Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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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WEIGHING OPTIONS: Hitting the Re-set Button

In the firmament something stirred in the vastness. Soon, a presence became obvious — a steady cacophony that was undeniable and intractable – change. And it was refreshing like the first rain in the spring. It gave life to newly discovered hope.

By now, everybody on the planet knows that business is operating in a rough climate. It’s a little nasty, maybe difficult to navigate and apparent for the last six years. And, one would not be far fetched to say there is pervasive stupidity borne of unholy hostility toward those of us that prefer to earn our way through life. It is evident in cities like my beloved (disappointing) Los Angeles, and certainly apparent in the People’s Republic of San Francisco and other outpost of Barry’s America. Yes, the drumbeat comes from the highest office in the land. Deride achievement. Tax the hell out of it. Put up walls of regulation and strangle American exceptionalness.

The odds are thus made harder in such an economic environment. I have news for them. We built it and we’re going to keep it.

Carson Dunn Media is like any other small business. We have our needs; we have our struggles. But even with the pressures there is an operative word, maybe a gasp of optimism – change. The change may be in the politics of the country – and it may be same thing all over again. Regardless, CDM has decided to damn the pressures and refocus our efforts to become preeminent as a small shop.  

As leader of CDM, I lost my way investing in the wrong approach, bad hires, and periods of illogicality. Well, consider this message as a hint of our commitment to invest long-term growth, no more settling for less. Not every port in the storm is good. I came to realize that that the hard way.

We have standards, standards that will steer us toward new business with a new can-do attitude.  Don’t get me wrong. In my period of nadir I discovered some amazing talent in Melissa Castro, and rediscovered the gifted artist Jessica Flores (our art and ad work are kick-ass). For that reason alone, I am very confident in the future of what Carson Dunn Media Advertising will do.

I have a plan for this advertising agency. We are going digital, plan on finding a strategist, marketer and sales director to help forge a strong management team and support staff. I am not going to settle on being part of the pack, because we plan on leading the charge.

Sure, we live in a scary financial environment. There are bank and business failures, lay-offs galore, lies, denial and fear that the economy is dead. But these are this is the fire that will test the mettle. It can be conquered. I have heard the rumble of change in the vast firmament. Quite honestly, the stage has been set to prove how great an agency CDM has grown to be. We have hit the re-set button. 

Bernard A. McNealy, President

Carson Dunn Media Advertising

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Trumpet Over The Horizon

Right now it is clear to me. As measured by resources Carson Dunn Media is not a top tier agency. We are second tier solely because of limitations imposed by this, however, in terms of talent, CDM is damn good and can be as good as it gets.

Somewhere in the fog of memory are the words of a story I once read. The story is about a warning, actually and more precisely, a warning not heeded. It went like this:

“Sunlight pushed through the purple shadows dawn, a new day had arrived. As always I stood on a rock in the meadow. A brook had swollen from the rain and rushed madly in a rocky channel. The current licked at my boots. I heard it. I’d heard the sound before. Somewhere on a hill, dirt and rocks moved and rolled down the hill. In the distant valley, a sound echoed. It became louder; the sound blaring over the horizon. It was a trumpet and it carried a warning. What bodes for me, I asked repeatedly to the wind. My question and voice got lost in it.”

I think I have the answer – the riddle is solved. If you don’t pay attention, you miss the music. In all situations, there is a choice. For me, there is a time to act.
For any creative agency business should be abundant – the economy’s leaking boat notwithstanding.

It is simple when you break it down. A business exists for two reasons: survival of the brand; and, growth in sales. Everyday the issue for me is determining why clients are not beating a path to our door. Maybe it should begin with a change in agency philosophy. As a creative agency Carson Dunn Media should explore a business’ needs, and then accommodate them. I am reminded that a wise man calls this channeling the conscience of a business.

Regardless, it is time to wake up. The right pricing structure can draw clients. Enough business can increase our agency’s profits. This is the trumpet an agency president must and heed. More profit has an added benefit: it causes continued viability and allows us to keep our best talent. Increased staff allows us to give better services.

I don’t know about other agencies, but developing and stretching our market capabilities and presence is exciting. Growth is a prospect worth pursuing. I want to build a successful creative business. If it means charging less – but valuing our services – I’m for it.

We have a buyer’s market. That does not mean Carson Dunn Media will refrain from accepting the 15% commission – no, we will take 13% and put the remainder back into the advertising budget. That does not sound like much, but over time, this 2% will add up. With a bigger budget, the client will benefit.

In order to offer a full range of marketing services an agency should receive an initial retainer to get things targeted and on the mark. As a result Carson Dunn Media could cap creative fees, and not require clients to pay a monthly running tab.

How realistic is this? What are the total savings a client will experience? I am not certain. It is a gamble, and it comes with risks. The downside may be hindered growth. But the upside is the prospects of greater profit for agency and client. More business at reduced costs mean volume – volume means success. That is the sound of the trumpet over the horizon.

….. Bernard A. McNealy, President of CDM

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