Sound Thinking

By Tim Miles

“Which side are you on, boy? Which side are you on?”

“Ehh? See that mountain over there? One of these days ... I’m gonna climb that mountain.”

You know what being a loyal employee gets you? It gets you from the rich-soiled flat flatlands of East Central Illinois to the base of Pikes Peak at twilight. Well, sorta...

If you’re reading this, you’re already in the reindeer’s whisker minority who digs deeper. So let’s take that for granted. Now, then, what are you prepared to do? Or, more literally... who do you work for? Do you work for your employer who, without fail, hands you a paycheck twice a month and feeds you health insurance, vacation, and partial-pay on the 401? Or do you work for the client?

Before you groan and answer, let me ask: do you whine and complain about changes to copy for clients you’ve never met? Do you get frustrated by sales folk who seem to ignore every polite request for better information while you sit in your office or cube and petter to write award-winning copy?

Are your clients things, abstracts, or people? Which side are you on?

Have you met your clients? Worse yet, have you sat down with them away from said sales folk?

Which side are you on?

For, if you’ve sat a moment with said client away from said sales folk, you may have gathered that many of them are an aweful [sic] lot like you. They have house payments and families and big-butt rent payments and fears and hopes and dreams. One difference, though... they don’t works for nobody. They don’t have the luxury of a guaranteed paycheck twice a month and aren’t fed health insurance, and vacation; and they’re doin’ the partial-pay on the 401.

And they need you. Desperately.

They’ve been sold so many bad-bill-of-goods from so many bad-bill-of-goods advertising professionals that they so want to rekindle their trust in advertising... professionals.

Why not introduce yourself? Why not call them up and tell them they should buy you lunch or a beer after work? Why not let them tell you about their house payments and families and big-butt rent payments and fears and hopes and dreams?

Or not. You can just remain in your office or cube and hammer away at cleverness and dreams of RAP Awards. You can acknowledge the fact that you work for someone... worse yet, a large, publicly held corporation who’d much rather have you in your office or cube just writing copy and not meeting anybody.

Or you can make a difference. You can employ yourself to your clients, peel away all the crap they think the sales folk want to hear, and write what’s true. You can connect them to listeners just like... well, them.

The funny thing is: the money follows. The awards – if they’re your thing – follow. The whatever-it-is-that-swells-in-your-heart-and-makes-you-proud-to-tell-your-soon-to-be-born-first-child-what-you-do-for-a-living follows.

Me? I have no more time for cleverness or whinery. I have clients to call and tell them to buy lunch and beer. I have dreams to hear and worries to soothe. I have stories to write. I have truths to tell. The sales folk are happy. They get what they want. That station’s happy. They get what they want. Me? I get to walk out onto a balcony hundreds of miles from home and look at a mountain I’d only seen in books and then walk back inside and look at myself in the mirror. And smile.

Maybe you consider yourself a world away from me. Maybe you’re unlucky. But maybe, too, there’s a way – closer than you think – to be great and true and help owner-operated businesses tell their stories and become stupid-rich in the process.

One client brought me here – from Gifford, Illinois, to Carbondale to Columbia to Colorado Springs. I earnestly and tenderly wrote six pages for him tonight. It’s the least I could do for him bringing me here.

Where will yours take you? And what will you do to repay him? It only takes one. Who’s yours?

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