Borrow, Steal, And File


(By Bob McCurdy) Early in my career, I came across a Picasso quote: “Good artists borrow, great ones steal.” I figured if it was good enough for Pablo, then it was good enough for me. I’ve been borrowing, stealing, and customizing ideas ever since.

Shortly after stumbling upon the Picasso quote, I read about a fellow named Ebbinghaus, who’s known for the “forgetting curve,” which posits that much of what we’re exposed to is quickly forgotten.

I figured that there’s no use in swiping, if I couldn’t remember what I swiped, so I developed a system to retain these poached nuggets of wisdom by simply cutting, pasting, highlighting, and storing information/data in different files that can be keyword searched. These computer files have proven invaluable over the years.

Here’s a quote from one of the trades this week that’s been filed, stored, and is in the process of being shared with clients:

“We still get e-mails from listeners telling us how much they like [Magna Global’s ‘Pure Michigan’ radio ad campaign]. This is the perfect example of theater of the mind. You can’t help but see certain images when you hear those spots….We’ve had clients completely walk away from radio and then walk right back. Because it does work and it is effective. They do see a difference in their local business.” — Kathy Doyle, executive VP of local investment, Magna Global

Does maintaining these files take time? Absolutely, but they’ve provided access to information and data that would have otherwise been long forgotten.
Others have embraced the “swiping” mindset. A recent article titled “The Scheme Dreamer: How Brad Stevens Draws Up Winning Plays,” referenced how the Boston Celtics coach steals and borrows:

“Honest to God, I’ve stolen everything we’ve ever done from somebody else,” he said. “Now, it may not be exactly what they do, but it may be, ‘Oh, I really like that action. This is how it fits with us.’ We may need to position one of other players somewhere else, but I think they are all — none of it is original.”

Smart man.

A friend forwarded me a magazine ad from 2010. It was good, so I borrowed its general theme and modified it for “radio”:

The Internet harvests demand. Radio creates demand.
The Internet is lean-forward. Radio is lean-back.
The Internet is task-focused. Radio is undemanding.
The Internet operates within people’s immediate social network (My World). Radio connects people to their wider network, their local community and beyond (My Wider World).
Each nicely complements the other and each continues to grow.

Often forgotten amidst the deluge of digital headlines is the realization that there are more people tuning to radio each week than any other medium in the United States. Yep, millions more than TV. Twenty-seven years after Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, listenership is growing even with Millennials, the generation one would believe would be most hooked on the Web.

Ponder this. In the 19 years since Google was founded and the 17 years since Pandora debuted, the number of Americans tuning to AM/FM radio has increased in the millions, again proving that a new medium doesn’t kill an existing one.

With media usage, it’s no longer a zero sum game, due to the explosion of multi-tasking. Unlike most other media, which are used concurrently with other media, radio’s multi-tasking revolves around “life tasks” and not other media. That’s a big difference.

An established medium can continue to flourish so long as it continues to offer a unique user experience, and radio’s one-to-one intimacy continues to deeply resonate, as at our core we are all analog beings.

Best of all, radio continues to provide results for advertisers. Nielsen has shown that radio’s return-on-ad-spend rivals or exceeds other media.

The “swiping” of theme from an old magazine ad generated a compelling pro-radio e-blast.

Woodrow Wilson had it right when he said, “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”

The bottom line is feel free to borrow, steal, re-purpose or customize anything I’ve written.

Successful swiping involves a system for retaining what’s being swiped. Develop one that works for you. It will benefit you and your clients.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


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