How the fun UW Credit Union commercials with Jonathan Taylor happened.

Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has been the talk of the sports world this week. He lit up the NFL on Sunday, rushing for a Colts record 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He completed the regular season with 1169 rushing yards, 3rd best in the NFL in 2020. He also used his remarkable speed, agility and hand-washing skills to avoid covid all season long.

Taylor’s standout NFL season comes on the heels of a record-setting college career.

Jonathan Taylor highlights at the University of Wisconsin:

  • 1st running back in college football history to rush for 6,000 yards in 3 seasons.
  • 6th most rushing yards in college football history, despite only playing 3 seasons.
  • Winner of the Doak Walker Award as America’s best college running back in both 2018 and 2019.
  • 2 time unanimous 1st-team All-American in 2018 and 2019
JT talking about colts and cowboys.

Marketing Opportunities

In 2020, as Jonathan Taylor began his NFL career, he also began a partnership with UW Credit Union. Taylor first became a member of UW Credit Union his freshman year in Madison. It was the first bank account the Salem, New Jersey native ever had. In fact, it was Taylor who first approached UW Credit Union about a possible partnership, noting the strong connection he felt towards the brand.

The interview portion of the program.

Starting and Stopping

The first scheduled collaboration between Taylor and UW Credit Union was supposed to happen back in March of 2020, just before the NFL draft. JT was hosting a series of football camps for youth in Milwaukee and Madison that was sponsored by UW Credit Union. But the camps were scheduled for March 14 and 15th. Which was the weekend the coronavirus pulled the plug on all fun and games in America.

Not only were the camps canceled, the entire country went into lockdown-mode for the next 2 months. The only sports happening in America were toilet paper hunting, cleaning supply gathering, and an epic game of covid dodgeball.

JT demonstrating the no-look one-handed catch.

One Last Chance

By the middle of summer, we had all settled into the new normal. Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union approached our team at The Weaponry about the JT partnership again. She asked us if we thought we should still try to create some new content with Jonathan if logistics would allow. We said absolutely. So we contacted Team Taylor and Everett Sports Marketing, JT’s marketing agents, to see what if anything was still possible.

Good News

As it turns out, Anne’s call was well timed. JT needed to report to training camp with the Indianapolis Colts the next week. As luck would happen, he was going to be in Madison a day before that to pack up his apartment, move, and enjoy some Toppers Pizza. So we had one day to capture what we needed. However, we had less than a week to prepare.

This meant we had less than a week to figure out what we were going to do with JT, where we were going to do it, and who we were going to work with to film and photograph him. Under normal circumstances, this would be a very tight squeeze. But during the covid-era the opening was so small we didn’t know if even JT could run through it.

The Location

The location was difficult to find. The University of Wisconsin was in full lockdown mode, and wouldn’t allow anyone on campus, including the athletic facilities. Dane County put tight restrictions on gatherings of non-household-sharing humans. So we were in a tough spot.

Jonathan Taylor and Adam Albrecht in pre-game warmups.

Finally, we found a high school that would allow us to film on their football field. It is probably more accurate to say that they said, ‘We don’t want to know anything about this, but the gate might not be locked, and you might be able to get on the field if you are all masked and socially distant.’

The Crew

We found a Milwaukee-based film crew that had safety protocols in place and could run a safe covid-era shoot. We tapped our good friend and great photographer Lucian MacAfee for photography duties. Now we just needed scripts to film and ideas to photograph.

This was the first time in my career that my team had locked in a shoot location and both film and photo crews before we had any ideas about what we were going to create. But then again, this was also my first pandemic.

The socially distanced film set.

The Ideas

Our creative team of Kevin Kayse and Kristyn Lilley fired off a barrage of potential video scripts for JT to deliver for social media and the UW Credit Union website. But our timing was limited. And we didn’t know how JT would be on camera, or whether he could deliver humorous ideas. Plus, we couldn’t shoot other actors with JT. To their great credit, the UW Credit Union marketing team trusted that we would come up with something. And we did.

JT and his lucky Bucky Badger debit card.

The Shoot

Despite all of the twists and turns we had experienced since March, on the day of the shoot everything went according to plan. Everyone showed up at the right location at the right time. Everyone wore masks. We used long lenses that allowed JT to be a significant distance from the camera. And we rolled film.

JT was great. He was as good at working with the teleprompter as anyone I have ever worked with. He was extremely coachable and took direction well. We were pleasantly surprised that he was able to deftly deliver the light humor several of the videos required.

In fact, while we were planning on creating a series of online and social videos, we were so pleased with how they turned out that we decided to turn the videos into TV commercials as well. And the response to the spots has been great.

Here is the first commercial to air.

We had a little fun with this spot. Fun fact: It is my voice that talks to JT from off-camera.

Here is the second commercial to air, which focuses on UW Credit Union’s mobile app.

Wisconsin has 2 NFL rival teams. We played off of that in this commercial.

Thanks to UW Credit Union for the opportunity to create this work. Thanks to Anne Norman, Becky Hubing and Jill Rickert of UWCU for your help at the shoot. Thanks to Rachel Everett and ESM for all your help. Thanks to producer Mandi Nodorft for pulling things together. Thanks to Lucian McAfee for all the great photography. And thanks to Jonathan Taylor for being great to work with, and funny too.

JT with Rachel Everett of Everett Sports Marketing. ESM encourages all of its athletes to focus on the brands they have authentic, credible, significant relationships with. Which is a very good philosophy for brand partnerships. Which is why they have also attracted other top NFL players, including Nick Chubb, Tee Higgins and D’Andre Swift.

How to stand out in a crowd using your unique identifiers.

There are a lot of people to compete with on this planet. If you are looking for a job, a significant other, or a great opportunity, it helps to stand out from the herd. Or so I’ve heard.

Only You.

In advertising, we are always looking for that thing that only our brand can say. We were the first brand to do ________. We are the only brand to offer ________. We are the only brand that does __________ in Dallas, besides Debbie.

What we are doing is creating a clear and distinguishing image of our brand without an equal competitor. To do this, we create evaluation criteria that we naturally win.

Your Personal Brand

You can do the same thing for your personal brand. To do this, simply find something that makes you stand out. Use the following question as your guide.

What is something you have done that you are fairly confident you are the ONLY person in the considered set to have done?

The considered set means you are the only person in the room, at the party, in the new business pitch, or being interviewed who could say this. When someone asks you to share a fun fact about yourself, this is what they mean. I always think this would be a really fun game to play in prison.

Your Unique Identifiers

This question offers you an opportunity to become unforgettable. It allows you to reach into your bag of uniqueness and pull out that crazy fact, that interesting experience, that crazy condition, that remarkable accomplishment, and hold it up for everyone to see. Like when Anthony Michael Hall holds up Molly Ringwald’s underwear in Sixteen Candles. When you do, you have created your own Unique Identifier.

Your Unique Identifier serves as a valuable story that dramatically increases your memorability. And if you want opportunities to come your way, it helps to stand out from the crowd.

Some Unique Identifiers I use:

  • I once pet a hummingbird in the wild.
  • I once got stuck in a Murphy bed in Germany.
  • My Mom is one of 9 kids and my Dad is one of 12.
  • I lived in 5 states by the time I was in 7th Grade.
  • Me and Danica Patrick once filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls.
  • My older sister Heather and I have the same birthday 2 years apart. And my 2 younger sisters, Alison and Donielle, have the same birthday 2 years apart.
  • In high school, I broke the state record in the discus 8 months after having my ACL reconstructed.
  • I launched The Weaponry because I had two different clients call me the same day and encourage me to start my own advertising agency.

Key Takeaway

We all have Unique Identifiers. Think about yours. Write them down and keep them handy. Use them at parties, on dates, and in interviews. They give others something interesting and differentiating to remember you by. Just ask Mikhail Gorbachev.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

It’s time to enjoy a taste of the holidays, with Sprecher.

Sprecher Root Beer is the best root beer in America. That’s not just my opinion. The New York Times said that. (And so did my kids, over and over.) Because Sprecher root beer is just that good. But like wassailing and dressing like an elf, Sprecher root beer is even more popular at Christmas time.

That’s why Sprecher Craft Soda approached The Weaponry about creating a new ad campaign to run throughout the 2020 holiday season. Now it’s the holiday season! So hoop-de-do and hickory dock. And don’t forget to hang up your sock so Santa can stuff it with Sprecher.

The Insight

Sprecher sodas taste great every day of the year. But research reveals that Sprecher lovers strongly link the great taste of Sprecher to the holidays. For anyone who grew up drinking Sprecher, there is a great sense of tradition, nostalgia and comfort in these brown bottles of deliciousness. When creating the new work, we tapped into that feeling like a keg of root beer.

One of the new ads, featuring the Family Truckster and a big ole bottle of Sprecher Root Beer.

Delish You A Merry Christmas!

If you have never had a Sprecher, Sprecher is to root beer what Krispy Kreme is to donuts and HoneyBaked is to ham. Once you’ve had one, it will spoil you for all other root beers. Which is why I believe Jesus wants me and my family to have Krispy Kreme, HoneyBaked and Sprecher on our table on Christmas Day. #WWJD

The More The Merrier!

Families have celebrated the holidays with Sprecher sodas for decades. But it’s not just the root beer. The Cream Soda is smooth, like a Barry White Christmas. The Orange Dream is, well, dreamy. And both the Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer leave your mouth ting-ting-ting-a-ling too. (Sorry, there is no Mary Ann Ale, Gilligan.)

The Secret Sauce

Why is Sprecher Craft Soda so darn good? First, it is made with honey. How cool is that!?! Then, they brew the soda, like beer. It’s the fire-brewed caramelization process that really adds the flavor like Flavor Flav! #YeahBoy!

I have to leave 2. Or 3.

The Backstory

We have Randy Sprecher to thank for these great flavors. Back in the late 1900s, Randy traveled to Germany and fell in love with the taste and craft of German beer brewing. Apparently the Germans have the beer thing figured out. Hence the giant steins and gemütlichkeit .

Randy came to Milwaukee and began brewing world-class beer under the Sprecher Brewing Company banner. But at home Randy applied the same brewing techniques to the special homemade root beer recipe he created for his young daughter Kecia. Once Sprecher began serving Randy’s root beer in the taproom, sales took off. Today the root beer sales even outpace the award-winning beer.

Yule love it. And so will Yul Brynner.

The Next Chapter

At the beginning of 2020 a team of investors, led by CEO Sharad Chadha, recognized the enormous untapped potential of Sprecher sodas, and decided to invest aggressively in growing Sprecher sodas on a national level. Their renewed focus on promoting the brand through strategic marketing and sales efforts is already on display this holiday season.

The Campaign

The holiday campaign features a combination of billboards and mobile display ads that are served up near retail locations through the end of the year. The ads tap into the strong connection the brand already has to holiday celebrations.

The campaign provides a simple reminder that while there are many traditions that simply aren’t available this year, we can still enjoy a Sprecher with our families. And it’s those little things that make the holidays feel, and taste, like the holidays.

These are Sprecher’s Gold, Frankincense and Root Beer.

If you can’t find Sprecher at a retailer near you, you can always order online at sprecherbrewery.com. And if you can’t find it there, it’s because I bought everything they brewed. Sorry.

Roll The Credits:

There is a great crew at Sprecher who have been supporting this effort including Sharad Chadha, Kecia Sprecher, Craig Burge, Jenny Nyquist, Tom Aslin, Doug Cullaz, Katya Alexeeva, Lauren Price and guest star Carl Cahill.

The Weaponry team behind the new work includes Kristyn ‘L-Lil’ Lilley, Joe Kayse, Simon Harper, Adam Albrecht and Cat Boland.

In The Wild

Santa knows, Sprecher Craft Sodas always make a great stocking stuffer.

This is a strange time for a thriving business.

2020 has been the most interesting year of my life. It is so yiny and yangy that it is nearly impossible to define. It is arguably the worst year ever. It is arguably the best year ever. It depends on which of your eyes you look with. And whether or not you enjoy spending time with humans.

Back in March, I was concerned about what the coronavirus would mean to businesses in general. And more specifically, I was concerned about what it meant to my business and my team at The Weaponry. But my immediate concern was short- lived. In fact, my team has been busier than ever before.

Most of our clients been cranking away during the pandemic. As a result we have experienced growth that feels less like a pandemic and more like pandemonium.

Since March 16th, we have added 8 new clients. But that doesn’t even tell the full story. Because we have also had 3 clients, who had been hibernating, roar awake with major initiatives. (Major Initiatives is also my favorite military figure.)

Plus, we have 5 very strong new business prospects on our doorsteps right now. We expect the majority of those embryonic clients will become full-fledged clients by the end of the year.

But these are still strange times, indeed. The U.S. just added 1 million new covid cases in 6 days. That’s crazy for Covid-Puffs. Which makes it a weird time to invest in your business.

However, The Weaponry needs to continue scaling to meet the ever-increasing demand. Which means we are shopping for more great creative talent.

We are looking for envy-inducing writers, art directors, designers, account types and more. I love finding people who have created great work that I am jealous of. It is how I know their talent will make The Weaponry better.

But the question I am continuously asking myself is when do we pull the trigger, Tonto? Do we do it now, and just go? Do we wait for a vaccine to change the long-term prospects? Do we wait to see if things get worse? These are odd times and those are odd options.

We have the same issue with our office space. We don’t actually need any office space today. But if our full team was in the office right now we wouldn’t have nearly enough space. Which is like getting fat at a nudist colony. It doesn’t matter while you are there. But you won’t have anything to wear when it’s time to go.

Remote work has been a blessing for us in this respect. But once we transition back to everyone in the office we will need a space about 3 times that of our current office space.

But when do you expand your space? It’s odd to do it when everyone is still at home working in their Snuggies. But what kind of delay will we experience once we can actually be in the office, that we could have absorbed when fewer people were coming in?

There are no perfect answers to these questions. (Unless you know something I don’t.) But this is the type of interesting challenge we face right now.

If you are really talented and want to be on our radar, this a great time to talk. Even if you just graduated or are about to graduate from college. We are always looking for great people. If you know someone we should know, please share this post with them. You (and they) can always contact us through theweaponry.com or by emailing us at info@theweaponry.com.

Everything there is to know about me in 52 minutes.

Everyone has a story. I recently sat down with Dave Molenda on the Positive Polarity Podcast to tell my story. Ok, so it was more like a series of stories. Kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Which makes my episode the Podcast of a Wimpy Adult.

If you want to skip the backstory and go straight to the podcast click here.

That’s a lot of hair in one square.

Dave Molenda

Dave is a successful entrepreneur who grew a baby startup business into a $10 million beast. Then Dave wrote a book that became a #1 Amazon Best Seller called Growing On Purpose: The Formula to Strengthen Your Team AND Improve Your Customer Experience.

Dave is a really positive guy who is looking to find more positive people with positive ideas to share with the world. (I’m positive about that.) Which is why my friend and public relations expert Monica Baer connected us. Dave is also a great podcast host and found valuable topics to discuss.

Dave is also a member of the Long Hair Boys Club. Which is a club I made up. (But there are real shirts and real stickers coming soon.) In fact, Dave’s flow is so good it makes me look like Telly Savalas.

Why Listen

If you are looking for insights on how to start or grow a business, I share my approach here. If you want to know how to write a blog, it’s in there. If you ever wanted to pick my brain (hopefully not with an ice pick), the insights you are looking for are probably in here. And if you would like to get away from the election and Covid-19 for a while, there is no mention of either of those 2 topics in the podcast.

Topics Dave and I talked about:

  • The process I used to discover my career passion
  • How I got my first job in advertising
  • How I started my own business
  • Where the name The Weaponry came from.
  • How I develop new business opportunities
  • Why I give away the goods for free (like a crack dealer)
  • How I built my blog (which now has 515 posts)
  • How I find time to write
  • Where my ideas come from
  • My favorite blogging topic
  • My goals
  • Positivity
  • My tip of the week.
  • The Weaponry’s fake website we had for 3 years.
  • Why Laverne & Shirley are part of The Weaponry
  • How I applied my athletic background to business.
  • The strength of a good name
  • Being a dude with long hair.

If you want to hear the podcast click on the link below. And don’t miss my Tip Of The Week at 46:40.

The link to hear Adam Albrecht sharing everything he knows with Dave Molenda

Thanks for having me Dave! (And thanks for the introduction Monica.)

If you want more out of life, give more to others first.

Are you a giver or a taker?

If you are a taker, you quickly end up more and more in debt to other people. Which means that your universal balance sheet is always out of balance. And others will consider you all teeter and no totter.

The opposite is true for the giver. Because the more you give to others the more universal credit you accumulate. By giving you are actually flipping life’s balance in your favor.

If you want to win at life, give to others as much as you can. Always give more than you get. Over time this will change your life in a major way. As you invest in others it makes others positively indebted to you. Which eventually leads to a massive flow of good towards you. (Which makes a heavy flow day a good day.)

This is what bankers and capitalists do financially. They lend as much money to others as possible. Which creates a massive imbalance between them and the rest of the world. The repayment of those loans creates a tsunami of income. Much of which they quickly turn into more loans and investments in order to exponentially multiply their return.

You can apply the same approach the banks use to your own life. Whether you give away your time, wisdom, energy, kindness, money or access, you will create an imbalance. Be patient. Give consistently. Over time, as your investments are repaid, they will create a flood of good in your direction.

Key Takeaway

If you want more give more. Give as much of whatever you have away. Be kind and thoughtful. Give your time, your talent, your treasure. Give freely. Provide as much value as you can to others. And you will be repaid. Reinvest your profits in others. And the wealth, goodwill and karma you create can last for generations.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

An unpublished post I wrote on March 16th, 2020.

This morning I was scrolling through a folder of unfinished blog posts. I came across the following story that I wrote on the morning of March 16th, which for much of America was the first day of the lockdown/shelter-at-home/house arrest era. I found the story particularly interesting because it was written at what I would now consider the end of pre-covid normalcy. And it was interesting to look back at my mindset as we entered the great unknown.

The event referenced occurred on Thursday, March 12th, just prior to catching a redeye flight home. Which would be the last time I flew for 6 months. I expect the drop in redeye flights has hurt Visine sales.

The Event

Thursday night I grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant in Las Vegas. I was by myself, so I sat at the bar and ordered my food and drink. I had a burger and tots, like Napoleon Dynamite.

The guy beside me and I started talking. We were both in Vegas for CONEXPO/CON-AGG, the enormous construction industry trade show. I told him I owned an advertising and idea agency that worked with the trade show. He told me he owned a mine in Texas, between Dallas and Houston. Which means his business mined the earth. And mine mined the mind. (Which I think is what the seagulls were saying in Finding Nemo.)

We discussed then newly emerging and unfolding challenges of COVID-19, and what it meant for our businesses. I told him that it would have very little if any impact on our ability to operate. (Meaning our ability to operate as a business. We still wouldn’t be any good at surgery.)

We transition fluidly between working in our offices in Milwaukee and Columbus, to working from home or wherever our work-travel takes us. As long as we have a computer and an internet connection we are good to go.

Tex, my bar-mate, had a pained expression on his face when I finished my evaluation of our business. Then he replied, ‘Until I can figure out how to run a backhoe, dozer and dump truck remotely I need my people on site.’

This simple barstool conversation in Las Vegas made me extremely thankful for being in the business I am in. I am thankful that when we planned the launch of The Weaponry we put systems and technology in place that would allow for maximum operational flexibility. It also helped that we didn’t include backhoes, dozers or dump trucks into our operating system.

On Sunday I sent a note to the 10 core members of our team telling them that we would transition to remote work as our standard until further notice. I am sure the current situation will pass, and we will get back to standard operating procedures.  But I am not sure how organizations can declare that a remote arrangement is going to last for the next 2, 3, or 4 weeks. The only thing certain right now is the uncertainty of the timeline.

The Impact

Right now we have plenty of work to do. We have 3 or 4 major presentations this week. The work needs to be done, because it is vital to our clients’ long term plans. The release dates may shift. But we are marching on. Because on the other side of the unknown we know we need to keep moving forward with our plans for business and life. We will present our work via Zoom video conference. Which we have used for presentations several times per week since our founding. Because our clients are as far away as California, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

We have also seen some work quickly evaporate thanks to the current climate. We have had a few events canceled. Which means that film and photo shoots tied to those events have been canceled or postponed. Those things may never be rescheduled.

Like so many businesses, we are adjusting to a new normal. For our team, it is almost as simple as a Mr. Rogers wardrobe change when he enters or leaves the set of the show. We put on a sweater, change our footwear and we are ready to work in a new location. I expect we are luckier than most as we head into the new unknown.

Key Takeaway

Things will be abnormal for a while.

(this is where my draft stopped)

New Note:

The flexibility we built into the operation of The Weaponry meant that we didn’t and haven’t missed a beat during the new normal. Other companies around the world have adopted many of the same technologies and approaches we baked in from the beginning. Our comfort with the uncertainty of the future has been key to our ongoing success. Seven months later we still don’t know if we are closer to the beginning or the end. But we are ready for whatever comes next. I hope you are too.

Why I take my mom to work with me every day.

When I was a kid my Mom was my public speaking coach. Not that I wanted one. But my Mom insisted that public speaking was an important life skill. And if she did one thing right in her parenting role, she was going to have kids who knew how to speak well in front of others. And if she did one thing wrong, it would be that those kids wouldn’t know how to stop talking.

Jill Albrecht knows a thing or two about public speaking. She is a funny, energetic and dynamic woman who comes alive on stage. When I was a young boy she was involved in the Jaycettes, which was the women’s version of the Jaycees, a leadership and development organization. And every year the Jaycettes held a public speaking competition.

I remember my mom entering the local competition, and to my surprise and delight, she won. She moved on to the Wisconsin state competition, and won that too. That win qualified her for the national competition in Cincinnati. I was excited to go, and hoped to see WKRP, and meet Loni Anderson (who went to high school with my Aunt Carol).

The national competition, which was held in a large auditorium in downtown Cincinnati, was the first time I had ever seen my Mom deliver her speech in public. And I couldn’t believe how good she was. She commanded the stage. Her pace, her pauses and her power were mesmerizing. The way she emphasized key words and phrases made you underline those important words in your head too. Her masterful use of hand gestures made her fun to watch. And her effective use of eye contact made it feel as if her message was intended specifically for me. Like when she shot me daggers in church.

Then, after all the speakers were finished, and the judges had a moment to confer, the top finishers were announced. And the last person announced, with the top score, and winner of the national speaking competition, was Jill Albrecht. My Mom! And in the back of the auditorium, I practically exploded with pride as my Mom took center stage to rousing applause to accept her award. My Mom was a baller!

My Career

Throughout my career in advertising, I have given thousands of presentations. In fact, I have already guest-lectured to two college classes this week, and it is only Wednesday morning. In other words, I use my Mom’s public speaking lessons practically every day.

But I also pass those speaking and performing lessons that my Mom taught me on to others. Over the course of my career, I have directed performances by well-known TV personalities like Rachael Ray. I have directed NASCAR drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, and Danica Patrick. And I have even directed movie star Julia Roberts. And every time I provide guidance on how to deliver a line, I am channeling my Mom.

San Francisco

Two weeks ago I flew to San Francisco to film the CEO of one of The Weaponry’s great clients. This CEO is a rockstar. The company she co-founded is now a $10 billion company, and taking off like a rocket. As we worked together she soaked up direction like a moisture-wicking workout shirt. And on multiple occasions she stopped and asked me how I would say a line or a phrase, noting that she liked the way that I delivered the lines.

As I sat in the CEO’s downtown corner office, where pictures of her with President Obama hung on the wall (she has met him 3 times) I couldn’t help but recognize that it wasn’t my direction she liked. It was my Mom’s. It was the lessons on style, pace, and emphasis that she taught me as a young boy that I was simply passing along. Like a family recipe.

Happy Birthday

Today is my Mom’s 71st birthday. Today also marks the 24th anniversary of my career. I know this because I started my first job on my Mom’s birthday. And today I recognize how valuable her lessons on public speaking have been to my career. They helped me as I interviewed for jobs. They helped me as I presented ideas to clients. They helped me in new business pitches. They helped me as I gave speeches and lectures. And they helped me direct major celebrities and rockstar CEOs.

Key Takeaway

The lessons we teach others can benefit them for a lifetime. Keep teaching and sharing what you know. Empower others with your skills, knowledge and life lessons. You never know how many people you may positively impact in the process.

Thank you Mom. You have directed me well. Happy Birthday. Love, Adam

Answers to 9 questions about me that I wasn’t asked on a recent podcast.

Last week I was a guest on 2 podcasts. Both hosts were great and I expect the shows will be worthwhile listens when they come out in the next month. One of the hosts sent me a list of pre-questions to consider. Because I like to be prepared, I wrote out brief answers to the questions. But once the interview began we quickly found different topics to pursuit. Since I already had the answers ready I am sharing them here for a little more insight about me, my career and the 7 books I dig.

  1. How did you get started with your product/service/area of expertise? 

I studied journalism and psychology at the University of Wisconsin and wanted to become an advertising copywriter. A college professor of mine, Roger Rathke, introduced me to his college buddy Paul Counsel, who was the CEO of the advertising agency, Cramer Krasselt. I asked for an informational interview. I borrowed a suit from my college track teammate, now the Honorable Judge Greg Gill. The interview lasted 5 hours. Including an adventure to Paul’s house to meet his mudjacker. (Who goes to the CEO’s house on their interview? This kid!) A month later I finally sent a thank you note. And in response, they offered me a job. It was like the end of Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory when Charlie hands back the little covid-looking candy and wins the chocolate factory. Make sure to always send a thank you note.

2. Why were you drawn to this area of expertise? 

I am just wired for it. In college, after a couple of rough semesters, I mapped out my natural talents and how I could get paid to put them to work. The work of an advertising creative seemed to fall right at the intersection of my talent and sought-after skills.

3. Which hurdles did you personally face, and how did you overcome them?  

Generally speaking, none. I really haven’t had any major hurdles in my career other than the garden variety, like figuring out when and where my next chances for growth and promotion were. Maybe I was too unfiltered at the beginning of my career. I also developed a sweet tea addiction, which almost made me too wonderful for a while. Today I try to keep that between the ditches.

4. What do you think your unique skillset or superpower is that has helped you become successful? 

There are probably 4 things that have helped create my career success:

  1. My abundant enthusiasm. I can get excited about anything. Clients appreciate that.
  2. My ability to make and keep friends.
  3. My ability to think strategically
  4. The creative way my brain works. I make connections that others don’t. It glitches in a good way.

5. Are there any tools or books that have really helped you on your journey? 

Yes! I read a lot. Here are a few books that profoundly influenced me.

  1. The E-Myth
  2. Call Me Ted
  3. Rich Dad Poor Dad,
  4. Think And Grow Rich.
  5. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  6. The Alchemist.
  7. The Little Engine That Could

6. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours? 

  1. Build and maintain your friendships, relationships, and network.
  2. Continue to self educate.
  3. Live an interesting life. It fuels your creativity.

7. What’s one thing you wish you had known when you began your career? 

How valuable my skills really were.

8. Who are the three people who have been the most influential to you? 

  1. My parents Bob and Jill Albrecht molded the clay. They worked as one unit. So I count them together.
  2. Roger Rathke: My College Professor. He taught me all the basics of advertising strategy and creativity. I was well prepared for the real world of advertising when I graduated.
  3. Paul Counsell: Former CEO of Cramer Krasselt, who gave me my start in advertising. He is a great people person. I liked him the instant I met him. And I loved being part of his team.
  4. Dan Richards: One of my closest friends since middle school. And the first of my friends to become an entrepreneur. I was very close to Dan as he began his entrepreneurial journey. And Dan was also my first client when I launched The Weaponry.
  5. My high school track coach Jude Dutille, and my college track coach Mark Napier.  They helped me focus and develop my limited natural talent into meaningful results. What they taught me about competition and continuous self-improvement I have applied to the rest of my life and my career.

9. What is your best tip for someone struggling to take their idea forward?

Sharpen the idea until it is very clear and easy to understand. Then talk to the people you are making the idea for. See if your idea meets an unmet need. If not adjust it.

Key Takeaway

Always show up prepared. And if you don’t use everything you prepared for a podcast, you can turn it into a blog post.

What happened after I had my This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moment.

The summer after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I didn’t have a job. No full-time job. No part-time job. I was living in Madison, lightly looking for an entry-level position in advertising. But not looking in a way that gets the job done. In fact, I still hadn’t set foot in an ad agency.

The Ricki Lake Show

On a hot afternoon that July, when real grown-ups were at work, I found myself lying on my couch in the middle of the day watching The Ricki Lake Show. And suddenly the reality of my situation hit me like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. 

I was a good student. I went to a great school. I now had degrees in both Journalism and Psychology. I had ambition. And goals. And pride. And bills to pay. And here I was in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, plopped on my couch, watching a crappy talk show, because I had nothing more important to do with my time. I thought, WTF? (even though WTF hadn’t been invented yet), This can’t be my life.

In that moment, my life changed. I rose from the couch, an unemployed man on a mission. I bounded up the staircase to my bedroom. I grabbed a scrap of paper on my desk that my Profesor Roger Rathke had handed me weeks earlier. On the paper was written Paul Counsell and a phone number.

Paul Counsell was a college buddy of Profesor Rathke’s, and the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, one of America’s great advertising agencies. He was someone I was told I should call. But I hadn’t.

I plucked my corded 1990’s phone from the wall, punched in the phone number, and was introducing myself to Mr. Counsell less than a minute after dumping Ms. Lake. And things started changing.

From that phone call I got an informational interview. Then a job offer as a copywriter. Then I started my real job, with a salary and benefits, and opportunities for growth and travel. All doing what I always wanted to do. I met my wife Dawn at that job. And I met a client there who years later would call me out of the blue, just like I called Paul Counsell, and encourage me to start my own advertising agency. Which I did.

Today I am the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Over the past two decades I have worked with some of the best brands in the world. And the best people. My career has taken me to Argentina, Iceland and India. My wife Dawn and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date tomorrow with our 3 kids. This is my life. Because I got off the couch and made it happen.

Is this your life?

Are you living the life you imagined?  The life you thought you would have when you graduated from high school or college? Or did you fall behind, veer off course, or never get started? Have the recent health and economic crises spun you around and left you wondering what’s next for you?

If you are not living the life you imagined, I hope you have your own This can’t be my life moment. Because that moment can change everything. It can motivate you to take the actions needed to get you where you always wanted to go. There are on-ramps everywhere. So take one. Make that call. Or make a thousand. Change jobs. Change careers. Start your own business. Get back to work. Get away from toxic people. Get near sunshine people. And can-do people. And finally, do what you always knew you could.

Key Takeaway

This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moments are a gift. They are the push you need to get to the place you are supposed to be. The first half of 2020 was full of challenges and setbacks. But it also created opportunities. Take advantage of them. Get off the couch. And make your life happen.

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