Doug Weaver

Deep State Advertising.

Over the 20+ years I’ve known him, I’ve always thought Rishad Tobaccowala (now with Publicis Groupe) was a national treasure.   He has that rare gift of being able to intellectually surround an issue and then quickly carve it down to its most essential point.  So it was with particular interest that I read his prediction that advertising would decline 30% over the next five years.

He’s right, of course.

The principle reason he cites for this decline is the flight to ad free environments.  “We don’t value (consumers’) time,” he explains, going on to quote the valuation as “less than minimum wage.”  I agree, but for a somewhat more elaborate set of reasons.

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I think too much of the “advertising industry” is just that:  an industry devoted to advertising… to generating more and more and more of it; to giving each other awards for it; to managing it’s migration into every nook and cranny of life.  If we’re honest we’ll admit that the “advertising industry” has become a self-referential deep state affair, hell-bent on its own survival.

We’ll also admit that many of us have lost sight of the original story-line, the real mission:  that the purpose of our work is not to win the next agency bake-off or secure a bigger share of “the budget.” We’re supposed to be devoted to helping marketers sell products, grow their businesses, build factories and employ workers. Small wonder that marketers have come to see advertising not as a source of growth but as a cost-center.

To paraphrase noted Vermonter and 30th president Calvin Coolidge, “the business of advertising is business.”  Or at least it should be.

Not to sound like too much of a relic, but when I started out at a small ad agency at age 22, part of my training program was delivering beer kegs, shadowing bank tellers and working in a shipping warehouse full of car polish.  It may seem quaint now, but we understood on a visceral level the business our clients were in. And by extension the business we were in.

We’ve lost a little something since then.  I hope we get some of it back.

Tick. Tick. Tick…

When I work with managers and sellers in our business there’s one issue that almost always comes up: Time. Finding it, managing it, understanding where it goes. Our business may not necessarily be more intense or frenetic than many others, but it can seem that way. And the very tools that are supposed to help us control time and manage productivity often have just the opposite effect.

I can’t solve all of your issues with the calendar and the clock, but if you’re one of those who ends up asking “So what the hell did I end up doing all day?” at 6 pm, here are a few ideas.

Take Back the First Hour. Millions of American workers start their day on email. Tragic mistake. Instead of a plan for the day or some much needed creative time, we go north to south through the inbox. We prioritize communication based on who wrote to us most recently. 15 or 20 minutes in, we start seeing the replies to our replies. Most of us never recover. Instead, declare a moratorium for the first 60 minutes of the day (OK, a half hour for the seriously addicted.) Use that “pre-mail” block of time to set priorities, make a plan, or maybe just think about a problem or opportunity.

Could you and your sales team stand a little disruption?  Want to take some new looks at seemingly-intractable sales problems?  If you’re a qualified media sales leader, request your invitation to Seller Forum on Wednesday March 7th in New York.  Better yet, sign up for a season’s pass and secure 1 or 2 seats at each of our 2018 Forums.  Go to for more information.

Opt out of the String. People CC you on email strings unnecessarily for lots of reasons; sometimes just because they want you to know they’re ‘working.’ Unless you tell them otherwise, they’ll keep doing it. Respond to the string with a comment and they think you actually like it. So tell them already. “Thanks for copying me, but please drop me from the string now. I know you guys can handle this without me.”

Does it Have to Be a Meeting? One thing that kills the calendar and deadens the soul is the proliferation of meetings within companies. There are too many of them, they include too many people, and they almost always lack any productive framework or focus. People are late, they are distracted while there, and they end in confusion and ambivalence. Once you start to push back on meetings – “I’m not sure I need to be part of this?”… “Why do you need me there?” – you start to realize that much of what’s been drawing you into the perpetual meeting is nothing more than fear and inertia.

…and Does it Have to be 30 Minutes? Why do we always meet around a conference table in 30 or 60 minute blocks? Good question. Try the 5/15 meeting instead: A stand up meeting that lasts no less than 5 but no more than 15 minutes. The 5/15 must be centered on a question to be answered or an issue to be solved, and whoever calls the 5/15 must send the question in advance.

Account for Just One Day. It’s an old bromide, but it’s true. Write down everything you do for a single day. It’s eye opening. Only when you get some sense of where the time goes, you can’t begin to control it.

This Drift was originally posted in 2014. But hey….timeless, right?

Marketing Trigger Words.

In workshops and coaching with sellers, I see a recurring language pattern that’s shutting down the client conversation before it even truly gets under way.  With all the best intentions, sales reps toss off careless simplifications of their client’s business and marketing needs.  In uttering or typing these Marketing Trigger Words, the seller ends up with no idea of the damage they have caused.  They know only that the sales call and the relationship have gone sideways, but they don’t know why.

There are several Trigger Words – and Phrases – but there are a couple of threads that tie them together:  predictability and lack of specificity.  In terms of the predictable, it’s almost as if we’ve passed around a book called “Stuff Reps Say”…. Lazy casual phrases that are tossed into emails and conversations with no real research or understanding.  And even when the seller does have a clue about what their client might need, they talk about it so generally that it ends up falling flat with the customer. A few examples:

Could you and your sales team stand a little disruption?  Want to take some new looks at seemingly-intractable sales problems?  If you’re a qualified media sales leader, request your invitation to Seller Forum on Wednesday March 7th in New York.  Better yet, sign up for a season’s pass and secure 1 or 2 seats at each of our 2018 Forums.  Go to for more information.

“Reach.”  This is a very real thing, of course…just not in the way most reps refer to it.  “This customer really needs to reach millennials!”  Yeah, maybe.  But they don’t necessarily need you to help them do it. Reach is a math problem they can solve lots of other ways.  What are you really bringing to the table?  The ability to tell the audience a better story?  Insights to help the marketer connect with that customer?  But if you open with “reach,” you’ll never really get a fair hearing on what you can really offer.

“You compete with…”  This is a swing and miss for so many reps.   Not because it’s a bad idea to bring up the client’s competitor…no, that’s a great idea!  It’s just that the seller tosses out the most simplistically obvious one.  Ford/Chevy, Coke/Pepsi, Samsung/Apple, Verizon/AT&T and so on.  To make the competitive dynamic meaningful, you must make it specific.  Don’t mention five different competitors; pick one.   Don’t leave it at the corporate or brand level; say which specific products, car models or cell plans are in competition.  Speaking specifically about your customers fight is your first chance to show them how much you know and care.  Don’t half-ass it.

“Branding.”  This might be the mac-daddy of them all.  Sellers who are diligent (or lucky) enough to get face time with marketers will then casually toss out the B-Word.  “Our company can help you build your brand in the eyes of our audience!”  If the advertiser is able to get past the feeling of condescension in that statement, they will then realize that the rep has little idea about what goes into building a brand – or how customers are moved along the scale from awareness to association to preference to intent.  Good rule of thumb:  If you can’t explain it, don’t say it.

You and your company have a lot of great things to offer to marketers and agencies.  How tragic, then, that it often goes wrong so early.  Take care with your words and you’ll find yourself in the deeper, more productive conversations that both you and your customers crave.

Get Your MacGyver On!

While a pale reboot has recently hit the airwaves, there can only ever be one true MacGyver.

If you were a live, viewing American in the late-80s, you tuned in weekly to watch Richard Dean Anderson (in the title role) save himself – and often Western civilization – from deranged villains and foreign powers.  What was so unique and magnetic about the character was how he beat impossible odds every seven days:  he was an ordinary guy (no super powers) who figured shit out.  Example:

A massive explosive charge is set to blow apart a dam and drown thousands of downstream villagers.  Racing the clock, MacGyver finds himself with nothing but a butane cigarette lighter, a transistor radio, a nylon poncho and an aging truck battery.   Within the allotted 42 minutes, a counter charge would be delivered by improvised parachute and detonated just in time to disable the bomb.  Village saved. Easy-Peasy.

Could you and your sales team stand a little disruption?  Want to take some new looks at seemingly-intractable sales problems?  If you’re a qualified media sales leader, request your invitation to Seller Forum on Wednesday March 7th in New York.  Better yet, sign up for a season’s pass and secure 1 or 2 seats at each of our 2018 Forums.  Go to for more information.

During a half-decade that included Iran-Contra, Black Tuesday and tense relations with a failing Soviet Union, this was soul-food.  Ironically, the MacGyver of 1988 is the perfect man of the year for 2018.

At a time when many in our industry are blaming an array of villains – the Duopoly, automation, consolidation, changing Facebook policies, etc. – for the impossible bind we find ourselves in, we may just all need to start channeling our inner-MacGyvers.  Figure shit out…come up with a solution…expand the possible.  We need to ask ourselves, WWMD?  What would MacGyver Do?

He’d work with the tools on hand.  MacGyver never had all the perfect tools and resources on hand.  He focused on how to use what was immediately available.  Many of us do just the opposite.

He’d work fast.  MacGyver was always conscious of a ticking clock. It gave him a mental clarity that allowed him to dial right into the heart of the problem.  He spent none of his precious time lamenting the situation.

He’d come up with unusual combinations.  MacGyver never picked up just one tool and asked, “Will this work?”  Nope, he was all about how the battery acid and the butane would blend to form a new compound, and how the nylon poncho could be used to parachute the charge to its destination.  Far too many of us think about selling and applying one product at a time.

He’d attack big problems, head on.  MacGyver wasn’t about just finding a way out of the locked room, knocking out a guard and alerting the army.  Nope…nothing incremental in this guy.  From the jump he’d be about finding the biggest, hairiest problem to solve…with the biggest stakes.  Too many of us take tiny swings at marginal issues, expecting that showing a quarter-point of difference will somehow buy us another 15 minutes of consideration from our customer.  It’s a sucker’s game…and MacGyver wouldn’t play it!

Sure, MacGyver was just a TV show.  But still, each of us has a little MacGyver inside.  Maybe this is just the environment where we let him loose.



I normally write for sellers.  But I wanted this piece — originally published with 212NYC — to resonate with our entire community – buyers, sellers, clients, data providers, HR people….everybody.  So I’ve chosen to address the elephants that dwell in all of our rooms:  cynicism, burnout and disengagement.

We’re still very much part of a growth business and we’re all paying people pretty well, at least compared to the average American employers.  Hell, a lot of us even provide snacks and in-house recreation for our employees.  But whether you’re running an agency, a publisher sales team, an account management group or any other group of people in our business, you struggle to create a strong culture of possibility and hope.  As a result, otherwise-talented people burn out…they complain to one another… they disengage….and quite often they leave you too early.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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The first step out of this downward spiral is to acknowledge where your people come from and what they’ve come to expect.  The vast majority of our team members (millennials in particular but not exclusively) grew up in cultures of short-term success.  Take a class and in 9 weeks you get a B or an A.  Try out for a team and in fairly short order you know if you’re on the roster.  Apply to colleges and within four months you get your acceptance letters.  Given that we are hiring from among the graduates of fairly elite colleges, they’ve won a lot more often than they’ve lost.

Now put your people into our ambivalent, asymmetrical business world.  As managers and leaders, we are still running cultures of short-term success (“…win this RFP….win this agency review… break this technology client…”), but that success can be ephemeral, fleeting and often entirely beyond our control.  To those accustomed to consistent and well-scheduled victories, this can feel hellish.

The answer is stop concentrating on success.  Instead, focus your team on deserving success.  It sounds like a semantic change, but it’s far more than that.

Shifting your focus to deserving – the sale, the account, the client’s agreement, the budget increase – means you are now talking about (and rewarding) excellence.  Winning is entirely out of your control:  a team can do literally everything right and still have the ball bounce the wrong way.  Deserving success is completely controllable.  It’s about preparation, work ethic, genuine empathy for the customer, diligence and grit.  Deserving success means focusing on process and standards – on how (and how consistently) you play the game.

As Thomas Boswell wrote in “Heart of the Game,” success burns out the athlete.  The pursuit of excellence, on the other hand, nourishes and motivates.  A famous soccer coach was asked what kind of players he tried to recruit.  “You can keep the ones who want to be the best player on the team or the best in the league,” he explained.  “Give me the ones who want to be better than they were yesterday.”

And as John Adams wrote to a nervous Thomas Jefferson when the fate of the American Revolution was at best uncertain:  “We cannot assure success.  We can only deserve it.”

So deserve it.  It will center your people and your company on excellence and will make you a truly exceptional leader.

If you’re a qualified digital sales leader and want to disrupt your team’s thinking and open up new possibilities for them, join us at Seller Forum on Wednesday March 7th in New York.  Request your invitation or visit