A Simple Lesson

It was my junior year of college and I was sitting in Advertising Strategies with Dr. Hal Vogel. At the time all I wanted to be was a copywriter on Madison Avenue. Don Draper well before he even poured his first drink.

Dr. Vogel was a tiny man, maybe a buck o’ five soaking wet. He spoke with a nasal whine and had a disturbing little cackle when making a point he himself was particularly pleased with when uttering.

One day we walked into class and on the chalkboard was a long sentence. This is what it said:

“We’re having a sale! If you’re in a rock band and looking for great deals on MIDI equipment, we’re the place for you. You’ll have a hard time finding a lower price!”

We took our seats and Dr Vogel said, “OK everyone write a better headline for this piece of crap MIDI equipment sale at a fictional music store”.

So we sat there. All of us quietly scribbling on paper trying to outdo each other. I thought I had nailed it for sure. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember not even being close to the best in the class. And as we went around the room every student’s suggested edits sucked, too.

Then Dr. Vogel took a piece of chalk and said, “Here, let me show you something”.

He proceeded to strikethrough word after word, till all that was left was rock, MIDI, and lower.

Then he said, “What’s another way to say lower that would work better with this group?” None of us could come up with it. He cackled with glee being the only person in the room who knew.

“How about bottom?” he quipped, “You can’t go lower than the bottom, right?” (another small cackle). He was pleased as punch at this point, and to his credit all of us, certainly myself, were quite intrigued.

Then he wrote this large on the board:

ROCK. BOTTOM. MIDI.

Ta-fucking-dah! Bravo Dr. Vogel, bravo.

I recall that story because for the last two days we’ve been taking chalk to the board when it comes to Peggsite. I forgot how powerful a lesson it was. Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate until all that is left is what is absolutely essential, all the while retaining its creativity and purpose. If you take a look at successful apps/platforms since the birth of mobile they’ve done exactly that. And when I look at where we are with Peggsite right now – we’re still too much like that original sentence on the board and not nearly close enough to ROCK. BOTTOM. MIDI.

We will get there. I’m 100% confident in that. We took a lot of chalk to the board in the last 48 hrs. I’m excited about that and a little scared which I see as a good thing. Hard choices should be scary, that means you’re trimming well.

Thanks Dr. Vogel wherever you are.

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