Tag Archives: web 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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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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to resume the résumé

I’ve always been a big proponent of “letting my work do the talking.” It’s not the easiest thing for me to brag about the who/what/how/where of the last big chunk of my professional life. That’s when I feel it’s best to send people to my portfolio site and let them see what I’ve done rather than tell them. With this thought in mind, I’ve spent the past week or so revamping my site (whether that motivation came from boredom or a real need is TBD….but I’m pleased with how it looks) and rethinking my résumé.

Of course, Seth Godin in Linchpin states that “if you’re remarkable, amazing, or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a résumé at all.”

Well, who doesn’t think they’re any of those things? I know I feel that way about myself at times. On one level, I agree with Seth’s POV. My portfolio SAYS more about who I am and what I’ve done with the talents I’ve been blessed with and/or cultivated than a 1-page Word document. Isn’t it better to see examples of the long-form copy I’ve worked on for global clients than to say I’m an expert with brochure copy?

Unfortunately, the admission ticket to any new opportunity these days seems to rely on a résumé. Now more than ever, it’s not really about the story, no matter how meticulously displayed on the page, but whether or not you have the appropriate keywords living amongst all the others. And that doesn’t even include the challenge of getting your résumé in front of the right person who can then (hopefully) locate those special keywords.

It reminds me of the National Geographic special, Sizing Up Sperm. Seeing a “life-size representation of the struggles that sperm endure just for the hopes of fertilizing an egg” was so relevant to today’s job search that it was downright scary.

It’s even more of a challenge these days since moving to a new market with fewer “eggs” to target. But rather than blanketing the whole town, I’m in the embryonic stage of cultivating a few key relationships with people I’ve been lucky to come across (and who have been nice enough to make the time to meet with me).

I know that my quest for a successful career with an agency here in ABQ is going to rely more on these key contacts than a few choice keywords on a résumé. This town seems to be more about personal connections than a well-crafted Objective statement.

But, back to Seth’s thinking on the résumé, he makes a valid point that a “résumé gives the employer everything she needs to reject you.” So part of my challenge for the past few days is rethinking how I want to express my creative abilities on something that is less than creative. How do I remain in the game without playing the game by the standard rules of compliance?

I know that the great gigs out there aren’t posted on the job boards. And rarely are they found by blindly emailing an electronic document to some unknown recipient. That’s why I’ll continue focusing more of my attention on making personal connections rather than making the ideal word choice or format on a résumé.

You never know when someone who knows someone who heard that so-and-so was looking for someone just like me might be the next someone that I’m introduced to.

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reading for inspiration…

For the past few months, I’ve been enjoying blog posts over at pleasefeedtheanimals.com. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a great resource for anyone who has recently found themselves….displaced on the employment train. The “owner” of the site, Erik Proulx, has even made a movie about it, LEMONADE.

Anyhoo, there is a series of entries inspired by the book, Linchpin, by Seth Godin. This series is just a few of the  wealth of great ideas constantly being generated by the contributors of PFTA, a lot of which I’m really needing to see right now. After seeing my freelance business “stall” during the first 6 weeks of 2010, I need something to keep me motivated and moving forward. Seeing the following on Seth’s blog is definitely something I need to chew on, and upload to my way of thinking.

There’s a lot of pressure for freelancers to fit in, conform and comply. It seems easier to generate new business that way. That’s not really true. It’s easier to become an easily-described commodity that way, but the person who’s willing to push themselves out to an edge that matters is on the only path that actually leads to success.

And then it’s up to the client to care enough about the project and in making a difference to have the guts to hire you.

Granted, in this economy, it’s not easy to find the gutsy clients. I’m sure they’re out there. The key now is to make myself into the edge-sitter and remind myself that I am worth the price of admission.

Two days ago, I received my copy of Linchpin, plus a few other books recommended or mentioned on PFTA. It’s time to start energizing my creativity with the help of some wise people who look at things a little differently than me. I’ll look forward to posting about my “progress.”

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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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seeing the fruits of my labor

We recently relocated from Surf City USA to the Land of Enchantment. This move was for a few reasons, mainly lowering our cost-of-living and the potential of full-time employment.

Since we’ve been here, it’s been fun to drive around town and see the results of my creative collaboration with the agency here. Whether it’s the billboard along I-40, the print ads in the various local publications, or even a TV spot during the Olympics the other night, I still get a kick out of seeing my work out in the market. (I’ll admit to never listening to the radio in my car….so I haven’t had the chance to catch one of the radio spots.)

Here’s the main “brand” TV spot I contributed to back in the summer.

It’s great to begin the process of settling into a new area, and to be surrounded by such amazing beauty. The fact that I get to continue working with such a talented team — and seeing the results all across town — is just icing on the cake.

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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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I’m happiest just being a fish

As I continue finalizing my plans to move to Albuquerque, it’s interesting to hear some of the comments of fellow creatives and/or recruiters. Most don’t understand why I would even consider thinking about leaving SoCal.

Sure, I’ve had the pleasure of working on not just national, but international brands. I’ve had work recognized not just for creative excellence, but also for effective communication and measurable results.

But nothing has sent me giggling like a school girl than seeing outdoor boards I worked on this summer lining the streets and highways of Albuquerque. And the back-to-back print ads that appear in the “Best of” issue of Albuquerque magazine. I only wish I had seen one of the TV spots, or heard a radio spot while we were driving all over town looking at the vastly diverse neighborhoods.

Sure, there is some appeal to working on national messaging. And already this week, I’ve received 2 calls from recruiters for positions with companies here in LA. But, right here, right now, I much more excited about the prospect of working on regional — even local — ads. There just something satisfying about not only seeing the work around your neighborhood, but also seeing a business that is hopefully thriving in this current market because of it. (It doesn’t hurt that the agency I’ve been working with is comprised of a group of amazing people with no ego, just the desire to do great work that is best for their clients’ needs.)

With this desire to go more regional, does this make me think of myself as a big fish in a small pond? Absolutely not. I know I’m just a guy who uses the power of words to help market a wide variety of products and services. And as long as I get to continue producing work like this…

I’ll keep swimming along, content and happy in my lil bowl called Albuquerque.

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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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