Archive for the ‘Ad agency’ Category

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Designing the future.

March 1, 2011

Last week I had the privilege to sit down and talk creative strategy, critical thinking, and innovative ideas with two junior visual communications classes at the Herron School of Art.

A close friend of mine from high school, Professor Jeff Tzucker (wow, does that sound funny) invited me in to “critique” the work his and Marcia Stone’s students were presenting this week to their clients. They had all been separated into groups, “small agencies”, and were paired with real clients looking to re-brand, in some cases launch a brand, and get their message out.

I got a little of what I expected and a whole lot of the unexpected. I expected to see creativity in visual form. And I did. There was some serious eye candy. I expected to see some students fighting the internal struggles of what to do and how to do it. Check. And I expected to feel the fun and excitement of being back in a college setting. Check there too. I witnessed a Cheez-It run, a tub’o’animal crackers, and lots of amazingly cool style. I was thankful, unlike my college and fraternity experience I was not overcome by the smell of cheap whiskey and waffles. (That will be a blog for another time.)

What I didn’t expect to encounter was the unbelievable amount of strategic thinking and prepping before the designs were created. These students knew their intended audience, they understood their client and clients’ personalities, and they knew their creative vision would only be worth it’s salt…if it worked hard to achieve a measurable result.

This is an obvious reflection of Jeff and Marcia’s guidance but also that young, fresh, and curious mind working hard to discover, process, and digest information. It always seems that no matter how many times I step back in the classroom, I always leave feeling refreshed myself. And thankful that I have pursued a career in an industry that changes daily and critical and strategic thinking is a must.

The future is bright for our industry.  With young people like the ones at Herron, there will certainly be no shortage of ideas, innovation, and intelligence joining the creative landscape in the next couple of years.

“You see things; and say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”
George Bernard Shaw

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When one door closes, it’s good to have the master key to the rest of the house.

January 24, 2011

I had something happen to me for the first time in my life. I was given my walking papers due to re-structuring and re-focusing at work on November 30th. For more than twelve years in the ad agency business, I was always on the other side and learned early about survivor’s guilt, making myself marketable, and staying grounded, driven, and positive.

And yet this time it got me. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. I am not embarrassed or ashamed I was let go. I’d like to think my ego hasn’t grown so much that I can’t admit the truth. I simply didn’t have a specific PR foundation and background to warrant keeping a tenured advertising guy on staff. Kudos to my former boss for recognizing he and his agency needed to change and get back to their roots. I also appreciate the way in which I was let go. They did some things for me they didn’t have to and that took the stress out of these past seven weeks, especially over the holidays.

And in there lies the one thing they didn’t intend to give me, that was the greatest gift.

I spent more than six weeks at home with my two kids, my wife when she wasn’t at work, and friends and family, all over the holiday season.

I danced with my daughter in her room to songs we didn’t know, I was there to ride through the sleepless nights as my son got his first two teeth, I was able to help be Santa with my wife, and I grew an even deeper appreciation for the countless friends and family who reached out to me with support.

And now I am happily part of the team at The Momentum Group, a small, very cool shop in Broad Ripple doing some amazing things in the branding, digital, social, and traditional advertising space. I have certainly found a home.

So as I look back on my career already, one thing always rides true. No matter what, under any circumstances, sell yourself short by changing who you are, how you conduct yourself, and not treating others with respect. Because as I have just found out, sometimes the unexpected can turn into the greatest gift.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maria Robinson


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Are people looking forward to meeting with you?

September 20, 2010

Time is money. And in this economic climate, that time can be invaluable. So whether you are setting appointments with clients or prospects, make that time count, make it fun, and make someone look forward to your calendar request.

It sounds like account management 101, but still some fall short. One of my previous supervisors used to tell the account management staff at our Chicago office, “if people aren’t taking your calls or accepting meeting requests, they see no value in having that conversation.” That always stuck with me. It is a direct reflection of the value you bring to someone and the willingness to actually get to know an individual, not a business, a project, or a quota that gets you face time.

I have built on that lesson. Are my clients interacting with me or just reacting to me? Do they look forward to conversations that will be engaging, educating, and sometimes just plain old fun? I hope. I also hope that when that two-way conversation is over we all learned something new; about each other, our business, or that next project. And when we meet again we will see the results of that dialogue.

Sure technology has made our communication lives faster, shorter, and simpler, yet nothing ever replaces good old fashioned face-to-face relationship building conversation. Know your clients and what makes them tick and then get out, bring your A-game, talk business, and have some fun.

“We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.”
Alice Bloch

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Are you empowered or powerless?

September 3, 2010

I recently had a great conversation about empowerment and what an amazing chain of events that can happen when people are given a voice.

I look at what happens when I teach my three-year-old daughter something new. I show her, let her make mistakes, coach, and then celebrate the small victories until she can complete the task. The first thing she does is run to tell everyone and anyone who will listen what she has done and then shows them how to do it.

The same thing can happen in business. If you provide the support, encouragement, and environment to learn, explore, and develop new skills, your team will find ownership and pride in what was created. That enthusiasm and passion will filter through to clients, other employees, and prospects.

Too many times though we find a wall built, collaboration choked off, and ideas stifled by management styles or co-workers who simply find it easier to deconstruct progress rather than construct success.

I’ve never understood why more employers don’t embrace, listen, and learn from the very people they hired to deliver results and bring fresh thinking to their organizations. Why hire them in the first place if all you want is a doer not a thinker?

Maybe some feel they are doing so, maybe others don’t care.

Are you empowered?

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Two people trying to fight the stigma of lung cancer.

August 23, 2010

Every once in awhile you work on an account and meet a group of people that stays with you. It makes such an impact that you not only want to see them succeed, but you want to take ownership in doing all that you can to make it possible.

Almost two years ago our team at Hetrick began a relationship with the then Lungs for Life, now Cancer-Free Lungs (CFL). Amy and Dr. Nasser Hanna started the organization to help provide support, education, advocacy, and a committed voice for those suffering from lung cancer.

We started with a name change, then logo/corporate ID design, and then moved onto their education program, website, and in-school materials. Throughout the process we talked with teens struggling with addiction, patients dying of lung cancer, and families devastated by the relentless disease.

I knew we would hear stories of the pack-a-day smokers, the bar workers, or even the casual “just when I drink” scenarios, but it was how willing the patients were to use their stories as messages that surprised me. The families who shared their pain, the patients who shared how hideous the treatments were, and even Dr. Hanna’s stories of days when he would lose seven, seven patients in one day.

And just when I felt like I was getting the overview of the disease we learned about the cases of people who didn’t smoke that acquired the disease and died a horrible death. That broke every stereotype I had of the disease and made me realize that like any cancer, this could happen to anyone, at any time.

Each year CFL puts on two events, a walk in Ft. Wayne and a 5K-walk/run in Fishers. The events are not a survivors’ walk or run, rather these events offer support, compassion, empathy, and memories for those who have lost or more than likely will lose someone close to the disease.

Last year a Carmel High School student spoke the crowd and addressed the fact that his biggest hero, the strongest person he knew, and the rock in his life was dying of lung cancer. He knew she would not be with him forever, but he would never forget, never stop loving, and never stop believing in all that his mother taught him. You could already see her strength, tenacity, and will in him.

I ask all of you who are moved enough to help others, to at least put CFL on your list. Donate, volunteer, go to the event, say a prayer, or simply keep the hope alive that people like the Hannas and their unbelievably open and honest patients will find a cure.

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Curiosity and arm hair. The missing link?

August 18, 2010

My three-year-old daughter asked me why I had hair on my arms and legs. I didn’t have a good answer. There isn’t enough there to keep me warm, I don’t make a habit of testing how well it works as a bug repellant, and one thing we learned from the 80s, is hair isn’t always there for looks. So what was my answer? “Ask your mother.”

But it did make me think about the power of being curious. A former supervisor of mine used to always preach that the one thing he saw in successful people was that they were curious. They didn’t take an answer at face-value, they jumped in, broke it down, and took ownership in not being satisfied until they had the whole story.

And as I have progressed through my career his words still ring true. But I would add a second tier or missing link to his curiosity statement. You must then do something with the information to validate the time spent questioning.

There is certainly an art to delivering value to a client. But that work of art also needs help from the client. In my conversation above, I would not be a shining example of a client willing to jump in and get dirty. Having sat on both sides of the fence there is certainly a level of expectation that needs to be met from both parties to get results.

If the agency doesn’t push to get the information or worse, they do but the client doesn’t move the ball past the “I don’t know stage” outcomes will not deliver on goals and forward progress will always be impeded.

So yes, we need to be curious, but we also need to have a collaborative environment that continually supports and delivers on the information uncovered.