Any Wednesday: 10 Classic Wisdoms for Creatives and Mad Men

Debbie Millman is invaluable as HOW Leadership program director, identifying and inviting bright thinkers to share their insights at HOW Design Live. More than that, she has a seemingly bottomless well of creative energy and generosity. Hear what she has to say in Atlanta.


As many worn workers will attest, Wednesdays often optimistically signify that the week is halfway done, and the weekend is right around the corner. But from 1980–2003, Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus of DDB Worldwide, made Wednesdays much more than a countdown. Every hump day, Reinhard faxed his employees around the world a single piece of advice about advertising, business or life.

For the first time, Reinhard has collected his “Any Wednesday” memos into a book by the same name, sharing his legendary advice outside the confines of DDB’s walls. To celebrate the book, Print invited Reinhard to compose an Any Wednesday exclusively for our readers, and he created a piece that is currently in our February 2015 issue.

We also asked Reinhard for 10 of his favorite classic “Any Wednesday” memos. They appear below.

—Melissa Mazzoleni

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I disagree with those who say our business isn’t fun anymore.

Having ideas is great fun. Working out an idea with people you like and respect is fun, as each member of the team builds on the idea and brings it to full realization.

HOWSelling an idea is fun. In fact, for a good salesman, the more barriers that lie in the path of a sale, the more fun it is to take on the challenge.

Watching an idea work is fun. Whether a suggestion for improving our own operations, an idea that fills a client’s showroom, or a program that sends a product flying off the grocery shelves, it’s fun to see the results.

Rudiger Reinecke, a former Managing Director of our agency in Bangkok, once told me of a word in the Thai language that, when used in proper context, means both work and play. The word is “ngan,” pronounced “nyahn.” It’s a word that seems perfect for our business.

As in, “Are we all having ngan yet?”

 

 

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u7725Many theories have advanced over the years as to how each of us can release the creative powers stored up inside us. But not enough emphasis has been given to the first rule of creativity:

Be prepared to look foolish.

If you are unwilling to risk derision from those whose conventional wisdom is threatened by your idea, or if you are overly bothered by the snickers of those who take comfort in the tried and true, it’s unlikely you’ll be very creative.

 

 

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When people are feeling down or discouraged after a business or personal setback, I sometimes share a loopy vision of life I’ve used to convince myself that a better day is coming. In fact, I’ve used this scribble to diagram everything from the history of our company to the cycles of a day, a week or a lifetime.

It’s an optimistic, if simplistic, view of life based on a belief that history is an ever-rising roller coaster and that down cycles can create the resolve needed to rise even higher.

Going down can be scary, but without the force created by a fall, there would be no exhilarating rise.

 

 

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Y0058

This comprehensive overview of advertising design strategies helps students and professionals understand how to create ads that cut through the clutter.

An advertising agency, when it is performing as it should, is a lot like an orchestra. It consists of a federation of unique talents, each capable of virtuoso solo performances, but who nonetheless choose to blend their efforts into a more magnificent sound than any of them could produce alone. The spirit of their performance is guided by the selection of tempo.

In an agency, it is the responsibility of management to choose the right tempo and convey it to those who make the “music.”

What is the right tempo for our agency?

Allegro con brio! Quick. Cheerful. With fire and spirit.

 

 

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I was asked to open an important meeting with a few words about creativity and effectiveness. So I wrote a few words—31, to be exact, which made it one of the shortest speeches I’ve ever given:

The artist defines creativity. The audience defines effectiveness.

Therefore:

To be creative, study art. To be effective, study the audience. To be both, study how the audience responds to the art.

 

 

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A panelist at a business conference was a client who had worked with several advertising agencies. He raised a question that bothered me: “Why is the honeymoon between a new client and an agency so short?”

He wondered why agencies soon begin to neglect some of the thoughtful things they do during the courtship and that “honeymoon period.” “They send flowers once the contract is signed,” he said, “but soon after, we see fewer of the agency’s top talents. They stop showing us speculative work, stop visiting our retailers and are less likely to call us with a great new idea for our business.”

How can we turn the ardor we show during courtship into enduring love for a client and his business? One answer is to treat clients as if they are still prospects, for in fact they are prospects—on some other agency’s new business list.

 

 

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Sometimes the smartest thing we can say is,

“I don’t know”

… especially if, in saying it, we set off in search of an answer.

 

 

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When I first became head of the agency, I gave board members small potted plants with a note saying I expected each one of them to cause his or her plant to grow. It was a simple—perhaps simplistic—reminder that talent, like the plant, must be nurtured. Neither plants nor talented people can be instructed or commanded to grow.

 

 

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My grandfather used to sell Ford cars in Adams County, Indiana. He especially enjoyed conquest sales, which to him meant selling a new Ford to someone who had always owned a Chevrolet. Believe me, my grandfather knew every Chevy owner within 10 miles and he knew how old each Chevy was. On a rainy summer day, he’d pull a new Ford off the showroom floor and drive it up to a farmhouse whose Chevy-loyal occupant was prevented by weather from working in the fields.

self-promotion-for-designers-cover500“Morning’, Ed,” he’d say when the farmer answered his knock. “I knew you wouldn’t be on your tractor today, so I figured I’d put you behind the wheel of one of those new Ford V-8s everybody’s talking about.” During the test drive he’d smile and comment that the farmer’s old Chevy seemed to be wheezing a bit on its recent trip through town.

My grandfather didn’t make every sale, but taking the right idea to the right customer at the right time made him a more successful salesman than most. More important, he approached the challenge of selling as if it were sport.

So should we.

 

 

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I saw a dramatic example of interactive communication on my way to the office not long ago. I passed a Con Edison truck parked, unattended, in the middle of the street. The work crew was somewhere below the street level, but on the side of their truck was lettered an advertising message that said, “Ask me how to save on electricity.”

Underneath, someone had scrawled in spray paint: “I don’t talk to no truck.”

 


PR0215For Keith Reinhard’s exclusive Any Wednesday created for Print readers, pick up a copy of the February 2015 issue.

Also in this issue: Discover important events in the art of typography’s history, see what it looks like today, and take a look at the potential future of typography with the informative articles included in this issue. Plus, learn more about current typography trendsetters and find out who’s taking the art to the nest level in the future. In addition, you’ll find out the winners of Print’s Legends in Advertising Awards.

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