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This ad caught my attention almost 2 decades ago. Law degree in hand, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Copywriter for the best advertising agency in Germany? Why not? I wrote a 20-page screenplay about my life, 2 applications of thousands were invited for an interview and I got the job. The rest is history. Literally, since the once proud creative agency just filed for bankruptcy.

When I started at Springer & Jacoby, advertising was the most interesting thing around. Especially when you have a slight case of ADD. Who wants to toil with a screenplay for months and years when you can turn a commercial script into a 30-second spot in a few weeks? Would you rather improve business system processes over years to improve customer experiences or create great advertising that engages millions of people and helps the bottom line of the business? (Come on, be honest.) This made advertising so exciting. Our goal was to deliver creative advertising that sells. Art meets business. And we could use the canvas of urban living to make our vision come to live: billboards, screens, bus stops, urinals. That made it even more exciting. Well, maybe not the urinals.

Ultimately, our job was to take risks. We were the crazy uncle that shows up at the family reunion. The one everybody laughs at. And talks about. That was Springer & Jacoby’s goal: Create something entertaining that people talk about. Period.

Not much has changed. Sure, we have new technologies, new buzzwords (Social Media, Buzz Marketing, WOM, etc.) but in the end, marketing and advertising has to produce something people talk about. Or it’s just a giant waste of money. Even worse, a giant waste of creativity.

John Wanamaker said famously: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Here’s a little a secret: In today’s world of attention deficiency, more than 90% of your advertising is wasted. Just another Facebook page that looks like the other Facebook page. Just another commercial that could be from Brand A, B or even Z. Just another Twitter stream that floats by. And a radio ad that made absolutely no impact.

Nowadays, most big agencies try to mix art, science and business together. And most of their efforts are still a waste of money, time and creativity. They might have the metrics to prove me wrong. But, in their heart they know I’m right.

My former Creative Director said to me once: “Advertising doesn’t work when you want to share your idea with your parents and friends. Advertising works when you find reasons why it won’t work: the client will kick me out, the agency will fire me, I will live under the bridge). That’s when you hit magic.”

We need more magic in this world.