Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays, Hope Your Money's Safe



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

TNT's Trust Me, New Drama Series About An Ad Agency Creative Team



Trust Me
premieres Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on TNT.


Well, if you're not getting enough drama in the ad agency where you work, starting in January, you'll be able to enjoy even more agency drama during prime time. That's right, another new TV show about the ad agency world is about to hit the airwaves. And unlike Mad Men, this one actually takes place after the invention of the Mac.

Tom Cavanagh who starred in one of my all-time favorite TV shows, NBC's Ed, will be starring in TNT's, Trust Me, a new series which the official site describes as,"a sharp, witty drama series that centers on two best friends working as creative partners at a top-ranked Chicago ad agency."

Set against the backdrop of the high-pressure world of advertising, Trust Me focuses on Mason (Eric McCormack from NBC's Will and Grace), an art director, who is a responsible, workaholic family man with a beautiful wife, Erin (Clarke), two children and an undying loyalty to the brands he helps sell.

By contrast, his writing partner, Conner (Cavanagh), is described as "a single, impulsive copywriter with the attention span of a teenager."

Hmm, a single, impulsive copywriter over the age of 40 with a short attention span–what will those TV writers dream up next?



Kevin McIntosh is a Copywriter/Digital Word-of-Mouth Strategist in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Retailers To Consumers: "Buy or Else!"



Consumer Behavior/Retail Misbehavior
By Kevin McIntosh

With Black Friday here and having just experienced the largest single month drop in retail sales ever retailers are getting more desperate than ever.

U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, began to show some signs of stress at an emergency press conference this morning, screaming, "Somebody just freakin' buy something you stupid idiots!"

There is speculation that the U.S. will call on financial relief from the largest source of wealth known in the world–the Olson twins.

Meanwhile, General Motors CEO, G. Richard Wagoner Jr., is in line to call personal finance talk show host, Dave Ramsey, to see if Dave can tell him where he can get a moonlight gig delivering pizzas that will pay around $20 million a week.



Satire courtesy of:
Kevin McIntosh, The Ad Agency Survival Guide

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Innovative Ideas For Your Ad Agency's Clients In The Great Depression 2.0


Marketing directors wait anxiously in line this week at the "Should You Advertise During A Recession?" conference in New York.


Tired of clients who can't decide if they want to advertise during the recession? Offer them some can't-miss innovative ideas to market.

As part of my little economic rescue plan, here are some innovative product ideas I've come up with to help bail out your clients in different industries:

The Furniture Industry
The Roosevelt New Deal Collection: A collection of 8 bare pine wood planks, a saw and 32 nails. Promotion tagline: "Help Rebuild America." Start by building a bench for waiting in the soup line.

The Auto Industry

The 2009 Ford Mustang: Literally, it's a mustang horse. Leather saddle seat optional. 1 horse power.

The Housing Industry
The McBox: A McMansion-sized cardboard box, available up to 20,000 square feet. Includes a 2,000 square foot garage for the SUV you can't give away and a hitching post for your 2009 Ford Mustang (see above).

The Consumer Electronics Industry
The iStarve: A smart phone with a stove top burner app. Simply place your can of pork and beans on the phone screen and in just 2 hours, you're eatin' like Jay Bush. For faster cooking times, simply use a MacBook laptop computer which can overheat to temps of 200 degrees or more.

The Banking Industry
The Mattress Stuffer Account: Available in Queen and King size. $35 service fee for non-sufficient stuffing.

The Health Care Industry
The Do-It-Yourself Colonoscopy: For once, the cleansing preparation stage will seem like the easy part.

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter and brand strategist in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com


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How To Woo Consumers In The Middle Of An Economic Firestorm-Part III


The Johnnie Walker Striding Man spot by the Bartle Bogle Hegarty agency.

Keep Inspiring
by Kevin McIntosh


In an earlier blog post last month, How To Woo Consumers In The Middle Of An Economic Firestorm, Part 1, I discussed the changes we're seeing in consumer behavior in the Post-Bailout Economy.

Between the threats of job loss, business loss and possibly home loss, consumers are stressed, anxious, scared and maybe even in some cases, hopeless. And while you find levels of these emotions in any economic climate, as my article cited, the signs are strong that those emotions are running higher than ever.

We are in the business of changing consumer perceptions. Is it possible that we can change their perceptions about the economy? Can we give them hope for the future?

The Johnnie Walker Striding Man spot by Bartle Bogle Hegarty seems to do just that. The spot reminds us of the hard-working spirit of people world-wide that has led to progress over the past 100 years. The greatest 100 years of progress in the history of mankind.



The original spot above broke earlier in the year, but I just saw it for the first time last month. And I believe it couldn't be more timely than right now.

The sepia-toned footage, mixed with a persistent music cadence suddenly made me think of the Depression Era and how hard it must have been.

But the spot moves through stories of progress, including early flight and the space walk, and concludes with "Who knows where a stride will take you?" Between the music and the powerful imagery, as I first watched the spot, my worries about the economy shifted into more positive thoughts.

More specifically, the spot made me realize, we're living in the present. We have no way of knowing what could happen tomorrow or next week. We can assume it will be the worst. Or we can contemplate the possibilities of the positive changes that might come about as a result of our current economic crisis. Changes like alternative energy development that could solve our problem of dependence on foreign countries for oil. Or innovations here in the U.S. which could revive our manufacturing sector.

A crisis such as what we're experiencing around the world can be scary. But the burning desire to persevere life's challenges can push us to become more innovative than ever.

In short, the Striding Man spot is a testament to the amazing power of the human will to conquer the impossible. We built a city as monumental as New York. We've walked on the moon. We went from the Great Depression to the Internet. All in less than 100 years. Which leaves me to think, "Wow, if we could do all of that, just imagine what we can achieve in the next 100 years."

For those of us in the business of brand advertising and marketing, it's an inspiring reminder of the power of emotional branding.





–KM©

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How To Protect Your Client From Getting Hijacked On Twitter



Remember the cyber-squatters who rose to notoriety in the 1990's? These were the enterprising folks who rushed out and bought up every major brand name + .com domain they could before the major brands figured out what the heck a dot com was.

Well guess, what. It's happening again.

Only it's not dot com domains. It's Twitter addresses. And because the addresses are free (unlike dot com domains which back in the day could cost $25 or more to reserve for a year), squatters are reserving addresses as fast as they can type words out of the English dictionary.

One blogger reports that all of the basic words in the English language have already been gobbled up by squatters.

If you work in an ad agency let me ask you a question. Have you reserved the Twitter addresses for your clients? Or at least recommended that they reserve their Twitter addresses? And have you gotten your own Twitter address?

Granted, if your client has a major brand name like Coca-Cola, you'll have a case with Twitter for getting the Twitter address handed over to you. It still will be a bit of a headache.

But otherwise, it could be a major headache, especially if your client has lost out to a business with the same name.

Also, consider getting Twitter addresses in the name of your client's CEO and anyone else who may be the brand's chosen micro-blogger.

Oh, and while you're at it, I suggest you go ahead and get your 12seconds and Zannel addresses as they will offer video micro-blogging capabilities.

This could be a great way to start a dialogue with your client about micro-blogging on Twitter and other social media tactics.

If you work in an ad agency and have yet to figure out how Twitter can help your client's brand, then keep coming back to this blog as I'll begin to share with you more about how Twitter is changing marketing with micro-blogging.

Right now, I'm going to get to work finding cool Twitter addresses I can squat on.

By the way, my Twitter address is @macwriter (I chose that rather than my own name as 1. Someone did beat me to my name and 2. macwriter is my screen name on most of my online accounts).



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Trail Mix: Apple Video Banner Ads On This Morning's NY Times




Originally this morning's post reported that a November 8th post from Radar Online says Apple is ending its "I'm a Mac" campaign featuring Justin Long and John Hodgman, created by their ad agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day.

However, it seems the Radar article was wrong in reporting Justin Long had been dropped from the campaign and had I looked closer, I would have discovered it was wrong 2 years ago. My thanks to copywriter Tom Chandler for pointing that out.

I do hope you get a chance to see something in that campaign that was on the front page of today's New York Times online version.

It was a video banner ad that begins with Long and Hodgman discussing the latest Mac satisfaction survey, as they appear in a right hand column banner. Hodgman, then exits the banner as if walking up a set of stairs behind the actual NY Times content. He then appears in the upper banner as if he just climbed up into an attic at the top of the page. At this point he begins trying to move the satisfaction meter lever over, while still talking with Justin Long's character who's still in the lower right banner video ad.

I have to say, it's the most innovative use of online banner ads I've seen, perhaps ever.




Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Monday, November 3, 2008

How To Launch Your Own Attack Ads

Make your own Attack Ad
Here's a little political ad I did for my write-in candidate in hopes of winning the overlooked "kindergarten" voter segment.

Not enough negative political ads for your taste this year? There's still time to get in your own.

Attack Ad Generator allows you to create your own negative TV ads for the presidential candidate of your choice.

Simply click and drag the photos and announcer voice over words you choose. And in minutes, you can have your own political ad.

The great palette of announcer voice-over words includes all the buzz words from this year's campaign: "Maverick," "Hockey," "Mom," "Bail Out," "Flip Flop," "Shady," "Old Boy Network," "Satan," "Weapons Of Mass Destruction," plus lots more.

Photo selections include pictures of John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as shots of atomic blomb blasts and terrorists.

One buzz phrase that didn't make the list was "Joe The Plumber." Mike Demors of 9astronauts.com, the creator of the negative ad generator, said the site was finished shortly before the Joe The Plumber incident.





Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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How To Blaze A Path On The Campaign Trail With Web 2.0

Consumer and business-to-business marketers aren't the only ones to start digging their heels into social media. Political candidates are starting to leverage the power of social networking and other social media sites as well.

The NY Times has a great article regarding the power of Web 2.0 and its use in the 2008 campaigns.

As YouTube did not exist in 2004 and Facebook had little awareness, this is the first presidential election in which these social media giants could be brought into the media mix. Even the relative new-comer Twitter has played a role.

What a difference four years can make.

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Trail Mix: What Do Dracula And Wall Street Have In Common?

OK, there's the obvious answer: They both want to suck us all dry.

But then there's not-so obvious answer. They both suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. If Dracula would get out in the sunlight every now and then, maybe he'd be less prone to biting people in the neck.

And given that Wall Street has a history of tanking big-time in October, then maybe it's because of the shorter daylight hours. Investors are all on edge. They need more sunlight.

So perhaps the cure for the economy is simply to put up a giant sunlamp.

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Exclusives

If you've come here for the "Lights On" Version of the Halloween Edition, the Halloween stories can be found beneath the next story. The "Lights Out" Version can be found by clicking here.

But, don't skip the next story because this is one of the biggest issues the ad agency business is facing right now.

The story is about social media and ad agencies. Marketers want social media. They say ad agencies have been slow to deliver on it. So digital agencies are stepping in. And they're now becoming agencies of record.

The full story is below.



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Finding Water When The Economy Is In A Drought.

By Kevin McIntosh



Social Media vs. Advertising, as explained by the father of the Internet, Google's Dr. Vinton G. Cerf.

Who Can Leverage Social Media To Make Rain?

When it comes to social media, ad agencies just don’t get it.

That’s what a survey by TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony of 60 marketers in North America, France and the U.K. revealed, according to an article earlier this year in Adweek.

In the article, 50 percent of marketers said social media efforts needed to be handled at an executive level with "significant" resources. Another 30 percent agreed social media is a "revolutionary opportunity."

But overall, the marketers expressed a frustration with ad agencies not getting it.


Digital Agencies Are Becoming Agencies Of Record

It was tough enough when ad agencies simply competed with other ad agencies. Now ad agencies are competing more and more with digital agencies.

An article published October 27th by Ad Age cites that more and more digital agencies are not only getting invited to pitch as agencies of record, but that they are actually winning. And social media is likely a good part of what they're bringing to the table.



Where There's Social Media, There's Content To Be Created


While social media is largely about letting consumers create the content, it still presents a great opportunity for content created by those of us in the business of doing just that. Keep in mind, Creators only represent a fraction of the overall Internet audience according to Technographics® data by Forrester Research. The Spectator segment doesn't create anything. Other segments may post comments and participate in social forums, but they are not creating heavy-duty content other than their own conversations.

The opportunities for creating content will grow as the social media category continues to grow. According to a recent article in Adweek, a consumer poll by Forrester Research conducted in Q2 found that 75 percent of Internet users participate in some form of social media, up from 56 percent in 2007.

Because social media is so new, there's a lot of concern about its effectiveness. Can it be measured? If done well, social media can be very effective. The Dove Real Beauty campaign launched a 75-second video to YouTube that generated 3x the number of visitors to its website versus running a Super Bowl spot.

As the book, Groundswell, demonstrates, the ROI for social media can be measured, perhaps even more effectively than in traditional media. Social media allows for very specific targeting, ideal for working niches. A tool like Twitter offers niche marketers a great opportunity to work the long tail, and that should only grow as Twitter becomes more adapted by the mainstream. Plus the efficiencies social media offers in terms of media savings and the pass-along factor can far outweigh the costs for creative and programming development.


Who Will Survive? Ad Agencies Or Digital Agencies?

Who is more prepared to actively tackle the challenge of developing creative for social media? Traditional ad agencies or digital agencies?

As a freelance copywriter, I work with a lot of ad agencies. And I'm starting to meet more of the digital agencies. Here’s my take on what I’m seeing in terms of the differences between the two cultures.

Ad agencies by their very nature, are still traditional. They create ads for traditional media such as print, outdoor and broadcast. And most now are creating websites and managing some online advertising efforts for clients.

Of the firms that create marketing messages and content, ad agencies tend to have the greatest understanding of branding and message creation. Perhaps mostly due to senior management having 20-30+ years of branding experience under the belt.

In terms of addressing the needs for social media, I am seeing a handful of traditional ad agencies starting to bring in people at the executive level to handle digital strategy and management, which presumably includes social media. Some of the bigger agencies such as DDB are starting to form digital marketing arms, like Tribal DDB. Another example is Tequila which is a TBWA\Worldwide company.

Of the interactive agencies I’m seeing, they know the capabilities of technologies like FaceBook and Twitter. But where they often fall short is a lack of understanding of branding and message creation. The better ones, like Tequila and Tribal DDB do, and that's likely why they become the main players.

As for the others, they may be able to advise a client to micro-blog on Twitter, but would they know how to advise the client to micro-blog in a compelling way that’s on strategy with the brand? They may know the right places to embed video code, but do they know how to create a video that has the production values that consumers have gotten spoiled to in the mainstream media.

Because while social media is largely about media created by the people, for the people, it still requires some nudging from the marketers. In other words, if you’re waiting for consumers to create all the content for your client, you could be waiting a long time. Even crowd-sourcing can demand a nudge from the brand.


Fight The Great Depression 2.0 With Advertising 2.0


So what am I leading to with all of this?

If you’re an ad agency trying to figure out how to manage through the hard times the whole business world is facing right now, do what you advise your clients to do. Position your brand uniquely by taking a leap into what your audience wants—social media.

But don’t wait. Because if a digital agency beats you to the punch, getting the business from clients will be harder in the future, than it will be now. And the longer you wait to take your existing clients there, the harder it may be for them to make any headway there as their competitors may have already staked out the territory.

In other words, don’t be the art director who in 1992 refused to adapt to working on a Mac. Embrace the new, and dive head first into it, willing to make some mistakes along the way.

Start by developing social media strategies for your own agency and learn from that. Marketers will take you more seriously for social media projects when you've done that anyway. Develop a social media campaign for a local non-profit.

If you’re a digital agency, get ready for the inevitable competition ad agencies may be getting ready to bring your way. While the ad agencies are hiring people from your world, hire people from the ad agency world with the expertise to create content and build brands.

Because as ad agencies hire more digital expertise, your value as digital experts will be deleveraged until you have more assets in place for creating strong branding. Granted your relationships with your clients may give you a stronghold, but we all know the day we get a new account is also the day we start to lose it.

Oh, and to complicate this all a bit more, let’s throw in the competition that ad agencies and digital agencies may be soon getting from public relations agencies. Social media is largely about public relations, especially in terms of monitoring public opinion and working to influence it. And if PR firms get more tech savvy and become better at creating brand content, you’ll have even more competition on your hands.

Whichever side of the fence you’re on, ad agency or digital agency, the idea is that tough times call for getting innovative. Maybe the place to meet is in the middle, where ad agencies and digital agencies form strategic alliances with one another, as some of you are already doing.


Your thoughts?


What are your thoughts on this? I’m eager to hear.

If you’re up on social media technology, you can DM me on Twitter @macwriter where you'll find me micro-blogging. For everyone else, a simple comment left below will be fine, just click on the "Comment" link.

And finally, please email this blog post to the owners / partners of your company. They need to read it.


Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com


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Halloween Special: Got A Scary Agency Story?

Got a scary story from the ad agency world? Scary client? Scary boss? Or other related to the ad agency business? Let's hear about it.

Just hit the comment link below and write away.

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Halloween Exclusive: How To Stand Up To A Monster


From Young Frankenstein: No Matter How Scary Things Get, Don't Run.


Right now, times are scary for a lot of people. I'll admit, if I watch enough of CNBC's economic meltdown/it's-the-end-of-the-world reports, I can get scared myself.

But I've learned that when things get scary, we have 3 options. We can freeze up and do nothing. We can run. Or we can stand our ground.

Does something have you scared right now? Is it a fear of losing your job? Or something even more personal?

I'd like to encourage you to stand your ground. Dig in your heels. Maybe you're gonna have to go through some pain. But guess what, that pain will make you tougher for the next battle.

So don't run from what's scaring you. Instead, run straight at it. You'll discover you have a lot more strength than you ever realized.

–KMc


Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Halloween Exclusive: How To Survive Being Dead



"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"
–Mark Twain



From the obituaries. Wired magazine has proclaimed that blogging is dead.

Reasons why:
• Amateur journalism (see why it pays to hire a professional copywriter) and underground marketing campaigns drown out the voice of authentic bloggers.

• The people most likely to notice bloggers' hard work are the Internet hecklers whose comments to posts usually contain the word "sucks."

• The time it takes to blog an original post is better spent posting photos to Flickr, or microblogging in Twitter or Facebook.

So with it being Halloween, I thought I'd post a few other articles that have prematurely declared something dead or quoted someone making that statement.

1. Google Is Dead; Money.cnn.com

2. Network TV Is Dead; NewTeeVee.com

3. Video Games Are Dead; Gamasutra.com

4. The Mac Is Dead; Lowendmac.com

5. Bernie Mac Is Dead; that one turned out to be true



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Special: How To Survive An Ax-Swinging Attack Inside The Agency


Albert Brooks demonstrates how to get fired from your ad agency job. (WARNING: F-bombs)

This one's a Trick Or Treat leftover from a few weeks back. Thought the title was most appropriate for raising the hairs on your neck this Halloween. Enjoy.

--KMc

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve likely been hearing a lot about the economic mess our country is in right now. And while Congress works to pass a plan to help bail out Wall Street and troubled homeowners, a lot of people are nervous. That includes the people who work in the business of advertising and marketing.

Let’s face it, ad agencies and marketers can be insecure and neurotic enough even in the best of times. But throw in what experts believe is the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression, and even the most stable of businesses can start to shake like Barney Fife on nine cups of espresso.

So what do you do if the country’s financial crisis becomes your employer’s financial crisis?

Here’s the deal. In a crisis you have 3 ways to react. You can freeze up and do nothing, you can turn and run, or you can stand your ground and fight. History shows that it’s the people who stand their ground and fight who come out ahead in the long run.

So if you’re ready to stand up and fight you need to think about yourself the way your boss thinks about you.

Survival Tactics:

As an employee, keep in mind that when it comes to your employment and whether you should stay or go, your boss is most likely thinking, “What’s in it for me?”

As the boss is processing that question, here’s what you hope he or she will think of when thinking about you:

1. Easy to manage.
Your boss has a ton of stress. Between interactions with clients, the agency partners, and other stresses including family and personal finances, your boss may be one Xanax away from his own meltdown. So when it comes time to decide who stays and who goes, it just may be the employee who causes the boss the most stress who gets the ax. So things like keeping a positive attitude and not whining over every little thing, can go a long way toward keeping the peace with the boss–and toward keeping your job.

2. Extremely talented.
Whether you’re a copywriter, art director, web programmer, media buyer or whatever, there are varying degrees of talent. How talented are you? Granted, talent is usually directly linked to salary. So the price tag that came with your high level of talent may be the deal breaker for keeping you on board. But if your boss is comparing two employees of equal salary, then you want to be the one your boss sees as having the most talent. So if you’re a creative and you don’t think you’re as together on talent as you should be, maybe it’s time to grab some award books and do some serious studying up on your skill set. Just be careful about doing it on the company clock.

3. Understands the business.
I’ve seen some very talented ad agency creatives who were pretty clueless about the business they were in. Heck, I was one of those people myself for several years. Understanding the business means a lot of things. For example, it means understanding the mission and values of the company you work for. It means understanding that we’re in the business to make clients money by increasing their sales. It also means understanding our clients’ businesses and understanding their customers. Be one of the people in your agency who gets it so that when the ax starts to fall, you won’t have to get it then.

If you think you’re short on business sense, start reading more of the industry publications and websites especially Advertising Age as well as those relating to the business of your client. Maybe even schedule a meeting with boss to talk about aspects of the business you’d like to know more about. Your enthusiasm to learn more about the business may impress the boss enough to mark you off that mental cut list.


Mad Men's Don Draper explains productivity.

4. Highly productive.
Productivity means money to the agency. If you can crank out three ads in the time it takes your co-workers to do one of equal quality, you are the more productive employee. If you’re the employee who takes eight hours to do what your co-workers can do in two hours, start looking at how you can work more efficiently, without sacrificing quality. You may need to set up some systems to get things done faster.

For instance, a few years into the business, I realized it was taking me too long to create concepts for ads. Then I started working with a system that helped me produce ideas much, much faster. Soon I was creating more in 2 hours than I had previously done in 8 or 16 hours. And the ideas were actually better and more solid than ever. I think just having a system in place, relieved me of a lot of stress and gave me more confidence going into any project that I could come up with great ideas. That alone was one of the greatest breakthroughs for me personally in my career.

Having said that, if you’re a junior level employee, it’s understood that you are not going to be as productive as the senior level employee. That’s why you likely earn much less. But still, you want to be more productive than your junior-level co-workers.

Also, be careful about how you use your time in terms of doing personal business at the office. Personal emails, surfing myspace.com and mindless chit-chatting with co-workers isn’t productive. Sure now and then, we all need a break. Just keep in mind that time is money. It’s different in every agency. If your whole department is in the hallway joking with the boss, then by all means, get in on the fun if your have the time. Which leads to the next point.

5. Strong relationships within the agency.
At the end of the day, business is all about relationships. If you have strong relationships within the agency, that always is a plus. It doesn’t mean you’re bulletproof. But if your relationships in the agency are bad, it often means you’re likely a stress to someone. Which goes back to point number 1 – Easy to manage.

The key to good relationships is trust. People have to know they can trust you. I don’t think there’s a short way to tell you how to get to this point in your personal development. This comes down to being a person of solid character. Someone who doesn’t talk about coworkers behind their backs. Someone who does what you say you will do. Someone who doesn’t point fingers when something goes wrong. Someone who’s willing to say, “I made a mistake,” when necessary and suffer the consequences. There’s so much here to this, but I just can’t cover it all. Unfortunately, there’s not a “Character Development” class required to get into business.

Also, teamwork and cooperation go a long way toward strong relationships in the agency. If you’re all done with your work but see a co-worker crunching to meet a deadline, make a sincere offer to help. Your co-worker will likely return the favor for you sometime.

6. Strong relationships with the clients.
If you have bad relationships inside the agency, but you have strong relationships with the clients, you may be safe. Especially if you are the key relationship between the agency and the client. But most often your relationship with the client is based on the results you are bringing to the table. And that all goes back to how well you understand the agency business and your client’s business.

However, if you are one of 3 people from the agency who has a great relationship with the client, don’t count on this saving you. Regardless, if your job security is based on your relationship with the client, the second the client takes another job two thousand miles away, your pink slip may be waiting for you.

Reality Check:

Now here’s a question: do these qualifiers sound familiar? If your agency has any kind of internal review process, they should. Because these are just the kinds of qualifiers that appear on employee reviews. So if you’re questioning how valuable you are to your employer, go take a look at your last employee review and you should see the answers. If you don’t feel good about how the review reads, let’s hope you’ve been making a lot of improvements since then.

Again, there are sometimes when even the best of employees get cut. After all, no one ever said life was fair. The good thing is, if the above descriptions fit you, the recommendations you get from your boss for your next job will go a long way toward getting your next job.

Got more ideas for how to avoid getting axed? Let's hear them.

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trail Mix: Trick or Treat Style


BlogPulse: Who's Most Popular On The Blogs–Bridezilla, Bride of Frankenstein or Heather Mills?

Scary brides are lurking around the Internet this Halloween. According to this BlogPulse I generated, Sir Paul McCartney's ex, Heather Mills, is running neck and neck in blog coverage with The Bride Of Frankenstein. I have to admit, since Heather, Yoko Ono doesn't seem so scary any more.


Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

How To Build A Ladder Out Of Social Media Demographics


The Social Technographics® Ladder By Forrester Research

Remember VALS and VALS 2, known as the Values, Attitudes and Lifestyles studies for segmenting audiences. Well this is the social media age and there's a newer segmentation standard. It's called The Social Technographics® Ladder and it was developed by Forrester Research.

In an online research article titled, "The Growth Of Social Technology Adoption," Forrester's Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell, says that three in four US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other compared with just 56% in 2007.

The largest growth in social media according to the report?

• Ratings and reviews
• Voting for Web sites
• Peer-generated video

Also, blogs and tagging closely followed.




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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trail Mix




Want to send a card like this? Click here.

For the ad man who doesn't have it all.



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Trail Mix


Click on picture to enlarge

Advertising Agency: La Chose, France
Creative Director: Pascal Grégoire
Copywriter: Julien Bredontiot
Art Directors: Laurie Lacourt, Antoine Villeneuve
Responsables Agence: Alain Roussel, Ivan Pejcic

Here's a great example of a marketer using humor to relieve a little stress about the economy while making an excellent point about the product's benefit.


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SPECIAL REPORT ON THE ECONOMY: How To Woo Consumers In The Middle Of An Economic Firestorm-Part 2

How To Talk To Consumers In The Post Bailout Economy
By Kevin McIntosh


In How To Woo Consumers In The Middle Of An Economic Firestorm-Part 1, I discussed the changes to expect in consumer behavior over the next several months, and perhaps over the next several years.

Consumers will be spending less, and their purchases will be driven more by necessity than by desire.

So competition is about to get more heated in terms of going after the consumer's dollars. That's because there will be fewer consumer dollars out there.

As consumers get smarter than ever about spending money, marketers will have to get smarter than ever about getting consumers to spend money on their brands. That means knowing how to talk today’s changing consumer.



Appeal Less To The Ego, And More To The Wallet

The smart marketers will quickly adapt to the shifts in consumer behavior. Communications need to focus on value and cost-savings opportunities.

In fact, a new study by Omnicon Group-owned media agency OMD tested consumer feelings about advertising. 81% of the respondents said that advertisers need to continue to communicate about their products during a recession, adding that they'll be more receptive to cost-savings messages and products that are positioned as investments.



From AMC's Mad Men: Copywriter Peggy Olson summarizes the marketing sentiment that's prevailed for decades.

It's No Longer Feel Good About What You're Buying, But Feel Good About What You're Saving

Right now, consumers feel a lot of things. Confidence isn't one of them. The cars and houses that that they bought didn't make them better people. They just made them more in debt.

Having said that, it is still possible to speak to the egos of consumers while promoting value. After two decades of fairly self-centered purchase habits, the connection between feeling good about oneself and purchase isn’t likely to vanish all together.

It’s just that what made people feel good about themselves when there were seemingly endless lines of credit will be different for the Post-Bailout Economy consumer. Feeling good will be less about outright indulgence and more about responsibility, especially responsibility in regard to saving.


Link Brands To The Emotional Benefits Of Saving Money

When it comes to personal finance, emotions run deep. So while more and more purchases will be made on the rational decision of price, the emotional benefits of saving money will still be a strong benefit around which promotions and other marketing efforts can be built.

A very relevant theme for marketers in the Post-Bailout Economy is to connect saving to the idea of “Doing what's best for your family and your own future.” Saving and shopping for value is a step in taking responsibility for the future. It’s very similar to the sentiment expressed in the marketing for brands in the green category.

In the past, green marketers have encouraged consumers to think about their carbon footprint. Now marketers should also ask consumers to consider their financial footprint.

After all, carbon footprints are fairly abstract concepts. No consumer really knows exactly how much damage he has caused the environment. But the financial legacy that a consumer leaves for his offspring can be calculated down to the penny. It's much more personal than green marketing, because the consumer can't escape the accountability.

Reality Check

Marketers have enjoyed a consumer spending spree that has lasted nearly two decades. Now the spending is slowing down. To get the consumer's dollar, more marketers will have to focus on linking their brands to responsible spending.

Marketers encouraging consumers to spend responsibly. It's a dramatic shift in thought. But consumers are going through a dramatic shift in behavior.



I originally intended this to be a single article. However, the more I dig into it, I'm starting realize there are many more angles to explore. So I'll have more articles on How To Talk To Consumers In The Post-Bailout Economy in the weeks ahead. If you'd like to get email updates, just fill out the box below. Thanks for reading.

--Kevin McIntosh



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

How To Clog The Blogs With A Plumber And Two Presidential Candidates


Blog Pulse generated by KMc: Joe The Plumber Clogs The Blogs

For anyone who questions what a celebrity endorsement can do for creating brand awareness, here's an interesting case study.

After being mentioned over 20 times in last Tuesday's presidential debate between John McCain and Borack Obama, Joe The Plumber enjoyed a phenomenal surge in brand awareness, literally overnight. The reference was to a plumber that Obama met on the campaign trail in Ohio a few days earlier.

Of course, the blogosphere lit up with Joe The Plumber references, as well. All of which helped fuel even more publicity for the Ohio plumber as the news and late night talk shows picked up on the story.

Unfortunately, with brand awareness comes increased scrutiny. Investigations into Joe The Plumber's background by reporters resulted in another news story. According to news reports, Joe lacks the proper licensing to do professional plumbing work in Ohio and that he owes the state nearly $1,200 in back taxes.

Nobody's safe on the campaign trail. Still, you can bet it won't be long before Joe The Plumber ends up in your kids' history books.



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How To Fend Off A Moon-Walking Grizzly With A Basketball


Count the number of times the team in white passes the ball.

Want to demonstrate to your clients how hard it is for a message to get seen in the clutter of all the other stuff happening in the day? This short awareness test is a great example.

Rewind and watch again if you think it's a trick.

SPECIAL REPORT ON THE ECONOMY: How To Woo Consumers In The Middle Of An Economic Firestorm

Part 1
How The Post-Bailout Economy Will Change Consumer Behavior

By Kevin McIntosh



The "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs" TV spot by Mullen for Lending Tree parodies the plight of the consumer.

The Post-Bailout Economy. The New Deal Part 2. The Great Depression 2.0. Whatever you want to call life after September of 2008, the U.S. and other countries are about to go through some serious changes. We have witnessed the financial crisis, but we are just beginning to see its effects on the economy.

Like trying to get off of an addictive drug, U.S. consumers and others in the world will struggle to kick the habit of spending more than they make. But with increasing job losses, record foreclosures and a tighter credit market, change will happen. There will be no choice for millions but to drastically cut back on their spending.

Perhaps the scariest thing to think about is the ripple effect the cutbacks in consumer spending will have. After all, the economy is dependent on consumer spending for two-thirds of its input.

As marketers scramble to compete for the consumer dollar, understanding the new changes in consumer behavior will be critical.


Dramatic Shifts In Consumer Spending Ahead

Credit card balances are up more than $125 billion over just 3 years ago, according to Consumer Reports. Personal consumption in the U.S. has soared since 1990 from around $5 trillion to over $8 trillion. Americans have over $2.6 trillion in personal debt.

The threats of tightening credit have shaken up consumers. A survey by Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers released on October 10th reports that 57 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed reported having lower confidence now in the Fed than five years ago.

It’s expected that the decrease in confidence will accelerate spending cutbacks and those reductions are likely to persist through most of 2009. It's anticipated the cutbacks will be the greatest in three decades.

In fact, the results of a new online poll of 507 consumers by WPP Group-owned Lightspeed Research for Advertising Age found that nearly 80% of respondents have already changed their buying behavior in the past few weeks.

Before the financial crisis, the spending of millions was only limited by their overly generous credit lines. But soon, their spending will be limited to what they have in their checking accounts, as the credit pipeline will be drastically curtailed. And due to poor saving habits, many consumers will not have any savings to tap into.

In the past, consumer spending usually bounced back with the recession. Given the deepness of this recession, it's likely that it will be much longer before consumer spending levels return to where they've been.


Necessity Will Drive Purchases More Than Desire

More and more purchases will be made based on necessity rather than desire. Price will outweigh sleek design. In fact, price may start to outweigh other product and service benefits.

For example, in the effort to make household budgets go further, many Target brand shoppers may now become Wal-Mart brand shoppers, though Target’s average prices fall within 1-2% of Wal-Mart prices. Nashville-based Dollar General stores should also see an increase in new customers.

This recession is affecting upper-class consumers as well. In a recent survey from American Express Publishing and the Harrison Group, 69% of the respondents with incomes over $250,000, agreed with the statement, “The recent real estate and banking crisis has affected my sense of financial security.” Nearly half said that they worry that at some point they’ll run out of money.

So as the affluent look to cut their costs, Target could win new consumers over from upper-scale stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

While some consumers will retain strong incomes, there will be less discretionary income due to inflation and the resulting rising prices for necessities like food and fuel.

As necessity begins to drive spending habits, impulse spending will be less likely. The main impulse will be to not spend.

Luxury spending on things such as jewelry and travel will see a huge drop-off.

Entertainment spending on things such as sports events and dining will decrease significantly as well. In a recent survey of nearly 1,000 households by Booz and Co., 43% of respondents said they are eating at home more and 25% said they were cutting spending on hobbies and sports activities. In both cases, most said they'd continue doing so even when the economy improves.

Of course, marketers of big-ticket items such as appliances, luxury electronics and autos will face big challenges. Now, many consumers will have trouble getting the credit to purchase these goods.

As discretionary income gets smaller, it will be interesting to note what changes in media habits we’ll see, because consumers will have to decide between necessity and luxury.

In times past, if finances got tight, people would cut cable TV services and newspaper delivery. Now, what will they cut? The Internet? Texting? Or even basic mobile phone services?


Buying Used Instead Of New

Tight credit will force more consumers to shop for used cars and perhaps even used furniture and appliances instead of new ones. Of course, that may only come after all repair options have been exhausted. For those who hang on to their Internet service, Craigslist could become a key brand for finding great deals on used goods.

Consignment shops and Goodwill stores could also see an increase in business, as more shoppers seek to save money on clothing purchases.


Less Plowing Through The Grocery, More Plowing Through The Garden

The rising cost of food is driving more people to participate in community gardens. In Portland and Boston, there are already waiting lists with hundreds of people to get plots at community gardens. While the trend may not yet seem substantial, we may see more community gardens and more home gardening springing up nationwide as consumers seek to save on food prices.


Delaying Health Care Spending

In a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in August, 22 percent of 686 consumers said that economy-related woes were causing them to go to the doctor less often. About 11 percent said they have scaled back on prescription drugs to save money.

The soaring costs in health care and the fact that over 46 million Americans are already living without health care coverage only makes matters worse. Plus it’s all but certain that the ranks of the uninsured will continue to grow, especially as unemployment rises due to the recession.

The scary part is that the consequences of these delays on health care spending may result in even greater health care expenses down the road. Like a car that needs repairs, the longer the problem goes unmanaged, the worse it usually gets.

Reality Check

The Post Bailout Economy is already changing consumer behavior. And the changes are likely to last longer than the recession. So the question for anyone marketing to consumers is, “How do you talk to consumers in the Post-Bailout Economy?”

--Kevin McIntosh

Coming in a few days, How Marketers Should Talk To Consumers In The Post Bailout Economy



Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com


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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How To Scare The Crap Out Of The Drivers In The Next Lane


You've got to see this. It's not special effects, it's for real.


I'm a copywriter, but I have to say, words can't describe this. It's like something right of the movie, Minority Report. It's a multi-purpose hologram for automobiles by DA Connect.

Of course with any new technology, there's always 2 questions to ask:

1. Who will be the first ad agency to use this technology to grab attention for their clients?

2. Who will be the first person to try to use it in a perverted way?

As a typical guy, I wonder if the female is programmed to repeat over and over, "Stop driving in circles and pull over and ask for directions for Pete's sake!"

--Kevin McIntosh
Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. See his work at: www.KevinMcIntosh.com

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Monday, October 6, 2008

How To Survive An Ax-Swinging Attack Inside The Agency


Albert Brooks demonstrates how to get fired from your ad agency job. (WARNING: F-bombs)

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve likely been hearing a lot about the economic mess our country is in right now. And while Congress works to pass a plan to help bail out Wall Street and troubled homeowners, a lot of people are nervous. That includes the people who work in the business of advertising and marketing.

Let’s face it, ad agencies and marketers can be insecure and neurotic enough even in the best of times. But throw in what experts believe is the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression, and even the most stable of businesses can start to shake like Barney Fife on nine cups of espresso.

So what do you do if the country’s financial crisis becomes your employer’s financial crisis?

Here’s the deal. In a crisis you have 3 ways to react. You can freeze up and do nothing, you can turn and run, or you can stand your ground and fight. History shows that it’s the people who stand their ground and fight who come out ahead in the long run.

So if you’re ready to stand up and fight you need to think about yourself the way your boss thinks about you.

Survival Tactics:

As an employee, keep in mind that when it comes to your employment and whether you should stay or go, your boss is most likely thinking, “What’s in it for me?”

As the boss is processing that question, here’s what you hope he or she will think of when thinking about you:

1. Easy to manage.
Your boss has a ton of stress. Between interactions with clients, the agency partners, and other stresses including family and personal finances, your boss may be one Xanax away from his own meltdown. So when it comes time to decide who stays and who goes, it just may be the employee who causes the boss the most stress who gets the ax. So things like keeping a positive attitude and not whining over every little thing, can go a long way toward keeping the peace with the boss–and toward keeping your job.

2. Extremely talented.
Whether you’re a copywriter, art director, web programmer, media buyer or whatever, there are varying degrees of talent. How talented are you? Granted, talent is usually directly linked to salary. So the price tag that came with your high level of talent may be the deal breaker for keeping you on board. But if your boss is comparing two employees of equal salary, then you want to be the one your boss sees as having the most talent. So if you’re a creative and you don’t think you’re as together on talent as you should be, maybe it’s time to grab some award books and do some serious studying up on your skill set. Just be careful about doing it on the company clock.

3. Understands the business.
I’ve seen some very talented ad agency creatives who were pretty clueless about the business they were in. Heck, I was one of those people myself for several years. Understanding the business means a lot of things. For example, it means understanding the mission and values of the company you work for. It means understanding that we’re in the business to make clients money by increasing their sales. It also means understanding our clients’ businesses and understanding their customers. Be one of the people in your agency who gets it so that when the ax starts to fall, you won’t have to get it then.

If you think you’re short on business sense, start reading more of the industry publications and websites especially Advertising Age as well as those relating to the business of your client. Maybe even schedule a meeting with boss to talk about aspects of the business you’d like to know more about. Your enthusiasm to learn more about the business may impress the boss enough to mark you off that mental cut list.


Mad Men's Don Draper explains productivity.

4. Highly productive.
Productivity means money to the agency. If you can crank out three ads in the time it takes your co-workers to do one of equal quality, you are the more productive employee. If you’re the employee who takes eight hours to do what your co-workers can do in two hours, start looking at how you can work more efficiently, without sacrificing quality. You may need to set up some systems to get things done faster.

For instance, a few years into the business, I realized it was taking me too long to create concepts for ads. Then I started working with a system that helped me produce ideas much, much faster. Soon I was creating more in 2 hours than I had previously done in 8 or 16 hours. And the ideas were actually better and more solid than ever. I think just having a system in place, relieved me of a lot of stress and gave me more confidence going into any project that I could come up with great ideas. That alone was one of the greatest breakthroughs for me personally in my career.

Having said that, if you’re a junior level employee, it’s understood that you are not going to be as productive as the senior level employee. That’s why you likely earn much less. But still, you want to be more productive than your junior-level co-workers.

Also, be careful about how you use your time in terms of doing personal business at the office. Personal emails, surfing myspace.com and mindless chit-chatting with co-workers isn’t productive. Sure now and then, we all need a break. Just keep in mind that time is money. It’s different in every agency. If your whole department is in the hallway joking with the boss, then by all means, get in on the fun if your have the time. Which leads to the next point.

5. Strong relationships within the agency.
At the end of the day, business is all about relationships. If you have strong relationships within the agency, that always is a plus. It doesn’t mean you’re bulletproof. But if your relationships in the agency are bad, it often means you’re likely a stress to someone. Which goes back to point number 1 – Easy to manage.

The key to good relationships is trust. People have to know they can trust you. I don’t think there’s a short way to tell you how to get to this point in your personal development. This comes down to being a person of solid character. Someone who doesn’t talk about coworkers behind their backs. Someone who does what you say you will do. Someone who doesn’t point fingers when something goes wrong. Someone who’s willing to say, “I made a mistake,” when necessary and suffer the consequences. There’s so much here to this, but I just can’t cover it all. Unfortunately, there’s not a “Character Development” class required to get into business.

Also, teamwork and cooperation go a long way toward strong relationships in the agency. If you’re all done with your work but see a co-worker crunching to meet a deadline, make a sincere offer to help. Your co-worker will likely return the favor for you sometime.

6. Strong relationships with the clients.
If you have bad relationships inside the agency, but you have strong relationships with the clients, you may be safe. Especially if you are the key relationship between the agency and the client. But most often your relationship with the client is based on the results you are bringing to the table. And that all goes back to how well you understand the agency business and your client’s business.

However, if you are one of 3 people from the agency who has a great relationship with the client, don’t count on this saving you. Regardless, if your job security is based on your relationship with the client, the second the client takes another job two thousand miles away, your pink slip may be waiting for you.

Reality Check:

Now here’s a question: do these qualifiers sound familiar? If your agency has any kind of internal review process, they should. Because these are just the kinds of qualifiers that appear on employee reviews. So if you’re questioning how valuable you are to your employer, go take a look at your last employee review and you should see the answers. If you don’t feel good about how the review reads, let’s hope you’ve been making a lot of improvements since then.

Again, there are sometimes when even the best of employees get cut. After all, no one ever said life was fair. The good thing is, if the above descriptions fit you, the recommendations you get from your boss for your next job will go a long way toward getting your next job.

Got more ideas for how to avoid getting axed? Let's hear them.

How To Whip Up A Viral Marketing Smoothie





What happens when you blend one part Mr. Wizard with one part Spike TV and one part iPhone? Millions of viewers tune in to watch.

Utah-based Blendtec spent around $50 to launch a series of videos in which the company CEO, Tom Dickson, does a simple product demonstration of the Blendtec brand home and commercial blenders. He uses their blenders to grind everyday household objects including golf balls, soft drink cans, a Hannah Montana doll and an iPhone.

Within 5 days, over 6 million visitors had landed on the company's website.

"Lately, I've been feeling a need to get back to my manly roots," Dickson says in the opening of one of the videos at the WillItBlend.com micro-site for Blendtec. "So I decided to build myself a man cave to relax and unwind," he adds.

Next, Dickson takes a collection of objects that just don't fit in a man cave and tosses them into the 1500 watt blender. Moments later, he has blended a mixture of a lava lamp, a Hannah Montana doll, a raspberry wine cooler bottle and a serving of quiche.



Can a Blendtec blender make an iPhone smoothie?

It's a stunt that would make Ron Popeil jealous and Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor proud.

The short, quirky videos are entertaining and fun. And also a powerful demonstration of the product. In fact, since the campaign launched in 2006, the videos have contributed to a 6x increase in sales as of August 2008, thanks mostly to millions of viewings at YouTube.

In addition to gaining pop-culture celebrity status over the Internet, Dickson has even appeared as a guest on The Today Showand The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

It is apparent from these videos that these are heavy duty blenders. In other words, if a Blendtec blender can't blend it, you'd don't need to drink it. And even if it can blend it, maybe you still shouldn't drink it.

--Kevin McIntosh

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market.
His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How To Beat A Caveman Over The Head With A Stick


Advertising is used to build awareness and persuade beliefs about a brand. And to do that effectively requires ideas. More specifically, it requires great ideas.

In writing this column, I tried to think of one campaign that I’ve heard people talk about the most in recent years. And the campaign that came to mind first was the Geico cavemen, created by The Martin Agency.

Say what you want, but people do remember the Geico cavemen and they associate them with the Geico brand.

In just four short years, the Geico caveman campaign has become deeply embedded in the collective conscious. Google “Geico cavemen” and you’ll get 181,000 results. The idea of these sensitive, intellectual, cardigan-wearing Neanderthals who take offense at Geico’s “So easy a caveman could do it,” campaign theme is pretty funny. And it’s highly disruptive. You can’t help but notice and remember the ads.

The cumulative impact of the campaign in terms of brand awareness is staggering. Sources estimate that nearly half of all consumers shopping for auto insurance now get quotes from Geico. And Geico sales have increased from $2.8 billion in 1998 to over $11 billion today. Of course, that’s helped by Geico’s ever-growing domestic media spending which topped $500 million last year alone.



See how the Geico caveman has evolved.

But the media spending has created a fan base for the cavemen. A Geico branded microsite launched in 2007 centered around the Caveman’s Crib called IHeartCavemen.com has attracted over 4.5 million viewers in its first year.

All of which illustrates my point. The power of a great idea. Especially an idea that’s as disruptive as a caveman put into a modern day environment. It’s like walking into a formal dinner party wearing a Halloween costume. People will take notice.

As advertising professionals, our job is to create and execute great ideas. That means ideas that will get our clients' brands noticed and remembered.

It takes time. It takes talent. It takes money. But in the end, great ideas have a great value to clients. A great idea can result in higher brand awareness with less money spent.

With the challenges we have in this business of hanging on to clients, a great idea can be the one thing that sets an agency apart from all the competitors lined up at the client’s door for business.

As for the cavemen, you’ll likely recall that their popularity even led to a TV sitcom in 2007 based on the characters. The show however was cancelled after 6 episodes, partly due to the writer’s strike, but perhaps more largely due to poor execution.

Which brings me back to the power of a great idea. The idea is the first half. But execution is the second half. A great idea with poor execution isn’t any better than a bad idea. Even a caveman understands that.

--Kevin McIntosh

Kevin McIntosh is a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.kevinmcintosh.com

Friday, August 15, 2008

How To Put Out Client Fires Without Getting Burned

The Scenario:

You have a client that always waits until the last minute to request a project. And it always has to be completed in about ¼ of the time that it really deserves. So everyone in the agency who works on the client’s account has to stop what they’re working on and go into crisis mode trying to put out the latest client fire.

What are some possible causes of these fires?

1. Your client is caught up in an organizational structure that is highly reactive rather than proactive, and so their last minute plans all roll downhill to the agency. And your client is as frustrated by it as you are.
2. Your client is terribly disorganized and never plans ahead.
3. Your client is totally oblivious to the fact that the agency account team isn’t sitting by the phone waiting for the client’s call, but instead is busy working on business for other clients. So the client thinks all the agency needs is a few hours notice.
4. Your client is just an evil, demonic being whose main pleasure in life is creating chaos for everyone on the account team.

Survival Options:

1. A heart-to-heart talk between the agency account supervisor and the client. The discussion with the client should begin by trying to determine what the agency can do for the client to help prevent these last minute fires. The agency should also point out to the client that allowing more turnaround time will always result in a better creative product, which will result in having a greater impact on the client’s sales.

2. The fire department can charge homeowners for putting out their fires. Why can’t ad agencies do the same? Charge the client higher “rush fees” for turnarounds of 48 hours or less. However, if a rush fee contingency is not part of the original rate structure from the start of the relationship, it will be difficult to throw that at a client midway through the relationship. It’s kind of like sliding a prenuptial agreement in front of your fiancĂ© the day before the wedding.

3. Anticipate fires and manage your client accordingly. If for the past 3 years, the client has always ran a special Memorial Day ad, chances are it will happen again this year. Remind the client in early April that Memorial Day is coming up fast. Set up a timeline that pushes the client to commit to having the ad finished by early May.

4. Install some creative fire extinguishers. Get internal buy-in from the agency creative director to simplify the creative approval process for these client emergencies. Putting a creative team through 5 rounds of revisions on a project that is already on a fast-track usually does nothing more than burn out the creative team.

If creative quality is that important, bring in every creative team in the agency, feed them the assignment details and give them one to two hours to come back with ideas. From that point, take the best ideas of the bunch, and run with them. Set the tone of this emergency as a friendly competition and you’ll likely see more inspired ideas. After all, the tight time frame is enough pressure as it is. Make sure that the usual creative team on the account understands that this group effort is in no way meant to undermine their talents, but rather a necessary tactic for dealing with an otherwise impossible deadline.

Also, take a look at the overall creative needs of your client from the past and look for some trends. Then develop some creative solutions for future emergencies. You might even propose this emergency-prevention as a project for which you can bill the client. A smart client will appreciate your effort for thinking ahead.

For instance, perhaps you create a flexible template ad that could be modified for a number of uses simply by dropping in a stock photo and headline. So future ad requests can be turned around on a dime.

5. Constant fire fighting will lead to creative burn-out. Instead of putting your own creative team through the flames of hell, outsource the fires and headaches that go with them to freelancers. It would be a good idea to have some trusted, seasoned freelance resources you can go to. Freelancers will take on crazy rush projects with a lot less complaining than agency staffers.

Reality Check:

Client fires are a reality that most all agencies have to live with. But by knowing these Ad Agency Survival Guide tactics, you can fight all of those fires. No more heat exhaustion. No more third degree burns.

Do you have any tips for putting out client fires? Or any great stories about clients that always caused fires? Let’s hear about them.

The Ad Agency Survival Guide is the creation of Kevin McIntosh, a freelance copywriter in the Nashville market. His work can be seen at www.KevinMcIntosh.com.