Day 242

Farewell Chicago!

Tomorrow, I board yet another train and journey to a far away land known as Minneapolis. Unlike my other stops along the way though, I’m actually a bit nervous this time around. That's because every city left on my journey will be new to me, as I've never been west of Chicago. But, on the other hand, I find myself rather excited for the same exact reasons. This is what an adventure is all about—exploring new places, seeing new sights and experiencing new cultures.

On a very personal level, I’m thrilled to be venturing to Minneapolis for the first time. For those of you out there who don’t know, the Twin Cities are teeming with incredible indie hip-hop artists. It’s home to the likes of Atmosphere, Doomtree and Brother Ali and where you’ll find Rhymesayers Entertainment, First Avenue and the Soundset Hip Hop Festival. I’m not 100% sure why this city in particular has such a dense hip-hip scene, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the best in the country. What makes it even better is that most of the artists look out for one another and that’s something you don’t normally find in the world today.

But what do rappers have to do with the project? Well, these aren’t your ordinary musicians. They're individuals who’ve worked hard for their success and understand the importance of going the extra mile. Whether it’s playing unannounced shows in a parking lot or finding new ways to deliver music to fans, they understand the importance of creative marketing and thinking outside the box. Take the members of Doomtree for instance. They've built themselves into a collective, where every member has a role to play beyond their musical abilities. Some handle merchandise and social media, others the website and tour planning. It’s all about streamlining the process and doing things their own way. In the end, they’ve learned to balance business and creative with near perfect results and I consider that very inspiring.

So, just a forewarning to everyone out there. August is going to be a very musically-influenced month. I already grabbed a ticket to see two of my favorite artists (Sims and Astronautalis) and if all goes well, I’ll have a chance to interview them while I’m in town too. Even if you're not a hip-hop fan, their tight knit community is something that's very unique to Minneapolis. I think there's a lot to learn from how they do things and that's why I'm excited to delve right in. 

Eight stops down. Six to go. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-Steve-

Day 239

An agency is an agency is an agency, right? Not in today’s world. The companies thriving in today’s industry are those who think outside the box, while playing to the strengths of their teams. Some are branching into new territory like record labels (Boxing Clever); others are creating highly unique positions like the Maker (Red Tettemer); and many are just expanding their capabilities by taking services in-house and offering clients more than others.

That’s what TRIS3CT is doing with Jerry Rig, an integrated production studio that specializes in the development and distribution of branded content. Billed as “Production Reframed,” Jerry Rig breaks away from the traditional production and post-house model to deliver an integrated team and process that empowers the content they help to create. As their site states, “rather than tell your story to the most people, we’ll tell it to those who are actually listening.” I think that’s a vital distinction, especially in our multi-screen, always-on culture. It's hard to grab someone's attention, when you're always competing for it. 

I haven’t had much of an opportunity to work with anyone on the Jerry Rig team, but I absolutely love their approach—Instead of interrupting consumer behavior, we’ll ensure your content enables it. I mean, that sentence alone says an awful lot. I don’t think everyone will agree with it, but as consumer ourselves, no one should ever argue its effectiveness.

In all honesty, these are the things I get really excited about as I continue across the country. I find it extremely motivating and inspiring to find agencies that are doing things differently. Whether it’s adding services to create a more rounded experience for clients or branching into new industries for the sheer love of it—these are the places making waves across our industry and changing things for the better. To me, it sounds like a pretty straightforward concept—adapt and lead. Yet, you'd be surprised how many people out there don't get it. Just because something isn't broke, doesn't mean you can't make it better. 

-Steve-

Day 235

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak with a class at the Chicago Portfolio School. As the third Q&A I’ve done with students at part of #TGAA, I’m officially convinced that it will never get any less stressful. I did have a good time though and I want to thank Angela Vitzhum for inviting me into her classroom. She’s been a big part of what's made Chicago another great stop. In fact, I will be attending the Creative Mornings event with her tomorrow as well. I’m pretty excited about it, because I used to attend their events all the time while living in NYC. If you've never been to one, I highly recommend you check it out. 

This week also got me thinking about the true importance of meeting new people, when it comes to the success of this project. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of my stops along the way, not all of them have truly lived up to what they could’ve been and I’ll be the first to admit that. The most exciting cities I've been to are those where I’ve made new friends like Angela—individuals who understand what I’m trying to accomplish and want to help me get there. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve met so many incredible people along the way. But the real difference makers are those whose generosity and curiosity extends beyond the agency walls.

The View from The Creative Group Offices

You can find their names on this page and it continues to grow all the time. They’re the ones helping to bring this project to life on a daily basis. Whether it’s offering to show me a new part of town, extending an invite to a local networking event or tipping others off to my presence, I’m forever grateful to everyone on that list. Yes, on the other hand, I have met individuals who do not care for my project and choose to ignore my existence as a whole, but they have that right. There have been co-workers who never said a word to me during my tenure—despite my greatest efforts—but it is true that you can’t win them all. Rather than dwell on it, I continue to do my best to sway their opinion over time. My hope is that for every one person who doesn’t care, I will find the support of another ten who do. It’s how the project has grown into what it is today.

In the end, I think the different receptions I receive help make the project better as a whole. It forces me to adapt on the fly and find new ways of seeking advice and answers. As a friend told me before I left, “If everyone loves you and everything goes perfectly, it’s not going to be a very interesting journey. It would just be you taking a vacation and no one wants to read about that.”

So, here’s to those out there who’ve helped (and will continue to help) make this project special in their unique own way. (Even if they do eat burritos without me.)

-Steve-