What Ad Agencies Can Learn From Guitar Makers

A Client Teaches Me Something About Creativity, Passion and Craftsmanship

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
Lorenzo Pimentel was a teenager in El Paso, Texas, when he built his first guitar. Over fifty years later, Pimentel & Sons guitars are considered the Stradivarius of classical guitars. This is no exaggeration. Two hundred years from now, Pimentel guitars will still be around.

Developing advertising for Pimentel reinforced to me the connection of craftsmanship to longevity.

I won't argue that the majority of what we do is disposable. But how quickly the work loses its value is directly connected to how much craftsmanship we put into it. Think of campaigns like "Got Milk?," "Absolut" and "Just do it." The creators of this work did not believe they were creating legend. They simply gave it everything they had. No detail was believed to be insignificant. This sounds rudimentary, but we all know great work is easier said than done.

In the case of the Pimentels, doing one's best goes beyond hand-making a guitar. They even make the tools they use. They returned to centuries-old techniques that were all but forgotten and certainly not economical. Our research revealed that they might be the only ones left on the planet that make a guitar completely by hand.

Why is this relevant? The principles they hold apply to time-tested brand making.

Materials: The Pimentel guitar is made of the finest materials money can buy. In fact, some can't be bought, because they are no longer available. This is another example of how Mr. Pimentel's perfectionism paid off. He knew only naturally aged wood was best. It required decades of drying time. So he bought wood decades ago for the guitars they make today. Many of those woods are no long available or are extremely scarce.

Agencies must put the same dedication into the materials we use, from strategy through production. Yes, many times this costs more. But when success is on the line, good clients are willing to spend. It's up to us to show them how it's a worthy investment.

Time: Doing work at breakneck speed has become the norm. And advertisers pay the price when cut corners diminish effectiveness. Agencies have a responsibility to be good stewards with time. The boondoggle production. The overkill presentation. They have no value toward the work. Put the time where it matters most: in the work.

Love: Many agencies and advertisers have thrown this critical element for success away. The lack of trust our industry has fostered has taken a toll on what should be a mutual passion for a brand between the agency and the advertiser. One of my favorite examples of the opposite is when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the early '90s. One of the first things he did was to call Lee Clow. It wasn't long before "Think Different," was born. It was brilliant because it was truth. At least, it was true about Jobs, even though Apple had forgotten it for a time. Jobs made Apple special. Not because of his brilliance, but his love. He loved being a game changer. He puts it all on the line for that love. He and Lorenzo Pimentel had a lot in common.

Do you have any clients that you love that much? You will never do what the Pimentels do if you don't. There are many practical things that are used as excuses for not putting love into the brands we make. In the end, that's all they are: excuses.

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