One (or more) of “those” days

The last week has been filled with the kind of days I hate having. You know, the kind you describe as “one of those days” with a stressed out look on your face when your significant other asks you how your day was. The kind where your to-do list is so long, you don’t even know where to start it. The kind where the minute you get one thing done, you add five more. The kind where nothing seems to be going right. The kind where it feels like, no matter how hard you try, you keep dropping the ball.

Yeah…one of those days. Or in my case, several of them.

Thanks to three giant events that are taking place for my clients in February (coupled with the fact that I’m moving to a different state), I know I’m not the only one facing the pressure. Everyone on my team feels like they’re playing an ongoing game of “How long can you keep your head above water?”. But the doggy paddling is getting tiring.

It’s during these times that I start to wonder what it would be like to have a more “normal” 9 to 5 job. The type of job where you go to work, do your tasks and then go home, leaving your work at the office. In this fantasy land, there’s no working in the evenings. There’s no feeling of letting people down. There’s no putting in time at the coffee shop on Sunday morning. Your time out of the office is just that – your time. You don’t feel the pressure to clock the extra time or go the extra mile because it can always be done the next day.

Yeah, I know. There’s a reason I called it a “fantasy” land.

On the flip side, when I start yearning for this type of job, I try to stop myself as soon as possible. Instead of dreaming of less responsibility, my inner voice starts getting real with me:

Why would you want a job that you’re not invested in enough to put in the extra hours?

Why would you want to work someplace where you didn’t hold such high standards that you want to deliver at absolutely peak levels, even if that takes some more time than your regular 40 hours a week?

Why would you want to be somewhere that didn’t require you to push yourself past what’s comfortable?

Remember, lady: You. Don’t. Want. That. You want to be a rockstar and rockstars stop whining and go to the next level.

If evening and weekend work was the normal year-round, my inner voice might be a little more logical and tell me to think about my work-life balance. But it isn’t like this all the time. Once I get through February, I know from experience that things tend to relax a bit. And, starting in February, my role will shift a bit, giving me more flexibility in my work volume. So, I know this isn’t a long-term thing. It’s temporary and, while a pain in the short run, I know it will lead to success in the long run.

I’ve just got to keep swimming.

Lessons from Pixar: Technology won’t fix a bad story

If it’s possible for companies to have “fans”, I would definitely be a “fangirl” of Pixar.

Now, I’m a self-diagnosed Disney child, so of course I love their movies. But despite loving Toy Story and Finding Nemo just as much as the next person, the true reason that I’m a fangirl is not about their products. It’s about their philosophy.

I was reading a great article this morning on Fast Company called “Building the Next Pixar”. The author interviewed several people who have since moved on from their time at the animation studio (turns out, that group is actually pretty small) and gathered their insights on what it is about Pixar’s business philosophy that makes them such an enigma in entertainment and such a gem for their employees.

You can read the entire article for the full list, but one of my favorites is “Story Drives Everything.” Now, I’ve heard this mantra from John Lasseter before – in the (great) documentary, A Pixar Story – but I love it every time I hear it. The fact is, there have been times when Disney movies weren’t very good (the 1970s-1980s, late 1990s-2000s). A lot of people tried saying that animated movies were a dying genre and that computer animation killed traditional animation. Neither is true. The real problem was that the stories they were trying to tell really weren’t all that good. If you look at the great Disney and Pixar movies – whether it’s Beauty and the Beast or Toy Story – it’s obvious that it’s not about the technology, it’s about the story.

In my line of business (advertising/marketing), we often face the same challenge. From social media to Google Glass to SEO to apps, technology to reach people with the latest product/service/cause is always changing. Print is dead (or maybe it’s not). Social media is dead (or maybe it’s not). The vehicle for the message keeps changing.

Which is when we have to remember that the technology is irrelevant, unless it helps us tell our story better.

An example of using technology to enhance a story is what we’re doing for our clients with video. Now, I work on animal health business, which tends to be quite technical and not always that interesting. But we have a great group of veterinarians and cattle producers who are using our products to help raise healthier cattle – and that’s a story worth talking about. So, we’re using video to better tell that story than maybe we could through print or social media.

Below are two of my favorite videos we’ve done for my client in the past year:

What It Takes – Prevention Works Verified

Trust Triangle – Carlton & Carlton Ranch

Whether it’s for work or if you’re a farmer/rancher trying to tell the non-farm community about what you do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the technology available out there to communicate. Take a tip from Pixar, though, and remember to first and foremost focus on your story and making sure it’s something the people you’re trying to talk to care about. Who knows? You could have a blockbuster on your hands.

Advertising – not just a reason for TiVo

Over the last three months, whenever anyone asks me where I work, I’ve been very definitive in saying, “I work for an integrated marketing agency.” While I use “integrated marketing” to make sure people know we do advertising, public relations, digital, etc., I find most people have no idea what I’m talking about. However, I’ve found other people in my office say they work for an advertising agency. Since a good chunk of our business is advertising, that’s pretty accurate. For some reason, though – even though I like the advertising we do – saying I work for an advertising agency makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Maybe it’s from all my relatives who profess the joy of TiVo so they don’t have to watch the commercials. Who knows?

In any case, at the suggestion of a co-worker, I watched the documentary Art & Copy this evening. As said co-worker described, it’s a lot of creative directors, art directors and copywriters patting themselves on the back for a job well done. It’s also more than that. It was a good reminder to me that advertising, when done well and when meaningful, can have a lasting impact on society and become an embedded part of popular culture.

As a member of the account team, I’m not the one developing advertising, per say. However, I get to be a part of the process of working with both the clients and creative team to develop something special. I’m not expecting that we’ll create the next “Got Milk?” or “Where’s the beef?” campaign, but at least now I have a little more respect for the advertising work we’re doing and can approach future projects with a greater perspective on what we can achieve.

Below are some of my favorite ads mentioned in Art & Copy. What are some of your favorite advertisements or advertising campaigns?

And, because everyone loves a good “Got Milk?” commercial…