First of all, I am a Jimmy Fallon fan. There is something irresistible about him as an entertainer that is a combination of innocent charm and amazing, studied talent. The February issue of Vanity Fair magazine heralds Jimmy’s coming as the next “Tonight Show” host and provides a glimpse into his life and the pursuit of his new job, one only a few people in television history have ever had. He is a talented creative that understands how to connect with a huge cross-section of consumers, something those of us who make ads seek to do every day.

Image Source: Vanity Fair

Here’s what I think we can learn from Jimmy.

  1. Great creative is authentic. There is only one Jimmy Fallon. The Vanity Fair article describes him as childlike, endearing, and a true fan of people. His approach to late night television has drawn on his growing up, his love of music and comedy, and his ability to mash it all up in ways that are unique to him. When we make creative for our clients, discovering their brand stories and roots, finding the attributes that make them unique and endearing, and presenting all of that in a campaign that puts their authenticity front and center, will always result in advertising that works.
  2. Great creative is often collaborative. Jimmy Fallon is never worried about his guests “upstaging” him. He loves it. He invites it. His sketches with Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, Tina Fey, and even Paul McCartney, are some of his most legendary. And when you read the backstories, you find that all of them are true collaborations between performers who respect and like each other. As a creative, it is important not to let ego get in the way of great ideas. The ability to draw inspiration from collaboration with like-minded, talented people makes the work better.
  3. Great creative is approachable. In the Vanity Fair article, Paul McCartney says this about Jimmy: “He’s a major fan of people, and that’s very endearing when you’re working with him. It comes across to the audience too—here’s this guy who has the same enthusiasm as you, but he happens to have his own talk show.” Tina Fey observed, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is a warm, welcoming show.” I believe the best creative work connects with its target because it feels comfortable and welcoming— like your favorite shoes or your best friend. There’s nothing off-putting about it.
  4. Great creative is memorable. Say # anything and millions of us will remember Jimmy and Justin’s famous skit. Some of the “Late Night” moments are among the most watched on YouTube. Great creative is like that. People remember it and they talk about it and eventually they become fans of the products and services it sells.
  5. Great creative is social. Jimmy has 11 million followers on Twitter. His Twitter feed is a natural and regular part of his television show. One feeds the other. For those of us developing creative campaigns for our clients, the “socialness” of our creative will be a big reason why it is a success or failure.
  6. Great creative is hard work. They say Jimmy is one of the hardest working talents in New York. And for him, it started early when he would watch “Saturday Night Live” alone as a teenager to study the skits, the timing, and the angles. He honed his ability to impersonate famous people long before he became famous. He sought a seasoned mentor in Lorne Michaels, S.N.L.’s creator and executive producer. He developed his musical talent. And he found original intersections in comedy, music and television.

Great creative doesn’t just happen. It emerges when we study culture, our target audiences, the brand story, and the competitive landscape. When we analyze the famous work that has gone before us. When we look hard for those intersections that make it all sing. Homework is important to Jimmy Fallon and critical to what we do every day.

So join me, and millions of others, and tune into NBC on February 18 for the first “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Who knows what this creative genius might have in store.