New Beginnings: Crap Free-Zone

I have a close friend that reinvents how she allows people to deal with her. She does this at least once a year and it’s not a “New years Resolution.” As she explained it, it is reminding people that she is as God made her, fearful and wonderful. As such, she is to be taken seriously. Ask a question, don’t get mad at the answer. It turns out she is able to dictate to people to follow certain parameters that insure respect is given to her and her opinions valued. I like that.

That’s why I had to take a hard look at my ad agency. Several questions came to mind: 1) Am I taken seriously; 2) Is my agency relevant?; 3) How can I attract new and exciting (paying clients); 4) Who will set our goals and adhere to them? 5) Is the quality of work up to standard? Most of the answers pointed back to me. So, after contemplated applied logic, I came to a startling conclusion – how I ran it was killing my business. So had I needed to change. Carson Dunn Media Advertising had to change. I had to rid myself of the crap.

CDM Digital is the re-branding of an advertising agency called Carson Dunn Media Advertising. Re-branding is not really the right descriptive word as to what happened. Call it decimation, a completely dismantling of an old business plan that was not working to its optimum potential.

Why was that?

In 2013 it became clear that we needed to evolve into an agency with digital capabilities. That’s a bit more than owning more computers and mobile devices. It means synthesizing advertising in a digital format. That process could encompass Internet ads, PPC (per click advertising), website development, SEO, video and even that mainstay, television. Change was a slap in my face because I founded Carson Dunn Media Advertising. It was in the Ogilvy traditional, but I have none of David Ogilvy’s genius in advertising. My genius may lie elsewhere, but I am good.

My thinking shifted rapidly about how to pursue customers. Digital agencies have out grown traditional agencies. Still, in order to succeed one has to do good work. We are waiting on the big shot client to blow their socks off. In the meantime we can no longer fool with small companies that can’t or won’t pay us. My time is valuable – CDM can’t afford them.

(Still, as it relates to quality of product and service. Old David remains the standard.(

I can’t make apologies for being of the opinion that people that work for agencies should have a common purpose — create the best advertising and calculate it to sell a client’s product. Clients aren’t impressed with how well a creative can turn a phrase, or design out this world graphics. It is and always been the bottom line. How much money am I making. Most advertising graduates don’t know what I’m talking about.

People believe that their independence must be disruptive of the agency itself. So this type of baloney and infighting wounds both the psyche and work product. Everybody suffers. Talented staff helps an organization grow, but its compassion that rules the day. We want to be ahead of the next agency — we will be smarter, leaner and be purposeful. I will start a long interview process for Spring. I expect many will say their book of work is fine. Careful, I am setting the parameters now. Understand though what will be asked is that bring ideas to the fore that is better than the stuff that passes for “advertising.” Most of it is crap. Everybody knows it.

In whatever you do, make 2014 a crap free zone. Only allow good work to pass through your hands.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: Dare To Be Great

Carson Dun Media Advertising stands on the cusp of dismantling its old line traditional business model in favor of becoming a re branded digital agency. I’m running into something a lot of small businesses run into: Stretching the dollar; hiring competent staff; finding people who want to be outstanding and not just employees. The process has been nothing short of interesting.

I revisited something that boosted my spirits. That is, no matter what we do and and how we operate, we must do so competently and with integrity. And from a cultural standpoint, we’re doing at least that. In other words these two things, competence and integrity are part of our brand. It is who we are and how we plan on navigating the agency to greatness.

Ever notice that most businesses, large and small have no distinctive brand stamp? It is far too true. And when someone decides to give the company identity, he or she runs it by a committee. A herd of cats have more uniformity that most committees — so when one relies that, nothing gets done.

Can this be as bad as the company owner that is afraid to establish an identity? After all, there is imitation of approach, selling and product line. So, they settle for hunkering down with the usual excuses. Here’s the thing. Your company, just like mine has to be distinct because there is about six thousand businesses opening every month in the USA. Surely, some appear to be, or are the same. That’s why its critical to brand — to give a face to who you are. We assist in this process, but we need to be clear, unless you listen — and pay us — you’ll fall back into that sea of sameness.

The challenge is to brand — the challenge is to dare to be great.

Check you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc.

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New Beginnings: (Slamming the Secretary — Banging the Boss)

Its a slow day at the farm. My mind is drifting — probably venturing into the creepiness that men mask so shallowly. Come to think of it, women do the same thing.

I’m talking about the quickie in the office with either the alpha male or alpha woman. Everybody has had the thought — so don’t lie. How many times have you sat at your desk and been overcome by lust. Show of hands — mine is not the only one up. In fact, I’ll raise my feet, too.

There have been times when I really do get why the perpetually horny ‘Don Draper’ creeps around on those skinny-ass chicks he married. For me, the problem is that he creeps with women just as thin as the thin girl at home. My choice would be different — Joan Harris, or Doctor Fay. But, this column is really about horny thoughts not necessarily translating into action. It probably shouldn’t because there a lawsuit hiding in the sheets with you. I have a problem with that part of the male and female dynamic in the work place. Here are my thoughts.

I once went to inspect an office for a prospective lease. Coming immediately from the next over suite was loud yelling. This brought a smile to the dude showing me the office. Apparently, the next door tenant was worked up, hopping mad because his fax machine hadn’t arrived. He was letting his secretary have a verbal blast of insult.

“Bitch! You know I need that damn machine. The f#*king business will die without it!” He really got hysterical. “Yasfum–labo-slasum — #@F%&*?#!!!” approximated what came next out of his mouth.

“Oh…I’m so sorry. Oh…” Boo hoos came in waves. “Don’t get stressed.” More Boo hoos.

The guy showing me the office said: “Here it comes. Heheheee. Everyday. He whacks it. Here it comes,” He put his ear to the wall.

He didn’t have to. “F**k me! Go hard, boss. Ooo-o!” And all kinds of moans later, I hear the dude screaming at the girl, “I’m gonna ride you like a jokey.”

Apparently, from the noise and my host’s tattle-tell grin, the boss next door did just that. The girl said: “Argghh!God!!Oooo-tear my kitty up —Oooo!” Well. Her voice was a little muffled, but I’m sure you get gist.

Damn. They sounded like braying farm animals.

I went on the walkway and happened to notice blinds were open curtain was up. The man was uglier that a monkey’s ass. The girl had that pole dancing stripper look going for her. They were frantic like vampires going at it like they do on the show, “True Blood.” Fast vibrations.

I had been told not to do certain things where you work. Back at the office I was still in shock. When asked why, I told my secretary, describing the incident as vaguely as I could. Her smile was equally vague. She said: “If the stress level’s right, and you’re adult enough, a quick frolic beats a hot beer on a cold day.” Wink. Wink.

I won’t pass judgment one way or the other. A few days later, she called me out of a client meeting and asked me to stand in the hall. A guy we later nicknamed “Hump-in-stien,” short hairy little man he was, had a tall model type bent over a desk and she shrieking very loud. Furniture was moving around. Apparently, she was his secretary.

Stress. Sexy secretaries. Overheated martinet bosses. I’m sensing a theme here, something not on the resume or job description.

There are times, though I wonder if conduct is weighed for the long term consequences. The Don Draper in me says, I’m an ad man — I’m stressed — I need inspiration — send that semi-cute Peggy in here. But, the common sense married man that I am, says: “Don’t even try. I’ll probably have a dream tonight and there will be a girl sliding up and down the flag pole. That pile of clothes she just took off ain’t a bra — its a lawsuit — and a divorce!”

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy

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New Beginnings: A Man Walks Into An Ad Agency…

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ever notice how our lives are centered around or driven by cliches? It is true. Late last year a former associate in and I began to work towards re-branding Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. Right now, I stand on the verge of launching a digital agency that we named CDM Digital. It’s not the same thing, and the changes are significant.

However, where things are the same this that my former associate remains a former associate – apparently not coming along for the ride. I miss her. I realize that people are replaceable, but some talents belong solely to them and you cannot replace what they have.

The task of re-branding is daunting enough. It’s made easier when you have someone who knows your nuances and how the business should function. As it is, we are going to be basing our work product around being the most organized growing digital that there is. So, I imagine it will be a lot of talking to myself situations.

What’s also different is the pursuit for new business. Before, we sat back and waited. Quite honestly, we neglected it to train account executives that knew how to pursue and retain business. The position was usually relegated to the newbies — interns. I understand interns organized themselves, and if you do not pay them, or compensate them in some way, they will become the mob from Les Miserables, seeking to dangle me at the end of a rope. No thanks. Most likely we will have interns, but they’ll be compensated.

Another change is the relationship between client and agency. Once, clients remained with agencies for decades. But, agencies were headed by greats like David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Jerry Dela Ferma, Mary Wells and William Burrell. Ambitions are the same, but the terrain is different. That doesn’t mean that client expectation has changed – they expect quality services for the money.

Maybe it’s on the agency with our emphasis of procuring clients, seeing companies as interchangeable, adopting a next man up mentality. Still, we have to have clients. We are a business, too. Pursuing new business is expensive. It may involve materials to develop videos and spec advertisements, or an investment of time alone. From the company and brand standpoint, there is no diminished role for the agency. They see it as an absence of the designation of agency record. Whatever, they want to get things done faster. They aren’t here to placate our egos, just move the bar of revenue.

My preference is to be a lead agency. I would like to return to having clients that are completely loyal and rely on us for marketing, advertising and things within our expertise. But then, Ogilvy, Burnett and the Olympians Of Madison Avenue are gone or retired. What’s left are holding companies that could care less, and passionless, non- creative agencies.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: Agencies Are Brand, Too

We can lose sight of who we are. CDM Digital is one of thousands of creative agencies, but we are totally unique. Distinction keeps one from being mediocre. That came across during a few recent pitches for new business. Each time we went in thinking our specialness was apparent, but it wasn’t. We lost. It wasn’t that our presentations were bad, at best, we were tepid.

The pitfalls of indistinctness came up again in correspondence exchanged with someone whom I admire in advertising. He’s a specialist in new business for a Madison Avenue ad agency. One of the pearls of wisdom he shared was that as Carson Dunn Media Advertising transitions to CDM Digital and pitches for new business, we must allow the distinctness of our brand to be on display – that we stand for something — something good, admirable and formidable.

Re-branding the agency has been arduous. So, the past three months I’ve pitched six large companies for business — and not landing one, forcing me to go back study pitches. The essence of the pitch is telling the client you get them, not extolling your own virtues. On this reminder, in tenure, content of my pitches changed to reflect that CDM is singular. I write pitches with formality, throwing in a dash of humor, however, maintaining a serious posture.

These companies are introduced to the ‘CDM Way.’ That’s like the ‘Patriot Way,’ where we establish our integrity, and maintain it, in the pursuit of excellence. Our skills are put on full display. When you try for major accounts, you find out clients have standards. So do we. Our pitches contain small ads within PDF files. No one else does this. As my esteemed colleague suggested, make my work memorable, and be mindful of our brand. That’s the “CDM Way.”

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

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New Beginnings: Agency Invovement In Social Issues

Driving the Dialogue: Part 2

Does propaganda eliminate truth from the intersection of ideas, opinions and facts in public discourse? Merriam-Webster defines propaganda as:”…(2)the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. (3) ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect.

Without getting into nuanced differences, propaganda seems to have similarities to public relations, advertising and yellow journalism.

In the classic sense, issues and causes are driven by propaganda. With the advent of marijuana becoming decriminalized, if not legalized in states like Colorado, Oregon and California, none of this happened without discussion in public discourse or propaganda. This is also true of the gay rights movement. Personally, whatever I believe will not change because of shifting of moral climate — I will not harass people, either.

However, here is where the public relations come in. Straight people have been made to feel shame for being straight. There is a propaganda avalanche of gay-themed television programs, entire networks, and airhead celebrities taking a stance. Of course, it got rather funny when that reasonably good-looking straight actress made a defiant tearful public declarations of: “I will not marry the father of my child until this state legalizes gay marriage…” only to dump the guy cold once DOMA was struck down. Or, what about the fading dishrag celebrity that freaked out when her daughter told her: “Mom. I’m growing a beard and a dick for Christmas.) Neither really seemed committed did they? The point is that the propaganda agencies got paid millions to give face to the cause. Money can make you shoot your mouth off.

Still, in its most basic form the gay rights people were only using a platform. Using a voice is neither malevolent nor benign. It’s a communicative tool.

In relation to how black people are perceived, it is very negative. Some of it stems from the baseness that we have allowed to represent who we are. For example, the incessant use of the N-word, misogynist diatribes in Hip-Hop has given white people like Quentin Tarantino empowerment to bare their hearts and throw the N’word onto the screen, and naivete fools to voice the words. (Say what you want about O.J Simpson, but he beat the crap out of Richard Burton for calling him the N’word on set. To me, that was an appropriate response.)

No one has taken a national voice, except Black Enterprise Magazine, Essence and less fervently, Ebony, speaking to the wrongness of this ‘word.’ Instead, what you have is worship and obsession with countless people who only claim to fame seems to be the ability to excel in sports, cuss, bare their asses in sagging pants, wear skimpy clothes, and act whorish. It is wrong on so many levels. This is not who we are as a people.

My friend pointed out that since I owned an advertising agency, I am a propagandist but in a unique position to help establish and sustain positive perspectives. I pointed out that I am in business to make money. What if a account executive brings in clients that sell E cigarettes, manufacture spirits, or even run marijuana associations — do I say no? Where does my social responsibility lie?

I can safely say, we still will not advertise pornography.

From the standpoint of being who I am, I will remain true to my upbringing and set of mores. Social responsibility cannot be weighed on a scale of relativism.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO
Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc.

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New Beginnings: Agency Involvement In Social Issues

Driving the Dialogue: Part 1

What is the role of an advertising agency in regard to social involvement, and issues? To some people this may read as a rather superfluous discussion. Be that as it may, on some levels it is. Some things are obvious, whereas some things and not.

I am wrestling with this issue as the CEO of an advertising agency. I will not refer to my agency as being “small” because that word is negative speech, and I vowed to watch my spoken vocabulary. Smallness can become embedded in one’s core being. I’m not small in either self perception, or my ambitions. But, from the stand point of sheer numbers, I do not write out paychecks for very many people. An agency like mine desires to improve its revenue, and what we do from a civil social perspective, has an effect.

Enough preface. My lead question came from a discussion I had with someone recently. I have taken a decidedly approach to pursuing new business. Not surprising since I am in business to make money. This individual though, pointed something out regarding a responsibility to using my agency as a platform for causes.

The much admired, late David Ogilvy had said something to the effect that since we live in a world, you must make a contribution to it. That includes allowing your agency to propel issues. I admire David very much, so the idea does surprise not me — the fact that I’m debating with myself this, does.

Every social cause today, from LGBT issues, illegal immigration, religious persecution of Christians in Muslim countries and in the USA, the fight for social justice, the economy and racial perceptions, have a political component. They also affect people in the psyche and soul. Thus, it is not surprising that someone is driving the debate concerning every conceivable issue.

If you look behind a movement, or if it’s hard to escape the fact that there is a public relations, and even advertising side to it. Nothing happens in a vacuum. No one wakes up one day and says, “I’m black. I think I’ll look for reasons to go out and be upset.” It happens that way because the nature of who you are. However, I don’t agree that a lot of the issues are properly suited as discussions as civil rights. Unlike skin color, some issues are behavioral and matters of personal choice.

A dialogue has been driven by someone properly suited to drive the discussion. White people cannot look at a black or other minority with a clear mind and say, “Racism is dead. It truly is.” Let’s put something under the microscope for a moment: Why dis George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Benjamin Martin? I never bought into the idea of Zimmerman having a self defense ‘right’ to kill Trayvon Martin. He was the attacker or stalker with a gun. Zimmerman was a classic bully, apparently racist idiot. Martin was and always will be a 17-year-old boy walking in the rain in a not necessarily familiar neighborhood. If he did anything, Zimmerman could have just given the boy instructions on how to get home. He chose not to do so.

What followed were attempts by his lawyers, his family, some in the national media to justify a murder (after all, Zimmerman, of his own decision, followed Martin, and during that time he did everything possible to bring on the confrontation, forming requisite intent — a legal component of illegal homicide). Let me point out after the murder, the police and state prosecutor also put out a full court press of ‘justification.’ These efforts were classic crisis management. But, I’m not picking on Zimmerman. I’m merely trying to argue a point using a microscopic view taking us below the surface.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy

New Beginnings: This Pitch Has Something For You, People

AMC produces a show about advertising agencies called: “The Pitch.” The premise is interesting and reflects what the average person does not know about advertising agencies. We compete against each other for business, although it is not like in “The Pitch.” In that program, two agencies are summoned to a briefing by a business like 1-800 Flowers, Little Caesars Pizza, Tommy Bahama, C. Wonder, Marriott Corp. and a few others. Some of the owners of the agencies act like God is waiting for them with an axe to chop their balls off.

They are in the same room and given a briefing at the same time. Like real life, the agencies are given a short period of time to come up with an idea that the business will buy and enter into an agency client relationship.

I’m fascinated by what drives a company to hire an agency. Last season, Jo Muse of Muse Communications head of a multi-cultural agency talked about losing the “chemistry battle.” He felt the business owners and the other agency got along better, and hence overcame the first necessary ingredient: “chemistry.” Both the client and the rival agency were white. There is something to be said about that.

Jo Muse ran a commercial during the show called “White Spaces.” The premise of the commercial was true because I have observed exactly what the commercial claimed. Carson Dunn Media Advertising is a small company. We are considered as a “dark horse,” meaning, there are certain business that we will not get to take us seriously because our size. But it could be worse… you guessed it. I run into the “white space” mentality. Madison Avenue acknowledges the trillions of spending dollars in black, Latino and Asian communities, but we are seldom part of the decision-making process in the boardroom. That’s where it’s decided what agency will be signed to a contract.

When I went into business, I wanted an opportunity to fail. What that means is that I wanted the same opportunities other people got. It is the greatness of this country that I can have a chance to run a business. But, the “fail” aspect deals with having the same view that my firm is confident directed at me… my ethnicity notwithstanding. Is it disheartening to look at website after website and see that all of the faces are nearly all white? Depending on how one’s personal makeup is, it can be.

I choose a look at it this way. Those trillions of dollars in the so-called minority, are fast becoming the majority — they control their fate in business. They need to take a look at the products they buy and ask what was prevalent prior to 1964 Civil Rights Act: “What about our businesses. What about the ones we control?”

This should not be an empty argument. I’m afraid when one looks at the so-called black culture, one is struck by music and dancing. Very little media coverage is given to anything else. Magazines such as Black Enterprise will address the issue, but I’m afraid believes Global Hue is the only black agency worth mentioning. In fact there are many. What media coverage we can muster should be directed towards us. That means as an agency, I have responsibility to introduce myself to the publishers and broadcasters involved.

One has to understand that control of the media means controlling perception. All the singers, dancers and rappers don’t make a whole hell of a difference in the lives of people who need to be told that they are worth something. If you listen to the “songs” they are not affirming but denigrating.

Creating our own media is one way of dealing with the wrong message being thrown out there. That takes money. There are a lot of people of color that could solve this issue — but how does it help, Tyler, Oprah, Bob Johnson and others. They aren’t going to anything unless they see a reward — money overnight.

To do less means that we will never control dialogue as to what is hurtful and appropriate for black people. Our children will continue to be statistics like Travon Martin, or the countless millions of black men in jail. Agencies also need to take a second look at black graduates in communications and English, just as the graduates should look at a black agency for employment. People, it can’t hurt.

Parenthetically, I have had young black people at my agency for a day. They gave nothing, contributed nothing because they had been believed that a black-owned agency offered little in the way of opportunities. So, they either didn’t show up for work, or have some lame excuse for being late.

I can’t help but think that if I was one of those smiling faces on those white websites, if things would be different. Just a thought.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO

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New Beginnings: Dumb People Can Be Millionares

Advertising is not my first foray into the business world. I have been in business for some time. I have an internal argument about my level of success and failure. It’s an ongoing discussion.

I had a man tell me that I was smart, so much so that I should be a millionaire. At one time on paper, I was a millionaire. It’s amazing how fast paper burns, as does a fortune. But, I digress.

The dude was actually putting me down although he thought he was being encouraging. I don’t fault him but I did come to realize two things: 1) People without a business always tell you how to run yours; 2) Most successful people in business are amazingly dumb.

If my clients are smart, they are not part of this discussion.

It is truly amazing how people tend to rest on their “laurels” of accomplishments as if the past is relevant to what they’re doing today. The past is instructed and foundation. It’s like what I read in another blog: “The Ad Contrarian.” The contention is that dumb people become successful as a matter of positioning. In his blog, the author talks about a concept called “achieving orbit.”

It makes sense. Consider a satellite, he says. The satellite has energy to escape the gravitational pull of years. Once it gets orbit it operates on its own. It continues to circle under its own power for years. It does have a cycle, however – when it bumps in the something that’s in this way.

I agree with the Ad Contrarian. Many businesses are like that as well. The power of their products and services get them through. The company’s current administration may not have had anything to do with it; nevertheless, the business continues to be successful.

In my opinion, when a company hit a point of diminishing aimlessness is the moment a similar product is introduced by a vibrant competitor. The moment that happens, business will go south because consumers will see the old company as being irrelevant.

As Joe Friday said: “That’s where I come in. I carry a badge.” Well, in my case it is a briefcase, a Samsung tablet, a yellow pad and pen.

Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. (or CDM Digital) offers advertising services that will help a company survive on something other than its own inertia. Our agency specializes in campaign plans, analyzing marketing trends and development, and importantly, consumer receptivity of a brand.

We pride ourselves on devising the insuring of the client gets a healthy return on their advertising investment. We even develop marketing materials and collateral clients. Why? It is all part of the process of their success.
CDM has adapted and embraced digital technology. Digital advertising agencies not only grow fast, but are nimble and inventive. There are still some people doubt the power of the Internet to communicate and sell products. I’m not knocking them, I’m just trying to make a point.

As we learned, we cannot continue to do things as we have and expect optimum results. Change this necessitated by time. I’d like for new clients to walk in the door. Here is why. Unlike the naysayers, I believe in ideals, business growth and in their very essence, business needs to be guided in the direction they want to go.

Check you, later.

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO

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