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Food For Thought: Loyalty is A Seven Letter Word

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Loyalty is a Seven Letter Word    (Part 1)

One seldom writes a newsletter because they happen to be great a writer. The same applies to blogging. As a business, we assume that there is an audience eager to digest and intellectualize what is in our newsletter. A communications business is no different than any other firm – the mechanics are the same – the problems are no different.   This isn’t a great mystery.

We’ve committed ourselves to impart information about marketing and advertising. The idea is to help the reader in some manner. After all, we’re in this together – whatever this is – hopefully, we’ll come out smarter because of the experience.

Right now, I’m freestyling. I intended to write on something else, but my mind feels like it’s swimming in a sea of melancholia. This is attributable to a thoughtful LinkedIn article I read this morning. The topic had to do with whether one should be silent as they are looking for another job. I have some thoughts about that.

Pay attention, millennial.

My contention is that one must be careful about burning bridges. They know it, but the reasons are lost on them. Often when a person is looking for another job, it may result in the employer ending the relationship early; that very possibility may compel that employee to just leave. My feelings are colored by personal history; my views are shaped by it.

I once worked for a public interest law firm. People figuratively sat their hair on fire and used the strands as fuses for Molotov cocktails – we were radicals, baby. Okay, that was especially the case if you had a trust fund. Anyway, some people believed that I was the resident head of radicalism – exemplified by a three-piece suit and a Che’ Guevara beret.

One day, after a lot of office turmoil, this very interesting woman walked into my office and sat down. She waxed eloquently about how she was dying to meet me, yak, yak, yak. It turns out she was sort of an imported hitwoman whose sole job was to get rid of me. She was sent by our funding source. “White shoe” law firms used her to devise ways of dismissing problematic employees. Wynonna Earp, a cute, but deadly enforcer.

Well, I silently started my job search, yet soon announced my intent to call it a wrap, in advance of leaving. Despite the corporate bat feces that had been directed at me, I felt obligated to let Boss Hogg and his herd know.

It strikes me that most people think it’s proper to search by stealth and announce they are leaving. Personal choice. I’ve seen some people develop an attitude that can be interpreted as:

“I don’t owe you nothin’, so I’m outta here.”

To me, this is wrong. I felt obligated to the people that paid me a paycheck, even though I took my Che’ Guevara fakery seriously. Boss Hogg and the Hazzard County Commission were really decent people and seemed sincere at my going away party. Wynonna Earp stayed outside poised like a gunfighter.

Damn. A crazy girl with a gun ready to kill my future…Damn.

Bernard Alexander McNealy

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Food for Thought: Yep. I’m Talking About You.

5b45f2_bb8384fbd35f4ccea3d71062eb6379abI was scooping water from the kiddie pool we have for the little ones. I needed a workout, so, soon I worked up a nice sweat. After feeling like my arms and back were getting swole like Shannon Sharpe, I found a lawn chair and started sipping coffee while engaging in one of my favorite pastimes, looking at websites of advertising and PR agencies, playing my version of  “Where’s Waldo.” I call it, “Can You Spot the Black Dude?”

I grew tired of it because most agencies with headshots of their crews were still 95% white, so it got tedious. Some of these folks reminded me of the newborn in the Raymond Bradbury short story, “That Only a Mother.”Looking at them got brutal.

There was also an absence of people over 45-50 from the so-called, dynamic, creative shops. What’s interesting is that if you find websites pre-Y2K you found the over 45-50 set — looking like exiles. Maybe, in some respects they are.

I was going to write a blog making wisecracks about the advertising industry’s failure to take seriously gender, sexual, racial and age discrimination. Damn, I started to have a sweeping wave of emotion. Sadness, maybe. Such jokes aren’t funny and are unnecessary.

I ran into an article in AdWeek that put things in focus and I knew why the caged bird sings. And this stuff is crazy. I asked myself if Jim Crow has repackaged and cloned his despicable Johnny Reb self and joined all the major advertising holding companies as upper management.

They are even putting out to pasture, people that could be mentors — the over 45-50 crowd — people who have a vague idea of who Tippy Hedren is. Read it in Agency Spy. They fired Grandpappy Amos and Granny Clampett when the clock turned on them. Hell, they still had dark hair and only contemplated botox. In the article, a group of agency insiders all confirm that ageism exists. That’s why Granny split, and Amos is off building a Y2K style website. He needs a job in the profession he loves. Granny plans to join him.

When you consider the rather alarming avalanche of lawsuits for racial discrimination (which gets  little coverage —  indictable in and of itself), sexual discrimination against women, and an endless list,  it cries not for reform, but for resolution.

These issues are not constructs of imagination, but sickening reality. It has been too prevalent in every industry, particularly advertising. Later in the year, although we’re small with small agency struggles, our plan is to bring on board two people otherwise excluded from our club. It’s a small step. No big agency drama or attractiveness, but it’s a step nonetheless.

What about you, “Mr. or Ms. Small Shop?” Can you help change the paradigm? Money is  an issue. I can absorb a hit on what I make and make it possible for us. (I’ve been doing it anyway). All of us can play a part and show the big boys how it’s done because they aren’t going too. If we own or partner in an agency — money is always a moveable commodity. However, the exiles are precious for their knowledge and should be treasured.

So, the question is, “What’s in your heart?”

Bernard Alexander McNealy

Why We Don’t Do Porn — A Second Look

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog post called: “Why We Don’t Do Porn”. It is now 2016, and while I am not reassessing my moral positioning on a given matter, or practicing relativism, I am looking at business realities. Then and now, as the agency president/owner, I am the titular head of new business and responsible for bringing in revenue for a small advertising agency. Quite honestly, the competition has an edge – pragmatism.

I say pragmatism because when one takes an unequivocal stance as to what they will and will not do, they are not taking into consideration the fact that the world is not made of black and white, but is a series of gray gradations. It determines our moral precepts and presumptions. A stance based on ‘moral’ grounds is admirable. Echoing Dr. Martin Luther King and several others, a person that this does not stand for something, will fall for anything. Here is the problem. It is also painting one’s self into a corner.

By the very nature of owning a business, I am a capitalist. In most respects I am laissez-faire. I believe too much government regulation is nothing more than interference with what I’m doing for my family. Still, I am an advocate of fair and equal wages irrespective of gender, and endeavor to pay them. I hope most businesses understand child labor, anti-discrimination laws, and workplace safety are the unquestioned law of the land. If you resist them, you’re an idiot.

The workplace should be as comfortable, and welcoming as a person’s home. Feeling this way doesn’t make me nobler than anyone else. It’s a recognition common sense should be a constant presence in all that we do.

When I wrote that blog post in 2011, it reflected my feelings. I haven’t necessarily changed, but as I said I’m a capitalist, my business is supposed to make money. Our society has changed and every evolves. America has become a place I no longer recognize. The marijuana business has become a growth industry. What should my stance be – ignore it? That’s one approach. But for an agency that may mean not pursuing a potentially profitable account.

And, what about e- cigarettes — should I just pursue pitching those companies that claim to only use herbal products? What about the pharmaceutical industry? What if a pro-abortion group wanted to promote an event related to women health issues? Should I let my pro-life stance interfere with providing advertising or some form of promotional marketing for them? And what about politicians? Some do lie — few tell the truth — but will if the gun is aimed between the eyes. I have to question whether or not I should help promote one of them.

Here’s my honest opinion. We live in a place called the “Big Picture.” That is simply defining ourselves as moral beings that recognize that there is a greater good and a higher power. Universal morality comes knowing these things. Still, if presented with something that is unpopular or controversial, payroll considerations will factor in the decision. Does that mean CDM Digital Advertising will provide marketing for PornHub, ‘adult’ products or a girlie magazine? I can only say that caring about the whole human being will factor into it. If a product or organization is hell-bent on degrading people, to them I say, try the creative outfit up the block.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising

Food For Thought: In Plain Sight

woman-645705_1280There is much uproar about whether a country can ban a group from its shores based on ideology, religion or nationality. What I said, you’re late to the party — it’s been done already.

People suffer from selective memory, especially if they believe it elevates them on some self-proclaimed platitude of being better than someone else. Let’s put it in context: Donald Trump. As people scream about Trump (who is enunciating a hypothetical policy and speculative political posture — thus words) there is an historical fact that backs him up.

It has been done before — by a ‘progressive democrat.’ It was the well-respected gentleman from Plains, Georgia, the “Peanut Farmer,” James Earle Carter. Get off the floor – I’m not making this up. Facts are facts.

US President Jimmy Carter froze immigration from a Muslim-majority nation in 1979 after the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun and American citizens were taken as hostages and terrorized by their captures.

Carter issued an executive order that all Iranian students in the U.S. had to report to immigration officials within thirty days. As a result of his sole decision 15,000 Iranians who were ejected from the country from a population of 50,000.

Now that’s just damn right un-American, isn’t it? Certainly no court would have allowed it to stand. Think again.

An Appeals Court decision upheld the President’s authority for the action, in part saying this: “The present controversy involving Iranian students in the United States lies in the field of our country’s foreign affairs and implicates matters over which the president has direct constitutional authority.”

There is a nexus to the current situation referred to in Trump’s idea. A concurring opinion in the decision made this point:

“Distinctions on the basis of nationality may be drawn in the immigration field by the Congress or the executive. So long as such distinctions are not wholly irrational, they must be sustained.” The court went to say that Carter’s edict is justified by perceived threats to national security.

History also points out that five months after the hostages were taken, the President imposed formal sanctions against Iran, including closing government offices, prohibiting exports from the U.S. into Iran, seizing domestic Iranian assets…

And, stopping entry by Iranian citizens into the U.S.

Here’s the pertinent line from Carter’s announcement:

“The Secretary of Treasury [State] and the Attorney General will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires. This directive will be interpreted very strictly.”

The United States has thus banned entry into the country on national security grounds – and under Democratic presidents. None of them are even close to what we call ‘evil.’ In addition to Carter’s freeze of entry into the U.S. for Iranians, FDR certainly imposed restrictions taken against Japanese and Germans.

Here is what people must remember. In the United States domestic policies, national security issues and the legalities of visa restrictions should be debated without vitriol because we should be concerned about the country and its direction. I’m afraid that the screaming and wild denunciations not only chase away civility, but common sense.

You don’t learn unless you listen to other viewpoints. You are a fool if you believe that only your ideas matter. Truth then hides in plain sight. If America has enemies, that’s their key to our destruction.

Trump may not be diabolical or mean, and neither was the “Peanut Farmer.” Their motives are and were spurred by what is seen as unjustifiable events from members of a certain population.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising Agency

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.”

New Beginnings: Thank You Roy Eaton

From the executive to the account and to the creative level, the advertising profession suffers from a lack of participation of blacks. When we are in college in the communications disciplines, there emerges a disdain or dissuasion from going into advertising. It is a mistake.

We owe to those who struggled and succeeded at what they wanted and what they were cut out to be. Roy Eaton.

I recognize that a number of people go into public relations (some opening their own shops) only because of the perception that PR is glamourous and exposes one to entertainment and its glitz. That’s true to a degree, but advertising offers one a chance to participate in writing their own story. It affords an opportunity that should be pursued.

Issues of racism and the lack of diversity cannot be ignored — but some things are worth the struggle. It saddens me when I give an opportunity to a black intern that they ridicule me, slam the agency and just stop showing up. They don’t understand that everything we do is part of a process. But, it is a process that I am proud to be part of.

In this video interview, Roy Eaton, renowned pianist and former creative with the advertising agencies Y&R and Benton & Bowles is an inspiration, and perhaps tells it better than I can.

New Beginnings: Don’t Forget The Basics

We grow weary of ourselves sometimes. This happens frequently when you take the late Michael Jackson’s advice to start with “The Man in The Mirror.” I guess this is when one observes and marks their personal behavior in particular situations. The tendency is to be self critical and engage self flagellation like a crazed, lustful monk for falling short. The problem with that is that we seldom establish a benchmark to reach –so  naturally in the fog of confusion, its likely the psyche will  take a beating. A benchmark is a basic requirement to measure achievement — don’t forget it.

I am finding in business, forgetting can lead to bankruptcy. We tend to trust a little too much in people that may not share  our zeal to form a company into a particular embodiment. Sure, we talk to the people we’re dependent on, but the problem is that talking and listening are not the same as communicating and listening. So we proceed on clueless. We hit a metaphoric brick wall. And in our bruised state we come to grips (sometimes) with the fact communication requires attention, hearing requires setting aside the ego because a divergent approach or polite dissent may be have been the best course. These are basics — too easily forgotten.

Having restructured from a different business model, I’m operating essentially what is a new advertising agency . In my enthusiasm to pursue new business, I forgot to include in my company resume the most important thing – facts denoting what qualifies CDM to handle a customers business. I also failed to take into consideration whether or not the businesses I am pursuing were within my scope of expertise. Theoretical competence is not real competence. This also a basic.

My presentation manual should also ask: “What do you, business owner require and your agency?” Needless to say if the question was posed to a potential client, likely it would be a generic, “Good work at a fair price.”  Those were givens. That potential client is probably looking for assurance that we can not only do the job, but his investment in advertising with our company will an eye popping return. My question to myself would’ve been whether we’ll profit from the arrangement. To some, that sounds mercenary. It isn’t because it is very basic to business. After all, commerce is an exchange.

There is a raging debate between business owners and workers about salary, other forms of compensation, reduced workloads, and having dialogue deciding the the company’s direction. I am old school. On my first adult jobs I kept my mouth shut and learned as much as possible. As long as the work relationship was not  exploitative, I could live with it. Now as I am comfortably in my baby-boomer years, It occurs to me that people will have differences of opinion. They want to engage in dialogue on things that were verboten when I first started working. The lesson here is that time changes thing. I suppose i am looking at “Man in the Mirror.” I’m seeing a person that is adapting while retaining values and perceptions.

It boils down to being basic and demanding its own set of remembrance. You don’t forget the basics because they never change.

Catch you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO

CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing 

New Beginnings: THE POWER OF A LOGO

Our agency may be many things, above all, we are an advertising agency. We don’t disguise it by telling prospective clients that we are, a “creative disruptive,” “digital re-thinkers,” or “imagineers.” Those are terms from three advertising agencies — and they are a pile of horse crap. They take away the agency’s identity and essence. They also throw the the truth to the wind — they are ad agencies — a bunch of MADMEN.

We’re at the tail end of a very tortured process of re-branding. Transitioning from a being a struggling traditional to a struggling digital has been nothing but promising lurches and abrupt stops. Through it all, although the business model has changed, our function, thus identity, has not. We offer advertising services. One good thing about stumbling into this year is embracing branding. We are also a small business. And as such, we know an identity can be established with a logo. It’s the corsage on the gown — the bow tie on a tuxedo — or, the beret and sunglasses worn by a stylish woman.

I’d like to share our thoughts from a past blog. It provides insight into how a logo forge an indelible impression on the consumer.
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“THE POWER OF A LOGO

lo·go [loh-goh]
noun, plural -gos.

1. Also called logotype. a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition.

From Apple’s “apple” to Nike’s “swoosh” to Obama’s “patriotic O”; the logo does not in any way substitute for the quality of the product nor the design, but it does complete the branding package. Although researchers have not deciphered a conclusive understanding of a logo, an overwhelming majority acknowledge the correlation between a logo and its profits. Perhaps it is the ambiguity of a silver, partially bitten apple or maybe its the fictional historic backgrounds associated with the logo that appeals to consumers. Nevertheless, it is a logo that attracts consumers worldwide. Buying a Mac computer or an iPhone is more than just buying OS X software, it is possessing that partially bitten, but well branded Apple product.

To consumers such as myself, a logo is more than “a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc.”–it is a powerful story. Designers of logos deliberately associate a color, font, and shape with compelling words that an audience can relate to. In fact, Obama’s strategist David Axelrod told designers to create a logo that would evoke “a new sense of hope.” This “hope” is successfully illustrated in the red strips (flag stripes as patriotism) and the circle (sunrise as hope).

In order for a logo to be consumer friendly it has to be adaptable and have chameleon like qualities. For example, the Apple symbol is often switched to white, rainbow, and sometimes blue. Taking it a step further, customers can adhere picture stories onto their Mac computers. From Snow White biting into a poison apple to a squirrel chomping on an apple; Apple and even PC lovers are drawn to personalizing their computer.”

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As we encounter prospective clients, we stress that their logo not only is a pretty piece of graphics, but it tells a compelling story. One that if used, can make a big difference in the bottom line.

Catch you later,

Bernard A. McNealy, CEO
CDM Digital Advertising

New Beginnings: Instincts, Sharp Eyes, Loud Voice

I am finished chasing down a particular business for an appointment. After so many communiques via email, telephone calls, and promises, the potential client cannot meet until some unspecified future day. “Strong pitch. Touched on our needs. Indeed,” the company president said. Without bitterness, frustration set in. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong relative to particular business.

Having placed myself in charge of acquiring new business for my revamped ad agency I wonder if someone else should be assigned to the task. After all, acquiring money for operational costs and paying people are so essential, my efforts should be concentrated on those things. That makes a lot of sense.

A quick word about my categorizing the state of my company as being “revamped.” That is not fully descriptive. What I did was tear down my business model. It hasn’t been an easy transition going from being traditional to disruptive and digital. There was evaluation of staff and the value of our accounts, and thus attrition. When this happens you find yourself standing alone trying to crystallize your vision.

Like minded people are hard to find. But, it is always a pressing need.

Two years ago, I began questioning my ability to judge talent. We interviewed several creatives to come in just above entry level. I sat down with the “perfect candidate.” She was smart, friendly, attractive and knowledgeable. She liked the way we laid out the office — roomy — clean — colorful. The neighborhood was crappy, but the office rocked. I extended an offer — she accepted. But, when she realized that we were committed to remaining multi-cultural, she withdrew. “I don’t really like that vibe. No offense,” was delivered in a soft but crushing voice.

My then PR Director came in as the candidate left and said she knew what was going to happen because her instincts told things about the woman I didn’t notice. The next candidate arrived minutes later. The interview went well and was a notch above “Miss Perfect.” Being the gentleman that I am, and because it got dark early, I walked her to her car. There was a quick mundane conversation, and I said, “I’ll let you know within a week.” This seemed okay with her. She served a long, absorbing smile and drove off.

As she was packing up for the day, the PR Director stared at me. She seemed disturbed. When asked, she replied: “That girl doesn’t want a job. She wants a social relationship.” When asked how she knew, she said: “Well, she folded and slipped a note under your laptop. I was passing by your office when you stepped out to take a call privately. She put a spot of her cologne on the note. She likes you, not the agency.”

My colleague went on to say that she had sharp eyes for this type of thing — “the charming siren.” I realize some professional women that will read this blog might take offense, but people casting shadows across your desk may have motives not even remotely associated with what you want. Their intent is diametrically dichotomous. Resumes often are an exercise in creative writing. Good fiction.

That’s not to say don’t trust people. We need a host of people to function in the ad business. I have to take somethings as they are. Other times references must be vetted. So, as I make decisions for my company, if instincts and sharp eyes tell me a truth hidden by a prospect, I am prepared to say “No” in a loud voice — even it if stays in my head.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy