Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Security in an insecure world.

          Not too long ago, students were worried about being able to get into college. That was the extent of the anxiety. The rest would take care of itself.

           It didn't, of course. Today students are also worried about what happens when they get out of college, and they have to get a job. I didn't say a great job; just a job. And of course, millions of people with jobs are worried about keeping them.

            I once asked my mentor and friend, Tom Murray, where the security was in the advertising business. It seemed to me you could be a hero one day and a bum the next.

            Tom took a long, slow puff on his pipe and looked me straight in the eye. "The only security in advertising, Harvey, is right here," he said, tapping his chest. "Inside of you. What you can do is your security."

             I've thought of that a lot over the years, and in some strange way that's hard to hold onto, that's true. Your abilities, your talent will be your security. With that, of course, comes responsibility.

             First, you have to keep nurturing those capabilities. You have to become a scholar of your craft, your profession, and the world around you. You can never stop caring about what's being done, who's doing it, and why. You have to keep up.

             Second, you have to learn all you can about people. Advertising and marketing are all about psychology, sociology, and anthropology. It's also about talking to customers and what their lives are like, what's important to them, and how they make decisions.

              And third, it's about working hard. Your first idea probably won't be your best. Neither will your third. Good enough is never good enough. What someone else did has been done. Everyone has ideas. Yours have to be rooted in a keen understanding of people, the product, the competition and the business. It sometimes takes 15 ideas to get it right. Go back to work.

             That's it. Security comes with your attitude and your ability, and both are your responsibility.

             You'll get a job and it will be up to you to make it a good one. Security isn't a perk.

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