List of Five for 2010

Zombies. That'll happen.

As 2010 winds down to a close, the business world slowly closes their books, and prepare to start writing a new chapter for the new year.

And we’re not so different.

This has been Year 2 for JDW: The Charlotte Agency, and year 2 for me being a small busines as owner/partner.

What a year.

Below is my list of five of my thoughts for 2010.

1. It’s Good to Have a Good Partner

Business partner, to be specific. My good friend, co-owner and executive creative director John Dermott has been a fantastic source of energy, creativity, and information. JDW and the city of Charlotte (once it gets its !@#$% together) will soar to seemingly impassable heights because of his artful creative direction. Thank you for buying into my idea of starting something new and exciting. Hopefully you’ll never regret it.

2. It’s Good to Have an Awesome Girlfriend

You think my business partner has it bad enough for putting up with me, try this girl who can’t seem to get rid of me. Trying to make a business work is no easy feat, and it certainly takes a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. I thank you, Mackenzie, for sticking with me and all the craziness I tend to bring. You keep me sane and crazy at the same time, and I appreciate that.

3. The Sleeves Are Rolled Up, Queen City. We’re kicking you right in the TEETH

We tried to play nice with the others. We even tried reaching out to those who don’t play with others to see if us “new people” could change their minds. No dice.

So mark 2010 as the final year JDW: The Charlotte Agency paraded in the dark, amongst the freelancers, the fake SEO’ers, the “know-it-alls-who-noone-really-knows”. We’re not going to try to come up with new words for ‘marketing’, or ‘advertising’. I think that’s silly. If you have to come up with a new word for what you’re doing…that says something. I’m not sure what, but I’m sure there’s a word for it.

However, there are negative connotations for words like marketing and advertising. People who have engaged in poor advertising, and unethical marketing practices have demonized the majority of those who do good work.

And instead of forcing these people out of the business, what do we do?

Nothing. At least, nothing that has worked.

Sure, we can all go and join PRSA, IABC, AMA, AAF and the like. But we need champions for our industry who are not afraid to stick their necks out and stand for something.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Charlotte wants to call itself the next New Energy Capital? We like the “South Madison Avenue“. If you’re with us, great! If note, don’t bother us while we work.

4. Education and Mentorship is Key

The Charlotte business sector knows it needs marketing and communications. The small business community is in desperate need of support. As newcomers arrive, the good-ol-boy network will weaken; and those small businesses that depended on it will struggle. The community needs to know about good, effective marketing, and what  that actually means.

As for mentorship, everybody should have one. Whether it is in the form of an advisory board, or a person who’s done this before, their feedback is going to help you think things out. Thank you to all those who’ve helped us along the way.

5. Embracing the Unplanned Continues to Work

But don’t plan on the unplanned, that might not work too well. As a company, The Charlotte Agency has done well in surviving these troubling economic times. And in its brief existence, The Charlotte Agency has already experienced several hills and valleys. Sometimes what seems to good to be true could be real, and what looks terrible might not actually be so bad.

And lastly, a huge thanks to my friends, family, colleagues and random readers for all the support, praise, criticism, love, jokes, and everything in between.

2010 has been a whirlwind. I thought I’d never get out of it. But here we are, looking 2011 right in the face.




“Marketing, You Ignorant Slut!” Setting the Tone of a Message

Please tell me you got that Saturday Night Live reference. If not, then let me tell you that I’m really not that big of a jerk.

Not too much, in any case.

Comedic troupes like Saturday Night Live, Second City and numerous improv groups learn the value and technique of setting a tone, and delivering a message.

As professional communicators, we should practice and hone that same skill.

But how can we do that?

1. Practice
People can be born storytellers, or it can be taught. But in order to be effective, one must practice. And practice well. There is a difference between just going through the motions, and practicing intentionally, but that’s another topic.

2. Research
As much as we would like to think of ourselves as experts, we’re really not. Like I said in a previous post, it is much better to be a geek than an expert. Reading up on your audiences, new techniques, new ways to apply old techniques well further develop your message delivering talent.

3.  Practice some more
As coaches say, they want their players to play just as hard in practice as they play on game day. The same should apply to us. Drafting, editing, cleaning up loose ends is imperative before we shine the light on our work for the brands we represent.

4. Test
No one has ever frowned upon building a prototype. Better to find out that a model is wrong before rushing to build the whole thing with a faulty foundation. Test your message before rolling it out to the whole audience.

5. Edit
Sometimes your tests work perfectly. More often than not, some tweaking is needed. And that’s not bad.

6. Adapt
And finally, just because the message may work to perfection one time, doesn’t mean it will work again the next. For example, I highly doubt that another post of mine will have the phrase “ignorant slut” in it. The shock factor is already gone. But if it was effective, I’ll craft a title that still carries a shock factor, but that will relate to the content presented.

So, enjoy the SNL clip, and happy crafting!


Heroes and Villains: Why We Love Them

Or hate them.

Or hate to love them. Or love to hate them.

For thousands of years, our human brothers and sisters have passed down stories, created tales and recorded myths of heroes and villains larger than life. The sides of good and evil continually butt heads, with each theory sending off its Champion for a not-so-final battle. Our society has stories with good ultimately prevailing, yet tales of the good folks coming short do exist.

Why do heroes and villains exist? Why are they so popular?

The human psyche is a beautiful, wild concept. But it is there, our training of understanding good and evil, is where it all begins. But there is more than that.

The Idea of  Something Bigger Than Ourselves
We are inherently attracted to conflict and sensationalism. Our 24 hour news cycle makes that quite clear. But what brings more conflict than the ultimate good and ultimate evil? The light versus the shadows?

Not much.

Our understanding of “pure good” and “pure evil” is minimal. Could we understand what 100% righteousness or 100% pure evil and hate really means? Think about it. The idea of going against something so pure is mind-boggling. Our curiosity exploits that lack of understanding, and so we use our creativity and imagination to fill it.

Put Our Shortcomings in Perspective
Not a single person enjoys to fail. There is no father or mother out there who wants to disappoint their child, no child who wakes up excited to embarrass their parents. We hate to be embarrassed, fail, and disappoint others. But, we are a resilient species, and one with a fantastic imagination. The appearance of superheroes and villains help society cope with shortcomings, in one way or another. Captain America was created because the public started to get weary of the spread of communism and America’s need for something larger than life. Superman was brought into view because surely crime would spread all over the city without an alien coming, falling in love with humans, and help clean it up. Batman came to life because society needed a man- someone “like” them- to just care enough to take the law into their own hands. What a way to cope!

Try to Answer: Who Will Win? Is There a Winner?
Yes, the final question. Can good survive without evil, or can the world go on with no good?

Will our world always need a champion for what’s right and good, and to squash those who fight back?

We use these fantastic figures to try to answer these questions. It is interesting to see how our society has come to grips with this question. For many, a faith would be the only thing needed to answer the question. However, people want to complicate matters, for that seems far too simple.

For example, Superman has no rival on Earth. Lex, though “evil”, had not the physical prowess to even think of going toe-to-toe with the Spandex Wonder. But wait, Kryptonite, the remnants of Superman’s own planet can weaken him.


Batman, the average joe’s superhero, has a heart of gold, but a thirst of revenge that seems very unhealthy. The police tolerate him, only to find his arch-nemesis, The Joker, who has a heart (maybe) of stone and no understanding of the value of life.


To be sure, as a society, we don’t know if good is able to survive without evil. Maybe, as a society, we don’t want it. There wouldn’t be any conflict. No darers daring to be great. No one needed to save the day.

What a boring, boring place that would be.

Let’s Play A Game!

Today’s post is going to demonstrate how we can apply economic theory to marketing. If you are a student of marketing, then you may be familiar with Fishbein-Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA).

This is similar. We are going to apply the Nash model of Game Theory to choosing and refusing to choose marketing. This is modeled closely from Nash’s “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, where a dominant strategy and Nash Equilibrium shows the players in the game what their best course of action may be.

Did I lose you yet? Good. Let’s call this problem the  “Small Business Dilemma.”

First, some assumptions:

1. We are assuming that they money the players (companies) do not use for marketing stays in the business.
2. We are assuming that the product the players offer is of the same industry, price, and quality.
3. We are assuming that the companies are in direct competition.

Here is the payoff matrix (Company B is the left number):

  Company A Does Marketing Company A Does NOT

Do Marketing

Company B

Does NOT Do Marketing

-1, 3 0,0
Company B Does Marketing 2,2 3,-1

What does this mean?

If Company B does not do marketing, Company A would rather do marketing, because it’s payoff is 3, rather than receiving 0 when not doing marketing. If Company B decides to do marketing, Company A’s best strategy is to do marketing, because it’s payoff is 2. Therefore, Company A’s dominant strategy is to do marketing. Because regardless of what Company B does, Company A’s payoff is greater when it engages in marketing.

Makes sense? Let’s examine Company B.

If Company A engages in marketing, it is Company B’s best interest to also engage in marketing, for its payoff is greater than otherwise. If Company A decides not to engage in marketing, it is in Company B’s best interest to engage in marketing, because again, its personal payoff is better than not doing it at all. Therefore, Company B’s dominant strategy is to do marketing. Regardless of what Company A does, Company B’s payoff is greater when it engages in marketing.

Game Theory is meant to examine the relationship between players in a certain, defined environment. This does not explain external factors, changes in strategy or product, and so on. But, it does give a glimpse of how and why businesses act a certain way. Let’s take Coke and Pepsi. Would one have benefited if the other stayed quiet? Absolutely not. Both Coke and Pepsi benefit more when they both engage in marketing.

What is also interesting in this problem, is that there are two boxes with similar values. When both players do nothing, they receive nothing. When both players engage in marketing, they both gain. Now when they both gain, that is what economists call the Nash Equilibrium, because it is in both players’ interest to engage in a certain activity. It is not in the players’ best interest to do absolutely nothing, because in this game, no payoff is awarded for latency.

The Point, So I Stop Boring You (if you made it this far)

Marketing and advertising is more than creating a brand, a personality. It’s strategy. It’s positioning. Knowing and learning how all the players in your industry moves is crucial to creating an effective strategy. Game theory is just all small piece of how you can achieve it.

The Best and Weirdest in Advertising=Awesome

My day was going SO well until I saw AdFreak tweet its 2010 30 Most Freakiest Ads .

Did you hear that loud clunk? That was my productivity needle smacking the ground.

AdFreak also came out with the 25 Most Epic Ads that aren’t ‘1984’ (the classic Apple commercial).

Productivity, we’ll meet again tomorrow. I have ads to watch!

I am a huge fan of the quirky, unconventional, shocking, to the downright offensive. These lists make me so happy, because it shows to me that there are still marketing and advertising professionals to still approach their work as art, and are trying to set the conversation instead of being laggards and reactive and “joining” the conversation.

Plus, all 55 ads looked like the ladies and gents behind the scenes had a blast creating them.

What agencies stood out? BBH, Young and Rubicam, McCann, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Publicis were repeat offenders. I’ve always enjoyed the work S & S does, and if The Charlotte Agency had to pick what shop it’d want to emulate in the next 10-15 years, I think we would probably bend their direction.

No Boone Oakley, we’re not cheating on you. You guys are our short-term goal. Think of yourselves like a first serious girlfriend, and S & S wifey material. Savvy?

Anyways, there is not much else to this post. Go through the ads, and if you’d like, let’s talk about your favorite ones. Or the ones you hated the most.

Also, my Charlotte, North Carolina marketers and communications pros, why is there an apparent vacuum of creative like this? Is it because we’re in the Bible belt? Or is there something behind the scenes?



P.S. Under Epic Ads, check out the Johnnie Walker ad. Six minutes of awesomeness.