Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

4 principles of marketing to convergent channels

Many companies think of themselves as ‘omni-channel’ or ‘multi-channel’ in the way they describe their contacts with customers and prospects.

But in fact, often there is only ONE way that they really put forth any true effort.

Are they so time-impoverished that they only have time for one channel?

And, are they so knowledge-impoverished that they only know how to do one thing right?

The fact is that, in this industry, we have the time, we have the talent, and with some work, we have the knowledge and brainpower to create truly convergent channels. And through dedicated merge of brand and markting, we can make it count so we’re recognized everyplace we’re found.

Here are some quick but essential tips for getting the most bang for your omni-channel buck, through smarter convergence of your channels.

1. Consistency. You have a brand, yes? Well, if you have that brand being handled by a number of difference resources, from agencies to web developers to in-house PR departments and more, there’s a pretty good chance you’re losing control of your brand to the extend that your messaging is not consistent.

Your brand standards are an essential part of your marketing package. It’s more than a logo and a color scheme. It’s more than a folder full of approved photos and a vocabulary list of do’s and don’ts.  A real brand realization on our part is one that tells us who the customer is, and we ‘recognize’ that person in our lives.

For example, in a real estate project assignment I was on, they described the customer as someone like Tom Hanks – casual, friendly, wealthy but not flaunting of wealth. Family man, busy but appreciative of quality of life. With that note, we know exactly who he is.

That branding note helped to perfect the foundation of our marketing profile, on which we based a hugely successful direct mail, email and landing-page program.

It’s intersting to note that in every project i’ve done in the real estate industry, the client wanted a separate creative group to do the mail and the email+landing page. But when the email and landing page is well-coordinated with the direct mail, it benefits the entire campaign significantly. When there is no connection – ie, when the offer is not worded the same, when the look and feel are different thanportfolio direct mail skywater spread the mail — it’s likely to bomb. In another client arena, we found that email and landing pages that were treated as a cohesive unit performed over double what the efford did that was kept on an independent track.

Brand standards, however, can be OVER-enforced, leading to a dull kind of thumping from channel to channel — and when that happens there is simply no way to breathe new life into your brand if it’s constrained so much that it’ can’t change from one place to the next.  Brand standards should be well-defined, but filled with enough knowledge that they have some flexibility. I worked on a project some years ago where the branding agency had designed some kind of strange swash art that was to go across the bottom of each and every printed and online piece. This is where i find myself wondering if that agency was simply an overblown design studio, or a REAL branding agency. Because real branding is not reliant or chained to some dopey graphic swash. It’s much much deeper than that. But we were really stuck with that and it ended up driving entirely too much of the look of the advertising. In fact, it distracted from the message. A real shame, The campaign was successful but probably would have been more so if that had not been a ball and chain we had to drag around.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 2.14.36 PM2. Variety. Multiple channels offer great experience opportunities to take advantage of. Wine of the Month Club uses its email to create wildly wacky and candid correspondence and camaraderie with their customer. Meanwhile, their monthly newsletter is friendly but very informed wine talk with the kinds of descriptions you’d hope to find if you’re trying to become better educated about wine. This is what is now referred to as ‘content’ — although many today seem to think they ‘invented’ content  for the web.  They don’t realize that direct marketers, particularly newsletter writers, have been doing content for over a hundred years.

Now, Wine of the Month Club also does direct mail, and in a massively successful mail effort they took an advocacy approach – “I reject 9 out of 10 wines that I taste, and so should YOU!”, followed by “Never pay for wine you don’t like.”

These advocacy approaches are worded differently, but at their core they are targeting the same person — someone who wants to know wine better, and doesn’t like a snooty approach to wine. This client based his business on the fact that making someone uncomfortable about their level of knowledge is one of the fastest ways possible to alienate them.

This variety of statements still makes it clear that these efforts are from the same company.

3. Integrity.  Every channel has someone in charge.  And some of those in charge have a better understanding of marketing than others. Consistency in offers is paramount. And how the offers are worded is key to whether the customer trusts you or not.  Don’t create crappy offers and think it will get attention. 10% off reads ‘I don’t really want you that badly”. And an offer of something other than a discount shows that you are really thinking of them and want them to be happy. Imagine that, no discount offers. It is essential to more effective marketing. Most of all,  treat your customer as YOU would like to be — would DEMAND to be — treated.

4. Strategy. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Today’s client-side managers often come from an internet background, and they’re accustomed to trying out new things on a moment’s notice. They never seem to understand the value of mail, despite its length of time to create and print.  Many of these young managers don’t have the patience, the bandwidth or the interest in testing and planning. It doesn’t occur to them that when real professionals put a mail program together, their campaigns will benefit from that across the board, through better-considered offers, quality content as a result of more professional and confident writing, and more. When great tactics are developed as part of the over all strategy, they can be reused across most other media.

To get this done right, you need to write solid project briefs. And do your research.  Just because something was done before and failed doesn’t mean that when it’s done correctly it will fail. Au contraire! One hopefully learns from mistakes. This also means you need to share back efforts, successful and not so successful, with your marketing and creative team.

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And The BEST automotive advertising so far of this DECADE is….

Honda. Of course.

They don’t Jon Hamm’s voiceover but machts nicht. They have a hugely creative effort that was put out in 2015 and still amazes today. In fact, I am guessing there won’t be anything as good as this for the remainder of this decade. It’s just so damned interesting, innovative and impossible to stop watching and learning from!

By the way, it’s added fun to watch this next video, which tells the story of how they did this spot.

RPA, The creators of this spot have truly embodied Honda’s approach to R&D and engineering in this remarkable two-minute Honda spot. It tells/shows Honda’s entire history though an intricate paper-flipping journey. The effort delivers the Honda brand commitment, quality and promise by being as impeccably engineered as are the products themselves.

The spot is formally titled “Paper.” The film, while devised in CGI, was shot practically, with a few scenes stitched together.

Tom Peyton, assistant vice president of marketing for American Honda Motor Co., stated “This commercial stands for the courage and conviction to imagine and make dreams a reality and speaks to Honda’s innovative nature and respect for personal achievement and contributions.”

All i can ad to that is kudos to this amazing creative team that gives me back he hope I lose when i see substandard work. Congratulations on creating an ad that looks as fresh now as it did two years ago in its launch.

Client: American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Title: “Paper” :117
First Air: 9/20/15


Agency: RPA
EVP, CCO: Joe Baratelli
SVP, ECD: Jason Sperling
VP, CD/Art Director: Chuck Blackwell
VP, CD/Copywriter: Ken Pappanduros
Senior Copywriter: Chris Bradford
Art Director: Laura Crigler
Copywriter: Josh Hepburn
SVP, Chief Production Officer: Gary Paticoff
VP, Executive Producer: Isadora Chesler
Producer: Matt Magsaysay

SVP, Group Strategic Planning Director: Christian Cocker
VP, Director of Business Affairs: Maria Del Homme

EVP, Management Account Director: Brett Bender
VP, Group Account Directors: Adam Blankenship & Jeff Moohr
Management Supervisor: Rose McRitchie
Account Executives: Susan Kim & Paul Sulzer
Product Information Manager: Marco Fantone

Production Company: Reset Content
Director: PES
Managing Director: Dave Morrison
Executive Producers: Jen Beitler & Jeff McDougall
Head of Production: Amanda Clune
Producer: Stan Sawicki
DP: Eric Adkins
Production Supervisor: Mario D’Amici
Production Designer: John Joyce
Motion Control Operator: Mark Eifert
Motion Control Assistant: Calvin Frederick
Animation Supervisor: Eileen Kohlhepp
Animators: Amy Adamy, Sihanouk Mariona, David Braun, Julian Petschek, Javan Ivey, Jen Prokopowicz, Brandon Lake, Ranko Tadic & Quique Rivera
Illustrators: Jerrod McIlvain, Nicole Cardiff, Vincent Lucido, Arwen King, Meghan Boehman, Monica Magana, Kei Chong, Trevor Brown & Alex Theodoropulos
Set Dresser/Painter: Veronica Hwang
Illustration Coordinator: Evan Koehne
Art Department: Nate Theis, Ellen Ridgeway, Melissa Quezada

Editorial: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Stewart Reeves
EP: Angela Dorian
Producer: Leah Carnahan-Dogruer
Assistant Editor: Jasmina Zaharieva

VFX & Finishing: A52
VFX Supervisor & Lead Flame: Andy Rafael Barrios
CG Supervisor: Kirk Shintani
EP: Patrick Nugent
Producer: Lusia Boryczko
Head of Production: Kim Christensen
Executive Producer: Patrick Nugent
2D VFX Artists: Michael Plescia, Enid Dalkoff, Chris Moore, Cam Coombs, Michael Vagilenty
CG Artists: Aaron Baker, Mike Bettinardi, Michael Cardenas, Jon Belcome, Joe Chiechi
Pre-Viz: Ranko Tadic, Ingolfur Guomundsson, Benito Vargas
Colorist: Tommy Hooper
Online Editor: Dan Ellis
Color/Online Assist: Gabe Sanchez, Chris Riley, Erik Rojas
Roto Artists: Cathy Shaw, Robert Shaw, Tiffany Germann

Sound Design: Factory UK – Sound Design Studios
Sound Designer: Phil Bolland
Head of Production: Lou Allen

Mix: Lime Studios
Re-Recording Mixer: Dave Wagg
Assistant Re-Recording Mixer: Adam Primack
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan


VP, Creative Social Media Director: J Barbush
VP, CD/Art Director: Chuck Blackwell
VP, CD/Copywriter: Ken Pappanduros
Senior Copywriter: Chris Bradford
Art Director: Laura Crigler
Copywriter: Josh Hepburn
Producer: Matt Magsaysay
Editor: A’sia Horne-Smith

EVP, Management Account Director: Brett Bender
VP, Group Account Director: Adam Blankenship
Account Supervisor: Renee Egizi-Finger
Account Executive: Kaelin McGill

VP, Associate Director, Digital Marketing: Aaron Dodez
Supervisor, Digital Content Strategy: Mike Dossett
Sr. Specialists, Digital Content Strategy: Tyler Sweeney & Hartman Wong
Associate Digital Producer: Connor Gomez
Program Manager: Melissa Heitman

—Behind The Scenes

Senior Copywriter: Chris Bradford
Art Director: Laura Crigler
Copywriter: Josh Hepburn
Producer: Matt Magsaysay
Associate Digital Producer: Connor Gomez

VP, Group Account Director: Adam Blankenship
Management Supervisor: Rose McRitchie
Account Executive: Susan Kim

Post Production: Bo’s House of Visual Arts @ RPA
Post Producer: Eddie Granado
Editor: Wendy Sandoval
Lead Cameraman: Zach Grant
Cameraman/pick up shots: Mark Tripp
Graphics: Michael Kelley
Color: Augie Arredondo

Final Mix/Audio: Lime Studios
Mixer: Mark Meyuhas


Video Technology: WIREWAX
Business Development & Creative Services: Bea DiCarlo
EVP, CCO: Joe Baratelli
SVP, ECD: Jason Sperling
VP, Digital Design Director: Michael Takeshita
VP, CD/Art Director: Chuck Blackwell
VP, CD/Copywriter: Ken Pappanduros
Art Director: Jesse Echon
Copywriter: Michael Chen
VP, Director of Digital Production: Dave Brezinski
Executive Digital Producer: Linda Kim
Associate Digital Producer: Connor Gomez

EVP, Management Account Director: Brett Bender
VP, Group Account Director: Adam Blankenship
Management Supervisor: Rose McRitchie
Account Executive: Susan Kim
Program Manager: Melissa Heitman



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And the worst automotive advertising of the 2017 season is…

And the worst automotive advertising of the season is…GM.

Why am i not surprised? The big American brands have had mediocre advertising strategies for years, and they throw money at wide mass markets instead of using smart targeted marketing to find their true audience.

But this one reaches a new pinnacle of mediocrity and amateurism. GMC Acadia for 2017.

GM presents us this drivel that actually makes me embarrassed for the professional conductor who is featured in the ad. Who, by the way, is Maestro Kazem Abdullah. A native of Indiana, Abdullah, 36, has served as the Generalmusikdirektor of the city of Aachen, Germany since 2012, and has led orchestras the world over. A real talent.

But unlike the conductor who is an expert in his field, the supposed-professionals who developed and approved this ad seem to have no real experiential knowledge of the vehicle, so they start making shit up. It could have been the answer to an assignment given to a freshman art school class: how would you advertise this truck if you had NO experience with it before? How could you make it stand out from the crowd of 2017 automotive ads that are starting to appear?

The agency should be embarrassed by this effort but they are probably not. But the CLIENT — well, whoever approved this or possibly pushed for it on the client side should go back to operations or financial or wherever the hell they came from because they have no business leading and approving marketing and advertising expenditures.

By the way, I’ve seen a tagline for GM where they describe their greatness as
The New Standard of the World.  HOLY CRAP! THE WHOLE FRIKKIN’ WORLD!???

Wow, that would be impressive if they were, but of course they are nowhere close to that. I know from my own past automotive experience that they don’t even manufacture their own engines. So I’m not impressed.

The thing that makes me feel like weeping is that I know wht kinds of budgets these things take, and there could not be more of a waste of money in the world of advertising than when this kind of thing rears its ugly head. At a time when American auto manufacturers should be grateful to be alive and determined to produce and advertise better than anyone out there.

I feel nothing but pity for the people who worked on this who know better. I am wondering if it was Leo Burnett. Not sure. If anyone knew this was a terrible direction to go,  they didn’t really have the guts to stand up for producing great work for their clients.

All involved should be ashamed.

NEXT up: The BEST automotive advertising of the 2017 season.




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AAA boosts travel to Hawaii with nostalgic effort for Pleasant Holidays.

Using an illustration filled with nostalgia, the prospective customer is reminded of the old days when Hawaii was the ultimate getaway. This makes them want to go all the more.

Using an illustration filled with nostalgia, the prospective customer is reminded of the old days when Hawaii was the ultimate getaway. This makes them want to go all the more.

Hawaii never looked fresher or more nostalgic than it did in this postcard promotion for Pleasant Holidays, done by my studio for AAA Travel, Northern California.

This is a client with great ideas and interest in breaking out of the box, but also dedicated to solid direct marketing principles so that they have measurable success when they mail a promotion.

The picture side of the card was adorned with an image that bespoke the old days of Hawaii when the idea of going there was like a seductive siren’s call to Haoles on the mainland.

A highly personalized message/mail side boosted the effectiveness of this oversized card, with a casual attitude that reminded the reader of the fun they could have once they traded in their dress shoes for flip-flops.

The production and personalization was done by Brian Schott’s company, AdMail, in Hayward CA, who posesses remarkable capability.

We were delighted to see how well this card performed, and had even more of a surprise when a friend of mine told me she’d recieved a beautiful card for Hawaii in the mail — and it turned out that it was this one. She had posted it on her bulletin board!

AAA Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays postcard message side

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June 6, 2014 · 4:47 pm

10 tips for creating a better social media campaign

Social Media is a mixed bag, because many clients and agencies will waste inordinate amounts of time (time = money) on campaigns that don’t pay off. Agencies talk clients into some crazy and useless stuff that enables the agency to show off some new skill… clients jump in too quickly because their boss told them they must be into the social media scene.

Stop the madness!  Here are 10 tips based on research and work we’ve done with clients to date:

  1. Choose your platform based on where your people are going, not on where you just assume they go. LinkedIn groups may be better for B2B, Twitter and Facebook are considerations for niche market consumer products. For scientists and engineers there may be completely different blogs and platforms. Do research to find out WHERE YOUR customers are networking before you start.
  2. Choose a limited number of platforms. There are hundreds out there, but only one or two are right for you, and you can only maintain a few if you’re as short on time as most of us are. Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s worse to stop one of them once you’ve started, than to never start it at all.
  3. Hire someone who’s a good writer to do the work. Just because it isn’t directly connected to profits (yet) doesn’t mean you can hire someone who is not an experienced writer to do the work. I have seen clients hire newbies right out of college because ‘they know more about social media’ but the problem is, they don’t know enough about human behavior (or your product line or service) to create content that’s really engaging. Businesses that hire ghost writers from foreign countries with extremely cheap labor think they’re going to get something worth reading, but this is rarely the case — the cheapest writing is cheap because the writers find something online and plagiarize it. Or sometimes they just write in circles to fill in word counts but provide no real beneficial copy. The ones who do the best job are folks who know you best. And it’s worth it to hire them instead of putting up with the cheapest.
  4. Limit how much time is spent – that means time budgeting and sticking with it. Social media can be huge sink hole of time.
  5. Keep it interesting. If adding video really adds value – products in use or an expansion of culture, think about it. If you can share and access goodies that are out there already to support your brand and your culture, do it. And never, ever let the same thing show up again and again, or you’re bound to bore your customers and they’ll opt out.
  6. Make it useful.  If you know your customer well, you can guess what kinds of apps they might find helpful. You can create lists of things that people wish they had a list for, from anniversary gifts to never-fail treatments for dry skin.
  7. Make it viral. If you do a great job with your content, you’ll notice that you’re getting more traffic from outside your current universe. That’s because the content was so great, people passed it along to others whom they thought would enjoy it, too. That is the ultimate compliment… when your content is forwarded to others.
  8. Measure as much and as often as you can. There are measuring tools and you can set up your own tests with specific product to create opportunities to measure.
  9. Write thoughtfully and efficiently. One of our clients writes most of a week’s facebook entries and tweets over the course of about 2 to 3 hours on a Saturday morning. This is not rocket science folks – it’s sharing news and cultural goodies that your market wants to see and will share with others. And it’s certainly not going to keep their attention if you discuss inane stuff that doesn’t move them.
  10. Don’t be seduced by all the “pundits” who are telling you it’s the road to riches. Companies like Dell poured millions into this before it started giving them a payoff. The pundits are building their businesses on your back. Watch YOUR back!

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5 creative ways to get a new job as a writer or designer

I was recently in a discussion online with a group of creatives, where the topic of interviews came up. The basis of the question was, is it ever OK to ‘cheat’ a little bit in order to get an interview or be hired. By this they meant, exaggerate accomplishments, etc.  As you might imagine, the discussion was quite lively, but the consensus among professionals was that you never exaggerate — you tell the truth and hope you’ll stand out among the fakers who are also interviewing.


Carol Worthington-Levy c. 1984 – during my first year as a direct marketing creative.

There is a shortage of integrity when it comes to interviewing for jobs, and creatives are not alone in this, but we’re claiming to be creative — so we should be able to develop a more creative strategy to get a job!

I can’t say I’m a bona fide authority on this, but I HAVE gotten my foot in the door a few different ways that I’ve been told were worth sharing in this forum.

Now, I am not an ivy league graduate or even a grad of a private university. I went to a state university of 12,000 out in western Pennsylvania and my final degree was not in copywriting or design or art direction — it was in fine arts and teaching. There were times when I wondered how in hell I’d get into advertising. Here are some of the things I did that proved helpful for me to get not only my full time jobs, but also, eventually, a vibrant freelance career.

For stark beginners or those ‘starting over’…

1. Learn specific skills outside of your scholastic environment.

Beginners need examples of their work. But work done in a classroom has limited appeal, often being irrelevant. We rarely graduate with a skillset that makes us ready to walk into an agency unless we happen to be a grad of a place like Art Center or RISD.

So after my first 2 or 3 unsuccessful interviews, I realized that I was missing some essential skills to work professionally in the field of design.

A conversation with a friend opened a door — his stepfather was representing a company that had a four-book-course on doing layout for advertising. He GAVE me a set — I will always appreciate his generosity, and I still have the books as a memento of an important step in my career!

Much of this was very new for me. So I paged through the lessons in the books and learned how to hand-letter and lay out ads the way an agency would. This did not actually take much time to learn! I really worked at it, with the goal of filling a portfolio with quality examples – just enough to show a potential employer that I knew how to do it, and was willing to work hard.

From there, I looked in magazines for ads that I thought were missing the mark. And starting from scratch, I redid about 10 of them, writing my own headlines, drawing marker comps and using techniques i had learned from the books.

When I next interviewed, I was very clear with my interviewer that I had not been trained in this specific field, so I self-trained using a great course, and then I developed these concepts as new options. I even showed the original ads so they could see I hadn’t copied anything from the ad.

By building my own portfolio as I did,  potential employers could see that I wasn’t a whiner and I wasn’t afraid to work hard. And they could also see how I liked doing this work. They were impressed, and I got a job quickly after that, as a junior… just starting and a crap salary … but so grateful to finally have my foot in the door!

For any interview at any level:

2. Listen, ask questions, and accept constructive critique.

In addition to showing the examples (now, my portfolio) to new interviews, I called one of the folks who had interviewed me before, who had very kindly told me that I was missing these skills, and he allowed me to show him what I’d done. While he’d already hired someone, he assured me that I was ready and was proud that I’d used his critique wisely.

I had asked this potential employer specific questions about why he didn’t feel I was ready (when I was in the interview) —  and he provided it! So while he did, I listened and came back later to show I’d listened.

He was impressed enough that he referred me to another art director for an interview!

3. Don’t dwell on your old examples.

If you were lucky enough to be trained in your creative field, It’s worth it to keep and show some assignments you had for your first interviews, but after your first job, put it away! Interviewers want to see real work.

If you have work that’s over ten years old in your portfolio, you probably should remove it before going out again. It looks odd to employers to see old stuff, and it requires too much explaining. Often it just looks old, and employers don’t like that.

4. A foot in the door is great — but will a toe do the job?

Connect with a company like Aquent or CreativeGroup, who specialize in employment of part time or freelance creatives. If you believe your days are numbered at your current job, it’s worth it to go through the process of qualifying before you’re without a job, because you’re more confident and more attractive as someone who is working. Accept assignments that are short term or freelance, then perform your stuff. Often they continue your assignments until it makes sense for them to just hire you on full time.

Why is this a popular resource for agencies? It’s an easy way for agencies and businesses to ‘test drive’, hire and try talent to see who fits into their organization best. Now that our nationalized healthcare situation is happening, you can work like this and still have health insurance.

5. Join and participate.
All over the country there are professional organizations that meet monthly or quarterly, and sometimes even weekly, Local branches of the DMA and the Advertising club are typical. Despite the cost of the meetings, plan to go to meetings, get there early, put on a smile and work the room. Ask questions of other people – find out what kind of biz they have etc.  Make friends, and you’ll meet potential clients.

If there is a BMA – business marketers association – those meetings can be fun and it’s rare to find a creative coming to the meetings. But these people need love (and great creative) too!

The organization you’re going to for the meetings is undoubtedly a volunteer organization. Offer to help the organization with promotions and so on. This is a good place to meet people for potential business or a job, too. As you have gotten to know them better put it out there that you are looking. (But wait til you know them a little bit so you don’t look like you’re only there to find a job.)

The bottom line is, keep your integrity, don’t feel desperate enough to show work you didn’t do or exaggerate. Instead, show them what a go-getter you are through some of these suggestions. Persevere, keep an open mind, and eventually you will find work you really enjoy.  You might end up moving from job to job more than you may like…. but remember, it’s all part of the adventure of developing a career! And wherever you go, there is something you can learn from someone there.

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Schola Cantorum season brochure 50th anniversary season

Roll folded self mailer utilized in-concert photography of the choir in action, to convey the excitement of performance

Roll folded self mailer utilized in-concert photography of the choir in action, to convey the excitement of performance

One of the most important pieces of branding and promotional work for a musical arts organization is its season brochure. The Schola Cantorum season brochure must be hard working, visionary and exciting enough to keep a reader’s interest long enough to get them to pick up the phone or go online and order season tickets.

This piece also is an essential piece when going for grants — the more confident, professional and powerfully a group is portrayed, the more likely they will earn funding for their future endeavors.

Schola Cantorum has a history of artistry and over 50 years has presented over 100 world premieres of commissioned works. This history and integrity of musicianship is what we have portrayed in this season brochure.


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