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    Entries in Ad Man (3)

    Tuesday
    Feb262013

    Lessons from an Ad Man #3 - On Judgment and Research

    Note: Over the holidays I finished off an old book that had been on my 'I really should read that' list for ages - Confessions of an Advertising Man by ad industry legend David Ogilvy. The 'Confessions', first issued in 1963, provide a little bit of a glimpse into the Mad Men world of advertising in the 50s and 60s.

    This will be the last submission I think in the 'Ad Man' series, not because there aren't plenty more nuggets of insight from Confessions of an Advertising Man, but more that if I haven't convinced you by now you should score a copy and read it for yourself you probably never will.

    I pulled this last lesson for its increasing relevance today - this new age of information, metrics, and Big Data, where we seem to be continually told, pushed, and cajoled into taking a much more analytical view of the world. Data, statistics, relationships, algorithms - these for many are the new coin of the realm and should be used to inform all kinds of decisions we make as HR and Talent pros.

    Data can tell us where we should post our job ads to generate the best candidates, which of these candidates 'match' the job requirement, who might be a culture fit, what questions we should ask them in the interview, and how we should score their answers.  Even more data can tells us how much (or little) we should compensate our employees, how much we need to reward out top performers to convince them to stay, and which ones are likely to progress in the organization - making increased attention and investment in them pay off. And still more data can tell us where we should expand - what locations and markets have the 'right' supply of talent that fits our talent success profiles - and where we need to consider contingent staff or outsourcing to fill in the gaps.

    In 2013 and beyond you as an HR and Talent pro will simply have to get more comfortable with data, (big or otherwise), and taking a data-driven approach to workforce planning, staffing, performance management, and rewards. This reality seems clear, and few would dispute the impact and influence that data and analytics will have on HR.

    There was plenty of data back in Mr. Ogilvy's day as well. Sure, maybe not the voluminous amounts that we capture today, but still lots of data, and with the more crude tools available back then to aggregate, analyze, and derive insights - it is quite likely than business leaders of that age might also have felt they had a 'Big Data' problem.  Back then Ogilvy sensed a growing tendency for many in his field to become over-reliant on data and research - at the expense of reasoned and experienced judgment. Here is Ogilvy's take on the matter, from a section of the book subtitled 'The Image and the Brand' -

    How do you decide what kind of image to build? There is no short answer. Research cannot help you much here. You have actually got to use judgment. I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination. 

    Nice shot from the Ad Man, and certainly one that will continue to resonate more and more as the available amount of data and information that will be available to us at almost every part of the talent management process will only increase.

    The data, as Ogilvy suggests, has to illuminate, it has to lead us into making the best decisions and even into dreaming up brand new ideas. It can't only be a prop or a justification for a lack of imagination or of daring. If we let data and data alone drive our actions, well then we can easily be replaced by it, and by technology that can process it much faster and more efficiently than we ever could.

    The data will consume us if we allow it to I think. 

    Use your best judgment on this...

    Monday
    Jan282013

    Lessons from an Ad Man #2 - On Fear and Creativity

    Over the holidays I finished off an old book that had been on my 'I really should read that' list for ages -Confessions of an Advertising Man by ad industry legend David Ogilvy. The 'Confessions', first issued in 1963, provide a little bit of a glimpse into the Mad Men world of advertising in the 50s and 60s.

    Ogilvy's book is a little short on the dramatics and indulgence portrayed on Mad Men, but it is long on practical, insightful, and simple advice for running a business, managing people, serving customers, and more.  Since I love to share such nuggets of solid business advice, and I need to create a few more blog 'series' to help keep this little blog updated, here is dispatch #2 in a semi-regular series called 'Lessons from an Ad Man.'

    Here's Ogilvy on how at times, the often adversarial nature of the client/agency relationship impacts the ability of the 'creatives', i.e. the ad people, to produce great work:

    Most agencies run scared most of the time. This is partly because many of the people who gravitate to the agency business are naturally insecure., and partly because many clients make it unmistakably plain that they are always on the lookout for a new agency. Frightened people are powerless to produce good advertising.

    We can of course take this point with a grain of salt - Ogilvy is writing from the perspective of the ad agency owner that would very much prefer to have the security (and steady, predictable revenue), of long-term contracts and stable client relationships.  But buried past that bias is certainly some truth - that making people that you rely upon to produce interesting, innovative, creative, and even unforgettable work nervous and afraid for their positions and their livelihoods is unlikely to be a successful long-term management strategy.

    It certainly makes sense - you can probably recall times in your career where the element of fear, or of intimidation, shouting etc. could produce improved short-term results, particularly for singular, repetitive, and less complex tasks.  But have you ever had success walking into a room and berating or threatening a group of artists, designers, writers, or other so-called 'creatives'? Shouting -  'We need five innovative ideas by tomorrow or you are all sacked!', seems a pretty dismal approach as Ogilvy suggests.

    It leads to more 'safe' ideas, a climate of second-guessing, and an overall reluctance by people to stand up for they believe is right, and for them to stick with more of what will be accepted. And 'safe' might not be what propels your business into the future.

    So that's Lesson #2 - 'Frightened people are powerless to produce great work.'

    Have a great week everyone!

    Friday
    Jan042013

    Lessons from an Ad Man #1

    Over the holidays I finished off an old book that had been on my 'I really should read that' list for ages - Confessions of an Advertising Man by ad industry legend David Ogilvy. The 'Confessions', first issued in 1963, provide a little bit of a glimpse into the Mad Men world of advertising in the 50s and 60s.

    Ogilvy's book is a little short on the dramatics and indulgence portrayed on Mad Men, but it is long on practical, insightful, and simple advice for running a business, managing people, serving customers, and more.  Since I love to share such nuggets of solid business advice, and I need to create a few more blog 'series' to help keep this little blog updated, this post will be the first in a semi-regular series called 'Lessons from an Ad Man.'

    So with the too long setup out of the way, on to Lesson #1 - this one on what fourteen years of running his ad agency taught Ogilvy what his, as the 'top man' in the organization should consider his primary responsibility:

    After fourteen years of it, I have come to the conclusion that the top man has one principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere where creative mavericks can do useful work.

    Like much of the insights in 'Confessions', Ogilvy doesn't really knock you out with how incredibly profound or ground-breaking his thinking on management was. But if you pause to consider that he was postulating about this idea of management as an enabler of creative accomplishment back in the early 60s then the observation seems a bit more meaningful.

    Face it, 50 years later it is pretty easy to find any number of management and leadership gurus and though leaders advising the very same thing. Find the best, most creative and talented minds. Carefully construct an atmosphere where they can and will be motivated to work on what drives them. And finally, be brave and smart enough to stay (enough) out of their way.

    A simple recipe for success, no? 

    Ogilvy had it figured out in 1960.  How long do you think it will take the rest of us to catch on?

    Have a great weekend!