Knock The Hustle: Simply The Best Ad Book I’ve Read In A Long Time

I’ll readily admit that I’ve been waiting for my copy of Hadji Williams’ new book Knock The Hustle: How to Save Your Job and Your Life from Corporate America for 3 months now, since I first heard about it and saw the excerpts on his website.
And now that it’s here and I’ve read it, I can honestly say that this is the most provocative, eye-opening look at the advertising industry that I’ve ever read. Sorry, Luke Sullivan. Sorry, Sally Hogshead. Sorry, Phil Dusenberry. Sorry, David Ogilvy, Jerry Della Famina and Howard Gossage. Hadji’s got you folks beat by a mile.
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Hadji Williams spent 13 years as a writer in various Chicago agencies, including BBDO and Uniworld (and if you’re in Chicago, you HAVE to get this book, because Hadji isn’t afraid to name names, or slightly disguise them and call some people out on their actions). By not being from an upper middle-class white neighborhood, the ad industry and how it operates turned out to be a revelation to him, although it was strangely familiar: pimping, whoring, hustling, drug-pushing, gambling—all thrive in corporate America, albeit in unique forms.
What’s really great is that Knock The Hustle isn’t just a rant about minorities in advertising or a personal memoir. It’s a transparent account of how the ad business operates—from creative concepting to client billing, new business presentations to office politics. And Hadji has plenty of concrete ideas on how the ad industry could change its practices, where most people in the business just give lip service to the notion of progress. Actually, there’s a good amount of wisdom that nearly any business in any industry can apply. If that weren’t enough, many parts of this book are funny as hell.
It’s 378 pages long, and Hadji stacks it full of personal stories, business history, pop culture references and attributable quotes that range from The Bible to John F. Kennedy to Mya. But he also writes something on nearly every page that’s a nugget of genius (and if you’re not good with slang, keep Urban Dictionary handy). My words can’t do this book justice—you just have to read it and experience it. Much like Matt Beaumont’s e from a few years ago, everyone familiar with advertising will find something in KTH to relate to. Only here, it’s all true.
I think Hadji self-published this book, so you probably won’t find it at your local bookstore. But you can order Knock The Hustle through the KTH website and on Amazon. Either way, get it. It’s a must-read for anyone in the advertising industry, particularly the people who want to be in the industry next week, or next year, or next decade.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Better than Gossage?
    That’s some lavish praise.

  2. Actually, in terms of ad books, I think Jerry Della Famina’s “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor” is about as close to a precedent for Hadji’s book as there would be. But that was nearly 40 years ago. This one’s better. By far.

  3. Carl LaFong says:

    What? Better than Donny Deutsch’s latest opus?
    Seriously, sounds like a great read.

  4. Better than Where the Suckers Moon?

  5. Tom, that is a good one. But I’d consider that book more a fly-on-the-wall, journalistic treatment of a certain agency and time. Damned good. But Randall mostly reported on what happened, and didn’t really inject himself. Kind of like what Bob Woodward does a lot these days–they’re more like history books.
    Hadji’s is obviously more personal and opinionated, but he talks much more in depth about the entire nature of advertising, corporate America, and all the socioeconomic shifts and trends that are taking place, as well as the larger impact on the effect advertising has on people.
    There’s room on the shelf for both books.

  6. You guys all seem suspect.
    This is a self-published book that’s not even out yet. How’d you all get copies?
    I smell tainting and bias…

  7. Well, frankly, I don’t know what tainting and bias smell like.
    I got my copy last week, having ordered it from Hadji’s website a few months ago. The first bunch of copies have now been printed. And I read it fast, ’cause it’s that good.

  8. Yo Curious,
    This is a blog. Bias is our middle name. If it’s neutrality you seek, please let me know where and when you find it.