On December 1, at the Annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association International Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Lewis Communications helped Tiffin Motorhomes unveil their newest model, the Allegro Breeze. The Breeze is a 28′ Class A diesel-pusher that isn’t just a new product, but creates a whole new category in the RV industry. Just as luxurious as Tiffin’s high-end models, the Breeze is smaller, more maneuverable and fuel efficient.

In an industry where in the past bigger almost always meant better, a teaser campaign was developed with the tagline, “This is BIG.” The campaign targeted dealers and industry media letting them know Tiffin would soon be unveiling something brand new. The Tiffin website homepage included a countdown clock promising something huge at the industry’s leading annual show. Direct mail and social media posts also helped spread the word of Tiffin’s big news leading up to the show.

The actual unveiling at the RVIA show included an oversized curtain with fake wheels pushed out to create the impression of a vehicle almost twice the size of the Breeze.

When the curtain was dropped attendees were surprised to see a luxury RV half the size of what was expected. Miniature pocket-sized brochures were handed out and the wording on the side of the display changed to say “Small is Big.”

The Breeze was named Best of Show for the RVIA Expo and was featured in RV Business and MotorHome Magazine.
Aubie and Big Al
Aubie and Big Al

My family moved to Birmingham from Los Angeles when I was a kid. It seemed like everyone on the playground that first day asked me if I cheered for Alabama or Auburn. “I cheer for USC,” I proudly told them. The other kids didn’t seem impressed. Instead, they further pressed me, “War Eagle or Roll Tide?”

I quickly learned how insane this rivalry is, and it was absolutely necessary to pick a side. The emotions around the Iron Bowl run deep, and all year long. It’s definitely not just a game.

Recently, fans have shown that there are no limits to how far they’ll take things, from vandalizing the lawn in front of Bryant Denny to poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner. If you watched the Roll Tide / War Eagle special on ESPN this week, you would agree that it certainly encompassed the extreme nature of the two fan bases. It is a deeply rooted hatred. Fans here mean business.

This summer, we shot new TV spots for one of our clients, Tiffin Motorhomes, who sponsors various SEC football programs, including Alabama and Auburn.

The spots feature Aubie and Big Al poking fun at each other and playing pranks. The mascots put this playful, innocent spin (especially when Big Al steals Aubie’s toilet paper!) on a rivalry that often runs deeper and more extreme than seems reasonable.

I love how these two mascots are able to make light of a situation that can get a little crazy, both on and off the field. Aubie and Big Al are never going to be best friends, but instead of hating each other, they channel their emotions and intensity into silly pranks and poking fun.




A book a number of us in the agency are reading right now is Fascinate, by Sally Hogshead.

In Fascinate, Hogshead identifies the seven triggers that power all human behavior:


She demonstrates how every brand on the planet uses some combination of these to affect the way we feel about products and services.

A superb example she uses in the book involves “Jagermeister – the most popular drink that nobody likes.” Hogshead describes how Jagermeister used the Mystique trigger to allow rumors and legend to spread about a brand that used to be little more than an unpopular German working-class apértif.

She also shows the perils of misusing a trigger. She offers recent research demonstrating that the $1 billion DARE program — so widely lauded for bringing police officers into classrooms to talk with kids about drugs — is a failure. In a misguided attempt to activate the Alarm trigger, the program actually increases kids’ interest in drug use by activating the Vice trigger – you know, “forbidden fruit.”

Here’s a great, simple way you can experience the seven triggers right now: Take Hogshead’s F-Score test. By answering a few simple questions, you can identify which triggers define your personal brand.

Sally Hogshead worked with me as a young copywriting intern in Atlanta, and went on to become one of the most award-winning creatives in America, working at agencies like Fallon Worldwide and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. She’s brave, bold and insightful — and so is her book. Pick it up!


Animation brings a fresh look to Lewis’ latest broadcast efforts for longtime partner Vanderbilt Medical Center. The spots—for Vanderbilt Sleep Center and Vanderbilt Sports Medicine—were written by Kathy Oldham and Carey Moore and art directed and designed by Nessim Higson and ACD Roy Burns.

Grand Theft Concept
Grand Theft Concept

This has happened to me before. I was watching the movie The Crying Game and developed an emotional attachment to the main character until something completely different was revealed about “her” at the end.And so I was left to deal with my emotional attachment—if it was right or wrong based on new information.

The same thing happened last night as I was mesmerized by the Dodge RAM spot that ran in the 4th quarter. I can’t remember another time I’ve watched a Super Bowl spot and been so completely blown away by such an artful, compelling piece. It was masterful. It was minimalist, yet larger than life. The lack of sound track combined with such a powerful voice from one of the premiere legends of radio—blended with some of the most moving still photos ever to grace a broadcast spot. I tweeted my excitement.

The artful world of advertising I have loved so long was back. And then I woke up.

This morning I discovered that the entire spot—the voice of Paul Harvey, the still photos, the lack of a soundtrack—all of it—was stolen verbatim from an earlier spot aired by It was “The Crying Game” all over again.

Only this time it hit closer to home. And it opens up some painful questions that we all need to consider in our advertising careers.

Where is the line? At what point does stealing an idea—verbatim—make sense for what we try so desperately to protect?

This happened a few years ago from another agency with a large budget stealing the entire “Whassup?” idea from an aspiring young director. His idea, but they got the credit because they had the money to “own” it. But was it their idea? No way.

Original ideas are what define this industry. Or at least they should. If you’ve spent any time in this business, there have been times when you had the same idea as someone else. In fact, every time I see someone have a really simple but powerful idea, their first reaction is “surely that’s been done before.”

And maybe as the years get added on it is harder and harder to have a truly original idea. But does that mean we should stop trying to attain it? This question opens up some deep wounds. Over the past year I lost one of my best friends and one of the best writers in the industry over a misunderstanding about this very same issue. We had worked on a campaign idea that had already been pitched to the client and sold (and was in production) before he told me he had already done it before. My rationale, for right or wrong, was that we had indeed come up with the idea independently of knowing about his. And since the campaign was already sold through, I let it go forward.

Judge me as you want, but at least I didn’t see a campaign and then steal every element of it as we see with the Dodge RAM spot. I won’t name the agency that did this because that is not really the issue. But I can’t excuse them just because they had far more money to produce the spot better than the original creators did. And I can’t excuse them for contacting the original creators of the message to get their permission. Stealing is stealing. There are a million different other equally great ideas out there. This farming spot had been done before. Move on.

Lee Clow would have. David Lubars would have.

The well is capped, but the spill is not over.
The well is capped, but the spill is not over.

While we rejoice over the recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report stating that 75% of the Gulf oil spill has already been eliminated from the water, a new U.S. Travel Association report offers a sobering assessment of the current and long-term threat to the Gulf Coast’s $34 billion tourism economy. The threat is that consumer perceptions of a disaster often last well beyond the physical damage itself.

In the report, research firm Oxford Economics compares the Gulf oil spill to 25 other disasters and suggests that tourism visits and spending in areas along the coast will likely be reduced for a minimum of 15 months and perhaps as long as 36 months.

Although the U.S. Travel Association is recommending that BP fund a $500 million marketing effort to help undo the damage done to the tourism economy, destinations that depend on tourism dollars cannot wait for this money before they begin to rebuild their businesses.

Destination marketers that start the soonest to share the good news will be the first to benefit from increased travel. And, while Summer 2010 is over for families with school-age children, marketing to families with younger kids and to couples without children (especially weekend trips from nearby feeder markets) should be emphasized immediately.

Another great way for destinations to counter misperceptions about the condition of their beaches is to amp up their social media efforts. Although traditional marketing and advertising channels will continue to be successful in reaching travelers, the immediacy, scalability and personal credibility that social media offers is a perfect fit for the Gulf Coast destination’s current situation.

Families and individuals that have been taking vacations from the beaches of St. George Island, Florida to fishing trips in Vermillion Bay, Louisiana love and cherish these places. As travelers return to these destinations, the personal stories and photos that they share via the web will have a huge impact on perceptions of the Gulf Coast.

Therefore, if you’d like to help the people and businesses along the Gulf Coast, here are two things you can do now:

1. Travel with family or friends to the Gulf as soon as possible.
2. Post on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, etc. and share your experiences.

According to communications research company IDC (, Internet usage in December 1996 was limited to only 36 million people, or 0.9% of world population. By June 2009, Internet World Stats measured nearly 1.7 billion Internet users worldwide, accounting for 24.7% of the global population.

For those of us in the marketing and communications industry, the difference between 1996 and 2009 is huge. Although the essence of what we do is unchanged in many ways, it has been like learning a new language as we work to tap into the vast potential of an always on and available online home for our clients’ brands, messaging and promotions.

And now, although Facebook and Twitter have been around since 2004 and 2006 respectively, these new web-based communications channels are again revolutionizing how virtually anyone with a message communicates with an audience.

But, it feels different this time.

The Great Recession of the last two years has really changed attitudes very quickly. Some of the same clients who even last year weren’t interested in a Google search campaign are now very open to new strategies that involve dialogue and engagement through social networking.

So although all of us will be glad when the recession is over and sustained economic growth returns, the pain of a downturn will not have completely been in vain. The quick leap of advancement being made in marketing and communications practices will be good for our industry and good for our clients. And I’m convinced these advancements would have taken a great many years, if not for the financial pressures of the current recession.

Viva la Revolución!


The Birmingham chapter of the American Advertising Federation held its annual ADDY Gala at Soho in Homewood. Lewis captured 11 Gold ADDYs and 22 Silver ADDYs, more than any other agency. In addition, the agency won Best of Show/Broadcast for its “Never Saw It Coming” TV campaign for Alfa Insurance. Stephen Curry was honored as Creative Director of the Year and Copywriter of the Year, while Joel Wheat was named Art Director of the Year. In addition, being one of Lewis’ youngest employees didn’t stop Holly Cook from making her mark at the show. Holly was named Designer of the Year, Illustrator of the Year and her work from Auburn University was named as Best of Show/Student. This represents an unprecedented three major honors for a fresh-out-of-school designer.

District Addys

Creative projects from Lewis Communications received four Gold and three Silver ADDY awards at the recent District 7 ADDY Awards Competition, which includes Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Lewis won for Vanderbilt Sports Medicine, Brannon’s Restaurant, Scribbler Stationery, Aquila Game Preserve, Upstate University Health System — and Best of Show in the Broadcast Television category for Alfa Insurance. Gold award winners from the district competition automatically advance to the National ADDY Award competition next month.

Partner Is Greater Than  Vendor
Partner Is Greater Than  Vendor

When I first started out in advertising, a very smart copywriter told me that you can either be a vendor or a partner to your clients. If your client sees your agency as a vendor, you can do fine work. But, if you can become a true partner with your client, those are the relationships that allow you to do your best work.

For many business people, the word “vendor” isn’t meant as a slight and I certainly don’t take it personally when the term is used. But as my friend Gary Brandon says, “Words matter,” and I’ve tried to be mindful of how I describe the companies that our agency works with to produce marketing and advertising for our clients.

Having just completed a lengthy RFP, the words “trusted partner” have been typed fairly often on my laptop. The truth is, Lewis has dozens of “trusted” and “valued” partners and very few vendors.

A couple partners I’d like to mention just helped us with a project in Haiti. Steve Moe of Wahoo Films here in Birmingham has shot dozens of spots with Lewis over the last 20 years and has long been a “go to guy” for our agency.

Proton, an edit house in New York, is a more recent partner the last five years, but has consistently delivered amazing work.

The video here is a labor of love for a pro bono client, The Joseph School. Steve traveled with our team to Haiti and shot most of the footage. Keith Olwell and James Long of Proton both gave generously of their time to make this project so successful. And, they introduced us to a very cool band from Iceland, Sigur Rós, who has graciously allowed us to use one of their songs as the soundtrack for the video.

So, whether your partner is in New York, Reykjavik, Nashville, Port-au-Prince or Birmingham, remember that you’ll always get their best work if you truly allow them to be your partner.