Monthly Archives: October 2015

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.”