Doug deGrood has something to say. 12 things, actually.

By the minneapolis egotist / /

This year, GdB (Gabriel deGrood Bendt) turns 20. That means, the agency opened its doors just before the turn of this century and right at the cusp of the digital age. Since then, the shop has gone through more than its fair share of changes, including becoming part of Clear Night, a marketing services platform with a new office in the North Loop. Long-time agency creative director, Doug deGrood here ruminates on some of what he’s learned over the past 20 years.

“Tell me a story”
Humans love stories. They’ve been telling them ever since early cave dwellers drew pictures on cave walls. Today, we have the amazing ability to serve geo-targeted coupons for ice coffee just as a potential customer is walking past a coffee shop. Yet chances are, that prospect will end up getting their coffee at the shop that inspires them with the best stories.

Someone’s got to own it
We live in an era of collaboration. Kids in school today are taught to work in groups of three or more. Yet show me one truly mind-blowing idea that was born of a group grope? Brilliant ideas are generally arrived at by restless individuals wrestling a problem to the ground. Beethoven’s Fifth, the television, Uber are just a few examples.

Simple is hard
Mark Twain once told a friend to whom he sent a letter, “Sorry it’s so long. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Anyone can do complicated. Simple takes hard work. Think about that when someone is having a hard time resisting the temptation to put everything into a creative brief. It becomes a brief about everything. And therefore, nothing.

When you’re too eager to please a client today, you often disappoint them tomorrow
The client wants it yesterday. And while there’s never enough time to do it right the first time, why is it, there’s always time to do it over? A gourmet meal takes time and seasoning. Yet technology has turned us into fast food cooks. We give a problem a moment’s thought and hit “Reply All,” for fear that if we don’t, we’ll look unresponsive. Or worse, dumb. On the contrary, you’re more likely to look dumb when you provide half-baked answers. We all need to slow down. And think.

There’s nothing you’re doing today that you couldn’t be doing better tomorrow.
If you start to defend a practice by saying, “That’s how we did it last time,” it’s probably not a practice worth defending. Nothing is ever the same the second time around. Life changes. Fast. You gotta keep up. Adapt. Or become irrelevant.

Great work isn’t sold, it’s embraced.
A lot of us would like to think we’re capable of selling surfboards to Eskimos. But more times than not, we don’t sell the work, the work sells the work. That isn’t to suggest you don’t need to construct an argument for your idea. On the contrary. But if you’ve done your homework, considered all the options, poked your work full of holes in advance of the client, the work that emerges is usually undeniable.

There are no small opportunities. Only small ideas.
The architect Daniel Burnham said, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to strike man’s blood.” It’s true. So don’t just set out to make an ad. Set out to make history. And don’t let your enthusiasm be dampened by a small media opportunity or a small budget for that matter. Money has a way of making itself suddenly available to big ideas.

The more distracted, the less creative you are.
Creative people need time to think. In fact, research shows it takes 30 minutes to achieve total concentration. Yet if you’re reacting to electronic distractions every other minute like Pavlov’s dog, how’s that going to happen? Years ago, we instituted “No email Wednesdays” to combat this dilemma. We all need to find ways to unplug from time to time.

Humans rule
We’re all fixated on data and targeting these days. Often to the point where I think we forget there’s a human on the other end of our marketing efforts. Humans are not fixed data points. They’re unpredictable, driven by emotion. We cannot forget that.

The ultimate ad blocker? Better ads.
I personally relish the fact that viewers can zap ads they find dull or intrusive. All the more reason to take the time and effort to create captivating ones.

Not everyone is a creative
Because it’s so easy to create content on our computers, we’ve grown to believe anyone can craft great content. I’m quite confident an hour or two on YouTube will convince you otherwise.

If transactions overtake relationships, we’re all dead
It seems everything is becoming more and more transaction-based. Ordering stuff online. Crowd-sourcing advertising. The ways to avoid human interaction continue to grow. What does that mean for our industry?


  1. Anonymous September 28, 2017


  2. Evan Petty September 28, 2017

    Excellent points all, Doug!
    Excellent points all, Doug! This should be required reading for anyone in a marketing role in a Client organization. Agency folks should read it too, but I suspect most of us who’ve been around a while know this from experience.

    Well said.

  3. Anonymous February 7, 2018

    Awesome take on the biz!
    Awesome take on the biz!