I’m a naturally curious person. From the time I was about 4, any time I opened my mouth it would generally start with a squeaky “why” or “what if” … followed by an eye roll from my parents. Bless them for continuing to humor their bright-eyed towhead with clever answers. And so the progression happened … I was going to be a CIA agent. That was until I saw “Silence of the Lambs” … no way. Onto being an actress … because that’s a natural next step. And eventually, once I decided being a waitress and getting told “no” for the majority of my life didn’t sit well with me, I landed as an Account Director in advertising. And now I have found balance. But what brought me here? Well, true to my nature, I’ve asked myself over the years what these explorations have in common. What I think it boils down to is this: all of these professions relate to my innate sense of being in tune with human nature – how we do things, why we do things, what the perceived outcomes are and what the actual outcomes are.
A year ago, I came to GDD Interactive – a small, 100% digital shop – from a midsize 90% traditional agency. Making that switch was one of the most difficult and rewarding choices I’ve ever made. This milestone made me wonder (cue Sarah Jessica Parker “Sex & the City”-style voiceover): while I am constantly asking questions to others and myself on a daily basis, do I, or we for that matter, ever go back a year later and say, “Those questions I asked and lived by … do they still ring true? How have they changed and are they still relevant?” So here you go, folks, five thoughts from the last year – where they came from and how they have evolved in my year at GDD Interactive.
1. Trust No One
Sounds cynical, I know, but when you are on the front line, looking a client dead in the eye and having to tell them, “No, we didn’t do that because … um … well …” while in your head you’re thinking, “BOBBY didn’t get it done like he said he was going to and I’m going to wring his neck,” then you get where I’m coming from. It’s not about others not having high standards; it’s not about people letting you down (well … sometimes it is); it’s all about not assuming but knowing where things stand.
Year-Later Evaluation: Does this still ring true? Partly. When I was at an agency with 300+ employees, I lived by this; if only for the fact that I may have just learned someone’s last name or, more importantly, the holy grail – their extension – before they moved to another account. It only takes the above scenario happening one time before you are following up and never assuming. When you’re at a small agency, everyone is in charge of CYA. You are all accountable. The other big “aha moment” (thanks, Oprah) was that if you hire the right person and train them correctly, then you should be trusting them. If you’re not, you hired the wrong person.
2. Know What Good Looks Like
We all have opinions, sure. And there will always be a difference of opinion. That’s what makes the world fun. But there are undeniably times when a campaign or idea can come together in such perfect harmony that no one can resist saying, “damn, that’s good.” Furthermore, people come to us and pay us because they don’t know what good looks like – so it’s up to us to give it to them. So how do I know what good looks like? Start with the basics – what wins awards? What gets talked about? We’re in advertising, people … it’s about getting people talking, so generally you can assume that’s some good stuff. But take it the step further and really evaluate, break it down, understand it. The more you do, the more you’ll know what good looks like … and coincidentally, what crap looks like. 🙂
Year-Later Evaluation: Still ring true? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT! You think there are a lot of commercials in the world? Check out how many websites, banner ads, emails, apps and everything else digital there is. You have to constantly evaluate and follow user paths to understand the strategies. Digital is a mesmerizing art form that takes constant education to really know the value of good work. Better be a good student!
3. PICK UP THE DANG PHONE, Y’ALL
I mean, seriously! There is never a moment that is better served in black-and-white text versus a human interaction like a phone call, or even better yet, face-to-face discussion. Does that mean don’t CYA by putting that conversation in writing? No way Jose, that’s the first thing that happens after a phone call. But in a world where things change, we move so fast and writing can be interpreted 10 different ways – pick up the phone and come to an answer. It saves so much time, and not to mention, builds a relationship that can never be accomplished via email and Gchat.
Year-Later Evaluation: Still doing it, folks! This will never ever, ever change. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a digital world or traditional advertising you live in, this industry is about how humans interact with our brands and each other – so INTERACT!
Here are some newbies just from GDD:
4. Knowledge Is Power
This is one of those gems I picked up about 20 minutes into my first day at GDD. About 10% of my industry knowledge included digital. I quickly learned that obviously I had to not only pick up 90% fast but also that the 90% continues to evolve every day. So I’m screwed, right? Depends on the day. Really, though, it’s about research and being a complete sponge as much as possible. Doesn’t matter if it’s your job title or not – be active in those developer meetings, ask questions when you don’t understand. The more you know, the more the dots are connected, the deeper your questions go and the further it gets you. Until the next day comes … but at least you have some bearings.
5. It’s Only Overwhelming Until You Dig In
My first months were tough, y’all. I’m a self-admitted overachiever who needs to feel like I’m accomplishing something and contributing daily to the solution, and I despise feeling out of control (unless of course I’m choosing to feel out of control – like skydiving, for instance). But one day, after lots of wine, breakdowns and banging my head against a wall, I decided to stop feeling sorry for – or even angry at – myself for questioning every little move before I did something and to just DO IT. If you’re continuously asking someone questions for validation or laying back a little too far, you will always feel overwhelmed because you just aren’t digging in enough to know the next step to take. There’s a faint line between thinking you know and making a decision to trust that you know – choose the latter.