5 things being a DJ taught me about Planning/Brand Strategy


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Before I got into advertising I was a DJ for 7 years.
I played radio shows, frat parties, nightclubs, dive bars and everything in between.

Here are 5 things I learned during those crazy days that have helped me in the agency world.

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5 things being a DJ taught me about Planning/Brand Strategy

  1. 1. ≈ 5 Things I learned as a DJ that have helped me as an Account Planner Sean Staley, Strategy Director Saatchi & Saatchi NYC Sean Staley, Strategy Director @ Saatchi & Saatchi NY
  2. 2. Before I got into advertising I was a DJ for 7 years. I played radio shows, frat parties, nightclubs, dive bars and everything in between. Here are 5 things I learned during those crazy days that have helped me in the agency world.
  3. 3. PLANNING IMPLICATION There is the obvious and there is the outlier. Both will lead you down paths that are either boring or irrelevant. Don’t follow the loudest voice. Look at the big picture. 1. IGNORE THE REQUEST AND READ THE CROWD One of the hardest things to do as a DJ is ignore the loud pestering request. The same person will keep coming up to the booth insisting on hearing either A. the most popular overplayed song of the day or B. An obscure album cut that will kill your momentum. Shutting out that singular voice and reading the big picture of the crowd is your guiding post.
  4. 4. PLANNING IMPLICATION I had a great Creative Director tell me there are 5 strategies and about 7 kinds of executions it was how you spun it that made all the difference. Just like DJing it is the little things that make the familiar feel fresh. As planner you should be on the hunt for the new angles and small wrinkles that make those time tested strategies and executions timely. 2. MAKE THE FAMILIAR FRESH Yes, new songs are great & they create energy. Truly big songs mark moments in culture; however, there are not enough new songs to fill one night. Well -- not enough new songs that will get people going. So much of being a DJ is blending the new, the slightly old and the so-old-its-classic and making them work together in way that feels fresh yet familiar.
  5. 5. PLANNING IMPLICATION You as a planner and the brands you work on have a style: the way you see the world and the value you bring to the world, or the value you bring to your agency. Figure it out and push yourself to create news ways to express it. But please stick to your style. Don’t be something you are not. Consumers, clients and co-workers can sniff out a phony fast. 3. CHANGE YOUR SET, NOT YOUR STYLE Your set is what establishes you but it can be what stagnates you. No one wants to hear the exact same set week after week. Underneath the skin of your set is your style: your taste, your sense of timing, what makes you, you. Figure that out and then figure out new ways to express it. New selections, new mixes, new times to drop your signature joints. Don't reinvent yourself, it can lead to you being something you are not which can be corny at best -- and what gets you booted from your regular gig at worst. Push your set, not your style.
  6. 6. PLANNING IMPLICATION Your reputation is based on what you do for your creatives & account people much more so than what you put on pieces of paper or PowerPoint. Respect that. Make their job easier, more enjoyable and find value for yourself in the small things. They will talk you up and protect you when the going gets tough. Your name is what pushes you forward in this business -- not any document you wrote. I will let you figure out who the Bouncers and Bartenders are in this metaphor. 4. BUDDY UP TO THE BARTENDERS & BOUNCERS The bouncers are the first person the crowd sees and the bartender (booze) is what brings them in the door first -- respect that. Yes, as the DJ you are the backbone to the experience, but the booze is often what gets them in and gets them loose, smiling, dancing and open to you. Become the bartenders favorite DJ, help them out whenever you can. Slow it down at last call so people hit the bar and tip well. If its on odd night crowd wise cater to whomever is there. Just always find away to make their job easier. Same with bouncers. These guys can help keep the wrong folks out, control the crowd and will protect you when you keep ignoring that request. Trust me, it happens. I had a gun flashed on me once. Find out the bouncers favorite song - and play it. Do their sister’s birthday part at low rate, etc..
  7. 7. 5. KEEP DIGGING TO KEEP RELEVANT After a few years its easy to say I pretty much know what to play and how. That leaves you stuck in rut. You get bored, your regular crowd will get bored and that new guy at the place down the street is gaining steam by playing a bunch of cool old obscure soul songs from the 70s. Always be on the look out for next thing: new and old. Hit the record shops, talk to your fellow DJs, try to listen to someone else’s set at least once a week. When I started pre-Serato, the best part about DJing was spending afternoons in record shops on the hunt. That feeling of “I cant wait to play what I just found” keeps you energized and that energy will transfer to your audience. PLANNING IMPLICATIONS After a few years you think you’ve cracked it. This will leave you and your teams bored . Finding what works is good and establishes your style, but building on it is what keeps you relevant. Read new books, attend lectures, take online courses, chat it up with other planners, go to interesting retail stores, look at famous old work and dissect the strategy. Keep digging to keep relevant.
  8. 8. thoughts, questions, comments and requests: seanwstaley@gmail.com