Mark Miller Visits Newhouse

Mark Miller Visits Newhouse

If you play your own game, you’ll never lose.

This was the crux of Mark Miller’s lecture last Thursday in the second installment of the year’s Eric Mower lecture series. Divulging stories that were featured (and a few that were purposefully left out) of his new book Legacy in the Making (co-written by Lucas Conley), Miller shared his most recent epiphany: short-term thinking is dangerous.

As a current advertising graduate student at Newhouse I thought I had everything planned out. I’m a big fan of agendas, keeping lists, I’m a Virgo for crying out loud. But hearing what Miller had to say, I realized that I was limiting where I put long-term thinking. Aside from planning career moves, I rarely integrated long-term thinking into my daily work. When you intern for a company or complete an assignment, you focus on the deadline, or maybe the end of the semester. How can I expect to be offered a position if my biggest contribution is a three-week long idea?

To be fair, stretching every obligation’s relevance to your place in life thirty years into the future is overwhelming. When you’re a student, it can be impossible to say what you’ll be doing in five years, one year, or a few months from the present. Maybe we can’t be definitive about what we’ll be doing. But Miller encourages us to be definitive about what kind of person we’ll be. Our plans can’t be sure—but our values can.

Citing examples from Patagonia (whose very own Yvon Chouinard wrote the book’s forward) to the Ritz-Carlton hotel, Miller illustrated work where the mindset was dedicated to the company’s long-term thinking. The sentiment was personal and the dedication shown illustrated individual commitment, but the brand values dominated the conversation. What else could inspire hotel employees to take polaroid pictures of a left-behind stuffed animal enjoying the amenities? How could short-term thinking possibly lead to a voluntary automobile recall? These aren’t data driven ideas or by-the-number thoughts, they take heart and a caring perspective of the future.

The truth is that our industry is especially affected by the changing cultural landscape, and it’s opening opportunities for more genuine behavior than ever. When we go into advertising, we’re still communicators, translators of ideas. Personally, I was inspired by Miller’s lecture to remember this in every piece of copy that I write. My responsibility is to translate the long-term brand goals into every tagline or headline that goes through my job. Thinking beyond what your boss demands or you time constraints suggest, you can contribute something more, something everlasting. Maybe it’s playing outside the rules, but as Miller said, if you’re playing your own game, then you can never lose.

Isabel Drukker

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