Design from a New Vantage Point
Design from a New Vantage Point

I am an aesthetics over analytics girl any day, and I always have been. I pursued my degree in interior design because I love to be surrounded by a purposeful beauty, but in my final year in the interior design program at the University of Alabama, I realized I yearned to experience something more.

I had become trapped in the idea that the only choice I had in my career was whether to go “commercial” or “residential,” and I was suffocating. I was on the UA Greek system’s governing board, as well as an active member of the Student Government Association, and I adored planning our big events and being a part of all the small details that take something from good to great.

And then entered Lewis Communications and the world of advertising.

It was a conversation that was had often during that final semester. The summary goes like this: “I have no idea what I am going to do. Help.” Then, during one of those conversations with a mentor and dear friend, I learned about summer internships at Lewis Communications. I had never thought about taking my love for aesthetics in the advertising direction, but I was quite intrigued by the idea.

Here I am today, fresh off a photo shoot for Tiffin Motorhomes. In my role assisting the stylist, I have served on both the creative side and the account side, and I’ve been able to combine my love for visual beauty with my organized, detail-oriented nature. Though it may seem like styling a photo shoot can’t be that different from designing an interior space, I have learned there are so many little things that go into photography that engages consumers. It’s about creating the right shot list with the right colors for each unit for the right medium. Scale and proportion that seem great in person may not translate well in photography, and I have loved taking on design from this new vantage point.

I’m now off the shoot and in the office, and I can’t wait to see what all the work we’ve done thus far will turn into. Already I’ve learned how captivating various images can be for different audiences, and I can’t wait to learn more.

Going to Boulder to drink the Kool-Aid
Going to Boulder to drink the Kool-Aid

My colleague Carlton Wood and I just attended a fantastic seminar at Boulder Digital Works (BDW) in Colorado. Thanks to a nonstop schedule, we barely saw the Rocky Mountains, but we did have the chance to hear from some of the leading voices in digital marketing.

BDW, a joint venture between Crispin Porter & Bogusky and the University of Colorado, is a graduate school that offers both a 60-week program for full-time students and an immersive workshop for working advertising professionals. Instructors are working creative and strategic leaders at top agencies like Crispin, Colle & McVoy, RAPP, Mullen, Modernista, and Victors & Spoils.

The session was sponsored by ICOM, our international agency network. It was revealing for Carlton and myself to work side by side with agency principals from the US, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Finland, India, and beyond. After each session, we went into breakout groups and concepted digital ideas and solved problems, based on the information we had just learned.

A few takeaways from our seminar that seem well worth sharing:

Everyone knows that social media is playing a larger role in marketing campaigns now, and that there is movement toward a two-way conversation, rather than just a creative broadcasting of a slogan or positioning.

BDW instructors spent a great deal of time talking with us about the next wave of digital marketing—the notion that a brand’s communications should not only be powerful, but useful, to consumers.

If the first stages of the Web were about microsites, e-commerce, and brochureware, and today, it’s about a two-way conversation with consumers, what lies ahead is a fully-integrated digital ecosystem. It’s not just your website, or your Facebook page. It’s about shaping your brand at every touchpoint of contact. Are you the same company in your print ads as you are on your mobile website? Does your social media speak in the same voice as your event advertising? What about emails, banners, and search?

Kip Voytek, SVP Communications Planning at RAPP: It’s no longer about talking at consumers—it’s about talking with them—listening, helping, inspiring, and facilitating conversation. (If this sounds a lot like the language you’ll find on the Lewis website, we think that’s good news; it’s a sign that we are headed in the right direction.)

Mike Caugin of Colle & McVoy had this memorable observation:

Web 1.0 = The Information Age
Web 2.0 = The Participation Age
Web 3.0 = The Helpful Age

He cited companies that were pioneering helpful, such as Google, Netflix, and Kayak. In his words, “the lines are rapidly blurring between what is marketing and what is operations.” It’s challenging marketing departments and the people who actually create product to work together in new ways.

A great example is Apple, and the fact that the advertising, storefronts, and product are so seamlessly integrated that you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. Great marketers are looking past media messaging and searching for ways to more powerfully connect with consumers at every touchpoint of a brand. At the same time, powerful storytelling will remain an essential part of a great brand.

Scott Prindle, Interactive Creative Director at CP+B put it this way: In the expanding digital ecosystem, brand utility is a key component of the marketing mix. How can we be useful in our interactions with consumers, in a way that’s congruent with our brand? This mix of utility and brand story will define the great brands of the future.

At our BDW seminar there was also a great deal of talk about the emergence of a new team member. The “creative technologist” is becoming a vital new member of the creative team: the technically-savvy individual who introduces the latest technological possibilities into a creative concepting session. Ideally, this is someone who speaks both advertising and technology and who can bridge the gap for the other players.

Two other key trends: the rapid adoption of smartphones is going to define our marketing efforts in the next few years, and the proliferation of crowdsourcing is definitely changing the advertising and communications landscape.

Carlton and I loved getting to work with our ICOM counterparts from agencies around the world. Agency networks sometimes are only mentioned in passing during new business pitches, but our experience reminded us that these ties are real, powerful and useful. As part of the ICOM network, we have the ability to gather research or get assistance from agencies all over the globe, and to share our knowledge with them. Being able to meet and work with these people firsthand really affirmed the value of the ICOM network for me.

I like history, always have. Even as a kid, I preferred a good war movie to Star Wars and cartoons. The future was all lasers and space. Phooey. History just seemed more exciting. And it actually happened. It was true. It was real. Luke Skywalker couldn’t hold a candle to Magellan or Robert E. Lee.

For a time, before getting into advertising, I worked towards a PhD in history. I quit my studies midway. As it turned out, I preferred reading history to researching it. Still, many years later, I get a great thrill from reading a solidly researched, well-written historical tract. Nothing beats it, except golf.

It bothers me that people don’t know or appreciate history. I think they’re depriving themselves of an important part of being alive. They’re missing the richness of appreciating where they exist in time. They don’t get to absorb the happenings of another place and era. And sadly, I believe their ability to fully make sense of the present world is compromised. Because man is a creature of memory, custom, and ritual, and the past will always be with us. For good and bad. The future is coming; I’m here to tell you, so is the past.

Well, for my money, there’s no better supplemental training a creative can have than a grasp of history. Each day, I face the blank sheet of paper. It can be daunting. But thanks to my passion for history, I don’t look down on that empty whiteness alone. I have inspirational helpers as I search for a concept to tackle a client’s problem. You may know some of them: Napoleon, Buzz Aldrin, James K. Polk, Cortez, Thomas More, Erasmus, Hannibal, Pericles, Botticelli, Peter Abelard, Chester Nimitz, Plato, Hadrian, Otto Von Bismarck but enough name dropping.

Five feet high and rising
Five feet high and rising

The headline in Monday’s Tennessean read simply, “Overwhelmed.”

Fourteen inches of rain in two days will do that to a city.

And it’s easy to feel that way yourself when you see entire neighborhoods under water. When a grotesquely swollen river swallows your city’s most recognizable landmarks. When the inventories of entire lives sit ruined at the curb. When you learn that at least eighteen of your neighbors have lost their lives, swept away by the unstoppable water.

In Lewis’ Nashville office, we feel incredibly fortunate that everyone here came through this catastrophe relatively unscathed. I’ve never felt so lucky to have a leaky roof.

As the floodwaters recede, the clean up begins. Despite the once-in-a-thousand years nature of this devastating flood, my hope is that what we remember is how the people of Nashville and Middle Tennessee came together to care for each other.

My fellow Tennesseans apparently have the same hope. Volunteer organization Hands On Nashville’s website has crashed several times this week because so many people want to sign up and help. On Monday morning, the Davidson County Animal Shelter let it be known that they needed food for animals rescued from the flood. By Monday evening, the pile of donated pet food blocked the halls and reached the ceiling. And, this being Music City, shows benefiting flood victims are popping up at venues all over town. The Volunteer State has never deserved its nickname more than it does right now.

But we can always use a few more extra hands.

To donate your time:

Hands On Nashville
All Metro Nashville relief efforts are being run through this organization.

Second Harvest Food Bank
Second Harvest needs volunteers to sort food and transport meals for the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. They also need monetary donations.

To donate money:

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee Red Cross
Text “RedCross” to 90999 to donate $10 to flood relief. This charge will show up on your phone bill.

A Film About Sex Trafficking: Hard To Make & Hard To Watch
A Film About Sex Trafficking: Hard To Make & Hard To Watch

Once the initial shock wore off from what I was hearing, the question was “Okay, just how on earth do you tell that story and do it right?”

I have to confess, when I heard Interstate 20 was one of, if not THE largest sex trafficking corridor in the United States, I was skeptical. Shocked and horrified, but mostly skeptical.

I live in Birmingham, Alabama. Not Las Vegas, or LA or New York. There’s no way this could be going on in Birmingham or even Atlanta for that matter. We are in the Deep South. No one treats another person like that in the South.

But once we began doing the research and talking to people who were actually experiencing it, the horror and realization began to set in. How on earth do you tell this story? And is there any way to make it believable?

The first hurdle our production team needed to cross was trying to get someone to go on camera and talk about it. The people involved in the business won’t say anything to you—if you can even find them. They are so good at hiding in the shadows that if you show up to film anything, you’d be spotted by any number of lookouts they have posted well before you pulled into the parking lot. Most of the customers helping fuel the industry won’t talk to you. Why would they? They have a new 16 year old just waiting for them at the next truck stop, which is sad, but true. A few brave truckers talked to us about the inside details and gave us a starting point for what we needed to capture. And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Finally, that leaves the victims themselves. After a few initial interviews we quickly realized that trying to get the victims to tell their stories is a lot like asking a soldier fresh from a firefight to describe his experience. Just like soldiers in combat, these victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are unable to emotionally recall their ordeal. They can talk, but they seem so disconnected from everything they are saying, it is hard to do it with meaning. We decided the best we could do was capture their stories and re-create them for the purpose of the film.

So, with cameras and chase cars in hand, we hit the road. Turns out, of all the elements in the video, the road was the easiest. The road doesn’t talk or try to hide. So our group spent weeks driving up and down the corridor between Birmingham and Atlanta to capture footage we needed. With a Red Epic, Canon 5D’s, GoPro Heroes, and a motion control rig, we were able to capture this part with relative ease. Only an occasional curious state trooper or motel owner even noticed us.

In the commercial ad business you always look forward to creating imagery to help tell your story. For the first time in my 30-year career, however, this was not the case. Every scene we captured in the film left an impression on our crew. Working in an old theater to recreate the “pimp” and “torture” sequences was as distressing to shoot as it is to watch. Some so distressing, we ended up using still photos rather than moving pictures to keep from crossing a line of taste somewhere. I don’t think “taste” and depicting sex trafficking even live in the same universe.

It took more than a year to capture and stage every scene for the film. Some of this was because of the schedule we needed in order to use key locations, and some of this was because the entire project was produced pro bono and had to be filmed after hours and on weekends. The time-lapse sequences were captured by going out just about every weekend to different locations along the interstate.

I hope the story we’ve told does justice to what we discovered. If we can prevent just one little girl from falling into this trap, we will have done our job. And if we can help give the victims back the life that was stolen from them, then every second of effort poured into the film was worth it.

Spencer Till

Stephen Curry

John Pope, Charlie Brown Sanders

Jeff Williams

Time Lapse sequences
John Pope

Charlie Brown Sanders

Flame and finishing
John Pope

Audio and sweetening
Barry Brooks

Jacob Garner, Leigh Ann Motley and Ben Fine

The Corporate Myth of Free Social Media Marketing
The Corporate Myth of Free Social Media Marketing

Robert McDonald, CEO of Proctor & Gamble, made headlines this month when he announced to Wall Street that “social media is free” — apparently as a defense for firing 1,600 marketing and other non-manufacturing workers.

“In the digital space, with things like Google and Facebook, the return on investment of the advertising, (1) when properly designed, (2) when the big idea is there, (3) can be much more efficient. One example is our Old Spice campaign, where (4) we had 1.8 billion free impressions.”

A closer look at his statement, however, reveals four glaring flaws in his thinking.

1) Nothing “properly designed” is free. Social media efforts take time and talent to create and well-constructed networks of (sometimes) thousands of people to take root. P&G’s social media channel is no more free to operate than are their sales or distribution networks.

2) No “big idea” is free. Sure, it’s easy to sell Knicks tickets NOW. But big ideas, from Jared Fogel to Jeremy Lin, require some risk and investment upfront before they can be spread in any media, including online.

3) Yes, social media “can be” more efficient – but efficient doesn’t mean free. A Toyota Prius can be more efficient to drive, but you still have to buy one and fill it up BEFORE you can save money on its operation.

4) The Old Spice campaign was the opposite of “free”. It was launched via a massive television buy, was produced with world-class advertising agency, production and talent expense, and was supported by what one analyst called, “a forest of buy-one-get-one-free coupons”.

True, the Old Spice campaign was a masterful effort that re-defined the brand and deftly utilized special media. But to suggest that it garnered 1.8 billion free impressions blatantly misrepresents the magnitude of their investment and their well-deserved return.

A 30,000-foot view of taglines.  Make that a 22,841-foot view.
A 30,000-foot view of taglines.  Make that a 22,841-foot view.

Make that a 22,841-foot view.

Just Do It. Sounds trite, but I firmly believe that I stood on the top of Mount Aconcagua, one of the highest mountains in the world, on Jan 14, 2011 because of an ad man from Portland, Oregon. Our industry has the power to influence. Sometimes for good, sometimes not. I’m not a copywriter, as witness to this blog post. I’m an art director. And while I do believe that art can certainly move you, words, on the other hand, have a lasting quality and a power that transcends a memorable photo or a striking illustration.

“Just do it.” has remained Nike’s official tagline for over 20 years, and is one of the most memorable slogans in advertising history. It’s also a mantra that can be heard on any weekend bike ride, or college keg party. You can hear it at the local gym, an 8th grade dance, or maybe on a morning jog with a few buddies. It always comes to the surface when someone is contemplating something new. Something that will most likely push them out of their comfort zone. A tagline written for a shoe company has changed lives. It changed mine, of that I have no doubt. No, I don’t have a Nike shrine under the stairs at home. I don’t even buy Nike shoes. But I bought in, 100 percent, into their marketing effort. I love “Just do it.” Sometimes it gets me in trouble. Sometimes it puts me in places I thought I would never be. Like the summit of the tallest mountain in the Andes. So in a way, I guess I do use Nike’s product. The fact that I think about Nike’s tagline every time I push back at the urge to sit on my ass, is testament enough.

Words have power. The power to persuade. The power to motivate.

A simple note can change the course of someone’s life. A single paragraph from a paperback book, graffiti on a wall, a love note passed in a 5th grade classroom. Just a few words from a speech put 12 men on the moon. Words can move people, change people. Words can make you cry, make you laugh. A message on an answering machine, or even the lyrics from a song can have a profound impact. Like the tagline of a shoe company that put an old art director on the summit of Mount Aconcagua.


In 2008, shipbuilder Austal, USA received a U.S. Navy contract to build the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). With these contracts, Austal had to ramp up employment from 900 to 2400 persons within 18 months. Although unemployment rates in the area have been in the 9% range, Austal needed to attract a highly-skilled and motivated work force to build these technologically advanced warships. After extensive research identified the target audience as action-oriented “doers,” Lewis Communications created “Do Something Extraordinary” to target this very specific audience.


Lewis recently completed six new television spots for Alfa Insurance. The spots were shot by director Kevin Donovan and employ a wide range of comedic (and occasionally poignant) moments to illustrate Alfa’s superior value and responsive claims service. This is the fourth year of the ongoing Let’s Talk About Tomorrow campaign the agency crafted for Alfa.