Monthly Archives: December 2011

WEIGHING OPTIONS: Christmas Reflections

It is the day after Christmas. For me the Christmas season is a time of reflection. It is also a time to set goals, establish personal agendas, and get busy accomplishing what I have not done.

Christmas, like Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks and honor to the Creator for what He has done for us. Our society has become pluralist and secular, God is absent in the minds of those who ascribe to distance themselves from their spirituality. I had chosen not to do so — the tenets of my faith are present as I obtain and service more clients.

I’m an optimist by nature. I’ll face problems and hurdles and find ways to get around them. It is engendered in my personality. I don’t like complaining, or complainers. My grandmother once said that life is what you make it to be. If you see it as being a whirlwind for vortex or trouble, it will be just that. On the other hand, if you look past those things and see them as temporary difficulties, you can overcome them. The idea is find a measure of comfort in a discomforting situation.

Let me share what I have decided what will happen to me in the upcoming year. First, I will grow closer to God. The most satisfying and lasting accomplishment occurs when one seeks first the Kingdom (a transformed life) of God — thereafter, all you seek will be given to you. I don’t mean cosmic generosity will pour like a deluge. But, it is simply accepting the rules of attraction and aligning oneself with the Creator. This blog is not a religious tome, but simply rumination. I don’t apologize for being who I am and what I believe.

The second thing is to be a better husband. I must be more accessible and responsive to my wife. She has both needs and limitations. Being a considerate husband enables me to be there in her times of need, and to lift her past her hurdles. This is the change in me.

It also includes being a better father. I will cease being an ATM machine and become a dispenser advice and wisdom. Financially, I’ll be accessible, but not an inexhaustible lake of money.

The third thing relates to business. I want more of what I have – I see no reason to be ashamed saying that because it is not greed but a recognition of achieving goals. The growth relates to personnel — I want a larger agency that confidently and efficiently delivers services. My agency has a growth plan also includes larger office space in a creative center, such as downtown Los Angeles, or the media district. Changing locations also might include expanding services to another city. This is an exciting proposition to be located on the East and West Coasts. Growth also is an expansion of our client base. It has to be substantial, because as they say, “It is about time.”

We are also going digital. This isn’t a fad — but the nature of things. A creative agency can provide more services if blends traditional with digital. This change is a fire burning in my blood.

So, what we are looking forward to is personal and professional re-branding in 2012. 2011 was an interesting year, but it is coming to a close. Some of the business relationships I’ve had will remain cemented in the past – I won’t.

To anyone reading this blog, don’t lose sight of the fact that hope and faith should be part of your fabric. All the best.

Bernard A. McNealy

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WEIGHING OPTIONS: When Clients Don’t Sign.

A client contacted us and after much discussion via telephonic conferencing, my agency was asked to provide a proposal – to justify what we assumed was the start of a long term creative agency/client relationship. We were hired! I thought. I ran around the balance of the day jumping up and down and patting myself on the back. (I pulled several muscles in process.)

So much for putting an optimistic spin on something. They would not sign. We tapped our budget to come up with a professional proposal — complete with visuals.  But, this was a classic case situation where the client wouldn’t sign.

This client wanted a full array of services ranging from marketing consultation, research, media buying, creative work, all in pursuit of our developing an effective campaign to brand for them. Here was the problem, the thing that prevented us from being hired by this client. They had a marketing unit headed by a company principal. Apparently our offer which included a marketing plan created a sense of territorial infringement.

Territorial infringement is the problem with most client-agency relationships. This company really did not have a staff dedicated to doing advertising work. They didn’t know the nuances of developing a campaign – but yet our work was viewed as conflicting with the marketing department. I wanted to scream: “Hey! We know how to brand you! We know where your customer base is! We have the know how – you don’t!”  My emails and phone calls eventually went from stridency to beseeching. Like all business, I wanted the account.

I decided on  another path: explain the advantage of hiring an agency as opposed to doing it themselves. This client company was a growing business.  Since most business owners are swamped running their business, that alone prevents them from conceptualizing, creating and ultimately implementing a campaign to grow the business.  Ad campaigns are not improvisation. They require time, energy and insight that comes with being an outsider.   An agency frees a company’s staff to do what they have been trained for. So, an agency is merely an extension to a marketing unit.

Would we have done a creditable job? Of course. A creative agency makes its revenue by working closely with and for a client. Agencies can benefit any size business, but they have to have a clue about the benefits of advertising, PR and other forms of promotional communication. We can access resources a marketing department doesn’t have. Plus, the more creative people are at agencies.

Even for an experienced company, developing a brand can be a complex undertaking. Advertising, public relations and creative agencies help this process by using its expertise to develop brand awareness. We also target the most effective market. Agencies can also promote a business by lobbying individual media to get the most cost effective advertising in each market.

Well, explaining all of this or even a part is exhausting. We are a small shop. A small shop can  specialize in one particular area of expertise, such as online advertising, or go big. We have to be talented and versatile. Was this company was afraid of taking us on? No. New horizons make one hesitant to proceed. That’s the nature of being a human being.

Bernard A. McNealy, President


WEIGHING OPTIONS: Avoiding Minefields

A dear friend was in the middle of what she thought were a bunch of set backs, both professional and personal. She described a set of circumstances that left feeling like my grandmother use to call, “A used hairball.”

I told my friend that it could have been worse. She could be condemned to sitting in a Winnebago on cross-country trip listening to Justin Bieber – the epitome of emptiness.

As a public relations and advertising specialist I find that we have a tendency to rescue clients from situations they create, only to be blamed for them later. Hopefully, what I’m going to say will be illustrative and helpful to people breaking into these industries. Colleague, we have to face forest fires, and metaphorically stamp them out while barefooted.

When confronting difficult situations, we must avoid mine-fields. Never make it worse, or let a problem fester. That is so hard to grasp when one wants to be the best in a profession. Always remember, a vat of spilled strudel and chocolate fondue makes quite a mess.

It is frustrating. But part of the job. It is what you sign up for. Often, though, problems are completely avoidable if people employ what is called applied logic. PR and advertising people aren’t supposed to be smart enough to understand this conceptually, but I do.

Recently I had to navigate through a minefield; problems not of my making. I ushered a client to an event that got her bundles of positive publicity. I expended a lot of capital by asking contacts to pose with her with smiley-face grins, handshakes, discussions of possible projects my client would benefit from, and so on. My client seemed fine with it, on the surface. I found out later she was not. As the day grew older, I witnessed a negative turn of character. Alicia-Sue Gomez  slowly became overwhelmed by the enormity of  being anything but a “Diva.”

Damn. She might as well have been a fire breathing dragon.

In an assured tone, she said, “It isn’t your fault daaarling. They’re to blame, daaaaarling.” She wasn’t absolving me of blame at all. But her behavior was totally at fault. Without going into detail, suffice to say as my oldest daughter once blurted in church about Eve an the apple: “Dang! She fracked up.”

The Alicia-Sue Gomez’s of the world will have every opportunity and a GPS to avoid the mess, but will step in it anyway. Worse, she’ll compound the mess by tracking it along the carpet. She always believes she is the boss.

Listen, we are blamed when things go wrong, but seldom congratulated when they go right. I see nothing wrong with being self-congratulatory, if nothing else, for encouragement sake. The mythical Alicia-Sue Gomez, certainly will always fail to see our value.

I tell my newbies, interns and new staff to be bold and point out mistakes that affect campaigns. Of course, I want them to acknowledge their own faults and correct them quickly. Our job is about minimizing damage – if we fail, a career or business will suffer.

Bernard A. McNealy, President