Giving Up The Ghost

One of the strategies Tucker laid out for the movie campaign was to take all the money you’d normally spend on billboards and TV commercials and spend it on blogs or private websites. It’s brilliant really. Umair just wrote a paper on it – he’s giving the money to the people who create context.

Before that happens, I’m using the same concept for a different company. As I was dictating an order to the product placement guy, I was stressing to him how important it was that he send it out exactly as I’d specified – just what the person ordered. The sizes. Arrival date.

Then it hit me, that’s really fucking boring. So I scratched it. I said get most of the order right and have fun with the rest. He’s sending people stuff they couldn’t possibly wear or books they’ll never read. Total freedom to do whatever he wanted. Maybe though, if it goes like I plan, they’ll give the extra to somebody else or tell their friends about it. At least now its something interesting.

Doing the same with advertising. My first instinct was to use the ads that perform best. If you’re going to be buying advertising, you’d use the ones that convert right? But I was thinking about the wrong customer. So we’re using the controversial stuff. The ones that make an impression on the people we’re trying to impress. Everybody else is irrelevant. Ads ones that will get angry emails or double takes or laughs. I’m linking some to Wikipedia pages. Some to negative articles. Things that they don’t even sell any more. I was thinking about buying a bunch of inventory and filling it with white space.

Sometimes I don’t get things Tucker says. Occasionally, it actively impedes what he’s working to accomplish. But I’m starting to understand that hey, maybe that’s why people can’t stop talking about him. That’s what I was trying to say about emails. Don’t bother people with your Furthermores and Sincerelys and At Your Earliest Conveniences. It’s not real. It doesn’t mean anything. Who.cares.

The advertising campaign is working. I built a Rolodex from nothing inside of a month. Other sites are starting to write about the ads they’ve noticed on their competitors. People are coming back to me asking for leaks or more stuff. I’m not joking, it was ‘account error’ cheap and only just starting to build on itself.

Whatever though, right? It’s a tactic that will eventually see diminishing returns. That’s not the point. I think it’s really easy, especially with the perception that school and business writers give, to think in these nice but boring boxes. It’s why eccentric people confound the establishment. Their flaws were supposed to keep them from succeeding. No – that’s why they’re interesting.

You can give up the ghost of perfection, of creating a plan that works for everybody and then following it exactly. You can. (I’m trying.) Think about your heart rate increasing but everything slowing down. What kind of freedom would that give you? Might be more fun too.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.