Why exactly is our EVP of strategy dressed as an overgrown hamster?

Robert Davis, VP Digital Marketing. VP, Digital Marketing at PJA Advertising + Marketing in Cambridge and San Francisco. Marketer, gardener, student of culture and history.

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Good question.  And even though you didn’t ask it out loud, you’d probably be thinking it if you saw me around the office this Thursday. The short answer is that at some point last night I promised Annie Carney that I’d dress up if she did. It wasn’t love of animals or a furry fixation […]

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Good question.  And even though you didn’t ask it out loud, you’d probably be thinking it if you saw me around the office this Thursday.

The short answer is that at some point last night I promised Annie Carney that I’d dress up if she did. It wasn’t love of animals or a furry fixation that drove me to me snap up the front of an all-poly onesie that morning – something I’d never done before, by the way. With a small hangover, a medium-sized tickle in my throat and a major case of day after the holiday party fatigue, I could easily have done without it.

But I’d made a promise. We’d shaken on it. So I held myself accountable to a co-worker.  As a strategist, I did think that I might learn something about what seems like a bit of a millennial trend.

Key finding: mostly it’s just hot inside this thing.

As the afternoon was winding down, though, I found myself reflecting on a lesson I learned from my very first real full-time partner at Chiat/Day in NYC, longer ago than I’d like to admit. We were getting started on some concepts for a campaign for American Express, and I must have hesitated as I pitched him an idea.

“Bob,” he said – long story, v1.0 of my name – “in this business you can’t be afraid to suck in public.”

That thought stuck with me throughout my career. Obviously, my goal has never been to suck; instead I’ve come to understand over time that sometimes the only way to get past the suck to the good stuff is to get the suck out of the way by getting it out of your head. That means forgoing pride and overcoming internal constraints – that voice whispering “no” in the back of your mind, or the worry about how you might be perceived based on the quality of the idea you share. Sometimes it’s the concern you might not articulate the idea in just the right way.

Throwing out a hundred bad headlines to get to a good one isn’t far, for me, from walking around for a day looking like an overgrown hamster. It might be a little uncomfortable at times, but it can’t kill you.

While I’m at it, there’s a little more  wrapped  up in abandoning a fear of sucking. For one thing, being willing to suck in public isn’t the same thing as going by the seat of your pants. You’ve still got to do your homework – reading the background, getting smart about the brief. That’s a given.

And in turn, you have to make it safe for other people – assuming they’ve got their homework done – to suck in public, too.

Brainstorming ideas, presenting some work, writing a blog post, giving a Pechakucha talk to your assembled coworkers – all of these acts of creation and expression create the possibility of looking stupid – just as they create opportunities to  do something that informs, educates, or maybe even inspires.

I may not have inspired anyone by wearing a hamster onesie for a day, but I did remind myself that if I, or any of the rest of us are ever afraid to look or sound a little stupid, it’s going to be all the harder for us to make magic. Only in movies do people come up with the great ideas first and look fantastic doing it. In this way, I feel like a day as a hamster is actually pretty close to the reality of working in a creative field. And it’s one of the reasons I love doing what I do.

Annie, thanks for helping me re-learn an important lesson today. I don’t think I’ll forget today anytime soon and I owe it to you.

Here’s to sucking as much as we need to in order to get to the magical stuff in 2015!

Little Moments Can Make the Biggest Impact

Ashley Wallace Jones, Account Manager. Ashley is a big believer in Smarter not harder marketing with an insatiable curiosity for what’s next. While she cultivates communicative partnerships for PJA by day, Ashley enjoys running, supporting the Yankees and cheering on the Bruins as they work hard to bring home the cup.

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Commuting: “A mundane, migraine-inducing life-suck about as pleasurable as assembling flat-pack furniture or getting your license renewed. And you have to do it every day.”   Slate’s Annie Lowrey couldn’t have described the daily tromp to work better. Commuting can be hell. Tethered to a train or bus schedule, lugging all your crap from home to […]

Commuting: “A mundane, migraine-inducing life-suck about as pleasurable as assembling flat-pack furniture or getting your license renewed. And you have to do it every day.”

 

Slate’s Annie Lowrey couldn’t have described the daily tromp to work better. Commuting can be hell. Tethered to a train or bus schedule, lugging all your crap from home to work, and cramming into said train or bus with others who have just as much crap. Rain, sleet, snow or shine, there aren’t many good moments when it comes to commuting. And if one thing goes awry, your whole day starts off on a bad note.

But, what if you had the opportunity in that kind of unpleasant and stressful situation, to create a good moment. Even if it weren’t for you. Would you do it?

Earlier this year, after boarding my morning train, I overheard a woman a few rows back telling a friend next to her how she left her wallet on the train the night before, but thankfully someone turned it in at North Station. Naturally, overhearing this “I left my wallet on the train” story, others within earshot casually began to look in their bag or touch their back pocket, just to ensure they weren’t the one spouting the same heart attack inducing saga on tomorrow’s train – myself included. Verifying that I indeed had my wallet, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and hunker down for the remainder of my commute. Unfortunately, that was not the case for everyone.

The woman sitting next to me, scrambled through her purse. Once. Twice. At least three times she looked. Pulling things out and pushing things aside, until she finally called her husband to inquire if she left her wallet in the car when he dropped her off. The woman hangs up and again frantically clawed through her purse, almost as if hoping it would have magically surfaced among the chaos that is a woman’s handbag (am I right ladies?).

Her husband calls back a short time later and confirms that her wallet was indeed in the car.  “Do you have your train pass?” her husband asked. And there it was, in all its glory, the cherry on top of this cringe-worthy moment for this poor soul. Not only did she not have her wallet, but her train pass and cash were in the wallet. 

Now, given the fact that her phone was very loud, and me being the keen busybody and observer that I am, (I’m an Account Manager; it’s my job to pay attention and listen to everything), I was about to suggest she purchase a pass with her smartphone, when I happened to notice that the phone she had been talking on, was not in fact a smartphone. So, there she sat. Left completely high and dry. No wallet, no cash and no train pass, with a  panic-induced look of embarrassment on her face that grew more intense with each step the train conductor took toward our seat. But in her fervent panic, what she didn’t know… I had purchased a one-way pass for her on my iPhone.

As the conductor arrived next to our seat, I promptly showed him my monthly pass and my phone, explaining that the phone pass was for her. “Oh my gosh, you don’t have to do that,” the woman said. I assured her it was my pleasure and that I was happy to help. I could completely empathize the feeling of leaving something behind or misplacing something during the morning mad dash to make a train. “Pay it forward or do something nice for someone else today,” I told her.

Finally arriving at North Station, the woman thanked me again, and we parted ways… or so I thought.

Waiting in line to order my morning cup of Joe, at the most conveniently located Dunkin Donuts in all of Boston, the woman from the train quickly walked up behind me and said, “I can at least buy your coffee? I have my credit cards.” I explained that it was completely unnecessary, but she insisted: ”This is my good deed for the day and the very least I can do, for the nice thing you did for me.”

Being the holiday season – a time for giving unto others – it’s important to keep in mind that even though the days are darker and feel shorter, the weather is colder, and the aforementioned “migraine-inducing life-suck” never seems to get any better, life is all about the little moments of impact that create change – even if it’s a small change. To some a train pass or cup of coffee might not seem like much, but to that woman, it made her bad moment a good one. At times it might seem inconvenient or “not your problem,” but I often like to think and hold out hope, that if a time comes where I might need a “pass” in life, someone might be willing to be my good moment.

Merry Christmas + Happy Holidays.

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    Make No Little Plans: Tony Magee, Lagunitas and the Craft Beer Moment

    Mike O'Toole, President.In addition to running the day-to-day operations of PJA Advertising, Mike is the host of the Unconventionals Radio Show.

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    The next time you’re at your favorite bar, take a look at the beer menu and count how many craft choices are on it. Chances are the list is growing each day. So after you order a delicious brew, raise your glass in honor of Lagunitas Brewing Company. Lagunitas reshaped the beer industry when it became […]

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    The next time you’re at your favorite bar, take a look at the beer menu and count how many craft choices are on it. Chances are the list is growing each day. So after you order a delicious brew, raise your glass in honor of Lagunitas Brewing Company.

    Lagunitas reshaped the beer industry when it became one of the first brewers to regularly bottle an India Pale Ale. This helped create a craft beer craze, which is now posing a serious threat to big beer companies like Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. Lagunitas recently opened a brewery in Chicago — making it easier for them to distribute fresh beer nationwide and further disrupt the American beer market.

    In this episode presented by our friends at Craft Beer Cellar, I talk with Tony Magee, founder and CEO of Lagunitas. We discuss how craft beers have all the momentum with young drinkers — and why the industry giants should be worried.

    You can also subscribe to The Unconventionals on iTunes and Stitcher. And be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter as well.

    Shopping for Vinyl in the Age of Spotify

    Jonathan Gogel, Marketing Analyst. Jonathan enjoys bringing data and insights to marketing campaigns. Before joining PJA, he worked in the tech industry specializing in social business. In his free time he is passionate about producing and performing music.

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    It is no secret that the music industry is having a hard time keeping up with technological advances. It seems like every year there is a hot new streaming service like Pandora or Spotify that shakes up the very nature of how musicians and their labels are paid. In recent news, Apple, who has historically […]

    It is no secret that the music industry is having a hard time keeping up with technological advances. It seems like every year there is a hot new streaming service like Pandora or Spotify that shakes up the very nature of how musicians and their labels are paid. In recent news, Apple, who has historically been focused on iTunes album sales, valued music streaming so much that they forked over $3 billion just to own a piece of it.

    Not everyone is happy about this trend in music streaming. With Taylor Swift and others pulling their music from Spotify, and countless musicians like Radiohead opting for the pay-what-you-want model, one thing is very clear – younger generations are no longer buying music.

    I’m not here to debate the fairness of these streaming services, and as a musician, I can certainly sympathize with the hard work that goes into creating an album. I would, however, like to shine a light on another area of the music industry experiencing rapid growth – vinyl records. Much like streaming services, this is a growing movement, but one that is still very much underground.

    I know what you’re thinking, “What’s this millennial going to tell me about records I don’t already know?” Well, did you know that according to Nielsen, vinyl record sales in the U.S. have increased 40% in the first half of 2014? To put this in an even more local context, around PJA in Harvard Square, there are 4 record stores within walking distance (yes, I’ve been to all).

    So why are records more relevant now than they have been in the recent decade? In part, I believe there is a growing desire from young people to experience music, whether that be attending a festival or holding a tangible record. In a world where everything is constantly at our fingertips, people can find salvation in stripping things down to their roots.

    Personally, for me, there’s something really inspiring about walking into a record store and not knowing what you’ll leave with.  It’s a completely different experience than relying on a music algorithm engine. You have to trust your senses, intuition, and nostalgia to guide you in the right direction. And if you’re willing to dig hard enough, you just might be surprised at what you find.

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    Me pictured above, digging through records at a local spot called, In Your Ear Records.

    Lessons from a Maine Camper

    Annie Carney, Digital Producer. Annie enjoys skiing, boogie boarding, and attempting to knit the perfect headband.

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    One of the biggest influences in my life has to be my summers spent on Great Pond at Camp Runoia. As a young professional, I can tie back many life lessons learned from those years and how they have made me a better worker, professional, and peer. Working in advertising can be very unpredictable, with […]

    One of the biggest influences in my life has to be my summers spent on Great Pond at Camp Runoia. As a young professional, I can tie back many life lessons learned from those years and how they have made me a better worker, professional, and peer. Working in advertising can be very unpredictable, with deadlines, change requests, crazy clients, etc., but nothing can prepare you for canoeing down a river trying to make it to your campsite with ten 12 year olds during a severe lightning storm.

    Lesson 1 – “Fake it till you make it”

    This lesson really came from the summers I spent as a counselor – two years teaching sailing and one as a wilderness trip leader. Being fresh out of high school and enlisted with the responsibility of overseeing kids all day, you quickly learn how to fake it. Not in the sense of inexperience, (if you are going to be teaching sailing, you must have the credentials) but in the sense that when the unexpected happens — you are the adult that makes the decisions.

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    The first time I really faced this, and had the “Oh shit, I’m in charge moment” was on a backpacking trip when half way up the mountain, one of the girls with asthma turned to me and said she needed her inhaler. When I checked to see if it was in our medical kit, I found it was not. In that moment, you can either panic or, look at the scenario and figure out how to fix it. This is when you learn the skills of ownership and the ability to make decisions, because there is not always time to think about things, but to find the best solution and keep moving.

    Lesson 2 – You can’t choose your coworkers, but you can choose how to work with them

    Working on a camp staff, you get the spectrum of personalities from all different walks of life, and essentially have to spend 24/7 with them for 10 weeks. Early on you learn there are many approaches to teaching kids sailing lessons, managing mealtime table manners, motivating cabin cleanup, and leading evening activities. You begin to understand that you may not always agree on how the other person works, but to be part of a team, you must respect them. The same goes for working in a professional environment. In order to successfully be a part of a team, you must respect and understand that everyone is working towards the same goal of doing the best work possible, and finding how to align with everyone to be successful.

    Lesson 3 – How to Herd Cats – or Kittens

    As a project manager, you must the have the ability to “herd cats” aka, lead an unpredictable, diverse team along in order to meet all your deliverables and deadlines. The same can be said as a camp counselor. Motivating girls who are completely out of their element as they hike the tallest mountain or go in a sailboat for the first time is challenging. People can always be resistant, but finding the right ways to communicate and motivate will get you far. I’ve successfully lead 13 year olds up Mount Katahdin, and I’ve successfully lead a creative team to produce a 50 website page creative in 10 days.

    Lesson 4 – There is always time for fun

    No matter where you work or what you are doing, it is always great to remember to have fun. There is always time for silliness and dancing (as I am the queen of that) and to remember it is only a job.

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