Tools of the Trade: Jim Ellis of CMI Media Group

By Kyle O'Brien 

Tools of the Trade is an AgencySpy feature to help highlight the many tools that help make advertising and marketing folks successful. The tools can be anything that helps people perform at their top form, from a favorite drafting table to the best software program to a lucky pen, a vintage typewriter or a pair of headphones.

Next up is Jim Ellis, supervisor — social intelligence at CMI Media Group.

Jim Ellis of CMI Media Group poses with his trusty Microsoft Windows Notepad.


What is one tool you use all the time at work, and how does it inspire your work?

Sometimes a simple tool is the best one. I couldn’t function on a daily basis without having the Windows Notepad application open in the background while I’m working. In a fast-paced industry you can’t be bogged down by formatting errors, distracted by intrusive automated suggestions or confused by an update that moved around your favorite shortcuts interrupting your workflow. At any given time I can ALT+Tab to summon such a perfectly simple notepad to jot down a to-do, creative idea, deadline, Boolean query, and not be bothered by so much as a squiggly red line denoting a spelling error. And don’t get me started on Clippy.

Why is it your favorite?

As a musician, oftentimes having too many options is the worst scenario to find yourself in. Do you really need thousands of different sounds to write a good melody? Do you need to worry about fonts and line spacing to write a good email? Sure, they come in handy, a little flair never hurt anyone; but at its core, you need to start with a clear and concise idea. The Notepad gives me that. It gives me an opportunity to see my ideas as they are and then decorate or expand on them later. It allows me to word vomit my thoughts to go through and refine them later into the final product that they deserve to be.

How did you acquire your tool or hear about it for the first time?

The first time I used this application was honestly probably a mistake. I might’ve been reaching for Microsoft Word or Paint pinned to my taskbar, which, if I’m being honest, is another favorite of mine for another time. I most likely closed it immediately, not realizing the strength in its simplicity. Soon though, I would need to CTRL+C & CTRL+V something quickly from one program to another and of course it would never just appear as I wanted it to or as you thought that it should. That’s when I realized if you used the Notepad as an intermediary, it would get rid of any extra encoded formatting that’s too complicated for me to fully understand. That’s when I knew this was something special.

How does it help you be successful?

The Notepad doesn’t judge anyone. It doesn’t call you out for making mistakes but it won’t hold your hand either. It’s just there for whatever you need it to be, to make those mistakes and learn from them. It allows you to be who you are and improve in your own time. I think there’s something beautiful in that.

Does it have sentimental value?

If Microsoft took the Notepad away tomorrow, yeah, I would probably cry.

Do you think your tool could go TikTok viral?

I am in no way cool enough to determine that. My favorite tool is a virtual piece of paper…

We want to know what tools you use to make you successful. If you’d like to contribute or know someone who would want to be featured in Tools of the Trade, contact and fill out our survey.