25 September 2019
Most creatives exist in a paradoxical place of passion and feigned indifference. We work to commit the kind of brilliant, blinding energy every project or concept deserves, side-by-side with trying to keep the heart distant enough to protect it from being quashed if our copy or design gets altered. Or meh’d. Or (ugh) rejected entirely. It’s a realistic part of the agency process (insert “thick skin” idiom of choice). One that ultimately helps fan the flames of creativity from the hope that someday one of our glorious ideas will get the green light, carte blanche. Enter GECU—General Electric Credit Union. A brand-new client who, after decades in business and a jaw-dropping history of success, felt it was time to up their game on brand recognition—a need they pegged us to take the lead on. They wanted it all, across the board. Immediate sales spots for radio and digital (and a brand-new buy to better leverage both). Plus other offer-based versions to follow. But at the forefront, paramount to all others: a soup-to-nuts, full-scale brand awareness campaign that would not only boost prominence with their target audience, but would set them dramatically apart from competitor banks and credit unions. Online, outdoors, on the airwaves and the tube. It was big. Huge. A colossal undertaking that had the marks early on of being a genuine game-changer for them—and to a certain extent, us. Put simply, it was the kind of high-level, big-picture, push-the-limits chance that professional creatives dream about. The starring role, if you will, in building something from scratch with every ounce of talent and vision in our toolbox. Remember that early radio deliverable? A project we pressured ourselves to knock out of the park with new scripts, new talent, new music—finding and establishing a complete GECU voice before we had fully sunk our teeth into how to amplify it. In one of the spots, we came up with a compact couplet we thought described them (their difference) to a T: Member owned, so we can’t be bought. Member run, so our best interest is yours. Powerful, punchy and to the point. GECU loved this line. We loved this line. So much so that it landed a leading role in one of our “big idea” concepts for the comprehensive brand boost. One that also involved 3D props, on-location filming, and most challenging of all, actual GECU members. Not actors. “People just like you.” It was the most ambitious. Definitely the most complicated. And the client went for it. Wait, what? Oh yes. Not only did GECU choose our A-list idea-star, they chose the concept that would force us to stoke our creative embers to full, bonfire-level intensity (and trusted from the get-go that we had the chops to deliver it). It was the concept that also placed the bulk of the first stage of work directly on their own shoulders—finding real credit union members who’d agree to be on-screen and larger than life. The soul of the campaign hinged on being able to recognize and relate to each of these people. Someone you know. And trust. And can relate to. Our challenge was to draw out these everyman connections from the members GECU chose—and then hope that sincerity and “realness” translated on-camera. It did. Of course, there were delays. And second-guesses. Our window of time—with our production company, our photographer, our own creative deadlines, even our media buy—was closing swiftly, and there were bumps and roadblocks none of us could have seen coming. Wouldn’t it be easier to hire talent to play the part of members? It was a thought we briefly entertained as the clock ticked down. It was also a sticking point our ACD refused to budge on, an uncompromising stand we felt was integral to the campaign (remember, soul and all?). But then in the space of a week, it all came together. We found the final participant, secured the last two locations—setting in motion a full-scale shoot that was then only four days away. We scheduled everyone and everything down to the minute: three days, five scenes, five different parts of the city, with close to 20 of us on set at each location—plus editing, voiceover and design work to follow. The stars themselves—real GECU members with everyday lives and jobs and commitments—blew us away with their eagerness and excitement to be part of this. Then blew us away again as their natural personalities absolutely shined on film. From this, we built four unique TV spots, currently running on all major cable and local networks. One radio spot doing the same across the area. Three billboards in nearly 100 locations. Dozens of digital ads and sponsored social posts. Not bad, right? Suffice it to say, the client was blown away. Together, as a team, we created something bigger—better—than we ever imagined. More to the point, we reveled in the fact that we had the chance to do it. Dare we call it our magnum opus? Nah, surely not. (Well, maybe.) Thanks, GECU. We’d say more, but the orchestra has already started playing …
19 September 2019
It’s no surprise: we all work hard to ensure our departments and companies are running as lean as possible, building flexible teams of multitaskers. The upside? The latest user-friendly technology and trends make it easier than ever to do things yourself. The technology is amazing. Things that less than a generation ago required teams of professionals or months of effort—from animation to finding a relationship—now can be programmed, automated and executed at the touch of a button. Or a swipe on a touch screen. It’s a brave new world. What a time to be alive (and all that). Less than sure about how to use all these new tricks and toys? Good news: there’s probably a video tutorial, cheat sheet or simple hack just a few keystrokes away. But is the do-it-yourself route the best thing for your company? We see the DIY urge most often in specialized disciplines, or where final results or performance expertise can be highly subjective. Why hire a professional photographer when somebody already on the team has a perfectly good camera? Who can really say that John’s homemade eggrolls aren’t as good as the caterer’s? To make do with the assets you have—they seem experienced enough, right?—is a tempting choice. But before you decide to trust an enthusiastic amateur with a professional job, consider: Are the savings worth the hidden costs? What you save upfront in professional fees may get eaten up by lost time or compatibility issues with other systems. The web design your neighbor’s friend can do on the side might look spectacular. But can it connect to your inventory system? Is the quality the same? Some basic tasks, like uploading a video or social post, are either completed or they’re not. But most projects in this business need to perform to a higher standard. A repaired computer that works but runs slowly causes inefficiency and costs you money. A product spec sheet with great copy but factual errors can cost you a sale. Or a customer. Can you count on delivery? People tend to give priority to assignments that are the most important … to them. A good product at a fair price is of no value to your operation if you don’t have it when and where you need it. There’s a story about a famous photographer at a dinner party. After the main course, her host comments, “I’ve admired your work in many magazines. You must have a terrific camera.” The photographer replies, “I enjoyed the dinner. You must have a great stove.” If there’s an app for that, maybe you technically can do anything. If there’s a friend of a relative who knows someone who can help, maybe they’re the asset you need. Maybe not. But nobody can do everything, at least not well. And not when your success—and your reputation—are on the line.
13 September 2019
If you’ve ever sat through a long meeting debating the relative merits of the headline in concept #2 versus the color choice in #7 (or maybe with the design of concept #16?), then you’ve seen firsthand how approaching a marketing challenge from too many angles is basically like not approaching it at all. Everybody likes choice, but too many options at decision time often have the effect of leaving your brand team confused and your creative team demoralized. So how do we ensure we’re considering the best ideas without trying to execute all of them at once? Even more important, how to can you learn to ask for and expect only the top-drawer concepts—the top three, the mind-blowing two—rather than the entire pool of a dozen or more your team started with? It hinges first on a solid brief. By outlining the specific challenge and strategy, the creative team can zero in on the best, brightest solution from the beginning. There may be refinements along the way, but the surest way to get where you’re going is always knowing where you ultimately want to be from the start. Your creative team shares this responsibility. When they know and understand the market situation and the strategy you’ve set, you can challenge them to bring you the strongest ideas and best executions—the solutions you actually need. Trust the team’s expertise. At the end of the day, your creative team’s skills and experience are your most valuable assets. To get the most from your investment in them, you must first value their experience as much as their work—it’s the surest way to free them (even challenge and motivate them) to do their best work. Expect a focused presentation. How many concepts do you want in the meeting? The correct answer is the fewer the better. When the brief is on target, the creative product likely will be, too. Asking for too many second-tier ideas from the reject pile takes the focus away from stronger concepts—and makes it tough to execute any of the strong candidates at the highest level. Shouldn’t they have a back-up plan? Of course. And trust us, they’ve got one (likely more than one). But a word of caution … you really only want to see these under certain circumstances: The idea supporting the initial presentation misses the mark in a way that wasn’t anticipated in the brief. The secondary idea takes a completely different approach than the one they’re leading with. At the end of the day, it’s all about the process—the challenges your team has already navigated and solved, the tough (sometimes ruthless) creative decisions that have already occurred along the way. A strong creative team will have curated and selected only the best and most effective work long before it’s unveiled to you on presentation day.
04 September 2019
Amidst these days of digital dominance, it’s rare to find a business that doesn’t understand—and try to capitalize on—the importance of good SEO. In fact, you’ll find that most organizations, regardless of size, agree it’s among the most vital factors for long-term success. And yet there are still some that are missing the mark on having a solid SEO strategy in place. Some without a targeted plan at all. Others who’ve just let it slide a little (or a lot). There are countless experts and articles underlining the tactics, trends and tools that still matter—and more important, that still work. SEO is alive and well, so why would any business push it to the back burner? Or worse, ignore it or table it entirely? It’s a long-term strategy. SEO takes commitment, especially from key stakeholders within a company. When it comes to digital tactics, oftentimes the mindset is to simply deliver instant traffic and hit all the desired key performance indicators. *brushing off hands* “Mission accomplished,” they think. In reality, a strong digital media strategy is more complex than that. Of course, all the paid methods such as Facebook ads, Display and Search provide instant gratification. But the critical connection is the one between your SEO strategy and your marketing efforts—meaning, are they working in conjunction? There’s a wealth of keyword information to be had from just one search campaign … including deeper insight into which keywords are actually driving conversions. It lacks a tangible objective. Crazy as it sounds, there are businesses out there that don’t know what their goals are—or have trouble articulating them in a way that can be capitalized upon. Maybe those goals have changed. Just like with paid campaigns, a business needs to have clear KPIs attached to their SEO efforts. Think about what you want to accomplish from your SEO: Generate more organic leads? Increase the number of people reading your content? Create a better user experience? Secure higher placements? Once those details are identified, a clear SEO strategy can be crafted (or adjusted). It’s overwhelming. Many times, companies just don’t know where to start. They know their business objectives, but maybe not how to translate them into SEO objectives. Or an established business has an old SEO plan that doesn’t seem to be delivering the way it once did. Regardless of SEO experience or history, the best thing to do in these situations is to run a comprehensive SEO site audit. This in-depth assessment can uncover items that need to be addressed, added or fixed in order to ensure your site ranks well in a search—presumably, higher than it was before the audit. It can also improve your site’s overall user experience and increase conversions from other sources of traffic such as Google Ads or social media. Getting Started: The place to start often is with a site audit. Through this process, you and your team will identify opportunities to better align your online presence with your business objectives. Then you can track the metrics you’ll use to measure success. SEO is never a one-off project. It’s a continuing process of responding to your customer preferences and user behavior, and adjusting to changes in both the online and competitive environments.