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.
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.
I have spent the last few days speaking to smart people at a giant trade show in Las Vegas. Just as the World Health Organization recommended that we should all hole up in our closets for 2 weeks, I decided to hangout with 100,000 trade show attendees in Sin City. #RollingTheDice
CONEXPO, the mammoth construction industry show, is the largest trade show in the history of my personal trade show experience. It is like the construction industry’s Super Bowl. Only without the extravagant halftime show. Or football.
Why Are You Here?
My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry works with CONEXPO in a super secret capacity that I can not disclose. Yet. But as part of our work, yesterday I talked to people about why they come to the show. One particular attendee I talked to had a very simple way of summarizing why he comes. He said:
‘We have the old way of doing things down. We need to find the new way.’ -CONEXPO Attendee
I love this idea.
Out with the old.
It is really easy to master a way of doing things, and think that you can simply repeat that process, technique or approach for the rest of your days. But if you do, you will stop growing. You will stop improving. You will stop learning. And you will forfeit your competitive advantage to those who continue looking for the new way. The better way. The faster, easier and more profitable way.
Grow, Grow, Grow Your Boat.
Always be growing. Technology and innovation are continuously improving. The fact that we can instantly exchange information and cat videos across the globe means that we have unprecedented access to new information and ideas to help you improve virtually everything you can think of. Including your thinking.
New And Improved!
I worked in the advertising industry for 19 years before I started my own agency. But from day one, the technology and applications we implemented at The Weaponry were completely different than those I had previously used. Because we did our homework, and found new, smarter ways to perform our work. And to collaborate with our teammates and partners.
Today, as we close in our 4th birthday, we are challenging assumptions. We are open minded, and ready to advance as soon as the advancements are ready to be taken advantage of. And you should be too.
Once you have mastered the old way, start looking for the new way. Always be learning, growing and improving. Embrace change. Put innovation and advancements to work for you. They provide a competitive advantage. And if you don’t utilize them, your competition will.
Oh, and if you see me at CONEXPO, or out enjoying Las Vegas tonight, please stop by and say hi. Or bump my elbow with yours. Or point and smile. Just don’t shake hands. That’s the old way. Before the coronavirus inspired, new, smarter, safer techniques.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
I recently discussed my upcoming travel plans with my teenage daughter, Ava. I told her that the next morning I had a flight that left at 5:40am. Her jaw dropped. She looked at me in disbelief. Finally, she said, ‘You are sooo lucky!!!’
I was not sure she understood what I had said. I clarified that my flight left at 5:40, AM. Which is the morning one. She said, ‘I know.’
I asked, ‘What time do you think I need to get up to make a 5:40am flight?’ She ran some quick calculations in her head and confidently replied, ‘4:00am.’ Which both Steve Harvey and Richard Dawson’s surveys said was the number one answer on the board.
I asked, ‘Then why do you think I am so lucky? To which she responded:
‘You are lucky because you get to go on a trip! For work! Dad, you are getting paid to travel! Which means you are killing it! Plus, you love your job. And you won’t be working the entire time. So you’ll get to enjoy some good meals and free time in a fun city. And I have to go to school.’
-Ava Albrecht (14 y/o)
From The Mouths of Babes
What a great perspective. When I was planning the launch of my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry I dreamed of the day that a client would pay me to travel for business. Today, we have 3 Weapons traveling to Las Vegas for a week to do important work for one of our great clients. And I am feeling extremely lucky. Like a rabbit with its lucky rabbit’s feet all still attached.
One Last Reminder
As I boarded my flight at 5am, I spotted my friend Mark in line behind me. We greeted each other enthusiastically. He told me that he and his family were headed to Costa Rica for spring break. He continued, ‘I assume you are traveling for business.’ I confirmed that I was. To which he responded, ‘Yeah, but you love your work.’
Indeed I do. Which makes me really lucky.
If you enjoy your work you are lucky. If you get paid to travel you are lucky. If you start a business and attract customers or clients who dig what you do, you are lucky. It is easy to lose sight of your good fortune. Or to take it for granted. So this is a simple reminder that having family and friends to remind your of the good things in your life is lucky too. Have a great day! I hope you kill it!
*If you know someone who could use this reminder, please share it with them.
In 2015, with the enthusiastic support of several former clients, I decided to create my own advertising agency. During the planning process I started this blog to help share my entrepreneurial adventure. I called the blog The Perfect Agency Project. I wanted to write about what I was doing, learning and thinking as I was launching, improving and growing what would become The Weaponry. That way, if I made huge mistakes, and wondered, What was I thinking!?!, I could simply go back and read what I wrote.
I Didn’t See THAT Coming.
However, in an unforeseen turn of events, creating this blog has become as significant to me as creating the business. The simple act of writing about my experiences has taught me even more than I have been able to share with my readers. And the feedback I have received from readers has made it one of the most rewarding elective projects of my life (even better than the 3 inch goatee I grew in college).
When I turned 40 years old I made a commitment to start my own advertising agency. I did it by the time I was 42. And as I continue to build and grow The Weaponry, I have added new goals.
I have another startup business that I would like to launch soon. I want to write a book. Ultimately, I hope to write more than one book. But before you can write many books you have to write one. Kind of like, before you become a porn star you have to first have sex, on camera. #pleasedontdothis
Broadening My Horizons
To share my various business experiences, my book writing adventure, and all of the other life lessons, insights and humorous experiences along the way, it is time to expand the scope of this blog. For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that I have regularly wandered far from topics related to The Weaponry. In fact, one of the great things about having a personal blog is writing about whatever you want. Like A strange encounter at the Piggly Wiggly. And I find myself wanting to share my broader experiences, learnings and observations.
As part of the broadening of the blog I am changing the name of the blog too. It will no longer be called The Perfect Agency Project. (#audiblegasps #CallCNN #WeInterruptThisBlogCast) I also want to make my writings easier to find, by humans and search engines alike.
So I am changing my blog title to… wait for it… The Adam Albrecht Blog. I know, this sounds crazy, like rich Asians. And you will never believe the new URL I will be using. So I will tell you. It is… AdamAlbrecht.blog. (However, theperfectagencyproject.com will still direct you to the blog. Because a rose by any other name may not immediately smell as sweet to Google and Bing.)
The rest of the blog will be totally the same. I will still share what I am learning. I am committed to humorous asides and totally random pop culture references that separate insiders from outsiders. (Use Google as your secret decoder ring for random references.) I will keep hashtag-style commentary. And captions will be written to make you giggle.
Thank you to all of you who regularly read my blog. Thank you for the comments, likes, emails, texts, phone calls, proofreading help, and in-person feedback on my writings. I know your time is limited. And I appreciate that you take the time to read my posts. But if you like what I have written in the first 412 posts, you will like what I write over the next 4000. And if you like this blog, I expect you will like the book. Which I look forward to spending more time writing in the year ahead. Thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post. Which is actually not here. Or here. It’s right here.