Monthly Archive: March 2014

The Days of Brands Playing Make-Believe Are Over. Long Live Radical Transparency.

“Being a great company is the new brand, because there’s not going to be anything in between the consumer and the reality of that company.” -Alex Bogusky

The Naked Brand is a documentary about transparency in today’s marketplace and the impact it is having on brands.

There are many great insights offered by the cast, but Alex Bogusky’s words ring the truest for me. At the 14-minute point, Alex Bogusky says, “Brand is hopefully going to change radically from what’s been a fictional story that stood between you and the company, to a real-time, up-to-the-second truth about your company.” Then he asks, “Can you through that, compel me to buy?”

I love the pivot Bogusky describes, from propping up branded fictions to facilitating naked truth. It changes what we do as ad makers. When the consumer knows the score—or can call up the proverbial score in seconds—brand communications is a different ball game altogether. It’s a game of value, and the brand that best provides it, wins.

This is one reason why I am excited about what content marketing can do for companies. While an advertisement is made from storytelling elements, an ad works to feature product attributes and compel purchase intent. Content, on the other hand, is service to the brand’s community in the form of brand-sponsored media. By shifting one’s intention from selling to providing helpful or entertaining information, the space for a genuine relationship between brand and customer opens up.

Of course, Bogusky isn’t saying all marketing is content marketing, as some have done. He’s talking about radical transparency, which plays out in all media channels, as in real life. For instance, Burger King, a former client of Bogusky’s, has a real-time, up-to-the-second brand truth. All brands do!

Can you imagine a Bogusky-made TV spot for BK that dealt honestly with BK’s brand truths? No doubt, it would be hilarious.

BK tastes best after a few beers!

BK flame-broils its burgers so you taste the smoke, not the meat!

While the above scenarios are difficult to imagine, it’s not that hard to imagine a brand like BK owning up to some its more accessible core truths, like the fact that they’re fast and cheap. QSRs are traditionally product-focused advertisers. They like to introduce new products on a promotional basis throughout the year.

That’s the grain. Now, who is ready to go against it?

Client Showcase #16

Ribera Vineyards in West Linn, Oregon asked for my help developing copy for their new website. I was happy to oblige a neighbor, and pleased that I had to taste all of Ribera’s wines to inform myself and do my job properly.

Our Wines | Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Rosé of Pinot Noir | Ribera Vineyards

One of the things I am most happy about on this project is the position in the marketplace we established with the line, “Close to Portland. On the Path to Perfection.

With hundreds of wineries within an hour’s drive of downtown Portland, it was important to establish a clear point of difference for Ribera, and its West Linn location, is one major difference.

Please see (constructed by Six Pony Hitch) for more.

In A Parallel Advertising Universe, Small Is Beautiful

Inquiring minds want to know, what is it like to focus on the marketing needs of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs)? Do SMBs have different needs from large corporate clients?

Fundamentally, their needs are alike in that all companies must communicate brand value in a mostly disinterested marketplace. How they choose to address this problem is where the similarities end. CEOs of SMBs sometimes question the need for marketing, or see marketing as an unnecessary expense, a luxury at best. Chief Marketing Officers at big brands, on the other hand do not question the need for marketing, or that they will invest all they have in building their brand(s).


I grew up in the agency business serving large consumer clients like Coors Brewing, Samsonite, McDonald’s, Bailey’s and HP. It can be a kick to serve these clients. They have money to make dreams come true, they believe in marketing and they bring a level of sophistication to the table that is both challenging and enriching. Working at this level can also become a snake pit of co-dependence, bad decisions and crappy creative output.

Plusses and minuses aside, clients at big brands lose sleep over various $10 million decisions. When you work with SMBs the budgets are smaller but the decisions to invest in brand are just as big. SMBs rarely have a penny to waste, so when they do spend on marketing they expect value for their dollar, and we the small agencies of the world must provide it.

According to the U.S. Small Business Association, the 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales. Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs. There’s no question that what we refer to as “small business” is a very big deal. It is also no secret that the ad business is set up to serve enterprise-level firms. That’s where the money is and where the action is. SMBs are not flying a team to Cannes this spring. Or next spring. Personally, I find this refreshing. Making ads can be a craft that you dedicate decades of your life to perfecting, or it can be a circus that you join for a trip or two around the world.

Five years in to this entrepreneurial journey, I feel as if I’ve left the circus behind. I no longer worry about winning industry awards or being industry famous—my concern is winning clients and performing for the clients that I have. The idea that the ad business is glamorous, or was glamorous, is faulty. The ad business, like all other businesses, is a place where you learn to perfect your day-to-day while looking for opportunities to truly shine.