Tag Archives: marketing

Creativity just wasn’t made for these times

It’s morning again in America. Why do I feel as if I just woke up to an alternate reality where the good guys are bad and the bad guys are good? Why do I feel as if everything that was normal is now whacked and everything that was whacked is the new normal?

It reminds me of the scene in Sleeper when Miles Monroe awakens to a world where things like milk and college aUnknownre considered unhealthy (prophetic, no?) — a country where everything we thought was good for us is actually quite bad and even deadly.

In Sleeper, science and data informed this opinion shift paradigm. Science and data drove the Revolution (the Aries Project”).Unknown-1

When did a good education, ambitious career & a moral vocation begin take on the sinister tone of “elitism?” Exactly when did intellect become an enemy of the people? Did it begin in the post-war McCarthyism of the 1950’s? Did it get its name in the early 1960’s?

The effects of anti-intellectualism are deadly to an inspired and creative world. In the advertising industry, creative salaries are shrinking in a time of unprecedented financial prosperity in America. What does that tell you?

It tells me that creativity is actually more important than ever. It tells me that creativity is scarcer than ever, therefore more valuable to client advertisers — because they still need it and because the “commodity of creativity” (now that’s an oxymoron for you) is vaporizing. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King (or Queen).

It explains why the hot agencies are providing BOTH solutions — combining data and creativity for business results. Ad agencies are, above all else, in the solutions business. Creativity is a proven solution. Fight for that. Commit to data & science, yes; but, fight for creativity — because today, it’s more wobbly than Mike Tyson in Tokyo.


How Technology & Artificial Intelligence Are Changing the Workforce

Ad Agencies in The Age of Automation

“Hey Siri, can man replace himself.”   Siri: “Ask Watson.”

“Alexa, what is the meaning of life?”  Alexa: “The meaning of life depends on the life in question.”

Unknown-4For most boomers like me, our first exposure to automation was
at a NYC-based restaurant named Horn & Hardart. I remember well how cool it felt to put a coin in a machine, open the window and pull out a slice of real New York cheesecake. Horn & Hardart called their restaurants Automats and they changed the way we ate and drank forever.


Well, a similar revolution is adrift in the business world today and it’s built upon algorithms that improve company productivity, and therefore, profitability. These automated systems are most influential on the workforce: human resources, employees, talent.

If you haven’t begun the process of automating your business, it’s probably already too late. Somebody else in your category already has. You can laugh, but taxi companies also laughed when a technology-based livery company with a goofy name took the cash and hassle out of the personal transportation industry. This isn’t some futuristic bullshit. This is real and this is now.

How does this apply to creative agencies? Let’s begin with our only commodity/inventory: people. With all the hubbub over a commitment to training & learning — how do we know what’s really working? Most agencies throw money at seminars, conferences and “summits” (Really? That’s a pompous name for a money-making boondoggle) and assume they’ve done their part. But the keys to the kingdom rely on:

  • Measuring company impact of increased investments in Learning & Development.
  • Understanding emotional drivers of the people within your company vs. job responsibilities.
  • Connecting company performance and employee performance

How do agencies do that? Well, I’m excited to introduce LiiRN, a company Unknown-2revolutionizing today’s workforce. LiiRN is the brainchild of brain child George Swisher, one of the few men I have referred to as a “partner” in my 28 years in the advertising business. George and I have worked with dozens of agencies, helping them grow and get smarter.

This Fall, LiiRN is coming to a General Assembly near you. George will be hosting free Lunch & LiiRNs in NYC, Atlanta and LA in the next few weeks to educate you on  how technology and AI  are changing the workforce. What you don’t know can kill you. This hour with George will change your life. Here is the Eventbrite. Don’t miss it.





How to Handle A New Business Inquiry

Inbound Marketing 101: The 13 Questions

The hot biz dev phrase du jour is Inbound Marketing. Agencies are taking great pains to leverage Social Media and converting the prospect leads into inquiries. Sounds good — until it actually works, and you get a new business inquiry. What’s often missing in the Inbound Marketing game is the marketing part. A lot of agencies talk the new biz talk — but their cultures are more of an operational culture than a marketing culture. Except for one or two folks whose livelihoods are dependent on new business — who are accountable for new business results. Most other employees at a creative agency are service and operationally driven. They are mostly billable employees, or part of an administrative team.

There are two types of people and mentalities in the world: Marketing people and Operational people. And I’ve noticed more than occasional friction between the two forces within creative agencies (and  most companies, in general). Too often, the two archetypes are sitting in the wrong seats on the agency bus. Every point of contact in the new business chain is vital — and often in reverse order of management hierarchy. When it comes to Inbound Marketing, your switchboard operator is more important than your New Biz Director. At least, on the initial call. I’ve masqueraded as an inquisitive prospect with some of my client agencies and sometimes I’m baffled that they’re not better prepared to expedite the inquiry. I empathize with the intern that is juggling 8 vendor calls and lumps the prospect inquiry in with that lot.

“Hello, I’m with the marketing department of the Global Acme Corporation and we’re interested in working with your agency. Who can I speak to about our upcoming assignment?”

“Uhhh, I’m not sure, lemme check.”  HOLD MUSIC. “That would be Joe Blow, but he’s out of the office on vacation. Can I put you in his voicemail?”


“Thank kewww.” (by the way, what’s with this baby talk “thank you” that is so popular in today’s young female vernacular?)

Let’s assume the Inbound Marketing call gets to your biz dev person. What do they do with it? Are they so excited to be getting a call or an RFP that they fumble the kick? Do they talk too much? Not enough? Are they asking the right questions? Here are the golden 13 questions of handling a new business inquiry:

 Handling a New Business Inquiry (first call):

  1. How do you know about us?
  2. What are you looking for in a new agency relationship?
  3. What services does your current agency provide?
  4. What communications are most important for you to to develop?
  5. (If not requested) Are you also looking for a Media/PR/Direct/Interactive partner?
  6. (If services have been unbundled) Have you considered one agency to integrate all disciplines?
  7. What is your agency fee range? What is the expected agency revenue opportunity?
  8. Does that include production?
  9. What is your timeline?
  10. What is your selection process?
  11. Who else is part of the selection process
  12. How can we learn more about you, your customer and your goals?
  13. (IF YOU’RE TALKING TO A MARKETING COORDINATOR OR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT) “Can we set up a 20 minute phone call with the person driving the review”? (Be sure to get his or her NAME!)
And then what? Sit and wait for another call? NO… follow up on that inquiry.

 Following up on the Inquiry (second call):

  • Can we possibly gain access to your consumer research?
  • Can we possibly see a copy of your marketing plan?
  • (If they don’t have one) What are your goals/What do you want your marketing to accomplish?
  • (If it’s a strong prospect) Is it possible to set up a “discovery meeting” – where we can learn more about you prior to a review?