Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Earlier in my career I was part of the team at Ogilvy that helped American Express create its first-ever campaign targeting women.  The platform was simple: show self-fulfilled women as independent and positive role models using the American Express Card to live a more interesting life.  Soon after, the number of female applicants doubled.  The campaign was even featured in a documentary that aired on PBS showing best practices in marketing to women.  (The oddest part of the documentary experience was having to recreate the creative presentation.   We all said really smart things the second time around.)

Fast forward to today, a time when women make or influence around 85% of purchases, yet often do not identify at all with the women they see in advertising.  Worse than perpetuating a marketing problem, we're unconsciously perpetuating a cultural problem in the media.

Studies show that unconscious bias is formed as early as five years old, as this #RedrawTheBalance video illustrates so powerfully.

Today, the teams at Ford and GTB attended the #SeeHer bootcamp, hosted by @ShellyZalis and the ANA.  It's eye-opening.  Shelley's insights are candid, fact-based, and actionable.  I highly encourage all marketers and their agency partners to go through this experience and learn more about how to use the ANA's GEM Score.

Doing so simply leads to smarter marketing and better results.  Case studies from HP and AT&T show that overall recall, persuasion and effectiveness substantially increase when women and young girls are presented respectfully, appropriately and as a positive role model.

We were happy to learn that the GEM Scores for the advertising created by GTB for Ford exceeds the automotive average.  But being better than average is not our goal.  Now we have a path forward to do even better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I am not at Cannes.


Nor are any of my colleagues. 

Instead we are in conference rooms reviewing mobile shopping metrics to find clues for creating a better customer journey. (People had bottles water and Diet Coke, but not a single glass of rosé.)

We're having daily stand-ups, going through heat maps to spark ideas to improve the online customer experience.  (Nobody was in beach sandals. Nor, thankfully, speedos.)

We are brainstorming ways to use data and adtech to deliver personalization at scale. (Cool, euro-looking sunglasses were not required.)

We are working with clients, debating campaigns briefs, attending Human Centered Design sessions, collaborating on social video content, and having some laughs along the way. 

I view Cannes as part of the past, and gatherings such as TED, CES, SxSW representing what's happening now. Although one day, even these events may become Cannes-like.

This is not Cinderella venting about not going to the ball. This is celebrating how fortunate I feel to work with people who are defining the future of marketing. (I’ll drink to that. In fact, make it a chilled rosé from the south of France!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dare to be wrong!

Those who work with me know one of my favorite exhortations:  Dare to be wrong!  Take more chances; be more curious; be the catalyst that helps the team find a better idea. Waiting for the perfect solution is a sure-fire way to become road kill. 

But my exhortation flies into the headwinds of a culture that prizes perfection.   Management gurus exhort us to pursue excellence, to move from good to great.  Even social media demands that we always project the most perfect version of our lives.

My goal for the upcoming year is to spend more time celebrating “better” instead of “perfect.”

I thought about this recently after speaking to a group of college students who are considering a career in marketing communications.  One student sent me a follow up note asking this question: “Has there ever been a time where you had to execute a project that didn’t turn out as successful as you had imagined? If so, how were you able to bounce back from that?”

Packed deep within her question was the assumption that in business, let alone in life, we are expected to succeed every time and that failure is, well, a failure.  My response was simple: you will likely fail more than you will succeed, and that this is part of the process of gaining knowledge and experience, each project, each day, each year.

Getting better is a noble pursuit.  Life is a journey of learning.  So, too, is business.

Practitioners of Design Thinking, including Ford CEO Jim Hackett and my partners at Ford, embrace the principle of rapid prototyping over waiting to build a perfect representation of an idea.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is working to shift his company’s culture from one of know-it-all to one that values learn-it-all.

It’s not innovation that sets Silicon Valley apart from other centers of technological development—it’s a willingness to iterate toward an ever better idea.

Sony and Toyota, two marketers I’ve had the good fortune to work with, are dedicated to the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, which means to “change for the better.”

Digital marketing teams everywhere pursue optimization, which if you think about, is simply Kaizen – learning how to continuously improve the outcomes of our work, then do so again tomorrow and the day after that as well. 

Colin Powell, a retired four-star general and secretary of state, has a rule of thumb about making tough decisions. Every time you face a tough decision you should have no less than 40% and no more than 70% of the information you need.  If you move forward with less than 40% of the information, you’re shooting from the hip.  If you wait until you have 70% of the information, the opportunity will likely pass.  (Increasingly true as markets, customer behaviors, and competitors are changing faster than ever.)

Too many times I see people in meetings who I know have a point of view, yet are afraid to offer it up because they’re not certain their idea is right.  I’ve learned over time that ideas are usually born out of a collision between two seemingly opposing or disparate ideas.  In daring to be wrong – daring to offer up your idea – you serve as a catalyst to help others uncover an even bigger idea as they challenge and build upon your point of view.

So, here’s to 2018.  It doesn’t have to be the best year ever, just a better year.  One in which we celebrate continuous learning and growth.  One in which we dare to be wrong.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#HowAdvertisingWorks (on me) – New Balance

I haven’t owned a pair of New Balance shoes since the ‘90s.  They were my starter “premium” sneakers.

Over time I traded up to “real” running shoes.  First Brooks; now Asics.  New Balance was relegated to a distant, dated, and dusty folder in my consideration set.

I recently re-experienced New Balance, by accident, when I stayed at a Westin and took advantage of the hotel’s Workout Gear Lending Program, in which they lend guests fresh, clean workout gear if you forget to pack right. I was pleasantly surprised.  They looked and felt great.  New Balance had rediscovered its design and performance mojo.

Later that same week I was out for a run when a guy blew by me (not hard to do) wearing a snazzy pair of electric blue running shoes.  Sure enough, he was wearing New Balance.  I doubt I would have registered the brand name if not for my experience at the Westin.

A few days later I noticed an ad for New Balance while flipping through Wired.  I'm quite sure that New Balance ads have been trying to get my attention for years. But its ads were invisible to me because our brain is the original spam blocker.  My first-hand experience made me notice the ad.

The insight:  If a customer knows they don't like prunes, running ads to make prunes seem hip and cool isn't likely to work.  Sampling the all-new lemon-zest prunes at my grocery store will likely be more effective.  If tasty, I may then actually notice and “consume” your ad.

When repositioning a brand, showcase new behaviors, not just new brand messages. Customers judge brands by what they do, not simply by what they say.  Create experiences that allow them to reach their own conclusion — e.g., sampling, public displays, VR experiences, trusted peer reviews.  This sets up the advertising to reinforce these newly formed perceptions.