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Going Deep in Springfield

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Marketing must be honest. Factually honest and emotionally honest, which is to say “deep.” Strumming human chords such as love, desire, fulfillment, self doubt and ambition is one of the ways brands—including B2B— connect to audiences.

Striving for these types of deep connections is deep group, an ad agency firm in Springfield, Missouri. Deep is part of the Marlin Network, an affiliation of 6 marketing companies all in the Queen City of the Ozarks.

What do they mean by “deep?” Here’s what it says on their website.

It means that we think deep, we delve deep, and we try to go to places that are unfamiliar to our clients and their customers, places where as yet undiscovered ideas await.

Deep does their work on behalf of some big name wholesale food companies. Their creative strategy that builds value and relationships rather than just pumping product recognition (call that the Hip m.o.).

Their connective strategy is at work on their website. The firm’s home page is a collage of images and objects with a few captions. It invites the viewer to act on their own curiosities to discover Deep. In other words, to match their needs to Deep’s capabilities. Mousing about the page one finds their philosophy, work, blog and links. It’s a nice way to introduce a company that is into getting results by building close client relationships.

Written by VerboCityMayor

October 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm

It’s Hip in Springfield

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To get noticed advertising has to be fresh, exciting and current. In a word, ‘hip.’ Marketing also has to factually and emotionally honest And that’s the promise of a shop in Springfield, IL, called (wait for it) Hip.

Hip likes humor and their humor is hip. At least when measured by the standards of Saturday Night Live, the perennial barometer of what’s now. Like SNL, the fun relies on body parts and functions and suffers from bad timing.

Clean up, screen right! What’s hot and happening on the interweb today.

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Written by VerboCityMayor

October 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm

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10 over 12 Creative: Consistent Reinvention

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10 Over 12 Creative, of Evansville, Indiana, is the re-invention of 125 year old printing company known as Keller Crescent. The name, according to their website is a tribute to their roots:

Specifically, it references using 10 point font over 12 point leading (space between lines of copy). As a tribute to our roots in the printing business and honoring the heritage of our award winning work, we decided to adopt this model of consistency as our own name.

10 Over 12 promises, and has demonstrated, consistent quality, efficiency and attention to consumer wants. Repetition is not a part of their creative quiver. They take a fresh look at each product and category. They often re-invent their clients to install them more snugly in their markets and the minds of consumers who are just plain folks.

Take, for example, 10/12’s campaign for Riverview Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Center. They focus one very big consumer benefit: it’s easier to get to than rival facilities in metro Indianapolis.

Conventional wisdom dictates that hospitals are sold with stories of recovery, of lives and families made whole. The happy talk is backed with boasts about facilities, doctors, certifications, rankings and such things as one would calmly and rationally consider when faced with upcoming treatment.

But when its an emergency, all you care about is who’s closest. Images of roads and traffic tell the story concisely and re-assuringly. Of course billboards were part of the mix.

For St. Mary’s Advanced Care Hospital and Medical Centers of Evansville, 10/12 takes another smart approach: they make the health facilities part of everyday life. Most people are afraid of hospitals. They’re places  are brimming with disease and death! Gunshot wounds, broken limbs, cancer, strokes, bloody injuries—all the things that people like to avoid—are found in abundance in hospitals. Of course it’s not rational; avoiding hospitals won’t postpone mortality any better than skipping funerals does. But we’re talking about people, not rational beings.

Going to the hospital is just a slice of life. And notice how the pizza mimics the logo. Nice.

Dressing up the hospital in the happy talk of lives-made-whole and “world class facilities” is just whistling past a cemetery because the underlying message is still “think of us when you can’t ignore the truth any longer.” So making St. Mary’s hospital part of life is a smart idea. 10/12 communicates it deftly with simple, visual stories and a touch of good humor. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

They use the same strategy and tactics for Hardin Memorial Hospital, Elizabethtown, KY. These executions concentrate on everyday objects rather than actions. They’re good, but not as impactful as St Mary’s.The integrated campaign for McCafe (commissioned by the local McDonald’s franchise group) is another example of celebrating (and selling) ordinary life.

The former Keller Crescent Advertising also demonstrates consistency with categories: in addition to their 3 hospitals they also show work for 4 brands of spirits.

10 Over 12 endeavors to give these clients maximum bang for the buck in the face of big spending competitors. The best of these campaigns is for Evan Williams Bourbon. In a series of executions appealing to different slices of the “regular Joe” whiskey-drinking public, they make the point that longer aging makes better, smoother, feistier, sexier, richer, more exciting bourbon. Thanks to this work, Evans Williams is the #3 straight whiskey in the US.

Bass, babes and thoroughbreds are some more things that improve with age.

One more campaign that shows how well 10 Over 12 knows their audiences is the “Evolution 101” campaign for Optima Batteries. These ads trace the development of different technologies such as bass boat propulsion or road transportation exhaust systems, and demonstrate that peak developments—such that owners would be very proud of—require the ultimate in DC power. It’s very smart work done with finesse and a genuine chuckle.

The more things change, the more you want to brag about them.

There are more examples of how 10 Over 12 consistently re-invents and pitches brands to the and Plain Janes and Regular Joes of the world at their website. Look especially at the work for Ellis Park Horse Racing and Vicious Fishing.

Written by VerboCityMayor

August 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm

The Tombras Group: Playing in traffic

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The Tombras Group is a full service marketing firm headquartered in Knoxville, TN. They have 85 employees there and in Memphis, DC, and Johnson City, TN (also the home of Creative Energy). They opened in 1946

Their hook is “street smart” which means they do sound, strategic work based on thorough knowledge of actual customer (man-in-the-street) wants and perceptions, and existing market (down in the streets) conditions. The resulting executions are for and about people. Way too much advertising now is product feature driven and fails to demonstrate user response which is the positive emotional satisfaction and assurance that closes a sale. Tombras has a deft touch with characters in print and broadcast and makes those vital viewer connections. (Just look at their work for St Thomas More Hospital).

Like all successful small-market firms Tombras handles a variety of B2B and B2C clients across a range of market categories. But there is one particular niche where they really shine: traffic safety PSAs. They’ve made a gang of them. Here are three of their best.

Over the limit. Under arrest.

Impaired driving is as obvious as driving around in a truck filled with beer. The 3 spots were made for the US Department of Transportation and have run in many states. The idea is funny—this guy is up to his chin in gin and floating olives!—but the message is not. Tombras treads a fine line by delivering a threat with a big smile.

By the casting and choice of vehicles it is evident that they are targeting specific types of offenders; or people who know and love the offenders. Film director Rupert Wainwright is responsible for the cinematic look of the commercials and the subtle performances of the drivers. The VO is a bit over-the-top and nearly pushes the mood from playful to camp.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

The flip side of obviously impaired driving is invisible enforcement. In this trio of commercials cops and patrol cars are painstakingly painted into backgrounds to remind motoring partiers that the police see you before you see them. The moody night cinematography and sharp editing create tension in a concept that could be played for laughs. Another set of beautifully executed warnings.

100 Days of Summer Heat.

This output by the Tombras DUI unit was made for the state of Tennessee, but will no doubt be seen all over the country. Be careful when you drive because you never when it could happen.

Once again, funny and sobering at the same time. And it feels right, because so often getting pulled over comes as a complete shock. BANG! What all ad professionals will appreciate most about this work is that it’s analog film making. No CGI.  Cars were hurt in the making of this film (and a lot of clients and suits must have gone off their minds with boredom during the detailed set ups.

Written by VerboCityMayor

July 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm

BFG: With big fun comes big responsibility

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BFG Communications may be the most fun place to work in marketing. And it’s located in a resort town for life outside the office that is pretty sweet too. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by VerboCityMayor

June 1, 2013 at 1:16 am

Spokane pt. 2: The missing words are found

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In the last entry BLNsBC went to Spokane and discovered some marketing firms with great design and interactive chops, but no way with words. Since God gave marketers both pictures and words, anyone who doesn’t use the latter is wasting half of their power to persuade, sell and earn.

One agency in Spokane gets it. Quisenberry Marketing & Design. At Quisenberry the emphasis is more on the marketing. They work a little harder to get at how the consumer will feel about their buying decision rather than just communicating the difference and or benefit. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by VerboCityMayor

April 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Branding the Staircase

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Part of creativity is taking an idea that means one thing and making it mean something else. This process can be as complex as Picasso adapting African art to an allegory of syphilis in “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” or as simple as calling Skittles® a rainbow.

Certain creative or intuitive souls can do the same with entire processes. For example, the proto-engineer who wondered if cooking would work on rocks as well as food and invented refining.

That ur-refiner’s successor, 100,000 generations, later may be interior designer Nancy Cameron who has co-opted the marketing discipline of branding to her own trade. The Herald Tribune reported on January 13:

“Branding” is not a term usually associated with residential interior design, but it’s the word and concept that Sarasota-based designer Nancy Cameron applied to Dr. Clarence and Michelle Reilly’s new house in Cherokee Park.

They couple wanted their home to blend in with the established neighborhood but also to express an individual architectural character while being a comfortable, spacious dwelling where their two elementary school-aged daughters could grow and thrive.

“Branding is just a way of adding something special that makes a client’s home unique and personal,” says Cameron. “I usually take one element and make it a statement piece in the house and then use parts of that statement in other areas of the home so that the brand weaves through different rooms in subtle ways,” she says. “The most important thing when doing a branding project is restraint. The trick is knowing when to say enough is enough, which is why you ideally want a professional to do the branding for you.”

The primary branding element in the Reilly home is a design original — a curvilinear staircase railing made of wrought iron with a bronze patina. Fabricated in Colombia, South America, the staircase was shipped to Sarasota in three pieces, where it was assembled on site.

This element is pulled through the house to make a cohesive statement. Parts of the ribbon-like wrought-iron railing design are repeated in the kitchen on the range hood, as a Juliet balcony in the second floor loft, on the wine room doors in the dining room and across the front of the bar, which is situated between the living room and kitchen.

Is home decor just another kind of branding?

A designer (or Roomatologist) creates in paint and upholstery a representation of her clients. Read any article in Architectural Digest, House & Garden or In Style and the professional will say “the design is an extension of the personality of my clients, who are now very good friends.”  Nancy Cameron thinks she’s doing this with a difference by calling it “branding.”

It is not.

Using a design element to tie things together is just one part of branding called identity. Markets create unity within a brand by:

  • Putting the logo on their products, their building, their stationary and their people (sometimes with hot iron but more often with embroidered attire)
  • Consistent use of color
  • Giving products similar names

Brand identity is not simply an aesthetic choice. It means something. The swoosh illustrates speed, movement and excitement. The ‘i’ on Apple products stands for Internet, Intuitive, Intelligent and it’s mine! So what does the chaotic wrought iron ribbon say about the Reillys? Cameron is not forth coming (one can guess, but the answers aren’t nice).

i love Apple for everything it means.

A corporate brand is the sum of the consumer experience. Branding, in the marketing sense, is an avatar. It reminds the consumer of the specific kind of satisfaction gained from buying the product. Families don’t have brands because families—aside from the Jenner-Kardashians—aren’t commercial enterprises. They are interacted with directly. The native enironment of the family, its house, is of course an extension of the clan, but it defies being professionally branded for a few basic reasons:

  • Normal families are not “for sale.”
  • A closely related and interdependent group does not need mnemonics to tell it what it is.
  • Actual interaction with the group is a truer expression of its personality and values than the signals given off by the décor. For example, austere Japanese décor vs. loud, bad-mannered children: which says more about the family’s sense of discipline?

Branding is commercial.

Branding is an alchemy applied to things for sale—recording artists and politicians included. Today it is an essential part of successful selling and company growth. Branding is public, deliberate and carefully managed. A family home is private, organic and lived in. Those within it do not need customers, investors or franchisers.

Interior Designers, on the other hand, are for sale.

Brand me creative! I got the look!

Which means the Reilly’s home is branded. As a product of Nancy Cameron.

Look at the picture at the top of this post and ask yourself, who belongs in it? The house resembles Cameron more than the Reilly’s. For years to come she will show pictures of this house to prospective clients and say, “this is what you can expect when I design your home.” At the same time guests will say to Mrs. Reilly, “you have a beautiful home. Who did it?”

The Reillys, and all Cameron’s customers, chose her because they share or admire her taste. They buy into her brand and adopt it as their own.

It’s sort of like The Wizard of Oz. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain—just look at the curtain.”

Written by VerboCityMayor

January 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm

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Clarke Advertising: Smart and Organized

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Back to Sarasota, Florida, where Clarke Advertising demonstrates a perfect union of medium and message.

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Written by VerboCityMayor

January 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm

HuB Sarasota: I can’t believe it’s not marketing.

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Sarasota, Florida, is loaded with Arts and Culture (and millionaires) but not a lot of creativity (aside from certain investment managers). Now there is HuB, a cooperative studio where the few Sarasotans under age 40 can pursue work in modern media that’s really interesting.

The HuB is an incubator for innovation and creativity. Our members come from all walks of life to realize their potential and find additional meaning in their lives through our supportive community and top-of-the-line creative resources, including photo and film studios, media and tech lab, community space and educational programs.

What the artists, thinkers and digital manipulators at HuB are really doing is marketing. And why not? It pays the bills, it commands attention and it can even be fun.

Their most successful work to date is “Sarasota Elf.” A digital media ad campaign for downtown merchants that went viral and transcended crass commercialism. Sarasota Elf went from gently shilling stores to promoting holiday events to becoming a real part of the community gleefully sited (and captured on video) around town and interacted with via Twitter and Facebook.

Sarasota Elf has lived his entire life with Santa at the North Pole. One day he comes to Sarasota and has experiences unlike anything he's known. Of course he doesn't want to leave.

Sarasota Elf succeeds where other character-based social media efforts fail because he was born of creative artists not a marketing department. He’s a character, not a marketing conceit. There’s more to him than a quick joke that brings your attention to the screen in time to see the product.

Sarasota Elf does not have: * A silly voice * A goofy laugh * A cutesy name * Any childish shtick

Sarasota Elf does have: * A sense of wonder * Refreshing modesty * Respect for everyone * Chest hair

Watch one of his appearances on the local news. The absence of shtick focuses attention on the message rather than the messenger. He’s an adult having a conversation. Yes, he’s got a weird outfit, but he’s at home in it.

Look at his audition with Sarasota Ballet. It’s respectful. Anyone else would have fallen back on a slew of gender confusion gags beginning with simply wearing tights. (OMG! His lower torso is covered in snug fitting fabric! There must be something wrong with him!). Instead HuB goes for the most masculine aspect of ballet—the lift—for clean, respectful humor.

The personality, and the performance by Joey Panek, come from choosing what’s right for the situation instead of what’s best for the product. Elf’s blind date with the Tooth Fairy (Christine Alexander) is sly, unsophomoric, improvisational fun that unobtrusively plugs 3 sponsors as effectively as it skewers contemporary dating.

True love is a fairy tale.

Many a holiday marketing program go for whimsy and end up a mess. HuB’s kick at this old can works because they’re not thinking like marketeers with something to sell. They’re creatives who want to make something good—just like every other creative professional.

Here is the secret to social media that clients do not or will not understand: it only works if its truly good. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter et al are the consumers’ space. They go there to create their own experiences and they know what’s real and what isn’t. So the one thing you cannot be is phony. Sarasota Elf is doing his sincere best.

The creative folks at HuB are not superior to any of the copywriters and art directors in Sarasota, up the road in Tampa or anywhere in the U.S.. Advertising creatives are CREATIVE and care about nothing more than doing their sincere best. If the people who pay them only trusted them, there would be a lot less bad marketing.

For the heavy lifting of a successful social media program always choose Creative Professionals.

Written by VerboCityMayor

August 11, 2011 at 6:22 am

Thinking Big in BirmINgham

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What’s big about Big Communications of Birmingham? The marketing, advertising and PR firm started by John Montgomery in 1995 has 20 employees and does business almost exclusively in Alabama. The BIG, they claim, is in their dreams, ideas, results and enjoyment of their trade.

Big Communications might be better named Solid Communications. Every campaign is built on a solid visual idea. There isn’t a lot to latch onto emotionally in a Big Communications campaign, but the messages are built on a firm, strategic foundation which gives them penetration if not long-term memorability

Big Communications’ m.o. is well described in a brief case study for the identity system they created for the Jacksonville Airport Authority, Florida. Find a visual and repeat it. With simple iconography and color they unite 4 airfields around Jacksonville, Florida into one family of flight centers.

The Birmingham Business AssociationBirmingham Is Open” campaign is another good example. There’s no mistaking the message. “In Birmingham” for the Convention and Visitors Bureau works the same way, although the underlying strategy of having locals create travelers’ experience deserves a more original, localized execution.

Like every other formula in marketing, the Big process sometimes misfires. “Find Your Elf” for holiday shopping at Colonial Brookwood Village has a memorable visual at its center and proves how a pretty picture is not a substitute for a differentiated brand message. The integrated campaign tries for whimsy but ends up weird. Why is the elf so tall? How do you connect emotionally to a character without facial expression? Would an elf really go shopping in Alabama on his day off? Would a male elf retail recreate at all? And isn’t the target audience women anyway?

Repetition leads to penetration, but the viewer can also think “I’ve seen this before,” and tune out. It’s better to work variations on a central theme. Big does this for Birmingham International Airport and the results are better. The idea is flight with added benefits. The visuals of iconic clouds give the message effective visual expression.

Wi fi when u fli.

The 2007 Addy program is some of their best work because it uses a whole idea instead of just a visual hook. Adapting socialist realism and classic Soviet propaganda graphics is a concept with true wit. Co-opting an entire form of expression gives their message of pride in marketing creativity real resonance. It doesn’t just say we’re clever—as use of a single image would limit them to— it says mess with us at your peril because we’re taking over the world.

Creativity won't stop until it achieves world domination

Really? I fly Larry, drive Moe and sail Shemp.

Big Communications has two mini specialties: Birmingham boosterism and airports. The third airport project, for Mobile, sticks to the Big formula although how successfully it works is hard to say. Making one’s choice of airport a matter of civic pride and responsibility is a pretty nifty solution to the get-more-flyers brief. Is I FLY MO really the best visual hook for the strategy? At first glance it looks like marketing for either a Missouri-based airline or an extremely gay-friendly carrier. Do Mobile natives refer to their city as MO? (A web search doesn’t suggest so). And the 3-character airport code for Mobile Regional is MOB.

Big's Addy awards are more creative than a lot of winners BLNsBC has seen at local Addy shows.

Some more work from the Big portfolio you should look at:

  • Trade ads for WBFJ-FM have great photos and art direction.
  • Skyscrapers for extends a nice visual conceit into a good campaign. Some of the executions could be wittier or more unexpected, but its still solid brand messaging.
  • University of Alabama Birmingham AIDS awareness poster— a stunning work of art.

Big dreams and big fun is what every agency should have. Big Communications has them with plenty to spare. They swing for the fences and while they don’t always get it out of the park, they always score for their clients. This is not a criticism. Truly BIG ideas are few and far between. Consistency is what makes success.

The studio under the direction of Ford Wiles does some very fine identity work (left and center). When logos like the third happen it's because the client doesn't dream as big as Big.

Written by VerboCityMayor

August 9, 2011 at 4:13 am

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