Be careful what you wish for.


A few nights ago, I had the strangest dream. I remember so much about it. Every detail. The people. The numbers. The decisions I had to make. And when I woke in the morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about it – as if it really happened. Did I make the correct decision? What would I really do if given the choice? Why did I make that choice?  I kept telling myself ‘it was just a dream’ but I still couldn’t shake the feeling.  Here’s the dream.

I’m asleep in my bed when a god-like figure comes to me and wakes me out of a sound sleep. “I’m here to grant you a dream,” it said. “But you can only chose one, and you can’t change your mind.” I answered, “I have so many dreams, things I’d love to do, people I’d like to see again.”  The voice answered, “I have chosen your dreams for you.”

“Here is the first dream. In January of 2014, you will win the lottery. The prize will be $883 million dollars. People all over the country will know your name. You will have financial security for the rest of your life. With the money, you can make any dream you’d like come true. You can help the poor. Be a patron of the arts. Start your own business. Some of these are also dreams of yours, but you haven’t had the financial means to make them happen. Now you will.”

“And what is the second choice?”

“You’ve always dreamed of being a better athlete – here is your chance. On January 1, 2014 you will be the world’s greatest golfer. You will be able to hit any shot you want at any time. All you have to do is think about where you want to hit the ball and it will land there. People all over the country will know your name. You will have financial security for the rest of your life. With the prize money you will win, you can make any dream you’d like come true. You can help the poor. Be a patron of the arts. Start your own business.”

I asked, “When do I have to make my decision?” The voice came back, “right now.”

I looked around, was this real? Is this a dream?  Then I answered, “I be the golfer. While you will be giving me the tools, I still have to earn it.” And then the figure said “done,” and disappeared.

The rest of my dream was about me playing golf. Hitting the ball exactly where I want to hit it. Winning tournaments. But then something else happened. Golf became less interesting to the public. Because one player (me) was dominating the sport, people stopped watching. The outcome wasn’t suspenseful or interesting. To make it better for the public, I started losing on purpose. Getting close but not winning. I would win enough to keep the reporters away, but I would lose enough to make people watch. People started rooting against me. People wanted me to lose. I stopped playing a full schedule because I couldn’t take people telling me I wasn’t good anymore. I knew I could win every time I played. But I also didn’t want to ruin a game that I loved. So I stopped playing.

And while I had all the financial security I could ever want, I was sad. People all over the country knew my name – but also remembered that I used to be really good. And while I could do anything I wanted, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like a prisoner.

And then I woke up.

I remembered so many details. I woke up sweating. I was confused. What just happened? For the next few days I remember thinking about this dream. If it were real, what choice would I have made? If it were real, would I still act the same way? If it were real would I keep my promises to help the poor and be a patron to the arts?

I’ve replayed this dream in my head over and over again. And then yesterday I noticed the lottery jackpot has risen past $500 million. So if it reached $883 million – you know that I will be buying a ticket.

Because I can tell you this – my golf game isn’t getting better any time soon.

R

12.18.13

One of the classiest creative directors I ever met.


I only met Mike Hughes a few times. I was working in New York; he was in Richmond, Virginia. Our companies were both owned by the same holding company, IPG. Mike passed away recently. He wrote his own obituary. I thought it was amazing. Please take the time to read it all.

R

12.16.13

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Just a little over a year ago, on Dec. 12, 2012, Mr. Mike Hughes started posting his thoughts on living and dying on a blog, Unfinished Thinking, which he used as a way to update his friends and family about his health while he was in hospice.

Frank, shocking, funny, heartwarming and completely human, his reflections, ultimately, were not about death, but showed how much Mr. Hughes embraced life, love, his family, friends and colleagues.

Mr. Hughes made his final post on the day of his passing today, posthumously, in an autobiographical obituary that he had asked a member of his team to put up once he passed away. We share his parting words here.

An Autobiographical Obituary by the Late Mike Hughes

After many unexplained delays, I have finally lived up to my prognosis and have at last departed this life. It’s been a life I’ve loved.

In the months leading up to this moment, I was astonished at the outpouring of love and caring and respect from hundreds of people. There were handwritten notes, emails, blog posts, comments, letters, magazine articles, personal visits and phone calls. The tsunami of glorious thoughts sent my way has made it increasingly hard to justify my deep insecurity about my place in the world—an insecurity I’ve clung to all my life.

I want to take this last opportunity to clear up one common misjudgment in the oft-repeated, highly exaggerated list of my virtues. Many of you have credited me with humility. That’s not even close to true.

No one has ever been prouder of a marriage than I’ve been of my 38 years with Ginny. There have been outrageous laughs, tears, squabbles, joys, illnesses, heartbreaks and thrills. We’ve shared eye-opening travels and surrendered to high-calorie challenges. We’ve held hands during quiet moments that I’ve treasured more than any other. Although we’ve never quite recovered from it, we somehow survived Preston’s death, holding on to each other the whole way. I’m proud of that. There’s been love and friendship and high expectations. She’s made my life feel extraordinary even in its most ordinary moments.

Our sons have been the source of unending pride. Preston, who provided some of the biggest adventures in my life, was always a handful, but he was also always his own man. What father wouldn’t be proud of that?

And Jason. Quick and smart and passionate and outspoken and funny and competent and good and nurturing. I’ve never met a better man.

Jason brought us Carley and Ella, the daughter and granddaughter we wanted and needed. There’s no room for humility in my feelings about my girls. Carley is the best baker in the world and Ella is, as she’s quick to tell you, “the best drawer in the world.” I’ve always been afraid of women and I’ve always been a feminist. These are two of the reasons why.

I’m proud to have been the son of Ann and Jim. They loved each other as much as they loved Patti and me: there’s no better gift parents can give their children. I’m proud we shared our home and I shared my room growing up with my uncle, Jim Kennedy, known to all as Foo Foo.

You can’t help being proud if Patti Hughes is your sister. My whole life has been a quest to be as funny as Patti. She’s lived a life filled to the top with great friends and great adventures around the world. She’s taken care of our mother with a gentleness and strength few people could muster.

“Uncle Doctor Todd” Jarrell is an honorary third son and I’m proud to have him in the family. And I’m equally proud to have Preston’s partner, David Jackson, as an honorary son-in-law.

I’m proud of my most intimate friends. I won’t name them all, but it would be wrong not to mention George and Megan Douglas; Craig and Beverly Bowlus; Larry Hall and Flinn Dallis; Bruce and Nancy Mansfield; Ed and Eileen Kitces. Over many years, they’ve put up with my crazy work hours and my general unreliability. The conversations we’ve had have been invigorating. I am especially proud to count many of their grown kids among my closest friends today.

I’m proud, too, to have lived and worked alongside incredibly talented people who were also incredibly good and generous people. My mentors always treated me as valued friends. Father Augustine made high school bearable and made me try new things. During my newspaper days, Jerry Finch was the editor every young reporter should have. Larry Kaplan was my first advertising boss, encouraging me early on to reach higher—even if it meant working somewhere else. Bill Wynne was my first partner/mentor. He brought out the entrepreneurial side of me.

Then there was Harry. Harry Jacobs made The Martin Agency a contender in the industry worldwide–and he made me an advertising man. He put me on a wonderful track that I’ve stayed on for 34 years. I hope he’s half as proud of me as I am of him.

I’ve learned from many of the industry leaders I’ve worked with at The Martin Agency, but none taught me more or stuck with me longer than John Adams. He’s the wonderfully stubborn, highly principled partner every creative director desperately needs. He and I have had the extreme good fortune to work side by side with the best agency management people in the business.

I’m proud to have been one of the hundreds of people who put The Martin Agency on the map. We owe a lot to our clients and stockholders, of course, but no one gets in this line in front of the men and women who earned their paychecks doing things a little group in Richmond, Virginia, wasn’t supposed to be able to do. I can’t begin to list the account, planning, media, design, tech, administration, finance and business partners who have done the work for which I’ve been given so much credit. I hope they know how much I’ve needed them and how much I’ve loved them. I can’t remember the first time I said “I do work I love with people I love,” but I know I’ve said it thousands of times. Every word is true.

A special call-out is due to the magnificent, crazy, elegant, messed-up, damn-near-perfect gaggle of creative partners who have put up with me for so long. Hundreds of writers and art directors have come through the doors of the agencies I’ve been lucky enough to serve. A huge number of those writers and art directors taught me valuable lessons—not just in advertising, but in how to live a meaningful, all-in life. The greatest joy in our business comes not from a gold medal or a place in the industry hall of fame—it comes from doing the work and from doing it with people of integrity and ambition and good humor.

I’m embarrassed that I get way too much credit for the success of the VCU Brandcenter. Diane Cook Tench, Rick Boyko, Gene Trani, Helayne Spivak, the students, the alumni, the faculty and the administration deserve all the bows. Still I’m proud (if a little self-conscious) that my name’s on the side of the building. And I proudly liberate the current administration from any obligation it might feel to keep that giant painting of me hanging over the stairway.

I should say I’m proud of all the honors I’ve been accorded in my career, but the truth is, I’ve never been sure I deserved them. I’m a Hall of Fame creative director because I’ve worked for and with Hall of Fame caliber people. My honorary doctorate—and every other citation and award I’ve collected–is also an honor for those people. I am inordinately proud to have represented the groups I’ve represented.

I’m both proud of and grateful to the people who have taken care of me in the cancer years. Julie Garner made the appointment for me to visit Johns Hopkins. Helen Vennard and Susan Lueke have been eternally patient with America’s medical systems and with me. I have no idea how they do that. They wrapped their arms around Ginny, Jason’s family and me and made us feel safe and protected and indulged.

One final thought. I hope each of you enjoys every minute of your life. You’ve all contributed so much to mine.

And one last favor. Keep me in your thoughts. I love you.

20 intern interviews later …


Over the past three weeks, I’ve interviewed 20 intern candidates for our Spring creative internship program.  The maximum number of interns I will hire is 5. That means you had a 25% chance of getting an offer letter from my agency to work here and learn from some of the best creative people in the industry.

But the odds decreased with every interview mistake.  So after meeting students from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, The University of Delaware, Temple University and the School of Visual Arts, I’ve identified 5 mistakes that most of the students made and have to correct.

Mistake #1 – The portfolios are not ready for prime time.  The most common line I heard from the students I was interviewing was “I’m still working on my portfolio.” That line was closely followed by “I plan to work on my portfolio over the break.” I find these statements incredible.  You’re an advertising student. The entire purpose of going to school is to create campaigns and ideas to fill a portfolio. Have you not noticed that you’re graduating in a few months? When were you going to put something together? After all your interviews are finished?  The best portfolio had 1 or 2 good campaigns. The worst had none. Some had no campaigns at all, but a collection of images that were supposed to be ideas.  My advice: Get to work. Now.

Mistake #2 – The ideas seemed small. In many of the portfolios, I saw ads. From time to time I saw an app or a website. Once in a while there would be an environmental idea.  But the ideas seemed confined by the page.  There was nothing that was huge.  Actually, that’s a lie – I saw one HUGE idea but the creative team that worked on it never understood how big it was, and made it very small. Instead of a movement that could change the world, they made an app. But that was the exception. Most times I saw well-crafted executions without the hint of an idea.  My advice: Know why you’re doing something, not just what you’re creating.

 Mistake #3 – Typos, typos and more typos. Virtually everyone had mistakes in their work. Resumes with really bad typos. Campaigns that spelled the name of the product incorrectly. I even saw a resume that had the name of the college misspelled. I don’t know how many times I have to say this – hire a proofreader.  You can’t see your own spelling mistakes. Trust me, I know. I’m the KING of typos. Read virtually any of my blog posts and you’ll find a typo. That’s because I don’t follow my own advice. I don’t have these posts proofread before I add them to my blog.  But I’m not looking for a job. You are.  My advice: Everything needs to be proofread. Twice.

Mistake #4 – The work lacks passion.  This was the most surprising. These students get to choose what they create – yet there wasn’t a single campaign about something they were personally passionate about. I met dancers, photographers, custom sneaker artists, improv actors, horseback riders, competitive swimmers, and women’s rights advocates. And guess how many of them created campaigns about these passions. That’s correct, zero. I told them all to create a campaign for these passions. That’s because only they could create them. Nobody else has that point of view. Nobody else knew the subject matter as well. That campaign would not (and could not) appear in any other portfolio.  My advice: dig deep inside yourself and find that campaign that only you can create.

Mistake #5 – Bad Interviews. 50% of the interviews were awful. 25% were bad. 20% were just OK. 5% were good.  Do the math, 5% of 20 people.  Yes, 1 good interview. What made these interviews so bad?  Asking no questions. Asking really dumb questions. Wearing something completely inappropriate. Not knowing anything about the agency or the work we do. Pulling a folded resume (with typos) out of a backpack as if you’re handing in a homework assignment. Having nothing interesting to say. Being bored. Being boring.  The good interview was very different. We had plenty to talk about. I gave some advice about his portfolio, and by the time he sent a follow up e-mail, he had made the corrections. Great attitude. Great work ethic.  My advice: Practice interviewing. Do research. Don’t be boring.

I am making my decisions today on who to offer and internship. I may offer 1. I may offer 2. I may offer none. I feel really torn. The teacher in me wants to take the least prepared students so I can work with them. But should I be rewarding them? This is very hard.  You would think that it was easy, but its not.

If you interviewed for an internship, good luck. If you’re thinking about a career in advertising – please pay attention to these tips. It could really help you get the job of your dreams.

Happy Wednesday,

R

12.11.13

I’m addicted to Netflix


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Hello, my name is Rich and I’m a Netflixaholic.

Lately I’m always tired. And just when I think I’ve had enough for one night, a little pop up box shows up and says ‘your next episode will being in 7 seconds’ and I can’t say ‘no.’

It started with Breaking Bad.

I went away on a trip with some friends and they were all talking about how much I’d like Breaking Bad.  I had my iPad with me, so I fired up Netflix and watched Season 1, Episode 1.  By the time I finally went to sleep that night, I knew the life story of Walter White, Jesse, Skylar, Hank, Marie and Walter, Junior.  I think I also spent some quality time with Skinny Pete, Badger & Combo.  I was hooked.  Every night before I went to sleep, I would watch 2-3 episodes.  Tuco, Gus, Steve Gomez, Tio Salamanca, Krazy-8, Eliot and Gretchen Schwartz all became a part of my life. Soon I’d be quoting my favorite characters Lydia, Saul and Mike.  I loved this show.

But the bad news – try falling asleep after watching 3 episodes of Breaking Bad. It was not that easy.

Luckily, there were only 5 glorious seasons to watch.  Yes, I burned through all 5 seasons in 3 weeks. And I realized that this show was a little like driving past a car accident. You know you shouldn’t slow down and look but you always do.  You knew this show was a wreck. You knew the characters couldn’t survive all the crazy stuff. But you kept watching because you were never sure.  I was shocked by the final 5 episodes. The twists and turns were mind blowing.

But that was only the beginning of the addiction. Next up was House of Cards.

I had no intention of watching the entire first season of House of Cards in 1 week. I always liked Kevin Spacey. The Usual Suspects is one of my favorite movies. His work in the 90s is amazing. American Beauty, LA Confidential, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (love the book), Hurlyburly and of course, Glengarry Glen Ross. But he hadn’t done anything that I would call ‘amazing’ in years. I’m not a huge fan of Robin Wright. In fact, off the top of my head, the only films I could recall are The Princess Bride and Hurlyburly.

Then I watched Chapter 1. Wow. Did Kevin Spacey really do that? Did he just talk to the camera? I’m in awe of Robin Wright. I hate Zoe Barnes. I feel bad for Peter Russo. I want to punch Remy Danton. And hey, isn’t that Dana Gordon from Entourage playing a newspaper reporter?  This show is amazing. Amazing. Let me say that again. Amazing.

I’m now watching two chapters a night.  I want to watch them all before the new season starts in February. Although I can’t imagine how there’s a second season. I’ve watched the first 12 episodes. There’s only one more. The house has to fall down soon. This can’t continue.

But it seems like I said the same thing about Breaking Bad.  Hmmmm, maybe this can continue and I just enjoy watching the car wreck.

So now I’m beginning to decide what to begin next.  Yes, I’m truly a Netflixaholic.

Here are the shows everyone is telling me I should watch next. And yes, I’ve never watched a single episode all of these. (Except Newsroom – I watched 3 episodes on a plane once.)

What do you think?

Here’s to another sleepless night. And in the voice of Jesse Pinkman – Have a great weekend, bitches.

R

12.6.13