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.

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.


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.

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!

Inspire Your Clients
Inspire Your Clients

Having wrapped up a week of video shoots, facility tours and consumer focus groups, I’m flying home and checking Twitter at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport when I see a headline from AdWeek about George Lois and Lee Clow’s talk at Cannes about the future of advertising.

The AdWeek article covers two creative giants in advertising who have made their mark with incredibly entertaining and successful work. But further down in the piece, one quote from Lee Clow really sticks with me.

“But the moment in time that I’ll never forget is when we produced the ‘Think Different’ commercial and campaign (in the late 90s) and gave a new voice and a new energy back to the Apple company, and gave permission for all their designers to go do the amazing stuff that they ended up doing.”

The energy the campaign created certainly improved Apple’s standing with consumers, but that would have been short-lived without a renaissance of the products Apple offered their customers. The second part of Clow’s statement is far more important. The campaign reminded Apple’s employees that they were capable of doing really amazing things and helped inspire them to “Think Different” and create an even stronger foundation for the future of the brand.

At Lewis, we talk a great deal with our clients about how important their “internal audience” is, but it is easy for client and agency to get distracted and focus more exclusively on promoting a brand to the consumer. In one quote, Lee Clow reminded me that our job as an agency is to help lead and inspire our clients to live up to their brand’s lofty ideals and meet their full potential.

For a health care client, we need to remind physicians and staff how heroic and life-changing their work is. For an RV manufacturer, we try to focus on how their vehicles create an entirely new lifestyle for their owners. And for a small craft brewer, everything from our package design to web design has to live up to their incredibly high standards for ingredients and process they use to brew.

All things being equal, I’d rather hear this in person hanging out in Cannes. But even reading it from afar, I love the reminder that the work we do in advertising has a much more profound impact than just building awareness and intent to buy.

iPads and PlayBooks and Xooms, oh my! Are Tablets Game Changers?
iPads and PlayBooks and Xooms, oh my! Are Tablets Game Changers?

Apple launched the much-anticipated iPad in the spring of 2010 amid a cacophony of Mac geeks clamoring to get one, and bloggers and journalists questioning where tablets would fit between smart phones and laptops. Since then, Apple has sold over 15 million units of their tablet, and launched the iPad2, a slimmer, lighter update.

But, more importantly, other computer and electronics manufacturers have jumped into the tablet market with an array of devices that vary greatly by size, OS, functionality and price. Motorola shipped 250,000 Xooms in Q1 alone and the Samsung Galaxy, Blackberry Playbook and a host of other tablets are now flooding the market.

Here at Lewis, we’re using a variety of tablets for work and for play. But what we’re really interested in, is how are you using them? Is your laptop spending more time on the desk and less time at Starbucks? Is your smart phone now mainly for texting and actual phone calls? Or have you postponed buying a tablet in the hopes that prices will fall while features expand?

Click on the link here and take our quick survey on how you’re using various electronic devices. In a few weeks, we’ll post the results in a new blog. You can also enter your email address at the end of the survey and we’ll send you the results.

Take the Survey!

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?


Lewis recently helped create a successful joint promotion for Whole Foods Market and the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. A portion of proceeds from a day’s sales went to the Riverkeeper, and sales for the gourmet market were up by 5% the day of the promotion. Lewis also created a new educational brochure for the Riverkeeper.