It’s About Focus

On set and in the stomach with Andre Pontes (Brand Manager), Bob Rice (film director), Tom Ennis (CEO), Greg Yahn  (Chief Marketing Officer), Mike Ginal (Marketing Director) and myself holding giant fake piece of All Natural Oberto Beef Jerky.

On set and in the stomach with Andre Pontes (Brand Manager), Bob Rice (film director), Tom Ennis (CEO), Greg Yahn (Chief Marketing Officer), Mike Ginal (Marketing Director) and myself holding giant fake piece of All Natural Oberto Beef Jerky.

“It makes you sharper.” That’s what my real estate buddy said about operating on the precipice of financial peril. And he’s right. Six months into my new gig, I feel like I have less security and more good ideas, insights and clarity than I have in a decade.

But it’s not about fear, it’s about focus. It’s about waking up every morning knowing exactly what you need to do to be successful. Which, due to a myriad of pressures and influences, is something I believe has largely been lost in the advertising business. I know, because for the last twenty years, I was a perpetual multi-tasker across multiple brands. And here’s what I can tell you—I concentrated more on the big clients than the little ones and my greatest efforts were spent not on the clients we had, but on the ones we didn’t. That’s the way the system was set up. Now, you can say that I was inefficient or that I had my priorities in the wrong place. But the fact is, my behavior was emblematic of what most people do in my role. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who works at a multinational how much of their time the Chief Creative Officer bills. It’ll be somewhere between 200-300%.

It’s an epidemic. And clients are just as much to blame as agencies. You simply can’t ask an agency to participate in a four-month review, where they’re tasked with not with just providing an opinion on a representative business problem, but solving every single issue facing the brand. If you choose to make participating agencies endure this experience at the expense of their paying clients, you should expect them to do the same for another brand less than a year down the road.

On the other hand, my Oberto clients know that while I may field calls from prospective clients, I am not going to spend time actively soliciting them, nor will I “pitch” their business. If you checked my time sheets, this simple act will effectively give me back about half of my man hours. Eliminate commuting, internal staffing issues, performance evaluations, company finance meetings, offsite retreats, email chains and “quick regroups,” and I’ve suddenly got more hours to dedicate to my client in a week than I previously had in a month.

Granted, on any given day, there’s still plenty of multi-tasking. Today I jumped from a website discussion, to brainstorming advertorial piece with Outside Magazine and Horizon Media to writing a radio spot for Pandora. All before noon. The difference, is that all these efforts were focused on a single brand, with one initiative actually helping to inform the thinking on the others. Especially since they all revolve in some way around the new tagline I wrote, “You get out what you put in.” Which means that everything I’m involved with is an opportunity to come up with ideas.

And it’s a funny thing, when you’re bringing your clients ideas rather than simply responding to their requests, they tend to be a lot more interested in what you have to say. Because now, you’re not just an ad guy who spends an alleged portion of his or her time overseeing the creative for their brand. Now, you’re a catalyst. You’re invested, hungry and active. And every brand could use someone like that as part of the marketing team.

Over the years, different companies have consciously or unconsciously placed a value on my involvement in their business. And that value has probably ranged from “Totally expendable” to “Absolutely essential.” Due the emphasis on creativity and longevity of our relationship, I believe ESPN and The State Of California Anti-Tobacco group would both say I was pretty integral to what they were doing. But in the 29 combined years I spent working with them, nobody ever paid me the compliment I received in my fourth month on the job with Oberto. I was walking the halls of their headquarters last week, when a guy who just joined the marketing team stopped me and said, “Nice to meet you. Our CMO says you’re the best hire in the history of the company.”

I could try to convince myself that this response was due to my years of experience or some God-given talent. But if I’m honest, I think it’s because I stopped being an agency CCO and started being someone who rejoices in the fact that, for better or worse, my future is tied to a single ad client. And I’ll be damned if it’s not going to be for better.

It’s time for Positivity.

The world has changed. You hear people in advertising say that a lot. Typically, this proclamation is followed by some diatribe about how social conversations are key to a brand’s success or how real-time analytics are essential for the modern brand. But I believe our world has changed on a more fundamental level than whether Twitter is more “sticky” than cable.

I believe our world used to be about possibility. No dream was too big, no goal too great, no premise too outlandish. But over time, the world changed. “What if?” went from being about possibility to being about risk management. Everyone from lawyers to marketing directors to agency owners started to wonder, “What if the worst case scenario happens?”

And then, they went about protecting themselves.

By copying rather than creating. By saying “yes,” when they desperately wanted to exclaim, “No!” By trying to be something to everyone, rather than everything to someone.

Well, whether it was the twenty years I spent running an agency or all the hour-long discussions I had with marketing director friends about the dysfunction of the system, I decided there had to be a better model. And so, Positivity was born. A place that celebrates the possibilities this world offers and gives a select few brands and studios the opportunity to create work that is compelling and fulfilling on a human level. Stuff that makes people think, feel and buy.

Positivity is designed to have a profound impact on brands without all the usual trappings of a typical client-agency relationship. With Positivity, brands pay for talent and thought leadership rather than overhead and staff who may or may not be the best fit for the immediate task at hand. Spearheaded by myself and my experience building numerous brands, writing movies, TV shows and branded content, we employ a combination of elite talent on a project-by-project basis, according to what each job requires.

In the two years since its launch, Positivity has been directly credited with massive sales, share and velocity gains as proven by Simmons data, Nielsen data and the Effie Awards.

The world has changed. And if you’re someone who’s more taken with potential than precaution, there are a whole lot of possibilities out there. Let’s go seize a few.