The time to begin thinking of starting your own agency is today. Right now. Three weeks after graduation. (Part 1 of 2)

Don’t wait till you’re old enough. You’ll have a mortgage and kids who need braces then. Your knees will hurt. You’ll need income. Starting an agency is no way to generate income. Starting an agency is about loving ramen soup and driving a cheap car. Owning an agency that’s a few years old. That can mean income. But starting is for the young.  The light is green.

Don’t wait till you know what you’re doing. You’ll never know what you’re doing. No one does. It shouldn’t take you more than a couple weeks at an agency to discover this.

Don’t wait till you think you’re ready. What people wait for to happen before they start an agency happens the day you start your agency. You go to work and you find out you’re ready. Because you have to be. You weren’t ready the day before because you didn’t have to be. Stop primping. Time for the closeup.

You do not have to earn the right to start.

You maybe want to have done a campaign for a client before you start so you have something to show what you can do.

But start thinking about it now. Today. Three weeks after graduation.

(Part 2: Why Now is a Good Time to Start an Agency)

In praise of carelessness.

A high fly ball is driven towards the outfield wall.

At the crack of the bat the centerfielder is already running at full sprint.

Think cheetah.

Suddenly he stops.

The ball dives.

The centerfielder is standing.

Or is that lounging?

He does not bring up his glove.

At the last second.

He does not bring up his glove.

As he meant to do from his first step, at the end of the second half of the last second.

He snaps open his glove below his waist and closes it in one motion.

The ball inside.

Then he leans back.

Looks around.

Sees the shortstop has come out to witness his miracle.

And tosses the ball to him with an underhanded wrist flick.

As if to say.

What’s this little ol white thing doing out here?

And how’s your kids going?

Farting around.

Welcome to the major leagues.

If you’d like to play admaker at the same level there’s a lesson in this for you.

Acting like what you’re doing is as hard as it actually is and as draining as it actually is and demanding as it actually is and as complicated as it actually is not only doesn’t make for a pleasant show, it hurts your ability to play at the major league level.

A fielder making a catch, a pitcher dooking a runner into revealing his intentions, or a batter hitting a 93-mph fastball.

If they’re all worked up, they’ll blow it.

A slugger so stoked to hit the ball that his heart is thumping will swing at a pitch off the plate he should take for a ball.

That’s why ballplayers play careless.

And why you should go about admaking the same way.

If you get so all-fired-up at writing an idea you think works.

How will you respond when the client questions it?

What will be the body language that gets shouted at your creative director when he asks you to change the whale in your story from a right to a sperm?

Is it likely you’ll be understanding when it turns out the presentation will be an hour earlier?

How will you behave in the meeting when it’s clear the proposal is dead?

Will you be able to calmly state that there are a hundred other ideas that might work just as well or better?

Which is not only true.

It’s the one truth that worked-up-ness makes stick most in the client’s craw.

That keeps him from trusting you.

Play with carelessness. Play like it’s play.

It doesn’t just look cool.

It earns trust.

The one attribute all great ads share is …

… not how insightful the strategic thinking was.

… not how expensive the production was.

… not how attractive the models were.

… not how famous the voiceover was.

… not how terrific the product was.

… not how funny the commercial was.

… not how long it took the art director to kern the type.

… not how graceful the copywriter’s sentences were.

… not how targeted the media buy was.

The one attribute all great ads share is the audience didn’t see them coming.

So they didn’t get out of the way.

They stood sat or laid there with open eyes & open hearts & unguarded souls.

And took the full shot.

Everything else–the insightful thinking, the humor, the deft sentence, the beautiful type.

All good.

But useless if the audience sees it coming.

Stop telling people what to do.

Have you noticed how rarely wisdom is acquired by its owner from the words of others?

How it is gotten almost exclusively by the repeated bearing of the consequences of its absence?

Don’t tell people what to do.

They don’t listen.


Write them a story.

Maybe the story of where they are.

How they got there.

What’s on the other side of the wall.

Who they are underneath.

They won’t listen to you telling them what to do.

But they’ll listen to your story.

And if your story is true.

It will be a map to them.

All good stories are maps.

And if they have a map, maybe they’ll look at it when the consequences start to pile up.

ps Right now you’re thinking sheesh, that’s so gauzy, so indistinct; advertising can’t be made like that. To which I can only reply: Take a look at what may be the best TV commercial ever made and tell me that isn’t exactly what they did.

Our souls live in great need of anything but normal.

Normal does us no good.

We have got normal coming out of our ears.

We are drowning, sinking, falling to the bottom of the pit of normal.

Are you prepared to be radical?

We’ll buy that.


I’ll take a large glass, cup, box, shipping container, railroad freight car full of radical right here without asking the price.

Because normal is what got us to where we are.

If you’re making ads.

Don’t even think of offering us a more clever way of looking at normal.

It can’t help.

Forget clever, sneaky, hidden, sudden, false.

Forget everything normal.

Give us radical.

Nothing else is worth the effort of moving our eyes over to look at it.