Recently I was at the Ad Club Creative Symposium, the creative gathering for St. Louis advertising agencies. And my favorite presentation was the speaking duet, John January and Tug McTighe, who discussed the parallels of a little known Sci-fi series, Star Wars, and modern copywriting. Surprisingly, the 2 universes are more corollary than I ever imagined. And just so I don’t loose the too-cool-for-light-sabers crowd early on, you need to know just about nothing on Star Wars for their insight to be helpful. These two had a few too many beers, watched a few too many consecutive Star Wars movies, and came up with some genius connections between creative copywriting and Jedi Knighthood.
For me this really hit home because of the frank tone (example; “Some days you will feel like a fraud…”) and humorous connections (Ultimate Sci-fi pop culture references). It’s refreshing to hear what you need to hear in the context of a creative presentation. January and McTighe covered six principle similarities, or rather tenets:
1. Be a Padawan Learner.
Translation: Be open to guidance throughout your entire career in copywriting. Yes, you may show talent early on, but be open to mentoring and advice. Only then will you ever truly keep improving.
2. Concept the Jedi Way.
Meaning: Jedi always collaborate to conquer, as should your creative team. The more head the better. For copywriters, our allies are most often our art directors. We need to work as a creative team, set differences aside, to work toward the greater good.
3. Concentrate on the Here and Now.
Aka: Concentrate on the task at hand. Do what is on your desk to the best of your ability. Stop looking ahead or on your cubicle-mate’s desk. If you consistently deliver stand-out work the good stuff will, in time, come your way.
4. Beware the Dark Side.
Say what?: In advertising our evils are pettiness, envy and insecurity. We can not let these counterproductive emotions creep into our agencies and destroy creative mojo. Work alongside your creative Jedi, be open to ideas, and new thinking.
5. Do or Do Not. There Is No Try.
In English: Don’t get hung up in your losses or failures. Just bring the best ideas you possibly can to the table. Yes, clients will shoot down great ideas. But don’t give up. The next big idea is just a sleepless night away.
6. Celebrate Seriously.
Sounds simple enough: This is imperative. Take your victories seriously. Whether it’s winning an account, nailing a tagline or finishing a project, put aside a moment to celebrate. Maybe that means cracking a cold one or doing the Cupid Shuffle, at the very least, pat oneself on the back because if I’ve learned anything in my short career, it’s that you will fail plenty, so don’t be afraid to linger a little too long on the victories.
All in all, this was an ingenious presentation and really got me thinking. I mean there have been plenty of brochures I just wanted to get out the door, but I should make time to make those HVAC brochures the best damn HVAC brochures anyone has ever seen. Sure some days are hard, but other days make those hard days worthwhile. And next time I’m frustrated, instead of bottling it in, I should just swivel my chair around and talk it out with my art directors. Celebrating? Well, I think I’m doing an okay job at that, but I can always be more encouraging of my fellow Jedis’ victories, we’re the force after all.
If you’re interested in hearing the full presentation, download their podcast, American Copywriter. You’ll get their full insight, Samuel L. Jackson quips and all.