Food For Thought: The New Year

A sacred burden is this life you bear:

Look on it, lift it, bear it solemnly,

Stand up and walk beneath it steadfastly.

Fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin,

But onward, upward, till the goal, you win…

                                                            (Frances Anne Kemble)

By the time this blog appears, it will be late January 2017. 2016 has passed and if nothing else, it was interesting. A year is a period of time that can be best characterized not as the 365 days it takes Terra (Earth) to obit the Sun, but as shadow-play in which events occur that will affect us for the remainder of our time on this planet.

 

365 days is a proper period to reflect on those events and decide how we can improve the quality of who we are. During that measure of time, one can also weigh the wisdom of and proper method of jettisoning things that caused our year to be less than what it should have been.

 

That is what I decided to do –throw off the bullshit. God knows I had to confront a lot of it in 2016. Every year is filled with challenges and rewards. For me, a reward should be the grand pay-off for enduring. My rewards have been few, but I have learned a lot.

 

I thought about using this blog as a vehicle to write about happy stuff – things that will compel prospective clients to join us in our field of sunshine. But that would suggest that we are trouble free at CDM Digital Advertising — we are not – most of the time. Regardless, we welcome business.

 

I am the source of most of it. The problem stems from the fact that I am a ‘nice guy.’ Well if I learned anything last year, is that being Mr. Nice guy put’s a bulls-eye on my back because you don’t question but accept things as they are.

 

This is not a recitative of resolutions for the New Year, but a declaration of what won’t happen anymore.

 

What I am about to say has to do with being president of a small marketing agency and being close to the action. If we had a larger company with its attendant layers of management, I wouldn’t be talking about it. Call this cautionary as I move on. A colleague of mine that owns a public relations shop told me something that made me cautious going into 2017.

 

She was the victim of a reoccurring nightmare. It started with at least two bad hires. These were nasty minded, treacherous people that would probably steal oxygen from their grandmother’s nostrils -– small wonder they created hell within the office.

 

She wouldn’t tell me their names, she didn’t have to — I had their resumes on my desk. Every business experiences these types. It is best to promptly point them to the exit if they walk in the door. A small agency cannot afford their antics.

 

She also encountered some lazy, dense interns that complained about the number of assignments they received or walked away from them. Assignments come with the territory, folks.

 

Here is the worst of it, though: clients that we call ‘time-stealers.’ You will know a ‘time-stealer,’ by their tactics – soliciting your time for services – receiving them — and not paying for them. She had several of them last year.

 

That year also brought several people that refused to understand the difference between a ‘publicist,’ and ‘public relations agency.’

 

They wanted a lot for nothing and more beyond that. They were also time- stealers. This really affected the ‘nice guy’ in me. There’s a warning for every business in my friend’s experience. Use it for the new year and prosper.

 

Bernard Alexander McNnealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Food for Thought: “Loyalty” is a Seven Letter Word

 (Part 2)

‘Part 1’ of this article postulated that there is a protocol of professional etiquette one should follow when a decision is made to leave a company. This protocol takes into full account perceptions of fairness or a belief of having been treated unfairly.

Maybe it’s best to leave quietly but express yourself at the exit interview, or do it in a letter to the object of concern. Putting it “on blast” is a bit questionable. There are exceptions like provable criminality, legally culpable racial discrimination, or sexual harassment.

Here’s the rule: If it will be in public discourse, speak to your reasons honestly. Don’t hire ‘Red Gloria’ and get pimped like a fool, though. Don’t.

I’ve interviewed prospective employees that lambasted their former bosses for any number of subjective misdeeds. Some having to do with business ethics; while others spoke to personal and intimate details of things one normally commits to memory and silence. Some people also go online and place a blot on the reputations of a company and individual. To me, this is wrong.

We forget that bosses and coworkers are people that probably wish us well. I understand keeping one’s business close to the vest, but jobs are more than just collecting paychecks: they are relationships of trust. It hurts when a friend walks out the door.

Certainly, how one leaves the job is an individual decision, and thus their actions are individual undertakings. On that, there can be no argument. But an employee leaving is often a kick to the solar plexus – it hurts. It hurts particularly if you felt that you mentored an individual. It hurts because you feel that they did not trust you enough to let you know of their decision. Of course, it’s the employee’s prerogative. The question remains as to whether a courtesy is owed.

I remember this young woman whom I mentored and thought a bond and trust existed. I did everything I could to prepare her for dealing with advertising at our level and beyond. In the most inconsiderate fashion, I found out she was leaving because a fax came in reminding her to bring her resume and related materials to an interview that morning.

She’d call and misled me, with: “I may be in later – if that’s okay.” It was her business to act in a manner she deemed appropriate, but that fax kicked me in the gut. And, it was the last time I saw her.

When I’ve had to fire someone, I found it depressing and reacted accordingly, cocooning myself until the feeling went away. I’m sensitive, sure. But, I also grew up having to fend for myself. Still, someone leaving a job that you shared in commonality leaves the degree of a scar.

But, we’re all grown-ups here.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Food For Thought: Loyalty is A Seven Letter Word

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Loyalty is a Seven Letter Word    (Part 1)

One seldom writes a newsletter because they happen to be great a writer. The same applies to blogging. As a business, we assume that there is an audience eager to digest and intellectualize what is in our newsletter. A communications business is no different than any other firm – the mechanics are the same – the problems are no different.   This isn’t a great mystery.

We’ve committed ourselves to impart information about marketing and advertising. The idea is to help the reader in some manner. After all, we’re in this together – whatever this is – hopefully, we’ll come out smarter because of the experience.

Right now, I’m freestyling. I intended to write on something else, but my mind feels like it’s swimming in a sea of melancholia. This is attributable to a thoughtful LinkedIn article I read this morning. The topic had to do with whether one should be silent as they are looking for another job. I have some thoughts about that.

Pay attention, millennial.

My contention is that one must be careful about burning bridges. They know it, but the reasons are lost on them. Often when a person is looking for another job, it may result in the employer ending the relationship early; that very possibility may compel that employee to just leave. My feelings are colored by personal history; my views are shaped by it.

I once worked for a public interest law firm. People figuratively sat their hair on fire and used the strands as fuses for Molotov cocktails – we were radicals, baby. Okay, that was especially the case if you had a trust fund. Anyway, some people believed that I was the resident head of radicalism – exemplified by a three-piece suit and a Che’ Guevara beret.

One day, after a lot of office turmoil, this very interesting woman walked into my office and sat down. She waxed eloquently about how she was dying to meet me, yak, yak, yak. It turns out she was sort of an imported hitwoman whose sole job was to get rid of me. She was sent by our funding source. “White shoe” law firms used her to devise ways of dismissing problematic employees. Wynonna Earp, a cute, but deadly enforcer.

Well, I silently started my job search, yet soon announced my intent to call it a wrap, in advance of leaving. Despite the corporate bat feces that had been directed at me, I felt obligated to let Boss Hogg and his herd know.

It strikes me that most people think it’s proper to search by stealth and announce they are leaving. Personal choice. I’ve seen some people develop an attitude that can be interpreted as:

“I don’t owe you nothin’, so I’m outta here.”

To me, this is wrong. I felt obligated to the people that paid me a paycheck, even though I took my Che’ Guevara fakery seriously. Boss Hogg and the Hazzard County Commission were really decent people and seemed sincere at my going away party. Wynonna Earp stayed outside poised like a gunfighter.

Damn. A crazy girl with a gun ready to kill my future…Damn.

Bernard Alexander McNealy

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Is That Ice Tea?

(It must be because he’s wearing a cool suit.)

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Everyone at Geico hopes its heavily rotated commercial where a question is posed to kids operating a lemonade stand, has been seen by the world. Three adults walk up and ask, “Is that ice tea?” We won’t spoil the punchline because it’s the same as blurting out the ending of a movie you’re about to see.

We’ve all had these moments. The popcorn is about to crunch in your mouth when a loudmouth a row behind you says: “I’ve seen this five times. Yeah. Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s dad.”

That kills the anticipation. You want to throw milk duds at the big mouth. Here is the relational gist all business should have: “product clarity,”and “brand distinction.”

The kids in the commercial are selling lemonade, but seem to encounter the same question about what they’re selling. In advertising clients often failed to identify essential key markers for success.

It begins with packaging. Perhaps it resembles similar packaging for a totally unrelated product. People are also reluctant to change their websites because Uncle Fredo did it. But, Uncle Fredo used the 1998 AOL homepage template. (Inspect a few clothing lines or restaurants websites) The layouts are chaotic and have too many fonts.

Think about walking in front of a beautiful business establishment, only to be let down by décor that’s raggedy, archaic, or too opulent.

There is a brand perception issue. What are you buying, exactly? Here is an anecdote. We were at the beginning stages of a campaign for a professional service company. Their business cards were Times New Roman. The stationery masthead fonts were gothic. Their company colors were dissimilar. It happens that the company’s envelopes were similar in color to a company that fell into disfavor  with a number of businesses. Our client’s stuff went into the trashcan.

Brand confusion happens more often than one might think, and its avoidable. Branding actually defines what a business is. To some this is elementary, but to most, it isn’t.  Here are some questions one should ask about their business:

  • Have we established, a clear and concise message about our  brand?
  • Does the brand messaging  extend to every aspect of the business, including how the phone is answered, and what people wear as ambassadors of the company on  sales calls?
  • Does the messaging “voice” for the company truly reflect what the brand represents? Evaluate then act to improve it.
  • Develop a tagline that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and reflective of the brand  for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel. Consistency is paramount
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.

Branding must be designed to bring about product distinction. If it isn’t — marketing becomes more difficult. Don’t take branding lightly. Don’t mistake ice tea for lemonade.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Food for Thought: Yep. I’m Talking About You.

5b45f2_bb8384fbd35f4ccea3d71062eb6379abI was scooping water from the kiddie pool we have for the little ones. I needed a workout, so, soon I worked up a nice sweat. After feeling like my arms and back were getting swole like Shannon Sharpe, I found a lawn chair and started sipping coffee while engaging in one of my favorite pastimes, looking at websites of advertising and PR agencies, playing my version of  “Where’s Waldo.” I call it, “Can You Spot the Black Dude?”

I grew tired of it because most agencies with headshots of their crews were still 95% white, so it got tedious. Some of these folks reminded me of the newborn in the Raymond Bradbury short story, “That Only a Mother.”Looking at them got brutal.

There was also an absence of people over 45-50 from the so-called, dynamic, creative shops. What’s interesting is that if you find websites pre-Y2K you found the over 45-50 set — looking like exiles. Maybe, in some respects they are.

I was going to write a blog making wisecracks about the advertising industry’s failure to take seriously gender, sexual, racial and age discrimination. Damn, I started to have a sweeping wave of emotion. Sadness, maybe. Such jokes aren’t funny and are unnecessary.

I ran into an article in AdWeek that put things in focus and I knew why the caged bird sings. And this stuff is crazy. I asked myself if Jim Crow has repackaged and cloned his despicable Johnny Reb self and joined all the major advertising holding companies as upper management.

They are even putting out to pasture, people that could be mentors — the over 45-50 crowd — people who have a vague idea of who Tippy Hedren is. Read it in Agency Spy. They fired Grandpappy Amos and Granny Clampett when the clock turned on them. Hell, they still had dark hair and only contemplated botox. In the article, a group of agency insiders all confirm that ageism exists. That’s why Granny split, and Amos is off building a Y2K style website. He needs a job in the profession he loves. Granny plans to join him.

When you consider the rather alarming avalanche of lawsuits for racial discrimination (which gets  little coverage —  indictable in and of itself), sexual discrimination against women, and an endless list,  it cries not for reform, but for resolution.

These issues are not constructs of imagination, but sickening reality. It has been too prevalent in every industry, particularly advertising. Later in the year, although we’re small with small agency struggles, our plan is to bring on board two people otherwise excluded from our club. It’s a small step. No big agency drama or attractiveness, but it’s a step nonetheless.

What about you, “Mr. or Ms. Small Shop?” Can you help change the paradigm? Money is  an issue. I can absorb a hit on what I make and make it possible for us. (I’ve been doing it anyway). All of us can play a part and show the big boys how it’s done because they aren’t going too. If we own or partner in an agency — money is always a moveable commodity. However, the exiles are precious for their knowledge and should be treasured.

So, the question is, “What’s in your heart?”

Bernard Alexander McNealy

Food For Thought: Too Much Information; Not Enough Timebad day

By now, anyone that has read my blogs knows that I am the president of a small advertising agency. We’re an agency because we do with agencies do – assist clients by offering marketing services, and by generating adverts. Okay. Simple enough, but did you know that it’s difficult? Sometimes it’s even thankless and definitely can be money draining.

Let me reveal a masochistic tendency about my relationship to advertising and its pitfalls: I like it.

However, it’s lonely at the top. I’m supposed to know everything. But, I’ve discovered in the quest to know everything, there’s not enough time to discover and absorb the information. This morning I attended a meeting on integrating CRM and marketing automation. It was quite a discussion. It was definitely not ‘old school’. Tomorrow, I’m going to learn more about data and analytics.

The other day, someone sat in my office and droned on about programmatic methods for media buying. That meeting left me cross-eyed, and, this morning my left eye became my right eye and vice versa.

There is a project sitting on my desk that needs commentary, possibly requiring me to analyze why the graphics are off, and why the copywriting inconsistent. Yep. Helping to straighten out the inconsistencies of this advertising issue should be my element, but this other 21st-century digital modernist stuff keeps getting in the way.

What I’m learning is that it’s almost impossible for one person to take on the roles we small agency operators often have. What often suffers is that in the struggle to keep up, customer needs are affected negatively. Certainly, it’s unintentional. It also isn’t because we can’t let go and delegate because is often no one to delegate to. The hope is to incorporate a system and bring in individuals that can handle the nuances and intricacies required of  marketing specialists, and sales people. It’s great being top management, but I want the end product that we produce to improve massively because our clients deserve it.

Running an agency has become more complex than before simply because as the tools of delivering our services improve, the level of difficulty to increase. When I got started in marketing and advertising, very seldom did we give the Internet a thought except to do basic research. The heavy stuff was done by some nerd steeped in statistics and research, and no one really cared how they learned it. I’m not doing myself a service by lagging behind in learning of, and discovering the usage of online sales technology and tools.

But, I’m not a sales director but a guy that writes ads for other businesses.

It’s not so much a complaint but recognition that this profession is a difficult one to master. It’s easy to be mediocre. The standards that we set for ourselves should be higher than mediocrity. Clients place trust in us as well as pay for our services. As the remainder of the day closes, I’ll probably sketch out how all of this headache-inducing “stuff,” can help me develop my vision of a company that is proficient, nimble and capable of doing knockout work.
Some clients understand.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a former client that told me of the plenteous marketing and advertising needs of his startup. He was considering hiring a large agency in Los Angeles. After giving him an assessment of their capabilities, they quoted a retainer that made him choke. Still, he went to their offices and was given a brief tour and noticed they had departments committed to doing the very thing I’m trying to come up to speed on.

“These people are cold. When you handled a project for me, your staff treated me well,” he said.

I replied: “It’s just the Golden Rule. Honestly, that other agency’s a better fit. It may be in your best interest to go with them.”

“Remember, if they’re not accessible, I doubt if they’re working for me. Never take the personal touch out of what you do.” He said, but took my advice.

After encouraging me, he gave an analogy of a small agency taking on a big formidable one. He talked about a boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson. In his story, Ray knocked Iron Mike out. That analogy is reflective of reality because we try to compete against competitors that have five floors of creatives to undertake a project and know the modern digital “stuff.”

That’s a great analogy, but if Mike tags Sugar Ray with a left hook, imagine the little guy’s headache. Maybe, learning stuff that will make me cross-eyed makes sense.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Food For Thought: Dealing With Sexual Harassment

chick9qQKPProbably to the person doing it, being accused of sexual harassment shouldn’t be a shock. You know what you know. Usually, as in the case of Roger Ailes, soon to be formerly of Fox News, it’s a man doing the harassing. As Gretchen Carlson’s accusations have not been adjudicated, Ailes is an ‘alleged’ perpetrator. The same thing applies to Bill Cosby. Nothing has been proven, though an allegation of sexual assault is processing through the criminal courts. Presumption of innocence should prevail.

There is a legal definition, and thus a threshold of conduct that falls within the definition of sexual harassment. It’s supposedly ironclad, but I contend an accusation can be often off based. There is such a thing as a misunderstanding. I’m not talking about the quid quo pro, “Hey, sugar, you’re working for me. Play with me and have a drink, sister and you’ll go far,” I had a short stint as a writer for a production company way back when. I met a woman executive that said that to me. She tossed in the cartoonish skin-crawling protruding eyeballs as her hand traveled somewhere between my lap and knee. Those types of things are easy to call, as it in the case of a woman being hit on by a supervisor or co-worker. My point is that it shouldn’t happen – no one should feel uncomfortable doing his or her job.

Those types of things are easy to call, as it in the case of a woman being hit on by a supervisor or co-worker. My point is that it shouldn’t happen – no one should feel uncomfortable doing his or her job.

I remember interviewing a young woman who, initially came across as being all business. She didn’t stay that way. She repositioned her chair to sit directly in front of me – slapping a hand on my knee and a display of cleavage came next. I was stunned, but more so by the overture she floated at me. I had no real interest and politely refused. Why? Quite honestly, it could have been a setup. I’m also married to the woman of my dreams. Besides, that’s not how I conduct myself in the workplace.

After that incident, I had my female assistant manager, conduct interviews with me, or, altogether, take the lead with women. Our agency has always been small with many lineup changes, but the culture is interesting. It’s always been my belief in providing a safe, comfortable environment. My colleague and I thought it essential to nip issues early on because, even off premises, men and women exhibited a lot of locker-room bawdiness and language. It usually spills over to the workplace. We felt the being proactive with written policies, and role playing were the best ways to deal with this issue.

Here’s a cliché’ “Appreciate women for their character and ability to do the job…” That’s really true, but also pabulum because it’s just a set of words that sound right. There are a number of people who want sexual neutrality and gender equality in the workplace. Just like the mythical “color-blind” society they claim they live in, its bull. It is a given that men and women doing the same job should be paid the same. That’s just common sense, not arguable. However, ‘sexual neutrality’ is a notion that goes against the male and female dynamic. Put men and women together and there will be tension.

As a man, I appreciate women for their gifts – intellectual and esthetic. I will pay attention, open doors and show deference because I am a man. No apologies. The unfortunate thing is that some men turn a gaze into a leer. That’s when the illusion that a quiet friendly smile, manner of dress, and professionalism is an invitation to make a woman feel devalued. In all ways holy, that’s just plain wrong. It’s also equally wrong to assume there is a demand behind, “Hello how was your day?” or, “Nice outfit. You wear it well.”

If the latter happens, remember you’re not under attack. It is called a ‘compliment.’

Food For Thought: The Evangelist

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Maybe it’s finally started to dawn on me, but as one who runs a small advertising agency, I’m realizing that I cannot do it alone. While serendipity set in, I also know that certain aspects of my job require me to do the selling of agency services. That process has to be systematic, consistent, and in some respects automated. I’m wasn’t big on ad tech, but it’s a necessity. “One must adapt – resistance is futile,” a former client of mine that resembled a Borg Soldier (from Star Trek mythos) told me. He was right.

Too many of us in the small agency arena have the illusion that we’re glib MadMen. We aren’t. I seldom consume alcohol. So is very unlikely that I will get a client agreement after a three martini lunch. I’m not friends with a politician or some big business owner. Getting clients requires hustling, and when relating the virtues of what we do in my shop, speaking with the fervor of an evangelist.

That doesn’t mean that I have to become the king of alliteration, breaking out into a gospel song in the middle of the presentation, but it means something that is lost on most of us. We must believe without whole hearts in what we’re doing and offering and that it is good.

Why now?

Easy. Change has to come from within. I referenced MadMen, not because of the television show, but the familiarity people have with it and the era of advertising it represents. Below I have studied the subject, my principal learning came from reading and consuming everything that I could get my hands on regarding David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Jerry Della Fermia, Roy Eaton and Leo Burnett. I had no illusions of walking into some agency and showing off my portfolio. I transitioned to marketing and advertising but wanted to bring the same sensibility and vision to what I was doing, as had the Masters of Madison Avenue.

That era has passed not because of creative obsolescence, but as the winds of time move the sand, it does the same to our lives. Thankfully, they passed down a legacy. Strive to be great.

For me, the lessons learned from studying the greatest should translate into developing a level of confidence and competence. The agencies of the Masters grew not only from superior creative work but also from unison within the agency. What’s produced these days can be summed up by a line from the lips of Jack Lemon in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross: “It’s horseshit.”

I’m a firm believer that the fame of Ogilvy, Bernbach, and the rest came about because they had strong sales ability – if not people in the trenches kicking in doors. The creative work spoke for itself – it was magnificent. Account services were practiced on a level generally not seen today. So, that’s what slipped past.

When CDM Digital Advertising was in its nascent days as Carson Dunn Media Advertising about eight years ago, or whenever the recession started, I was the face of the company. Sales came because I did the majority of the networking consisting mainly of going to civic organization meetings, and being the agency motor mouth. Here’s what is unpleasant about sales: rejection. There is also a hint of ridicule behind that. Can you imagine some CEO puffing up his face, turning his nose at the mention of your agency? It happens.

But in rejection, you’re reminded to persevere. An evangelist believes in the word they are spreading. Nothing should deter him or her. In the last year, I examined different sales funnel models, methodology to convert leads into actual clients, until I turned blue. (I have a Carmel complexion, so can you imagine?)

Here’s an observation. I’ve noticed that perspective clients have made a decision prior to meeting me. That decision is based on their belief of the benefits of their brand. My shop is a brand, too. Thus, despite differences in bank accounts and business clout, the client is the same as I am. They want to interface with a human being. As a communicator, I should be able to develop rapport, as I grow to understand what they are dealing with and growing their businesses.

It’s my hope that as I turn over the reins the new business development and sales to someone in my organization, they have that understanding as well. Marketing automation tools help a great deal to keep everything organized, but without commitment and belief, the agency evangelist is hitting his head against the wall.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Why We Don’t Do Porn — A Second Look

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog post called: “Why We Don’t Do Porn”. It is now 2016, and while I am not reassessing my moral positioning on a given matter, or practicing relativism, I am looking at business realities. Then and now, as the agency president/owner, I am the titular head of new business and responsible for bringing in revenue for a small advertising agency. Quite honestly, the competition has an edge – pragmatism.

I say pragmatism because when one takes an unequivocal stance as to what they will and will not do, they are not taking into consideration the fact that the world is not made of black and white, but is a series of gray gradations. It determines our moral precepts and presumptions. A stance based on ‘moral’ grounds is admirable. Echoing Dr. Martin Luther King and several others, a person that this does not stand for something, will fall for anything. Here is the problem. It is also painting one’s self into a corner.

By the very nature of owning a business, I am a capitalist. In most respects I am laissez-faire. I believe too much government regulation is nothing more than interference with what I’m doing for my family. Still, I am an advocate of fair and equal wages irrespective of gender, and endeavor to pay them. I hope most businesses understand child labor, anti-discrimination laws, and workplace safety are the unquestioned law of the land. If you resist them, you’re an idiot.

The workplace should be as comfortable, and welcoming as a person’s home. Feeling this way doesn’t make me nobler than anyone else. It’s a recognition common sense should be a constant presence in all that we do.

When I wrote that blog post in 2011, it reflected my feelings. I haven’t necessarily changed, but as I said I’m a capitalist, my business is supposed to make money. Our society has changed and every evolves. America has become a place I no longer recognize. The marijuana business has become a growth industry. What should my stance be – ignore it? That’s one approach. But for an agency that may mean not pursuing a potentially profitable account.

And, what about e- cigarettes — should I just pursue pitching those companies that claim to only use herbal products? What about the pharmaceutical industry? What if a pro-abortion group wanted to promote an event related to women health issues? Should I let my pro-life stance interfere with providing advertising or some form of promotional marketing for them? And what about politicians? Some do lie — few tell the truth — but will if the gun is aimed between the eyes. I have to question whether or not I should help promote one of them.

Here’s my honest opinion. We live in a place called the “Big Picture.” That is simply defining ourselves as moral beings that recognize that there is a greater good and a higher power. Universal morality comes knowing these things. Still, if presented with something that is unpopular or controversial, payroll considerations will factor in the decision. Does that mean CDM Digital Advertising will provide marketing for PornHub, ‘adult’ products or a girlie magazine? I can only say that caring about the whole human being will factor into it. If a product or organization is hell-bent on degrading people, to them I say, try the creative outfit up the block.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising

Agency Culture: “The CDM Way”

The idea of agency culture is powerful. Culture can be defined several ways. It could be a culture based on intimidation, paranoia, or political infighting. Culture can also be nurtured trust, from that, productivity develops. Ideally, culture within the company goes a long way to allowing those things to come to fruition that make us fulfilled in what we’re doing.

Studying other agencies have given me a perspective. At one time, culture embodied around company social interaction (crazy parties like they used to have before sexual harassment litigation, or dram shop lawsuits). When that stuff waned, agencies took on a casual style – torn clothing, sandals – disheveled chic — shorts — bowling alleys – ping pong tables and so on.

Is that culture, or comfort and playtime? I don’t know, but its sounds like recess. How many big ideas come from playing ping pong? How ticked off is a graphic designer buried with her nose in work while listening to guys drinking beer and shooting the crap about shagging girls?

Whatever form it is, culture should be positive. Everyone in an agency should embrace it because company culture is simply taking care of business the right way. Agency culture does not start with recess on the client’s time, but truly exists if the agency functions with cohesion.

Culture, or projected positiveness should be voiced by every member of the team. Interns, middle and senior management included. Everyone. Each is an ambassador of an agency, and should understand the shop’s motives and goals.

When asked, they should be able to enunciate it. It doesn’t require a lot of words, but whether or not we provide good work is demonstrated by the actual product. If it is memorable advertising, or the brand is made memorable by our work, it’s also evident, it is consequential by how we do things.

In the past I’ve written that I’m from the city of Boston. The NFL Patriots Football Team have a special place in my heart. I love the way that team operates – I love their culture. Our agency has a culture called the “CDM Way,” patterned on the “Patriot Way.” We’re gaining structure and a desire to be exceptional.

Here’s what the “Patriot Way” is: Cohesion. It starts with Mr. Kraft, to Coach Bellichek, to the players and staff. Individuality is not discarded, but loyalty and purpose are stressed to attain a goal: The championship. If one player or a group of them become susceptible to injury and cannot play, they are replaced by players who believe that they can get the job done. That is the Patriot Way. “Do Your Job–” Coach Bellichek exhorts.

The CDM Way is to do good work that enables a client’s products to sell. Consistency must be good year after year. We developed and mentored an excellent art director at CDM, but for whatever reason she left. She was also associate creative director, making her within a small percentage of female creative directors in the United States (that was regardless of agency size. Perhaps she did not understand or appreciate it.) She left with her work undone and it had the effect of an injury on the rest of us.

Her replacement was able to adapt her graphic styles to our style – the CDM Way. The work product is always supposed to stand for excellence, integrity and be respected for the workmanship. The same held true of copywriters. When a copywriter left, another replaced him.

When culture is real, the true objectives of an agency speak loudly. Quite honestly, when it is not, presentations a much harder, and RFP responses seem to be circular arguments. Whoever we are is represented by what we claim. That is not bragging, it is to simply state what we can provide that’s different than other agencies.

We are many things: a work in progress, a ‘dark horse’ unknown group in a nondescript building, but since we are developing, what we are today, will be tomorrow’s memory. We can’t be intimidated by relative smallness of staff. The Patriots didn’t capture a Superbowl until they had an earth shattering change in thinking. Prior to that, the team had been good, but the infusion of the culture of winners birthed a dynasty. History speaks to that.

I’m confident history will speak to the consistency of the CDM Way and its efforts to make a client’s brand memorable. That can only occur unless our agency culture is that of winners and believers.