First, an admission. I know that the content of Campaign often offers exceptional provocation that fuels many an intellectual debate. To many, those discussions are the fuel that helps move forward and crystallise thought leadership within the industry.
While I have been in the middle of many of those debates (and at times enjoyed them), I have to admit I can’t remember any of them being useful to me. So what you won’t get from this article is anything that is going to test your intellect. Sorry. What you will get is me sharing three pieces of work that have influenced the marketer I am and my career to date.
First up, the door handle. Simply put, the most magnificent piece of design that has ever been created. I should clarify that I am talking about the one that has a handle on one side and a flat plate on the other.
Why so great? Because it is so fucking obvious what you have to do with it. To me, great design and great marketing generally aren't about making people think through stuff; it’s about making them do stuff. Anything that nails an intuitive, instinctive, automatic and effortless reaction from a person is the kind of work I push for. If the reaction or association we are looking for as marketers becomes as hardwired as knowing whether to push or pull a door, then it’s job done. A high bench, admittedly, but something I remind myself of.
Next is the "inch by inch" speech delivered by coach Tony D’Amato (played by Al Pacino) in the film Any Given Sunday. I watched the film when it came out 20 years ago as a young man and it made me realise a good few things about myself and also my attitude to life and subsequently work, and there are a couple of themes in that speech that I recognise influence my approach to marketing particularly.
The one that stays with me most is that "the inches we need to win are all around us". I have seen my teams win at times when they had very little to work with but a hustling attitude, curiosity, empathy and ambition – these are the things that I love to lead for. Check out the speech online or, even better, watch the film (it’s better than the 52% Rotten Tomatoes review rating would suggest).
Lastly, there is actually some advertising work that inspires me. Almost every local adaptation of a generic global brand ad inspires me to never forget that on the receiving end of our work is a human being, not a generic pen portrait.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire the pursuit of advertising efficiency and cost effectiveness that go into this work as well as the often endless, painful hours of politics and alignment to get it there.
However, I do believe there comes a huge responsibility with the work my team does: which is to remember that we have the privilege of interrupting normal people’s lives – people who didn’t necessarily ask to be bothered. And when we do this, I believe we have an obligation to be at the very least sympathetic to how we might be useful or interesting.
A standard I hold myself to is to be truly empathetic to the people we want to speak to (it’s the least we can do for them). It creates the best work and, I have to admit, not something I have ever seen come through in a dubbed pharmaceutical ad.
Jim Shearer is marketing director, UK and Ireland, at Molson Coors and a member of Campaign’s Power 100