Tag Archives: creative writing

the difference between marketing in US and other markets

There’s no question that, when it comes to advertising, the US market is much more…prudish.

Take a look at this M&M’s campaign Down Under…..

The sly innuendos. The fact that we’re watching “nude” M&M candies interact, including mixed company. (You never know what to expect when you mix crispy, peanut and plain. Whoa!)

But no matter how great the animation, as a writer, it gets very distracting to see typos.

Or maybe I just need to “confont” my own demons…..stripping away at my shell and face that even I’ve made typographical errors when writing copy. It is easy to “read” into what has been written and overlook very obvious errors.

Live and learn….

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The difference between building traffic, and building trust.

These days it seems companies are jumping on the Facebook and Twitter wagons like lemmings. And usually with the same disastrous outcome. (Can we really keep referring to such dated things as a wagon? Maybe it’s time to start calling it the band-hovercraft??)

Building community through online technology isn’t as simple as “hey, I think I’ll throw a party for my 500 closest friends.” Sometimes you have to step back and assess what it is you’re really trying to accomplish.

Are you trying to convert 500 strangers into friends of the brand? Can you really pull off something that will compel and entertain everyone equally? Maybe it would be wiser to start smaller. Perhaps a dinner party where you can try out your recipes successfully before booking that assembly hall or stadium.

Sure, every business wants to open its doors (brick & mortar, web, even social networking) and see throngs of customers clamoring to get in. But what kind of relationship are you trying to build? Do you want thousands who might come through the doors in the first week, most of whom only browse? Or would you rather have fewer clients that not only purchase, they come back for more? Sure, it’s not an either/or situation. But so often, businesses put so much effort into getting a relationship off the ground they forget that, to create loyalty, you have to put in just as much effort to cultivate your tribe. If you don’t, your loyal followers can quickly become strangers, or worse, enemies.

Technology can definitely help build an audience. But it can’t always build trust. Take, for example, the buzz created by “Jenny” who posted her resignation online using a dry erase board. People were so amazed by her chutzpah and technique that mentions (and tweets) were flying all over the web. In a matter of days, this story was everywhere. What most of us caught up the frenzy didn’t realize initially — it was all a publicity stunt. Imagine if a company launched a new product with as much buzz and fanfare, only to have consumers realize it was all a hoax? Is that the kind of exploitation of technology you think works for your brand?

Sure, it’s easy to become intoxicated by a sudden onslaught of traffic. But when you rely on a stunt rather than a well-thought out plan (social or otherwise), where will you be when the masses pull a mass exodus because they no longer trust you or your products? Go this route and you’ll spend more time doing damage control than more productive things like, oh, cultivating brand evangelists.

Unfortunately, some businesses think they need to do something so buzz-worthy to generate interest that they don’t realize the best results are nurtured over time. It’s important to remember that you’re not just putting your brand into the hands of your consumers, you’re also building trust. And sometimes, technology like Facebook and Twitter might not be the best way to do it.

What it takes is a thorough assessment of communication goals, and then determining the best course of action to take. You have to first know whom you’re trying to reach, and then figuring out the best way to get your message out to the right audience using the right outlet. Even if that outlet is Facebook. Or a dry erase board.

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we interrupt our normally scheduled program….

OK, so it’s election day in parts of the country. And, even though this blog is intended to talk about my life in and around advertising, I cannot help but chime in on some of the goings on.

There is a slight connection to advertising, now that I think about it. Especially after reading how one of the GOP contenders in my former home state has spent $71 MILLION!!!!!! of her own money to run TV ads for the primary.

I’ll say it. It makes me sick! Especially when I read things like A) our Supreme Court thinks big money has every right to give as much as they want to support their candidates (and to hell for those who don’t have the resources to fight back or the little guy/gal who doesn’t come from old money or have rich friends), and B) state parks across the country are closing because there simply isn’t enough money left in the till.

Is no one else bothered by the fact that companies spend billions lining the pockets of politicians on both sides of the aisle — combined with all the money spent invading another country (or countries) — when our own precious natural resources here in our own country are being padlocked and closed simply because there isn’t enough money? Not only are people being deprived of enjoying — and learning — about great natural treasures or historic sights, but there’s also the risk that, once closed, these parks are ripe for vandalism and neglect.

Where is our moral compass? Has it been sold to the highest bidder? Or has it simply been padlocked and left to neglect?

I know it’s easy to sit back and say “hey, it’s not in my backyard, so let someone else deal with it.” But that’s just it…it IS my backyard. This IS my country. But where do you start?

I think it’s obvious…right where I am. And right now. I have to stop sitting idly expecting people to wake up and see the consequences of our actions. I have to be the one who upholds my end of the bargain. To be the best person/neighbor/employee/friend/partner/constituent I can be.

I think that now is the time to stop giving money to politicians in the hopes they’ll make the right choices. It’s time to go direct to the source. Let’s channel our money and our energy to saving the parks and natural resources. Let’s use our efforts to make our own backyards a place that we can be proud of. Let’s worry about the issues that are local, and keep believing that local change will lead to a global movement that we all have to do our part. And, like it or not, we all have to work together — and get along — to survive in this world.

After all, it’s the only one we got.

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the “duh!” heard all over the ad world

According to another article from BusinessWeek online….

A survey from IBM’s Institute for Business Value shows that CEOs value one leadership competency above all others. Can you guess what it is? (Wait for it…..wait for it….)

Da-daaa-dummmmm! Survey says!

CREATIVITY!!!!??!?!

Really! I know what you’re thinking. That’s what most of us in the ad biz do every day — come up with creative solutions to meet the needs of clients for their products and/or services. And as it is for me, it’s deep within my core. That “what is that USP and how can we use it to compel people to buy/click/call” drive that isn’t fueled by Red Bull or other caffeinated beverages. It just is.

But I suppose there is a unique process for those in the biz world who play in different sandboxes. (Although I read a very interesting take on the current state of the ad world a couple of days ago that mentioned how the influx of big corporate conglomerates has given more power to the finance people than the creative department, but that’s a whole different story.)

Until now creativity has generally been viewed as fuel for the engines of research or product development, not the essential leadership asset that must permeate an enterprise.

In face-to-face interviews with our consultants, they said creative leaders do the following:

Disrupt the Status Quo. Every company has legacy products that are both cash—and sacred—cows. Often the need to perpetuate the success of these products restricts innovation within the enterprise, creating a window for competitors to advance competing innovations. As CEOs tell us that fully one-fifth of revenues will have to come from new sources, they are recognizing the requirement to break with existing assumptions, methods, and best practices.

Disrupt Existing Business Models. CEOs who select creativity as a leading competency are far more likely to pursue innovation through business model change. In keeping with their view of accelerating complexity, they are breaking with traditional strategy-planning cycles in favor of continuous, rapid-fire shifts and adjustments to their business models.

Disrupt Organizational Paralysis. Creative leaders fight the institutional urge to wait for completeness, clarity, and stability before making decisions. To do this takes a combination of deeply held values, vision, and conviction—combined with the application of such tools as analytics to the historic explosion of information. These drive decisionmaking that is faster, more precise, and even more predictable.

So, I guess I’ll continue to think “creative disruption” (as opposed to disruptive creative….which can get annoying really fast if not abso-freaking brilliant in concept and execution). It’s how I roll.

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social awareness? or social suicide?

Name just about any large company these days, and chances are you’ll be able to find them on Facebook. Or tweeting their chubby lil fingers off. Sure, this prevailing trend to add social media to your marketing plan has been building for some time. But, is it really doing any good? Or is it really doing more potential harm?

I, personally, don’t connect with too many companies/brands on Facebook. There are a few like Peet’s Coffee and Moonstone Cellars that I “friended” but don’t necessarily “follow.” (This is especially true for Peet’s since I now live in a Peets-free zone.) There are also a few bands (like the Indigo Girls or Levi Kreis) that I follow, but that’s not exactly the same kind of fan that companies are rushing to FB to find IMO.

My journey into FB hell was mostly prompted by friend requests of the local sort. Once I exposed myself to the masses, people from high school and college were finding me online. I gladly accepted any and all friend invites. It was great fun to reconnect with some of the people I’ve lost track of. That is, until I started reading/hearing about the privacy issues that are running rampant on FB.

One of the latest can be found on gizmodo.com. The “Top 10 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook” lists a bunch of things that I know I need to think more about. And also be careful about.

If I, Joe the Individual, needs to be extra leery of not only an account being hacked, but also an identity compromised, what happens to all the individuals who “friend” a company/product/brand? Can all that information be hacked, too? Could a competitor be able to hack into the friend base of another in an attempt to sabotage or steal?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I just know for myself that I have started to ween myself off FB, and striving to kick the habit of wanting to constantly check back with all the feeds.

Guess what it all comes down to is getting back to more face-to-face interaction, and less Facebook interaction. And to recognize that it’s not always best to be up with the latest and greatest marketing tools until said tools can guarantee that privacy matters.

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i believe i can fly…

At this week’s NM Ad Federation monthly luncheon, the group brought in a couple of CDs from KC to dish about the “Creative Departments Dirty Little Secrets.”

One of the “secrets” they discussed was time lines. Their take is that every project, no matter the size or complexity, needs 2 weeks. Of course, this 14-day period is for concepting only, and not necessarily to deliver a production-ready ad.

The thought of a deadline can sometimes stop me dead in my tracks. I think part of that is I’ve always thought of myself as someone who “flies by the seat of my pants” and someone who does things “on the fly.” I can be quick with ideas. I can turn on a dime. But sometimes you just need a chance to let things incubate. You have to step away from the keyboard and just take some time to breathe, soak in the views, people watch, slip away to neverneverland.

It’s during these times of processing that I have to remember one very important thing: FLY. Set the brain free and see where the current takes you. Jump. Run like the wind. (Ok, that last one doesn’t happen as often now that I’m inching toward the mid-century mark.)

More than anything, trust my instinct. Does a brown pelican think about gliding just above a breaking wave? Hell no! It just does. Nothing wrecks good creative like over-thinking. It’s like trying to fly with 20-lb bowling balls strapped to each ankle. This is especially true during the concept phase. That’s when it’s time to just let loose, and know that among all the shit being strewn about, something magical is there.

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i guess advertising really does suck

As pop culture goes, so goes some advertising I suppose.

It all started back in the summer when I was concepting new brand spots for a state electric company. One of the messages we wanted to get out was about “energy vampires” (aka phantom energy). We even did a radio spot, with accompanying print ad and billboard, that helped get the word out about all they wasted energy people are paying for just by leaving things plugged in when not in use.

It’s only once these started hitting the market did I began to notice a similar theme in other advertising. (It’s probably like, once I have my eye on a new car that has my interest that I start to notice them all over the place.)

Here’s one print ad I recently came across in Wired magazine.

Even Microsoft is taking a bite outta the hype that is Twilight.

All told, I can’t be too surprised by all the different advertising messages using similar (if not the same) themes. But I am grateful that I didn’t have to sell my soul to continue working in a biz I really like….but not ready to die for.

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barking up the, uh, wrong….tree?

I have two adorable, intelligent, feisty little girls who I’m lucky to share my life with. Not only do they provide unconditional love, they are also a great source of laughter. And blog topics.

These girls, by their very DNA, are ratters. This inclination not only shows up on walks, but also in chasing any shadow or reflection that might appear inside or out. But due to our living sitch, these are definitely city girls. And let’s just say they can confuse their genetics with their environment.

Our neighborhood has a fair number of new “critters” that have moved in. I’m sure it’s a combination of food supply, and having their previous residence submerged as a result of the new inlet to the wetlands. We’ve seen possums, shunks, coyotes, rats, and squirrels (to quote Carrie from Sex In The City, a “rat with a better outfit”). We have managed to avoid any major interaction with the first 3 (including keeping shunk scent remover handy). Ah, but the squirrels.

There’s one that likes to taunt the girls from the patio walls and surrounding trees. Well, that is until I get the hose out and chase it off.

The girls love to chase after the squirrels, and are usually quite proud of “treeing” them. But now that we’re finding a whole new batch of bunnies in the ‘hood, the girls get a wee bit confused.

Last night, while walking the girls, we came up on a cute lil Thumper. It tried to go unnoticed, but the hunting prowess of Allie and Cody kicked in and soon they were straining at the ends of their leashes, sending the bunny scampering away. It disappeared into the shrubs. And my girls. My brave little hunters. What did they think of their efforts?

They proudly stood and stared, daring that little bunny to show itself. Up in the tree. They haven’t quite grasped the difference between a squirrel and a bunny. Their thought process is A) we chase, B) chasee runs and climbs a tree, and C) we stand proud in our accomplishment.

So why does this story belong in a blog about my life in advertising? It makes me think of clients I’ve encountered who think the same message, delivered through the same media outlet, will reach the right target. Even when that message, intended for bunnies, ends up in the trees.

I know that my job is to provide leadership and guidance, along with the right message, and then deliver it to the appropriate audience. Whether that is up the trees, or to an audience of squirrels, all depends on the product/service. And what is best for the client.

I won’t stop my girls from being proud of their treeing prowess. I will stop a client from wasting time and money on barking up the wrong tree.

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Loyalty vs Survival

In today’s job market, which is stronger? The need to remain loyal? Or the instinctual desire just to survive? Based on recent polling numbers, I’d say the pendulum is swinging toward survival when only 45% of those currently employed can express any type of job satisfaction. And seriously, when the second best reason those polled state as a “good thing” about their current position is the commute, there’s something very wrong.

When I explore my feelings on this subject, it’s from a different perspective. I don’t have a full-time gig. I’m one of those currently swimming in the independent contractors’ pool. But I AM being faced with a similar dilemma.

Do I continue to remain loyal to the small, regional agency I’ve been freelancing for over the past 9+ months with the hopes that the “job offer” they verbally extended months ago will actually materialize? Or do I respond to the job posting for one of their competitors?

My heart tells me to remain loyal because I’ve really enjoyed working with the agency. And feel the work has been outstanding.

My bank account says “go for the possibility of a regular gig that is currently open.”

Sure, this is totally hypothetical. First, the current opening is just a posting on a job board. There’s no guarantee that they’ll A) be interested, B) actually want to interview me, and C) offer me the job. Granted, there’s no way to know if any of that actually happens unless I pull the trigger and send out the email that has been sitting in my Draft folder for days.

The challenge with all of it, is an upcoming trip planned to the city where both agencies are located. I need to respond to the posting soon if I hope to have any possibility of an interview. But if I do, and because it’s a small market, do I run the risk of spoiling any possibility with the other agency I’ve been freelancing for? I mean, these people have to talk. And when I list some of the work, people are going to connect the dots.

I’ll admit that I’ve been struggling with this. I believe my pendulum continues to swing more toward the loyalty side. But I have to be realistic that, with our desire to locate to a smaller (and more affordable) market, my choices are more limited. Sure, I continue to get freelance from other agencies, but the whole battle to keep work coming in gets tiring. Especially if one of my biggest sources is the one agency.

I have about 24 more hours to struggle with this before I need to “shit or get off the pot.” And this decision is honestly causing mental hemorrhoids. And I’m not satisfied with that in the least.

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redundancy

I love the English languange. And in this particular case, I’m talking about the Queen’s English.

Recently, during a lull in freelance projects (Why is it that projects all come in at once, and then, like the ocean’s waves, all go out to sea at the same time?) I sat down and watched the movie, Kinky Boots. It’s the story of an old world shoe factory that has to come to terms with a changing marketplace.

And like so many companies, trying to create a niche wherever they can find it. (I won’t spoil the storyline of the movie by saying exactly what this niche was for this particular industry.)

But what I did find relevant, is that this factory was facing the same issues our current workforce is dealing with – layoffs. Or as the English like to call it….redundancy.

I’ve never felt redundant in any position in my life. I always felt like I was bringing something unique to the table. But apparently that isn’t always enough to keep your job. And now, those that are lucky enough to still have a full-time position, it’s not just a fear of redundancy that is creating tension.

Last Sunday, I was reading an article in the Los Angeles Times (pictured here with a link to the article). In it, they talk about the current workforce is toiling longer and harder just to keep their job.


Many U.S. workers are being pushed to toil harder and shoulder the load once carried by colleagues who’ve since been laid off. That can mean long days without overtime pay or raises, less family time, and more mental and physical fatigue.

Don’t like it? Walk out the door and you’ll join 15 million unemployed Americans, the largest segment of whom have been idle for more than three months. Your former boss will have plenty of replacements to choose from. There are about six job seekers for every opening.

I’ve been in those situations before. My first job after post-grad work was for a publishing company. My next door cube mate was released of his responsibilities, which I inherited. On top of all my other ones. And, of course, without any additional compensation. But I needed the job. So I did it. (Granted, I made more money working 3 nights/week waiting tables and bartending than I did in 40 hours there, but it was the experience I needed.)

Another time was back when I was managing a restaurant in Texas during the oil bust of the mid-80s. There were no PR jobs, so the only thing my recently acquired college diploma was good for was wall art. While managing, a sr. manager (to me) took a “medical leave” which left me doing all my normal duties AND hers. So when she came back, of course I naturally assumed that she’d take them back over. Oh contraire! I was actually reprimanded for not performing all these duties because “once I’d taken them on, I had to keep doing ’em.” Granted, what I didn’t know at the time was that this particular manager was “doing” the regional manager who just happened to be married. To someone else. But that’s a whole other story….

I can honestly say that, no matter how stressful the constant search for new projects can be, that this “break” from punching someone else’s clock has been good for me mentally/physically/spiritually (and probably kept me from punching someone’s head during the past few months of my most recent FT gig). And I’ve managed to do pretty good for myself, and produced work that I’m quite proud of.

And I know, that while I’m ready to consider (and hope to find) a position with a new agency or company, that I’m not ready to sign back up for 12+ hour work days. Or picking up additional work when someone is made redundant.

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