I really enjoy calligraphy and the art of handwriting, so I was disheartened to find a recent article from Time magazine bemoaning the death of handwriting and good penmanship.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always appreciated the intimate and personal nature of a small handwritten letter to say “hello” or a note to say “thank you.” This was the main inspiration behind my work on a recent identity and ad campaign for local stationery boutique, Scribbler.

Aesthetically, I was particularly inspired by the work of calligraphic artists such as Betsy Dunlap, Maybelle, Bernard Maisner and Elvis Swift as well as historical letters and vintage postcards.

Betsy Dunlap >> http://betsydunlap.googlepages.com/bdunlap
Maybelle >> http://www.may-belle.com/index.html
Bernard Maisner >> http://www.bernardmaisner.com/index.php
Elvis Swift >> http://www.joaniebrep.com/swift.html

In this digital texting / tweeting / Facebooking age, the rarity of receiving handwritten correspondence makes it even more special. But I do hope that the work of artists like these, as well as stationery stores like The Scribbler will keep the tradition of the written note and social stationery alive.

Join, follow and friend me
Join, follow and friend me

“I just retweeted your tweet about your post on Facebook for your new blog entry and then added a link on my blog back to your original post. Thanks for the friend request.”

In today’s world the above would be commonplace as more of us have entered this world of “status updates”, “tweets” and “blog posts”. This new evolution has allowed us to keep in touch with people through quick snippets of 100+ characters. I say evolution because that is exactly what we are looking at. We are social creatures and this is nothing more then the Book Club or Tupperware Party of the past. Those D&D Thursday nights or Monday Night Football gatherings. Now we see people hosting their Book Club and Tupperware Party in virtual settings like Second Life, and Monday Night Football has turned into a Facebook/Twitter/MySpace status update each time our team scores. While DND Thursdays have turned into all-night raids during games of World of Warcraft.

There is no denying the fact that social media usage has made massive gains. These gains are not just among the normal internet user but also the on-the-clock internet user who sometimes uses these sites for more than simply personal reasons.

Several reports have now shown that there has been a steady increase in on-the-clock users for several of the online networks. The top reasons users gave for using these sites at work were professional networking, keeping up with friends, and general research. While a small percentage were logging on for more specialized reasons or to market to customers.

Not surprisingly, this rise in usage has started to raise red flags for some companies. In one poll three-quarters stated that is was unacceptable to check Facebook or other social networking sites if unrelated to work. This new stance has caused complications for some users when friending a colleague or supervisor and has blurred the boundaries between personal and business because of these sites’ usefulness at work and at home.

This doesn’t mean that these social networking sites are only good for home use and keeping in touch with friends, but for those of us who have taken the time to integrate them into our lives and our business we need to know not only how to use them but better yet – when to use them. We need to recognize the networking medium as a way to more intimately engage the end user and to help better understand their needs. Social media can help to get those conversations started or to jump-start an old conversation with your end users, allowing you to offer better support to them. It’s up to us as advertisers to figure out how to best gauge the value and the budget needed to attract those end users. Because in the end there is no real reason to have a fan base that had to be bribed by a re-tweet, re-post, or a ping back. Not to mention, Tupperware Parties just don’t seem to be in style anymore.

competitor keywords
competitor keywords

We’ve all seen it by now. You’re searching for Steve Madden boots or your favorite restaurant, and not only are you given choices in the main search results — you also get several ads that are associated with what you’re looking for.

Many times those ads directly relate to your search, but every now and then, you may notice an ad that doesn’t match up.

Is this an accident or a competitor’s strategic advertising ploy? It could be either, but search advertisers often bid on their competitor’s names in hopes that someone will click on their ad instead. They also look at this as a way drive brand recognition since people may start to associate their search with the competitor’s name.

Great idea, right? Well, actually no.

For starters, most people who search for something want to get results for that exact brand or product. They usually won’t click on a link for something different.

As a result, your search campaign will have a very low click through rate and Google (or other search engines) will flag your ad as being irrelevant to the terms you’re buying. Upon this realization, the search engine will require that you bid more and more on these terms.

In addition to lower click through rates and higher costs, keep a couple of other things in mind as well.

If you start bidding on a competitor’s keywords, who’s to say that they won’t start buying yours? At that point, both advertisers would essentially be wasting money to run ads that cancel each other out.

Finally, there are potential trademark issues. For example, you can currently legally bid on a competitor’s brand term, but in most cases you can’t include a competitor’s name in your ad text. To further complicate the matter, these rules vary from country to country. So, if you’re an advertiser in the U.S. and you’re conducting a search campaign targeting Europe, you need to study these rules very carefully.

Although it can seem like a savvy strategy at first, bidding on your competitor’s brand could be far more damaging than beneficial in the long run.

New Campaign Launch for Stony Brook Medicine
New Campaign Launch for Stony Brook Medicine

Today we launched a new name, branding and service line advertising campaign for our client, Stony Brook.

In early 2011, our client asked us to take a look at how we might update and expand their brand structure and identity. Stony Brook had faced inconsistencies over the years in how their brand was communicated internally and externally.

They asked for our help in developing a larger, more academic and research-focused brand.

A solution and strategy emerged. Our answer was to unify all entities—the hospital, five health science schools and 35 off-campus healthcare facilities—to establish a solid brand structure that allowed for improved communication internally and externally. The new brand that emerged was Stony Brook Medicine.

» Visit the new Stony Brook Medicine website: stonybrookmedicine.edu/idea

In addition to developing the strategy and naming structure for Stony Brook Medicine, we also created a new look and feel through logo development for Stony Brook University, their overarching brand, as well as their five health science schools, major centers and institutes. Our work in brand identity and logo development included everything from stationery and business papers to interior and exterior signage for Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine.

Throughout the remainder of 2011, a new website, stonybrookmedicine.edu, was also created. We developed the site’s design, worked hand-in-hand with the client on sitemaps, built the site templates and launched the site this past February.

Earlier this year, we went into campaign production on multiple advertising elements that would launch internally at Stony Brook Medicine as well as externally though paid media. This week, the external advertising campaign launched with TV and radio spots, banner ads with videos and print ads.

We are very excited and happy to share the advertising campaign. You can view the new campaign for Stony Brook Medicine at the link below on their new website: stonybrookmedicine.edu/idea

And now, if you listen closely, you can hear the corks pop as we celebrate with a bottle of champagne!

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.
Titanic lessons in advertising & branding
Titanic lessons in advertising & branding

Part II

In Part I I covered the first two of five lessons that Titanic can teach about advertising and branding:

1. If you’re coming head on into disaster, don’t avoid it; aim directly for it.
2. Be careful what you say. The message could turn on you.

Now, the remaining three of the aforementioned five lessons that apply to our job as communicators and brand stewards:

3. Don’t forget the keys to the binocular locker.

When it was determined that the White Star line was going to put only its best officers on board the Titanic for its maiden voyage, the existing officers were either outright replaced or offered lower ranks to stay on board. One of these officers was David Blair, the 2nd officer. Rather than accepting a lower rank, he instead transferred to another ship. The day before Titanic sailed, he left, taking with him the keys to a locker in the quartermaster’s office.

Normally, this would not be a big deal, however in this particular case, that locker just happened to contain the lookout’s binoculars. This brings up an important lesson for each of us in the communications business today. The advertising industry is changing in radical new ways.

Those agencies who embrace that change today probably saw it coming and weren’t caught flatfooted when things shifted. That kind of farsighted vision is an important tool to keep in front of every decision we make. Though some changes headed our way are small, they can have big implications. Just as not having a key to a single locker helped sink the largest, most advanced ship of the time, small things can have a profound impact on our business.

On that dark ocean on an April night long ago, if the lookouts had had the ability to see what was coming ahead of time, they would have reacted much sooner and we wouldn’t be talking about the Titanic right now.

4. No matter how accomplished you think you are, you can still freeze to death like everyone else.

A first class ticket aboard Titanic in today’s dollars cost $69,600. Needless to say, the first class section was a who’s who of American and European society. Titanic’s maiden voyage, if recreated today, would have the equivalent of Steven Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Colin Powell, Brad Pitt, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Tiger Woods and 320 other heavy hitters on board. Yet for all their importance, influence or prestige, they drowned alongside 3rd class steerage passengers.

What is the lesson here? Our company philosophy has always been that the best idea in the room wins. Because I truly believe — like Chef Gusteau in the film Ratatouille says — “anyone can cook.” Great ideas are great ideas and it doesn’t matter if the high-paid CD or the greenest intern comes up with it. It is still a great idea. I have had the misfortune (as have many of you reading this) to work in shops that don’t have this basic respect for ideas. The danger is, when our own self-importance gets out of whack, self-justification can overrule our best instincts.

Everyone has value, especially in the new world where ideas must come quicker and in so many more areas than ever before. The days of a writer and an art director sitting in an office and creating the entire campaign are over. The new order of the day is for agencies to change their structure to embrace this idea. Some of the best ideas we’ve had this year came from a media planner and an account supervisor.

5. Don’t ignore the person who is trying to save you.

Just minutes before the Titanic struck the iceberg, they received a warning from an eastbound liner, the S.S. Californian. The Californian had been forced to stop to prevent striking a very large ice field, and they knew Titanic was within a few miles of their position — so they fired off a telegraph warning.

Unfortunately, Titanic was busy sending messages from its first class passengers to their relatives and friends in New York. So the wireless operator on Titanic rudely told the Californian operator to “shut up.” Which he did. He shut down his radio for the night and went to bed. The Californian was within 11 miles of Titanic and could have saved 1500 lives.

This is a perfect lesson for those of us in the advertising business who think we’ve got all the answers. We assert our expertise as we rush headlong into making yet another deadline. The problem is, we’re doing so much talking, that we may not bother to listen. I’m not going to quote David Ogilvy yet again for this conversation; you know what he said, but his assertion is right and wrong.

Consumers no longer have to sit and listen to what we are saying. They know a lot more than we think they do. And if we listen, we can learn a lot more than we think we know about them. Some of the best ads we’ve written were literally dictated straight from the people we want to influence. The internet is the best tool ever conceived for getting this information. So use it. Listen. Don’t talk. You might hear something you never expected.

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.

Clarity hurtling towards you at 21,000 mph
Clarity hurtling towards you at 21,000 mph

According to some British scientists, on May 19, 2031, an asteroid about the size of Manhattan is predicted to center-punch the Earth, effectively eliminating all human life within a few months.


So, we probably don’t have to put quite as much emphasis on that global warming issue. (What is Al Gore going to do?) Not to mention those who are currently building a house don’t need to opt for the more expensive 30-year roof.

21 years left.

So does knowing the exact amount of time you have left change anything? Does your list of “somedays” take on a newfound urgency? Are you now going to quit your job and go help the less fortunate around the world?

I say if that’s what you want to do, you should pursue it with unbridled vigor. For me, knowing now I will never retire actually provides a little more clarity. How many times do you attempt to look way off in the future and you feel like you somehow won’t live the life you have at present. Well, no need to worry about that anymore I suppose.

Now we all have something in common to worry about: May 19, 2031. So let’s all just stop worrying about everything else that is suddenly not so important: the economy, our 401K’s, the death of advertising, or TV or NASCAR. We’re all going to be just fine. You know how I know? Because if you’re reading this, you are probably in the advertising (uh, sorry…the “communications/social influence”) business. Which means you’re in the greatest, most exciting and interesting career on the planet. You make a living on ideas. That is NEVER going to change. Sure those ideas will manifest themselves in new ways, but who cares? Great ideas will always be great ideas up until that fateful May Monday in the not too distant future.

So take a look at what is on your desk right now. There are a million excuses not to make it the best it can be: “I don’t have enough time,” “I’ve got too much on my plate,” “It will cut into my Facebook time,” “The AE is clueless,” “The client won’t like it,” “The creative director is stupid,” “The strategy is wrong,” “There is no budget,” “They’ll never buy it,” “I can’t make a difference,” “The category is shunned by the shows,” “My computer screen is too small,” “I am a hack,” (okay, I admit I still believe this one). The difference between good work and GREAT work is the unwillingness to give in to the voices. So just take things one at a time. Pick your projects, clients, etc. that will most help you make a difference. And have fun. Most importantly, make whatever you do GREAT. Make it memorable. Make it funny, or serious or compelling. Just make sure to get it done by Sunday night, May 18, 2031. I can promise you, this time there’s no way you’re getting an extension.