As I C Production

Just Say No

Posted in Uncategorized by Matt Miller on November 17, 2011


About 30 years ago, many of us were introduced to some of advertising’s greatest work — championed by the First Lady of the United Sates, Nancy Regan([2].) I’m talking about the “Just Say No” campaign, which birthed so many memorable PSAs. Of course many of us at the time were the targets of that campaign (not armchair industry analysts),  and for some younger readers, who were introduced to it sometime thereafter, it was already American vernacular. It ran for the better part of two decades and was expanded out to many different areas where those driving America just wanted to be clear with our kids that there is an obvious answer when pressured with something that that is not good for you, and is being foisted upon you – especially in your less confident developmental years.

So, it seems so simple that in today’s business environment that I would just tell you this simple slogan when business pressures are mounting and untold things are being pushed from atop the food chain. Well, it  isn’t simple now, and you know what, it wasn’t then either.

 But one thing is true and absolute – through our actions and through the boundaries we draw for ourselves, we define who we are. We define what we will do, and what we won’t do – each of which becomes habitual.

We are facing so much change in the industry, with new entities representing the clients and telling us that “everyone is doing it,” and that this is the “new way of doing business.” They are applying unthinkable pressure to find “efficiency” and “value” for clients, to do “more with less” and create “new normal.” Know one thing: by bowing to this pressure – or not – together we are  defining the industry.

 Sometimes we need little reminders.

For the second year running, at the AICP Conference, we had corporate procurement experts on the stage.  And for the second year running the same picture emerged. They are not production specialists; they are purchasing people who think in a very methodical way.  They apply pressure to a process and to a resource to find the absolute bottom where one can still operate but deliver the best value to them. That is their goal.

Their message has been clear.  When you keep delivering quality advertising, with shrinking lead-time, and as they keep applying more stringent cost control guidelines, they feel that they have not yet reached their goal, and they will continue to apply more pressure until they find the point where it reaches diminishing returns…or until you say “no.”

When a resounding “no” is truly understood, that is the point that they understand it cannot be done.

We are at a time of development right now, not unlike adolescence. We are finding things new and possible, we are all working in ways that we never thought we could and are being asked to do things differently.  This is all exciting and opens up great possibilities. It doesn’t mean that as a company you need to sacrifice profitability.

I urge you to examine the business situations that are being put in front of you, analyze them for what they are worth and define yourself with your actions.

We all know people who ended up on the wrong side of saying yes…and we all know some who said yes and came out the other end fine – after “experimenting.” 

 At a time of great change in the industry we are all finding our way…but we are collectively redrawing the boundaries and defining what will be expected of an entire industry.

Keep your eyes open, and observe what is happening to those around you– know what is good for you and what is not– and certainly don’t do things that you know will only lead to bad because you are being told “everyone is doing it”.

[1] Created by Jordan Zimmerman of Zimmerman Advertising

[2] Later commented on by Timothy Leary as “the most ill-mannered campaign initiated by the Republicans, it should be ‘Just say no thank you.’ ” 


2 Responses

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  1. Nate Wilson said, on November 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I firmly believe this axiom runs true across many different corporate and professional cultures, such as the airline industry. Thank you Matt.

  2. Doris Martinez said, on November 18, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Thank you for making it cool to just say no. Most of our competitors who said yes are no longer in business. Our Director is known within some clients as “Mr. No” and he still manages to deliver value to the clients (i.e. expanding market shares and more value on their brands) at a reasonable and healthy profit… We are not the cool, “easy going” guys though. We are the “No” gang… Maybe your article and a shift in business practices from others in the industry will finally make our peers understand that it is about sustainability instead of grabbing all the work you can or keeping the procurement experts indicators positive.

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