Monthly Archives: September 2011

It Came In A Grey Flannel Suit

The questions came fast and furious. First someone asked me why they should use my marketing agency. I had a number of reasons, but pointed out that we’re accessible, efficient, and not as expensive as they might thought

The next thing was a question as to what were we. Is Carson Dunn Media an advertising agency filled with cigarette smoking men in suits and hats ogling at pretty girls in tight dresses? Sure, I said. It’s called happy hour and another group of folk. It ain’t us. No one smokes in my office.

I pointed out that rather than focus on the external, it was better to understand that our staff works as a team to hone in three things: 1) research marketing needs; 2) obtain the right media to expose our clients’ products; and, 3) engage in a focused campaign to get those products into the minds of consumers.

I guess what he had in mind was a monster movie he saw on the SyFy Channel. You’ve seen the plot. An ugly, monster man shows up in town, makes a set of weird, impossible promises to a nice, innocent school marm type and her husband, Casper Milquetoast. See, they own a store and have been content to market on sandwich boards. Business could be better.

Casper says: “We don’t need you, thanks.” The ugly monster grins evilly and lays a series of traps to get Casper’s commitment. He’s relentless, calling all hours of the night, jumping out of dark corners, causing school marm lady to drop her groceries.

Finally, since the calls won’t stop, and the guy won’t go home, the couple sits down and, with shaky hands and quivering spine, they hire Mr. Ugly.  He tells them, there are many places for their company to be seen: from a billboard, to the wall of Dodger Stadium, to sandwich boards. The trick is deciding what makes the most sense for their budget. The couple says they want to hire skydivers to hang their message in a wave of falling humans.

No, Mr. Ugly rejoins. He tells them that tried and true forms of advertising will get the biggest results. So, two or three months past go by. Casper is delighted that because of consumer exposure, he will go on a limb and tell his wife that they can now afford that trip to Canoga Park. The marketer, that ugly monster guy has done his job. If they stick with him, they can actually do the town in Oxnard.

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WEIGHING OPTIONS: Gotta Blame Somebody

CDM is a small shop. Perhaps our size and desire to grow forces on us high expectations of performance. Likewise, clients have a level of quality they want us to achieve. Allocation of a marketing budget is at stake. Screw-ups, (there, I said it) may mean review and dismissal.  If that happens, our bottom line is adversely affected and a job or two may be lost.

Expectations of superior performance of agency patrons seem to be all but impossible to convey to creatives. It shouldn’t take a dour face client or loud criticism of our work to bring the point home. Imagine when a disgruntled client follows up an angry phone call with an angry visit.

I believe in accountability, plain and simple. However, observance of protocol breeds respect. Some grey-suit slamming a baseball bat on the edge of a desk is a bit off-colored. And attention getting. It can also be quite embarrassing.

More and more we see the above scenario playing out. In some degree or another, it happens to every creative agency. It baffles me when I get word that apparently on a whim some Fortune 100 company puts a creative in review. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked. It’s happened to the ‘big boys’ like old Madison Avenue stalwarts BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, and JWT. It’s also happened to that wonderful innovative group, Modernista – leading to their demise because clients critical of their performance, terminated them.

Okay, these are business decisions and the right of the patron — I get it. Here’s my concern. When an agency and business have severed their relationship, the press need not be offered verbiage justifying it — form either side. It’s another version of the blame game.  I scratch my head searching for the greater good in that.

One has to understand accountability and high expectation go hand and hand. But, I don’t see my (or any) agency growing if people on a company side of the marketing chain  is pressured by a compulsion to explain a failed campaign by dropping it at our feet. That’s counter-productive.

No campaign is without flaws, thus nothing is above critique. By the same token, no business is so perfectly run, or has products so peerless, their deficiencies cannot be pointed out.  That’s also counter productive.

The ad world has seen some outright nasty criticism of late. Take for example GAP Inc. CEO Glenn Murphy claimed the marketing efforts (profit/dividend spread) was disappointing because of an abysmal campaign by its AOR. I won’t call it bullshit but, maybe the fault lies with the fact Old Navy needs stylistic improvement, and the consumer is clamoring for a change. I’m just saying.

Laying the blame on the agency is simplistic. Consumer’s taste and receptivity factor into the success and failure of any product. These are things  that should be discussed in joint conference and part of the marketing plan.

Putting an agency ‘on blast’ on Bloomberg’s Business Week, Fox Business, or on CNBC, doesn’t improve anything.  As an agency we must show a willingness to change its marketing approach, so should a business.

That’s my view.

Bernard A. McNealy, President

Carson Dunn Media Public Relations & Advertising

I’m a Bit Bothered Right Now; or De rerum natura

                                            I’m a Bit Bothered Right Now  (or) 

                                                         De rerum natura

In English, that’s On the Nature of Things. This is the title of a 1st century BC epic poem written by the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretius. It is said he felt compelled to explain Epicurean philosophy to a bunch of Romans (JWoww, Paulie D, Snookie, Da- Sit-ye-way-Shun and Fat Tony.) Looking past his verbal sewer carpet, Lucretius  was simply saying what things are, and what they are not.

Enough of my stumbling down the memory lane of my college literature class. For me, de rerum natura is that I’m bothered right now. I really am.

Here’s what is bothering me. I own a small public relations and  advertising agency in Los Angeles (actually we’re in the cement swamp of Van Nuys). Recently I conducted an audit of my agency and discovered that we had a number of viable clients that had become lost on our rolls. Heck good golly gosh, these are billables. Billable should make an agency president happy – normally. But, I’m bothered by it.

The audit’s results speak to an agency remaining diligent and aware of its customers needs, goals and to never lose sight of either. It’s not that we did either – campaigns had been completed – the clients needed a bit more guidance. The fact the audit surprised me suggested that we weren’t paying attention. I don’t like surprises.

The late great, eternally wise David Ogilvy advocated that agency management should recognize that surrounding itself with smart people makes the agency better. However, often people need to be challenged and excellence forced out of them. That’s how an agency becomes stronger. A strong agency takes chances, translating into better, more creative work.

Honestly, our personnel found it easier to forgo challenging themselves. But, you know what? The failure to motivate originates and ends at my desk.

Don’t get me wrong. The work was done for those clients very professionally. Yet, I should have taken the opportunity to push an excellent group of creatives beyond their comfort zone. Worse, I hunkered down and let things run themselves. The fact this happened, bothers me.

We can and will do better. That, my friends is de rerum natura.

Bernard A. McNealy, President

Carson Dunn Media