In an entertaining new book, “Admen, Mad Men, and The Real World of Advertising,” Dave Marinaccio, co-founder and chief creative officer of LMO Advertising, shares life’s lessons from his thirty-year experience in the advertising industry. In short chapters leavened with wit, he pulls back the curtain on how marketing decisions are made and more than a few lessons turn out to be apt not just for business, but also for our stressed-out lives.

In this excerpt from chapter one, “That’s Going to Leave a Mark”, he shares a story about his presentation of a corporate brochure to the largest division at Weyerhaeuser, the forest products giant. 

That’s going to leave a mark 

Simon was a smart little mixed breed, black with a white patch on his chest. He loved to be walked. All dogs do. As a kid, one of my jobs was to take Simon to do his business.

On our strolls through the neighborhood, Simon and I passed nice houses with tidy lawns that had been manicured by elderly Italian men. These small patches of grass had been sweated and fretted over. Each blade was uniformly cut, the borders were neatly trimmed – they seemed flawless.

Simon, however, always felt something was amiss. The solution was quick at hand, or at paw. He would bound up to the nearest bush and lift his rear leg. A short tinkle later, all was right with the world. Simon had made his mark. This action was repeated house after house, all the way down the block.

I happened to recall these walks with Simon just before a meeting with Weyerhaeuser, the forest products giant. On that morning I was to present a new corporate brochure to their largest division. As odd as it sounds, a brochure can draw more scrutiny than a television campaign. Today’s presentation had drawn a crowd; the room was filled with clients.

“Good morning,” I began and then retold the story about my walks with Simon. As I concluded my remarks, more than one face wore a puzzled look.

I continued, “The reason I’m sharing this story with you is because at some point this morning you will know exactly how Simon felt. You will look at a sentence and feel compelled to add a comma. You will be gripped by the overwhelming need to change the word ‘a’ to the word ‘the.’ These types of changes, gentleman, are marks.” I paused to a few smiles and nods.

“On other occasions,” I went on, “you will have real, meaningful changes to make. Please, speak up. Tell me what they are, and we will integrate them into the brochure. Your input is desired. It is needed to produce a piece that accurately reflects this division. However, I am asking you to edit yourself. A lot of people have worked very hard to create the pieces that we will examine today. All I’m asking is that you don’t piss all over it.”

The room erupted in laughter. We worked very efficiently that morning with a high spirit of cooperation.

Marking isn’t unique to advertising. We all have a little of Simon the dog in us. The overwhelming urge to tweak, adjust, clarify, tighten, sharpen or fine-tune exists wherever a pen is put to paper. Doctors, lawyers, MBAs, PhDs, clients, agencies, cops, criminals, birds and bees all do it.

Over time, I’ve come to see marking as the most powerful force in nature. To try to stop this behavior is folly. You have a better chance of stopping Hugh Grant from blinking.

So what’s to be done? If you cannot prevent a behavior, you should try to turn it to your advantage. Expect your work to be marked by clients. Encourage it. That’s actually what I was doing at the Weyerhaeuser meeting. Once the client marks your storyboard or print ad or landing page, he has put part of himself into the ad. It gives him a sense of ownership.

My old partner Ron Owens didn’t look at marking as peeing on the ad. He always said that the client was sprinkling the ad with holy water, giving it his blessing. Either way, Ron’s or Simon’s, you get a little wet.

 

To purchase the book or learn more, visit www.lmo.com/admen. LMO is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

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