Monthly Archives: January 2013

WEIGHING OPTIONS: 2013. The Year That Was


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 January 2013. 2012 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.

The 365 days is a proper period to reflect on those events and decide how we can improve on 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 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 2012. 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.

Why am I saying this? Because I own a small business – and in Obama’s America – it puts a bull’s-eye’s on my back. It also means that we need to educate ourselves politically so that a person holding a contrary view to our own is not vilified. 2013 is the year I will stop hiding behind a smile and its pretense of invulnerability to personal pain, anger, and out and out baffled sadness.

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 Carson Dunn Media Advertising – we are not.

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 this too put’s bull’s-eye on my back.

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

What I about to say has to do with being a small 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.

To begin with, we had 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. I cannot name names, or go into details, but it is best to spot these types when they walk in the door and promptly point them to the exit. A small agency cannot afford their antics.

I 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 worse 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. We had several of them in 2012. 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 too. This really affected the ‘nice guy’ in me.

Listen, in a year where I wept at the passing of one of the kindest people God has given us, my brother-in-law, Brad, I also woke up. Life is too short for air thieves, time-stealers and bad interns to take up space in my head. So, as this year proceeds, the quality of CDM’s work will grow by leaps and bounds. We will add managers for marketing, public relations, and business accounts. Our services will reflect our skills, and our compensation will be within industry standards. We are revamping by moving to a new office, building a new website, logo, and with it a new attitude. 

As the CEO of CDM I truly believe that in order to move forward, I must take it seriously, be single-minded and not waver.


Bernard A. McNealy, President/CEO


WEIGHING OPTIONS: Billing For What We’re Worth

A Sense of Worth

Ages ago, I wrote a blog called, “Trumpet Over The Horizon.” That article dealt with my sincere belief that clients want agencies to charge realistic, with prices for services. I propose to know clients a capped mount for creative services (i.e. creative director, art director, copywriting fees, etc.) . The primary fee would be joined from generating and placement of ads, an amount not excessive of than 12%. By tradition, agencies are paid 15% of place ads idea was for the 3% differential to replace back into advertising. I wanted to benefit the client.

Here is the major problem with my former hypothesis: Advertising agencies put up with more than crap than people outside of agencies know. Accounts can be a headache simply because a client is demanding. So it doesn’t matter what I discount because it’s never enough to please. The resolution for me is to bill for the work that we do at the prevailing rates. It may sound expensive, but that’s the way it is. We are a creative agency, we are very good at we do, and we want to do it pay for it.

Take a look at what is happening nationwide. In New York City, where things are admittedly higher, senior digital executives bill clients an average approximating $350 an hour. Conservatively, creators performing similar work at traditional agencies on Madison Avenue bill at $700 per hour. Where based in Los Angeles, and things in Adland is no different. We worked our asses off and quite frankly, when clients refused to acknowledge what we are doing what is to enhance their business, it rankles.

I’m not making this up. A 109-page report published by the authoritative 4A’s reflected contains a list of the most agencies of all sizes in 2011. These figures regarding hourly rates billed by agencies is published the report. The survey is an update of a labor-billing study conducted three years ago. The report collected data from positions such as account management, creative, analytics, digital, media services and talent management. Having been reported I noticed that Los Angeles and New York, and not to disparate in charges. The Midwest probably is more, but not by much. I think the point is that we work hard for what we do. Agencies of all sizes are filled with people who are immensely talented in advertising and public relations. Our brains are taxed, we often work past out boundaries of times and learning to give the best possible product to a client. Clients should be appreciative of that – often they aren’t.

Let me give you an example. Perhaps this is hypothetical. An agency is contacted by a startup company. The client company wants logos, graphics, web content written, brochures, and other collaterals, in addition to the development and placement of ads in newspapers and magazines for its products.  To me this is a full marketing plan, and I told him so. Before, we proceeded with the work, and after three clients meetings of three hours duration, I drafted a letter of intent. The letter of intent denotes my agencies obligations to the client. It is an offer and acceptance at common law. Most people understand this. This client wanted us to partake in emergency work that would’ve taken up more than twenty hours using a team of five. I told this client as tactful as possible that they had not acknowledged the letter of intent. I cautioned them that if we did as they asked, our agency would have engaged in substantial performance – enforceable contractually. This client counter proposed essentially saying that they reserved right to pay us only if satisfied with our work. Payment would be ninety days later. And, assuming that they retained us as their agency, our monthly fee would be paid ninety days after it became due.

Quite honestly, I’m not unfamiliar with clients who have abusive, bullying, attitudes, but this joker took the brass ring. We received letters from him wherein he changed the company’s plans, blaming us for the changes in rejecting the cursive work we did for them. I did not laugh because this was not funny, but a little sad.

Clients like this should be billed for the full amount of services provided. I’m not afraid to do this because as a matter of principle.

 Here is the upshot. Someone performing work under a contract can invoke the common law rule of substantial performance and charge for the reasonable value of your services or, “quantum merit.” I acted as a creative director on the client projects. My billing rate is no different than that digital creative in New York, or $300 per hour. My art director and graphics department bills at $160 an hour, and my copywriters bill at $150 an hour. Multiply that times 20 and you have sticker shock. But that is the nature of the business – we deserve every cent we charge. 

The new reality is a second sound of the trumpet over the horizon. Billing for what we are worth because we have mouth’s to feed. There is a controversy in the industry. Small agencies like mine tend to forgo billing. The larger agencies, not as reticent, you get stuck like a crazed vampire.

As an agency head, o must protect my stake in my business. Treat everyone fairly, do a great job, but expect the same to done for you. Some people neglect these principles, and issues develop.

Benchmarks are in place for a reason. Agencies often are treated worse than the maid working for the “help.” I do not pay myself $300 an hour. But the benchmark is equivalent, not only to the suggested retail price, but to our sense of worth. I don’t know it is going to be a backlash, but I know what we are worth. We are agency and will start acting like one, because billing is value based.

Bernard A McNealy, President/CEO

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WEIGHING OPTIONS: Is Your Coffee Black?

Ethnicity in Marketing

Someone enlightened genius recently concluded that member of minority groups are as different from each other as they are from white people. (Although the USA is ‘browning’—that is there is a rapidly growing non-white population, whites are still are numerically more numerous.) So for all intents and purposes, non-whites are still ‘minorities.’

 Does this make a difference in how we perceive each other as people? I contend that it does because for all the protestations to the contrary, America is a racially conscious country. It plays a role in our social lives, and of course, business.

 In advertising messages must resonate. Advertising is influential if it is tailored to appeal to a group. From group to group, the texture of message is different. Why, one asks. Well, it has to do with an assumption that a message, in this case, a television commercial, filed with racial symbolism is special because it speaks an ethnic language, is pure hogwash. Here is the reality people.

 As a black man, I am not inclined to spray Old Spice on my body because some dude named Mustafa is hawking it. I don’t respond to slang, or loud music or ethnic image by running to the store. Nor am I going to buy a hamburger because it’s sold at Mickey D’s. Also, I’m not going to buy anything MJ, or Kobe endorses. And please, don’t expect me to buy a jersey with some guy’s name on it – it runs counter to my upbringing that a man emblazoned with another man’s name is more common in prison than outside the bars.

 As a consumer, I am my own man.

 By the same token, there are those that are also black that will not buy any product unless it carries the secret language peculiar to black people. There are some people that buy things as a matter of conspicuous consumption – it is a statement that ‘one has arrived.’ They buy not to ‘keep up with the Jones,’ but because they are the ‘Jones.’

 I’m not putting any of that down. I earn my living targeting and crafting messages to groups. When I get it right, you can bet the client benefits.

 The prudent agency employs what I call buyer stimuli. I understand that this behavior is seen in every group. It is a response to whatever appeals. For me it is a little simpler; I buy products that I deem superior to similar products. My job is to put out literature on a product that has some appeal to buyers. I prefer to look at the psychology behind it all, not the symbols designed to actuate a purchase. Consumers, no matter what ethnicity they happen to be, don’t want to be insulted by the supplier of goods, but respected.

 Villanova University recently concluded an insightful recent study examining consumer’ perceptions of various national brands. They found that despite their deeply rooted cultural differences, there is an uncanny similarity in responses by various minorities’ to advertising.  It appeals that this study validates the idea that it is not racial or ethnic identity that determines minorities’ response to a brand, not in the least. It appears the common factor triggering consumer purchases deals with how welcoming the brand makes one feel. 

 No one wants to be viewed as a stereotype. People are in uniformity that minorities ate united in the marketplace if respective tastes and culture is part of the advertising process. Remember, without this, the brand is isolated. As I proceed forward in my career it is encumbered on me to include minorities consumers for their importance in the commercial process. My ads will not depict anyone as either a gringo, cholo, or ‘brother’ for the sake of showing how ‘down,’ I can be. The advertising world be an easier place if the agencies stops the subtle elements of discrimination.  

 Face it, however so gradual the USA is changing its complexion. If creative agencies and producers truly are serious about selling products and ideas, the racial shift must reflect a broader racial and ethnic spectrum. If we fail – the failure is collective.  In its current fragility, the American economy cannot afford it. And since the economy is global, neither can the world.


Bernard A. McNealy, President/CEO