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July 11, 2002
Killed Concepts - Learning to Let Go

For those not in the know, this summer's hot color is tangerine. I know this because we read a lot of magazines at work. GQ, Glamour, Maxim, FHM, Detour, Cosmo Girl (don't laugh, there are free stickers in that one).

But is it time to do away with the advertising clich? that is the black wardrobe? Has it finally fallen out of fashion along with the goatee and the raging coke habit?

Not likely. Why? Because the idea mortality rate in this business is through the roof. And behind every killed concept are real people with real feelings. Show me a creative wearing tangerine and I'll show you a person who isn't dealing with his or her grief. (Props to my psych professors.)

To a certain extent, to understand grief is to understand advertising. So, as a public service to those optimistic, presently well-adjusted individuals in advertising schools everywhere, let's take a look at the stages of the grieving process, as outlined in this brochure I picked up from a local funeral home (sometimes it's good to get out of the office). Stay with me, this could be cathartic.

So the client just killed your concept. Or maybe it was a focus group. Or maybe, your concept wasn't really killed after all. That's right, it's still alive. The client was just kidding. That account exec's a liar. (I'm Brian Fellow!) Your idea is alive and well. That's genius up there on your wall. Living, breathing genius. Keep telling yourself that. Denial is the first step toward healing.

This is a time of chaos. A time of trying to adjust to the world without your concept in it. During this phase, you are intensely aware of the reality of the loss, but will try almost anything to escape it. Note: mind-altering substances offer only a temporary escape. Try not to get yourself fired. Unemployment will merely compound the grief. And the lack of a paycheck may render the aforementioned mind-altering substances unattainable.

Also known as acceptance or reorganization. It is during this stage that thoughts of physical violence toward the account service staff begin to recede. The pain of the loss remains, but the unbearable intensity of it subsides. You may already have new ideas you're not ashamed to show people. Something that could maybe make it in the books. Hope returns. And life begins to seem possible again. Savor this moment. It won't last.

This job is an emotional roller coaster. And although it never gets any easier to see great ideas fall by the wayside, it's still one of the best rides going. So, let your friends have their "Johnny Cash called, he wants his wardrobe back" jokes. Suit up and pay your respects. You want color in your closet? Wallpaper.

And let the healing begin.

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After graduating from The Creative Circus in 2000, Mike Ward went to work as a copywriter at Borders Perrin Norrander in Portland, Oregon. Since then, a combination of hard work and blind luck has landed some of his work on the pages of One Show, CA, Graphis, and Print's Regional Design Annual. Occasionally, the sun shines. Even in Portland.
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