Archive for the ‘Ad agency’ Category


The value of a great intern: When the student becomes the teacher.

July 23, 2010

I applaud any businesses that take the time, pride, resources, and professionalism to hire interns. And more importantly create an environment of learning that focuses on preparation and realism that can’t be taught out of a book.

And every once in awhile you’ll get a recent grad or current student who simply “gets it”. And I don’t mean a young person who knows it all and has the savvy of a seasoned vet. I mean someone who knows his place, understands his lack of experience, and who simply wants to soak up information to make himself better.

We were lucky enough to have one of those kids recently. And yes, I can call him a kid. When I was listening to LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells in ’86, the hospital was playing bells as he was just being born. What he brought to the table was a fresh, passionate, and intense desire to grow. He wore a tie everyday because he wanted to present himself as someone who was serious about his work. He asked questions, he wanted more, he wanted to own something.

How inspiring. And how to make an impression. I have no doubt this young man will be a success. His work ethic, attitude, and grit to tackle problems and conversations directly proved to me that the only person that will stop him, would be himself.

So Sean, don’t lose the fire, never stop learning, push yourself to be great, set your expectations high, have fun, and thank you. Thank you for reminding me that the more we teach, the more we learn.


Do we really want to be on the dollar menu as agencies?

June 30, 2010

I know the economy has made it tough, I know people lost jobs, and companies are being more than conservative when it comes to spending.

What I don’t like is the cheapening of services many agencies have resorted to in an effort to make a buck. I want to draw a line here though. Even when times are good many agencies will lessen an estimate, do pro bono, or even “discount” a rate because of the cause, the appeal of that brand, or simply out of kindness of our agency hearts (right…).

What I am talking about is this new quick reaction to win business by reducing rates to an unprofitable margin and undercutting to maintain business (again if you don’t need to). I was on the client side once and that sets an ugly precedent. One, we all talk. Why should I, Client A, pay full rates when you just gave Client B a break? Two, once you discount I am going to expect it, not all the time, and not on the same things. Discounting a $15,000 brochure now hurts, what if I want the $200,000 TV spot production reduced, in half, later?

I also believe in value and you get what you pay for. I personally, don’t want the cheapest solution, especially when dealing with communications that can help drive dollars to the bottom line.

From the agency side I want to feel good about helping clients. I want them to enjoy the process we go through and the outcome. I also want a job. A job that is paid for because we gave a great solution that made sense. If we discount, either we will have to cut corners and that could equate to a lower quality of work, or we need to let people go or hire less experienced staff. I don’t see a win in those scenarios.

Clients if you do have a small budget, let the agency work with you to prioritize. Be purposeful, reasonable, and realistic with your budget and be prepared to get a solution worth its weight in gold.

What have you all seen and what, if anything, are you giving away for a buck?


57 channels and (nothin’ on)

June 30, 2010

Some of you reading this probably don’t remember this Bruce Springsteen hit or how 57 channels seems so “pre-U-verse” when this was released in 1992.

“Well now home entertainment was my baby’s wish

So I hopped into town for a satellite dish

I tied it to the top of my Japanese car

I came home and I pointed it out into the stars

A message came back from the great beyond

There’s fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”

So almost 20 years later we have every kind of multi-media, social media, mobile media, blank-blank media to keep our shortening attention spans occupied. But to a certain extent, is there really nuthin’ on?

In some cases I do feel that this sensory overload has warped our sense of time. We want instant gratification and short message spurts to communicate our needs or wants. We rarely watch “live” TV and the thought of having to actually wait for our online streams to load and play is crazy. And we want to take this all with us, all the time. So we have mobile devices now that are essentially super computers in our pocket.

I am guilty with all of the above, but it does make me think. From a communications standpoint is this bad? How has this changed how we deliver our message, brand promise, and call to action?

And that is where I find peace. All of these tools are simply new channels in our arsenal. And all the old rules apply. Know your brand and what it promises, know your audience and what they want and need, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

The other big message here is that in the past, for the most part, we had to only deliver a message. Now we can engage our customers, create a two-way street, and even remedy a problem all right now. The power of instant gratification goes both ways. If the customer tweets a bad experience and you are there immediately to fix it, everyone wins. No holding on a 1-800 number, no filtering through an FAQ section of a website, and certainly no sending in the UPC code in a self-addresses mailer. So when the customer feels supported on their channel and we are listening and then reacting, what a brand champion we have created.

So, I’d change the Boss’s classic to 570 channels and yes, there is somethin’ on, let’s just hope we are paying attention.

What’s on in your world?


RFP, Request for Pain

June 30, 2010

I hate RFPs. I do. And I am not going to apologize for saying that. They are giant sucks on resources, time, and money and I don’t think at the end there is really a true winner. Sure these are or can be a necessary evil; however I do believe there is a better way to handle acquiring new business or working with a new agency.

From the agency side we get these giant 50+ page RFPs that are the equivalent of one massive book report. Name your sources, what’s your point of view on the story, what research did you do to understand chapter 10, etc., etc. Blah. Then the debating begins, do we give spec, do we all dress the same way and present in interpretative dance, what about sock puppets? And through all of this, we are working, working on business we are getting paid to do, going home to families or the neighborhood watering hole, and all the time wondering, “are they really going to switch?” And that is the hardest part. You have to believe everyone on the RFP list isn’t receiving this as an exercise but as a process of change. You’d be surprised at how often the incumbent is again; the agency.

From the client side, to my point above, if you are going to send one of these out, then you’d better be serious about change. And if you have hit that point, I hope you have gone to your current agency and communicated boldly about your expectations. Are they too expensive, are they not delivering, is your AE a giant condescending pain? You might be surprised how quickly a fix is found if you draw a line in the sand. For those situations where there isn’t a fix and you do go down that path and you know anything about the agencies in town, you’ll know whom to talk too. And do just that. Hell, let them buy you lunch, let them talk about strategy and process, most importantly listen yourself and look for a fit. You are still buying their personality and people. Then ask the two or three groups you felt you wouldn’t mind sitting across the table from for the next X amount of time and get serious. You’ll be efficient and maybe even at that point you’ll already have a favorite whose job it is to not lose the business.

So to RFP or not RFP, that is the question. Thoughts?


Hidden ad agency messages in early hip-hop songs

June 30, 2010

Yep, I think I stumbled upon something big on this one. Being a hip hop fan and growing up in the days of LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, and Big Daddy Kane (just to name a few), I started to re-think the meanings of those songs.

It Takes Two

Who knew that Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock where high level account managers. Yes, it does take two. Both the client and the agency need to be on the same page, collaborating, strategizing, sharing objectives, and participating in open and honest communication. And to prove this even more, what was the follow up? Joy and Pain. Like sunshine and rain. Yes DJ Easy Rock knew that one day his VP of Marketing would leave, and with it his biggest account.


Naughty by Nature’s little dirty secret. O is for other; P is for peoples’, the last P well that’s not that simple. No, it isn’t. And it was for proposals and Treach was playing the part of the client who knee jerks an RFP response “to see what’s out there.” And just like the video where the men of Naughty by Nature’s were stickering everyone and every body, these clients do the same. Please Mr. Client be serious about it. It takes a lot of time, money, and resources to put these things together simply to test the waters.

Parents Just Don’t Understand

OK, I am a Pennsylvania native, just like Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff, so I grew up listening to these guys… a lot. Little did I know the Fresh Prince was giving me guidance about knowing your audience. I even think “parents” meant “board members.” Yes, we have all been there when we present an interactive campaign to the board and we hear grumblings that “the internet is a fad” or that “you’ll all go blind if you keep twittering or tweeting or tweetering or whatever.” If you drive an 84 Cadillac with a suede roof and hid under your desk in grade school fearing an impending invasion of the U.S., then yes maybe there is a reason you don’t understand the campaign.

If It Don’t Make Dollars It Don’t Make Cents

DJ Quik was obviously a sales guy and not a PR person. He kept forgetting that damn C in his name. (No way that got through AP Style.) If LinkedIn was around at that time I imagine he would be one of those 500+ people. And really do you know 500+ people? Either way Quik was turning and burning major account sales like no other. And by the cover of his album he might have been burning something else, which leads into “don’t get high on your own supply”, but that’s another blog on another channel.

The Message

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had all the creative directors in mind with this hit.

“It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder

How I keep from going under “

They knew to break through all the clutter one had to get the right message, in front of the right people at the right time. I can see Flash turning to his AE and asking, “if I gave you this could you do something with it? This isn’t magic! Where’s my strategic brief?!”

I could go on and on, but I want to hear from you. What did I miss?

Oh and word to tha mutha…


Are the best lessons the ones you learn what not to do?

May 24, 2010

You walk into a bar. The next time you duck. Yes, bad joke, but serious point. We learn quickly when it hurts. And we constantly learn from situations that leave us feeling like we would never do that to someone else or make that mistake again.

In a weird way, I always thought it would be the other way. And maybe that is why feel good stories are so… well, feel good. When someone donates an anonymous check to a charity with no intention other than to help. When a complete stranger assists someone in an emergency and then disappears only leaving an appreciative acquaintance. When sports rivals stand united when a tragedy has struck their world. Those stories are inspirational, emotional, and they reach to the core in all of us that makes us realize why we are human.

And so often in business we are confronted with lessons learned from greed, egocentric arrogance, and aspirations of greatness at any cost. I have seen agencies simply grown for no other reason to be the biggest in numbers, not the best in product. Co-workers feel crushed from management who take credit when times are good and pass blame when times are bad. And good people turn horrifically ugly when someone gets between them and a sale.

I believe you have to have the good with the bad. And those who have been through both can hopefully yell “duck” before we get there.

What about you? How are you learning?