In case you didn’t hear, there’s a bit of a football contest coming down the pike in East Rutherford, New Jersey this Sunday. As I sit here in my work podule trying to write quality advertisements that both engage and entice, it’s hard not to get caught up in the footballphoria. It all got me thinking – a great ad agency is an awful lot like a great football team. They both require a group of talented, dedicated individuals with unique skills and experience to band together to accomplish a common goal. Everyone needs to understand their role, be passionate about what they bring to the table and do the little things that add up to something big over the course of a season, or uhh, fiscal quarter.
If you haven’t heard, there is a new app out there called “Jelly” headlined by creator Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter. After defecting from Twitter and a year shrouded in secret development, his new app recently released to the public.
Here’s the basic idea of Jelly: Ask a question, get an answer from an aggregate of your Twitter followers and Facebook friends, as well as their friends and followers. Just think “2 degrees to Kevin Bacon.”
You most likely endured a tsunami of advertising over the holidays for virtually every consumer product category—from cars to packaged goods to electronics. Most messages were aimed squarely at the 18-34 year-old demographic. Marketing’s obsession with youth stubbornly overlooks the largest and most economically powerful consumer segment in the history of commerce: Baby Boomers.
Why the youthful idolatry? For one thing, brands are eager to attach themselves to youthful energy and imagery. Also, marketers cite the “lifetime value” of a customer as they seek to establish a long-term relationship with younger consumers who are forming their brand preferences.
But the harsh reality is that large numbers of Millennials find themselves underemployed and burdened with college loans and credit card debt. Contrast the Millennials’ economic profile to that of the Boomer generation, the youngest of whom will turn 50 this year. They now number some 80 million and they have money to spend, lots of it.
This is not about Richard Sherman. Okay, maybe it is. Actually I’m not quite sure.
I’m having an internal struggle and I’m guessing many Seahawks fans are too. It wasn’t Richard Sherman’s interview with Erin Andrews that did it for me. It was seeing Sherman sitting next to Russell Wilson at the FOX NFL table a few minutes later.
On the left, a guy people now love to hate, a brash, egomaniacal, unbelievably talented defensive nightmare who’s backed up everything that’s come out of a mouth that never stops running.
On the right, the consummate team player, the ever-humble pillar of the community who knows no I in team. Also a cliché-a-minute interview whose “one game at a time” quips are so guaranteed to be inoffensive an insurance company built an Ask Russell mobile app.
“Ask me how BLEEPING great I am” isn’t one of the questions he answers.
This is a brand divided and the loudest voice (besides the 12th Man’s) appears to be winning.
Poker is a fun game. It’s predicated on calculated betting, tactical maneuvering and a healthy dose of deception. There is no incentive to be honest and open in poker and you never, never show your cards.
Poker is a fun game, but let’s leave it at the card table and out of agency-client relationships. What do I mean? I think we all (client and agency) win when we have an open, honest dialogue that is focused on the results that can reasonably be generated based on agency efforts.
The history of the advertising industry is littered with examples where both agency and client have failed to be open and honest with each other. This doesn’t lead to better results or better relationships. What it leads to is a climate of distrust, constant maneuvering and the kind of bluffing that should only be found in Texas Hold ‘em.
So, for whatever reason, I have volunteered as the troop cookie manager – or TCM as it is affectionately known in the biz – for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Now, this is my second year holding this esteemed title with the troop and honestly, after last year, I kinda have to ask myself why I raised my hand again. Guilt because I’m a working mom and I need to support my kids’ activities (that’s another blog post entirely.)? Pride because I’m a working mom and I need to prove I can do it all (again, we’ll save that for another time.)?
Regardless of my motivation, you’re probably thinking, wow, sounds like a cake – er – cookie walk. Unlimited access to Thin Mints for weeks on end. Bright-eyed girls eager with anticipation to hit up friends and family for a sale. The neighborhood camaraderie in countless weekend hours spent schlepping Samoas at the local grocery store. You’re right. What am I complaining about? The truth is – this is serious stuff (and nowhere was this more evident than at my first official TCM training). Behind those sweet-smiling faces and countless “remember when” stories, these moms mean business.
It’s the dead of winter and months away from July 4th, but I’m thinking about fireworks. I love fireworks shows, love the sound of the mortars launching. They rise swiftly, glow spectacularly, and then fade into the summer night sky. Beautiful for sure, but short-lived.
Too many marketers treat their brands like fireworks. We obsess about the next sales promotion, radio spot or viral video as if those things alone will build the brand. But they are just moments, and like fireworks they will fade away quickly. Building an enduring, winning brand takes a great foundation and relentless execution.
As consumers, we respect those brands that stand the test of time. More importantly, we value them. We reward them with premium prices and higher profits. Great brands are worth more. Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst for research giant Milward Brown demonstrates this in his new book The Meaningful Brand: How Strong Brands Make More Money, arguing that while marketers work hard to build sales volume and increase marketing efficiency, they often ignore the fundamentals that build a premium-value, enduring brand.
How do you build a great brand? At Copacino+Fujikado, we believe the key is to understand its authentic, relevant and differentiating attributes.
Funny seems to be the default for too many creative people in this business. It becomes a crutch. Don’t make funny your first and only stop on the journey. Start with an intelligent, thoughtful approach to the client, the marketing challenge and the task at hand. If that leads you to an answer that’s ship-your-pants-funny, you’ll know it’s dead on strategy. But it might lead you to a Twitter feed that answers basic customer how-to questions instead. The point is, make sure your work has a reason for being beyond, “my friends at so and so agency are going to think this is hilarious.”
And as a reminder, during last year’s Super Bowl, two of the top three spots didn’t get a single laugh.
This is the time of year when many companies distribute bonuses to employees as a share of profit or in recognition of outstanding achievement. I’m reminded of the first bonus I ever received in the advertising business.
In the 1970s, I landed my first copywriting job at a place called Alan Wolsky & Friends, a small sales promotion shop located on Madison Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan. The owner was a short, aggressive, fast-talking, cigar-chewing, Hermes-tie-wearing character who thought he was advertising’s next Bill Bernbach. He wasn’t.
I think he named the agency “Alan Wolsky & Friends” because he didn’t have many. Though I’m pretty sure he had enemies because our “receptionist” was a beefy ex-teamster named Sam who carried a concealed weapon.
I’m happy to meet with most anyone who has an interest in pursuing a career in advertising or wants a job here. Hey, I was there, a young writer trying everything I could to get my foot in the door.
I’ve noticed some negative trends though, with more and more people who think they can just introduce themselves and get handed a job. Which is a surefire way to make sure you won’t get hired here. Or at most agencies.
So here’s a list of my personal do’s and don’ts for informational interviews. And probably real-life interviews too.
Do get familiar with the agency’s work before you ask for a meeting. I’m shocked at how many times someone I’m talking to hasn’t looked at our current client list or our work. I want to know why you want to meet with me. If the answer is because you want a job anywhere you can get it, guess what? It’s not going to be here.
Do tell me about the one or two things we’ve done that you like and why. I’m not begging for a compliment but our work shows who we are and how we think. If you don’t like our work, this isn’t the agency for you.