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The dangers of smartness.

A turkey farmer once told me that the domesticated turkey is the dumbest animal on earth. It is so dumb, in fact, that it goes way beyond not having the sense to come in out of the rain. Allegedly, if it starts to rain on a domesticated turkey, it will look up, to see what is falling on its head. And then, it will forget to put its head back down, water will get into its beak, and it will drown. Now, the guy may have been yanking my chain. But it certainly illustrates the danger of dumbness. No doubt,…


We're getting the band back together.

Sometimes, late at night, in the quiet of a nearly-deserted office, you start to have visions. You start to think things like...why am we here at 10:30 at night, all by ourselves...what can we do about this cycle...where can we find help...there's lots of talent on the streets, why not hire some...but will our clients be satisfied with the work they do...will they be a fit in our culture...who really is out there...I wonder if we could just hunker down and get through this...if we did bring in help, what would our company look like...?And then, it suddenly comes clear.…


Directing non-actors in a commercial.

I had a blast a couple of weeks ago. Two days of shooting real people for a campaign that launched today. I have always enjoyed working with real people, because they're ... well ... real. But there are two inviolable rules you have to follow:1. Do not ask them to act. A non-actor acting is a disaster. Instead, feed them their lines, the way you want them to say them. And let them reflect them back to you. It will be bigger than life, and you will get the performance you're looking for. But their personalities will come through. 2.…


The sincerest form of flattery. Really.

The old saying is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And that is sweet, I gotta tell ya. But as often as not, imitation is either unintended or more desperation (we gotta have something by Tuesday) than flattery. That is certainly the case when we flatter other agencies. But, the sincerest form of flattery, as I see it, is when a client goes away and then comes back. The thing about a client | agency relationship is that it starts to be like family after a while. We fall into ruts. We take each other for granted. We…


7 Rules of Logo Design.

I am not a designer. In fact, I'm barely a writer. But I just got copied on an email from Anne Peck Gibbons on the rules for designing a logo. I think it's good stuff. 1. Logos are graphic. They are not illustrations--they are best when developed like a branding iron. 2. Logos are one or two color--to save printing and production costs for our clients. 3. Logo colors don't touch--because when you convert to black and white, grayscaling is required 4. Logos are solid ink (PMS) colors. They do not have gradients-gradients do not translate into all production environments…


Why we need logos.

We were in a meeting recently with some folks who are launching a new logo, for their 86-year-old company. It's a pretty big deal to them, because they want to send the right message. And they don't want to send the wrong message. Being a glib, flippant ad guy, I popped off, "It is not big news to consumers that your company has a new logo." The client responded, "If logos aren't important, why do we need one?" So, I had to back up. It is very important that you have a logo, for consumer recognition and recall purposes. But…


Secret Service.

I was in Asheville over the weekend. So was Mr. Obama. Tried to hook up, but it didn't work out. I did, however have an interesting encounter with the Secret Service. Pretty cool, actually. This was my second experience dealing with the protectors of the President of the United States.A few years back, George W. Bush came to Greenville. In fact, he was there to give a speech at Wyche Pavilion, which was right behind our offices. So we got a front row seat. The day before, some very official looking guys came into our offices, poked around, talked on…


Stand up. Speak up. Shut up.

Standard outline for preachers. Saw this article. Thought you might like it. 'Nuff said.


Groundhog Day.

When I was an undergraduate, I wrote a short story entitled, "My Grandfather's Wake," for a fiction workshop. It wasn't a great short story, and most of it wasn't fiction. But it had a pretty good first line, if I do say so myself:The groundhog didn't see his shadow when I was five, but it was still a very long winter. I think I was influenced by Harper Lee on that one. Or maybe Truman Capote (inside fiction joke). The story went on to tell the story of the day my grandfather died-Groundhog Day, exactly a week before I turned…



I've learned a lot of things from my mentors. When I was four, my grandfather let me help him with his garden. I got to dig with a spade. And, as a side benefit of learning to dig, I learned that you could use certain types of claw hammers as picks, to loosen dirt. Then you can dig out the dirt with a table spoon. I learned to love excavation. Now, I can't hammer a nail or replace the guts of a toilet to this day. But I can dig. A few years later, I learned from my dad important…


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