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In Praise Of Friends

JG-Bid_136 I have friends who are beyond price. Real. True. Friends. Some I catch up with regularly. Some I rarely see. Some I seem only ever to connect with online. But God bless ’em, every single one of them, because I am so frequently such an inadequate friend in return. All too often I greet warmth and generosity with an awkwardness that must feel awfully like indifference. Many times my silence is all I have to give. So this is both a short essay in praise of friends and an apology.

“A friend in need is a pest” — Groucho Marx

I love Groucho and I know he was, – as always it seems about serious things – joking. But he was wrong about this. Knowing that hasn’t stopped me hiding behind this quip. I have treated friends in cavalier fashion for no better reason than their needs were “inconvenient.” Like me – and I make no other comparisons; Groucho was a genius – he was difficult. He was, despite his very public job, notoriously private. He was generous to a fault…. until he wasn’t. He was opinionated, yet fragile, smart as a whip, yet dumb as a box of rocks. He could be a dreadful friend and a trying partner. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Ad Infinitum.

“God gave you your family. Thank God you can choose your friends.”

— Oscar Wilde

I love Oscar too. But again – even though I know it was one of his trademark bittersweet epigrams – this misses the mark in my experience. For the most part, my family have lifted me up, just as much as my friends. They’ve so often deserved better from me. I recognize the truth of what Oscar says about choice, though. There’s something wonderful about people who’ve chosen to be in your life.

“I thought I was flying like a bird So far above my sorrow But when I looked down I was standing on my knees Now I need someone to help me Someone to help me please ”  

— Jackson Browne

I can’t possibly express the number and breadth of gifts I owe to my friends; this is a blog, after all, not War And Peace. And I’d be sure to miss someone – or something – that helped shape my life. But I can tell you about a week, one single incredible week, that prompted me to write this. During just the past seven days, I have:

  • Met with a friend who lives impossibly far away and yet has doggedly, lovingly, preserved our emotional connection. I cried when we parted.
  • Had breakfast with a friend who – despite profound difficulties in her own life –  cared only about making mine better. She has never failed to do so.
  • Sat down with a friend who shared her personal story, painful though it was,  because she believed it would help me. Experience, offered  selflessly, can be among the greatest gifts.
  • Received a heartfelt message from a friend who reached out with medical help. We share a challenging disease. But it must be said he has suffered far more severely. He just wanted to help.
  • And on and on it went. And goes on.

To all my friends. Thank you.

What Your Mum – and Groucho – Didn’t Tell You About Advertising

Legendary comedian Groucho Marx once observed that television is called a medium because it’s neither rare, nor well done.

One of the many hats I wear at my multimedia production business – 4th Mesa Productions – is that of Advertising/Marketing Consultant. Another is Advertising Copywriter.

And in those capacities, very often I have to agree with Groucho.

How can we get tv – and advertisements in all mediums for that matter – so wrong?

Because we insist on doing things back-asswards, that’s how?

Here’s a typical scenario. A company decides they want to do some radio advertising. Or tv. Or print. They hold some meetings, thrash out ideas, formulate a plan of attack, then employ someone to work on a script and produce the commercials. Finally, they decide on where they want to place the ads, based on who they think will reach their customers best.

Which is precisely the wrong order!

Effective, targeted, cost-effective Advertising is all about The Three M’s.

In this order:

  1. Market. How can you possibly know how or where to pitch your message until you know who your Target Audience – your Market – is? Always start by clearly defining who you want to reach.

  2. Message. Now that you know who you wish to communicate with or convince, you can craft your message in a way that best suits them. And you can say it in ways they understand. This almost always means taking into account who or what is important to that Market. Always produce a message your Market wants to hear.

  3. Medium. With a clear Target Audience and a Message you know they’ll be receptive to, you can decide how best to reach them. Always select a Medium or Method – radio, tv, print, online, whatever – based on where your Market is most comfortable.

This is not some arcane formula.

This is not, as they say, Rocket Science.

It’s the way we seek to convince people in everyday Life!

When I wanted to propose to my amazing wife, Mary, I had a clear Target Audience.

I worked on my Message. (And believe me, I realised I had to convince not only her, but her family.)

And finally I chose the Method (Medium) I knew she would just love.

Put in those terms, it might sound manipulative, almost clinical.

It’s neither.

Believe me, Advertising 101 was the last thing going through my mind when I proposed.

Market. Message. Medium.

Who we want to engage with, what we want to tell them, then how we’ll do it.

It’s what we do – naturally – every single time we formulate a plan that’s important to us!

And almost 24 years later, I can’t imagine a good day without Mary.

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