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Advice for Freshly Minted Madmen

by Joel Machak

Recently, someone aspiring to break into the ad game asked me to describe what I do. The question brought back an answer given by one of my early creative mentors. When asked “what’s a Creative Director’s job?” he answered “to have 10 bad ideas before lunch.” I passed it on, along with my three favorite bits of advice for any ad beginner:

Learn to love the blank page. Once upon a time, I loved making TV spots more than anything. When I was on a set, in an editing bay, or recording studio, I was happy. Then I hit a year when I made just two spots. Something had to give. So I changed my perspective and learned instead to love the moment of creation, the instant of having the idea. For me, it happens over a blank page. Bam! Now I was the one in control of my happiness. BTW, the following year I made 22 spots.

Don’t fall in love with your work. It will only cause heartache. Having ideas and creating content is a life filled with challenge, rebuttal, and outright rejection. It may be a hard truth to swallow, but every idea you have will be disliked by someone. When that someone is the person who makes the big decisions, you’ll need to find another idea. And any sentimental heartache will only slow you down. My personal philosophy is built around a line from an old Doritos TV spot. It ended with “Eat all you want. We’ll make more.” I encourage you to adopt the creative philosophy of “Kill all you want. I’ll make more.” So, I have to go back to the blank page? Hey, great!

Be prolific and be fast. Don’t have just one idea. Don’t have just three ideas. Have lots of ideas. Why stop? This is the fun stuff. And get your ideas up on the wall or screen as quickly as you can. The person who has just a few ideas will, more often than not, lose out to the person who can cover the walls. The person who needs take the time to noodle every letter will lose out to the person who can get it on the page quickly. This takes practice, energy, bravery, and perseverance. But it’s fun. And it’s worth it.

One more bit of advice about presenting your ideas. I believe the best presentation is not about the quality of the idea. IMO, the most compelling presentation is about convincing your audience that you believe that this idea is the best thing since sliced bread. That’s what sells. Try it. It works. Have fun out there.


Joel Machak

EVP, Executive Creative Director

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