By Dennis Daniel
Rejection. Nobody likes it. Hey, it’s only human. And yet, we as commercial writers and producers have to put up with it on a daily basis. “That sucks!” “That doesn’t make sense!’ “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard!” I have had these wonderful phrases thrown at me more times than I could ever count! Over 35 years doing this, and still, I get slapped in the face with all these “opinions.” Well, the great writer Harlan Ellison once said, “I don’t believe everyone has a right to their opinion. That’s ludicrous! Everyone has a right to they’re INFORMED opinion.”
My point is this… it’s very easy for those who don’t do what we do to offer their two cents on what we have done. But no one can be YOU. No one can be inside your mind and heart and soul… the parts of you that help give birth to creative ideas (at least those are the parts that help me). Oh yes, it is a BIRTH! Sometimes it’s like giving birth to Baby Shamu… in other words, a major pushing painful struggle. We give birth to these ideas and someone comes along and murders our child ruthlessly with harsh criticism that is neither empowering nor productive. It happens ALL THE TIME! It’s the burden we carry. We put stuff out there and hope we get a nibble.
One needs an ironclad stomach, nerves of steel, and a true sense of self so that the negative jack hammering has little or no effect on us personally. It has taken me YEARS to develop this muscle. My RAP Pack pals, I say unto you… don’t let the bastards get you down!
The first rule in this creative biz that we’re in is: to thy own self be true. If you are sitting in the chair, you’ve earned that spot. You have some equity. Don’t allow any negative Nellie’s to destroy your resolve. What we do is one of the most unique jobs in the world. We create something out of NOTHING. NOTHING! We stare at a blank screen and dig deep within to pull out the stuff that sales are made of. It’s so tough because it’s been done to the power of pi! I mean, how many ways can I tell people a car dealership offers 0% financing (or any other typical sale point, no matter the product)? Yet every day, it is what we are asked to do.
How do we do it, and how do we keep our sanity in a business that robs us of it every day? We do it by being prepared and by having full resolve!
The first thing you need to do is wipe out all personal feeling about any creative thing you are presenting. I mean it… do not in any way allow yourself to be insulted or hurt or visually frustrated (don’t let them see you get pissed) when you present something that gets shot down. It is your first line of defense. You already know that you’re great at what you do -- you’ve done it many many times. You’ve earned the right to be proud of your work. How we feel about ourselves is infinitely more important that how others may feel about our work and us.
So, I say again, don’t let them see any frustration. When you present and idea, let them know why you feel it works and from what well you were drawing from to bring it to life. If they don’t get it, don’t understand it, don’t like it… don’t worry! You are NOT a one trick pony. Take their comments and turn those lemons into lemonade. You had your original shot. Now, you need to take what they say, however lame it may seem, and craft something new that fits their parameters… even if you don’t agree with it. Remember, we are being creative for commerce. This is bringing home the bacon. There’s no time to allow yourself to be hurt or discouraged. There are a million ideas out there; pick one that fits for whoever is making the judgment.
I have often found that once I have given someone my all, I am bound to be disappointed. Yet, I still give it my all because it’s MY child. If my child is rejected, fine. I will make it YOUR child. It’s just another spot in a sea of spots that flows and flows and never ends. Do it your way first, their way second. At least you can feel that you didn’t compromise. Even if you end up hating what the spot eventually becomes, forget it! NEXT! Your day will come and you will be accepted for something original from the heart. Till then, just keep giving everything your all, not for anyone else but yourself!
That’s the trouble with being creative for commerce. We want everyone to like what we’re doing. We feel it’s right. We know it works for us. But sometimes it doesn’t work for everybody. Whether it’s an AE, the client or your boss, as soon as it’s rejected say, “No problem! I’ll come up with something else!” That not only shows you’re a team player, it shows that you are not intimidated or thrown off by negativity or rejection.
What’s really wonderful is when the person who may dis the idea, does it in a way that helps you understand why it’s not working, instead of making you feel worthless. This is the sign of the person’s humanity! We are all in together. No one always hits a home run out of the park on the first swing (and other clichés). Constructive criticism is where it’s at and is the sign of a true professional. The “This sucks” people are NOT in that league. Rise above them. And remember to keep a nice stockpile of ideas so you can keep your vision at the forefront when first presenting something. Oh… and keep the rejected idea!!!! I can’t tell you how many times I just used it again for someone else and it was a hit! HA! That’ll show ya!
My commercial this month is a great example of something that was accepted right at the get go! I had to do a radio spot for a Fiat dealership. Since Fiats are from Italy, and I am Italian… it didn’t take long for me to whip this one up. Once again, I just used life experiences to bring the concept to life. My dad, who unfortunately is very ill, was an amateur opera singer. I grew up listening to opera, Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavorotti. I know all the Italian operas and famous songs. One of my favorites has always been Funiculi Funicula… an Italian song most people have heard in one way or another. I had just come back from visiting my dad in the hospital, and feeling kinda sad, I listened to some of his favorite music to remind me of better times and how much he loved it… as well as how grateful I was that he shared it with me in my life. I knew I had to write a new commercial for SOUTH MIAMI FIAT, and I also knew their recent TV spots focused on the “Italian” aspect of the design of the car. I heard Funiculi Funicula and it inspired me to create the spot. (With a tip of the hat to Chico Marx as well!)
I must tell you… it was loved by all! In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve done a spot that was so universally loved by anyone who heard it! Not only that, they cracked up. So I accomplished my goal and at the same time, it’s kind of like a tribute to my dad and all the amazing music I grew up with. Like I always say, draw your ideas from your own life. Find the inspiration within!