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

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.


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 

New Beginnings: When People Leave (A Teachable Moment)

Every person that owns a small business will face staff attrition. When people leave, how do you react? If they were problematic employees, the inclination is to applaud. That is more knee-jerk anything else because it may have been a significant reason to them. So, the question becomes how do you keep your staff together? The short answer is you cannot.

People have reasons for leaving companies. Often it has nothing to do with management, but unfortunately in countless instances it does. If you don’t address the issues, your company will become deader than Mo Green.

My agency has always had a small staff. We function based on need of our clients. At least three people are assigned to an account. I’m told that larger agencies commit six people on accounts, and usually the budgets are higher. That makes sense. Small staff grows with freelancers, part-timers and interns. At any moment, a small agency multiplies long enough to accomplish what needs to be done. This type of parrying can be expected when you operate as a squad rather than battalion. One day, I began wondering if this small, nimble outfit was viable because people stated to leave.


Usually, higher wages, or, greater creative responsibility are catalyst. Conflict between staff members may also be a causal factor. Business owners do a disservice to themselves if they are clueless as to what causes the run to the front door.

Here was my “teachable moment,” where the veil of ignorance fell from my face. I fired an account representative at the beginning of a particular month. An executive staff member left, too. I didn’t want to accept she had because there was no letter of resignation. I thought the worse. But we spoke a week later. While I breathed a sigh of relief, two other people resigned as I exhaled. Their reasons seemed sound and logical: creative opportunities; more money. I thought about counteroffers, but the resignations had finality to them.

Four valuable people had gone out the door, and clearly I missed warning signs. Friday of the same week saw one more departure – sound reasons I thought. That weekend, a letter of resignation came on my e-mail. I e-mailed my New Business Coordinator. “We’ll rally the troops. Let’s go through those resumes — don’t worry.” Her reasoning was sound and made sense. After talking to her I watched the Sopranos and got a nagging feeling Eddie Big Nose was gunning for me.

Monday I poured over resumes and found several good candidates to interview. New Business Coordinator came in, tearful with a letter of resignation. Another opportunity came along over the weekend. Blam! Blam! Eddie Big Nose got me.

I learned a lot as I lay figuratively bleeding. Maybe this will help someone similarly situated.

1. Meet regularly with the entire staff to keep them abreast with company happenings. Send a company e-mail in case something was left out;

2. Meet with employees likely to exercise free agency. There are subtle hints. There may be something that can be done – adjustments made to keep them. Make sure that the promises are sincere and can be executed within the timeframe promised.

3. Develop a sense of family. If affordable, have either a company picnic, or regular lunches. It is the little things that count;

4. Assign meaningful duties not within the job description;

5. Allow cross-training. Employee ‘A’ may be better suited for another position. Perhaps they are too reserved to ask about it but you’re meeting them halfway;

6. Don’t play favorites. This is very difficult because some people are more personable than others. A ‘q’ factor causes us to gravitate to them. That creates discord;

7. Strive to raise pay a above cost-of-living, and certainly keep up with industry standards;

8. Improve your benefit package, and pay bonuses:

9. Acknowledge your employees because they are the linchpin of the business.

In a previous incarnation of my business, staff broke bread at lunches, and we kept up with pay standards. Even though it strained our budget, bonuses were paid around Christmas. I’m not saying that this made me the perfect employer, no one is. But it’s your choice to cultivate a sense of family or became overly corporate. Your business will function better in unity. Sometimes, loyalty keeps a person wedded to a job because of intangibility.
I’m not too cynical or idealistic to want an old fashion company in our fast paced culture.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO
CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing

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.

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.”

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


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