Networking is extremely important but can also be extremely daunting. Taking small steps is a great way to get started, and FL+G is here to help you gain the tools you need to make your networking efforts successful.
Networking is extremely important but can also be extremely daunting. Taking small steps is a great way to get started, and FL+G is here to help you gain the tools you need to make your networking efforts successful.
Creative agencies are rethinking the hiring process, from adding in-house venture capitalists to using Big Data in order to find diverse voices. At the 3% Conference in New York City, Jay Russell, CCO, GSD&M, Jaime Robinson, co-founder, Joan Creative, Jessica Peltz-Zatulove, partner, KBS Ventures, and Vann Graves, CEO/CCO, FL&G joined moderator Susie Nam, COO, Droga5 to discuss how the industry is tackling its stated desire to increase its talent base beyond the current status quo of white men.
"Tech and entertainment are coming for our people. We should go to tech and entertainment," says Robinson.
The current hiring process used by the industry is a problem beyond basic demographics. Even if agencies hire more women or minorities, their approach is likely to be similar since ad schools are graduating students whose portfolios all look the same because they are being trained to think the same way, says Robinson. "We used to pick up a kid that is a bartender because he is really funny. Let's try that again, See if it works."
KBS's Peltz-Zatulove recommends agencies stop hiring recruiters. They are just a pipeline for the agency. "Get outside of your comfort zone," she says. "Find voices that drive a different conversation."
GSD&M is launching what it calls the "Moneyball of creative recruitment" to break free from a "broken model" that brings the intrinsic desire to hire a “car guy” to work on the Dodge account, says Russell.
His agency has developed a "periodic table" that "uses Big Data to build a system of what they love, their interests, their strengths. It goes way beyond the account," says Russell. The agency then pairs the right teams with the right briefs. "[These new voices] are opening up problems we didn't think to have," he says.
Panelists agree that diversity is not necessarily about hiring for specific boxes: race, gender, sexuality. "We are hiring for voices. We step back and look at what we don't have," says Russell. "That starts to build an environment and the culture of the agency."
Diversity is work, says Graves. "You are more likely to create the Justice League than create people with the same taste. You have to do the work."
This "work" means rebuilding the culture of the agency. GSD&M, for instance, is conscious about being vulnerable. Publicly. "It is possible to be confident and vulnerable," says Russell.
Joan prioritizes picking people that have the same values, says Robinson. "It's about human kindness and collaboration. And once you do that create an environment," she says. As a founder, "I am open to criticism too. It matters to me what you think."
KBS Ventures acts like a real-life "Shark Tank" to give its workers exposure to things they don't normally experience, says Peltz-Zatulove. Entrepreneurship and the start-up culture tends to be glamorized, so this program makes them appreciate the challenges and opportunities that these smaller companies have. Plus, it helps them appreciate some of the advantages of a big media company.
Panelists say agency supervisors need to take more responsibility over their culture. Far too many managers aren't honest on evaluations and create unrealistic expectations where people expect promotions each year.
It's also important to let talent move to other agencies, they say. "It's okay to let Tom go," says Russell. "They come back. You want to support them and hopefully it is never about money. Put yourself in their shoes and if it is [a better opportunity], push them out, they will come back and we will be better for it."
Yet it is easier to sign a pledge and hire a few token workers than rework their entire culture. "We are lazy. The industry only moves so far," says Graves. "If we are to make the changes we talk about, what are we doing once we leave here and hold ourselves accountable? Five years from now, we shouldn't have this conference."
By Larissa Faw - published - Media Post - November 4th 2016
How does a company get its name? Is it through rigorous, consumer-based testing? Or conceived over a beer? Or by hiring an expert? If you are a start-up, you often don’t have the big budgets or time to conduct months of expensive research to identify the absolute best name. To better understand one of the earliest, and most important decisions entrepreneurs will make, the choice of the firm’s name, I sought insight from several agencies. Below are some of the inventive ways that companies arrived at their names.
1. Creative Agency, FL+G: When advertising vet Vann Graves decided to open up his own shop and couldn’t settle on what to name it, he let the people decide. He chose the name through an old fashioned, democratic vote. The contenders were Rail Three, FL+G, Asylum, Hear/Tell, and Madison and Moonshine. FL+G won with 30% of the vote, so Vann and his other founding members quickly put the name into action.
2. Digital Innovation Company, GoKart Labs:When Don Smithmier and AJ Meyers set out to name their company, they wanted to make sure the company’s capabilities and strengths were reflected. GoKart Labs encapsulates everything that the company is and aspires to be — they’re fast, small, and can quickly change direction with agility. Just like GoKarts, the company can take a beating and still come out on the other side with a smile on their face.
3. Consumer Insights Consultancy, SPARK IDEAS: For Malinda Sanna, the name of her company is literally its mission. They want to “spark” ideas for clients like Chanel and Marc Jacobs, through their proprietary research methods and in the way they present findings. Insights about people should ignite curiosity and generate new ideas. Heat, combustion, energy; otherwise it’s boring. They wanted to be single-minded to mirror their focus on inspiring creativity, as qualitative market research has traditionally suffered from a lack of new approaches.
4. Editorial and Post-Production Company,PS260: As New Yorkers in 2001, John Zieman and JJ Lask knew they wanted their new company to be connected to the city in every respect. Public school numbers have a strong place in the hearts of New Yorkers because everyone growing up in New York would brag about their PS number. When you bump into a New Yorker the first thing you ask is, “What PS did you go to?” Because their office is located at 260 Fifth Avenue, they felt that calling the company PS260 would invoke both an old-school NYC mentality and provide a cultural framework. Like a NYC public school, PS260 has a diverse roster of talent, who focus on learning and don’t take themselves too seriously.
5. Production Company, Derby: Executive Producer, Mary Crosse, was in the midst of brainstorming her new company name while celebrating the Kentucky Derby, one of her favorite pastimes. Despite the company considering over 600 name options, “Derby” remained the favorite. Crosse says it has a celebratory nature to it, a competitive edge, classic prestige and Americana spirit, all while not feeling like an overused word. Plus, the URL was available. The logo has a “winning ribbon” inspiration and was designed by Thomas Shim. It was the first logo option he designed that Derby chose because it was simple and modern, but the ribbon added a nice touch.
6. Advertising Agency, mono: mono was founded by Jim Scott, Michael Hart, and Chris Lange, with the belief that simpler is better. This applies both to the vision of their company culture and structure, as well as the kind of brands and companies thriving today. The name, mono, literally means the numerical prefix for single, which perfectly captured their philosophy in a short, yet two-syllable name (like Apple, Google, Nike, Tesla, etc).
7. Creative Agency, Cutwater: When Chuck McBride founded the agency he wanted to give it a name that tapped into his nautical West Coast roots, while also describing what makes their agency unique. He landed on Cutwater–which refers to the leading edge of a ship’s bow that splits the water as the boat moves forward. Similarly, it’s also the creative platforms they build for brands to move quickly through culture. From “Stay Giant” (Brawny), “Coffee First, Everything Else Second” (Peet’s Coffee & Tea), “Never Hide” (Ray Ban), and “Don’t Get Comfortable” (American Giant), these philosophies push the cultural capital of a brand forward.
8. Brand Experience Agency Giant Step:Founder & CEO Maurice Bernstein found inspiration for the company’s name from iconic jazz musician John Coltrane’s famed album, ‘Giant Steps.’ In what has since become known as a milestone in jazz, the music’s technical composition was engineered to enable improvisation. Mirroring this, Giant Step’s approach is to take its deep understanding of cultural insights and transform them into high-end and technology-fueled experiences that connect with consumers.
By Kimberly A. Whitler Published - Forbes - October 9, 2016
As I primed Vann for this post, I proposed he start reflecting on his “soft skills” by thinking about something he always tells me when we are reviewing work as a team. “You’re thinking too rationally”, or “that’s a strategy line, not a ‘creative’ one.” But what, really, does that mean? To me, there’s a skill that those statements suggest he has mastered. For instance, I have a hard time differentiating a strategic line from a creative one. Once I’ve narrowed down the research to a specific insight or direction, I tend to want to keep something like a tagline or campaign line tight, within that insight. As a creative, however, I see Vann wanting to do the opposite, taking things a little further.
Clearly, Vann and I rely on different skills. Our minds work differently, seemingly in different directions. I want to rein things in; Vann wants to push the boundaries. So how does he do this? What’s his “most important skill”, you ask?!
Before we get to that, I did some research on the above observation and the difference between creative and strategic thinking. The type of divergence Vann and I experience is actually a documented “thing”. According to Andy Eklund, strategic and creative thinking are both opposite and complementary ways of approaching a problem. In his post “Creativity versus Strategy: The Hour Glass Figure”, Eklud writes, “strategic thinking and creative thinking … have a different purpose.” Strategic thinking is akin to “Convergent Thinking”, where “information from different sources and knowledge come together, begins to agree, and comes to a common view, opinion or decision.” Creative thinking, on the other hand, is “Divergent Thinking: where information is dispersed, destroyed, re-imagined, re-combined with other information to create something new or unique.” He explains this using a diagram of an hourglass:
Knowing this, let’s get to “the big reveal”... What is it that has enabled the creative output upon which Vann has built his career? Vann’s answer: his “ability to look at creative through a strategic lens”. As we talked about what this meant, Vann noted that strategy creates parameters. While some may find parameters limiting, he said it’s when he uses those to his advantage that he has the most success. Inspiration actually strikes hardest when figuring out how to work creatively within boundaries. While he’s known many creative types to want to do “cool or hip” work without a strategic foundation, he’s also seen how that work turns into a singular tactic, and not a true, long-term campaign.
If we take this and refer back to Eklund’s diagram, Vann’s skill ultimately lies in keeping the hourglass shape symmetrical. He knows when an idea starts to go too far, creating a disparity or an imbalance in the hourglass. His skill is in knowing when to stop moving away from the central insight, and to use that sense to create memorable, unique, smart work with the legs to carry a brand forward.
In branding, advertising, and marketing it might be assumed that he who has the loudest voice, wins the most consumers. As the Greek philosopher Epictetus once remarked, however, “we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak”. While understated, listening is an essential part of the branding and/or marketing process and a skill I’ve personally found value in honing. As I look back at my career, learning to listen has been a key to success, regardless of industry. For example:
As lead strategist at FL+G, listening is as important as ever. To be effective in my role, I have to understand a host of different things. First, I have to understand what a client is trying to communicate at the get go. What is the problem and/or goal? Often times, the underlying issue is muddled or confused, so listening carefully to the whole story is key to digging in and unearthing the root of the problem. A client may not know what they need, so it’s our job as an agency to understand where they stand now and where they want to be, all so that we can advise on how to get there.
In addition to understanding their goal, I have to understand the client’s audience. To understand an audience, I have to listen to what that audience wants to hear, what they will respond to on a brand level, what they care about. This is why focus groups and surveys are so important to a strategist. That’s our opportunity to listen to the consumer.
I then have to listen to the market. And the competition. What are the competitors saying? Where’s the opportunity for differentiation? How can we position the brand, or craft the messaging, or devise a social media plan around that opportunity for distinction? What is everyone else saying?
So for me, listening (not just hearing) is an absolutely essential part of the branding process.
There’s a certain point, however, where the goal flips. Up until now, the goal was to listen, synthesize, and to gain an understanding. Once enough insight has been gathered, however, the goal becomes figuring out how to get the world to listen to us (a.k.a the client. I use “us” because we’re a team with a common goal now- true partners). Once we’ve spent the time listening intently and understanding what we want to communicate and to whom, we need to figure out how.
In the book “Power Branding”, Steve McKee relates strategy to answering the “what” questions and the creative to answering the inevitable “how” question. He writes that it’s at the “how” junction that “intuition and instinct play as important a role as logic and reason”. Luckily for me, it’s at this point, that the strategy gets passed to the creative mind.
If, as a strategist, listening is the skill I’m most intent on mastering, what then is the skill our creative team finds most important? As McKee so powerfully warns, it’s at the creative juncture (when answering that elusive “how”) where one can so “easily go wrong if you expect your target audience to be rational, to pay attention, or to give you the credit you deserve.” So how does a creative tackle the “how”? Check back in a couple weeks! Our next blog post will dive in and explore the skill most valuable to our creative team.
At FL+G, we often consult with startups. One of the first things we talk about with these new companies is the need for strong brand messaging. We firmly believe that a strong core message is essential when building a brand because this process is about figuring out what needs to be said, what wants to be heard, and the best way to deliver it. To us, messaging is the branding decision companies should make before the logo design, before the website launches, before any marketing materials are pushed out.
Recently, however, one small business we had been meeting with argued that spending the time, energy, and money to figure out their brand’s messaging now, when it may change later on down the road, might be wasted effort.
While we fully respect that opinion and the decision to allocate funds in other areas, this conversation brought to light an interesting topic for discussion. How important is brand messaging to a startup, really?
If you think about it, behind every great brand is a fundamental core brand message: a succinct statement that declares why the brand matters, what it stands for, and how it is stands apart from its competitors. This brand promise communicates the value and primary differentiators that define the brand. It communicates why an audience should care. Obviously huge brands like Coca Cola, Nike, and Apple all have distinct brand messages and promises:
Coke - To inspire moments of optimism and uplift.
Nike - To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
Apple - Think different.
These companies also have huge advertising and branding budgets and they’ve built their brands into enormous assets that have substantial financial value on their balance sheets. At one time though, they were startups too. What differentiated them from the competition, however, were specific core values that enabled them to narrow in on a strong and focused message early on.
Take Apple, for example. Steve Jobs understood that the key to a powerful brand message was figuring out what the company’s “why” was and then determining how best to communicate that. Apple was the challenger brand. How were they going to communicate why their audience should choose them over the more established computer brands? Why did Apple exist? Early on, Apple decided their “why” (aka their “purpose”) was “to challenge the status quo. To ‘think different’. People are Apple fans not because they love the computer, but because they identify with a tribe of people who want to empower the individual.” From that insight and narrative, Apple was able to build a brand that cohesively communicated why the brand matters, what it stands for, and how it stands apart.
To new companies, the challenge is in figuring out what the “why” is and what the single most important message entails. We’ve found that startups are often so excited about their product or company that narrowing down their messaging and or narrative to one specific direction is almost painful. Being too broad, however, does them no favors because when an audience is presented with inconsistent, muddled, or varying brand messages, they become confused and disinterested and they inevitably move on. It’s a fact.
As a result, “persuasive brand messages are always brief and convey critical aspects of the brand, and they often intentionally oversimplify concepts that are often complex and nuanced. This oversimplification is a good thing, however, because the goal of a brand is to be noticed, remembered and desired. In an over-communicated world, the only way to get inside the minds of prospects is to whittle away at your message until it comes to a sharp point.”
Figuring out how to tell and connect the brand's story with its audience is key and THAT is the point of developing strong brand messaging early on. So to answer our question from earlier, “how important is brand messaging to a startup?”, from our point of view, the messaging is one of the most pivotal pieces to invest in at the beginning of a startup’s journey. This is what defines how that company’s customers will relate to the brand - it’s what will inevitably inspire, persuade, and motivate an audience to care.
If you work at an agency, you’re pretty much 100 percent guaranteed to experience a variation of the following conversation in the next few months: “How’s it going?” “Busy.” “Well, a good problem to have.”
What you’re experiencing is a symptom of an affliction that plagues agencies across the boards: a “busy trap” mentality that prizes busywork over real productivity.
“It’s a huge problem within agencies,” said Matt Howell, global chief digital officer at Havas. “There is pride in having a meeting calendar that’s ‘back-to-backs.’”
Indeed, trying to get a meeting with an ad agency executive is often near impossible, with multiple assistants coordinating times and huge chunks of calendars that are just blocked out with meetings. Howell said that it’s also a machismo thing — and a self-perpetuating one at that: People that are “sought after” are often the ones that tend to keep their calendars full.
Vann Graves, chief creative officer at FL+G, said his entire career he has seen a lot of “busy time” with no productivity. To be sure, these calendars aren’t blocked because actual work is being done. It’s simply because of meetings — a scourge in the agency world that many rail against. Graves calls them phantom meetings — when people go to meetings followed by another meeting but there’s never any quiet time to actually execute or process what happened in those meetings. It’s also a problem beyond optics. Howell said that creative people who actually don’t perform well without quiet time suffer in a busy-trap culture because their time gets directed into meetings instead of actual work.
One big driver of the phenomenon may be that agencies traditionally bill on time. Even as fee methods change, executives that grew up in a world of hourly billings that looked at how time was spent feel the need to cram their days, said Graves. “It’s a residual effect on the industry because we were all raised in the billable-hour world.” The digital era also made being busy more possible: There’s always more Twitter to be checked and one more email to be sent. There’s also more work to be done, and less time to be doing it.
That leads to a general feeling that if someone doesn’t have their calendars full, they’re slacking off. “We do a busy brag,” said Noah Mallin, head of social at MEC. And it works across agencies — Mallin said he has a friend at another agency and they regularly compare how busy they are. “It’s a measuring contest.”
It might be darker than that: One agency vp, who said he didn’t want to be named for this article, said that he finds he’s increasingly “busy” with absolutely meaningless tasks — not real work. And along with his peers, he wondered if the reason for it is to cover up the fact that he isn’t actually producing anything. “Lunches with clients are part of what I do, for example, and then I have meetings with my team about how those lunches went,” he said. “But I realized that if I didn’t have those meetings, I really would find myself at wit’s end. Maybe I’m busy because if I wasn’t, I’d realize I don’t really do anything that important after all.”
Of course, the idea of time poverty isn’t new. Back in 2011, a Gallup poll reported that the more successful, or cash-rich, Americans became, the less time they seemed to have. More eloquently, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin called the time stress complaint the “yuppie kvetch,” suggesting the more technologically progressive and successful people became, the likelier they were to complain about feeling time-crunched.
And yet, Howell said he hasn’t seen similar issues in other places that bill by time, like in the consultancy world, for example. “The problem isn’t quite pervasive there,” he said. “In our industry, we have this ‘being crazed is good’ phenomenon because it shows that there’s demand for you and what you’re doing.”
At Engine Digital, the company worked with agency consultancy Agency Agile to change how the company operated, setting predetermined blocks of time for meetings so people were free the rest of the day. At Grey Advertising, there’s long been a “no-meeting” rule for certain days of the week. Howell at Havas is experimenting with fewer meetings and more workshopping so things actually get done.
“Everything is moving fast, so if you’re not busy, you’re probably doing something wrong,” said Graves. “I’ve got a lot of busy to take care of. Busy is built into the system.”
By Shareen Pathak - published - Digiday - June 28th 2016
“What’s in a name?” When Juliet, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, originally spoke these words, Shakespeare was making the argument that language is random. Names are just labels used to distinguish one thing from another. To Juliette, the name “Montague” itself did not create worth or meaning.
Up until recently, FL&G did not have a name. We were an entity; a fully functioning company, however we had no set identity. If names are just labels, we shouldn’t need one to create meaning and worth, right?
Doing business with no name, however, was a challenge. Without a name, we had to navigate how best to introduce ourselves to prospective clients. We had no business cards, we used temporary email addresses, we couldn’t yet define our brand or our visual identity. We had less to fall back on and more to explain.
The sense of identity that a name provides is at the heart of why names are important to us as individuals and business entities. Names are descriptors that allow people to make quick judgments and assumptions about us. While we can understand the harm of assumptions (and the reasoning behind Juliet’s assertion), names provide the human mind a fast way to categorize a lot of information in a short amount of time.
Interestingly, names have also been shown to be a crucial factor in an individual’s internalization and development of their sense of self. Names help propel us forward on various paths of life and career. For example, a name can “exert unconscious influence over a person's own choices. Some scientific researchers contend that there are disproportionately large numbers of dentists named Dennis and lawyers named Lauren, and that it's not purely an accident that Dr. Douglas Hart of Scarsdale, N.Y., chose cardiology or that the Greathouse family of West Virginia runs a real-estate firm.”
If choosing a name would inevitably have external and internal influences, choosing the right one for our new agency was one of the most important decisions we had to make to date. This decision was one that would shape how we were going to be perceived by society and how we would perceive ourselves.
As an agency, however, there were other things we had to consider during the naming process, too. For example:
How would our name influence our brand? We had to consider Brand Law #5, “The Law of the Word”, which dictates that a brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.
As a creative agency we had to be unique, and being unique in a world full of creative agencies who had already called dibs on certain words proved to be a challenge. Finding a name that wasn’t already taken while concurrently connotating the right message and voice meant we had to dig far and wide for ideas.
We had to simultaneously find a domain name that 1. paired well with our choice, 2. was available, and 3. wasn’t exponentially outside our budget.
We all had to agree. With five founding partners all located on different parts of the “purely rational” to “out-there creative” spectrum, we were all driven by different reasonings.
As we struggled to narrow down our ideas, we decided to let internal and external forces intersect. If society was going to judge us based on the name we chose, then why not include them in the process?
Working with Campaign US, we started by choosing five options that we believed we could internalize as we developed our agency’s identity. Then, we left it to society to chose one of those.
As a result, we got the best of both worlds.
Check out the Campaign US articles to see how the process unfolded!
From Mr. T to driving on Mars, FL+G's CEO and CCO practices creative alchemy
Name: Vann Graves
Title: CEO and CCO, FL+G
Years in ad industry: 20+
First job in ad industry: Creative Intern at BBDO
Vann Graves began his career under the tutelage of Phil Dusenberry at BBDO. He moved up quickly through the ranks before heading to McCann, McCann Worldgroup and then Fancy Rhino in Chattanooga. Earlier this year, Graves — remaining in Chattanooga after leaving Fancy Rhino — helped found full-service shop FL+G. In an unprecedented move, he let the ad industry at large choose the name of his new agency.
He says being a creative was simpler a decade or two ago, when good work alone could carry a career. Today, though, "you must be an alchemist," he says, "finding the right mix of storytelling, content, technology and relevance."
"It’s not just about the content you make, but how you connect the elements of your work. Every client is different, and each project needs to be approached in a personal way."
Here are the executions Graves says mean the most to him and his career.
Work: "Groovy Summer"
This was the first CGI project Graves worked on. "I quickly learned that technique doesn’t garner immediate results," he says. The process took some getting used to.
"On the stool sat a big mirrored ball that, through the magic of post-production, would become the cool and laid-back Green M&M," he says. "It was amazing to watch it all come together and to hear for the first time the magical yet sometimes horrible words, ‘We can fix it in post!’"
Brand: Motorola ROKR
This spot featured a large roster of musical megastars and was shot in under a week on two different continents. It was a crucible that "taught me the importance of collaboration, timing, logistics and great production," Graves says. He lauds producer Paul Feldman (who made a cameo as Beethoven.) "Now, like then, I know to rely on my producer," Graves says, "because a great creative idea executed poorly is a missed opportunity."
Brand: Mastercard Prepaid Debit Card
This multicultural spot was a big hit in the general market, too. But it was tougher sell behind the scenes. "Sometimes it is easier for clients and agencies to want do work that is less creative and fun and default to familiar approaches to multicultural work," Graves says. Getting innovative work approved can be "an uphill battle."
But he learned how to defend the work he believed in — a lesson he uses on every project now.
Agency: Fancy Rhino
Work: "Remember When?"
During his time at Fancy Rhino, Graves worked with the tech startup Torch to launch its new brand. "Creating everything from the messaging, to the logo, to the content was amazing," he says. "With startups, you are not just building a brand but working with the founders and innovators to create the brand."
He also learned to stay flexible during the project. "Everything has the potential to change on a minute-by-minute basis," he says. When he started his new agency, FL+G, Torch followed him, becoming the agency’s only launch client.
Brand: Lockheed Martin
Client: Lockheed Martin
Work: "Field Trip To Mars"
Graves had long since left McCann by the time this work came out, but such is the pace at which highly technical work sometimes gets made.
Lockheed’s acclaimed virtual field trip was only possible because the creative team took a risk with the pitch, and the client saw its value. "It reminded me that creatively we have an obligation to be more than a vendor to clients," Graves says, "but a true creative partner."
That kind of partnership fosters open dialogue and greater creativity, Graves says. In this case, it resulted in "an entirely new technology platform."
By I-Hsien Sherwood published - Campaign US - June 9th 2016
Back in April, the NBA announced it would begin putting sponsorship logos on player uniforms in the 2017-18 season, a move that could generate at least $100 million per year. Commonplace in all sports around the world, monetizing uniforms is a move major American sports leagues like the NFL, NHL, and Major league Baseball have yet to make.
The revenue numbers might have team owners salivating, but the prospect of adding logos has some fans worried their hoops heroes will look more like German hockey players. More realistically, the NBA is imagining a future in which fans will accept (and buy) jerseys with brand logos, just as world soccer fans still scramble for the newest kits of Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Barcelona.
European soccer clubs have practically made selling uniform space into a capitalist art form—they sell the front of the shirt rights, they sell the back of the shirt rights, they sell shirt rights for different tournaments, they sell the warm-up shirt rights. Everything is for sale. They must look at the real estate on NBA shirts and wonder, 'Why are the numbers so big on the front?'
In anticipation of the NBA's first foray into brands on player uniforms, I asked some of the people brands will be talking to about their potential jersey sponsorship strategy, and asked them to speculate on how marketers may be approaching this new sports sponsorship opportunity. Creative directors, art directors, and executives from six different ad agencies weighed in on everything from placement to specific brand/team partnerships that would make sense.
Some are realistic, some are ambitious, and some are just batsh*t brand crazy. Check them out in the slide show above.
Golden State Warriors and Twitter: "The best partnerships are going to come from an idea that helps all parties involved and feels smart. So for Twitter, we’ll put players’ Twitter handles on their jerseys instead of their last name—something that will make Twitter, the Warriors, and the players happy."
Chicago Bulls and McDonald's: "Americans don’t agree on much, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: McDonald’s fries are delicious. To remind people how much they miss them we will create a jersey with a pocket made of their iconic fry container and more ventilation for a completely new look."
Atlanta Hawks and Brawny: "For the Hawks, we’ll work with Atlanta’s own Georgia-Pacific—owners of Brawny—to create a jersey featuring the iconic red and black plaid pattern of the Brawny Man."
Atlanta Hawks and United Airlines: "We’ll work with United Airlines and the Atlanta Hawks—both know a little about flight—to re-imagine their uniforms. We’ll use the simple and familiar flight pattern motif as a design element in the fabric and the Hawks logo and uniform number will serve as the 'hub.'"
"Creating logos for NBA jerseys comes with a lot of pressure. You have to strike the right balance between staying on brand while not annoying the millions of basketball fans that will be ready to pick your work apart the second it walks onto the court. The solution is to use icons that are quickly recognizable yet add a fun component to the game."
"For brands like McDonald's and Starbucks, we wanted to branch out from using their typical logo and put the focus back onto their most iconic items. Who can resist the nostalgic image of the yellow fries or the classic coffee cup? They bring an unmistakable symbol to the jersey, a tactic that will keep the NBA happy while offering something that fans can get excited about."
"There’s a reason we’re attracted to—and turned off by—brands. Branding creates value and loyalty when we feel it shares and reflects our core beliefs. Otherwise, it’s just crass corporatism. So, as the NBA dips its collective toes in the world of co-branding, remember, fans don’t like crass corporatism. Luckily, we’re in the business of keeping everyone happy, so here’s our $0.02 on well-aligned co-branding."
Boston Celtics and Dunkin’ Donuts: "Pride. To Bostonians, it’s what separates them. It’s what unites them. It’s also what makes them care more about triple doubles than triple ventis. Whether it’s their sports teams or their breakfast, Boston fans are rabidly loyal to brands steeped in tradition. Born and bred in Massachusetts, the Celtics and Dunks go together like coffee and donuts."
Atlanta Hawks and Delta Airlines: "Above the sky or above the rim, these two Atlanta-based franchises know a little something about pushing the envelope. The Hawks have seen serious lift-off connecting with millennials through engaging game-day experiences, while Delta continues to carry more passengers annually than any other airline in the world. Plus, the Delta widget fits perfectly into the Hawks’ design. Together, there’s no telling how high they’ll fly."
McDonald’s and LA Clippers: "As McDonald’s shifts away from its traditional fast food menu, the brand can only benefit from reaching a broader, healthier audience. So it only made sense to create something that represents McDonald’s future and marry it with the NBA style and aesthetic. We mirrored the famous NBA logo and created a more athletic version of Ronald McDonald to make it clear that you can "Be Like Mike" (or Steph) if you eat McDonald’s."
Logo Fantasy Leagues: "Let's have different brand items or icons represented on different players' jerseys, and turn it into a 'fantasy' game, in which people can draft their 'team' based on these different logos. For instance, let's say I draft the McDonald's Hamburger, and my friend drafts McDonald's fries—if the player with the McDonald's hamburger logo scores the most points, I win a coupon for a hamburger on my next visit."
United Way: "A jersey is a personal object, to both the players and the fans who wear it. Why not give that space to some of the fans who'd appreciate it most? Each player represents a local individual child 'sponsored' by the United Way. When that particular player is the leading scorer, a matching donation is made to that particular child's name. For example, if Kari-Anthony Towns led the team with 27 points, $270 would be given from the Wolves to The United Way in the name of that particular local child."
American Express: Let's spread the local love and have teams sponsor businesses, not the other way around. In partnership with American Express, each NBA player 'promotes' a small business in their market by donning its logo on Small Business Saturday. It's a small gesture that will go a long way on such an important shopping day."
By JEFF BEER Published - Fast Company - May 5, 2016
Fourteen years ago, an executive at Bain & Co had a suggestion -- create a short consumer survey to test brand loyalty. The idea took off, so much so that the executive, Fred Reichheld, has watched it morph into a Frankenstein: the endless loop of “brief” satisfaction surveys following a dental appointment, car rental or salad at a corner restaurant.
Not only are the requests inescapable, but employees increasingly pressure, even bribe, customers to offer only the highest marks, raising real questions about the results.
Reichheld came face to face with the monster he unwittingly helped spawn when he recently entered a hotel lobby where a sign read, “If there’s any reason you can’t give us a 10, stop by the front desk. We’ll make it worth your while.”
That hotel is no outlier. An Allstate insurance agency in Westchester, New York, sends customers frequent notes pushing them to give it a flawless score on an e-mailed survey by saying the customers will benefit: “Each time we obtain a ‘Perfect 10’ on the survey, our agency is given additional resources from Allstate that will allow us to provide our clients with an even higher level of service.”
Trump University students who have sued for false promises have testified that they were pressured to give high marks to professors. Uber riders are familiar with the not-so-gentle demand from drivers for five stars out of five.
The explosive growth in instant customer surveys results from a confluence of forces, scholars say: the growing thirst for client feedback to improve products and services; the increasing focus on data; the ease of reaching customers via e-mail and text; and the growing conviction that by rating a product, customers gain a stake in it, that they become members of that product’s “community.”
“There was a time in marketing where the consumer was on the sidelines,” said Vann Graves, chief executive officer of FL+G, an advertising and marketing company. “Now this idea of participatory marketing helps to engage people. It’s like, ‘I’m affecting the brand by participating.’"
Those under 35 have grown used to this approach and consult many online reviews before making a purchase, according to Nora Ganim Barnes, professor of marketing at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
But the tsunami of surveys -- more than two-thirds of Fortune 1000 companies use the Net Promoter System started by Reichheld, according to Bain -- is making them far less useful, Graves said, and change seems inevitable.
There was a time, he noted by way of example, when every brand thought it necessary to have a Facebook page or Twitter handle. “Do I really care if Pepto-Bismol has a Facebook page?” he asked. “Do I really want to follow my foot cream on Twitter?”
“We’re just in the middle of everybody doing it,” he said. “It works for a lot of service oriented things, but I’m not going to rate my toilet paper online.”
Context is clearly important. TripAdvisor Inc. doesn’t face survey fatigue, according to Brian Payea, head of industry relations, because people want others to learn of their travel experiences.
“It’s the thing you want to share, whereas the fertilizer I bought and the deck-paint I bought that I got requests to review, it’s like, ‘Hmm, not that passionate about it,”’ he said.
Problems with surveys are two-fold, researchers said. First, too many surveys with too many questions turn off consumers. Second, results that are tied to employee bonuses -- or jobs -- prove inaccurate. Combined, these problems are turning a useful method of interacting with customers into a headache.
People are losing patience. Pew Research telephone poll respondents fell from 36 percent in 1997 to 9 percent in 2012, according to a company report. The number is likely even lower today.
Those who do respond often do not make it through the whole survey, especially if it’s longer than a couple of questions. Each minute, 2 to 4 percent of respondents abandon the cause, according to a 2015 retail industry study by Medallia Inc., a consumer experience research company.
“Survey fatigue is a real (and growing) problem facing anyone who wants to collect data,” wrote Andrea Fryrear, in a SurveyGizmo blog post Feb. 25. “If we want to be able to continue to get information from an audience, we have to design survey projects that are respectful of their time.”
For Michelle Henry, co-founder and president of the Akron, Ohio-based Center for Marketing and Opinion Research LLC, the solution to the problem of consumer turnoff is giving more thoughtful surveys just once or twice a year aimed specifically at helping improve products.
The wrong way is tying surveys to compensation or benefits and having the employees give them, she said, like some restaurants where waiters ask customers to fill out a survey and put in a good word for them.
In a letter to the editor of Automotive News in 2013, Ronald Russo, executive manager at Vaden Automotive Group in Savannah, Georgia, complained that survey fatigue was leading to customer ill will and harsh responses.
“If our dealership gets poor survey ratings because customers state they are tired of receiving surveys, the manufacturers will count that against us,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Reichheld said, bloated ratings defeat the purpose. Coaching responses can drive scores up, yet higher scores indicate nothing about whether the customer will return or recommend.
“The instant we have a technology to minimize surveys, I’m the first one on that bandwagon,” Reichheld said.
By Jennifer Kaplan Published - Bloomberg - May 4, 2016
The strangest thing about walking into an agency these days is that you can hear a pin drop.
The confluence of open-floor plans, rampant headphone use, and a generation of phone-averse millennials has created a workplace where silence, not noise, is the new normal. Ironically, the library-like environments can be traced, in no small part, to agencies latching onto trendy ideas around collaboration.
Open office plans, popularized in Silicon Valley, were adopted en masse by ad agencies through the 2000s. But people sitting next to each other without office walls don’t necessarily collaborate more. In fact, they often collaborate less, as they re-create private space with headphones.
“It’s a funny thing,” said Michael Epstein, chief client officer at Carat USA. “With an open floor plan, you’d think it would be wildly disruptive with people constantly talking to each other. More often, you see them with headphones on.”
Rich Silverstein, co-chairman at Goodby Silverstein and Partners, said that he thinks headphones were invented by money-crunching CFOs to make people believe they have their own office. “Headphones are the greatest invention for office space ever,” he said.
Not all of this is bad, of course. Agencies have long rewarded fast talkers; headphones are the new way of burrowing more deeply into work. You could argue it’s the mark of a doer.
“Headphones are a way of announcing to the world, ‘Don’t talk to me, I’m actually working’,” said Dave Snyder, executive creative director at Firstborn.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Some at agencies say headphones are a convenient way to cut themselves off, which often becomes an all-day habit rather than an as-needed mode. (As Digiday alum John McDermott wrote in MEL last week, there are many negative effects on efficiency and creativity in the workplace because of headphones.)
When Vann Graves, now founder of small shop FL&G, started in the business at BBDO, folks had offices. Junior people started in a bullpen or a big table on the floor. Having an office was a rite of passage, he said. But being junior and working at a big table with other people was helpful, he said. But it was also OK to go find a quiet space to have a private conversation or a meeting.
Open floor plans mean fewer private spaces — so in the absence of a place to go “be collaborative,” people just put their headphones on. “It got quieter because if you try to talk, people tell you to ‘shut up,’” said Graves.
There is also, of course, the millennial factor. These born-multitaskers are used to a work culture where open floor-plans are the norm. Their instinct is to put on headphones. “That’s just what they’ve always been exposed to,” said Graves.
One agency exec who said he did not want to be named because “it’s my problem, not theirs,” said he struggles with having a team who is sitting physically near him but never really available because of their headphones habit.
“I used to think they were uncommunicative, but truth was they were IM-ing and texting and Snapping each other the whole time. Just doing it silently.” As Snyder at Firstborn puts it, collaboration doesn’t have to mean two people talking physically. As mystifying this is to executives with flecks of gray in their hair, their young colleagues shrug and send off a Snap to someone sitting 10 feet away.
Silverstein says that back in the day, offices defined people: what they hung on walls, the books they had, what was on their desks. “Everyone insisted on having their own,” he said. Today, space isn’t what defines people, he said. “Sardines would all be happy if they had headphones.” But agencies need to be loud, said Silverstein.
Another thing that changed collaboration levels was a shift in roles. Previously, there may have been a different art director and a different writer working together. Now, roles have blurred; one person wears many hats. “I am the AD and I’m the writer, so I’m going to put headphones to block out the noise and so I lose out on the collaboration thing.”
For Steve Williams, CEO at Maxus Americas, it may also be cultural. He said in the U.S., the agency world is more low-key and lacking in energy at least from an office-space perspective. “There is a lot of hankering for private space and thinking spaces.” And since few agencies have the rooms, headphones go on.
Maxus is about to redesign its offices and Williams says he will focus on a “strategic” open-plan environment with plenty of huddle rooms. “Is it getting quieter in the workplace? Yes. But you can’t dictate a culture.”
While headphone use on one hand is considered polite, studies have shown that it increases feelings of isolation. A study by professors Sigal Barsade and Hakan Ozcelik from Wharton and Cal State, respectively, found a couple of years ago that isolated employees often feel like they belong less at work, which in turn affects output. And a different study from Isaac Kohane, a director at Harvard Medical School, found that innovation and creativity are directly linked to physical proximity — which headphones figuratively, at least, decrease.
Ken Lloyd, a professor and author of a book on office culture said some research that headphones contribute to employees missing conversations and sensing less engagement in their work, as well as feeling less connected at work. The buzzword in HR circles is “employee engagement.” Headphones wouldn’t seem to encourage that, as they disengage from their surroundings and coworkers.
Another reason for quieter offices is a shift in communication strategies, say executives. At the Digiday Agency Summit in March, plenty of agency execs groused about phone-phobic millennials who don’t want to talk to clients in the time-honored way: long, intensive conference calls. And calls are a way of life: Carly Carson, an account director at PMG, said that account services used to go through specific phone training that showed how to write call recaps, kick of phone meetings. “They almost prepared us with a script of sorts.” That has come less in handy — Carson said she communicates less on the phone than ever before.
Workplace collaboration services like Slack have rolled out at agencies like Firstborn and R/GA that have meant client and internal communication text-based. Kim Sivillo, a managing director at iProspect, has found more employees are now texting clients. She herself has five different messaging platforms on her computer — each client prefers different ones, from AIM to Slack to Facebook Messenger.
“Clients are expecting real-time responses, so phone calls are on their way out,” she said. “And it’s not just millennials. Every time my phone rings, I look at it and say, ‘Who? Why are you calling me!’”
By Shareen Pathak Published - Digiday - April 18, 2016
The idea that the agency model is "broken" is something that's been kicked around the advertising world for a while now, with few concrete ideas to suggest what might replace it -- until recently. During a spirited speech at the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference this October, PepsiCo president Brad Jakeman called out ad holding companies' lack of interest in acquiring content studios and the apparent reluctance of advertising veterans to move away from traditional platforms like TV.
While I'm not on board with the argument that the advertising world hasn't caught up to our digital reality, I can't disagree that the agency model is overdue for a full overhaul. It goes without saying that the days of producing a TV spot with some print and digital work to back it up are over, yet this is the workflow many agencies are still structured for. Brands are now expected to produce thousands of pieces of content in an endless cycle, on a fraction of the budget they might have had for a campaign 20 years ago. This is a state of affairs that most agencies completely understand, but are not set up to accomplish in the most effective, efficient way.
It's time for a better, smarter way of doing business. Today's client needs call for a model that grafts the creative assets of the traditional agency onto the structure and technical capabilities of a production company. Where planning was once integral to the usefulness of an agency, these days things move so quickly that the ability to be flexible and react instantly is often a more valuable and useful skill. This is what the production structure and mindset allows for. Here's what else it brings to agencies:
1. A production model allows agencies to bring content to market quickly. There's no waiting for back-and-forth with third-party production companies. There's no drawn-out approval process, no time spent briefing someone else's creatives, no worry that your team won't mesh with someone else's. You control the creative process and the production schedule, from start to finish.
2. It enhances the creative process by allowing for experimentation. Just as startups innovate through rapid prototyping and endless testing, agencies with production capabilities built in can keep pushing their ideas forward, and discard what doesn't work, without paying a third party for the project.
3. The agency production model allows you to produce a huge variety and volume of content across platforms. Delivering beyond the brief and showing your client that you're capable of iterating and pushing your creative in many different directions is hugely valuable.
4. It allows agencies to react to what's happening in the news and in culture in real time. It's not enough to just create content for your clients -- it needs to be relevant. This is crucial for brands trying to gain earned media and have a voice in the larger cultural conversation.
The agencies that are well placed in this era are those that were born from production companies in the first place, and later evolved into creative agencies. They have built their creative process off a production foundation and now are finding that they are well-suited to the current climate. But that's not to say that traditional agencies can't catch up. In fact, some larger agencies are wisely beefing up their production capabilities by building studios and hiring in-house production teams. In the coming years, those that don't or can't do the same will likely find themselves left behind.
By Vann Graves. Published - AdAge - November 04, 2015.
Vann Graves departs Fancy Rhino, launches FL+G
Less than a year after joining the company, president and CCO Vann Graves has parted ways with Fancy Rhino, and has announced his intention to launch his own agency.
Based in Chattanooga, TN, the eight-person agency will be named FL+G, as determined by a poll of Campaign US readers last week. The name — suggested by Susan Credle, Global Chief Creative Officer of FCB and a friend of Graves — refers to the initials of the agency’s founding leadership team. (Integrated producer Ivannah Flores, strategist Kate Lamb, account director Sally Lynch and director/editor Josh Gross).
A veteran of BBDO and McCann Erickson, Graves left New York in 2014 to help Fancy Rhino, which is based in Chattanooga, evolve from a production house into a self-described "content creation company." The partnership won early attention with clever ads for Torch, a child-friendly router, that played on the innocent associations children have with terms like "blue balls" and "happy ending."
But the partnership was "not a perfect fit," Graves wrote in a column for Campaign US last week, and eventually dissolved.
Fancy Rhino currently has no plans to fill the role Graves originated, the agency said. Instead, Isaiah Smallman, cofounder and CEO, is "stepping back in as president," he said, and Drew Bellz, cofounder and CCO, will assume Graves’ creative duties.
"We’re happy to have Vann doing his own thing but excited about what we’re doing, and hopefully down the road we’ll have the chance to collaborate," Smallman said. The agency has also counted Kia, Samsung and Office Depot among its clients.
Torch now becomes the first client at FL&G. The company is no longer working with Fancy Rhino.
Graves describes FL+G as "a creative agency that operates on a strategic production model. We stand by the belief that quality content is the way of the future for successful brands, so we’ve integrated a production mindset seamlessly into our brand building process," he said.
Allowing the public to pick his agency’s name was "a vulnerable experience," Graves said — and precisely the sort of thing he would advise a client to do, which is why he did it.
"This is exactly the kind of creative and experimental approach that I've always envisioned for my own agency, and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results," he said. "This type of process is what I would ask my clients to entrust me with, so, by kicking off FL+G in this way, we are representing how we will work with our future partners."
By Douglas Quenqua Published - Campaign - February 29, 2016
More than two decades ago, at a time when our industry was just a little simpler, I joined BBDO New York as a completely green, yet unwaveringly optimistic, creative intern. I was lucky enough to be ushered into this crazy business by the late Phil Dusenberry — the legendary man behind campaigns like GE’s "We Bring Good Things to Life" and Pepsi’s "The Choice of a New Generation," and certainly one of the industry’s greatest creative leaders.
Phil must have instantly picked up on my determined enthusiasm, as he didn’t waste a minute instilling in me the importance of independence when it comes to fostering great creativity. A certain amount of independence is absolutely critical to it. This is still true today, even as the advertising industry has evolved and gotten more complex. Undeniably, every creative still has an innate desire to craft things without others telling them what to do. This eventually turns into a desire to strike out on one’s own. Even Phil tried his hand at this in 1969. After his initial seven-year stint as a copywriter at BBDO, he left the agency to start Dusenberry Ruriani & Kornhauser, returning to BBDO in 1977. He came back, because, despite its "bigness," BBDO ultimately offered him the perfect balance of creative freedom and opportunity. It was home, and Phil was fulfilled.
For a very long time, I was creatively fulfilled there too. I spent 15 years at BBDO, and I got to work alongside some of the best in the business. The mentorship of these brilliant creative minds is precisely what got me to VP, Creative Director by the time I left. Later, I spent six years at McCann New York, where I got to work on massive clients like Coke, MasterCard and American Airlines. Many of these accounts were equally as inspiring to me on a personal level as they were impressive. There aren’t many other places where you can work on a piece of business like the U.S. Army after you’ve already dreamed up loads of creative ideas from actually being on active duty. I was on a high, and I wasn’t coming down anytime soon.
Fast forward to 2015, when life and love kicked in. My best friend and devoted wife landed her dream job in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was my turn to be her biggest cheerleader. Fortuitously, Chattanooga was an emerging hub for startups, bubbling with the same spirit of possibility that I displayed on my first day at BBDO. Phil’s simple lesson came flooding back: "It’s all about the work, the work, the work," and soon, the indie itch started to emerge. However, I wasn’t ready to go all in yet — that was a big step.
Leaving McCann was terrifying, and I wanted to create a situation that gave me the best of two worlds — a welcoming, established home and a place where I could produce and practice my craft on my own. I was thrilled when an opportunity arose for a job as President and CCO at Fancy Rhino, a young production company that had gotten a successful start a few years before in the documentary space. I was at a place where I saw the potential to creatively shape a company – not just its clients – and suddenly, the pull to do my own thing started to grow.
I stayed at Fancy Rhino for about a year. During that time, my indie itch only got stronger. I began to realize that while my opportunity there was great, it was not a perfect fit. With a final push from Shelley Prevost, the CEO of our first client, Torch, it felt like it was now or never. So, I reached out to a few friends (now my founding team), and they agreed that it was time to create something that we believed in. A year away from big agency life had opened my eyes. I was ready to take the plunge.
By that time, I knew that a different kind of agency model was essential to making creativity work in a rapidly shifting marketplace, and I knew that this model would not come to full fruition until I built it from scratch. Marketers today are demanding high quality, shareable content, in every form. And they are demanding it faster than ever before. However, it takes a certain type of creative agency to understand that content is not just content for its own sake — when executed properly, it is a highly effective creative solution to a business problem. It also takes a certain type of creative agency to bring quality content to market quickly and efficiently enough to meet these demands.
My founding team, formed with former colleagues of similar mindset, will be armed with a skillset rooted in both production and creative. Using our agility and technical capabilities to encourage experimentation with content, our goal is to integrate production seamlessly into the brand building process. We will have the freedom to deliver beyond a client’s brief and to demonstrate that we can steer our creative in many different directions.
My hope in starting my own agency is that other entrepreneurially-minded creatives might also be inspired by the prospect that, amidst the noise of technology and new media, creativity does still matter; that an efficient structure enables it; and that this noise is actually an opportunity, not a hindrance. Every day, threats to the agency model are bemoaned and dissected; so-called "in-house agencies" are becoming the norm to solving the problem of efficiency, and the agency world is pointing its fingers at Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and publishers for encroaching on a space that we used to own. But we need to stop pointing fingers and realize that agencies can have a model that’s special and capable of bringing big ideas to life – as long as we’re willing to rethink how we operate those agencies.
In the spirit of honoring the bold creative ideas I’ll be asking my clients to trust me with, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and asking the industry to help me name my new agency. And in a nod to the entrepreneurial drive that I credit to my creative friends and mentors, I’ve asked a few of them to throw their suggestions in the hat. The name will be decided through a poll that will be featured here tomorrow. I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited to be able to strike out on my own in an industry that truly never shies away from possibility.
By Vann Graves Published - Campaign - February 24, 2016