The Not-So-Young Networkers.

Posted by truecreek on May 29, 2009 under More Dam News, Research | Be the First to Comment

Another article by Mark Dolliver.  Essentially the same thing happened during the adoption of the internet.  It took a while, but eventually the greatest amount of growth in use was coming from the older population.  In some cases, much older.

Most growth at social networking sites comes from users 30 and older.

By Mark Dolliver

NEW YORK Though social networking still skews young, the practice has been gaining ground among Americans who are on the wrong side of age 30.

Indeed, while noting that use of such Internet sites remains most common among the young, a report on the subject by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press says that “nearly all of the recent growth in social networking has come among older people.”

The report, analyzing survey data gathered at the end of March and through much of April, shows 43 percent of 30-39-year-olds saying they use social-networking sites — about twice the proportion (21 percent) who said so in a December 2007 survey. The increase has been proportionally even steeper among 40-49-year-olds (from 11 percent then to 29 percent now) and 50-64-year-olds (from 6 percent to 16 percent). The current figure is highest, at 70 percent, among the 18-29-year-olds. But that’s nearly unchanged from the December 2007 poll, when 67 percent of respondents in that age bracket said they use such sites.

If you think the older folks join a social site and then seldom revisit it, think again. When people who use the sites were asked how often they check in on them, the 18-29-year-olds had the highest proportion (at 23 percent) saying they do so several times a day. But the number of respondents saying they do this was quite sizable among the 30-49s (15 percent), the 40-49s (16 percent) and those 50-plus (14 percent). When you combine the several-times-a-day tallies with those saying they check in on the sites “about once a day,” the gap between the 18-29s (48 percent fall into those two categories) and the 30-39s (41 percent) isn’t terribly wide. (The equivalent figure for social networking’s 40-49s is 36 percent, and it’s 34 percent for those 50 and older.)

The same survey inquired into respondents’ attitudes about the wisdom of sharing personal information online. The poll’s wired respondents split almost evenly between the 43 percent saying it’s “a good thing” and the 44 percent saying it’s “a bad thing” that the Internet “makes it possible for people to share pictures and personal things about themselves with others.”

Men were significantly more likely than women to say it’s a good thing (49 percent vs. 37 percent). And, as you’d expect, younger respondents were more apt than their elders to hold that opinion. The “good thing” vote was 62 percent among the 18-29s, 48 percent among the 30-49s, 35 percent among the 50-64s and 19 percent among those 65-plus.

Though 67 percent of the poll’s social-networking-site users came down on the “good thing” side of the debate, 23 percent said they regard such info-sharing as a bad thing.

When Will Marketers Boost Spending?

Posted by truecreek on under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

We’ve been discussing this exact same thing with clients for several months now and it seems like we’re almost there.    Brand advertising on TV will once again be back in vogue, with some nice budgets behind it.

By Mark Dolliver

Will ad agencies need to wait until the recession has certifiably ended before they see a rebound in their clients’ spending? A survey released today by the Association of National Advertisers gives a glimmer of hope that marketers’ expenditures will turn upward sooner than that.

In online polling last month among members of the ANA’s Brand Marketer Leadership Community panel, 68 percent of respondents said they plan boost their media budgets as the economy recovers; 41 percent said they’ll increase their spending on social networking/word of mouth. As for the timing, 73 percent said “they would ideally implement these increased marketing activities three to six months before the recession ends, and an additional 16 percent as soon as it ends.”

A renewed focus on long-term brand-building will represent a shift from what many marketers have been doing as the recession deepened. The ANA’s report of the findings says two-thirds of marketers “have shifted their emphasis to more short-term strategies in the last six months.” Such a shift is reflected in the answers respondents gave when asked to cite the areas in which they’ve cut back. Fifty-six percent said they’ve cut media budgets, and 41 percent said the same about sponsorship/events activities. The activity most likely to have been increased amid the recession: “pricing deals,” cited by 47 percent of respondents.

For all the flux in marketers’ use of media, TV remained atop the standings when respondents were asked to say which media are effective for building brand equity. Sixty-four percent cited TV. Though down from 80 percent in a similar February 2007 poll, that still put TV ahead of online (61 percent) and “guerrilla/word of mouth/buzz marketing” (57 percent). Lagging farther behind were magazines (51 percent, down from 67 percent in 2007), radio (30 percent, down from 36 percent), outdoor (26 percent, down from 35 percent) and newspapers (19 percent, down from 36 percent). Social media garnered the most mentions as “the media channel that marketers would like to use but have not yet been able to implement.”

Elsewhere in the survey (conducted in conjunction with marketing-services firm ‘mktg’), respondents were asked about the factors they watch most closely as indicators of “brand health” — i.e., the degree to which brand equity is increasing or declining. “Customer experience/satisfaction” was cited by 48 percent of respondents — up from 37 percent in the 2007 poll. “There is less focus on traditional metrics such as brand image and awareness, which tend to be lagging indicators of brand health,” says the ANA report of the findings.

Before Marketers Ask for Trust, Perhaps They Should Apologize.

Posted by truecreek on May 27, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Jonah Bloom

There are many ads today from our imperiled banks, insurance companies and automakers telling us that we can still trust them and should still buy their products. But there’s one word consumers haven’t heard much that might serve these companies better than their current dirges: sorry.

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That thought came to mind as a rash of “We’re sorry” ads broke out recently across the pond in the U.K. As a native of Britain, I should note that being sorry is our national pastime. (My parents, who are always profoundly apologetic, often on my behalf, fondly recall the time I briefly knocked out my 10-year-old self by walking into a parking meter and came to fuzzily apologizing to said inanimate object.) I’ve often wondered whether this propensity has anything to do with some deep-seated national guilt at the many atrocities committed by our former empire.

Regardless of its origins, these days it manifests itself in nothing more serious than an underwear manufacturer apologizing for charging bigger-breasted women more for bigger bras. Yes, Marks & Spencer recently ran a national campaign apologizing for this. The headline, of course: “We boobed.”

This mea culpa hit more or less at the same time London’s Evening Standard newspaper, relaunching under new ownership, ran a major outdoor campaign saying sorry: “Sorry for Losing Touch,” “Sorry for Being Negative,” and so on.

Sunny Delight also decided to confess its sins. It’s running ads in a number of U.K. women’s weeklies, with the wording: “Britain’s mums told us where to stick the artificial ingredients. And it wasn’t in the bottle.” The drink has been relaunched as a healthful option.

Apologizing in ads isn’t new. Under fire, it’s crisis 101. In the auto industry, we’ve seen many variations, from Renault apologizing to the French people for its various missteps in the early ’90s to various apologies alongside product recalls to GM’s semi-apologetic “Road to Redemption” campaign.

Yet despite a mountain of evidence that American people feel they’ve been let down by car companies, banks, insurers and, indeed, corporate America as a whole, we haven’t heard a whole lot of sorry.

Doug Wojcieszak, author of an apology-strategy book called “Sorry Works!” and founder of a company by the same name, says it’s not a cultural thing, and that, in fact, sorry works in the U.S. “It works very well here because of our immigrant culture. Many of us screwed up elsewhere, that’s why we’re here. Americans get mistakes — they just don’t get or like coverups.”

Perhaps the problem is CEOs and lawyers don’t want to admit culpability for anything that’s gone wrong. But even that doesn’t stand up as an excuse, according to Mr. Wojcieszak. Most of his work has been in the litigation minefield of health care, where he’s building a growing body of evidence that failure to apologize is often a key factor in malpractice becoming a lawsuit, and, conversely, that apologies defuse more potential legal situations than they create. “Even senior health-care executives are starting to understand that apologizing actually takes away the urge to litigate,” he says.

Of course, as any savvy marketer, or properly-adjusted human being, knows, there are two conditions that have to be met for contrition to mean anything. You have to mean it, and you have to be able to show meaningful ways in which you’re changing whatever it was you’re apologizing for.

But assuming that many of the people at America’s bailed-out banks and automakers probably are pretty sorry about way they mismanaged their businesses about now, I can’t help thinking that it’d be a valuable start for a bunch of companies generally regarded as having been too arrogant to see the mistakes they were making to share their regrets with the public.

New Problem for Workers: Cubicle Graveyards.

Posted by truecreek on May 25, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Eve Tahmincioglu

The blogosphere has begun to chronicle a disturbing phenomenon in offices around the country — endless stretches of uninhabited desks and cubicles where friends and colleagues used to sit.

“I was wandering around the office, as I tend to do when I need to look busy but need a break, and I noticed that we have a lot of empty cubicles around,” writes Office Scribe in her Asleep Under My Desk blog recently. “… I think we need to start renting these empty cubicles out. I made a crack on my way back from lunch how we need a doctor who can see patients in one of the cubicles.”

Even though she’s trying to joke about it, Office Scribe admits she’s bummed out by the emptiness.

Office Scribe, who didn’t want her name used for fear of losing her job as a sales assistant for a major travel company in Chicago, has seen about 60 of her co-workers get the axe since December.

“When the economy tanked, we had two sets of layoffs, and the people we were sitting next to are gone,” she says. With so few people left, there are now large swathes of empty cubes between departments. “You have to go searching for people. It’s kind of like we have little tribes now.”

Alas, Office Scribe may feel lonely, but she’s far from alone.

Mass layoffs throughout corporate America have created cubicle and desk graveyards in office buildings from coast to coast. After years of shrinking office space for employees, the recession has brought about a new trend — more room for workers to stretch out.

The average square foot per office occupant has risen to 435 square feet so far this year, from 415 square feet in 2008, according to International Facility Management Association, or IFMA, in a soon-to-be released report.

“There is simply more space per person in the workplace, meaning there are fewer people occupying a greater amount of space, and this is just over the course of a year,” says George Deutsch, a spokesperson for the association. “We attribute this to the economic downturn and layoffs our nation is currently dealing with.”

It’s creating morale problems for employees, not to mention logistical nightmares for companies and the facilities maintenance staff.

TuneCore, Amazon Set to Unveil On-Demand CD Sales.

Posted by truecreek on May 22, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Eliot Van Buskirk

TuneCore is poised to partner with Amazon’s on-demand CD-printing-and-distribution service, Wired.com has learned. It’s a deal that could put powerful new physical publishing options in the hands of musicians, even as the world goes increasingly digital.

The service is expected to be announced Thursday, linking Amazon with TuneCore, a novel digital distribution startup that’s made waves signing the likes of Trent Reznor, Keith Richards and other stars seeking a way out of the label system, as well as slews of garage bands and hopefuls on their way up.

Tunecore will charge just $31 a year in upfront fees to handle a 10-track CD from pressing to delivery, passing all other costs through to the buyer. In other words, the service promises to remove nearly all of the risks of short-run CD manufacturing, which can cost musicians hundreds or even thousands of dollars for discs that rarely sell enough to cover expenses.

“As an artist, you have unlimited physical inventory, made on demand, with no upfront costs and worldwide distribution to anyone who orders it at Amazon.com,” said TuneCore CEO Jeff Price, formerly of indie label SpinArt Records (Pixies, KaitO, Apollo Sunshine).

The deal comes as physical music sales are tanking and as major CD distributors like Amazon seek to evolve to a digital model. Yet Price suggests that there may be life left in good old physical storage media, with a slight twist. Why would people buy music on CD if it’s also available in iTunes, Amazon MP3 and other digital stores?

“Why not?” responds Price, who says he believes the costs are so low it will makes sense for lots of bands to try it out. “Let the music fan decide how they want the music.”

In addition to competing with downloads and streaming, one obvious drawback to this model is that you can’t sell an on-demand CD at shows, where enthusiastic fans are most likely to pick one up. But Price says labels wondering why artists still need them now have yet another thing to worry about. When you can sell CDs on Amazon for 30 bucks, who needs a label? Certainly not Reznor, an early TuneCore adopter who once paid the service 38 bucks to distribute a quadruple-length album through Amazon MP3.

Amazon already offered on-demand CD printing through its CreateSpace acquisition, for a flat fee of $5 per disc. TuneCore’s massive footprint means far more bands will use that service, because it’s now just another checkbox in the system they already use.

For TuneCore, the deal expands its primary business helping indie artists get digital distribution through online outlets such as iTunes, Napster and Amazon MP3. TuneCore will now compete directly with CDBaby, the current leader in low-volume CD manufacturing and distribution. CDBaby charges $278 for 100 discs, although it recently lowered its minimum order to just five copies.

Brooklyn-based TuneCore gave us a peek inside its accounting system, which shows the most successful artists on the service regularly earning upwards of $20,000 per month. Chump change this is not.

As with its digital distribution service, TuneCore passes 100 percent of Amazon’s payout to the artist — about 40 percent of the retail price. If one of Amazon’s 80 million customers buys your 10-song CD on Amazon for $8.98, you’ll receive $3.59. After selling just nine discs, you’re in the black. TuneCore takes care of the UPC code, artwork, bar code, CD label design and so on, so that artists can concentrate on writing songs — and cashing checks.

The on-demand CD partnership with Amazon is just the latest in a long string of successes for the 2006 startup, whose distribution catalog dwarfs those of the labels.

“There’s more music released in one day on TuneCore than there is on a major [label] in the course of a year — in three days, more than all the majors combined, and within a month, all the majors and indies combined,” explained Price. “TuneCore artists have generated over $32 million in revenue from music sales over the past 22 months.

“Some of the artists, frankly, have been selling more than the Billboard Top 40 artists,” he added. “It’s just not being picked up by the mainstream places [like SoundScan] that track sales.”

As their label contracts expire, some fairly heavy hitters are signing up for TuneCore. In addition to Reznor and Richards, the service now handles distribution duties for Joan Jett and other luminaries. But unsigned bands are always found among TuneCore’s top sellers. For instance, Never Shout Never sold over 250,000 songs in 60 days, as well as 30,000 T-shirts (also handled by TuneCore).

Universal Music Group — the biggest record label in the world — has also partnered with TuneCore to offer additional services to its indie artists. For $50, Universal’s Grammy-winning producers will master your music for CD before it gets distributed. And for another as-yet undisclosed fee, Universal’s art department will also design the high-resolution PDF that iTunes now requires with each album submission — all they need is four images and the names of your songs.

Some Fun Stuff from Kyle Williams, a Member of The Creekbed.

Posted by truecreek on May 21, 2009 under The Work | Be the First to Comment

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17 Ways to Use Twitter.

Posted by truecreek on under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Maki

I’ve signed up for a Twitter account a long time ago and used it sporadically because it never really did appeal to me. Last week I decided to give it another chance and installed Snitter, a desktop application for Twitter.

I started using it actively and gradually developed an avid interest. I think Twitter is a manageable process that can be adopted for all types of lifestyles, busy or inactive. You’ll just need to integrate it within your normal workflow. It’s addictive but once you understand how to use it, it’ll be a very effective tool indeed.

Having read a great deal of other articles on Twitter, I decided a do a quick summary of all the ways you can use Twitter for both your professional or personal life. Some of these methods go beyond the use of Twitter as a lifestreaming device:

1. Personal Branding. Twitter is a social media platform you can use to build your personal brand. It has the primary benefit of developing a casual persona and establishes you as a social personality that is connected and approachable. As Twitter adoption increases, new users will be drawn towards well established Twitter personas.

2. Get Feedback. Need an alternative perspective on how a website looks or the right course of action to take?   Blast out a message asking for advice and you’ll receive replies from other users. This collective intelligence can be used as fodder for articles or projects.

3. Hire People. Need a good logo designer, marketer or programmer? Send out a message asking for recommendations. This is a very quick and easy way to hire freelancers or even companies based on familiar recommendations.

4. Direct traffic. Twitter can be used to get traffic to your websites or the sites of friends. If you ask your friends to tweet about it, the message will spread faster and further as other active users pick it up. There is a viral nature to all types of news, even on a site like Twitter.

5. Read News. Twitter users often link to useful sites or articles and can be a source of scoops and alternative news. You can also subscribe to Twitter feeds for specific websites/conferences, which allows you to receive and view content quickly. This is very useful for active social news participants.

6. Make New Friends. Like any other social network, Twitter has a built-in function for you to befriend and track the messages of other users. This is an easy way for you connect with people outside of your usual circle. Make an effort to add active users you find interesting. A Twitter acquaintance can be developed into a long lasting friendship.

7. Network for benefits. Twitter can be used as a socializing platform for you to interact with other like-minded people, especially those in the same industry. It can be used to establish consistent and deeper relationships for future benefits such as testimonials or peer recommendations.

8. Use it as a ToDo list. Use Twitter to record down what you need to do while you are away from the computer. Mark the tweet as a favorite to file it for referencing. Another alternative is to use an Online task management service that is synced with Twitter. One example is Remember The Milk.

9. Business Management. Twitter can be used as a company intranet that connects employees to one another. Workers can liaise with each other when working on group projects. Particularly useful when certain workers go out often in the field. Updates could be set to private for security reasons.

10. Notify Your Customers. Set up a Twitter feed for the specific purpose of notifying customers when new products come in. Customers can subscribe via mobile or RSS for instant notification. Twitter can also be used to provide mini-updates for one-on-one clients.

11. Take Notes. Twitter provides you with an easy way to record important ideas or concepts you want to explore further. Include links relevant to ideas you want to explore. Note taking can also be done offline via mobile applications.

12. Event Updates. Businesses can use Twitter as a means to inform event participants and latest event happenings/changes. This is a hassle-free way of disseminating information, especially when you don’t have the means to set up a direct mobile link between you and the audience

13. Find Prospects. Twitter can be used as a means to find potential customers or clients online. Do a search for keywords related to your product on Twitter Search and then follow users. Tweet about topics parallel to your product and close prospects away from public channels by using direct messages or offline communications. Discretion and skill is needed in this area.

14. Provide Live coverage. Twitter’s message size limit prevents detailed coverage of events but it can allow you to provide real-time commentary which may help to spark further discussion or interest on the event as other Twitter users spread the message. Very useful for citizen journalism.

15. Time Management and Analysis. Twitter can simply be used to keep a detailed record of what you are doing every daily. This might be boring for others but this type of usage is useful when you want to analyze how you spend and manage your time.

16. Set Up Meetings. Twitter can help you organize impromptu meetups. For example, you can twitter a message while at a cafe, event or art gallery and arrange to meet fellow users at a specific spot. It’s an informal and casual way of arranging a meeting.

17. Acquire Votes. Send a link to your stories you’ve submitted in other social news sites like Digg. Sometimes your followers will vote up the stories because they agree with it. This allows you to acquire more support for your efforts on other social media websites.

Daydreamer in a Green Swimsuit.

Posted by truecreek on May 19, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Another shot of my Mom, this time striking the pose in a moss-green lace and white broadcloth tank-top swimsuit and a beach coat with a zipper front. The fashion photo, by Leombruno-Bodi, appeared in the May 1954 Glamour.

Just amazing what you can find on the web, sometimes when you’re not even looking.

Daydreamer in Green Swimsuit


Comcast Medical Vertical Market Four Color Print.

Posted by truecreek on under The Work | Be the First to Comment

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What Are You Packing Into Your (Creative) Briefs? Your Creatives Want Clear, Tightly Written Objectives.

Posted by truecreek on under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Howard Margulies

You are an advertiser, an account director, brand planner or an ad agency executive. And you have come to the conclusion that something is fundamentally wrong with your creative brief.

Your suspicion is confirmed by that gnawing sensation you feel in your gut when evaluating the advertising created in service of the deficient brief. The work feels indistinct or generic, crammed with information, yet devoid of a differentiating message; its tonality is either too quiet or patently overbearing in its desperate need for attention.

Blame must be assigned: It’s got to be the brief.

Changing an organization’s creative brief can be a politically charged, time-consuming ordeal; but that aside, choosing a new form is a fairly simple task. Put the words “creative brief” into Google, and with a little digging, you will encounter 117,000 links, many pitching their own idealized construct. Some forms are verbose, others elegantly concise. Choose one that feels right and run with it. Related: My doctor once observed that if a wide range of products exist to treat a medical condition, one might assume that none of them work notably better than another. What’s true for poison ivy is true for the creative brief. They will all sort of work, more or less.

Here are some guidelines for experimenting with a new, improved creative brief:

* Think simple. The more sophisticated the brief, the simpler it should be. The more glissandi and grace notes the piece has, the harder it is to play.

* More spaces to fill present a greater opportunity for bad poetry. Avoid theoretical definitions; keep the language at the 8th-grade level.

* Write in clear, declarative sentences.

* Test out the chosen version with products or services you know well. If you can get all the key ideas in, you’re good to go.

* Every fact or observation you add to the brief must be useful and actionable. If not, leave it out.

* Does the final brief say what you want it to mean?

* Write a couple of bad ads directly from your brief. What would the headline say? What would be the key visual? Is that the beating heart of your story?

The humbling reality is, regardless of the pedigree of the agency championing a particular style of creative brief, in practice it will fail to result in great advertising if the guidance it provides is merely factual, or unclear and unfocused. The format of your chosen creative brief may well be the least of your problems.

PROBLEM No. 1: Filling out the brief.

The very notion of “filling out” a creative brief should fill you with dread. Because if simply filling it out is the goal of the individual(s) tasked with its completion, it will not end well.

Too often, the creative brief is joylessly “filled out” as if it were the worksheet to an IRS 1040 Schedule C. Values are plugged into fields. Facts substituted for insights. Data dumped in a hierarchical, unfiltered lump. Keep in mind that at the end of this process, no matter how flawed or absent the thinking, it will look exactly like a creative brief.

When you write a creative brief, you’re not filling out a form. You’re crafting the story of your product and its reason to exist and thrive in the world. This is the first, and arguably the most important creative act of the entire process. And yet it’s often approached with all the delight of passing a kidney stone.

Believe it or not, your creatives want the freedom of a tightly written brief. They’re looking to you for inspiration. Man up. Make them care.

Peter Comber, creative director at Italy’s DWA, wants “clear objectives, and clear targets.” “Sell more,” he insists, is not an objective any more than “everyone” is a target audience.

Dallas Baker, creative director of Freed Advertising, wants a brief “to connect [him] with the target on a level [he] wouldn’t otherwise understand … to be taken into a brand and … the challenge that lies ahead.”

It all comes down to this: Are you telling the right story to the right audience? The right story is not merely true, but motivating to any given audience. Often inarguable, self-evident truths are ladled into a creative brief under the guise of insight. This will not go unnoticed.

Your creative teams may dress like slackers, but they have been genetically bred to sniff out a con job. Oh, they may not immediately realize that your core leverageable insight is not really very insightful or leverageable. But know this: After they work with the brief for a while, they will arrive at that conclusion.

The creatives will scour the brief for a declarative message (anything!) delivered with clarity, something they can sink their teeth into. Finding none, in utter desperation, they will reach into their advertising bag of tricks and their instinctive knowledge of consumer motivators to create a marginally interesting way of stating the painfully obvious.

But ultimately, the smoke will clear and the creative work will not stand up to scrutiny. They will come to you for clarification, and you will be frustrated by their inability to crack the code. Be gentle with them.

It’s not the format of the brief, but the story it tells.

PROBLEM No. 2: How will you know when you have written a good brief?

Brevity goes a long way to winning over some of your creative comrades. Creative legend Jackie End’s litmus test for a good brief is “when you can read it without missing lunch and dinner.”

Steve Capp, chief creative officer of Unit 7, has observed that if your brief is too long, “someone didn’t spend enough time on it.”

Surely, when your creatives begin to nod, rather than nod off, you know you’re on the right track. But how do you know you have nailed it?

It’s been suggested that you’ll know you’re onto something big when you can pitch the story in under 30 seconds. Can you deliver an elevator speech for your product? Are you writing it to be read?

Dave Dresden, director of International Promotions at Warner Bros., suggests that “actually speaking the words out loud … lets one sense the potential for an ‘a-ha’ insight.” Distance yourself from the brief, if you can. If you were hearing the ideas for the first time, would you buy in?

In a privately published 1998 monograph, “What’s A Good Brief? The Leo Burnett Way,” a “good creative brief” was defined as “brief and single minded … logical and rooted in a compelling truth … [incorporating] a powerful human insight.” That opinion was echoed by several ad veterans I polled for this article.

Rich Solomon, creative director at C2Creative, senses that a brief is leading into fertile territory “when concepts start to come immediately after reading a single-minded benefit statement.”

DWA’s Comber thinks the clearest evidence of a solid brief is that when he’s “reading it the first time, he reaches for a pen and paper.”

Greg DiNoto, CEO of DiNoto Inc., knows when he’s in good hands “when a brief is dense, when it commits … and [he] can immediately and intuitively sense the truth in it.”

DiNoto has it exactly right. When writing a brief, you must fully commit to an idea:

* This is the time to fall on the sword. Commit!

* Refrain from peppering the brief with ideas; a little bit of this or that. Layering ideas in a painterly way is dishonest. Commit!

* Say one thing, and say it clearly.

* Don’t try to outshine the creatives, don’t let your cleverness show; keep the language simple and clear.

* Anything resembling a tagline should be deleted.

* Support, amplify, clarify, stay on message.

If you have doubts that you have chosen the right path, find another. The universe has an infinite supply of paths; choose one.

It is a faulty assumption to believe that a killer ad campaign was the product of an unusually imaginative creative brief. Quite the opposite is more likely to be true. It is also not inevitable that any given campaign would result from any given brief. This is a deterministic function of the zeitgeist, the talents and disposition of the creative teams, the openness and receptivity of the target audience, and the ability of an agency and client to celebrate the power of a great idea and run with it.

The Goodby, Silverstein & Partners award-winning “Got Milk?” campaign was based on a powerful, single-minded insight: People wait until they’re out of milk to realize that they need to buy more. The campaign’s scenarios were highly entertaining, but the core message was: “Milk enhances the enjoyment of many foods. Don’t wait until you’re out. Buy some today.” In Goodby’s hands, advertising history was made. At another shop, the spots might’ve sounded like infomercials for the ShamWow!

A truly motivating insight is a secret bit of knowledge that you have about your target audience that you can exploit to make them do your bidding. Don’t squander it.

Study the great advertising of the world. Dissect and reverse engineer it. But don’t fall into the trap of equating the creativity or memorability of a campaign with the writing style found in the brief that got them there.

* Keep your creative briefs free of clever turns of phrase, taglines, or ad-speak.

* Fill your brief with brilliant market analysis and motivational insights into your target audience.

* And most of all, write with clarity.

10 Great Tips on How to Advertise During the Crisis.

Posted by truecreek on May 13, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Addis Creson.

Great ads have one thing in common. They sell things. Things like products, services, ideas or lifestyles. If they don’t do this directly, they are memorable enough to influence a consumer at the time he or she makes a purchase.

Bad ads are brand poison. If you go public with a half-baked concept, a forgettable headline, or a me-too message, chances are the ad will have the opposite effect you intended. It will drive consumers away. Even worse, it will drive them to the competition.

Below are 10 principles to keep in mind when creating an ad. Read them before, during, and after you have created your ad. Make them your checklist. And remember, every ad represents not just a product or feature or price, but what your brand promises.

1. No one cares about your company.

You might be intimately familiar with your product or service. You might even love it. But your audience doesn’t. Your ad has to give them a reason to care. Consumers don’t think in terms of features and benefits. Those are marketing terms. Consumers want something that will make their lives easier or bring them success. How will your product or service do this? More importantly, how will your ad convince them it will?

2. Don’t let fear motivate you.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to second-guess your audience’s ability to understand. Think of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ “Got Milk?” campaign. The entire message is based on the absence of milk. Without picturing milk in a variety of scenarios, the agency created a world without milk. If somewhere along the line, the California Fluid Milk Processor Advisory Board (the client) had rejected the no-milk concept because it didn’t adequately promote the product or make milk “the hero,” the resulting campaign would have been very different. And probably far less memorable.

3. If it works on you, it will work on them.

You are a consumer. You read ads and buy things. If your ad doesn’t convince you, chances are it won’t convince your audience.

4. Talk about one thing.

Volkswagen once ran an ad whose headline read: “It makes your house look bigger.” The message was simple: VW Beetles are small. The headline didn’t mention the car’s gas mileage, price, or engineering. It didn’t even mention VW. It got people to think small is good.

5. Say it differently.

Take the one thing you want to communicate and come up with different ways to say it. In the VW example above, the headline didn’t say “VW Beetles are small.” Think of ways to state an ordinary message in an unusual way so that it gets attention.

6. Let your audience draw their own conclusions.

When Steven Spielberg first screened Jaws, the audience laughed at the shark. His solution? Remove the shark. In the end, you see the entire shark in only a few scenes. But the movie is still terrifying. The same principle applies to advertising. Don’t be afraid to let consumers draw their own conclusion about your company or product. The conclusions we make for ourselves are usually the most powerful.

7. Make design and copy work together.

The headline and image tell the story. Don’t let the visual design overpower the message. And don’t rely on copy alone to convey the entire idea. A headline should never tell you what is in the picture. And graphic design should never be used merely to fill space.

8. Create an emotion.

The worst thing an ad can do is be boring. A series of physiological events occurs when we’re happy, sad, entertained, or angered. Use this to your advantage. Make sure you generate a response in the person looking at your ad. Any response is better than no response.

9. Sell something, don’t just talk.

Imagine this: You’re looking for a new car. You have one in mind. You arrive at the dealership, see the perfect car on the lot, and go inside to inquire about it. Instead of answering your questions, the salesperson launches into a history of the car dealership. Do you care? In advertising, always stay focused on what you’re selling and anticipate the consumer’s needs.

10. Make them respond.

The best ads demand a response. They make consumers want to act. Always give your audience a reason to act and the means for doing so, whether that’s a phone number, fax number, or web address.

Some Nice Upmarket Design From a Member of The Creekbed.

Posted by truecreek on May 11, 2009 under The Work | Be the First to Comment

As a member of The Creekbed, True Creek’s very talented freelance creative team, Gabe has designed some nice work.

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It’s Really a Shame. Enter the CAPTCHA code.

Posted by truecreek on May 7, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

I hated to do it.

When you start a blog, you want it to be as open as possible to everyone.  No hurdles, you say.  Let anyone say what they want, whenever they want.  That’s the reason I started this thing.  Comments are a good thing.

Then the spammers started sending comments on certain posts.  Then they added a few more.  Then they would subscribe.  It was brutal.  I was being inundated by the bots.

And so, the blog had to change.

As of today, when you want to comment on an article, you have to take that extra step and enter the code into the CAPTCHA box to submit your verbiage.  Sorry about that, but spam is a terrible thing and sometimes can force us to do things we don’t want to do.

By the way, their copy sucks.

Increasing Marketing and Advertising Spend is a Good Thing. Trust Us.

Posted by truecreek on May 6, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Time and time again, we’ve heard the  story:  Increase your marketing and advertising spend.  Now.  Not only to keep your brand top of mind but to assure that when everything settles down and we’re back in business, you will be too.  And in a big way.

Folks will remember you were there when the proverbial crap hit the fan.  That you were strong enough to keep the fires burning so that when the time comes for them to need your company, you will be there.  Better, stronger and leaner than ever.

Seize the opportunity now.  Start thinking positive about things and get back in the game.  Add weeks, don’t cut them.  Print the entire quantity, not just a segment.  Use better paper.  Shoot in HD.  Raise those production standards.  Buy more media.  Shoot, how about running some great print ads?  The newspaper community needs your business.

Better yet.  Hire a great Northern Virginia Ad Agency by the name of True Creek and we’ll help your company put it together.

picture1A few months ago, Mike Matson wrote and article that merits another post.

MarketSense study during the 1989-91 recession demonstrated that brands such as Jif Peanut Butter and Kraft Salad Dressing increased their advertising and experienced sales growth of 57% to 70%. During this same period, most of the beer industry made cuts to their ad budgets, but Coors Light and Bud Light increased their budgets and saw sales jump 15% to 16%. Among fast food companies, Pizza Hut sales rose 61% and Taco Bell’s 40% due to strong advertising support, reducing McDonald’s sales by as much as 28%.

MarketSense concluded the study by reporting. “The best strategy for coping with a recession is balanced exploitation of ad spending for long-term consumer motivation, plus promotion for short term sales boosts.”

Strategies to help your business thrive in this economy.

• Don’t cut your ad budget, increase it. Let your competition cut their budgets. When you increase your spending, you increase your share of voice. If your competitors cut back, your message grows even stronger.

• Have a strategic marketing plan that is well thought out, so you don’t waste money advertising the wrong message in the wrong place to the wrong audience.

• Keep your loyal customers by keeping in touch with them and letting them know what you have to offer.

• Maintain your brand awareness. Advertising works cumulatively so you have to remind people frequently about your brand or they’ll forget you.

• Achieve greater media efficiency by taking advantage of more negotiable rates and special promotions.

• Don’t degrade your advertising by trying to save a few dollars on creative or production costs. Your customers will notice and will perceive lower quality not just in your advertising, but in your products and services.

This is one time to stress quality—and value. “All great enterprises move forward in a recession, and the weaklings move backward. The dumbbells cut back on advertising. The smart people don’t.” -Ed McCabe, founding partner of Scali, McCabe, Stoves advertising agency, a legendary Madison Avenue agency of years past.

Mother’s Day is Right Around the Corner. Have You Called Your Power Mom?

Posted by truecreek on under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

Moms Say Marketers Ignore Their Needs

-By Jessica Hogue, Nielsen Online

Marketers have made great strides in recent years to better understand and connect with moms. But in trying to perfect the message, many have forgotten to listen to the very consumer they are trying to woo.

According to M2Moms, 60 percent of moms feel that marketers are ignoring their needs, and 73 percent feel that advertisers don’t really understand what it’s like to be a mom.

Last year’s Motrin Moms kerfuffle, in which women on Twitter and YouTube reacted to an ad offending baby-toting moms, raised the antennae of marketing managers everywhere and underscored the importance of not just reaching moms but understanding their value systems.

Initiatives like Wal-Mart’s “elevenmoms” (a partnership through which the retail giant and a collection of mom bloggers are building a well-timed money saving community) demonstrate how marketers are taking steps forward to engage moms — particularly mom bloggers — and to develop mechanisms to absorb their input. Not all marketers have to go to such lengths to understand today’s Power Moms, but much can be gained from expanding perceived notions about this important and highly-influential demographic.

While marketers today have a so many opportunities to connect with mom at various inflection points during her life (having a first or second baby, child entering school, return to work), the challenge is sensing her distinct needs and responding in a way that truly resonates. This forces marketers to redraw the vision of mom in our head.

As CEOs of their households, Power Moms wield more influence than ever before: moms control 85 percent of household spending, and are worth more than $2 trillion to U.S. brands, as reported by the Marketing to Moms Coalition. Most moms work. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 1965, about 45 percent of women with children (under 18) were employed; by 2000, over 78 percent were. Whether they work out of the home, telecommute, or run a business from the home, media technology and the Internet have become a true enabler.

Nielsen reports that moms between the ages of 25-54 who have at least one child under the age of 18 within the home represent roughly 19 percent of the total online population. And they are not passive observers online. Rather, Power Moms leverage their megaphones to influence online purchase decisions. Considering the expansion in ecommerce for foods, beauty and household products — which is projected to grow to $12 billion in 2011 — effectively reaching moms has real bottom-line implication.

Power Moms leverage digital applications to stay organized, connect with their families, friends and mom networks (think Facebook and micro-blog platforms like Twitter, as well as mushrooming networks like MomBloggersClub.com and TwitterMoms.com), and to get things done, like paying the bills, ordering groceries, downloading coupons and hunting for ideas for the next family vacation. And lest you envision moms tapping away at their computers, know that Power Moms are also mobile enthusiasts who are 35 percent more likely to use text messaging/SMS on the go.

But even online, not all moms are created equal. According to M2Moms, African American mothers are more likely to read articles online (68 percent) and listen to music (45 percent), whereas Caucasian mothers are likely to frequent social networks (45 percent) and message boards (43 percent). Web 2.0 is also relevant for Latinas: blogs were the top choice among Hispanic Moms (55 percent) followed by social networks (42 percent).

Understanding the Power Mom’s online behavior affords a more holistic awareness about her passions and interests and also enables precision in online targeting for optimizing media plans. For example, established moms aged 40-50 who have three or more children in the home are heavy online shoppers, over-indexing on sites like Shopzilla, Target and Walmart compared with the average online consumer. On these sites, Power Moms are likely to be receptive to advertising deals and promotions. They also stay connected on email and are beginning to dabble in social networks, primarily Facebook.

Whether or Which.

Posted by truecreek on May 4, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Seth Godin.

Most marketers are busy trying to persuade people to buy their product. Confusion sets in, though, when you compare a pitch designed to get someone to buy any product in the category (you need an mp3 player because you can listen to music) vs. buying your product instead of the competition (ours is cheaper and bigger and better).

Are you trying to make the market bigger, or just grow your share?

Retro TV CommercialWhen competing against a market dominator, your marketing generates more bang for the buck when you try to steal people who have already been persuaded to enter the category by the other guy.

This is the Newton running shoe story. Nike sells fitness, running, camaraderie, effort, glory. Newton sells “buy us instead of Nike.”

It doesn’t pay for an insurgent energy drink to sell “thirst” because much of that marketing will just get people to go buy the brands they’ve always bought. The opportunity instead is to provide leverage at the last possible moment in the buying cycle.

Getting new people to enter your market is hugely expensive. There’s no way I can persuade a non-book buyer to start buying books–I don’t have enough time or enough money.

This thinking rarely grows the market, though, so it falls on the market leader to figure out how to market well enough to get people into the category itself. The critical issue is to decide which one you’re doing. Are you working on whether or not someone should buy, or on which one they should buy once they realize a need? Do your employees have the same answer?

VW Keeps Spending on Ads, Which Helps its Market Share.

Posted by truecreek on under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Theresa Howard, USA TODAY

Car advertisers that maintain their ad spending can rev up market share in down times, gaining an edge to exploit in a recovery.

Sure, the auto industry is in the doldrums. Car sales through April this year are down 37%, to about 3 million vehicles from 4.8 million through April last year, according to Autodata’s latest sales report out Friday.

But while some brands all but stopped spending on marketing, others kept or increased their budgets, particularly for new or improved models. Among those for whom that paid off:

Kia Motors increased U.S. ad spending 43% in 2008 vs. 2007, according to ad tracker TNS Media Intelligence. Its U.S. market share is up from 1.9% at the end of 2007 to 3.1% through April of this year, according to Autodata.

Mercedes-Benz raised ad spending 39.8% in 2008 vs. 2007. Its U.S. market share is up from 1.6% at the end of 2007 to 1.8% through April this year.

Volkswagen raised ad spending 45.7% in 2008 vs. 2007. Its U.S. market share is up from 1.4% at the end of 2007 to 1.9% through April of this year.

VW’s U.S. marketing chief, Tim Ellis, says that despite the tough sales year, 2009 ad expenditures will be held even with 2008.

“When we invest in marketing, things happen,” says Ellis. “We think it’s important to stick to our roots and stick to our value message. We’re getting a higher percentage of the dwindling marketplace. And when this crazy situation comes straight side up again, we’ll be positioned to increase our share even further.”

Even the USPS is Having a Sale!

Posted by truecreek on May 2, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

This is just huge.  Even the USPS is having a sale.  This is from their hot press release.

Today we filed a notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission for a Summer Sale. The Sale will provide a 30 percent reduction in postage for qualifying Standard Mail customers mailing letters and flats. The Summer Sale will run from July 1 through September 30, 2009  .   The Summer Sale offer is subject to review by the Commission for up to 45 days following May 1.

UPDATE:

The United States Postal Service has issued further specifics on its proposed “summer sale.”

The sale will run from July 1 through September 30 and will be open to mailers who mailed more than one million Standard letters and/or flats from October 1, 2007, through March 31, 2008.

The USPS said eligible mailers will receive a rebate of 30% on any mail volume in the summer sale period, which is over the past threshold.

The rebates will be adjusted if the mailer’s October 2009 volume is less than their October 2008 mail volume adjusted their mailing trend.

Mailers will pay full postage during the summer, and their rebates will be determined by the USPS after October 31. Rebates will be credited to the mailer’s permit account before December 31.

The USPS will be sending eligible mailers letters that will provide the threshold as determined by USPS data systems.

Once they receive their eligibility letter, mailers may enroll in the program on the Web on or before July 1.

The summer sale proposal must still be approved by the USPS board of governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission.

This is NOT What I’m Talking About.

Posted by truecreek on May 1, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

For those of you who are following the saga of sale or no sale for the automakers:  this is NOT what I was suggesting at all.  This kind of local stuff just gives me the heebie jeebies.

I just sense so much desperation in the art direction.  Agreed?

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Tweety Bird Would Never Believe This.

Posted by truecreek on under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

From eMarketer:

If media attention is any indication, Twitter has exploded into an all-out phenomenon. Celebrities, politicians, entrepreneurs, business leaders and everyday users are flocking to the service en masse, generating a frenzy of activity and attention.

Everybody is talking about Twitter, but what do the numbers say?

There were roughly 6 million Twitter users in the US in 2008, or 3.8% of Internet users.

It’s projected that the number of Twitter users will jump to 18.1 million in 2010, representing 10.8% of Internet users.

By all measures, Twitter is growing, and quickly.

What’s driving this phenomenal growth?

“Twitter lets people know what’s going on about things they care about instantly, as it happens,” Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO, told The New York Times. “In the best cases, Twitter makes people smarter and faster and more efficient.”

A survey of Twitter users from MarketingProfs backs Mr. Williams’ views. On a scale from 1 to 5 (with 1 for strongly disagree and 5 and for strongly agree), the phrase “I find it exciting to learn new things from people” averaged a score of 4.65 and “I value getting information in a timely manner” averaged 4.58.

“Above all, people on Twitter are truly motivated by learning new things and getting information real-time, as it’s developing,” said Ann Handley of MarketingProfs.