By Trent Rentsch
Maybe it’s because I was an only child for the first 14 years of my life, but hand-me-downs never bothered me. On the contrary, I thought I scored some cool ones from my Dad. He went through a big fitness phase when I was really little. This was back before work-out “uniforms” became an industry… the closest thing he had to official workout duds was an old beer company sweatshirt and the t-shirts he got for joining the “Prairie Striders Running Club,” which featured a copyright-iffy “road runner bird.” By the time I hit middle school, his fitness kick was over and I was large enough to take advantage of his hand-me-downs. Logo shirts were still a novelty then; I wore out those shirts featuring the Hamm’s Bear and “NOT THEE Road Runner.”
That was a long, long time ago, and I had forgotten all about it until I visited my parents recently. Out of the blue, my Mother asked, “What size pants do you wear?” It seems that my Father has gained some weight and, you guessed it, had some hand-me-downs for me, again. After all these years, I was still excited. Dude… 5 pairs of dress pants and 3 pairs of jeans, NEVER worn? Granted, no cartoon characters, but have you priced pants lately??
Hand-me-downs get a bad rap. The perception is that they are out-dated, discarded, inferior in some way. The prevailing wisdom is that it’s better just to start fresh with something new and trash the old. But is it, really?
Remember the first commercial you Created from scratch? I mean, wrote, voiced, produced, the entire piece, start to finish. Was it for a car dealership? Grocery store? Shoe store, perhaps? It was probably a pretty exciting experience… but not half as exciting as hearing the finished product on the air for the first time. Or, maybe you never got to feel that excitement about your first work. Perhaps the client pronounced your baby ugly and decided they wanted something else completely. How did you feel then?
I got lucky. My first couple aired with full approval from the client, and I enjoyed the thrill of Creative victory. The agony of Creative defeat came with my third commercial attempt. The client asked for something different. As a baby Creative, I felt two things, anger and defeat. How on earth could they hate my idea? Oh, because it must really suck… I must suck. Typical reactions for a young, unbruised ego, I suppose, yet completely inappropriate.
Fast forward about a thousand car dealership, grocery and shoe store spots. I was finally managing to take both victories and defeats in stride, with little of the fanfare or self-pity. I’m not saying that I still didn’t feel pride over the wins and smart over some of the losses (I’m human, after all), but after my share of both I finally grew up enough to realize that neither is a personal reflection on my work. Either the spot was right for the client or it was not. It’s their nickel.
I noticed something else after those thousand spots. After the first 30 or so, they were all pretty much for the same types of clients. And every time a Sales Rep knocked on my door, I was doing my best to reinvent the wheel, giving it a new spin. If a client liked something, great! If not, it was abandoned, forgotten… wasted time & energy.
Ironically, if memory serves, it took 2 tire stores to make me realize just how much time and Creative energy I was wasting. The first shot down an idea the same afternoon another came knocking for one. It was one of those typical insanely busy Fridays at the station; who has time to think up TWO new ideas for tires… wait. Wait a minute… and when tire store number two went with my original idea, I finally understood the true power of hand-me-downs.
Now, I throw nothing away, the good… or the perceived bad for the client of the moment. Because nothing is ever really good or bad, it’s simply right or wrong for the current client, and if it doesn’t work for them, it eventually WILL work for another. Of course, the ideas get changed and refined, but sometimes the basic idea is the toughest thing. So if you’ve already done the work, it makes sense to bank the unused for a future project. Trust me, hand-me-downs won’t let you down.
And now, for something completely different…
For those of you keeping score, I’ve been living in Washington, DC for the last couple of years, working as a commercial producer for SiriusXM. When you read this, I won’t be there anymore. I’m moving back to Raleigh, NC, where I’ve taken a position with Krash Creative Solutions (add a dot com to the end of the name and you’ll find the website). No, there has been no professional drama.
I enjoyed my time with SiriusXM, and thank my boss, Todd Stack, and Commercial Production Director, Jesse Hayes, for the wonderful opportunities I had there.
The truth is, and you’ll know this if you’ve been keeping score, I follow my heart. And my heart, my love, my wife Lori, has continued to live in Raleigh while I’ve worked in DC. We’ve struggled with a solution to that problem ever since I moved, and when the position with Krash was offered, I knew I had found the answer.
So, as I write this, I am looking forward to working with Krash and company and returning to live with my wife. I feel like I will have it all, professionally and personally. For those of you keeping score.