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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.

motorhomemagazine.com
rvbusiness.com
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.


It’s no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to the news in the past 12 months that it’s a buyer’s market. Whether real estate, cars, clothes or media, everything can be bought at record discounts. So at the risk of sounding like a cheesy car ad, there’s never been a better time to buy!

And we’ve all seen the studies about businesses that advertise during a downturn and come out stronger on the other side.

But this time, it’s more than a little dip. Media costs are down 30% or more from the same period last year.

And media such as newspaper and magazines that historically issued an annual rate card and then said “take it or leave it” are now making bundled offers that create opportunities to increase frequency or ad size, add color, or gain online exposure. They’ll even let you write a favorable article about your business if it saves them having to pay editorial staff!

The point is, with all the noise in the market, this economy offers businesses a great opportunity to dramatically increase their ad frequency without increasing their ad budget year-to-year.

So be fearless. If your business is sound, let people know about it. We all love a success story.

London 2012 is Over. Which Brands Won?
London 2012 is Over. Which Brands Won?

Team Great Britain, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas and countless others won athletic gold in London, but which brands came out on top during these games?

The Peacock
In the U.S., NBC’s brand saw mixed results with soaring ratings delivering a huge and positive impact to their bottom line. Unfortunately, the hashtag #NBCFail was ubiquitous during the games and reached a crescendo last night as Bob Costas pulled the ultimate bait-and-switch promoting an appearance by The Who, but only after a pilot for a new sit-com. NBC pays billions of dollars to have the U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics, and must make hard decisions about how to recoup that investment. It is still hard to see how going out of your way to aggravate your viewers is a winning long-term strategy.

The Swoosh
Although Nike wasn’t an official Olympic sponsor, they almost don’t need to be. The swoosh logo was shown on screen thousands of times on athletes’ shoes and apparel. Their guerilla marketing campaign “Find Your Greatness” was brilliant in both strategy and execution by featuring everyday men, women and children finding greatness on a less-than Olympic stage, but still in a town called London.

The Ultimate Branding Machine
One of the less-heralded Olympic partners was BMW Group who found smart and relevant ways to keep their brands and their cars top-of-mind. In addition to TV spots touting their sponsorship, BMW riffed on Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket by driving a Golden Bimmer around London giving free tickets to those who shared photos of themselves with the car. During the closing ceremonies, Jesse J and two other singers were transported into and around Olympic stadium in three Rolls-Royce Phantoms specially built and badged for the event. BMW’s Mini joined in the competition with remote-controlled Mini’s carrying javelins back to athletes finding a way onto hallowed athletic ground that is supposedly free of commercial clutter.

Proctor & Gamble, Omega Watches and several other official and not-so-official sponsors of the games were highly visible with TV spots, online video, and social media memes. The brands mentioned above stood out most to me during these games, but branding is seen through the eye of the beholder.

Which brands grabbed your attention and won Gold in London?


It’s fascinating to watch the advertising press get all atwitter (forgive me) about the advent of social media. The simple fact is that a company’s brand has never been defined by lush print advertising, clever TV commercials, or a stunning brochure or website.

The waitress who just forgot to refill your customer’s iced tea? She’s your brand. The door that squeaked awkwardly when your most important prospect walked in? Branding, that could use a little WD-40.

Everything a consumer sees, hears, believes, touches, encounters, smells or feels is the essence of your brand.

The biggest challenge for marketers today is being authentic. Because nothing will torpedo positive perceptions of a brand faster than a negative customer experience.

That doesn’t mean that you, your company, or your service has to be perfect. Consumers don’t expect perfection; they expect satisfaction. What it does mean is that you need to present yourself as genuinely obsessed with meeting your customers’ needs, and willing to step up and make it right when you don’t.

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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.



Director
Spencer Till

Copywriter
Stephen Curry

DP
John Pope, Charlie Brown Sanders

Photographer
Jeff Williams

Time Lapse sequences
John Pope

Editor
Charlie Brown Sanders

Flame and finishing
John Pope

Audio and sweetening
Barry Brooks

Producers
Jacob Garner, Leigh Ann Motley and Ben Fine


The passion of volunteering
The passion of volunteering

I have volunteered all my life – not sure if it started with Brownies (a younger version of the Girl Scouts) or whether it was following my Mom around “helping” her with countless charitable organizations she worked with during her life. So I guess it’s in my blood or, “The way I was brought up” as many say.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I get so much more out of volunteering than I could ever give, and it’s just something you do, because it feels good. So I guess it’s not surprising, that the civic organization I’m most passionate about right now was started by my Mom. She helped start McKemie Place, the only overnight shelter for single women within a three county area based in Mobile, Alabama. She started McKemie Place with such passion because she didn’t want these ladies to sleep on the streets one more night. Was every single detail in place? Absolutely not. But she was determined to figure out a way, sooner rather than later, and made it happen. She could pretty much do that with anything she set her mind to do.

Not long after the shelter opened, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer and she lived only a few short months after her diagnosis. The bad part was that McKemie Place didn’t yet have an operational fund structure set up – so for the next several months it was struggling to make the monthly operational fund budget. When I began working closely with their director to help, there were possibilities on numerous occasions that we may have to close for random nights because we couldn’t make payroll. I think that’s where the passion truly kicked in for me. These ladies were not going to be left on the streets – I knew the data and research and I knew what could happen to them. We had to find a way to keep the shelter open every night.

Before I knew it, I was co-chair of the charter advisory board. It has been a long but inspiring six months since then. Many a night I wake up and wonder…what in the world am I doing? How can I do this as a single, working Mom? I don’t know if I can do it… Even though I’ve been on numerous boards, I’ve never started one! What was I thinking?

I was thinking about passion and the passion that I had gained from the experience of not only working with the ladies as guests at McKemie Place, but the countless other volunteers, foundations, government entities, etc, who had stepped up to the plate to help us pay the bills each month. Not to mention the way that the team at Lewis jumped in and took hold of the reins.

I believe it all started with my Mom. She had passion like there’s no tomorrow. She taught not only me, but countless others so many things. Do I think you can teach passion? I don’t think so, but you sure can show folks what it looks like. When you see it, you want a part of it and it’s contagious.

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