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.

NEW BEGINNINGS: The Parable of the Chewing Gum Wrapper

It’s How You View It

The words of this blog may seen the bit self-serving and they probably are. Every missive has a point; it’s up to the reader to find application to whatever they are doing. Consider the parable of two people that stumble upon a chewing gum wrapper, separately and moments apart. They both pick it up and look at what’s written on the back of the wrapper. One person sees it as just a bunch of words on a piece of paper. He tosses it back to the ground. The second person stumbles on it, reads it carefully and sees the ingredients as perhaps be the key to the universe.

Here’s the lesson: pay close attention to the moment at hand and to what you are looking at because an elusive kernel of wisdom is staring at you.

I know this relates to me in the following respects. Operating a small advertising agency, which I will mention prominently throughout, is my latest foray into business. I’m also a writer of mystery fiction. I enjoy both and good at them. I find myself questioning whether or not either have brought me to success that I want –the question is whether or not success can be to find. That is an internal argument and ongoing.

Here is where a chewing gum wrapper analogy comes in. A man I was helping to get through a number of problems took exception to the way I was doing business. He made a comment that I was smart, so smart and back that I should be a millionaire. I listened, remembering that my Mercedes was parked downstairs next to his junk on wheels, and my shoes cost more than his entire ensemble. That isn’t being arrogant that wasn’t putting the guy down, but I’m stating a fact. The dude was actually putting me down because I didn’t act ostentatious like someone would have that he deemed to be successful. He misread the gum wrapper. But, I also learned something about life, and how quickly what one has dissipates in the thin air.

Guard what you have and build on it.

I took stock of my business assets, and other things including property that I owned. On the surface, or paper I was a millionaire. He was seeking rather rudimentary advice and if he’d taken his time to really observe what he felt the need to seek counsel for, he could have figured it out.

As the cusp of the 2017 stands over the horizon, I realize my agency cannot continue to do things as we have and expect optimum results. Change has been necessitated by time. It’s time for me to go forward and find people that share a common vision for marketing midsized companies. Every small agency owner faces the same thing – the quality of their staff, their motives and their commitment. Work-life balance is great – but for me it’s a myth.
It isn’t that busting my brain assures more of what I’m hoping to achieve – it’s just that hard work can pay off. Success is according to your own definition – but you have to try.

Working hard does not assure that I’m smarter than the next guy either. Success is a matter of positioning. Even the dumbest people have succeeded in business in spite of their lack of common sense. It’s blind luck, or just their turn to succeed. You have to try and put yourself in that position of achieving orbit of success.
What you did in the past is relevant only to the extent that is foundational to what you are trying to do today. It does not define you. As a year closes we probably can reflect on mistakes as opposed to pockets of success. Be that as it may — it is milk that cannot be unspilled.

Whatever business you’re in you happen to in is part of the cycle. Sometimes is repeated, sometimes it’s best to forget it and act as if it never happened. It’s the Don Draper Philosophy. Forget it – it’s happened – get your tail in gear and roll up your sleeves.

I know in my small corner of this business, we will encounter businesses that believe that they will succeed without the type of marketing we provide. I know they believe a fallacy because the client I’m attempting to do business with will encounter potential customers being courted by a similar product.

That’s too much reliance on the past. “We succeeded without you … Blah…blah…blah.” When 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.

CDM Digital Advertising offers advertising services that will help a company survive on something other than its own inertia. Our agency specializes in and execute campaign plans, analyzing marketing trends and development, and importantly, consumer receptivity of a brand. I learned that that my decision a few years ago about the type of clients I’d take on may have been wrong. Nowadays the very people I refused to marketed in the adult industry are being assisted by others, as are the medical marijuana merchants. It’s only foundation was that a mistake? No. It was looking at the chewing gum wrapper and realizing that those decisions were foundation to where I want to go.

Check you, later.

Bernard A. McNealy

Food For Thought: In Plain Sight

woman-645705_1280There is much uproar about whether a country can ban a group from its shores based on ideology, religion or nationality. What I said, you’re late to the party — it’s been done already.

People suffer from selective memory, especially if they believe it elevates them on some self-proclaimed platitude of being better than someone else. Let’s put it in context: Donald Trump. As people scream about Trump (who is enunciating a hypothetical policy and speculative political posture — thus words) there is an historical fact that backs him up.

It has been done before — by a ‘progressive democrat.’ It was the well-respected gentleman from Plains, Georgia, the “Peanut Farmer,” James Earle Carter. Get off the floor – I’m not making this up. Facts are facts.

US President Jimmy Carter froze immigration from a Muslim-majority nation in 1979 after the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun and American citizens were taken as hostages and terrorized by their captures.

Carter issued an executive order that all Iranian students in the U.S. had to report to immigration officials within thirty days. As a result of his sole decision 15,000 Iranians who were ejected from the country from a population of 50,000.

Now that’s just damn right un-American, isn’t it? Certainly no court would have allowed it to stand. Think again.

An Appeals Court decision upheld the President’s authority for the action, in part saying this: “The present controversy involving Iranian students in the United States lies in the field of our country’s foreign affairs and implicates matters over which the president has direct constitutional authority.”

There is a nexus to the current situation referred to in Trump’s idea. A concurring opinion in the decision made this point:

“Distinctions on the basis of nationality may be drawn in the immigration field by the Congress or the executive. So long as such distinctions are not wholly irrational, they must be sustained.” The court went to say that Carter’s edict is justified by perceived threats to national security.

History also points out that five months after the hostages were taken, the President imposed formal sanctions against Iran, including closing government offices, prohibiting exports from the U.S. into Iran, seizing domestic Iranian assets…

And, stopping entry by Iranian citizens into the U.S.

Here’s the pertinent line from Carter’s announcement:

“The Secretary of Treasury [State] and the Attorney General will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires. This directive will be interpreted very strictly.”

The United States has thus banned entry into the country on national security grounds – and under Democratic presidents. None of them are even close to what we call ‘evil.’ In addition to Carter’s freeze of entry into the U.S. for Iranians, FDR certainly imposed restrictions taken against Japanese and Germans.

Here is what people must remember. In the United States domestic policies, national security issues and the legalities of visa restrictions should be debated without vitriol because we should be concerned about the country and its direction. I’m afraid that the screaming and wild denunciations not only chase away civility, but common sense.

You don’t learn unless you listen to other viewpoints. You are a fool if you believe that only your ideas matter. Truth then hides in plain sight. If America has enemies, that’s their key to our destruction.

Trump may not be diabolical or mean, and neither was the “Peanut Farmer.” Their motives are and were spurred by what is seen as unjustifiable events from members of a certain population.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising Agency

Food For Thought: Veterans Day 2015: Sometimes, Thank You Isn’t Enough

I lived in Boston until my teen years. Despite its rather checkered history in race relationships, Boston is a place where my heart beats faster because I discovered what I am – I am an American. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate people that live in other countries, and I sense their struggles and their ambition for both are human. I’m certain that their histories are rich, colorful, and valiant but I have something that they don’t have – I am an American.

I’m not going to ignore incidents of police brutality, blatant injustice and discrimination. I’m sure those other places have skeletons. But, today is Veterans Day. Honesty makes me acknowledge by the hand of God I was fortunate enough to be born in the latter part of the 20th century in a country that offers opportunities to go beyond my wildest imagination.

My ancestors are African, Gaelic and Native American. My family were freemen, not slaves. That doesn’t make me better, because you wouldn’t know it if you are hell-bent in holding my skin color against me. Here is what I learned — going back to the Revolutionary War, men in my family put the uniform and defended whatever they were assigned to defend. If they were alive today, I’d tell them my journey fighting for my own civil rights, was only because some people could not accept change.

Thanking those ancestors wouldn’t be enough.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about letting our servicemen and women know how much they’re appreciated. They are the best and the brightest and always have been. There is bravery in volunteering to put one’s life on the line should the situation arise. Thank you.

My mother married a handsome man that was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and fought in the Korean War. He never talked about war, but he did his job. He let his achievements speak for him, becoming a teacher, businessman and owned a considerable amount of stuff. I don’t quarrel with materialism – he earned it. I was born in the military hospital at Fort Gordon. I started choking as I came from my mother’s womb. Had it not been for a quick thinking nurse, and a doctor, I would’ve died. They will both under uniform and white. They saved my life. Thank you is not enough.

I was always amazed by watching military hardware pass near my grandfather’s house. Tanks, trucks filled with troops, helicopters flying overhead. No one knew what fate had for them. I suppose, in some later conflicts some died, and since we are still here, their sacrifices were for you and me.

When I attended Julia Ward Howe Elementary School in Boston, Mrs. Brynn took our class on the Freedom Trail. I heard stories of Paul Revere, William Dawes, Crispus Attucks, and Concord and LexingtoFeatured imagen. Each of them had a greater purpose. We even stood on the Constitution – Old Ironsides pretending to be sailors fighting for our country. But we cannot say enough about the one’s under arms in the war of 1812, the Civil War, the Mexican War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq One and Two and places that we aren’t supposed to know about. Let’s not forget the responders at natural disasters. The spirit of men and women in arms and motivation is always the same — they protect and serve.

Beginning a generation ago a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals infiltrated the school systems and taught everything the United States does is evil. That’s bullshit. They scream about American interventionism, colonization and how America killed indigenous people. These statements have a degree of truth. But the people in uniform believe in ideals and principles of a nation that has done more for this world and spit upon, more than we deserve.

The JFK Kennedy Library in Boston sits on what was once the Columbia Point Housing Project. I lived there and had a beautiful view of Boston Harbor. I remember the fleet spreading over the horizon, then coming in precise it straight like a string of pearls. I thought about Pork Chop Hill, and Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, the Battle of Midway, and Smoking Mountain a century before, Brandywine, the Battle of Trenton and Yorktown before that, and understood that even though my family lived in a housing project, in wars past some people didn’t come back for the privilege. And those that did make it back were unappreciated. Thank you would not be enough.

So, on this Veterans Day I’d to truly like to believe that the current Administration starts taking things seriously because the same forces that caused one to take up arms, still exist. They just call themselves something different. Our men and women come back from wars traumatized, into poverty, addictions and so on. They put on the uniform so that these suit wearing politicians can attend photo ops celebrating the Unknown Soldier without a clue as to who and what that means.

It’s time to say thank you by making the G.I. Bill stronger, and giving our troops jobs when they return to civilian life (the military trains exceedingly well), medical and psychological treatment, housing, education, and whatever else they want.

I once trained a former Marine to be an account executive. He left two months later, but not before we talked. He felt loyal and owed me, he said. He didn’t owe me anything because donning his uniform was enough. He laughed that I trained him so good, a big agency snatched him up.
I can’t say thank you enough for putting on the uniform. Maybe as a nation, we can just show some gratitude.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising LLC

New Beginnings: Confronting Errors

I read an article written by Matt Cronin in Agency Post that proved eye-opening. Matt pointed out something that creative agency owners that I find especially true of small agencies: We tend to forget the importance of being watchful of our ROI and the things that make it.

Opening and running a business requires investment in those things that help us in that pursuit. But we miss the mark on occasion. Our biggest investment isn’t in equipment and software, but it in the people that work for the agency. In our efforts to keep the lights on and the rent paid, how an employee interacts in discoursing their job reflect on the brand – the agency.

There is a basic reason for this. We sometimes find it hard to face truths about the way we run our companies, thus not confronting an error. If a staff member fails to complete a project in a timely manner, we have not only failed the client, but jeopardized the account. People that spend chunks of money on an ongoing basis sometimes are looking for ways to save – a foul-up, presents justification.

My own experience has been one where a new business account representative failed to write a letter of acknowledgement to an RFP (we stood a good chance at being hired since we were one of two agencies under consideration.) It was a simple task, but it wasn’t done and the chance at a six-figure account dissipated. Another example was someone in the same position negotiating to bring in another creative agency (secretly and for a fee) on an account. Also, there was discord fanned by a rather intrusive individual complained about everything, including her salary and prying into everybody else’s. Certainly, this behavior wasn’t helping us in the least and really hurt our reputation.

I’ve described selfishness and business betrayal – but how did that happen? How did it slip by me? I could say I was busy with other day to day tasks, but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.

Cronin contends that an agency’s goal is to maximize every dollar invested in a campaign. However, the failure to understand that an agency is a brand as well, is an ingredient in the formula for disaster. A solution is to re-interview each employee to determine job satisfaction, career aspiration and more importantly, what do they feel about the company. In other words, the interview cannot be superficial because one with corrosive attitudes hurts the company. It can tarnish the view of a brand.

This may be lost on some – companies need loyalty. There is some popular thought to the idea that as long as you show up, do some semblance of things within your job description, how you dress, speak and behave is the employee’s business. To an extent those are all true, but the employer is owed something too. The reason why an old fashioned idea like loyalty is so vital is that no business can sustain without it.

Take care.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing

A Guy Walks Into an Ad Agency and Sees A Horse, A Talking Bird and Feather Boa Wearing Women

(I Hear Ogilvy Laughing: Part 2)

Now that I’ve decided to be so candid, am I running the risk of losing creditability with clients? A friend working for a government agency told me that one has to accept acceptable risks and plunge ahead.

Here is a pattern that we have fallen into – we see it at pitches – we see it in our offices. We talk about ourselves and not about the work. We can do for that specific client. In football it’s called a Barry Sanders – start one way, come to a stop, slide sideways then run parallel to the tackler, all the while going past him. It’s a Barry Sanders because when we are talking about ourselves, we’re stalling for time. Sanders was waiting on the great block (he played for the Detroit Lions, so it never came), or waiting for an opening – toward the goal line. When we brag about being a winner or a runner up to some group handing out trophies, we’re loitering. We’re hoping the prospect will say: “Oh, okay! When can you start?” Better to offer an intelligent discussion of what our work will accomplish, than duck and dodge.

I remember attending a meeting with a potential client. He threw a lot of jargon at me – jargon that’s from my profession. I told him it was better to talk one-on-one. The account man with me started spouting every possible phrase you could think of to simply say we’re going to run a print, Internet and broadcast, billboard campaign. It was brutal. We didn’t get the account. Another agency did – one that favored “advo-babble.”

Heck, I’m no genius, but I’m smart. I know that particular client was rolling his eyes, thinking I’m going to put a talking mule in a campaign for his retail store, or some craziness like that. I’m not giving him any other the options but to believe that I escaped from the squirrel house. We must approach our work with clarity and articulate the same.

Rick Webb, as did the great Ogilvy pointed out that agency owners have a decided role. Sometimes we need to step back and select a team that can present a methodology better. I’m listed as president of my company, which means I’m responsible for bringing in money. That may be trying to acquire a line of credit, a loan or break into Aunt Esther’s house and take her antiques to the pawn shop. Okay, that’s extreme. But it’s also serious. Webb advises us to determine our roles and keep agency to afloat. It’s maintaining a clear vision.

So, by next year this time I would’ve digested Webb’s book two more times and Ogilvy the same. At least I’ll be able to tell you what’s on page 35 of each.

Bernard Alexander Mcnealy

A Guy Walks Into an Ad Agency and Sees A Horse, A Talking Bird and Feather Boa Wearing Women

(Or, I Hear Ogilvy Laughing” Part 1)

I’m reading an amazing, informative book called “Agency” by Rick Webb one of the founders of the Barbarian Group creative agency. I don’t know Rick, so I’m not being paid to endorse his book, but I’m reading it intensely — probably for the third time. It’s an excellent read.

What I like about it is that starts out by saying that we relatively new people in the ad business are so quick to discard words handed down from the Golden Age of Madison Avenue. For example, Webb says that probably the greatest how-to manual on starting a creative agency was written by David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Ad Man.” I went back and read my copy of the famous red book and was blown away.

So I am reading them together. Your first question is probably why? I decided when I began rebranding my small agency, CDM Digital Advertising, formerly known as “Carson Dunn Media Advertising,” I decided to ask myself if I truly knew what the advertising game entailed. A second part of that dealt with whether I actually knew how to run an agency. My training in marketing had me approaching my business by the “seat of my pants.”

The creative was good at times, but the execution, the getting there was what difficult than it should have been. This sums up what Rick Webb is saying. Modern creatives tend to believe that their methodology and only theirs works. We need to go with the effective. Sometimes that’s not digital.

When we look at modern advertising, especially messaging in commercials, in the background you can hear Ogilvy laughing. He’s also shaking his head in disgust. Why are we thinking of elaborate images, filming them and sticking it on TV? One of the failures is that we forget the so-called headlines — what the hell is this thing about. Is it about a horse – a talking bird – feather boa wearing women running around a hotel in the dark? And why is that music so damn loud? Shouldn’t you use the time to tell me what I am watching and why?

Actually. I hear Ogilvy cussing. I hear Burnett, Bernbach, Chiat asking and doing the same thing. They’re probably are crying about what we are producing. Their legacy – their gift to us better than what we are presenting.

So, the question we must ask is that how do we go about doing a better job of assisting clients. A second question lays out this way: “How do I improve as an agency owner — if possible.”

New Beginnings: In Debt

What is being in debt? There are two types of debt. First there is bad debt. Being in bad debt is tantamount to being padlocked in an outhouse in the country with methane gas building up around you. Worse when it is a dog day in August in Florida. Talk about uncomfortable.

Picture the panic on your face when a truck from the finance company backs up to your house and guys jump out with prison tattooed faces tell you ‘Game over, Jack.” Or, think about receiving a tax bill that essentially wipes out a year’s salary and you call your accountant, only to reach a disconnected number. This is three minutes before the lights go off. Or, think about that high interest rate loan you got from ‘Fat Tony’ last month and ‘Vito Big Knuckles’ is standing in your kitchen saying, “I came here either to chew gum or haul me some extra body parts home. Guess what? I ain’t got no gum.”

None of these are ideal moments. Debt stinks. Debt can be embarrassing. Bad debt is scary. I’m not trying to reveal any hidden secrets about either my personal, or business finances but honestly, my business had money embezzled from it by my accountant. That’s well documented and not at issue. My focus is another type of being debt — good debt.

Good debt is acknowledging that you have been helped on your life journey by someone special and indeed, unforgettable. Usually, in the case of the individual, there are very tangible qualities that make her very admirable. It’s appropriate to take time to express gratitude to those who have brought us past the hurdle, helped us jump through the fire. Unfortunately we don’t do it at, preferring to let time pass and if some tragedies bespeaks that person, we always bemoan the fact that we could of said more.

In life there people who keep you from walking off the edge. In my case, I’m indebted to my former assistant Karina. It was more than her smile, the flash of wisdom in her eyes and humor in her tone. It was and is her warmth and thoughtfulness. No, she is not departed the living to go entertain Jesus. She is living across town raising her three children and tending to the needs of her family, including her husband.

I’m grateful to her because there were times when I didn’t know what path to pursue to regain a lost client – she did. “Pick up the phone,” “I’ll write the letter pointing out how we much money we made them,” she told me on more than one occasion. That’s practical advice. And, you don’t get that from anyone unless they care about what they and you are doing. In Karina’s case, whenever possible she put our agency first. She even advised me of the practical reasons to get rid of the “teacher’s pet,” because she was not productive but only gave the appearance of being such.

The “teacher’s pet” was an untouchable creative and someone I thought of as being the most important person in the agency, but Karina knew different. She saw through the façade. She also told me it made sense for me to seize the mantle of handling new business and delegating responsibilities. Unfortunately, I was stubborn and didn’t listen.

Karina is business minded, but as a beautiful woman appreciated when that was acknowledged. It was okay to say, “That’s a nice outfit,” “You’re beautiful today,” without having to be worried about her filing an EEOC complaint. She reminded me in there things that we tend to forget in our instant coffee, instant gratification lifestyles – one of them is how to be human. Her beauty radiated from the inside and out, but it also surrounded her. I don’t mean to speak about her in the past tense, because as I said, she’s living somewhere across town.

This post started out talking about being in debt, and how unpleasant it is. I love the contrast, though. Being in debt and grateful to someone to whom you owe a lot is really ideal. I’m indebted to her, and very little I can do can pay her back because she is such a giver. All I can say is “Thank you, Karina.” My hope is that as the future unfolds I will be able to get people on staff that embody her qualities of grace, dignity and practical wisdom.

Bernard Alexander McNealy

New Beginnings: Thank You Roy Eaton

From the executive to the account and to the creative level, the advertising profession suffers from a lack of participation of blacks. When we are in college in the communications disciplines, there emerges a disdain or dissuasion from going into advertising. It is a mistake.

We owe to those who struggled and succeeded at what they wanted and what they were cut out to be. Roy Eaton.

I recognize that a number of people go into public relations (some opening their own shops) only because of the perception that PR is glamourous and exposes one to entertainment and its glitz. That’s true to a degree, but advertising offers one a chance to participate in writing their own story. It affords an opportunity that should be pursued.

Issues of racism and the lack of diversity cannot be ignored — but some things are worth the struggle. It saddens me when I give an opportunity to a black intern that they ridicule me, slam the agency and just stop showing up. They don’t understand that everything we do is part of a process. But, it is a process that I am proud to be part of.

In this video interview, Roy Eaton, renowned pianist and former creative with the advertising agencies Y&R and Benton & Bowles is an inspiration, and perhaps tells it better than I can.

New Beginnings: Re-branding is Daunting

Re•brand
verb
gerund or present participle: re-branding
1. change the corporate image of (a company or organization).

Re-branding is a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, or combination thereof is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, and competitors.

In some case re-branding involves radical changes to a brand’s logo, name, image, marketing strategy, and advertising themes. The changes are devised to re-position the brand/company.

It also typically occurs when a company seeks to distance itself from negative connotations of the previous branding, or to move the brand upmarket. Re-branding seems to be the first thing a company does when it emerges from a bankruptcy or other presumptive business setback. Here is what all of this means in total: Management has recognized that business has change in methodology and product demand. Management has created a new business posture or even dismantled its old model. In order to stay relevant, one must adapt. Adaption communicates a new message a new board of directors’ wishes to communicate.

In our particular case, it has been hard. I must confess, it has been a little daunting. Our company, Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. started this process deliberately, like an iceberg frozen in some vortex of a moon on the cold side of Jupiter. It was slow on purpose because we wanted to get everything right. I had two business partners – one left and to tell you the truth, left a tremendous vacuum. Partnerships work best when the partners have specific assignments in relation to the company. In her case, she had primarily responsibility for developing an execution strategy and helping develop a logo and website. Well, while I’m happy that she moved on because I will always be fully supportive, it didn’t obviate her duties. Somebody had to absorb them and it turned out to be me.

In the meantime, our other partner became immersed in a long term assignment pursuing what could be a gargantuan account as we handled little projects for them. It pays a few bills, so refusing them was a no-brainer.

A peculiar thing happens when one is reevaluating a business model –organizational weaknesses and flaws come to the surface. Our biggest flaw is not saying “no,” to life sucking accounts. I also discovered what it truly is to be drained during this process. A big client whom we launched, marketed, branded had boneheaded lawyer send us a nasty letter explaining why that now rich client decided to put the account in review. The last sentence dripped with sarcasm, “Oh, about your last bill…you practiced law as a mediator didn’t you…take us court…our assets are off shore…heehaw-haha…”

If you’re in the agency game you’ve met another type of client. It’s the guy that was formerly marketing or sales head at some Fortune 500 company. He got fired for being an asshole. The same guy turns up as the COO for a new client and figures out ways to get work out of your agency. He also dreams up ways to screw us out our retainer and fees. Staffers view him as the devil and cave in dealing with him, quitting in frustration. They didn’t realize why he did sowed trouble. It’s simple: He’s still an asshole. Or, maybe he is the devil.

We resigned nonproductive accounts, and let attrition run its course. Re-branding and dismantling an old business model teaches that you need a stomach to run an agency. You have to rebuild from the process. Agencies are not for the faint hearted, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

I delayed the launch until later this September because even though Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. seemed structured it wasn’t – and that can be fatal. It was a good outfit, but we operated without what all companies need – policy manuals for every department. So, as we are about to launch into being a digital agency, we are going to be structured like a traditional agency. Dichotomous, to be sure.

Why?

We aren’t in the entertainment business; although what we do can entertain. Our advertising work will be designed to sell products. I truly believe what David Ogilvy preached and Bill Crandall, ‎Chief Marketing Officer, Consultant at Della Femina Rothschild Jeary + Partners reminded me when he graciously agreed to network on Linkedin. We are a brand – thus we are advertising’s finest. We must approach our work qualitatively. Yes, CDM Digital will drum our motto into the heads of staff: “We have purpose, to create, to succeed and be the best.”

Re-branding and having to revamp my company is both exciting and precarious. “In the world of business, what good is it to be an original creative thinker, unless you can sell what you create?”

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy, CEO

CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing 

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