Unlocking Your Creativity and Persuasion: A Master Ad Man on Tricks of the Trade

Unlocking Your Creativity and Persuasion: A Master Ad Man on Tricks of the Trade

How Chris landed his first job with the help of Mark Cuban

  • Landed an unpaid internship at a trendy Ad Agency called Modernista in Boston
  • Convinced the agency to let him work for free
  • Wrote website copy for General Motors, particularly for the Hummer truck
  • Focused on transitioning from web copy to print ads and creative tasks
  • Submitted an ad for the Dallas Mavericks 2002 NBA program featuring Mark Cuban and the Hummer truck
  • Contacted Mark Cuban for permission to use his name in the ad
  • Mark Cuban agreed, leading to the agency offering Chris a job for $225,000 a year

Lessons learned from first boss Lance Jensen

  • Lance Jensen, the owner of Modernista, was a highly influential and acclaimed figure in the advertising industry
  • Chris learned about taste, creativity, and the art of making ordinary things sound exciting from Lance Jensen
  • Having a boss with great taste and high standards is a valuable gift in the advertising industry

Writing cold emails that work

  • The email was concise and got to the point quickly.
  • It established credibility by mentioning the guest's 21 years of experience and success.
  • The email presented macro topics for discussion, prompting questions and showing thorough preparation.
  • The email aimed to make the recipient's decision to say yes easier by offering reasons for a positive response.
  • The email was well-crafted and represented a good investment.

Nurturing and developing ability to get things done

  • The recipient of the email looks for the nurturing and development of the sender's ability to execute, not just successes but also failures.
  • The sender's ability to make their idea or product easier to buy is crucial, rather than relying on someone else to do it for them.

Fatherson trip to

  • The discussion moves on to the topic of the fatherson trip, but the content is incomplete.

What Chris’s dad taught him about workarounds

  • Chris's father taught him the value of finding creative solutions and workarounds in any situation.
  • He shared a story of how his father found a way to gain access to Universal Studios by attending a time share meeting and obtaining day passes as a reward.

Pursuing passions and taking risks in personal life

  • Chris describes how he pursued his passions by taking risks and seeking out opportunities.
  • He talked about sneaking into a New York Knicks practice session and playing basketball with the team, as well as reaching out to Image Comics repeatedly to try to speak with Rob Liefeld.

Living a double life

  • Chris lived a double life where he presented himself as a quiet, shy person at school but pursued extraordinary experiences in his personal life.
  • He felt that he was able to create the life of his dreams, even if it didn't match his day-to-day reality.


  • The text ends abruptly, implying that there is more to come in the discussion.

A golf strategy that inspired Super Bowl aspirations

  • Putting strategy learned from golf with father-in-law led to a mindset shift
  • Embraced incremental progress towards career goals
  • Transitioned from print ads to TV production to broaden experience and skill set

Good taste and the Modernista style

  • Modernista style focused on the vibe and cool factor of ideas
  • Required tight writing and beautiful art direction
  • At Goodby, learned to vary style based on clients and adapt to different voices
  • Taste and skills were merged, leading to diverse portfolio building

Portfolio building

  • Obsessed with the best of the best in advertising industry
  • Formed own opinions by studying award show annuals
  • Translated interest into finding places and people doing outstanding work
  • Proactivity essential for forging new opportunities and overcoming challenges in current workload

How Chris landed his first Super Bowl ad

  • Chris directly asked for the assignment and was passionate about the campaign.
  • He found a way to make the brief more appealing to the client by incorporating the idea of peanuts as a source of energy.
  • He wrote 20 scripts and each one focused on the theme of peanuts as a source of energy.

The creative process

  • Chris emphasized the importance of getting all possible thoughts out and then tricking oneself into coming up with more ideas.
  • He learned to sift through his own material as he gained more experience.

The approval process and production process

  • Chris shared his script with his bosses, Steve and Jeff Goodby, without trying to sell them on it.
  • The client, Andrew Burke, saw the rational strategy behind the creative idea, showing the importance of highly rational strategies brought to life in surprising ways.
  • The idea was put through quantitative research, which asked the audience specific questions about what they understood from it, rather than asking if they liked it.

The production process

  • Chris hired the Peoria brothers as directors and had a positive experience working with Robert Goulet, who was open to ideas and cooperative.
  • The client allowed the creatives a liberal room to play and protect his investment, making the shoot a magical and enjoyable experience.

Editing and expectations

  • Editor Ian McKenzie plays initial ad, leads to disappointment
  • Ability to experiment and try different approaches with digital editing tools
  • Importance of catching up mentally with progress in the editing process
  • The value of feedback and staying confident in one's vision

Critical acclaim

  • Ad ranked number one by Ad Age and received positive response
  • Sales increased after the ad's release
  • Brief discussion about the ad's success on YouTube and its impact

Working with BBDO’s David Lubars

  • David Lubars, worldwide chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO, provided clear and consistent leadership
  • Emphasis on making prompt decisions to facilitate progress
  • Empowerment of employees to make decisions

Working fast and resisting the urge to “gild the lily”

  • Importance of making fast decisions in creative work
  • Trusting one's instincts and avoiding excessive deliberation
  • Recognition that some decisions can be adjusted as things progress
  • Acknowledgment of the negative impact of prolonged deliberation and the importance of maintaining momentum

Shining a light on the Super Bowl LIV Mountain Dew commercial.

  • The Mountain Dew Super Bowl ad started as an idea for Mountain Dew zero sugar.
  • The original idea involved a mega campaign with Daniel Day-Lewis starring in the ad without his knowledge, but it was rejected.
  • The concept then evolved into using a wrong actor reenacting iconic scenes and led to the creation of The Shining remake with Brian Cranston and Tracy Ellis Ross.

The value of the vaguely naughty mindset.

  • Jeff Goodby's advice to always feel like you're doing something vaguely naughty emboldens creativity and encourages a form of play in the advertising process.
  • The feeling of doing something wrong can indicate promising ideas, and it is important to push the boundaries in creativity.

Making less more with Tor Myhren.

  • A world-class agency partner needs to reduce and distill client messages to the most compelling core truth.
  • The art of editing involves stripping down messaging to the one most compelling point, as seen in examples like "G milk" and "a thousand songs in your pocket."

The Adidas/Billie Jean King gambit

  • Given Adidas assignment for tennis for the US Open
  • Wanted to keep young girls in sports due to body confidence issues
  • Proposed the idea of changing people's shoes into Billie Jean King shoes
  • Obtained internal funding to start the project
  • Client only allowed Adidas shoes to be sprayed
  • Faced backlash from the client and legal repercussions
  • Ultimately, the idea was well-received and gained notoriety

Decision Making and Calculus

  • Made the decision to proceed based on the belief in the idea's potential
  • Considered worst-case scenarios and the potential impact
  • Believed that no one would be harmed by the idea
  • Saw significant upside and potential without marginalizing a person or community

A Napster campaign crashes

  • Numerous failures are essential for learning and growth.
  • Despite many failures, it is important to have a short memory and not dwell on them.
  • The speaker was involved in a Napster campaign, where they attempted to create a memorable marketing strategy by encouraging people to crash live broadcasts wearing Napster shirts.
  • The campaign was met with disapproval from the Napster board, leading to its swift termination.
  • This experience taught the speaker to move on from failures and not linger on them.

Creative industry-related reading and viewing

  • "Hey Whipple Squeeze This" by Luke Sullivan is recommended as a valuable book that explains the workings of an ad agency and the creative process within.
  • The speaker recommends three video resources: "South Park 6 Days to Air," "Some Kind of Monster" (Metallica documentary), and "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" for insights into creativity, high-performing team dynamics, and the dedication required in the creative process.

Overcoming creative roadblocks

  • Writer's block isn't real
  • Trick yourself into coming up with new ideas by applying different challenges or perspectives
  • Write sentences and finish them to get through the discomfort
  • The more ideas you generate in the moment, the more you'll be rewarded later

What Chris does in lieu of meditation

  • Chris cannot meditate, so he uses hard fitness as a form of meditation
  • The intense morning workout burns off anxiety and helps him stay calm for the rest of the day
  • He goes to a gym called Tone House, where the workout is intense and involves constant high heart rate

Inspiration for strenuous morning workout

  • Chris began the intense workout after feeling upset about his physical shape
  • He found Tone House gym and was initially unable to complete the workout, but eventually became a regular attendee
  • The intense morning workout has helped him focus on the present and stop worrying about other things

Exercise as a way to occupy idle cycles

  • Chris mentions the importance of occupying idle cycles to stay focused and avoid getting into trouble
  • He recalls drawing constantly in school to occupy himself and avoid getting into trouble
  • Exercise is a great way to consume idle cycles and stay focused

Books and videos that save lives and inspire curiosity

  • "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" by Alan Carr is a recommended book that helped the individual quit smoking.
  • "The Culture Code" by Daniel Coyle is a book that explores high-performing cultures and is recommended for leadership and management roles.

Best investments of less than $100

  • Attending a Toon House class for $34 is highlighted as a worthwhile investment.
  • Going to Bazar restaurant in Manhattan for breakfast, which costs less than $100, is considered a valuable investment for the individual.

Capturing and saving good ideas for later

  • Capture and save good ideas for later, whether they are personal ideas or things encountered in the environment.
  • Use tools like notebooks, stickies, or videos to record ideas.
  • Study copy and advertising by collecting ads, taking notes, and analyzing what influenced purchasing decisions.
  • Study text and headlines in magazines and newsletters to understand attention-grabbing elements, art direction, and composition.
  • Analyze visual elements in ads, such as dominant elements and composition.

What words are worth

  • Art direction and a set of words play a crucial role in persuading and selling products.
  • Clients and consumers are influenced by the power of words and their use in advertising.
  • Study of words helps in defending against manipulative messaging and understanding the malleability of thoughts and behavior.

If the idea is good enough, there’s always more money

  • Good ideas have the potential to secure more funding and resources.
  • Constraints are essential for generating effective and impactful ideas in creative brainstorming.
  • It is critical to balance creative ideas with real-world considerations such as budget and legal constraints.

Give Chris a Foot Locker and he’ll take a mile.

  • Extra ideas can win the client's goodwill and permission for more creative, crazy ideas.
  • A campaign for Foot Locker overreached with celebrity cameos and offbeat scenes, initially causing skepticism among the team.
  • Ultimately, the client embraced the unconventional approach, leading to a successful and memorable campaign.

An ego check.

  • A failed collaboration with a client led to conflicts and a sense of defeat for the team during the production of a wheelchair basketball ad for Guinness.
  • The team considered removing their names from the ad due to their perception of failure and ego-driven battles.
  • Despite their negative experience, the ad resonated with the audience and achieved unexpected success, teaching a valuable lesson about perspective and humility.

Chris’s billboard.

  • Chris would want a billboard with the message "see what's possible" at his house to serve as a daily reminder to live creatively, take chances, and explore life's potential.

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