Is Your Advertising Brave Enough?

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Ordinary advertising can work in the short term. Brave advertising, assuming it’s not also stupid advertising, can hook into the consumer’s consciousness and work for years. If you ever saw this for Apple, you haven’t forgotten it: 1984

Being brave means having the guts to be really good or really bad. Both cut through the clutter by either making a bid for the consumer’s affections (good) or by being memorably annoying (bad). In between are pansy ads that take no risks.

Excellent advertising aims for high-level (not necessarily high-budget) creativity that’s relevant to the product or service, appeals to the viewer’s values and delivers something memorable, whether it’s hilarious or touching or dramatically stylish.  See how Axe Peace did it with only the most tenuous of benefits: Axe Peace

Horrible advertising does much the same thing, but dares to be so annoying, it burrows into the brain, lays eggs and won’t leave. Low budget is not the defining factor here. Some brands throw garbage trucks full of cash at perfecting “horrible.”   See how Subway did it: Subway $5 Footlong

Being brave begs the question: Is it worth it?

Probably not for everybody. If you’re a visionary like Steve Jobs or have a good imagination or have hired an agency who knows a great idea when it births one, you should by all means go for the gold ring. If you don’t trust your instincts or your marketing people, your agency or your product, stay in known terrain and dare to be what you are. Being ordinary can work. There are plenty of work-a-day ads that get the job done.

If your advertising resembles someone else’s, you’re not brave enough. In fact you’re a chicken for hiding in the comfort of familiarity, even though it does nothing to distinguish your brand and may help your competition by looking like them.

If you blame the size of your budget, you’re not brave enough. Swinging for the fence takes good ideas more than big dollars. Lavish productions may dazzle, but do they deliver substance? Strong ideas do. Here’s one for FedEx: We Apologize

Bravery gives you a shot at commercial immortality. Nike, Capital One, Old Navy, Geico, Volkswagen, Coke, Dos Equis and others are household names because of it.

If you’re good with being good, fine. If you have a vision for greatness, then gather your best guns, go forth and conquer.

– From the Brain Trust @ Creative Dimensions

Rebranding Creative Dimensions

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Advertising agencies are notorious for putting their own brand on the backburner while they focus on their clients’ brands. It’s the old case of the cobbler’s children going without shoes. That’s probably because ad agency branding is an incredibly difficult undertaking. Not only is finding the time to work on your own brand an issue – when you’re busy with paying clients – but feeling satisfied with the work is another huge obstacle. The work not only has to be effective at capturing the essence of the agency and its people, but we hold our own branding up as an example of the quality and attention to detail our clients could, and should, give to their own brands.

So when is the right time to rebrand? For us, the time was now because we’ve realized fundamental changes in our company, mainly in experience and capabilities. Taking a page from our name, we truly are much more dimensional than ever before. With the hiring of some key new people, we have combined experience that’s now broader and deeper. We’ve always excelled at traditional advertising and media planning and buying, but now we also boast expertise in strategic planning, digital marketing and brand development, among other things.

To give you a brief glimpse behind the green curtain, here are the highlights of our rebranding process:

1. The Discovery Process

We began by having an honest conversation with ourselves and asking a lot of questions. Some easy…some not so easy. What do we stand for as an agency? What do we want to say about ourselves? What do others think about us? What is our competition doing and saying about themselves? What do potential clients look for in an agency? And so on, and so on, and so on…

2. What We Believe

After spending a considerable amount of time hammering out step one, we ultimately decided to hang our collective branding hats on What We Believe – personifying our business philosophy you might say. We boiled it down to nine “beliefs” that state who we are as an agency, and what our current and future marketing partners can expect from us.

3. Brand Look & Feel

Finally, the fun part! We moved onto designing a new agency logo, business cards, stationery, agency brochure and ultimately a new web site. We decided to go bold, colorful, and slightly irreverent, while providing enough – but hopefully not too much – information about our agency.

4. Execution

With the new site up and running and our identity package complete, now it’s time to practice what we preach through shameless self-promotion. We are dedicated to continually updating the site and posting to social media, while always looking for new ways to improve our agency and bring better results to our clients.

This is a simplified snapshot of what we’ve been up to the past few months. If you’d like additional information about our process, or how the process might apply to your company, please give us a call or send us an email. Until then, we hope you appreciate the outcome of the Creative Dimensions’ rebranding process. It’s been a labor of love. (With great emphasis on the word “labor”).

– Steve Schaeffer, Creative Director/CEO @ Creative Dimensions

Going Native

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When I first heard the term “native advertising,” I assumed it had to do with villagers from a Tarzan movie handing out flyers to an upcoming missionary roast. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered it merely referred to advertising that lives symbiotically with content in a digital format.

Bo-o-o-ring!

But, apparently, effective.

We’ve all known of the advertorial format for decades. It looks like content in a magazine, but is really a long-winded plug for a product or service. Most were (and are) labeled as Advertorial or something similar, so caveat emptor.

In the digital realm, native advertising can be Advertorial-like, but more often takes the form of sponsorships. I think of radio shows preceded or followed by the mention of a company. Facebook, Buzzfeed and many other sites are filled with these kinds of sponsorships.

Some native ads are a bit sneakier. These are ad messages that lurk in disguise among content of a similar nature. Here’s an example from a website with links to (mostly) user-created videos. Two rows of thumbnail photos with titles present eight options. Among them are morsels, such as a blurry group of people titled “Horrible Focus Group” (very tempting) and a mother with infant titled “The Apocalypse” (promises cute and chaotic). The last in line, seeming to be just one more in the lineup, is the photo of a hamburger resembling a Big Mac but titled mysteriously, “Mouthopia” (what might this be?) While the link is tagged below with the word, “AD,” someone in a state of Click-Thru ecstasy might not notice and then…D’oh! They’ve been duped into a McDonald’s video (an entertaining one, I must admit).

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen an even more insidious “native.” An item will show up in your page feed suspiciously tagged with names of your friends but leads to an advertiser. Bad Facebook!

Does this ad sleight of hand work? Presumably, but I’ve yet to see it quantified. Is it a good reflection on a brand? Depends on how devious the placement is, I suppose.

Personally, I like messaging that looks like an ad, talks like an ad, and is comfortable in its ad gender orientation. I’m sure native advertising is here to stay and will appear in many variations. I just wish they’d call it something else.

I still hear “native advertising” and think “Dances with McDonald’s.” I dunno.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Strategy – What Are We Trying to Accomplish?

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The term strategy is used by many in the marketing and advertising profession, but I’m not always sure they are using it “strategically”.  The definition of the word varies depending on the subject matter. The definition most relevant to our industry is, “a careful plan or method; or the art of devising or employing plans toward a goal.”  So, what does a careful plan or method mean in the world of marketing and advertising? We need to have a process to develop strategy. Why? Because, without a process to help set the direction of the work, we may never find a meaningful strategy. We potentially have trial and error (and no one wants to pay for that). Without a strategic approach, we have nothing to use as the road map for the work, nothing to use as a guide for the execution and—at the top of every marketer’s minds—nothing against which to measure success.

Strategic marketing answers many questions, but most importantly, it should be a way to develop a marketing plan that is: Relevant to the target audience, credible, a way to differentiate the client from their competition, and that has a sustainable message (can the client deliver on the message day in and day out). Does your marketing strategy do all that? Be hard on yourselves. Share it. Double and triple check it. Get the team’s and the client’s buy-in. Then you can be confident you are on the right track to building your brand and sales.

– Amy Jones, Director – Client Service @ Creative Dimensions

Are Traditional Advertising Agencies Going Extinct?

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As long as there is traditional advertising in print and broadcast media, there will be agencies dedicated to creating it. However, to eschew new media is to dabble ones toes perilously deep in the tar pits.

Take Neanderthal and Stone, in business since 1965. They still club viewers with heavy TV schedules and try to light fires under readers of magazine ads and direct mail. The owner contends that there is plenty of meat to be picked from newspaper advertising and that jingles can sell anything.  But, their larger craniums allow them to engage with a brand from logo design to multimedia campaign.

Across the street is the upstart Homo Erectus Group, in business since 2009. They have discovered fire and can illuminate consumers in more targeted ways and at more opportune times. Being more social creatures, they recognize the opportunities of Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest. And they know how to turn a website from an expensive brochure into a working tool. Fascinated with how shiny their spears are, they often can’t see when the net, snare and blow to the head with a rock might be better ideas.

On the Extinct-O-Meter, Neanderthal and Stone registers as high risk due to limited tools and inability to use the wheel. They lose business because they can’t take their clients into new hunting grounds while also offering traditional fare. Homo Erectus registers Medium Risk as they can get lots and lots of project work, but many clients won’t trust them to understand the nuances of the brandscape.

One will survive and even thrive, because they occupy high ground others can’t reach. The other is already up to its occipital ridge in tar, but smart enough not to go any deeper.

But, it’s likely that the iron-working, supple-skulled executive from Homo Sapiens and Partners is going to get the biggest kills when pitch time comes around. His agency combines evolved social skills and more advanced tools with the ability to understand when and where to use them. He can hunt in all media, throw messages with the accuracy of Homo Erectus, and design them based on the ancient lore of Neanderthal and Stone.

He also smells better.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Invasion of the Facebook Robots

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BusinessInsider.com recently ran a story entitled, “How Facebook is Replacing Ad Agencies with Robots.” While the ever-innovative Facebook has created a golden goose with their side bar ads, my Scoff-o-Meter pegs out at the thought of their destroying agency jobs.

For one, Facebook is social media, not the entire spectrum of media.

For two, these killer robot ads are new and never were the domain of ad agencies, ergo nobody’s losing a job over them. Teach a couple of monkeys the Facebook interface, feed them content and you have yourself a robot ad staff.

For three, the ads living in the Facebook ecosystem are very limited, direct-response ads without even the branding layer a print circular can deliver.

And, speaking of branding, I’ve yet to meet a robot that knew a thing about it. We’ve seen in study after study that with the proliferation of media and competition for consumer attention, branding is more important than ever. Good branding rarely jumps out of the brain of an in-house staffer. It comes from the informed brains of marketing specialists who’ve been down the road with a variety of businesses and have a deep understanding of markets and how the consumer interacts with them. Those specialists are called ad agencies.

Even the interactive phenomenon the Dos Equis brand created came from the mind of brand thinkers. It is still living large on Facebook, and I’m betting some talented agency people had more than a little to do with it.

New media does and will continue to challenge agencies, and we all know the rules redefine themselves daily. If you’re selling a commodity product where price is the distinguishing feature, call Facebook. If you have a service or product people need to care about before buying, call an agency.

Robots, as everyone knows, are best left to destroying planetary colonies in outer space.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions