The Stalls Have Ears, and Other Life Lessons Learned at ad:tech
I think I was in high school when, perched on a stall and unable to leave because my teachers were sinkside discussing how hot my dad was, I realized bathrooms are considered a sanctioned space. Their walls are keepers of myriad secrets.
Since then I pay close attention to what's happening around me when I visit a loo to relieve myself. You'd be surprised what you discover. When people walk into a bathroom together, their voices actually get louder, daring the porcelain gods to reveal their covert conversations. And they talk about everything - power players, whose company will sink or swim, and why Monsieur CEO really left the agency.
Well, here's some news. Contrary to popular convention, the stalls have ears. And if you've just nailed an awesome lead worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by sleeping with the CFO you met at Mighty last night, you probably shouldn't be standing at the sinks with your hotpants-sporting amigas parsing out the gritty (but triumphant!) details.
Lesson 1 learned at ad:tech: The stalls have ears.
Lesson 2: Don't call your industry peers douchebags. It's just not original.
Everybody in the ad industry thinks that everybody else in the ad industry is a douchebag. The term "douchebag" can actually be considered industry vernacular. It's used as capital to convey how much more depth there is to you than to any of the superficial image hocks posturing in snappy suits. "Let's hit the Thirsty Bear - it's all a bunch of ad douchebags, but you know. Let's just show up." Cynical scoff.
You know what really gets attention? Smoking outside a party and ruminating over how insightful you've found everyone to be. People stare at you as if Oprah drove up in a limo, gave birth to you fully dressed and standing, then left you on the street corner to fend for yourself.
For extra credit, mention that you think Rich Media really moves people.
Lesson 3: Youtube, or anything else riding industry hype is not the wave of tomorrow. It's not even the wave of yesterday. It was the wave of last year. So while everybody stands around talking about how hype video blogging is, and how much money they're going to pour into it this fiscal year, remember your consumer.
Your consumer doesn't care how much you spent demonstrating what savvy early adopters you are. They don't even care that you hired graphic designers and a real video team for their viewing pleasure. Le yawn.
Baby, your consumer's sitting in class embedding Panda Sneezing on all his friend's MySpace pages.
Is there a rationale? Not really. "Dude, but it's hella funny." Think about that. Dude, but it's hella funny. It's a panda sneezing, man.
And lest we forget there was life before Youtube, there is such thing as viral image-mongering. At least four times a day somebody is sending me a new rendition of Jesus saying LOL. And I don't know why, but dude, it's hella funny.
Lesson 4: Networking != Pitching. (Networking does not equal pitching). We all know we're at ad:tech to sell stuff to each other. We like to call that "relationship building."
Once upon a time, relationship building meant something different. It meant really getting to know people who may share your interests, because they're devoted their lives to a similar profession. It meant you wanted to help lift eacfh other up because you genuinely cared about one another's progress and believed in those people and companies.
Somewhere along the line, we forgot. This has made the whole "networking" process inexplicably painful. If you can't remember what it's like to make friends ye olde organic way, here are three helpful pointers in the right direction:
* Don't walk up to somebody, stick out your hand and say "What company are you with?"
* If that person deigns to give you a response, don't exclaim, "OMG I've been looking for you!" and launch into a pitch about how your service, yes yours, can change their lives. It is the quickest way to ensure they do not care and never will care again, even if they might have at some point or other.
* Really, genuinely smile.
Lesson 5: Always wear good shoes. You never know who's going to take pictures of them.
Lesson 6: Retain grace under (peer) pressure. Everyone likes to joke about getting drunk later, and laugh about how they can't wait to get you drunk, but really, it's not cute. Nobody ever likes you more because of it.
Feign just enough intoxication to make people feel close to you. That's the trick.
Lesson 7: Be nice to your cabbies. Cabbies who happen to like you can really get you out of a 2 AM fix when all others are swooping by you like you've got the pox.
Lesson 8: This is a big one, and I'm thinking about your needs, not mine, because I'm cool like that. Don't close business deals in the press room. Dude, what do you think is going to happen? Please tell me you're all trying to orchestrate stealthy little leaks.
Right now a major brand icon is sitting across from me debating the merits of embedding his logo inside Motorola's mobile-based web browsers.
This is like the bathroom stall all over again.