A blog in pink font.

Can we agree to trust each other?

Trust. A word business people often use without understanding what it actually means. So what is trust when it comes to business relationships? It’s knowing when to shut the fuck up and knowing when not to shut the fuck up. When Avis hired DDB to do the “We try harder” campaign, Avis CEO Robert Townsend defined the following standards.

Avis Rent a Car 
Advertising Philosophy

  1. Avis will never know as much about advertising as DDB and DDB will never know as much about the rent a car business as Avis.

  2. The purpose of the advertising is to persuade the frequent business renter (whether on a business trip, a vacation trip, or renting an extra car at home) to try Avis.

  3. A serious attempt will be made to create advertising with five times the effectiveness (see #2 above) of the competition’s advertising.

  4. To this end, Avis will approve or disapprove, not try to improve, ads which are submitted. Any changes suggested by Avis must be grounded on a material operating defect (a wrong uniform for example).

  5. To this end, DDB will only submit for approval those ads which they as an agency recommend. They will not “see what Avis thinks of this one.”

  6. Media selection should be the primary responsibility of DDB. However, DDB is expected to take the initiative to get guidance from Avis in weighting of markets or special situations, particularly in those areas where cold numbers do not indicate the real picture. Media judgments are open to discussion. The conviction should prevail. Compromise should be avoided.


This philosophy set the foundation for a healthy client/agency relationship. Built on trust because each party acknowledged the other party’s expertise. Would this philosophy still hold true today, half a century later? Sure, the principles are timeless. Just shake hands and let these principles guide your collaboration. Nobody loses, everybody wins.

Confessions of a failed entrepreneur – part 2

I was pondering the question of why it’s difficult to convince people of your business idea. Here’s part 2 of confessions of a failed entrepreneur.

When we launched the world’s most unknown agency, we wanted to help businesses sell their products and services. That was our business idea. Not very mind-blowing. So, does that mean the idea is shit because it’s not a big idea? (Scroll down for the quick answer or continue with the pink font enjoyment.) My experience is that people think they need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to explaining their business idea. They get very busy describing a sophisticated business model instead of just saying what their business is. It often sounds as if the goal is to deliver a jaw-dropping revelation instead of just saying what it is. All you get is complexity over simplicity. But with the opposite, the simple expression of your idea, you risk that your idea sounds trivial, therefore not interesting. The problem with business ideas is this: With any business idea you have, you’re simply betting on the idea’s unfolded potential, which is tied to your imagination. As the person having the idea, it’s only you who sees the potential. This makes it difficult to convince people of your business idea: their lack of imagination regarding the idea’s potential. If you verbalise the potential you risk sounding feverish. And therefore not believable. If you just say what it is, people will get it, but they will not find it very exciting. And therefore not believable. Here are four ideas. Number one: A website where you can share photos and messages with friends. Number two: A public living room where you can have coffee and work. Number three: Computers which everyday people use, not just business people. Number four: A car affordable for the masses. It’s easy to guess the brands behind these ideas. Facebook. Starbucks. Apple. Ford. (Henry the industrialist, not Harrison the actor.) Before these brands evolved into proper money-making companies, the ideas might have sounded like the descriptions above. Ignore your existing knowledge of these companies and reread the ideas. They all sound simple. Maybe even too simple. Whereas an idea like “Making cars fly” sounds big. But then again, it doesn’t need much imagination to picture a flying car. This is the brutal truth of a possibly good idea: it might sound painfully dull, but the imagination of what can be achieved is where the real action kicks in. People can’t look into your mind. I think people with very simple business ideas are rather onto something than those who have big “changing-the-world-and-reshaping-the-industry” kinda ideas. Looking back I realise that our venture didn’t work out because the idea wasn’t good. It didn’t work out because of other reasons. I have learned to appreciate when people tell me in a simple way what their business idea is. If I can’t picture the unfolded potential, it’s because it’s me who’s lacking the imagination in that case. It doesn’t mean the idea isn’t good.

A post about nothing

It’s 2.30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I got up and decided to write a post about nothing. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s tempting to see where it goes. Maybe because it’s a good exercise to avoid hitting the backspace key and start rewriting during the process of writing. (I admit: I have already hit the backspace key several times.) I can’t sleep because I went to the gym in the evening and had dinner late. Physically I’m tired, but mentally it feels like it’s 10 a.m. Reading in bed didn’t help. At the moment I’m reading a book by Stephen King. It’s a book about the craft of writing, not a novel. The book has some good advice. For example to shorten everything by 10% in the second draft. This is what I’m going to do now. Which brings you and me to the end of this post about nothing.

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