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

The Rise of the In-House Frankenstein

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When Doctor Frankenstein first saw his creation come to life, he exulted, “It’s alive!” While he had brought to life a thing that could shuffle slowly, make guttural intonations and throw children down wells, he couldn’t see what his animated miracle really was.

An ugly baby.

Of course, when I talk about Frankenstein, I’m really talking about the new trend for companies to do all of their advertising in house. While they might save money and even enjoy the convenience of throttling their creatives and brand strategists without having to leave the building, they’re missing something that will remain the ultimate value of the external ad agency: Objectivity.

No matter on what side of the operation table you stand, you’ve seen this happen. A client has a grand vision. They share the vision with the agency. The agency comes back with materials to communicate the vision and *gasp* have leavened it with reality. The client claims the original vision came in a dream—and from what the sales force, distributors, retailers, PR staff and teenage daughter in her first year as a communications major had to say.

Bottom line: “We aren’t changing my vision.”

I recall from my own experience, after presenting an engaging campaign that played to the product’s assets and was loved by the whole agency and the client’s own marketing people AND a round of focus grouping, the client said this—and you’ll notice I’m not naming names here—“Our product has a story to tell. You fear that it might be dull, but…if dull is what it takes, we must dare to be dull.” We stood our baby up, rearranged its arms and legs, put electrical bolts on its neck and dared to make it dull.

The ensuing multi-media campaign was seen and recalled by one and a half consumers. The client apologized and gave us free rein to guide the marketing. Sales spiked.

Clients with real vision (Mr. Jobs, anyone?) seek out agencies (say, Chiat Day) who will give them not only great ideas, but a solid-gold, third-party view point. Objectivity interprets research with more accuracy, sees the weaknesses and strengths of brand offerings more clearly and will lean farther out to nab the golden ring.

In-house agencies do have their merits, but what kind of objectivity can they achieve by living in the belly of the beast and seeing the marketplace through its navel? Perhaps great things will be achieved by companies taking this route.

Then again, maybe their marketing creations will lurch to life, shamble off a castle parapet and plunge into a mob of, not angry, but disinterested villagers.

– 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

In Radio, Less Isn’t More. More Is More.

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Around 10 years ago, broadcast giant Clear Channel made a bold move by attempting to redefine the industry standard of radio commercial length. Their “Less is More” initiative pushed to cut the traditional 60-second radio commercial length to 30 seconds. The rationale was that shorter commercials would reduce “on-air clutter” and were better suited to listeners’ shorter attention spans. Yeah, right. Let’s be honest – it was, and still is, a money-grab.

As a copywriter, I know I’m not alone when I say that I cringe every time I attempt to “craft” a 30-second radio commercial. Truth is, there isn’t much “craft” to it. As soon as you fit all the mandatories into the spot (the offer, call-to-action, website), your job is pretty much done. Not much room left for creativity, unfortunately.

Fast forward to 2013 and one of my favorite Summer pastimes – listening to Reds Radio while working around the house. Early in the season, I was shocked when I heard something I’d never heard before: a 90-second radio commercial.

The advertiser is The Kentucky Department of Tourism, and they have obviously bought three consecutive 30-second spots, because :30s are what the Reds Radio Network sells. The commercials are interview-style, with a Reds announcer “interviewing” a representative of Kentucky’s Tourism Department, who casually explains all the fun things Kentucky has to offer visitors.

The spots are relaxed, informative, and in my opinion, groundbreaking. The ads truly cut through the clutter of all of the cram-packed 30-second spots. Are they going to win any awards for their creativity? Of course not. But they do their job extremely well, and to me, these 90-second radio commercials are among the best I’ve ever heard.

–Steve Schaeffer, Creative Director/CEO @ Creative Dimensions

Does a Mantra Make an Agency?

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Agencies love their mantras. And I understand why…kind of.

The mantra is the little sub-brand an agency trademarks that represents its point of difference, usually a process or philosophy. By definition, a mantra is a mystical formula of invocation or incantation. (Basically, a bunch of mumbo jumbo.)

One agency that touts creative branding has “Brand Storm.” Another that claims specialization in consumer behavior has “Rehavior.” There are others with “ABC” processes, brand “obsessions,” “simple solutions,” and ones who bridge, migrate, accelerate, empower, translate and basically enshrine a verb that suggests that cool things are going to happen.

Agencies are people, and people like to think they are unique. “Hey, I’m special and I like me. I have a mantra that tells others why they should like me, too.” We’re better at strategies, because the strategic thinkers at our place have “StrataGoodness.” Our creative is more attractive, because we are “Imag-O-netic.” We communicate better with youth audiences, because we’re “Just Kidding.” And our smiles are brighter, because we all use fluoride.

From a client’s point of view, when presented with three zebras, they see similar stripes, tails and hooves. Ah, but they also see the third zebra has “StripeForce™” that gives their messages to other zebras more…er, something.

What I’d like to see is what really differentiates agencies. You and I. People and the experiences each brings to the party define an agency. While not as trademarkable, I’d love to see an agency claim it’s better, because it has “Donald, Marie, Jess and Lee Who Have 82 Years of Combined Health Care Experience.”

Okay, that sucks as a mantra.

But, it’s the truth. None of us has a magic machine into which client wishes go in one end and guaranteed results come out the other. Few of us have certifiable geniuses whose x-ray minds see things others don’t. We, if we’re smart, have smart people, our “intellectual property,” as some say. If hired with a holistic view, all those juicy brains can interface well with one another and actually become a sort of machine that produces consistently superior results.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying, go ahead and appreciate our clever little mantras, but please, spend more time getting to know our people. That’s where you’ll get true “Ad-isfaction.”

– 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

A Riposte to the Post-Digital World

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The term “post-digital world” is cropping up more and more, but I wish it wouldn’t. The term refers to a new zeitgeist that’s less Internet-centric and more live-centric, meaning that digital space is less of a destination and that live experiences are more of one. And that’s fine.

Semantics is the issue here. Using “post-digital” to describe a trend in marketing—which it often does—is misleading. It heavily suggests that digital is becoming irrelevant. I certainly wouldn’t want to throw the term out to one of our clients, many of whom are just now coming on board with the idea of digital advertising. Any reference to “post digital” at this point would be a jarring contradiction, like saying, “hey, dinosaurs are the new thing, but too bad they’re extinct.”

Spin it however you want, but consumers are still up to their i-balls in the digital experience. Unless an electromagnetic pulse renders all electronic devices unusable, people will be using the Internet as a conduit to discovering, learning about and interacting with companies providing goods, services and entertainment for at least the next decade.

If “post-digital” truly refers to the rise in currency of the live experience, then why don’t we call it that? Can’t “The Digital Age” include a “Live Experience” corollary? Wouldn’t digital marketing be one avenue on which to bring a consumer to a live experience?While it might seem to be picking nits by tearing into the definition of “post-digital,” it isn’t. With the vocabulary of our industry expanding so rapidly with the advent of new technologies, getting the definitions right is imperative. Not only do we have to understand and implement new concepts, we have to guide our clients onto the new terrain, as well. And that’s so much easier when they believe you know where you’re going.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions