Monthly Archives: January 2014

New Beginnings: Agency Invovement In Social Issues

Driving the Dialogue: Part 2

Does propaganda eliminate truth from the intersection of ideas, opinions and facts in public discourse? Merriam-Webster defines propaganda as:”…(2)the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. (3) ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect.

Without getting into nuanced differences, propaganda seems to have similarities to public relations, advertising and yellow journalism.

In the classic sense, issues and causes are driven by propaganda. With the advent of marijuana becoming decriminalized, if not legalized in states like Colorado, Oregon and California, none of this happened without discussion in public discourse or propaganda. This is also true of the gay rights movement. Personally, whatever I believe will not change because of shifting of moral climate — I will not harass people, either.

However, here is where the public relations come in. Straight people have been made to feel shame for being straight. There is a propaganda avalanche of gay-themed television programs, entire networks, and airhead celebrities taking a stance. Of course, it got rather funny when that reasonably good-looking straight actress made a defiant tearful public declarations of: “I will not marry the father of my child until this state legalizes gay marriage…” only to dump the guy cold once DOMA was struck down. Or, what about the fading dishrag celebrity that freaked out when her daughter told her: “Mom. I’m growing a beard and a dick for Christmas.) Neither really seemed committed did they? The point is that the propaganda agencies got paid millions to give face to the cause. Money can make you shoot your mouth off.

Still, in its most basic form the gay rights people were only using a platform. Using a voice is neither malevolent nor benign. It’s a communicative tool.

In relation to how black people are perceived, it is very negative. Some of it stems from the baseness that we have allowed to represent who we are. For example, the incessant use of the N-word, misogynist diatribes in Hip-Hop has given white people like Quentin Tarantino empowerment to bare their hearts and throw the N’word onto the screen, and naivete fools to voice the words. (Say what you want about O.J Simpson, but he beat the crap out of Richard Burton for calling him the N’word on set. To me, that was an appropriate response.)

No one has taken a national voice, except Black Enterprise Magazine, Essence and less fervently, Ebony, speaking to the wrongness of this ‘word.’ Instead, what you have is worship and obsession with countless people who only claim to fame seems to be the ability to excel in sports, cuss, bare their asses in sagging pants, wear skimpy clothes, and act whorish. It is wrong on so many levels. This is not who we are as a people.

My friend pointed out that since I owned an advertising agency, I am a propagandist but in a unique position to help establish and sustain positive perspectives. I pointed out that I am in business to make money. What if a account executive brings in clients that sell E cigarettes, manufacture spirits, or even run marijuana associations — do I say no? Where does my social responsibility lie?

I can safely say, we still will not advertise pornography.

From the standpoint of being who I am, I will remain true to my upbringing and set of mores. Social responsibility cannot be weighed on a scale of relativism.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO
Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc.

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New Beginnings: Agency Involvement In Social Issues

Driving the Dialogue: Part 1

What is the role of an advertising agency in regard to social involvement, and issues? To some people this may read as a rather superfluous discussion. Be that as it may, on some levels it is. Some things are obvious, whereas some things and not.

I am wrestling with this issue as the CEO of an advertising agency. I will not refer to my agency as being “small” because that word is negative speech, and I vowed to watch my spoken vocabulary. Smallness can become embedded in one’s core being. I’m not small in either self perception, or my ambitions. But, from the stand point of sheer numbers, I do not write out paychecks for very many people. An agency like mine desires to improve its revenue, and what we do from a civil social perspective, has an effect.

Enough preface. My lead question came from a discussion I had with someone recently. I have taken a decidedly approach to pursuing new business. Not surprising since I am in business to make money. This individual though, pointed something out regarding a responsibility to using my agency as a platform for causes.

The much admired, late David Ogilvy had said something to the effect that since we live in a world, you must make a contribution to it. That includes allowing your agency to propel issues. I admire David very much, so the idea does surprise not me — the fact that I’m debating with myself this, does.

Every social cause today, from LGBT issues, illegal immigration, religious persecution of Christians in Muslim countries and in the USA, the fight for social justice, the economy and racial perceptions, have a political component. They also affect people in the psyche and soul. Thus, it is not surprising that someone is driving the debate concerning every conceivable issue.

If you look behind a movement, or if it’s hard to escape the fact that there is a public relations, and even advertising side to it. Nothing happens in a vacuum. No one wakes up one day and says, “I’m black. I think I’ll look for reasons to go out and be upset.” It happens that way because the nature of who you are. However, I don’t agree that a lot of the issues are properly suited as discussions as civil rights. Unlike skin color, some issues are behavioral and matters of personal choice.

A dialogue has been driven by someone properly suited to drive the discussion. White people cannot look at a black or other minority with a clear mind and say, “Racism is dead. It truly is.” Let’s put something under the microscope for a moment: Why dis George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Benjamin Martin? I never bought into the idea of Zimmerman having a self defense ‘right’ to kill Trayvon Martin. He was the attacker or stalker with a gun. Zimmerman was a classic bully, apparently racist idiot. Martin was and always will be a 17-year-old boy walking in the rain in a not necessarily familiar neighborhood. If he did anything, Zimmerman could have just given the boy instructions on how to get home. He chose not to do so.

What followed were attempts by his lawyers, his family, some in the national media to justify a murder (after all, Zimmerman, of his own decision, followed Martin, and during that time he did everything possible to bring on the confrontation, forming requisite intent — a legal component of illegal homicide). Let me point out after the murder, the police and state prosecutor also put out a full court press of ‘justification.’ These efforts were classic crisis management. But, I’m not picking on Zimmerman. I’m merely trying to argue a point using a microscopic view taking us below the surface.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy

New Beginnings: This Pitch Has Something For You, People

AMC produces a show about advertising agencies called: “The Pitch.” The premise is interesting and reflects what the average person does not know about advertising agencies. We compete against each other for business, although it is not like in “The Pitch.” In that program, two agencies are summoned to a briefing by a business like 1-800 Flowers, Little Caesars Pizza, Tommy Bahama, C. Wonder, Marriott Corp. and a few others. Some of the owners of the agencies act like God is waiting for them with an axe to chop their balls off.

They are in the same room and given a briefing at the same time. Like real life, the agencies are given a short period of time to come up with an idea that the business will buy and enter into an agency client relationship.

I’m fascinated by what drives a company to hire an agency. Last season, Jo Muse of Muse Communications head of a multi-cultural agency talked about losing the “chemistry battle.” He felt the business owners and the other agency got along better, and hence overcame the first necessary ingredient: “chemistry.” Both the client and the rival agency were white. There is something to be said about that.

Jo Muse ran a commercial during the show called “White Spaces.” The premise of the commercial was true because I have observed exactly what the commercial claimed. Carson Dunn Media Advertising is a small company. We are considered as a “dark horse,” meaning, there are certain business that we will not get to take us seriously because our size. But it could be worse… you guessed it. I run into the “white space” mentality. Madison Avenue acknowledges the trillions of spending dollars in black, Latino and Asian communities, but we are seldom part of the decision-making process in the boardroom. That’s where it’s decided what agency will be signed to a contract.

When I went into business, I wanted an opportunity to fail. What that means is that I wanted the same opportunities other people got. It is the greatness of this country that I can have a chance to run a business. But, the “fail” aspect deals with having the same view that my firm is confident directed at me… my ethnicity notwithstanding. Is it disheartening to look at website after website and see that all of the faces are nearly all white? Depending on how one’s personal makeup is, it can be.

I choose a look at it this way. Those trillions of dollars in the so-called minority, are fast becoming the majority — they control their fate in business. They need to take a look at the products they buy and ask what was prevalent prior to 1964 Civil Rights Act: “What about our businesses. What about the ones we control?”

This should not be an empty argument. I’m afraid when one looks at the so-called black culture, one is struck by music and dancing. Very little media coverage is given to anything else. Magazines such as Black Enterprise will address the issue, but I’m afraid believes Global Hue is the only black agency worth mentioning. In fact there are many. What media coverage we can muster should be directed towards us. That means as an agency, I have responsibility to introduce myself to the publishers and broadcasters involved.

One has to understand that control of the media means controlling perception. All the singers, dancers and rappers don’t make a whole hell of a difference in the lives of people who need to be told that they are worth something. If you listen to the “songs” they are not affirming but denigrating.

Creating our own media is one way of dealing with the wrong message being thrown out there. That takes money. There are a lot of people of color that could solve this issue — but how does it help, Tyler, Oprah, Bob Johnson and others. They aren’t going to anything unless they see a reward — money overnight.

To do less means that we will never control dialogue as to what is hurtful and appropriate for black people. Our children will continue to be statistics like Travon Martin, or the countless millions of black men in jail. Agencies also need to take a second look at black graduates in communications and English, just as the graduates should look at a black agency for employment. People, it can’t hurt.

Parenthetically, I have had young black people at my agency for a day. They gave nothing, contributed nothing because they had been believed that a black-owned agency offered little in the way of opportunities. So, they either didn’t show up for work, or have some lame excuse for being late.

I can’t help but think that if I was one of those smiling faces on those white websites, if things would be different. Just a thought.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO

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New Beginnings: Dumb People Can Be Millionares

Advertising is not my first foray into the business world. I have been in business for some time. I have an internal argument about my level of success and failure. It’s an ongoing discussion.

I had a man tell me that I was smart, so much so that I should be a millionaire. At one time on paper, I was a millionaire. It’s amazing how fast paper burns, as does a fortune. But, I digress.

The dude was actually putting me down although he thought he was being encouraging. I don’t fault him but I did come to realize two things: 1) People without a business always tell you how to run yours; 2) Most successful people in business are amazingly dumb.

If my clients are smart, they are not part of this discussion.

It is truly amazing how people tend to rest on their “laurels” of accomplishments as if the past is relevant to what they’re doing today. The past is instructed and foundation. It’s like what I read in another blog: “The Ad Contrarian.” The contention is that dumb people become successful as a matter of positioning. In his blog, the author talks about a concept called “achieving orbit.”

It makes sense. Consider a satellite, he says. The satellite has energy to escape the gravitational pull of years. Once it gets orbit it operates on its own. It continues to circle under its own power for years. It does have a cycle, however – when it bumps in the something that’s in this way.

I agree with the Ad Contrarian. Many businesses are like that as well. The power of their products and services get them through. The company’s current administration may not have had anything to do with it; nevertheless, the business continues to be successful.

In my opinion, when a company hit a point of diminishing aimlessness is the moment a similar product is introduced by a vibrant competitor. The 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.

Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. (or CDM Digital) offers advertising services that will help a company survive on something other than its own inertia. Our agency specializes in campaign plans, analyzing marketing trends and development, and importantly, consumer receptivity of a brand.

We pride ourselves on devising the insuring of the client gets a healthy return on their advertising investment. We even develop marketing materials and collateral clients. Why? It is all part of the process of their success.
CDM has adapted and embraced digital technology. Digital advertising agencies not only grow fast, but are nimble and inventive. There are still some people doubt the power of the Internet to communicate and sell products. I’m not knocking them, I’m just trying to make a point.

As we learned, we cannot continue to do things as we have and expect optimum results. Change this necessitated by time. I’d like for new clients to walk in the door. Here is why. Unlike the naysayers, I believe in ideals, business growth and in their very essence, business needs to be guided in the direction they want to go.

Check you, later.

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO

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New Beginnings: I’m Here, Again

Blogs are like learning to play the first chords of a guitar: In your head, it sounds good, but to the listener it may be flat, dissonant to the point of being a rambling annoyance. Here I am writing a blog again, promising to write guitar riffs worthy of Slash or Chuck Berry, while wondering if I sound like a bare ass cat on a hot tin roof.

Let us get down to business. I own an advertising agency. As agencies go, we aren’t large. We’re a pimple on the size grade. However, in terms of ambition we are a giant. Our ideas are expansive, innovative and I hope they will truly help a client’s business grow. Unfortunately, in all professions there is a knowledge curve. Moreover, as it is with life, there are situations to avoid, and lessons to learn. I learned a lot last year, mainly how to work smarter.

I am not a person given to cynicism, believing a person has to be ‘crazy’ to be involved in advertising. I will go on a limb and say that if you are purpose driven and caring, it will reflect in the work. How many charities fade because no one they don’t have the money to pay for an agency to publicize it? Talking about my agency specifically, I must confess that we have not acquitted ourselves very well in this area. Opportunity is lost to prove not only the good things about a conscientious ad agency, but it is falling short of fulfilling civic responsibility in the community.

2013 started as a year of promise but ended as a debacle. A series of bad hires, awful, ungrateful clients and personal decisions made the situation worse. And, oh yeah, my accountant stole a significant amount of money from us. As my friend, Raul would with his considerable accent: “Beach.”

We have crossed the cusp of 2014. There will still be that sour taste of opportunity lost, the sting of disrespectful former employees, and of course, lost revenue.

There are many reasons for optimism for this year, 2014. One of them is a renewed sense of vitality – I truly enjoy what I do. It’s also possible that I will associate with some dynamic people on this journey.

The term advertising agency to truly encompasses and reflects our business service capabilities; but we will also be an integrated marketing firm. Public relations, crisis and reputation management will be provided only to businesses. The last entertainer we helped danced her ass through the door and fell off the balcony of oblivion.
So what will happen in 2014? A great deal. The agency will be rebranded as CDM Digital Advertising and Integrated Marketing. Look for the announcement soon.

The texture of our staff will change as well. I want a professional and consistent sales staff, hopefully cross-generational, formerly involved in real estate, mortgage banking, and sales. In other words, a strong agency begins with a salesforce. Of all the things that we have lacked, it was that.

As I learned to play the chords of the guitar, hopefully these notes will resonate melodically.

Check you later

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO