Friday, April 20, 2012

Why diversity matters in advertising.

The imperative to create a more diverse agency culture is not something we should do because it is politically correct. It's something we must do to ensure the long-term success of our industry.

We are in the business of helping clients build their business through our unique ability to understand and connect with main street America. We did this well over the years largely because we tended to mirror the face of America.  As the American landscape continues to become more diverse, so must agencies, or we risk falling out of touch with consumers and becoming less capable of providing clients with fresh, relevant ideas.

In many states across the U.S., multicultural markets are increasingly mainstream – not just in California and New York, but also in states like Delaware, Maryland, Louisiana and Nevada.  In each of these states the white population accounts for about two-thirds or less of the total (2010 US Census).

If you want a glimpse of the future, look no further than the ethnicity of the youth market:  among people under 18 years old, whites make up only 57% of this cohort.  Millennials have grown up during a time marked by dramatic growth in immigration and racial integration.  Multiculturalism is simply a fact of life for this group, reinforced early on by Sesame Street, and later in the classroom, as well as in film and music.

This film, The Pursuit of Passion: Diversity in Advertising, makes the case in an inspiring way.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tips on starting a successful agency career.

I was invited last night to speak to the Chapman University Ad Club and offer career advice to these aspiring advertising agency professionals.

This is a switched-on group, many of whom are preparing to compete in the Ad Fed National Student Advertising Competition.  Having just judged the District 10 regionals in Shreveport, I know how long and hard they've been working on their presentation.

As I told the group last night, this summer will mark my 30th year in advertising,  I still love what I love what I do for a living, mainly because advertising sits at the intersection of everything – business, art, pop culture, technology, societal trends, the media revolution.

I thought I'd share an abbreviated copy of my slides in the hope that it will provide some inspiration and guidance to those who want to be equally passionate about their career in 2042.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What agency vets can learn from students.

I spent the last two days being inspired about my profession by college students who would walk through fire to get a shot at a similar career.

The occasion was AdFed's District 10 National Student Advertising Competition in Shreveport, where I served as a judge.  Students from 20 universities competed as full-fledged agency teams on a live case given to them by Nissan.  Their assignment was to help the automaker increase its share among multicultural millennials, and they did so by conducting their own primary research, developing positioning strategies, creating fully integrated creative campaigns against a $100m media plan that they researched, priced and designed.  The teams had been working on this assignment since last fall, and it showed.

I was in awe of their poise, their professionalism and their fearlessness.  They rocked it.

During my two days I couldn't help but think that agency professionals – those who already have the careers these kids covet – could learn a lot from these students.  This goes for me, too.

They did their homework.  They knew their content and exuded confidence in their points of view.  Too many times we see agency professionals "wing it" due to lack of prep time or sheer laziness.  This is apparent in meetings where it's often easy to spot the person who read the executive summary versus the individual who took the time to probe, dig and validate.

They showed passion and enjoyment.  They exuded the feeling that they had fun working on the assignment.  Clients love this, but too many times are left wondering whether or not the agency team actually likes the client's product or company.  (Think how that must feel.)

They behaved as an ego-free team.  Although they had their account director, media director and creative director, these were merely titles, not dueling fiefdoms.  They came across as one team with one dream.

They presented with confidence.  Granted, they had a lot of rehearsal time.  But it is often shocking how many times we see agency professionals unable to present.  We are in the communications business, and one that sells at that.  Presentation skills should be a given.  

They took risks with their ideas.  They behaved as if they had everything to gain and nothing to lose.  This mindset liberated them to present ideas that were unexpected and bold.  They weren't trying to play it safe or make people happy.  They played to win big.

This summer will mark my 30th year in the business, from when I started as an Assistant Account Executive at Ogilvy in New York.  Three decades later I am still passionate about what I do.  I love the left brain/right brain nature of the job.  I love that advertising sits at the intersection of business, art, pop culture, entertainment, anthropology, psychology and technology.  I love the smart, passionate and rebellious people this industry attracts.

My hope is that these kids will say the same thing in the year 2042.  Between now and then, I hope they never lose the traits they displayed this week, and that our industry embraces this next generation.  We need them more than they need us.  As I've written about before, the Millennial Generation has the skills to help save and reinvent Madison Avenue.  Let's give them their shot on their terms.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lands' End chooses BD'M.

The best way to celebrate our five year anniversary is by adding a dream client to our roster.  We're thrilled to have been selected by Lands' End after a heavily contested review against some of the country's best shops.

The creative opportunities are boundless, particularly since the company was launched by a former advertising copywriter (see, ad folk can grow up and get a real job!) and cherishes storytelling and wit as part of its brand voice.  (By the way, I'm not putting the Lands' End apostrophe in the wrong place – it was born as a typo in the very first catalog and became part of the company's lore).

This latest victory helps mark our five year anniversary with continued momentum, adding to recent wins from Wagner, Dell and Medtronic.

Five years ago this month we launched BD'M as the agency creating the beautifully distinctive Rhapsody in Blue campaign for United Airlines.  Today, BD'M is a multi-faceted agency:

  • We work across a diverse range of categories, including technology (Dell, Medtronic), DIY home improvement (Wagner), lifestyle (Del Webb) and now fashion (Lands' End).  
  • We are creatively diverse.  In addition to creating award-winning print and TV for our clients, BD'M is deeply immersed in app development (Medtronic), mobile and interactive (Dell), events and promotions (Del Webb). 
  • Lastly, through our alliance with Tag: Worldwide, we are also geographically diverse, with teams in Shanghai, Delhi and London serving our two global assignments with Dell (Public Sector and Large Enterprise).

Not bad for our grown-up, start-up.