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The other day I read AT&T was moving all of its advertising business to Omnicom. No doubt the reason undergirding the move was economies of scale. One of the public explanations for Omnicom winning the business was “integration” of programs and ideas. That is to say the new media agency “nuts and honey” or some such and super shop BBDO will work together closely, in an aligned fashion, to insure the ideas they presented as a team in the pitch are structurally recreated IRL (in real life).

This age old strategy sounds great on paper. And as we get more mature as an industry the strategy will actually work. But there are two conflicting forces against a move like this. Ferocious competition and complacence. When one entity is in charge, time and comfort engender complacence. BBDO will churn out nice work, great work even…Hearts and Science (the media company) will plan and digitize its ass off…to a point. The paranoia, however, that keeps shops on their toes dissipates.

The energy that has shops like Anomaly, Droga and Preacher slamming, is lost.  Not a fan of the big consolidation move. Competition is what marketers thrive on. So must its shops.




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Master and Commandee.

Last night at Google Firestarters, Chet Gulland, head of strategy at Droga5 NY, mentioned “1 idea, 50 briefs.” For another Droga brand he spoke of 30 briefs. (The topic of the event, as you might imagine, was the brief.) The brief is what keeps agency planning departments in business. Each project should have a brief. It should outline the task, opportunity, problem and provide a solution spark. The more insightful and powerful these briefs, the better the work…so goes the logic.

An undercurrent at Firestarter and an undercurrent about briefs in general (check out this exceptional video) is that briefs are better seen not heard. Shorter is better. Problem-focus is important. Agile and open are also key.  One panelist, in fact, suggested no brief is the best brief – but he was from a product development/innovation company.

I completely agree with Mr. Gulland though I might word it a little differently. One brand brief, 50 creative briefs. At What’s The Idea?, the idea (claim) is the brand strategy. It is supported by 3 proof planks. Any creative brief, developed by any cohort, must be on idea. The actions, experiences and programs used to generate sales, guided by individual creative briefs, should all celebrate the idea (claim) and support one of the proof planks. Claim and proof.

The brand brief and the many creative briefs it sires will keep planners busy for years to come.

Thanks to Google, Ben Malbon and Abigail Posner for another wonderful event. Eliza Esquivel of Mondelez was exceptional too.





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People like to help.  Ask any mother-in-law.  People also like to be helped, but there is social stigma about being helped too much. Ask a teenager or the under privileged. But helping and being helped are the two most important motivators in marketing. Selling is not helping. Helping is helping.

If a brand planner doing my job from a wheelchair, is it likely I’d be more effective at getting consumers to open up? Yep. It’s human nature. If I was a brand planner suffering from depression, would I have the same chance at getting someone to open up? Not unless I looked particularly sad.  

Overt selling is overtaking helping in marketing and consumers are shutting down.  Why do you think students writing papers can get through on the phone to executives, but researchers can’t? We are a helpful people. Why, in a recent study on homeless in NY (I think ideated by Droga5), did moms and dads walk right by family members on the street dressed as homeless? People want to help but are inured to the scale of the problem.

So as you think about your brand planning rigor for your day, think about helping – bidirectional helping. Not selling. Create an environment where consumers can really hear you and then you can begin the steps to a sale. Peace.


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Anything Elizabeth Hurley does I like. No really, anything. In this Droga5 ditty for Newcastle Ale, there was an idea, great copywriting and a compelling performance. It made me thirsty.

elizabeth hurley

Great work contains 3 things: an idea, proof of idea and performance. Ideas without proof may take hold but don’t really impact sales. Ironically, ideas without proof are called selling. Claim, claim, claim. When someone is claiming or selling we shut down. Ideas supported by proof have the most sales impact.

In the Droga5 spot, there is an idea: America would be quite different if Britain won the Revolutionary War (#ifwewon). There is proof: the funny examples of what would be different in America today — which makes us smile, nod and even empathize. But the performance of Elizabeth Hurley takes the work to a higher level.  The performance of the idea is what brings it to life.

Smart ad agency people understand this — they are paid to excel at it. Performance is a little lacking in the digital agency space, but there, it has more upside. More breadth. And I’m not talking acting here, I’m talking performance of the idea. Performance of the proof.

Think about the performance, don’t stop at strategy, creative and production. Peace.

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Innovation in selling has always been with us. Half driven by science, half driven by art, through the years marketers have looked for more cost-effective, efficient ways to sell product and out-sell competitors. These days the web, digital production and mobile have tossed into the innovation crucible a number of exciting new tools. It’s a new day. An example:

I saw a TV spot last night in which the screen was split into four quadrants — each had a picture of the same young lad with four different style glasses on. If you want to sell glasses, this is a very efficient way. It’s a trial application, a comparison application, and perhaps, should they put prices in each screen, a price/value application. Did someone think of this as a tool in the 80s? Probably. Could they do anything about it then? Elegantly? Nope.

This is what excites me about marketing technology or marketing tech today…the possibilities. And the ideas can come from anywhere. But my bet is that this idea came from an agency? Some shop like Anomaly, Droga5, BBH, Mother, or R/GA. It may have come from an innovation group, but my money is on a shop. Agencies have the most creative people. Innovations groups tend to have facilitators and rent-a-cops.

Agencies know the future is new marketing apps, buildables and technologies in addition to lovely advertising. Agencies, if used properly, are way more valuable than they used to was. A new whoosh is here. Let’s use it. Give your agency the opportunity.



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There is a digital marketing practice called retargeting through which advertisers, thanks to a cookie or pixel tracker, serves you an ad message based upon your previous web shopping.  If you shop online for a Marmot tent at REI and don’t buy, you may see Marmot tent ads for a few weeks or months on various other sites. The “re” in retargeting, in this case, refers to repetitive targeting. Insofar as moving a prospect closer to a sale, this approach is not that great. It’s a frequency play – not that there’s anything wrong with frequency. (Okay, there is a little bit wrong with frequency.  It’s noise.) 

Twitch Point Planning is a healthy evolution of the frequency model. It is intended solely to move consumers closer to a sale. The sales continuum is a fine thread that extends from not being aware to aware, then interested, desirous and finally purchaser. Retargeting efforts often attempt to hit consumers with a promotion but don’t spend a lot of time understanding the continuum.

Twitch Point Planning focuses on “understanding, mapping, and manipulating” customers closer to a sale. Understanding is the behavioral part. Mapping the media part. Manipulating the creative and creation part. Digital agencies are best equipped to do this, but often fall short in one or two of the three pursuits. The Droga5s, Barbarians and Anomalies of the world get it but haven’t yet codified the model (and compensation).

This is science people. Part chess, part art. It is the future of a fairly stagnant, though creative business.  Peace. 


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I love the fact that ad and marketing agencies are getting into the business business.  Anomaly, Kirshenbaum, Bond, Senecal and Partners, Horizon Media,
Rockfish Interactive, GMD Studios and a handful of others, rather than just making ads that either work or don’t, or creating websites that click or don’t, are turning business ideas into commercial enterprises. And experiencing that reality.

The biggest gripe between agencies and clients has always been that agencies care about the communication first and leave the sales to the clients.  Sure, the agencies will go flip some hamburgers when they win a new fast food account or sit in the emergency dept. to see what healthcare is all about, but at the end of the week the paycheck shows up and the pain is someone else’s if “the work don’t work.”

By starting businesses with new P&Ls this new breed of shop gets to “feel” all 4 Ps. Plus they get to feel the customers. Feel their own employees. Noah Brier a smart new school marketer suggests every marketer should learn to write little code just to get a taste of what digital is all about. Get the hands and brain dirty.  Agencies that build outside businesses will first flounder a bit and then excel at their craft. Droga5 became a stronger shop thanks to Honeyshed, mark my words. Peace!


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I was reading Creativity Magazine this morning and David Nobay of Droga5 in Sydney quoted Charles Bukowski — “As the spirit wanes, form rises.”


Translated, this means we fall into ruts or expected ways of doing things as our senses deaden. Mr. Nobay suggests this happens when the economy is in the shizzer. The “suits” exert more control over the “creatives” and business becomes unusually usual.  I wrote a couple of days ago about the adgorithm, the new form of statistically driven marketing, another symptom of this lack of spirit thanks to the poor economy.


I’m with Mr. Nobay…and always have been. The best digital agencies are those with a high degree of creativity in their blood. The best media companies, the same. The best healthcare agencies and direct shops, ditto. Spirited people help marketers break out of ruts.


I recently walked into a design boutique in a very creative part of NYC and could hear a pin drop. Smart people. Nice Mac Books. Stiff aroma of coffee. But no giggling. Little childishness. Was I listening to quiet fear?  Let’s all snap out of it. Peace!


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