Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adventures in failure.

Wieden+Kennedy has been embracing failure since 1988. It's working. And, as the mural demonstrates, sometimes doing things the hard way is more meaningful.

Fail harder. Fail faster. Fail better. Fail forward. For the love of awesome, would you just get it over with and fail already?

Small failures are encouraged right now. In theory anyway. It's part of our rapid-prototyping-world-in-beta lifestyle. Get it out there. Test it and fix it as needed. Everything is fluid. Feedback is immediate. Nothing is forever. (Well, except for diamonds. And maybe that poorly-planned tattoo acquired on a drunken whim.)

But what about the big failures? The ones that draw a line before you in the sand. Daring you to courageously step forward or cowardly bury yourself right where you stand.

"You can be comfortable or outstanding, but not both. Extraordinary begins with discomfort." – Sally Hogshead
Many a creative recalls a time their ego was destroyed – that is by someone other than themselves. Their book metaphorically or, in some cases, actually ripped to shreds and thrown back in their general direction. One brutally honest moment. And, thank God for that moment. Here's your adversity. Now, what are you going to do with it?

Failure is a powerful motivator. Learn from its lessons. Let it make you and your projects stronger.

There's a reason why scar tissue is the strongest tissue in the human body. And that it stands out. A timeless reminder of a misstep or an averted prognosis. A defining characteristic they may use to identify us someday. One look at the mark and we recall how we got it. Maybe even what we experienced right before it was embedded. Forever. The sound of rusty trampoline springs. The smell of overheated car side pipes. The pre-surgical anxiety while helplessly slipping under the veil of anesthesia.
"Wisdom enters through the wounds." – shamanic quote capturing the inherent pain of creativity
Box of Crayons adds some great thoughts around that quote, "I love the liberating sense that it is only through our bruises and scrapes and errors and mistakes and stumbles and confusions and hurts and tears and anxiety and wounds, it is only through the time we spend in the shadow that our wisdom grows. Seek out experience and stumble."

Invest in yourself. Find a way to be mentored by smarter people who know how to do things that you don't. People who fear mediocrity over failure. And yes, you're probably going to fail. Eventually. But if you're bold enough to avoid the plateau, it's just part of the adventure.

[This piece is cross-posted on The Denver Egotist.]

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Commercial comeback.

Think back. Back to a time before Tivo. It was the decade Chiat/Day changed advertising with their groundbreaking 1984 Apple commercial. Saving humanity from conformity in a spot officially airing once and barely mentioning Apple.

Then in 1985, I was introduced to the quirky art direction of JWT's Joe Sedelmaier. It was through a VCR game, of all things, featuring a collection of his work. You'd watch a spot and then answer a series of questions. Everyone knows his work for Wendy's and FedEx. However, his Alaska Airlines spots were my favorites. He was famous for making non-actors famous.

Before everything was social, advertising was social. Commercials were famous in the 80s. T-shirts, board games, and mascots. Even with Tivo today, social media is pushing appointment TV and bringing back commercial relevance. I'm hoping this leads to more Super Bowl-worthy campaigns shutting out the apparently endless Progressive Insurance spots. It's time for new thinking in traditional media.

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