Six TED Talks Everyone in Advertising Should Watch

It’s a scientifically proven fact that TED Talks are awesome.* These live presentations from thought leaders around the globe pack a whole lot of wit, wisdom, and insight into engaging, sub-18-minute packages.

The acronym “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” but today, the talks cover a range of other subjects. Many of the “ideas worth spreading” in TED’s library are directly, or indirectly, relevant to marketing and advertising. Allow me to share a few I find particularly spreadable.


Life lessons from an ad man

In this highly entertaining talk, Ogilvy Group Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland discusses the importance of perceived value – the advertising industry’s stock-in-trade. He asserts that, in reality, all value is perceived and shares a number of (hilarious, ingenious) examples of this principle in action.


The clues to a great story

As the writer of the Toy Story movies, Monster’s, Inc., Finding Nemo, and WALL-E, Andrew Stanton knows a thing or two about storytelling. He believes that good storytelling boils down to one simple axiom: make me care. Worth remembering, whether you’re producing an animated space epic or an Instagram video on your iPhone.


Where good ideas come from

Forget the “Eureka!” moment – it’s a myth. Writer Steve Johnson shows that great ideas often have long incubation periods and that breakthroughs happen when people can share and build on each other’s ideas. Luckily, most ad agencies are collaborative environments by nature, but it never hurts to be reminded that your best work isn’t going to happen in a vacuum.


How to get your ideas to spread

This talk was filmed in 2003, so forgive the dated references and user-interface screenshots, but marketer and author Seth Godin’s insights remain just as true today as they were then: We have virtually unlimited options and a limited amount of attention to give. As a result, we ignore the ordinary in favor of the remarkable. In an age saturated with “viral” this and “hashtag” that, if you want your ideas to spread, you need to give people a compelling reason to stop and take note.


Why work doesn’t happen at work

This one’s for all the managers. Meetings will always be necessary, and can even be productive and worthwhile, but constant interruption is the bane of making significant progress on any given project. As 37signals (now Basecamp) co-founder Jason Fried puts it, “four hours of uninterrupted time is the best gift you can give anybody at work.” Amen.


How to make stress your friend

Not just for ad people, this last talk is well worth its 15 minutes for anyone who’s ever felt stressed at work or anywhere else. So, unless you’re a Zen master or a border collie, it likely applies. Psychologist Kelly McGonical explains how, while conventional wisdom touts stress as a detriment to health and well-being, new research suggests that stress is only a problem if you think it’s a problem. Whoa.

*Not, as far as I know, actually proven by any scientific process.