Man About Town

I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood to start a commotion. Not everyone is, according to my own very unscientific poll (I called some buddies to check up on ’em). Well, if not now, when? As Incubus says in the song “Drive”: “What ever tomor row brings, I’ll be there/With open eyes and open arms.”

Yes, between columns I redis covered the power of radio. Ear-blasting rock cranked up while bustin’ down a highway for hundreds of hours can be inspiring. I had forgotten. And there’s way more than Britney Spears on these days.

Take Pink. (I’m sure a lot of you would love to.) Part of the unholy alliance of hot mamas in the Moulin Rouge remake of “Lady Marmalade,” she’s now topping the charts with an almost threatening call to arms: “Get the Party Started.” I am sooo there. I want to begin every meeting with her bellowing: “Makin’ my connection as I enter the room/Everybody’s chillin’ as I set up the groove/Pumpin’ up the volume with this brand new beat.”

If we don’t start showing our clients the benefits of taking an exciting, aggressive approach, we’re going to have a dull and disturbing year. Nickelback’s hit “How You Remind Me” includes the refrain, “These five words in my head scream, ‘Are we having fun yet?’ ” I don’t want to play it safe anymore. And I want to have some fun along the way.

Companies are scared to death. (Who is Enron’s ad agency? Are they losing their minds?) They rely on us for ideas. How about we serve some up? Before we’re asked to.

How often do our best ideas lie dormant because we’re afraid to say what’s on our minds? Hell, we’re not shy people. Some of us are even kinda smart. We’ll say anything we want at the bar, so why do we hit the self-editing button at work?

Gather the troops. Ask what’s up. Build the war room. Here are a few basic tips from my toolbox for kicking things up a notch. Maybe you’ll find them useful.

1. Share the wealth—of information. Pull every scrap of relevant material or resources you have and put it in one room. Then go through it. Divide up those horrible stacks of research and read them. Reconvene in an hour. Slap some ideas on the wall. This ain’t nuclear science. Take a tip from U2: “I’m just trying to find a decent melody/A song that I can sing in my own company.” It’s amazing to me how much money and energy we spend collecting data—and how little time we spend reviewing or using it. View those expensive tapes that are serving as doorstops. What if there are actually some insights in those focus groups?

2. Give your creative leaders a real forum. Have your creative director sit down with your competitors’ reels and show you what he thinks is good and what sucks. How else will you know where he’s headed?

3. Use 90 percent inspiration and 10 percent perspiration. Why is it usually the other way around? A good war room doesn’t have to cost a thing. No one has to kill themselves in the studio making a two-foot stack of color copies. A handful of Magic Markers and some posterboard could do it.

4. Maximize your resources, particularly the people. Just as most of our computers are glorified typewriters, too often we only use the people around us as errand boys and girls … or worse. Put ’em to work. But let them see that it is important work.

5. Be bold and aim as high as you can. Commit to the notion that you and your group can achieve an audacious goal. Inspire that unmotivated employee. Perhaps you haven’t discovered his or her unique talent. Old habits die hard, but that’s what I’m trying to do. Five for Fighting gets it right on “Superman”: “I’m just out to find the better part of me.” We should all do that. Together.

6. Set ridiculously short timelines and stick to them. If you give yourself too much time, it’ll never get done. As Creed points out on “My Sacrifice”: “We’ve seen our share of ups and downs. Oh, how quickly life can turn around. In an instant.” Change can come. Good change. Now. Not next quarter. Or next year. Or at your next job. Now.

Linkin Park reminds us on “In the End” that “All I know, time is a valuable thing. Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings.” So what’re you waiting for? Read the rest of this Adweek on the train. Call an impromptu meeting and invite your team to be bold. Go ahead. Kick some ass.

7. Get as many people in the war room as possible. And don’t leave us middle-aged guys out. John Mellencamp (my age group) just got a Grammy nomination for his tune with India.Arie in which they caution: “It’s what you do and not what you say/If you’re not part of the future, then get out of the way.”

Rock on. And happy New Year.