20 brands I’m thankful for in 2020

It’s Thanksgiving, but how do we know it? We’ve been home alone all year, not just for the holidays. What will I wear to the living room tomorrow — the the dark tan or the light tan corduroy trousers? Yes, I have pandemic fatigue, but I want to be here next Thanksgiving.

2020 was most notable for the lack of human interaction in our lives, the loss of communality. This brings a lack of joy and excitement. In a year with little to shout about, it’s the little things that count. As a result, our relationships shifted to inanimate brands. More than ever, our brand preferences defined us. On this Thanksgiving Eve, I am thankful for these brands — they made 2020 easier to bear.

Santa Maria Novella — Rule #1 when you are alone in a pandemic for months on end: be comfortable in your own skin. That’s impossible to do if your own skin is actually uncomfortable. SMN has been creating skin preparations in the world’s oldest pharmacy just outside of Florence for centuries. Recommended products: Almond oil, Body milk, Before & After shave cream

Adidas — 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Adidas Superstar. From Hip-Hop to Hollywood to the Hardwood, the world would be far less stylish without this shell-toed classic. To commemorate the anniversary, Adidas released several dozen limited-edition models. I’ve picked up a few pairs and they are appropriate footwear for any Zoom meeting. Recommended products: The slip-on Superstar (summers), Superstar in Collegiate navy

Bill’s Khakis — I’ve struggled to find trousers with a long enough rise to be as comfortable while I’m seated as I am standing up. In 2003, I discovered Bill’s Khakis and my life changed forever. BTW, there is an actual Bill that founded the company: Bill Thomas, former copywriter at Leo Burnett. Recommended products: M1P Original twills & shorts

Lacoste — Is there anything more comfortable against your trunk than the original Rene Lacoste tennis polo? It just feels right, looks right and fits right. Key tip: never put one in a dryer…never. Recommended products: Slim fit version when tucking in and classic fit with the shirttail out

Champion — There’s a lot of fleece out there in the world today. But it takes a champ to really wear a Champion. It’s getting chilly and nothing looks and feels better over a polo than a grey sweatshirt. Recommended products: Original reverse-weave crew neck in grey, sweatpants in cherry pie

Barilla — Man does not live on bread alone; he also needs pasta. Ah, pasta — what would life be without pasta? You think the pandemic sucks? Try imagining it without penne bolognese or spaghetti alio y olio. I like Barilla because it’s imported from Italy and cheap at Costco. Recommended products: bow-ties, penne rigate

Feltman’s of Coney Island — The original hot dog. The first in the world. These are not your everyday dogs due to the price and the intense old-world spice flavor. But for special occasions like Father’s Day? Feltman’s does daddy right. I read an article this summer about how the pandemic saved the hot dog. If so, long live the pandemic! Recommended: apple cidar vinegar mustard, natural casing frankfurters

Boar’s Head — Have you noticed your increased condiment usage in 2020? That’s because we ate more lunches at home than any time in history (well, at least since the Stone Age). More condiments equals more cold cuts. Without Boar’s Head, I would be forced to eat Oscar Meyer. As if the pandemic isn’t bad enough. Recommended products: Deluxe ham, Ovengold turkey

Ken’s Salad Dressing — Salads are key to…well, you know…uh, keep things moving along. Here in The South, there’s a scarcity of old school dressings like Russian and French. Whenever I used to order a salad in a restaurant (remember restaurants?) and ask for French dressing, I would invariably be served Ranch dressing (sounds like “french”). Thanks Ken’s. Recommended products: The French and Russian are great but all the Italian variations work just fine too.

Lay’s — Simple, classic thin potato chips sitting there on the plate next to a ham & swiss on rye. Welcome to my world at noon. Recommended products: salt & vinegar, barbecue and sour cream & onion (tip: get the variety pack of 30 small bags at Costco)

Slow-Kettle Campbell’s Soup — I’m a soup guy. This soup comes in individual portion-sized cans and is microwavable in the package. These are the best canned soups ever made. And they’re ready to go in 65 seconds. They taste better than homemade. Recommended products: Tomato & Sweet Basil, Clam Chowder

Casamigos Tequila — What would the pandemic be without skinny margaritas? This stuff is the best and the healthiest booze. Fear of Covid definitely drove me to drink. Recommended products: Blanco, Reposado

Produttori del Barbaresco — The Nebbiolo grape is a natural wonder of the world. This communally-produced wine is as versatile and interesting as mass production will allow. I never get tired of it. Each bottle reveals a new nuance.

Instacart — Not really a brand but it certainly made things easier and safer for our family. Grateful not to be Dead.

The Atlantic — Of all the magazines not named Golf Digest or Adweek on my desk, The Atlantic inspires intellectual curiosity. My mother-in-law bought me the subscription which validates my marriage.

Volvo — True, I’m getting about two weeks to the gallon these days; but when I do venture out, I’ve noticed just how crazy everyone seems to be driving since the pandemic (is it just me imagining this?). It’s comforting to feel safe on the road. As an adult, I’ve never driven anything but. Recommended: S90, XC40

Haverty’s — Have you noticed how much you sat on your ass this year? I hope your sofa is soft. Ours is. My butt thanks you Haverty’s.

Zoom — Ok, I know we’re all tired of this shit. But without Zoom we’d all have arthritic elbows from holding our phones up to our ears. I like Zoom. I may never leave the house again.

Facebook — My mother loves Facebook. It allows me to show her I’m alive and well and eating well and my family is healthy. She can see photos and videos of her grandchildren. I know all the political muck around Facebook, I don’t care. I love my mother.

Titleist/FootJoy — I’ve left the building for very few things this year. Golf was the constant, almost every Wednesday morning. Vitamin D, exercise and healthy competition keep us alive. Titleist manufactures my equipment and FootJoy, my shoes. Without golf, I think I’d hang myself. Recommended: Titleist AVX, FJ Flex

6 things we can learn from the Stan Richards affair

Stan Richards

Stan Richards is a force of nature. Through talent and willpower, Sir Stan built the largest independent agency in the history of American advertising. He may have been the most prolific account-winner in the annals of the agency world. Even in our competitive industry, it’s saddening to see such a legend topple off the shelf.

Through a twist of fate, I only met him once. It was 2005 and I was running new business at BBDO Atlanta. We were pitching Capital One’s first brick and mortar bank, the old Hibernia Bank in New Orleans. Mr. Richards and his band of brothers were walking out of the conference room and our team was walking in. We won the business. We went zone at halftime and TRG’s shooters couldn’t buy a basket.

As a disclaimer, I’ve done business with hundreds of agencies, but never The Richards Group. I always considered the agency a source company, since they were never a client company. That did not impact my admiration for the man, the agency and his employees. I was, in fact, surprised to learn how many of his people were inclined to listen to new opportunities.

What happened last week in Dallas was an unfortunate stain on our industry. Certainly, Sir Stan’s intentions were not devious nor racist. And there still appears to be some mystery around what really happened and what Mr. Richards actually said. No matter what, nobody won that pitch. Nobody in advertising can hide from the fact that we all suffered as a result.

Watching his mea culpa interview, I was reminded of the ad guy played by Albert Brooks in “Lost in America” pleading with the casino manager (Garry Marshall).

In life, there are no “mistakes;” just things of consequence that we can learn from. What can we learn from in The Richards Group debacle?

  • Live by the Press, Die by the Press — they love to build you up so they can tear you down. Ted Williams called them, “the Poison Pens.”
  • It only takes one bad thing to undo thousands of good things — This is standard Prometheum Law. The fall from grace is always swift and unexpected.
  • Legacies are ephemeral — Just ask Christopher Columbus.
  • Life is a cumulative game — The putt you miss on 18 has the same weight as the putt you make on hole #1.
  • It’s a short walk from the penthouse to the outhouse — and that very occasional journey is what keeps us humble.
  • Don’t hang around longer than you need to — if you watched Willie Mays play centerfield in 1973, you understand.
Willie Mays retires after getting hit in the head with a fly ball in Game 2 of the 1973 World Series

Palma talks Positioning

I was honored to join Amanda Lucey, CEO of The Partnership on their podcast series to talk about the importance of brand positioning and how to get your company to an own-able one. Enjoy!

8 Tips for Hiring a Creative Ad Agency

mikepalma.com

HOW TO HIRE A BETTER CREATIVE AGENCY

j6BH-453AYour creative is stale. Your ads don’t break through the clutter. They are not memorable. You waste money on paid media. The agency team that works on your business is constantly changing: a new account director every year, new creative people, new strategists and planners. It seems like once you get a new group up to speed on your account, they then depart. You feel as if new business is more important to your agency than YOUR business.

Is it any surprise that the same accounts are always in review and the same search consultants are pushing the same mediocre creative agencies? Don’t you think it’s time to fix the pitch process?

Rate of change and the speed of business are at an all-time high. More content was created in h-armstrong-roberts-hands-of-magician-performing-magic-trick-pulling-rabbit-out-of-top-hatthe past two years alone than in the entire history of civilization. Not just marketing…

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It takes a pandemic: Part 2

What happens next?

It takes a thief to catch a thief. It takes one to know one. It takes a pandemic to catch a images-1virus. It takes a world to end a pandemic.

Hey, I’m for “opening up the economy” as much as anyone. But, would you send your child off to school today? I wouldn’t. So how can we really consider sending them anywhere else?

When we all go back to work and restaurants and the mall, where do the children play?

In the meantime:

Gogo Inflight Internet Company continues to bill your monthly $49.99 subscription. They’re really fast at billing, but really slow at wifi.

With 36 million unemployed Americans, “rent strikes” are popular. My worry is if rents
aren’t paid, then mortgages also go unpaid which would break the banks and other lenders. Isn’t that what caused the last recession?

Unless rents go down, we’ll continue to lose restaurants at breakneck speed. Do the
math: Higher food costs + your same rent + operate at 50% capacity = “I’m out, my margins were already thin.”

The ATM will be a thing of the past. And sooner than you think. So if you take away the $3.50 surcharge to use one that is not your bank — why ever bank with one of the behemoths again? Other than ATM locations, what exactly is the benefit of banking with Wells Fargo, Bank of America or Truist?

The idea of physical office space will not die, it will just diminish. Look for companies to
downsize their owned environments significantly.Unknown-2

Look for brands to comingle:  think Dunkin/Baskin

Look for companies within the same portfolio to merge — think DentsuMcGarryBowen.

Also think BBDO/TBWA.

Look for Harvard, MIT and Stanford to team up with tech giants Google, Apple, IBM, etc to dominate online education. By 2024, MIT will have a freshman class of 20,000 students.

As a result, look for at least 500  private, Liberal arts colleges to go under, maybe even your alma mater.

Speaking of alma maters, can Iona College really afford to pay Rick Pitino $1 mil the same year it loses $20 million?

Look for a severe regression in overall athletic performance across the board.

Unknown-5How ironic is it that Rao’s will now deliver to anyone and everyone that wants their food. Haha.

Gas prices will remain low, even with slightly higher demand. I’m currently getting three weeks to the gallon.

Get ready for virtual vacations and with virtual companions.

D2C brands will thrive. It won’t just be mattresses, diet systems and exercise equipment. It will be almost everything and every brand.

Willy Loman, rest in peace, you’re looking at the death of the salesman.

You’re also looking at the death of the franchisee.

Shame on private clubs that impose a surcharge for online dues payments.

Shame on a society that opens country clubs and malls before schools.images

Hyper-locality is not just a trend, it’s the new currency.

Get ready for a barter-friendly agency compensation model.

The virus doesn’t care about our economy or your sanity.

When we all rush back to our former lives, where do the children play?

Palma charges the agency frontier

Rare interview from the Ponderosa

What the heck, why not? The Ponderosa on Bonanza was fake. This frontier is not. Thanks to Robby B at Bull & Beard.

 

 

It takes a Pandemic: 22 quick thoughts

How did it happen?

How did we get there? How did we get so seduced by the life we once knew? What was it Unknown-3about conspicuous consumption that we didn’t learn from after surviving the credit crisis — or as I am hyperbolically reminded, The Great Recession?

They say it takes a thief to catch a thief — so it must take a pandemic to catch a virus.

It also takes a pandemic to…

…realize a $60 haircut is overrated — especially when you are balding. The math comes out to about $7.50 per minute.

…believe $70 taco dinners for two at a mediocre Mexican restaurant are not ok — even
with the two cheapo tequila margaritas.

…understand the “free chips and salsa” are not so “free.”

…resent the bailed-out Airlines for charging $200 change fees. And $25 baggage fees (really?, how did we let that happen?)

…wonder why MLB.com is renewing my live-streaming game app subscription.

…truly appreciate The Masters.

…laugh at Ad Age for announcing their Agency A-List on the same day BBDO laid off the two guys that put them on the A-List.

…see that the so-called “greatest economy in the history of the world” was 80% paycheck-to-paycheck.

…learn that The Cheesecake Factory had zero cash flow.

…wonder if maybe BBDO had zero cash flow too?

…believe that therefore agency holding company stock was a bad investment.

…question the true value of business travel.

…look up the word “furlough” in the dictionary.

…cringe at the word “unprecedented.”

…feel sorry for New Yorkers all over again.

…not feel sorry for Neiman Marcus (Needless Markup)

…think maybe Design Within Reach should change their name to Design Out of Reach.

…wonder what will happen to all those shuttered storefronts.

Unknown-4…rethink that New Year’s resolution.

…rethink everything.

…value your relationships more than your achievements.

…come to the conclusion that there’s really no place like home.

The great Palma Logo experiment

It began as a simple birthday gift. My son, a D&AD Yellow Pencil award-winning copywriter based in New York City sent me some mock family crests. We didn’t know what to do with them, but they looked pretty cool. We finally decided they’d look good on plastic cups at our family’s summer home in Sag Harbor.

It never occurred to me that it could also work as a “logo” for my business. The Palma Group never really had an official logo. The Palma Group is essentially me, a guy known as “Palma” to my network — a fairly robust and creative network at that. The Palma Group does a few things, all creative in nature. It’s not like I have competition (actually I root for anyone that thinks they are my competition) — a real coach always roots for other coaches.

I’m not sure why I would suddenly need a logo after 30 years in the advertising business — after 1,300 creative placements and nearly $400 million in revenue to my agency clients. But, what the hell, we’re all sitting around with nothing else to do but screw around on LinkedIn and Facebook.

So I put up one of the “crests” on LinkedIn and Facebook two days ago (April 15). What has ensued over the past 40 hours is interesting. Here are some stats:

  • 11,134 views
  • 34 views from an A-List ad agency
  • 18 views at The Coca-Cola Company
  • 22 views from 22squared (an ironic coincidence)
  • 15 views from Apple in Cupertino, CA
  • 14 views from Google in Mountain View, CA
  • 902 views from New York City
  • 970 views from Atlanta
  • 259 views from Los Angeles
  • 304 views from Nashville
  • 750 views from people with the title Creative Designer

The mock “crests” were satirical in nature — a play on the Corleone family “Sicilian thing.” They are mock-heroic images. The minuscule lettering within the image reads “la famiglia di palma.” I thought that was a different way of communicating the word “group” — famiglia. But overall I thought the images were stylish, elegant and interesting — three qualities I sorely lack. I loved the colors — the cream backdrop. It could work as a sticker on butcher paper wrapped around a pound of soppressata. That’s the feel I was going for. If I ever own a deli — I’m all set.

Of the 55 comments, most were complimentary. A few hacks took it seriously and weighed in snarkily. It was their chance to troll me, as if I’m Gary Vaynerchuk or something. But haters are gonna hate. Thanks for playing along with me. Oh, here are the other two crests. All three were designed by Timothy Kang, a NYC-based art director.

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New Business in the New World: 8 tips

The new rules 

This is not meant to be some pep talk. In times like these, the temptation is to try to provide inspiration. I believe nobody can claim to have any or all of the answers for anything right now. That’s quite a mouthful for someone that does not believe in absolutes.

outbreak-coronavirus-worldWhat has happened around the world in the past month or so is only unbelievable if you believed in the infallibility of mankind. So let’s begin with the acknowledgment that nobody is an “expert” at anything. Let’s start anew in humility.

Smugness will surely backfire. The last four disasters to inflict pain upon the advertising industry brought with them a degree of smug: “I choose not to participate in the recession” crap. This is different. This is life or death.

This is the time for leaders to lead. If your agency hangs its hat on collaboration — you’re already irrelevant. If you have not led your clients by now, it’s probably too late. But if you have, it’s time to take your fate completely into your own hands. It’s time to stop waiting on referrals. It’s time to stop chasing RFP’s. It’s time to get proactive. Today.

These times require a new approach; not just to new business, but to your business. Here are some thoughts that might work for you, especially if you are a small-to-midsized, regional, creative agency — the salt of the agency earth. This new approach is based upon NOT being an “advertising agency” but instead, a business consultancy that can execute with creativity.

  • Vocation-based outreach — Now is not the time to sell your agency’s benefits to prospects or clients. No, it’s the time to rescue businesses through your knowledge OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand expertise. Think of yourself as a “business doctor” — be a consultant and not an ad person. I remember in 2001 when the twin towers went down; the airline industry grounded to a halt. So, the great Paul Cappelli took an idea to Jet Blue. He gave it to them for free. It helped that fledgling airline in its infancy literally survive. And when the economy recovered, guess what? Jet Blue hired Cappelli’s tiny Ad Store as AOR. The lesson? Make your agency crisis-relevant. All brands and industries are facing unprecedented challenges in the near term. It’s time to truly be a giant slayer now. Do it through ideas. When you call a prospect and they say, “But, we already have an agency” be prepared to reply, “That’s ok, you can still have our idea. We’d like to execute it, but whatever is best for you.” Be the hired gun they don’t have. The big agencies cannot move and think like this. You can
  • Location-based meetings — Charity begins at home. Pick 20-30 regional businesses within 180 miles that you KNOW you can help with an idea. Now is not the time to fight for agency compensation or put a stake in the ground around your principles. It is time to do good for your business community by way of your talents and skills. It’s time for you to do the right thing.
  • Personal prospecting — Think through how your current clients and prospects can be relevant now and in the very near future. What can they do to lead? Write each prospect a personal email; no more Campaign Monitor or MailChimp-type generic mass emails bragging about how great your agency is. Instead, write them a personal email and TELL THEM YOU HAVE AN IDEA FOR THEIR BUSINESS. Ask if you can set up a 15-minute call (no in-person meetings) to present your idea. Ask them if they would prefer Skype, but all you really want to do is talk to them. 
  • Back off the Data for now — Not any data nor any precedent exists for global pandemics; unless you were around in 1918. If you choose to sell your data chops now, it has to be real-time beta testing. But, selling data in might weaken the strength of your proposed idea. Do not confuse being humble with squishiness. You may have to use your instincts now. Some of you relish that challenge.
  • Present versatile ideas — Just because your prospecting is personal, your idea can be broad, industry-specific and category-wide. Study and learn from every brand’s corporate tweets. That’s where their communication priorities lie. I suspect those tweets may be fairly consistent across the category.
  • Present uncomplicated ideas Make sure your ideas are easily executable and operationally simple. The client or prospect should be able to respond, “we can do that right now.” A lot of production shoots are being delayed, so if you’ e invested in an on-site content studio, you have an advantage.
  • Back off the CMO — Maybe we should work from the bottom up. Those young and flexible Brand managers and Associate Marketers might be able to push your idea upwards and to the top. They love being heroes. And they are trying to save their jobs. Give them the ammo
  • Be empathetic — This is more important than ever. Empathy can’t be explained. You just have to be it.

So, what happens when you get this call “meeting” confirmed?

  • Stick to the 15 minute timeframe.
  • Abandon credentials, case studies and creative samples. Nobody wants to be pitched with your agency deck right now.
  • Stick with one simple but big business idea for them.

The New Meeting:

  • This is who you are and what your brand means. This is why you exist. Tell them why their brand is important.
  • This is why we want to help you.
  • These are your particular challenges right now.
  • This is our idea for you.
  • Be prepared to discuss an executional plan if they ask you “how do we do this?”  Be prepared to outline the next steps.
  • Remind them that they have a duty and responsibility to communicate with their customers and the world.

If the meeting is on Skype: 

  • Dress professionally. Look like a consultant.
  • Rehearse your call.
  • Have IT in the room in case there’s a glitch. There’s no time to joke around about your technological shortcomings.
  • Be precise and surgical, you are a business doctor.
  • No time to joke around. Build the relationship through your ideas.

Finally, help your fellow agencies if you can. Be part of something bigger than your own Unknownlittle office. Be part of a noble industry. We can change the perception of our industry through this crisis. Look at this as an opportunity. Tap into your Association — the 4A’s. They exist to help you. Be a part of a “task force” to help guide your fellow agencies through the rest of 2020. We are all in this together.

20 Things to do for New Biz in ’20

Here we go again. It’s January and everyone is calling and emailing me asking the same thing: Unknown“What can we do to win new business in 2020?”

I usually lead into my posts by purloining the late, great Jimmy Cannon’s column line, “Nobody asked me, but…”  However, in this case I’m changing it to, “Everyone has asked me, so…”

Take it away, Maestro:

  1. Skip breakfast, it’s the least important meal. If you want to win new business, you’ve got to be hungry
  2. Don’t go to lunch until you’ve connected with a new business target
  3. Send one handwritten letter every day to a prospect — make it a love letter about their brand
  4. Send one email every day warning another prospect about their mortal enemy
  5. Get closer to your agency’s “why”
  6. Get away from your agency’s “how” & “what”
  7. Take out a job order for your agency’s Infographic — have your best designer do it
  8. Take out a job order for your agency’s one minute video based on your agency’s “why“ — produce that video in 30 days — have your best writer write it
  9. Take every image and every word off your website’s landing page except the video and the infographic
  10. Join the 4A’s. If you are already a member, commit to education from the top down at your agency in 2020
  11. Outsource your transom, not your outreach
  12. Kill the category lists
  13. Pick 30 prospects — join every prospect’s LinkedIn Groups
  14. Publish on LinkedIn once every week
  15. Slay an evil giant with communications — get famous that way
  16. Write your book — the book the marketing world can’t live without (if you can’t do this, get out of the business now). Buy the title URL on godaddy.
  17. Set up a blog at that URL — post every Tuesday and Friday 
  18. Repost that post on LinkedIn as a published article
  19. Pump the post into your LinkedIn groups
  20. Send an RFP to 2 prospect companies — make them apply for a spot on your client roster