New Beginnings: Don’t Forget The Basics

We grow weary of ourselves sometimes. This happens frequently when you take the late Michael Jackson’s advice to start with “The Man in The Mirror.” I guess this is when one observes and marks their personal behavior in particular situations. The tendency is to be self critical and engage self flagellation like a crazed, lustful monk for falling short. The problem with that is that we seldom establish a benchmark to reach –so  naturally in the fog of confusion, its likely the psyche will  take a beating. A benchmark is a basic requirement to measure achievement — don’t forget it.

I am finding in business, forgetting can lead to bankruptcy. We tend to trust a little too much in people that may not share  our zeal to form a company into a particular embodiment. Sure, we talk to the people we’re dependent on, but the problem is that talking and listening are not the same as communicating and listening. So we proceed on clueless. We hit a metaphoric brick wall. And in our bruised state we come to grips (sometimes) with the fact communication requires attention, hearing requires setting aside the ego because a divergent approach or polite dissent may be have been the best course. These are basics — too easily forgotten.

Having restructured from a different business model, I’m operating essentially what is a new advertising agency . In my enthusiasm to pursue new business, I forgot to include in my company resume the most important thing – facts denoting what qualifies CDM to handle a customers business. I also failed to take into consideration whether or not the businesses I am pursuing were within my scope of expertise. Theoretical competence is not real competence. This also a basic.

My presentation manual should also ask: “What do you, business owner require and your agency?” Needless to say if the question was posed to a potential client, likely it would be a generic, “Good work at a fair price.”  Those were givens. That potential client is probably looking for assurance that we can not only do the job, but his investment in advertising with our company will an eye popping return. My question to myself would’ve been whether we’ll profit from the arrangement. To some, that sounds mercenary. It isn’t because it is very basic to business. After all, commerce is an exchange.

There is a raging debate between business owners and workers about salary, other forms of compensation, reduced workloads, and having dialogue deciding the the company’s direction. I am old school. On my first adult jobs I kept my mouth shut and learned as much as possible. As long as the work relationship was not  exploitative, I could live with it. Now as I am comfortably in my baby-boomer years, It occurs to me that people will have differences of opinion. They want to engage in dialogue on things that were verboten when I first started working. The lesson here is that time changes thing. I suppose i am looking at “Man in the Mirror.” I’m seeing a person that is adapting while retaining values and perceptions.

It boils down to being basic and demanding its own set of remembrance. You don’t forget the basics because they never change.

Catch you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO

CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing 

New Beginnings: THE POWER OF A LOGO

Our agency may be many things, above all, we are an advertising agency. We don’t disguise it by telling prospective clients that we are, a “creative disruptive,” “digital re-thinkers,” or “imagineers.” Those are terms from three advertising agencies — and they are a pile of horse crap. They take away the agency’s identity and essence. They also throw the the truth to the wind — they are ad agencies — a bunch of MADMEN.

We’re at the tail end of a very tortured process of re-branding. Transitioning from a being a struggling traditional to a struggling digital has been nothing but promising lurches and abrupt stops. Through it all, although the business model has changed, our function, thus identity, has not. We offer advertising services. One good thing about stumbling into this year is embracing branding. We are also a small business. And as such, we know an identity can be established with a logo. It’s the corsage on the gown — the bow tie on a tuxedo — or, the beret and sunglasses worn by a stylish woman.

I’d like to share our thoughts from a past blog. It provides insight into how a logo forge an indelible impression on the consumer.
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“THE POWER OF A LOGO

lo·go [loh-goh]
noun, plural -gos.

1. Also called logotype. a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition.

From Apple’s “apple” to Nike’s “swoosh” to Obama’s “patriotic O”; the logo does not in any way substitute for the quality of the product nor the design, but it does complete the branding package. Although researchers have not deciphered a conclusive understanding of a logo, an overwhelming majority acknowledge the correlation between a logo and its profits. Perhaps it is the ambiguity of a silver, partially bitten apple or maybe its the fictional historic backgrounds associated with the logo that appeals to consumers. Nevertheless, it is a logo that attracts consumers worldwide. Buying a Mac computer or an iPhone is more than just buying OS X software, it is possessing that partially bitten, but well branded Apple product.

To consumers such as myself, a logo is more than “a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc.”–it is a powerful story. Designers of logos deliberately associate a color, font, and shape with compelling words that an audience can relate to. In fact, Obama’s strategist David Axelrod told designers to create a logo that would evoke “a new sense of hope.” This “hope” is successfully illustrated in the red strips (flag stripes as patriotism) and the circle (sunrise as hope).

In order for a logo to be consumer friendly it has to be adaptable and have chameleon like qualities. For example, the Apple symbol is often switched to white, rainbow, and sometimes blue. Taking it a step further, customers can adhere picture stories onto their Mac computers. From Snow White biting into a poison apple to a squirrel chomping on an apple; Apple and even PC lovers are drawn to personalizing their computer.”

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As we encounter prospective clients, we stress that their logo not only is a pretty piece of graphics, but it tells a compelling story. One that if used, can make a big difference in the bottom line.

Catch you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO
CDM Digital Advertising

New Beginnings: Instincts, Sharp Eyes, Loud Voice

I am finished chasing down a particular business for an appointment. After so many communiques via email, telephone calls, and promises, the potential client cannot meet until some unspecified future day. “Strong pitch. Touched on our needs. Indeed,” the company president said. Without bitterness, frustration set in. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong relative to particular business.

Having placed myself in charge of acquiring new business for my revamped ad agency I wonder if someone else should be assigned to the task. After all, acquiring money for operational costs and paying people are so essential, my efforts should be concentrated on those things. That makes a lot of sense.

A quick word about my categorizing the state of my company as being “revamped.” That is not fully descriptive. What I did was tear down my business model. It hasn’t been an easy transition going from being traditional to disruptive and digital. There was evaluation of staff and the value of our accounts, and thus attrition. When this happens you find yourself standing alone trying to crystallize your vision.

Like minded people are hard to find. But, it is always a pressing need.

Two years ago, I began questioning my ability to judge talent. We interviewed several creatives to come in just above entry level. I sat down with the “perfect candidate.” She was smart, friendly, attractive and knowledgeable. She liked the way we laid out the office — roomy — clean — colorful. The neighborhood was crappy, but the office rocked. I extended an offer — she accepted. But, when she realized that we were committed to remaining multi-cultural, she withdrew. “I don’t really like that vibe. No offense,” was delivered in a soft but crushing voice.

My then PR Director came in as the candidate left and said she knew what was going to happen because her instincts told things about the woman I didn’t notice. The next candidate arrived minutes later. The interview went well and was a notch above “Miss Perfect.” Being the gentleman that I am, and because it got dark early, I walked her to her car. There was a quick mundane conversation, and I said, “I’ll let you know within a week.” This seemed okay with her. She served a long, absorbing smile and drove off.

As she was packing up for the day, the PR Director stared at me. She seemed disturbed. When asked, she replied: “That girl doesn’t want a job. She wants a social relationship.” When asked how she knew, she said: “Well, she folded and slipped a note under your laptop. I was passing by your office when you stepped out to take a call privately. She put a spot of her cologne on the note. She likes you, not the agency.”

My colleague went on to say that she had sharp eyes for this type of thing — “the charming siren.” I realize some professional women that will read this blog might take offense, but people casting shadows across your desk may have motives not even remotely associated with what you want. Their intent is diametrically dichotomous. Resumes often are an exercise in creative writing. Good fiction.

That’s not to say don’t trust people. We need a host of people to function in the ad business. I have to take somethings as they are. Other times references must be vetted. So, as I make decisions for my company, if instincts and sharp eyes tell me a truth hidden by a prospect, I am prepared to say “No” in a loud voice — even it if stays in my head.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: A Druid, a Muslim, and a Christian Walked Into an Ad Agency…

Interesting days bring on interesting observations. This is being written on a Sunday – the day I attend church. Expressions of faith in something I believe is greater than me, shouldn’t scare anyone. The last thing I do at my agency is proselytize because I live my beliefs and let them display in my behavior. Mankind is a creation, not an accident. Believing as I do has never been a job requirement. I must confess I’ve wondered if the work environment wouldn’t be more harmonious if there was same think. Obviously the work wouldn’t necessarily be creative optimally – it’s just that yelling will be at a minimum.

Maybe. Maybe not.

CDM Digital strives to be multi-cultural. The non-proselyting policy is also stressed. Our company culture is idyllic, and can be challenging. I’ve had a team consisting of a druid, a Muslim, and a Christian working on projects. Things were going alone well with this team until loud voices erupted in the break area.

One of them suggested that their belief system was superior to another there was a lot of Alec Baldwin and Will Arnett 30 Rock insults growled under breath. Tension lasted the day.

It placed in detrimental the project they were working on, and needed to be addressed. I invited the staffers to my office to work it out. There were a lot of accusations. “They’re sabotaging me. That’s what those people do,” echoed around the room. I asked myself what the best way to handle the conflict? Several factors had to be considered. These factors became recommendations I suggest a small business owner should have in place.

1. Keep ‘hot button’ discussions to a minimum. People are social, so there is going to be interaction, verbal or otherwise. Open expression is natural, and should be encouraged. A manager cannot put in a rule forbidding conversation because such runs contrary to what we are – social creatures that need to express ourselves. If possible, tactfully include it in a personnel manual under “office decorum.” Negative behavior is disruptive.

2. Evaluate the personnel involved. I’m not talking about judging who is right, or who is wrong. It is always a good idea to take into consideration how qualitative the people arguing are. Determine how cohesive their work is with a team framework.

3. Be prepared to cross train and reassign. We know what works and what doesn’t – it’s evident by the work produced. But, since we have invested in the staffer, and weighing how hard it is to find the “right” personnel, it’s better to reassign them as opposed to taking disciplinary action.

4. Establish clear rules on to what will not be tolerated. Be prepared to act if these rules are violated. For example, invasion of privacy, offensive language, hate speech and name calling, sexual innuendos, physical intimidation, are forbidden. It may be grounds for discipline. Where either of those things exists, you have a textbook hostile work environment. You also are staring at litigation with your business as a defendant.

5. Have a progressive discipline policy. Yes, some people cuss when stressed; some people are ill suited to work with people that are different than they. There is racism where you least expect. Anti-Semitism, sexism exist because people either were fed a steady diet of it as children, or just developed nasty unattractive personalities. Perhaps they need to work elsewhere. The decision should not be based on snap judgement.

6. Have openness. My business is a creative agency. We have to foster the ideal environment for a person to work at their best.

Within the context of advertising, I do consulting with my clients. It is surprising how many scramble madly because there are no rules governing conduct or decorum. We owe it to ourselves to have a cooperative, fun-filled atmosphere so that the conclusion of the work day, we can appreciate each other as people and our collective work.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: Put People On Your Staff

Endeavoring in any enterprise often shouldn’t be a solo venture. That’s a mistake most entrepreneurs and small business people make. The reasoning is sound. The rationale goes like this: “We’re a start up — there isn’t much money — I can’t afford to hire anyone to help me.” I felt that until there was a possibility of signing three accounts in one week. That current staff was inadequate to get the job done, so I decided to hire people to work on the accounts. 

As decisions go, it was a sensible. The drawback was I didn’t hire people — just ‘occupants’ to sit at the desks.  Relationships are developed with people. An ‘occupant’ knows that their tenure will be short lived, either because they are going to quit, or will be terminated. A relationship with ‘people’ is an investment in the future. If one can’t see employees as anything more than occupants, that revelation will never occur. Small wonder people walk away. 

There are always good and bad warning signs where employees headed. A good sign is when, in speaking about the business, the employee uses the phrase “we are,” or “our company plans to,” That’s not a Freudian slip. It’s an indication that they want to belong. A bad sign is when the work is never done, or excuses are made justifying the delay. That particular individual feels justified walking off the job, or not even showing up. 

We’re getting to that point where we need to fill a staff different position or two. I want colleagues, fellow laborers toward success. My former business partner suggested freelancers. That didn’t seem adequate. A freelancer may have other jobs lined up. They can be hardly expected to disclose their future ambitions. Will they truly answer that question: “Where you see yourself five years now?” Will they assume I’m trying to get into their personal business or concerned about where they fit into the fabric of company’s future? 

Asking the question may aid me in establishing trust. Business relationships with colleagues, not ‘occupants,’ is healthy for the company. If you want to elevate the working relationship where the ‘employee’ is a colleague, there are at least six things that can may aid this more fulfilling working relationship.

  1. If it isn’t viewed as intrusive, ask the co-worker’s interests to discover a mutually beneficial way of matching your business needs with their interests. If they are unsure of where they want to end up in their career, opportunities that may be consistent with their experiences. The end design is to motivate the co-worker into going the extra-mile. Like it or not, you are a mentor.
  2. Assuming you have such a person on staff, partner that individual with the employee. That will assure that there is support within the organization.  
  3. Include them in meetings. Their perspective  and opinions may give a new insight on your business.
  4.  Give them research oriented projects. I’m in advertising and before I pitch a company for business I need to know as much as possible on the company and its industry. A good researcher is invaluable.
  5. Have an open door policy. Again, you are a mentor. 
  6. Have performance reviews but prior to that give regular feedback on status and how they are performing their jobs. I am always delighted when I find out one of my co-workers left to start their own agency. Usually, they didn’t have the gumption to do it until they became your co-worker. Regardless, feedback is important for professional development.

I read and hear people in the ad industry bellyaching about what they do is “just a job,” “trained monkeys can perform the same creative work.” Hogwash. I came from a  background where work was to be an enjoyable experience because its part of who you are. Sometimes it’s okay for to veer away from rigidness and cynicism.  When that day comes, if we are truly watchful, we will get colleagues and not “occupants at the desk.”

 Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: Thank You America

I was watching the former “Military Channel,” now called the Heroes Channel, and caught a marathon on the Revolutionary War. I watched with sheer fascination. Some see that war as analogous to David vs. Goliath, and that may be apropos – but I see it as something more profound.

I truly believe that at the invention of the Universe, in the firmament that was a plan for the United States to come about. This country has survived long and gloriously. It has always been badly flawed. It tolerated an economy predicated on the enslavement of other people – Africans — a group where some of my ancestors came. America in its flaws, some might argue, destroyed indigenous people in its expansion westward.

 

It was a land that fought a Civil War where one the issues was over slavery. America rose to the task when Abraham Lincoln held a divided Union together.  And it wasn’t until 1964 that, despite Democratic party obstructionism, the Republican Party led by Sen. Everett Dirksen (a wonderful and forgotten statesman) passed the Civil Rights Act. A Southerner, President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill, but a Yankee, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, listening to the reasoned arguments of A. Philip Randolph, Mary Bethum Cookman, Martin Luther King, Bayard Ruston and other of the lions of American history.

The United States of America, in its flaws fought against the threat of communism in Korea, Vietnam and places around the world, that I cannot pronounce, knew there was a greater fight — a battle for hearts and minds. Today, we see our nation once again sending its troops to those unpronounceable places to beat back the war declared by radical Islamists. Perhaps it is without real conviction from President Obama, but our men and women under color of arms protect this land — its people — its people — and its flaws.

Thank you America for getting past biases to elect a bi-racial president. Yes, he is ineffective, perhaps treacherous but we tolerated the rhetoric and put aside our differences to see if we could walk together into the pages of history. 

I’m so grateful America because I had passion fueled discussions with a Korean War veteran by the name of Lt. Cleveland McNealy (dad), who told me about struggle, racism, economic deprivation and other evils. I might not have known to appreciate the life I have.

I learned about the flaws of this great country – and I applaud its greatness. I grew up without my father but got to know him later in life. “Believe. Dare to be Great,” was his favorite phrase. Thank you America for letting me start a business – this descendant of Cherokee-Seminole, African, Portuguese, and Scottish peoples, amid my complaining. 

Thank you for allowing me to compete in a profession I love, advertising. Even if I don’t win the pitch, you are showing me the best of times.

I must thank you America for everything about you. You’ve given me a great life. I met Ronald Reagan, worked in the campaign of a diametric opposite, Tom Bradley four time mayor of Los Angeles and that great American hero, John McCain. America, you gave me opportunity to shoot the breeze with Buzz Aldrin, Shirley Chisholm and John Lewis. In every sense of the word they are Americans heroes.

I read a lot of black history. And yes, although I was young, I did my share of hell raising demonstrating for civil rights, and protesting. That’s why I love my country. It has flaws, but is a land of opportunity.

The American Revolution is a textbook study of greatness. It was also a time of political division (rebel vs loyalist, slaveholders vs slaves), while illustrating that from chaos greatness emerges.

I admire Gen. George Washington and consider him the greatest American of all time. Yes, he had slaves. But, there is evidence he also paid them and gave them the choice of leaving. Washington was such a charismatic figure, he could have declared himself King. This is unlike our present situation where we have a minuscule man striving mightily destroy our liberties and become the very thing Washington declined.

By the way, when we decide to make something, the rest of the world can’t match it. They can steal it, or learn to build it — but…

This is an example of American  greatness. It was two days before Christmas in 1783 when Washington strode into the statehouse at Annapolis, Maryland. He address the Congress and surrendered his military commission. Washington declared, “Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of Action—and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

Imagine, he could seized it all. That type of man probably wouldn’t approve of some of the things we have become. Benghazi cover-up, coddling terrorists (Fort Hood killer), IRS scandal,a deserting soldier brokered for Al Quada terrorists and lying about it all. Politicians fan the flames of division, toward what end, who knows. We’ve sent God on vacation from our hearts. 

But this is still the country that Gen. Washington struggled to liberate. I’m grateful for it.

So, on your birthday, the day we declared independence from Britain, July 4th, thank you America for letting me be who I am. Thank you for letting me have a chance to succeed, and to fail, and be given another opportunity to do it all again.

If this is post disjointed, forgive me. There is emotion that swells in my heart when I think about the greatness of America past and hopefully future. Have any safe and glorious Independence Day.

Catch you later,

 

Bernard Alexander McNealy

Carson Dunn Media Advertising

New Beginnings: Meg Tilly Motivation Moment

In 1993, there was a remake of the Kevin McCarthy classic, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” called “Body Snatchers.” To me, life often plays out like a movie. Seemingly we live by a script. Sometimes we write it daily; other times life just sort of happens.

Each action one takes is the consequence of each event leading up to that moment of occurrence.

I’ve developed certain talents beneficial in carrying out whatever vocation I am undertaking. I am acting consequential to the script of preparation. For example, I went to law school and ultimately opened an administrative law and mediation practice; then, a series of events led me down the winding path of opening an advertising agency.

Lately, after more setbacks than progress, I re-evaluated whether I want to keep going. On a personal level it was hurtful when someone I relied on to help re-branding my agency, took her considerable talents elsewhere (she’ll do well). It was a bothersome setback when two people designated as department leaders proved ill-suited. Their responsibilities had to be filled quickly, so I selected myself because it was cheaper (doing thing on the cheap is always a mistake) because our clients were paying late if prodded — or not at all, if requested.

I didn’t like explaining our internal dwindle to prospects and existing clients. I’m still be a little unsettled by being thrown off-balance. Here is where the Meg Tilly Motivation Moment comes in.

The scene is a master shot of the den and living room of darkly lightly house with music droning low — one long continuous note. Will Patton, playing ‘Steve,’ Meg’s husband, runs frantically down the stairs into the silhouetted living room. “Carol! Carol! We gotta go! Honey! We…we have get out,” Steve shouts. Meg is in the den whispering into the phone.

“Carol! We gotta get out of here! We gotta go,” Steve repeats. Clearly what he feared has just struck. Tears and fear ride the current of his words.

Cut across to a close up of Carol (Meg). She’s calm, despite knowing what’s happened. I found what happened next inspiring because I was contemplating taking Steve’s advice. Throwing up my hand in defeat.

Carol coos in a halting, three gin and tonic voice: “Go…where? Shhh…I want you to listen to me, Steve. Shhh. This is important…Steve.That thing that happened in the room, happened. It’s happened everywhere. But, where’re you gonna run? Where’re you gonna hide? You can’t, because there won’t anybody there like you. So, I ask you — go where — where’re you gonna run – where’re you gonna hide?”

Carol is calm — zombie calm — Jody Arias sneaking in your bedroom calm. Hell, Carol’s Meg Tilly.

The movie’s called Body Snatchers for a reason. In life you think the spaghetti has hit the fan because you believe you’re in the wrong place. I’ve felt like and been Steve more than once.

In my case the issue boils down to what would being apathetic achieve? What would running away prove? What would neglecting the business by disengaging myself intellectually accomplish? There’s no place to run — there’s no place to hide. Importantly, there is no one else like me.

Meg’s sexy-scary voice soliloquy said what I needed to hear because it was true. I am where I belong. This is the right time to improve on it and push beyond fear and confusion to abundant success.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: A Kick in The Pants Moment

I just caught a snippet of video featuring B. Bonin Bough VP of Mondelez International. The video segment was a promo for Advertising Age, but that isn’t what was important to me. The video was a “kick in the pants moment.”.

Mr. Bough touched on the idea of confidence and affirmation. He said a person has to remember to be their own cheerleader. For me, that means acknowledging how good I am at some facet of what I am doing in the ad profession. The more you put yourself in the conversation, the greater the likelihood someone will check you out. It’s not bragging, but trying to gain an advantage. From self-affirmation, business relationships flow.

No matter the size of the agency, we should be of notoriety, the good kind. No one will knows or care if we labor in obscurity.

I remember something that continues to rankle me about the disappointment of relying on a former staff member to sit down with me and create a couple of spec ads an a short video for a presentation. It never got done.  She was being paid, but she had to be approached like she was Queen Elizabeth or ‘Jenny from the Block’ — keep your eyes averted or she’ll throw chewing gum at you.  So, I went to the meeting as prepared as possible. I had some good research on the company and its target, and a few visuals in the briefcase. We were up against a slick nimble group, and I suppose its best to say our lack of materials got us blown out of the water. I did something that ran contrary to who I am — I apologized for the shortcomings of my agency. As it so happens, there were a couple websites we’d done (with some damn terrific copy, I might ad) that the client glanced at. 

Here’s the teachable moment. Later, the VP of the client company sensed my depression. He walked me back over what we’d done and failed to do. This guy was pretty “old school” and from New Yawk. He said, in essence, Jenny needed to take her butt to another block. Don’t allow people to pull me down, he emphasized. If I need a pat on the back, I have long, flexible arms and can do it. God knows that co-worker didn’t exalt our company in the least. I called Jenny in and told her that she was free to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Mr. Bough’s little cameo for Ad Age reminded me or two things: Its okay to be your own critic. However, my greater virtue is that given a chance to get in the room (That’s a Draperism) I can pitch an idea real well. After the backslapping done, the true measure of what I do, is the ability to capitalize on whatever opportunity I attain. 

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

 

New Beginnings: “David Ogilvy? What Band’s He In?”

There are times in our lives that we need inspiration, perhaps guidance. For me that has been David Ogilvy. I’m reading Kenneth Roman’s book about the great man. As a former chairman and CEO of the Ogilvy & Mather agency, Kenneth Roman provides an almost pictorial biography of the agency’s early days, Mr. Ogilvy’s history prior to founding it, and the agency’s subsequent years.

Advertising was not my first profession. It grew out of my mediation practice. One day, my associate and I were discussing what was basically, “What I’m going to do when I grow up,” and for some reason we revisited a component of our business. In the past, our practice had a number of small business clients that needed help planning and drafting ad copy, and buying media. History had repeated itself and we had gotten a few similar business clients.

Their needs were similar, including graphic design, media buying and other aspects of the ad business. That was our ‘a-ha’ moment. “Hey gang, let’s become an advertising agency.” Well, the small staff got smaller. It was the height of the Great Recession. My wonderful associate decided she could the same thing and started her own marketing and ad agency – stealing my sales staff and the last viable accounts.

Then, one day wallowing in anger at Barnes & Nobel, I saw it: “Confessions of an Advertising Man.” This was Mr. Ogilvy’s own story and I fell head over heels. I read it and stared at the cover and interior like I was exploring the mysteries of a beautiful woman. I committed myself to learning not just about Ogilvy, but the advertising profession and started formally learning it. Slowly, we got a few clients – small businesses but they were paying customers.

It’s a struggle learning to run a small agency. You fight for new accounts, fight to obtain and keep personnel, and gain relevancy and credibility.  Often you are in it alone — or it feels that way. In looking at Roman’s book on Mr. Ogilvy, I took away a number of things. Ogilvy, paradox that he was, was a consummate professional. He built a philosophy, not just an agency. He believed in writing long, explainatory copy. Mr. Ogilvy was also a bit rigid about what constituted good advertising. I love writing copy, and detest jumbled messages, whether written for print or produced as a commercials. 

Sadly, the profession is riddled with people who don’t know bad advertising from middling. I am sadden when I encounter interns who ask:  “David Ogilvy? What band is he in? Oh, yeah. That’s the dude that won American Idol.” Professor Longhair over at Middle Finger U doesn’t tell them a damn thing about “The King of Madison Avenue.” Or, for that matter, Leo Burnett (Yeah him; power forward, LA Lakers) Rosser Reeves, Ted Bates, Mary Wells. Jerry Della Ferma, Jay Chiat, Carol P. Williams, Harry Webber and the people that actually helped make the advertising profession. Professor Longhair knows all about his friend’s agency and tells his students that real agencies must have ping pong tables, dogs the in hallways, tattoo contests, just like that progressive visionary agency “Laptop Larry” started.

Laptop Larry’s amenities are about as useful as an air sandwich. We used to call those features bullshit. An old mentor once told me that when you’re bullshitting, you’re not working.

Back to Mr. Ogilvy.

What is inspiring for me is the modest beginnings of his now gigantic agency. Sure he had partners that contributed to its funding, but the bottom line is that even when accounts were few, he never quit. He also paid himself modestly and took care of his workers by establishing profit sharing.

There’s a tendency for people to crawl into a fetal position of surrender when times are rough. We whine about entitlement but in reality nothing good comes from whining – effort pays off. Last year, my business partner and I decided to transform into a digital agency. But, here is the thing: First and foremost we are an advertising agency. David Ogilvy said that an agency’s role is to sell its client’s product. Yes, strive for creativity, put the maximum effort in it, but serve your clients – move their stuff from the shelves and into the hands of consumers.

I’ll read a few more chapters and start my recovery.

Catch You later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings:   A Father’s Day Thank you

Like many black men, I grew up without my father in the home. I never resented him, or questioned why he was absent from my life. It was a fact of life and I accepted it as such.

My mother supplied several dozen reasons (daily it seems) as to why they had divorced. I loved my mother. But although she was endearing, she was a difficult character tat times. So as a kid I packed a sandwich bag many a day and headed for the railroad. I was going to get away from that woman and live a hobo’s life. From the way she blistered my ears blasting me verbally, I think I understand one the reasons Dad headed for the hills.

Was that the real justification? Some things provide their own rationale, so in the end, it doesn’t matter. I had strong men in life to help through hurdles and pitfalls. If I have any worth as a man today, it is because of the men God placed in my life.

My older brother Sammie was a constant morale force.  Even while we were kids, he taught me to be respectful of women. Sammie was wise and cool. When I had my first foray into interracial dating (a beautiful red-haired Irish-American girl) and it went sour, Sammie helped me to deal with the pain of rejection. You see, my would-be girlfriend’s father was a Boston cop; as were two of her older brothers.  I was unceremoniously shown the door.  

Sammie had a lot of Italian-American friends and one was a ‘made man.’  He didn’t shoot me when I met his niece and my heart raced. Uncle Vito said, “You boys are  part Sicilian.”  That only meant he was accepting and knew the young heart. That particular uncle was infamous to law enforcement, but besides protecting us from less understanding folks, he taught me that all things pass away with time. Vito said: “Enjoy life, kid because your tomorrow may not get here.”  Vito treated his wife well. I remember him as being a hell of a dresser. Sammie took after him because my brother dressed with style. Here’s the point, Vito was a strong man who showed us how to believe in ourselves. Fathers you see, are mentors and encourage you to excel.  

My grandfather, Sherman taught me to appreciate the gift of perseverance. Of course, he was there to straighten me out when I steered off course. I remember a week before his death, Grand-daddy Sherman called us from Augusta. I spoke to him briefly, but Sammie had the phone more than me. I honestly believe that he made Sammie promise to watch out for me and keep my tail out of trouble. Try as I might, my big brother always pulled me out of whatever crap I brought on myself.

My uncles James and Robert (RD) influenced me in much the same was as ‘Uncle Vito’ and my older brother.  James taught me martial arts – Robert taught me how to play baseball and football. Everything they knew about both, Sherman taught them.

For the last ten years of his life, Dad and I had a very strong relationship – an unbreakable bond. I loved the man I learned he was. He was a college graduate, served in the Korea War, later was a business man. Dad took me to task about some less a less than appreciate attitude I had about our country. He was a fighter and even killed people in war. He didn’t have regrets about it because he was a product of his father and time – a real man.  

Lately, several things happened to me that has proven to be deflating.  I remember the most valuable lesson a young man can learn as he grows into adulthood: “Don’t give up – get off the ground. Plant your feet — turn around and kick ass.”

I’m not a young man anymore. It’s time to listen to those voices and act.

All of the men that served as father figures, as a guide,  mentors, teachers, and spiritual forces and my birth father have died. I remain to remember: “Live life…avoid trouble…appreciate your gifts… tomorrow is not promised… don’t give up. Plant my feet…”

And I thank them all.

Catch you later,

 

Bernard A. McNealy, President 

Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc.

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