that.
[00:05:00] In December of 1979, Steve Jobs went to visit Xerox. Apple wasn’t in the photocopying business after all. That’s when he saw something called the Alto. It had a graphical user interface, and that was it. Steve Jobs was convinced that all the computers in the world would one day use a graphical user interface. The design teams at Apple started working on two ideas. The Lisa and the Macintosh. Jobs was in charge of the Mac project. The year is 1984 and this video hit.
Apple 1984 TV Ad:
[00:06:00] Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the information purification directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our unification of thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail! On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh, and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.
Mick Torbay: Directed by a committee? Wrong! Directed by Ridley Scott, a leader, someone with vision, someone who dares to not put the client’s name in the first seven seconds of the ad. But like many companies, Apple got too big, and big ideas scare the committee. In 1985, one year later, the board of directors fired Steve Jobs from his own company. He wasn’t listening to the committee anymore. By 1989, sales were falling, the stock price had dropped by 20%. Does anybody remember the name of the guy who was running Apple at the time? Yeah, me neither. That’s kind of the point.
[00:07:00] Today we refer to the two big computer platforms as Mac or PC, but those of you who are old enough will remember that we didn’t call them PCs back in the 90s, we called them IBM compatibles or IBM clones. The clones were everywhere; they were cheap, and they could do almost everything a Mac could do because they ran windows, which was a knockoff, a clone, if you will, of the Macintosh graphical user interface.
[00:08:00] What did the committee that was now running Apple decide to do? They allowed clones of their computers. Yeah, seriously, there was a time when there was actually Apple clones for a while. The committee will always come up with that idea, by the way, “Look at the leader. Do what he’s doing. Be more like him.” Any committee will arrive at that conclusion because it’s safe, it’s non-innovative. It brings people to the center. No one could be offended by that suggestion. And then, they came up with a new chip, and what do they call it? Power PC! “Yes, if you can’t beat them join them. Call yourself what everybody else is calling themselves. Be inclusive,” that’s what the committee said, and sales fell even farther. Apple was losing money. The only thing that separated them from the competition was the operating system, and they had no new ideas for that. What did they do? They bought a company that was just killing it in OS innovation. That company was called NEXT. It was owned by Steve Jobs. That was the genesis of OS10.
Now, back in the driver’s seat, the first thing Jobs did, he shut down the clones, no Macintosh clones, full stop. They were making money on clones, right? Steve said, “No, were not doing that anymore.” Then, he put another leader in charge of his new product. His name was Jonathan Ive, and his design was called the iMac. They sold 800,000 units in the first five months, and in one product, Apple was back to profitability. Jonathan Ive would go on to design the iPod and the iPhone.
[00:09:00] By the way, do you notice what’s missing on that computer? The iMac has no floppy drive. It was the first computer to do that. The committee would call that crazy, of course, every computer has a floppy drive. Jobs said it didn’t matter. “There’s this thing called the internet. Floppies are old news.” The committee was wrong again. The committee never dares. It never dares. It always criticizes, but it never dares.
[00:10:00] Now the only ones who succeed wildly are those who dare, and you know this. You dared when you started, and now you’re afraid to dare and that’s why you’re not blowing the doors off your industry. If you want blazingly huge results, you are going to have to dare, and the committee has put its foot down, “No daring. Not for you. Not anymore. Too risky.” Do you want to be 1980s Apple, the committee that brought you to Apple 2FX, the LC, the LC3, the Quadra, the Centris, the Proforma, and of course, the clones, or do you want to be 2000’s Apple with a leader rather than a committee, the one with the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone? This is what leadership gets you. [photo of a crowded Apple store] This is what a committee will come up with. [photo of an empty Microsoft store] “Great idea Microsoft! No words; just the logo. No racks of products, just flat wooden tables. Brilliant. How did you ever come up with this amazing idea, Microsoft?” But you see you are not fooled are you? Walk into any mall and tell me which one is the busy store. You can’t expect the committee to actually create something new. You can only expect the committee to tell you what you already know, and that’s that doing something different is risky. “Don’t do it; you might fail.”
The Apple store is real. The Microsoft store is a clone, and everyone can see that. Real matters. Who is the committee? It’s not a nefarious gang of evildoers. The committee cares about you. The committee has only your best interest in mind. The committee wants you to succeed. The committee is your family, your friends, your receptionist, your colleague, your husband, your mother-in-law. The committee is everyone you run ideas by. If you run your ideas by one person, one single person, congratulations, you have a committee working to pull you to the center. The bigger the committee the less progress you can make, the fewer risks you’ll take, and the less likely you be to move the ‘Who-gives-a-shit meter.’ Mediocrity is now assured. It cannot go any other way.
Old Spice Body Wash TV ad:
Hello ladies. Look to your man; now back to me. Now, back at your man; now back to me. Sadly he isn’t me, but if he stopped using lady scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me. Look down; back up. Where are you? You’re on a boat with a man your man could smell like. What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it. It’s an oyster with two tickets to that thing you love. Look again. The tickets are now diamonds. Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady. I’m on a horse.
Mick Torbay: Now, if you’re like me, you watched this and you knew that someone skipped the committee. The committee would never have approved anything like this. Two guys, Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of ad agency Wieden and Kennedy, came up with this idea, but make no mistake, it’s not just a great idea, it’s strategic.
[00:12:00] The problem: women buy the soap in the family; men wash with whatever is in the shower, so they needed to ask the women to stop buying their men lady-scented body wash and switch to Old Spice. This commercial was completely on brand, on message, pushed every limit, and broke every rule of advertising. Now, just imagine what the committee would have said. “Does he have to be topless? It’s very intimidating.” Remember, this is the perfect specimen of human maleness, shirtless, confident, looking straight into the camera, and he’s hitting on your wife! Don’t you think somebody on the committee would have asked that they tone it down a bit? You see, there was no committee. That’s how you get something awesome.
[00:13:00] “Hello ladies…” “That just seems off to me. We’re a male-focused company. Why don’t you speak to the men themselves? I like the rest. I like everything about this. Could you just you make it, ‘Hey guys, I’ve got something to say about Old Spice body wash…” Get the client’s name right into the first seven seconds. That’s the rule right? No! We’re daring to talk to the women. Men want to be this guy. Women want to be with this guy. The product is the conduit from one to the other. That’s the whole point. “I’m on a horse…” “Kind of falls flat with me. It really just doesn’t go anywhere. I think what we need here … I like everything else, I like everything else… What I think need here is a call to action. Everything is good, but can you just replace ‘I’m on a horse,’ which just doesn’t seem to make sense and it’s kind of boring, kind of just stops, gets in the way. Can we change that to something like, ‘Get some Old Spice body wash today!’ Call to action. That’s what you need to have.”
That would have been the easiest thing to do, right? “I’m on a horse.” The committee would have killed the best part of the commercial, the part everyone remembers, the part everyone repeats, the part that doesn’t belong, but fits. The most confusing part of the commercial. You know it, and I know it. The committee would have seen to it that it never happened. Now, they could have shot the whole thing on a sound stage, or better yet, they could have done it all with CGI, but they didn’t.
Video showing exactly how the Old Spice ad was shot:
[inaudible 00:14:01]. The tickets are now done. [inaudible 00:13:52]. Guys, keep rolling.
Mick Torbay: The man you man could smell like has a name. It’s Isaiah Mustafa. They did 67 takes before they got it right. It had to be real. Consumers can smell pretense. The committee wants it done cheap, but you see in this case, they didn’t actually know if they’d get it until they got it. Real matters.
The Wizard of Ads partners are leaders by definition. Exclusive, restrictive. Go ahead, ask if you can become a Wizard of Ads partner. The answer: no. There is no process for application. You can only be invited. There are no followers among the Wizard of Ads partners, but we do have a leader. His singular vision brought us together, hand-selected and carefully vetted to build on his internationally recognized reputation. Roy H. Williams is the author of the New York Times best selling books, the Wall Street Journal’s Business Book of the Year. We are the ones he chose to lead clients beyond the committee.
Wizard of Ads partners are the antidote to the committee. We don’t believe in committees; they are not welcome here. We’re born of Wizard Academy, a real place. Real matters.
[00:15:00] We’re ready to work with you if you’re ready to work with us, but understand, we’ll work with you, but not with your committee. You’re going to have to make a choice because we know the committee will never see possibility. The committee will never see opportunity; only roadblocks. We’re done with the committee.