The year was 1989, and I was a copywriter, associate creative director and chief bottle washer with Tampa’s unofficial school of advertising, Denton Advertising. Bob Denton was a tough teacher. He demanded our best and had unique ways of coaxing us into thinking “out of the box.” That’s how he built one of the most successful shelter agencies in Florida, because of a unique eye for branding and launching big developments for giants like Westinghouse, ITT, and U.S. Home, and for the ability to turn young creatives into formidable seasoned teams.
So it was not an easy decision to branch out on my own and leave both the comfort and the challenge of “in-house” behind. But I had a couple of choice freelance accounts, including Chase Home Mortgage with David Bley (still an art partner to this day), and as senior copywriter for an agency I telecommuted to in Las Vegas. I broke the news to Bob over a couple of cold Heinekens, a couple of tears, and a good dose of excited apprehension. Bob wished me the best and gave me a beautiful monogrammed satchel I still have to this day. Be he also gave me something even more tangible – this piece of advice:
Don’t ever settle.
Don’t ever settle for being second best. Don’t ever settle for being underestimated. Don’t ever settle for ho-hum creative and abusive clients. Don’t ever settle for resurrecting old solutions, or not offering a client an alternative to an idea they don’t realize is stale and overdone. Don’t ever settle for what you know today as being gospel tomorrow. Don’t ever settle for a writer’s block, or a bad day, or even a pleasant distraction that weakens your resolve to do what’s best for your clients.
Now, 25 years later, my business has seen many twists and turns, both in its account base and in its brand. But the simple philosophy Bob taught me still rings true. I believe I’m now celebrating a quarter of a century in this noble industry because I never settled. And I don’t intend to start now.
While the delivery of the message has evolved and changed over the years, the power of good creative has not. Whether it’s a digital banner ad or a direct mail campaign, a strong concept is still at the heart of a successful campaign. Just because people have access to desktop publishing and pre-designed WordPress themes, there is now and will always be a place for an unforgettable brand, smart wordsmithing and inviting imagery. And you should never settle for anything less when building your business, either.