Monthly Archives: July 2016

Food For Thought: Too Much Information; Not Enough Timebad day

By now, anyone that has read my blogs knows that I am the president of a small advertising agency. We’re an agency because we do with agencies do – assist clients by offering marketing services, and by generating adverts. Okay. Simple enough, but did you know that it’s difficult? Sometimes it’s even thankless and definitely can be money draining.

Let me reveal a masochistic tendency about my relationship to advertising and its pitfalls: I like it.

However, it’s lonely at the top. I’m supposed to know everything. But, I’ve discovered in the quest to know everything, there’s not enough time to discover and absorb the information. This morning I attended a meeting on integrating CRM and marketing automation. It was quite a discussion. It was definitely not ‘old school’. Tomorrow, I’m going to learn more about data and analytics.

The other day, someone sat in my office and droned on about programmatic methods for media buying. That meeting left me cross-eyed, and, this morning my left eye became my right eye and vice versa.

There is a project sitting on my desk that needs commentary, possibly requiring me to analyze why the graphics are off, and why the copywriting inconsistent. Yep. Helping to straighten out the inconsistencies of this advertising issue should be my element, but this other 21st-century digital modernist stuff keeps getting in the way.

What I’m learning is that it’s almost impossible for one person to take on the roles we small agency operators often have. What often suffers is that in the struggle to keep up, customer needs are affected negatively. Certainly, it’s unintentional. It also isn’t because we can’t let go and delegate because is often no one to delegate to. The hope is to incorporate a system and bring in individuals that can handle the nuances and intricacies required of  marketing specialists, and sales people. It’s great being top management, but I want the end product that we produce to improve massively because our clients deserve it.

Running an agency has become more complex than before simply because as the tools of delivering our services improve, the level of difficulty to increase. When I got started in marketing and advertising, very seldom did we give the Internet a thought except to do basic research. The heavy stuff was done by some nerd steeped in statistics and research, and no one really cared how they learned it. I’m not doing myself a service by lagging behind in learning of, and discovering the usage of online sales technology and tools.

But, I’m not a sales director but a guy that writes ads for other businesses.

It’s not so much a complaint but recognition that this profession is a difficult one to master. It’s easy to be mediocre. The standards that we set for ourselves should be higher than mediocrity. Clients place trust in us as well as pay for our services. As the remainder of the day closes, I’ll probably sketch out how all of this headache-inducing “stuff,” can help me develop my vision of a company that is proficient, nimble and capable of doing knockout work.
Some clients understand.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a former client that told me of the plenteous marketing and advertising needs of his startup. He was considering hiring a large agency in Los Angeles. After giving him an assessment of their capabilities, they quoted a retainer that made him choke. Still, he went to their offices and was given a brief tour and noticed they had departments committed to doing the very thing I’m trying to come up to speed on.

“These people are cold. When you handled a project for me, your staff treated me well,” he said.

I replied: “It’s just the Golden Rule. Honestly, that other agency’s a better fit. It may be in your best interest to go with them.”

“Remember, if they’re not accessible, I doubt if they’re working for me. Never take the personal touch out of what you do.” He said, but took my advice.

After encouraging me, he gave an analogy of a small agency taking on a big formidable one. He talked about a boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson. In his story, Ray knocked Iron Mike out. That analogy is reflective of reality because we try to compete against competitors that have five floors of creatives to undertake a project and know the modern digital “stuff.”

That’s a great analogy, but if Mike tags Sugar Ray with a left hook, imagine the little guy’s headache. Maybe, learning stuff that will make me cross-eyed makes sense.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

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Food For Thought: Dealing With Sexual Harassment

chick9qQKPProbably to the person doing it, being accused of sexual harassment shouldn’t be a shock. You know what you know. Usually, as in the case of Roger Ailes, soon to be formerly of Fox News, it’s a man doing the harassing. As Gretchen Carlson’s accusations have not been adjudicated, Ailes is an ‘alleged’ perpetrator. The same thing applies to Bill Cosby. Nothing has been proven, though an allegation of sexual assault is processing through the criminal courts. Presumption of innocence should prevail.

There is a legal definition, and thus a threshold of conduct that falls within the definition of sexual harassment. It’s supposedly ironclad, but I contend an accusation can be often off based. There is such a thing as a misunderstanding. I’m not talking about the quid quo pro, “Hey, sugar, you’re working for me. Play with me and have a drink, sister and you’ll go far,” I had a short stint as a writer for a production company way back when. I met a woman executive that said that to me. She tossed in the cartoonish skin-crawling protruding eyeballs as her hand traveled somewhere between my lap and knee. Those types of things are easy to call, as it in the case of a woman being hit on by a supervisor or co-worker. My point is that it shouldn’t happen – no one should feel uncomfortable doing his or her job.

Those types of things are easy to call, as it in the case of a woman being hit on by a supervisor or co-worker. My point is that it shouldn’t happen – no one should feel uncomfortable doing his or her job.

I remember interviewing a young woman who, initially came across as being all business. She didn’t stay that way. She repositioned her chair to sit directly in front of me – slapping a hand on my knee and a display of cleavage came next. I was stunned, but more so by the overture she floated at me. I had no real interest and politely refused. Why? Quite honestly, it could have been a setup. I’m also married to the woman of my dreams. Besides, that’s not how I conduct myself in the workplace.

After that incident, I had my female assistant manager, conduct interviews with me, or, altogether, take the lead with women. Our agency has always been small with many lineup changes, but the culture is interesting. It’s always been my belief in providing a safe, comfortable environment. My colleague and I thought it essential to nip issues early on because, even off premises, men and women exhibited a lot of locker-room bawdiness and language. It usually spills over to the workplace. We felt the being proactive with written policies, and role playing were the best ways to deal with this issue.

Here’s a cliché’ “Appreciate women for their character and ability to do the job…” That’s really true, but also pabulum because it’s just a set of words that sound right. There are a number of people who want sexual neutrality and gender equality in the workplace. Just like the mythical “color-blind” society they claim they live in, its bull. It is a given that men and women doing the same job should be paid the same. That’s just common sense, not arguable. However, ‘sexual neutrality’ is a notion that goes against the male and female dynamic. Put men and women together and there will be tension.

As a man, I appreciate women for their gifts – intellectual and esthetic. I will pay attention, open doors and show deference because I am a man. No apologies. The unfortunate thing is that some men turn a gaze into a leer. That’s when the illusion that a quiet friendly smile, manner of dress, and professionalism is an invitation to make a woman feel devalued. In all ways holy, that’s just plain wrong. It’s also equally wrong to assume there is a demand behind, “Hello how was your day?” or, “Nice outfit. You wear it well.”

If the latter happens, remember you’re not under attack. It is called a ‘compliment.’

Food For Thought: The Evangelist

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Maybe it’s finally started to dawn on me, but as one who runs a small advertising agency, I’m realizing that I cannot do it alone. While serendipity set in, I also know that certain aspects of my job require me to do the selling of agency services. That process has to be systematic, consistent, and in some respects automated. I’m wasn’t big on ad tech, but it’s a necessity. “One must adapt – resistance is futile,” a former client of mine that resembled a Borg Soldier (from Star Trek mythos) told me. He was right.

Too many of us in the small agency arena have the illusion that we’re glib MadMen. We aren’t. I seldom consume alcohol. So is very unlikely that I will get a client agreement after a three martini lunch. I’m not friends with a politician or some big business owner. Getting clients requires hustling, and when relating the virtues of what we do in my shop, speaking with the fervor of an evangelist.

That doesn’t mean that I have to become the king of alliteration, breaking out into a gospel song in the middle of the presentation, but it means something that is lost on most of us. We must believe without whole hearts in what we’re doing and offering and that it is good.

Why now?

Easy. Change has to come from within. I referenced MadMen, not because of the television show, but the familiarity people have with it and the era of advertising it represents. Below I have studied the subject, my principal learning came from reading and consuming everything that I could get my hands on regarding David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Jerry Della Fermia, Roy Eaton and Leo Burnett. I had no illusions of walking into some agency and showing off my portfolio. I transitioned to marketing and advertising but wanted to bring the same sensibility and vision to what I was doing, as had the Masters of Madison Avenue.

That era has passed not because of creative obsolescence, but as the winds of time move the sand, it does the same to our lives. Thankfully, they passed down a legacy. Strive to be great.

For me, the lessons learned from studying the greatest should translate into developing a level of confidence and competence. The agencies of the Masters grew not only from superior creative work but also from unison within the agency. What’s produced these days can be summed up by a line from the lips of Jack Lemon in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross: “It’s horseshit.”

I’m a firm believer that the fame of Ogilvy, Bernbach, and the rest came about because they had strong sales ability – if not people in the trenches kicking in doors. The creative work spoke for itself – it was magnificent. Account services were practiced on a level generally not seen today. So, that’s what slipped past.

When CDM Digital Advertising was in its nascent days as Carson Dunn Media Advertising about eight years ago, or whenever the recession started, I was the face of the company. Sales came because I did the majority of the networking consisting mainly of going to civic organization meetings, and being the agency motor mouth. Here’s what is unpleasant about sales: rejection. There is also a hint of ridicule behind that. Can you imagine some CEO puffing up his face, turning his nose at the mention of your agency? It happens.

But in rejection, you’re reminded to persevere. An evangelist believes in the word they are spreading. Nothing should deter him or her. In the last year, I examined different sales funnel models, methodology to convert leads into actual clients, until I turned blue. (I have a Carmel complexion, so can you imagine?)

Here’s an observation. I’ve noticed that perspective clients have made a decision prior to meeting me. That decision is based on their belief of the benefits of their brand. My shop is a brand, too. Thus, despite differences in bank accounts and business clout, the client is the same as I am. They want to interface with a human being. As a communicator, I should be able to develop rapport, as I grow to understand what they are dealing with and growing their businesses.

It’s my hope that as I turn over the reins the new business development and sales to someone in my organization, they have that understanding as well. Marketing automation tools help a great deal to keep everything organized, but without commitment and belief, the agency evangelist is hitting his head against the wall.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC