Creativity is counterintuitive. You hate it when you are handcuffed and expected to do your best work, but the secret of doing your best work is to be handcuffed. Creative restraints bring out the best in you.
When Sean Jones sold controlling interest in Spence Diamonds a number of years ago, I left that company when he did, just as I left when Dewey Jenkins sold his company two weeks ago.
My relationship is always with the business owner, never with the company. Here’s why: a brand without trust is just a product, and a product can be replaced. To become truly trusted, you have to forge a bond with the customer.
People don’t bond with corporations. People bond with people.
I am a better-than-average ad writer,
(1.) because I cheat.
(2.) because I don’t fight the handcuffs.
This is how I cheat:
(1.) I never work with a person unless I really enjoy talking with them. My relationship with that person is the source of my inspiration. How can I make the world love and trust someone if I don’t love and trust them myself?
(2.) My new friend must have unconditional authority to say “absolutely yes” without having to check with someone else. Anything with two heads is a monster.
(3.) Their company must be operationally excellent. Great ads won’t grow a broken business.
(4.) The product or service they sell must have a solid profit margin and a long purchase cycle. A short profit margin is the father, and a short purchase cycle is the mother, of every twitchy little bastard that has ever been born.
I hit home runs because I never swing at a pitch that is not in my sweet spot. Ad writing isn’t like baseball. A baseball batter gets to look at only 6 pitches – 2 strikes and 4 balls – before they have to leave the batter’s box. But the independent ad writer doesn’t face a pitch count. You can wait for the perfect opportunity that is in the center of your happy little sweet spot.
The crack of the bat shatters the crystal silence as the adrenaline pumps the crowd screaming to their feet the ball arcs through space toward a little boy in the seventh row who has been waiting patiently all day with his baseball glove.
Your sweet spot may be different than mine. This just means you have a different superpower.
The secret of success is to know your superpower.
I promise you have one. It doesn’t matter that you’re not an ad writer, you have a superpower! If you don’t know what it is, ask the people who know you best.
So now you know how I cheat.
I mentioned a second thing that makes me a better-than-average ad writer: I don’t fight the handcuffs. Yes, I scream at the handcuffs, I mourn the day they were born and I suggest to the handcuffs that they do things that are not anatomically feasible, but then I calm down and pretend they are cuff links and that I am the kind of guy who wears cuff links.
A few months ago Sean Jones asked me to meet the new CEO of Spence Diamonds. His name is Callum Beveridge. Callum flew to Austin and we spent a couple of days together and I really like him. When he asked me if I could bring back the magic of the old Spence Diamonds radio campaign. I told him that it would be impossible because Sean Jones was no longer available as a voice actor. Any attempt to bring that campaign back to life without its principal character would be like trying to swim the English Channel wearing handcuffs. It would impossible.
Callum reminds me of Dewey Jenkins. Both of them, when I said, “It’s impossible,” asked me the same innocent question: “Well, if it could be done and you were going to do it, how would you go about it?”
“Well, Callum, the only way would be to use Sean Jones as a character that never appears on-stage. Conversations with him would always have to take place off-stage. The first time I saw this done was when I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Asimov brings you time and again to the edge of a climactic moment, then you turn the page and that event is now in the past. All the action took place off-stage! We saw a similar thing in that TV series with Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I. Magnum was the head of security at an estate owned by Robin Masters, whom we never once saw or even heard speak, so Magnum gets his instructions from the never-seen Robin Masters through Higgins, the butler. Hey Callum! We should do that! Sean Jones will be the never-seen Robin Masters, you’ll be Magnum, and Higgins will be my partner Michael Torbay! And we’ll bring back the old Spence scream of joy, but with a twist! This is going to be awesome!”
Callum said, “Okay, let’s do that.”
It worked like magic when Isaac Asimov did it in his books.
It worked like magic when Magnum P.I. did it on TV.
And it’s working like magic on the radio in Canada.
MICHAEL: Do you remember Sean Jones? [SFX – Scream of joy]
I am his executive assistant. My name is Michael.
CALLUM: And I’m Callum Bev-
MICHAEL: [Cutting him off] Not yet, Callum. I’ll tell you when.
CALLUM: [Big, Audible Sigh]
MICHAEL: If you have been wondering what Sean Jones has been doing –
and you probably haven’t – he has been searching the
entire world for the perfect person to run Spence Diamonds.
CALLUM: Do I talk now Michael?
MICHAEL: [aside] Not yet, Callum. I’ll tell you when.
[speaking again to the audience] And we finally found the perfect person… in Scotland.
MICHAEL: Yes. And be sure to sound Scottish.
CALLUM: I have some questions for Mr. Jones.
MICHAEL: Okay, Callum. What is your first question?
CALLUM: I have noticed that our diamonds at Spence shine brighter
and have more sparkle than other diamonds. Why is that? I need to understand.
MICHAEL: Callum, that is an excellent question and I will get back to you
with a detailed answer from Mr. Jones. In the meantime, I need you to practice something.
CALLUM: Okay, what is it?
MICHAEL: [Michael does a good imitation of the Spence Scream of Joy.] Now you do it.
CALLUM: [Callum does his best to imitate what Michael has done.]
MICHAEL: You keep practicing that, and I’ll get back to you.
LOCATION TAG – DEVIN: Spence [Devin does his best Scream of Joy, then adds the location.]
Like I said, “I cheat.”
Roy H. Williams
PS – I think the reason I thought about Magnum P.I. is because the never-seen Robin Masters owned a fabulous estate in Hawaii and the never-seen Sean Jones does, too. Magnum P.I. aired on Thursday nights on CBS from 1980 to 1988. It was one of the highest-rated shows on television.
General Electric stood as a beacon of American manufacturing for more than a century. It was once the most valuable U.S. corporation; its logo emblazoned on tens of thousands of products from light bulbs to nuclear power plants. Last week GE announced it would spin out its remaining operations into three separate companies, in effect, the end of General Electric as we once knew it. What went wrong? And what can today’s business owners and leaders learn from the fall of the once-great General Electric? Gary Hoover of the American Business History Center is roving reporter Rotbart’s special guest this week. He delivers a fascinating and colorful interview at MondayMorningRadio.com