Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’


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


Content is king.

February 9, 2011

Being in the advertising and communications world, I often get asked by my family and friends what advertising I like the most and why. To me, it is much more than clever post work, a new technology, or a catchy jingle. And whether I am reading a blog, watching a TV spot (right who does that anymore), tweeting, or even looking at brand packaging on my favorite beverage, content is king.

This past Super Bowl is no exception. Sure I liked the Volkswagen Darth Vader spot and the Doritos finger licker, but for the most part, they all fell short. They weren’t clever, they didn’t make me think, laugh, or remotely want to buy what they are selling. And in the economic market we are still cruising through and the fact the world is moving more towards mobile and 140 characters or less thinking, I wanted short, sweet, and smart content.

With QR Codes, interactive video, and social media continuing to take its place in the communication du jour space, I am excited and a little concerned.

I don’t want to see effort ruined by poor writing, bad creative, and content best left in a trash can all because of the rush to try something new. Don’t excite me by putting a QR Code on your business card only to send me to your contact information…AGAIN. Don’t tease me with a great tweet and then drive me to a page that looks like I should be on a VIC-20 (young readers click the link, your flash drive has more memory.)

All in all the things we remember, enjoy, engage with, and ultimately own are because we made a connection with the content. There was something that stirred a response in us that made us take action.

What are some great or not-so-great examples you have seen recently?



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


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.


Arrogance at work…check your ego at the door

July 26, 2010

I have no problem with confidence, high self-esteem, or strong personalities. Honestly, I’d rather be surrounded with people who take charge rather than individuals who are scared of their own shadow. What I do take offense to is blatant, disrespectful, and blinding arrogance.

At some point in everyone’s career, I do believe that we come to a point where we think we can do better. Better than our own expectations, peers, supervisors, and so on. And for some, that may or may not be true. And then there are a select few who just don’t come to grip with reality.

These people are almost interesting to me. Why almost? First of all because when having to deal with them my frustration, aggravation, and tolerance to have to listen one second more to useless and condescending babble overcomes any real feelings of wondering how they got like that. Their overconfidence becomes a detriment. Instead of realizing that everyone and every business has weakness, they replace those feelings with blissful ignorance.

The other main reason is they scare me. How does someone get to a point where they don’t see the world through someone else’s eyes? The first rule I learned as a freshman journalism student at Ball State was, “don’t project your own personal convictions on the world.” What you think is the best thing around might be highly revolting to everyone else. And when that something is you, let the transparent act of an egocentric love fest begin. It does amaze me that these people never do come back to reality. When things don’t go well, there is always someone else to blame, a situation that wasn’t right to start with, and a plethora of excuses typically left for a third grader.

And I do want to thank Apple for the new iPhone having a camera on the front. So now when this select group of people is smiling at themselves in awe of their own awesomeness, they’ll at least be easier to spot.


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.