MediaFront is 15 years this month. It´s really a little bit more, but we got our first client in February 1996. 15 years is a long time. It is extremely long time if you´ve been in the digital design and advertising business. It´s even longer if you have been doing this in Norway.
To be able to get into the business, and stay in the business, MediaFront has been fortunate to work with people that have the fighting spirit and the ability to stay focused over time. In order to keep this focus there is some common “rules” we try to live after everyday – year after year.
To help me explain some of the few techniques we are working after and using, I got my dad´s favorite creative director, Paul Arden, to inspire me compose a list of 10 rules I believe in to survive:
1. What do you want?
To be able to run a successful creative company you need to be surrounded by great people. For people to be able to be great, they need goals on how good they want to be.
The best in our field
Or – the best in the world.
Everybody wants to be good, but few people know, or are prepared, to make the sacrifices it takes to be great.
2. Dare to fail
One of the things I´m really proud of being working for MediaFront, is that we have always strived for doing things we don´t know how to do. This has sometimes been at a very high cost, economically wise for the company, but also for the people being involved in the projects having to work around the clock. The clients taking the chance feeling the pressure, because sometimes we failed, and then we had to try again and again, until we succeeded. The goals have always been clear; this is new, this is an invention, this is historical and this is something we all can be proud of. Nothing is impossible, and we proved it.
You will not be fired for being wrong, but the company will be in great trouble if not every one of us show initiative and dare to fail.
We seek people who WANT to be great, NOT necessarily those that already are the best, or believe they are. We seek people that have a lot of initiative and don´t worry about what other people will think about their “stupid” ideas.
A negative thing being one of the companies with most experience in the creative digital business, is that we have a lot of knowledge. Sometimes knowledge is not a positive asset. It comes from the past, it´s safe, it´s out of date. Experience is the opposite of being creative. Same thing with being right. If you prove you´re right, you´re boring, your mind is closed and you are not open to new ideas. Positive for us is that our business it self is young, and we are the first to admit that we haven´t touched the surface of whats possible.
Much can go wrong in a project, and it will go wrong unless you take responsibility for everything you are involved in. With this I mean; have you seen it, have you touched it, or have you worked on it – you´re responsible.
Here is some common “good” excuses for failing a project:
• It was a terrible brief
• I need a better partner
• It wasn´t enough money to do it properly
• I was too busy doing other projects
• It wasn´t enough time
• The client rejected the best ideas
This is our everyday situation, and it will never change. Whatever other people´s failure might be, you have the responsibility, and there is no excuses.
We choose to share our ideas. We believe that if we give away what we think, our ideas and our knowledge, it will benefit us in the end. There is a couple of reasons why we choose to do it this way. It´s fun to share ideas with other people, creatives or clients. We believe that other people, such as the client, knows things we don´t. But more important; we have given away the first ideas that came to our mind, so we have to go back and think about the not so obvious ones.
Ideas are open knowledge, don´t claim ownership. It´s not yours anyway, it´s out there floating, ready for you to pick them up.
6. Involve our clients
We usually want to present hand drawn sketches, loose thoughts on flowcharts that shows principles for what we´re trying to solve for/with the client. We like to believe that clients don´t like polished ideas. Then there is nothing for them to do. It´s not their work, it´s ours. We usually want the client to participate in this important work. This must not be misunderstood with unclear thoughts, and crystal clear thoughts. If you need glossy sketches to sell the idea, the idea is usually not very good. You have to hide it behind great techniques.
7. Have a clear vision
To be able to create what you want, you must inspire people. This is regardless if you are the client, the art director, the graphic designer, the project manager, the assistant, the junior. You might be all or one of the ones above, but your job is to have a clear vision, and enlighten people so they expand into something they haven´t done before.
If you brief people too tight, you are probably not giving the person the freedom to make his work the thing you employed him for. It must be the way you think, not what everyone else think. Not the client and not your boss. If you don´t have a clear vision of what to do, the client won´t buy it (and they will choose something safer), and your co-workers or suppliers won´t give you what you want. This is your job. You´re on your own.
8. Seek something else
All advertising, digital and graphic designers, read the same books, go to the same websites, and look towards the same people in the business. Some knowledge, as to know a few tricks, are very helpful and maybe essential, but it helps even more if you are in a hurry, which seems to be in most cases. But try to seek something else. Original ideas comes most likely from something new, something unexpected. Few people dear to look out of our own business.
Everyone likes to win awards, but remember that most jurys and comittees are put together of people that engage only in what´s fashionable right now. Good ideas and originality is not fashion since it has not yet been invented.
10. Your company
We all want to be proud of the company we work for. Either it´s MediaFront or any other company. It helps you feel good, helps your reputation and gets you access great people. Most people want to work for a company like this, and if you work for a company like this, you probably work for them for what they can do for you. So, rather than doing this, think about what you personally can do to make it the company of the year. Start talking it up, start think like a winner, don´t expect others to lead the way.
Decide that you can make a difference, decide what you can do to make that difference. It can be through your work, or the way you behave and talk about your company. Believe that you really can make a difference.
And most important: just do it. Be the person that just do stuff a little better. That´s when you really are working for the company that is the best.
Be energic – it´s 90% of the job!