Bald head & Hogshead: An interview with Seth Godin

Seth Godin PortraitI always knew Seth Godin was smart.

But a couple of weeks ago, I interviewed him for my podcast, The Naked Career. And folks, let me tell you, he is smaaaaart. Crazy smart. Spontaneously brilliant smart.

Normally on my podcast, we edit out the and pauses and rambles and ums and so forth. But in this interview, I don’t think we had to edit a word he said. Seth slammed out one sound bite after another. Yow.

In our conversation, I asked a few tough questions and he pulled no punches.

Sally: How can CMOs stay small if their primary objective is to gain market share?
Seth: If any CMO’s primary objective is to gain market share, she should get a new job.

And I totally agree with him, despite the backhanded bitchslap.

A few more morsels of so-true-it-hurts Godin input.

  • What ad agencies ought to do, in my opinion, is not focus on selling ads anymore. And instead, focus on getting in deeper within the clients, and help the clients make products that people want to talk about.
  • The problem is that ad agencies have defined themselves as the people who take the mediocre products and add interesting ads to them, and washed their hands and say, we can’t do anything about what the factory brings us. And my answer is, of course you can, and the clients actually want you to, you’re just not working hard enough to get that piece of business.
  • Style and fashion spread through the ad agency business really fast. But they’re very bad at changing what they do for a living, they’re very bad at any form of new media, they’re bad at pushing clients to really dramatically, fundamentally reinvent themselves. What they’re very good at is adopting a new slogan or a new look or a new image. That’s deckchair re-arranging.
  • The way to get promoted in an ad agency is to get a new client who spends lots of money on television. Well, if that’s the way you get promoted, what do you think people are going to do all day?
  • If an ad agency goes to a client and says, Let us sit with your R & D people and invent five cutting edge, remarkable products that can spread. We think it’s going to work, just let us do it and don’t pay us until it does,’ most clients are will say Go for it!’ But the ad agencies aren’t willing to make that offer. What the ad agencies say is, “Here’s a list of our services, here’s what they cost, choose what you want.”

Like I said. Crazy smart.

Listen to the complete podcast here:

Length: 23:12, Size: 13.2 MB

18 Responses to “Bald head & Hogshead: An interview with Seth Godin”

  1. The Next Wave » Seth Godin, Sally Hogshead and The Next Wave Says:

    [...] Hog Blog ¬ª Bald head & Hogshead: An interview with Seth Godin For those of you not familiar with Seth- I’ve included a picture at right. Yes, he’s bald. [...]

  2. Tankar kring… » Intervju med Seth via Seth Says:

    [...] Seths blog hittar jag Hog Blog, som som g??r ett utdrag ur en Podcast med en intervju med [...]

  3. David Burn Says:

    Outstanding work, Sally. This is rich material.

  4. Puja Says:

    Hey Sally, this is extremely insightful and interesting. thanks

  5. Gabe Mounce Says:


    Seth is definately one of the business guru elites. It seems he and other “brilliants”, like Daniel Pink, Frans Johansson, and Tom Peters, are the new Thought Leaders for how to work in the Conceptual Age. Seths comments about an Ad Agency’s working relationship with clients reminds me of this Business Week article:


  6. Jim Osterman Says:


  7. rushing Says:

    Hi Sally,

    The Godin podcast leaves me puzzled. Seth says to agency folks that everything we’re doing is wrong, that we need to completely rethink our revenue model, delve into areas where we have little or no experience, and stake our careers and reputations on the outcome.

    I’m not saying he’s wrong. But…

    I find it interesting that he then turns around and says he has/wants no consulting clients, and won’t take people’s money for anything beyond a motivational speech because he doesn’t want to take credit or be held responsible if they fail.

    What gives?

    It seems to me that it’s pretty easy to extoll the virtues of “thinking small” if you never actually have to apply them. In the podcast, you asked Seth how Wal-Mart could apply his principle. He had no answer. Meanwhile, he went on about how JetBlue is getting it right. After last week’s fiasco and this week’s empty apology and toothless “bill of rights,” I’m not so sure they are.

    It would seem Seth agrees. On his blog today, he said “If I ran JetBlue, I’d…give each [affected] person 40 free round trip tickets. Or maybe 50.”

    Which is easy for him to say.

    Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to offer an opinion here. I really enjoyed your book and appreciate your many insights. But when it comes to Mr. Godin’s genius, we may have to agree to disagree.

  8. Jim Osterman Says:

    Dear Rushing:

    You offer interesting points/arguments/feedback. However, I still think we need more people who think like Seth for no other reason than to push us beyond our pre-set, peer-set limits.

    And I’m not sure anyone could make Wal-Mart a nimble company, in part because they have no motivation to be.

    Love to all….

  9. David Esrati Says:

    If you want a totally different take on the future of Wal-mart- and of big- you really need to go read this piece by James Kunstler:
    It’s not about advertising- but it is about the sustainability of an economy based on economy of scale.
    Once the price of distribution becomes a major factor- with high oil prices and an inefficient system of delivery based on trucking- the whole Wal-mart model may die a quick death.
    It’s similar to what’s happening with “broadcasters” in an IP delivered world.

  10. Mike Myatt Says:

    Hi Sally:

    I agree with Seth in his analysis of ad agencies. My belief is that most ad agencies are out to lunch with both strategy and tactics. In a recent post entitled “Ad Agencies Just Don’t Get It” ( I share my thoughts on the subject which I hope you find of value.


  11. Sally Hogshead Says:

    Great comments, all.

    Rushing, your comment has great points, and here’s my take on it… part personal opinion, part interpretation of my discussion with Seth. He isn’t saying agencies are doing everything wrong. He’s pointing out that they’re slow to evolve, and therefore missing the juiciest opportunities for their clients’ brands (and their own brands) to stay relevant. Me, I couldn’t agree more.

    Ad agencies are fantastic hotbeds of ideas, and lord knows I hate to criticize them since they paid for the computer upon which I’m typing. But. The reality is, agencies are falling further behind, even as clients accelerate into new platforms, new media, new channels of creating emotional connections with consumers.

    As Mike Myatt writes in the post he refers to above, “Ad agencies get paid to sell advertising not to build brands.” Ouch. But all too often, true.

    Do we have to reinvent? Yes. Will this be uncomfortable? Absolutely. And wishing that weren’t the case doesn’t make it any less true.

    So which agencies will survive? The ones with the balls to not just TALK about creating nontraditional media, but to actually do the gritty work of fundamentally re-engineering their business model.

  12. Mike Myatt Says:


    I found Gabe’s reference to “brilliants” and “thought leaders” to be of great interest especially in regard to Rushing’s comments. You might find this post on thought leadership to be relevant

    Thanks Sally…


  13. Bald head & Hogshead « Raw Stylus Says:

    [...] Feb 23rd, 2007 by Chris Hoskin Bald head & Hogshead: An interview with Seth Godin [...]

  14. Bald Head in UK Says:

    Thanks Sally … this was very thought-provoking and substantive.

    Ad agencies DO NOT build brands in the end even though I’m sure it was that way once.

    Good work.

  15. Marketing insight - excellent Seth Goddin interview « Living in a digital world Says:

    [...] read a brief synopsis on the interviewer’s [...]

  16. Hog Blog » For marathoners, getting across the finish line can cause loss of bowel control. Says:

    [...] sale was between two publishers: HarperCollins, and Penguin Portfolio, with the team behind all of Seth Godin’s books. I would have been thrilled either [...]

  17. Seth Godin, Dan Heath, and questions from The Art of Marketing Says:

    [...] jaunt down Memory Lane… Seth Godin carries a particularly fond place in my heart. I’d interviewed Seth for two episodes of my podcast, The Naked Career. (Seth also generously wrote a review of [...]

  18. For marathoners, getting across the finish line can cause loss of bowel control. Says:

    [...] sale was between two publishers: HarperCollins, and Penguin Portfolio, with the team behind all of Seth Godin’s books. I would have been thrilled either [...]

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