A blog about self improvement, entrepreneurship, creativity, advertising and getting the most out of your time on Earth.
Author: Adam Albrecht
Adam Albrecht is the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. He believes the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind. He also authors two blogs: The Perfect Agency Project and Dad Says Daughter Says, a Daddy-Daughter blog he co-writes with his 12 year old daughter Ava. Adam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In January of this year you probably set new goals for yourself. You thought about what you wanted to do personally and professionally. Businesses around the world introduced their 2020 goals to their teams. As we plunged into February the new year-smell was still in the air. Progress was being made. Then came March. COVID-19 forced us back into our caves. Suddenly it became much more difficult to make progress towards our goals. And even harder to choreograph new handshakes with friends.
As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency,The Weaponry, my career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel as if you are racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.
Pass The Test
If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly. Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. It will be the one who wants it more.
Today, as you confront your own COVI9-19-era challenges, I have a quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party, pull this quote out between rounds and use it as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.
‘Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing.’ -Abraham Lincoln
My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy brand, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.
These are challenging times. We are all being tested. We are all experiencing setbacks. Things are hard, and may get even harder. But keep doing the hard things. Keep fighting. Keep your eyes on the prize. Remain resolute. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Today, nearly everything that is fun or interesting has been cancelled thanks to COVID-19. In this desert of action, the smallest activities you are doing appear fun and interesting to the rest of the stuck-at-home world. Which means that right now there is a better than average chance you will be interviewed by the news media. Even if you haven’t done anything truly interesting. Or illegal.
Your place. Not mine.
However, due to social distancing, stay-at-home regulations and lockdowns, no reporter will show up at your home or business to talk to you. And they aren’t going to invite you and your potential cooties into the news studio for a chat. Instead, you will be asked to give your interview at home on your computer, smart phone or tablet.
I have been asked to do 2 TV interviews in the past week. The first was with Julia Fello about how our team at The Weaponry is adjusting to working from home. The other was an interview with George Balekji about a video chat reunion that 16 of my University of Wisconsin college track teammates held last Friday to revive the camaraderie of our locker room during this time of social and physical isolation.
In case you get called by the local or national news to do an interview from home, here are a few tricks to increase the likelihood of you giving a great interview that will actually get used.
9 Tips For A Great Interview From Home
1. Find A Good Background
Find a simple, uncluttered place in your home to conduct the interview. To find an appealing background you may have to get creative. Prop your backdrop if necessary. In the Pro Tip below, my friend Katrina Cravy, a media training expert and long time news anchor demonstrates that the setting you choose sends an important message about your brand.
2. Adjust The Camera Height to Eye Level
Our computers and hand-held phone cameras are typically well below our natural eye line. Which means that we look down at them when we are in our normal operating mode. But for an interview it is much better to raise the camera up to eye level. This will make it look as if you are having a conversation with a real human, not your little digital buddy. Use boxes or books to elevate your laptop. If you have a music stand in your home, it will work perfectly to hold your smart phone at eye level. Best of all, it will prevent the rest of us from staring up your nose and seeing bats in the cave during your interview.
3. Go Landscape Mode
We naturally hold our smartphones vertically when we use them. Which is called portrait mode (named after Francois Portrait*). But a television has a horizontal orientation. To make sure your picture properly adapts to the TV screen, turn your phone sideways into landscape mode for your interview. It will look much better on TV.
4. Hold Still
There will likely be a lag in the video based on your technology, wi-fi strength or internet speed. So the more you move (like I tend to do) the funkier your interview is likely to look. Keep you body movements to a minimum in order to not draw attention to picture quality.
5. Improve the Sound
Bad sound will ruin an interview. If you have a good microphone, use it. A headset can work well too. Earbuds are good. Air Pods work really well, because they don’t dictate where you sit. Even better, they don’t have wires to dangle and distract viewers.
Ray Davies Tip: Remember to workout the kinks in your audio technology well before the interview starts.
6. Prepare Your Talking Points
TV news is all about the sound bite. So make sure you have some strong, simple sound bites to share. Before the interview write down your thoughts on the topic. Craft them into short, interesting or memorable statements. A unique, but easily understood statement makes for great TV. Keep your notes nearby to reference during the interview.
Pro Tip: Practice delivering your talking points before the interview. Write down the name of the reporter on your notes. If you are nervous, write down your own name too.
7. Properly Frame Yourself.
Position yourself within the picture so that you look great. You should be centered left and right. Don’t leave a lot of room over your head. If you notice the ceiling in your shot you are doing it wrong. If you can smell your own breath through the screen, back up. And have a mint.
8. Light It Up.
You are not in a perfectly lit studio. So you will have to control the lighting yourself. First, make sure there is enough light on your face so you don’t look dark and creepy. Natural light works great. If you can position yourself to get even light from a window it will make you look even more naturally beautiful than you already are. Then consider grabbing an additional lamp, especially a flexible, direct-able lamp to add additional light if needed.
Side Note: I believe in Crystal Light, cause I believe in me. #nowthatswhatIcall80s
9. Next Level Background
Zoom enables you to use a virtual background. To do this you will either need a very good computer, a plain wall, or a green screen backdrop. Grab a green blanket, sheet or towel, and hang it behind you to create your own green screen at home. On Zoom, go to Preferences…Virtual Background, and then manually pick the background color by clicking the small oval. Then click on your background to sample the background color your photo will replace. You can upload any photo to create your perfect backdrop.
This is a great time to share a little of your good news with the world. Make the most of your opportunity by preparing yourself ahead of time. A little planning will go a long way towards ensuring that you look good and sound good on TV. Good luck. And Stay Classy San Diego.
*Don’t waste your time googling Francois Portrait. I just made that up.
**If you know someone who could benefit from these tips, please share this with them.
When I was young I always loved editorial cartoons. They were like my favorite people, both funny and smart. I loved the very simple package they came in, which was usually just a frame or 2. But they packed a sharp commentary into a simple piece of intellectually humorous art. I felt like my brain was wired to enjoy those cartoons. The same way it is wired to enjoy chocolate milk, Zucker Brothers movies and videos of people falling down.
For many years I have thought about creating my own cartoon. I have had no shortage of ideas. It is time that I have been lacking. Then COVID-19 showed up on my doorstep, like Ed McMahon with a van, a bouquet of balloons and a mandate for us all to stay home. The lockdown caused by the corona cooties has enabled me to finally spend time exploring this passion project. #silverlining
On Friday I reached out to my great friend Dan Koel about the cartoon project. He was excited to explore it together. DK was my original art director partner at the ad agency Cramer Krasselt, where I first started my advertising career. Dan and I worked together for 10 years. And we have partnered on many side projects ever since, including the Adam & Sleeve t-shirt brand. Dan will drive the look for the project.
Dan and I have committed to making 66 Kirky Cartoons. Why 66? because behavioral research shows that by the time you have done something 66 times it becomes a habit. You are highly likely to perform a task automatically after that. So this will be an interesting creative experiment. As well as an experiment in human behavior.
When I wrote down the name The Weaponry as I was looking for a name for my advertising and idea agency, I instantly knew I had the name I was looking for. The same thing happened when I wrote down Kirky for this project. The name sound like a mix of kookie and quirky. Which are two of my favorite things.
But there is another reason for the name. Dan and I had a great friend named Kirk ‘Kirky’ McDonald. Spending time with Kirk was always a bright spot in the day. Kirk passed away in 2017 at the age of 43, after battling brain cancer for 2 decades. Now, Dan and I hope we can make Kirky a bright spot in the day for everyone who reads it.
Exploring like Dora
Below is an exploration Dan and I did for a March Madness idea. It seemed like we should get this one out while it is still March. We looked at this a few different ways.
Please help us with our research by letting us know which one you prefer: A, B, or C. This project will evolve and improve with your feedback. It take a village to raise an editorial cartoon. And we’ll take all the help we can get.
If you have a passion project you have always wanted to do, do it now. We all have a little additional time in our schedules. Take advantage of it. As Kirky taught me and Dan, life is short. Take advantage of the time you have. And make someone smile if you can.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Social distancing is really odd. Suddenly we don’t see the people we are used to seeing every day. This includes co-workers, that dude or dudette at the coffee shop with the tattoos and the people at the gym, with the tattoos. (Okay, maybe I just miss tattoos right now, because my kids don’t have any. Yet.)
Right now we don’t see the people we regularly run into at school or practice or the movie theater. And we’re quietly hoping those people haven’t been voted off the island by the coronavirus.
Please enjoy this flashback while you miss the people in your neighborhood
My Lunch Bunch
Yesterday I found a replacement for the people that I regularly see in my neighborhood. In fact, yesterday I had lunch with 16 of my college track teammates from the University of Wisconsin. While it would have been great to gather at Mickies Dairy Bar, The Memorial Union Terrace, or State Street Brats, none of those places would have let us in yesterday because of the corona-cooties
Instead, we gathered over the lunch hour, via Zoom, from our home offices, kitchens and couches. We gathered from a hospital and from an Olympic Training Center.
And it was amazing.
We gathered from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Green Bay, Omaha, Denver, San Diego, Houston and Phoenix. Some of these people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 20 years.
This group of guys has a very special relationship. We trained, suffered, traveled, competed, studied and partied together throughout our college experience in Madison. We learned how to succeed as a team. We won multiple Big Ten Championships as a team. And our head coach, Ed ‘Nutty’ Nuttycombe won more Big 10 championships than any coach in any sport in Big 10 history. Which makes us feel as if we are part of a legacy. Better yet, we all have funny Nutty stories to share. #tripletnieces
Coach Nutty used to say, ‘It feels good to feel good.’ And yesterday if felt good to tap into the strong bond we still share during this challenging and isolating time. Our hour together reminded us that we are not alone. That we have brothers across the country to lean on, laugh with and learn from as we all go through this strange time together.
Thanks to Matt Downin, Louis Hinshaw, Tom Burger, Tony Simmons, Brian Veit, Jabari Pride, Bryan Jones, Matt Vander Zanden, David Sengstock, Jason Vanderhoof, Jeremy Fischer, Scott Brinen, Kevin Huntley, Scott Sullivan, and John Christensen for making the time to get together. I look forward to more. Because we are better together. Just like Coach Nutty, Coach Napes, and Coach Smith taught us. And we have the rings to prove it.
I encourage you to take advantage of this unique time to find and reconnect with your people. It only takes one person to get a video meetup started. So be that person. Channel your inner James Taylor, and let your people know that even in this time of social distancing and self-isolation, they’ve got a friend.
The best food I ever tasted in my life was a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger at an Oasis overpass in Chicago. I had gone 24 hours without eating anything due to travel craziness. And in my time of need, nothing Wolfgang Puck, David Chang or Jesus’s personal chef could have whipped up would have tasted better to me than Dave Thomas’s triple wonder did that day.
You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone.
Deprivation changes everything. It changes priorities at work and at home. It makes the least valued most valued. But the truth is, the value is always there. We simply miss it. We factor in the basics as constants in our science, math and social equations.
Instead of the basics, we get to focus on the less important things. Sports, movies, concerts, Happy Hour, Kardashians. These are all luxuries. Abraham Maslow knew it. When he created his Hierarchy Of Needs he put all of our most basic needs at the bottom. Not because they are least important. But because they are most important. Without those basic needs met, nothing else matters. No prestige or feelings of belonging or accomplishment matter at all if you are hungry, tired, worried about lung inflammation, or wondering what you will wipe your bum with next.
The 2 Week Lesson
Over the past 2 weeks everything has changed. We have flipped the Maslow’s hierarchy triangle upside down. Just like Suge Knight did to Vanilla Ice. What was last on our list is now first. We are now thankful for the safety of a simple shelter. We appreciate the security of isolation. We feel the value of the money we saved for a rainy day. Now we just hope we don’t get orders to round up 2 of every animal. Especially after seeing TigerKing on Netflix. #amIright
The Rise Of The Toilet Paper
Finally, we see the real value in toilet paper. Today, a carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter are not food. They are peace of mind. Fresh fruits and vegetable are valued treats again. Like they were during most of human history.
For the first time in my lifetime, or at least since the movie Convoy, we as a nation are recognizing the critical importance of the truckers, transporters and delivery drivers.
The grocery store stockers and cashiers are our modern day militia. Without them we would all be scurvy pirates by now.
We suddenly see the value in the women and men who make our toothpaste, hand soap, disinfectant and medical masks. In fact, I am thanking them through my mask right now.
Timeout For A Reality Check
Today, we are reminded that we can carry on just fine without the athletic superstar we cared so much about 2 weeks ago. But without the farmer, nothing else matters. The janitors and cleaners who enter the building as you are leaving are no longer an afterthought. They are critical to the safety of us all.
When Forrest Gump, Mr. Rogers and Woody test positive for COVID-19 it is unfortunate. But the nurse who tests positive and cannot work is a threat to the safety net we are all counting on to catch us if we fall.
This is an opportunity to reset. To realize how fortunate we are to spend so much time thinking well beyond our most important needs. It’s a time to recognize that unless you are Mr. Wipple, a roll of toilet paper is more important than most of the things you focused on 2 weeks ago.
If you let it, the scarcity and the scariness of these times can have a profoundly positive impact on the way you see and value the people and things around you. So let it. And emerge from this with a greater ability to appreciate what you have, what you need, and what you don’t. It will help you enjoy all areas of your life more. Just like Maslow said.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Last week marked a major shift for our country. The mood changed. The rules changed. Which meant that many brands had to change their messages and tonality in order to sound in sync with the times. While other brands that had not been part of our collective conversation finally found their pick-up lines working like Joey Tribbiani’s best material.
This meant a McFlurry of activity at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. While other business were grinding to a halt, our services were sought after like a jumbo pack of toilet paper at Costco.
Did I mention that my entire team also moved to our spring offices this week? Which is a fun way to say that we all worked from home. So did all of our clients. You probably did too.
Here are some of the highlights from our week.
We had our first client meeting at 9am on Monday morning.
In that meeting we planned significant messaging adjustments to respond to new social and economic conditions.
We spent the rest of the day ideating. It felt like we were in a movie about advertising. Complete with Glen Frey’s The Heat Is On playing in the background.
At 5pm we presented a new creative campaign for that same client we met with at 9am. Boom!
We added 2 news clients to our roster.
1 in Columbus, Ohio.
1 in Los Angeles
We had a kickoff meeting to get the L.A.-based client rolling. Because there was no time to waste.
I had a 2-hour video call with my CEO roundtable to talk with other business owners about what they are facing, and the challenging decisions that need to be made in response to the current uncertainty. Several of the member’s businesses were essentially stopped in their tracks by the current ban on gatherings. Which made me extremely thankful for the strong demand for our services.
We presented a new fully-integrated campaign for a new sponsorship that we created on behalf of one of our clients. The campaign included TV, outdoor, long form video, print, in-store displays, event activation, barn painting, social media, digital display and vehicle wraps. That was about it. #ThingsBubbaSays
We presented 37 new logos designs for a long-existing brand as part of a major rebrand initiative. Our 4 clients were all on video-conference, from home, while under house arrest.
Thursday night at 11pm I received an email from one of our clients inquiring about availability to meet the next day. They wanted to discuss ideas for a new promotion to take advantage of the new normal. I responded minutes later with a meeting time on Friday to kickoff the project.
We presented a new content campaign featuring online videos, ranging from 15 seconds to 4 minutes long.
Late on Friday afternoon we received client approval on a re-edit and new voiceover language for a television commercial. I contacted the recording studio to book time with them to record and master 2 new spots. They asked if I wanted to book time on Monday. I said no, I wanted time today, or tomorrow, which of course was Saturday. Since it was late in the day on Friday, and most people had gone home for the day, we settled for first thing Saturday morning.
My team, the audio engineer, voiceover talent, and editor gathered virtually to help speed new commercials to market to help our client respond to our current climate.
We sent brand new commercials to TV stations for immediate airing.
We took a deep breath, and were thankful for the ability to take deep breaths.
These are unique times. The rules, challenges and opportunities are different right now. Help your customers, clients neighbors, family and friends get through this and they will never forget what you did for them. Yes, the stage is different. Most of us are everything-ing from home. But what it takes to shine during these times is the same. So shine on you crazy diamonds.
Over the past weeks there has been a lot of talk about time. Government, school and business leaders have thrown out dates and durations to add definitiveness to the end of the coronavirus pandemic. But you don’t have to be a geologist to know that those dates are written in sand, not stone.
Why All The Time Passages?
People want answers, and certainty. Businesses want to count up all their cash, and divide it by the number of days of downtime to determine if they can make it to re-opening day. Parents want to know if this is a spring break thing, a summer break thing, or both. And God help us all if this is both. #ScreenTimeLobotomy Speaking of God, my church has cancelled all congregating until after Easter. Which is like 40 days and 40 nights.
Right now, there is a very simple truth worth embracing: The timeline is unknowable.
No one can predict how this will play out with certainty. Not Dr. Fauci, Dr. Oz, Dr. Seuss or Dr. Pepper. President Trump, Joe Biden and Weekend-At-My-Place Sanders don’t know. And as much as you, me and Bobby McGee want to know, we can’t.
I’m Good With That
I take great comfort in the fact that nobody knows the real timeline, for 2 reasons.
1. It is a reminder that much of this is up to us.
We, the people, are the great variable in the timeline. Our actions make all the difference right now. Our hand washing and our social distancing may seem trivial. But they are the grenades and the sniper rifles in the battle against COVID-19.
2. This could be much shorter than we are hearing.
The timeline has become sensationalized. 9-months! 18-months! 2-years! Forever 21! (Wait, that last one is just a sign I saw at the mall.) Sure, these could be true. But remember, those who profit from fear and attention during a crisis are incentivized to make the situation even crisis-ier. #followthemoney
Have faith right now that this will get better sooner than later. Have faith in our medical professionals who are working hard to protect us all. Have faith in our scientists who are quickly learning, applying their knowledge, and blinding me with science.
Have faith in our political leaders who are learning from the good, the bad and the ugly around the world in order to create the recipe for success in your community. And have faith that God helps those who help themselves. Especially those who help themselves to generous amounts of hand soap and the sweet spot on the living room couch.
The duration of the Global Timeout is unknowable. Do your part, and this will be better faster. We’re all in this together. And we can get out of this sooner, together. A little patience and perspective go a long way right now. Take a deep breath. Take advantage of your time to think, and enjoy the quality time at home. Support those supporting the rest of us. And like Mickey said, we’ll see each other real soon.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.