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With all of our marketing textbooks, classes and degrees, and our guru books, blogs and seminars, how is it that our marketing efforts so often miss the mark?  Certainly it’s not because we don’t know what to do. It really has more to do with the lessons omitted. Specifically: How to identify and overcome the ever-present forces that can hijack your plan.

Have you ever compromised a plan in the name of team work? Adjusted critical elements or language to satisfy a vocal, yet misinformed co-worker? Or even made changes in advance to please the CEO? Personal agendas, office politics and fear of innovation can reduce any of us to willing accomplices. Leaving us owning and being accountable to watered down plans.

Be prepared for the doubters. Overcome their objections with conviction, confidence and determination to keep your plans on track.

by Dwayne Fry Brand Futurist/Commander Strategic Ops


Stop the press. Hold the elevator.

No one move. I just read an article about how marketers could best connect with my generation this summer, and, wait for it…, “social media” was only mentioned once. No, really, only once.

In an AdAge article last month, Charlie Horsey, President-CEO of MKTG, ventures to describe a method for engaging Gen-Yers in ways other than following a company on Twitter or “liking” them on Facebook. Sorry, Mark. And I, for one, am elated that someone finally gets it. I assure you, not all of us spend our days connected to Facebook like paparazzi to Lady Gaga (what’s left of her, at least).

At more than 60 million strong, we’ve earned the reputation for wanting to discover products ourselves and to make buying decisions on our own, which Horsey purports is marketers’ biggest challenge to overcome. However, a connection with my generation can be made, and once a brand is on our radar, we’ll be loyal to it for some time to come.

Read the article to find out exactly which four ways are recommended for making the critical connection to the Gen Y consumer.

by Chris Barbee Brand Futurist The Republik Corporal Strategic Ops

Photo Credit: © Facebook


Forget The Recognition, There’s Another Reason Why Creatives Are Obsessed With Winning Awards

Why is it that Art Directors and Copywriters have a seemingly insatiable desire to win awards?  Is it our pitiful need for praise, a pat on the back, and an acknowledgement of a job well done? Yes. Is it our desperate desire to be recognized as a somebody in a nobody industry? Yep. Is it our shallow hope that winning an award will get us laid after the post-show gala? You betcha. However, there is an equally powerful, though seldom discussed, incentive behind our hankering for One Show pencils, Cannes Lions and Black D&AD pencils.

It’s called money.

That’s right, most of us are also motivated by coin. So a big part of all that tantrum throwing when our ads don’t get approved is due to money. You see, every time one of our great ideas doesn’t sell, the opportunity cost to our future income is staggering. We’re talking about tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential income loss. How’s that? When you’re an award-winning creative you get offered a lot of money by agencies that want award-winning work. At award shows headhunters, agency CEO’s and ad groupies are all over you like green on grass. You’re wined and dined and treated like a rock star. Next thing you know, you’re jetting around the world in first class, shooting spots in exotic locations, dating Czech supermodels and making more money than you ever dreamed possible. Pretty heady stuff for a geeky English major from Nowheresville, NC.

So there. Now you know the real reason why creatives pitch a fit when our ads die untimely deaths in presentations and focus groups. Everything is riding on those ads. (Including the prospects of riding in better sports cars or having Czech supermodels riding on us.)

Of course, all this is bad news for clients trying to build a brand. It’s hard (if not impossible) to maintain a consistent look and tone with your campaign when your creative teams keep quitting to work for someone else.

Great Creative Talent Is Easy To Find But Hard To Keep

Isn’t it ironic that in an industry that gets paid for building brand loyalty there is no brand loyalty between creatives and agencies? The fact is, the average creative only works for an agency a year-and-a-half. It’s no coincidence that’s about how long it takes for a good creative to add some new award-winning stuff to his book, get a better offer and jump ship. By hopping from agency to agency, a creative with a good reel and print book containing two or three award-winning campaigns can almost double his salary with every move. And if they win some major awards, (like Best of Show at Cannes) they can literally triple their salaries in no time.

On the other hand, if a creative hasn’t produced any award-winning work in two years at an agency, he’s going to jump ship to an agency where he has a better shot at winning something  – if he can. If a creative is still at the same agency longer than two or three years, chances are:

He’s cashed in his chips and the agency is paying him more money than God.
He can’t get a job anywhere else.
He owns all or part of the agency.
His wife makes more than he does and doesn’t want to move.

To make matters worse, most agencies could care a less.  There are plenty of other creatives out there with bigger, better, more award-winning portfolios than your current staff.  This is just more bad news for clients who want a consistent look and feel to their brand. The new creative teams are going to fight like hell to change the campaign and make it their own.

Not to mention, it takes a lot of time for copywriters to master the tonality of an already established campaign – if in fact, they ever do.  I’ll let you in on a nasty little agency secret. Agencies rarely promote their own creatives. If there’s an opening for a Creative Director, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’ll hire someone from outside the agency. Even if there’s a senior art director or copywriter working for the agency that’s more qualified to fill the position.

The reason behind this is pretty simple. It’s called ego. Creatives work in teams consisting of an art director and a copywriter. Teams of art directors and copywriters usually work under a team of creative directors. There is absolutely no way a Creative Director who’s an art director is going to degrade himself by promoting a senior copywriter that used to work for him to be his new partner.  Ain’t gonna happen. (Unless of course, he’s worked with this writer out of necessity and they win some big awards together.) Usually the only time a senior creative gets promoted to creative director is when the current creative director:

gets fired
quits to make more money at another agency

So if you’re an art director or copywriter waiting to get promoted to creative director by your shop – you’re probably wasting your time.

So how do agencies choose a new creative director?

You guessed it.  They hound the award shows looking for the new creative superstar who will put the agency on the award show map.  When you win an award, headhunters are all over you like green on grass. They pore over award annuals. And usually, the creative with the most Lions and Pencils  goes to the highest bidder. Unless, the creative gets an offer from a really hot shop where they think they can produce more award winning work and eventually make more money when they sell out to a big, giant corporate conglomerate and are never heard from again. The problem with this model is there’s no correlation with hiring an expensive, award-winning creative and new business wins, effectiveness of agency work and agency morale. In fact, it’s been my experience just the opposite occurs. (But that’s another topic for another day.)

So what’s to be done about it?

The most direct solution (and least likely to ever happen) is to break the stranglehold award shows have as the end-all, be-all arbiters of copywriters and art director’s self-worth and actual worth. Let’s face it; your advertising peers will not acknowledge you as an advertising creative genius unless you’ve won at least one Cannes Lion, a One Show Pencil and a D&AD Pencil.  On the other hand, your parents and friends outside the industry won’t consider you a creative genius until you’ve won a Clio. Now what’s crazy about all this, and excuse me for stating the obvious, none of these shows have anything to do with the right and true measure of great advertising – results.  OK, what about the Effies, you ask? While the idea behind the Effies is spot on – honoring the world’s most “effective” campaigns – the results submitted are dubious at best. (Having won a few, I know.) The Effies have been and probably always will be the Account Executives’ award show.

Here’s what’s worked for us.

As Creative Director of The Republik, I personally receive about 50 job inquiries a month from some of the most talented writers and art directors in the biz. Probably because several creative blogs have ranked us as one of the top ten creative agencies out there. Most of our art directors, writers and graphic designers have been with us for much, much longer than the agency norm and I have no doubt they will be here for years to come.

Yet, The Republik is a small agency in a small market and we don’t even enter most award shows. So how do we keep our art directors and copywriters happy when we really don’t enter award shows? And how in the world is it possible to be recognized as one of the industry’s hottest creative shops when we’re not really winning any awards?

Easy. We replace the lure of advertising awards with more satisfying alternatives. Creating work that exceeds our clients’ expectations is highly valued here. In fact, The Republik’s compensation model allows us to generously bonus art directors, writers, designers (and AE’s) who create effective work. As an employee-owned agency, everyone who works here (after proving him or herself) has an opportunity to become a Republik partner. We turn our staff into advertising superstars by making sure their work is written about and featured in every on and offline medium possible. In the last five years, The Republik’s work has been featured over 5,000 times by news outlets as diverse as The New York Times, Country Music Television, Boating Magazine, Inside Edition, Creativity, Time Magazine  and CA to name a handful.

The results?

Our creatives not only feel like they’re being paid well, they can actually make more by doing more effective work.
Everyone loves the instant gratification of seeing his or her work discussed in print. (Our clients like it too – but that’s another story.) There are few fights between AE’s and creatives over the work – the goal is no longer about winning awards but to create results.

Ironically, the work is creatively better. (We not only believe, but also know, there is a direct correlation between great artistic work and positive results. (For more on this, see my blog on Pull vs. Push Advertising.)
The Republik has some of the lowest creative and account turnover rates in the biz.

I could go on, but I have more rewarding work to do. Let’s face it, this blog isn’t going to win me any awards or more importantly, earn me more money. Oh, and for the record, my wife is Czech.

by David Smith The Republik

Photo Credit: Unknown – Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA


Superman and Lex Luthor, Churchill and Lady Astor, Hillary and Obama – just a few people who despise each other about as much as advertising creatives and account executives. The animosity between the two is truly legendary. As one creative director said, “I never met a good account executive I didn’t despise.” But few people really know why. Most assume it’s because account executives have the reputation of being spineless, sycophantic yes men to clients. And because creatives are notorious, egomaniacal prima donnas who pitch tantrums when their “brilliant” work doesn’t sell. That’s only part of the story.

The real reason creatives hate AE’s and vice versa, has more to do with a seriously flawed business model than differences in personalities. The truth is, agencies today do not make most of their money from creating and producing ads. They got out of the idea generation business long ago. Agencies realized it was much easier (and more profitable) to give the work away and make a big, fat 15% commission on the media buy. But that’s not the case anymore. Large media buying companies have all but eliminated that source of income. So agencies have been forced to come up with other ways to take money from their clients. Hence, the explosive growth in research and brand planning. Ten years ago, no one had ever heard of a brand planner – now there’s a Planning Department in every agency. The big agencies purchased interests in research companies. They trademarked their own processes of brand analysis and hawked them as an essential ingredient to every marketing plan. They created in-house studios to produce animatics, storyboards and “scratch” radio spots for qualitative and quantitative testing. To ensure profitability, agencies then force creatives to use these in-house facilities.

The result? Ad agencies are now in the business of not producing ads. The business of testing, researching and fancy sounding trademarked processes to find “the soul” of a brand has become the real source of income for ad agencies. Income that had to be replace when agencies were forced out of the media buying business.

As a direct result of all this, the goals and priorities of a really good account person and a really good creative are 100% diametrically opposed to each other. Take your typical AE. His #1 priority is to make sure the agency is always profitably billing the client for something. His #2 priority is making sure the client is happy and the relationship is sound. Notice nothing was said about selling creative executions. Whether an ad sells or not, the AE gets paid the same amount. In fact, an AE might get a raise by not selling a campaign – as long as priorities #1 and #2 are met. In essence, there’s absolutely no incentive whatsoever for an account person to sell an ad. Period. So you see, a really good account person doesn’t really care if an ad sells or not. In fact, selling an ad may violate priority #1. By allowing the client to kill concepts, the really smart AE ensures the agency will be able to bill the client for another round of creative development, planning, research or —”Cha-Ching!” – all three. Crazy isn’t it?

On the other hand, a really good creative’s #1 job is to sell award-winning work. His #2 priority is to just sell something, anything so he can spend more time surfing the web and writing his screenplay. Notice that a creative person’s priorities do not include billing more hours and making the client happy. Creatives (unless they’re freelance) get paid the same amount of money whether they spend one hour on a project or 50. And to complicate matters, agencies always make sure their creatives’ time is maxed out on several projects. So when a client doesn’t buy work, it means the creatives are going to have to work late nights and weekend just to catch up. If this happens too often, (and it always does) art directors and copywriters will burnout. Sometimes permanently. That’s why creatives go nuts when their ads don’t sell – chances are they’re already on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Legendary copywriter, Jerry Della Femina once opened a 50th floor window and threatened to jump out if a client didn’t buy his work. The client did buy it and Jerry went on to write a best seller called From Those Wonderful People Who Brought You Pearl Harbor and to run a very successful restaurant in the Hamptons. But I digress.

Now you know why creatives get that desperate look on their faces when you don’t approve their concepts. Great ideas do not come easily. For that matter, neither do bad ones. Concepting ads takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears no matter how you slice it. And the thing that kills creatives more than anything else, are AE’s who treat ideas like they’re a dime a dozen. They’re not. On the other hand, nothing ticks off an AE more than a creative who throws a tantrum in front of the client. It jeopardizes priority #2 – the relationship. And if the client buys a campaign right off the bat, it will jeopardize priority #1 – squeezing as much money out of the client as possible. This is also why creatives demand to present their own work and precisely why AE’s don’t want them to.

So how do you fix this age-old problem? Should Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger step in? Actually, the problem is a pretty simple one to solve. Unfortunately, most agencies are too stuck in their ways to make the necessary fix. Agencies have to change their business models. Right now, agencies get paid the same amount of money whether their advertising works or not. It’s high time agencies joined the rest of the service industry and became accountable for the work they produce. For instance, they could tie their compensation to performance. If their ads meet certain marketing goals they’re paid more money, if they don’t, they get paid less. Additionally, agencies should make all the creatives and all the account executives partners. That way, account and creative people’s income is directly tied to their clients’ success or failure. In an agency that ties its compensation to performance and all its employees are partners, creatives and AE’s suddenly find themselves working towards the same goals – producing great ads that get results.

by David Smith The Republik

Photo Credit: Unknown via Wikimedia Commons – Licensed public domain


Name your price: that’s what the band Radiohead offered fans when they released their latest album online. Consumers got to decide how much they would pay for the album. An ingenious bit of PR that paid off big for the band in terms of advertising. Now a wine company has followed suit all in the name of marketing.

Read more about this!

“The marketing industry has been talking about performance-based compensation for years now. When The Republik signed performance-based contracts with its clients 6 years ago, we thought we were on the cutting edge. When Radiohead did it, I felt it was a fantastic PR stunt that would garner them press that would far outweigh their losses at the ticket office. Now other products with significant overhead jump on the same bandwagon and put their entire existence in the hands of the consumers willingness to pay. I wish I had thought of it first.”

by Robert Shaw West Brand Futurist The Republik Companies Chairman/CEO

Photo Credit: © BLANKbottle


“The winners of the platform wars stand to make billions selling devices, selling eyeballs to advertisers, selling services such as music, movies, even computer power on demand. Yet the outcome here is far more important than who makes the most money. The future of the Internet—how we get information, how we communicate with one another and, most important, who controls it—is at stake.” Josh Quittner/San Francisco.

From here.

“The underlying question is: Are the users of the Internet actually in the driver’s seat or are the 800-pound gorilla businesses jockeying behind the scenes the one’s truly controlling the outcome?”

by Sam Knoll Brand Futurist The Republik Commander Analytic Ops

Photo Credit: via Time Inc.