Is Your Advertising Brave Enough?


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


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


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

Vendor vs. Pander

I have no answer to the question I’m about to pose, but maybe you do. The question boils down to this: Are agencies Dictators, Consultants, Vendors or Panderers?

In the “Mad Men” days, agencies could often act as Dictators and prescribe how a brand was to be marketed. It didn’t always happen this way, but when you read Ogilvy and other luminaries of the period, you hear of companies swallowing the advice of their agencies without many questions and a big gulp of faith.

By the late 70s, early 80s, that kind of magisterial power had been supplanted by…what? Savvier clients? Ex-agency marketing directors? The rise of consultants? Whatever happened, we saw agencies begin aspiring to, at most, the role of a guide who could maybe lead—but not control–the course of a brand, becoming more Sacajawea than Caesar.

With the Internet, the proliferation of boutique agencies and everybody and their dog and their dog’s fleas thinking they have mad skillz in PhotoShop, CMS, Dreamweaver and all social media, mid-size to small agencies scramble to fulfill any role they can. As such, we end up being Vendors supplying only parts of our clients’ brand strategies, too often not having the opportunity to work with other vendors. Say, one group doing the brand ID work might have little to no hand in guiding other groups doing collateral, online or promotional work. The brand face on television doesn’t resemble the brand on facebook, etcetera.

And that brings us to Panderers. In the last ten years, I’ve known—and worked for—several very smart agencies who have found that advising the client actually had negative effects. A client might respond to a presentation with something like, “But we’ve heard this or we’ve read that and what we want is this.” Pushing back meant getting punched out. So, to meet the bottom line and keep the business, it seems agencies are giving more and more of whatever is asked with little question.

So what’s the answer? Flee to one of the few remaining prestige agencies on the coasts and hope the poison hasn’t reached toxic levels there? Bring firearms to strategy meetings? Don lingerie and try seduction? Please let me know your thoughts, as I look terrible in a teddy.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions