February 1st, 2024

SF AIDS Foundation

In honor of AIDS Is Not A Crime Awareness Day on February 28, we thought we might share the Manifesto we developed during our rebranding of the SF Aids Foundation.

September 16th, 2019

Sorry, not sorry, Sarah Connor. Mortar is rocking AI.

The launch of Varian’s Ethos ™ therapy today marks Mortar’s fifth foray into machine intelligence* this year.

We kicked off 2019 with Cloudability and machine learning (ML) in the cloud. Apptio snatched up Cloudability earlier this year.

We featured ExtraHop’s use of ML to stop threats outside the corporate firewall in their 2019 campaign. (See the Rise Above the Noise video here).

Our friends at global hearing aid giant Phonak (the parent of Mortar’s client Advanced Bionics) built AI into their new Marvel hearing aids, delighting the hard-of-hearing (the sound from the new devices is apparently incredible!) and resulting in a massive spike in earnings (and, of course, exciting implications for Cochlear Implant recipients—but we can’t talk about that yet. More on that in a future post).

Our most recent project, e-commerce disruptor CommerceIQ is built around using AI to unify Advertising and Sales on Amazon.com.

Of Sunday’s launch of Ethos ™ therapy, Varian said their innovation “marks the moment when artificial intelligence and adaptive therapy combine to create the world’s first application of Adaptive Intelligence”. Varian goes on to say their breakthrough will “inspire healthcare professionals worldwide to reimagine cancer care”.

It’s not quite the mean, machine-driven apocalypse that James Cameron presented in Terminator. But hey, there’s still time.

From the cloud to advanced hearing loss to empty shopping carts, and eliminating cancer, we’re hoping machine intelligence can continue to make our lives easier and yes, maybe, curb suffering. 

Wanna be a part of it? We’re hiring.

* At Mortar Machine Intelligence means the various flavors of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). And yes, dear readers, although we know that you know that we know there is a difference between the two, confusion about the difference is undeniably rampant.


September 12th, 2019

Jobortunities at Mortar (see what we did there?)

Expanding client work and a host of new business wins have created the need for a whole raft of creative talent (raft being the technical term for a group of creatives — like murder of crows).  If you’re a whiz with words (triple alliteration word score) or pictures we’d like to talk to you. Read on for more…

Senior Copywriter/ACD

We are looking for a Senior Copywriter/ACD with 360° capabilities: a conceptual thinker and skilled writer who can shift seamlessly between all media: print, digital, outdoor, broadcast/video, experiential, radio, interactive, etc. You’ll work closely with our Executive Creative Director and partner with art directors and designers, as well as our strategy, account, and new business teams.

You will be responsible for helping us move people through marketing that shapes the intended reaction (we call them A-ha moments) to our clients’ products and services. You’ll need to know what customer emotions to play into, how to trigger those emotions, and how to bring that to life through words in a way that’s not only new and engaging, but solves our clients’ business objectives.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Develop creative concepts for integrated brand initiatives and campaigns that crystallize the strategic marketing decision
  • Write and edit compelling copy in all forms—from detailed, long-form brochures and topical social content, to digital banners and captivating headlines and taglines
  • Work effectively with all Mortar teams to develop copy that clearly meets the given brief and client objectives
  • Ability to manage and jump between multiple ongoing clients and projects—from concept stage through to completion
  • Possess a strong point-of-view and ability to contribute to the creative and strategic development of a concept
  • Prioritize workload, and deliver exceptional creative on time
  • Collaborate regularly and effectively with account managers, strategists, and new business teams—we’re no fans of department walls here

Required Skills and Experience:

  • A portfolio that demonstrates exceptional creative thinking and copy in a variety of industries that spans traditional, interactive and beyond
  • Minimum 8 years of experience in the advertising/branding industry
  • Experience with B2B, technology sector, and/or medical product marketing a strong plus
  • Excellent presentation and deck-writing skills
  • Work effectively with other departments to meet deadlines and solve clients’ challenges
  • A self-starter who can proactively manage time and prioritize workloads
  • Meticulous with details, quality and grammar
  • Extremely strong conceptual abilities
  • Mastery of Microsoft Office and Keynote; you should be Mac-friendly

To apply for this position, send your resume, cover letter and portfolio link to: iwanttowork@mortaragency.com with the subject line “Senior Copywriter.”

Sr. Art Director/ACD

We’re looking for a Sr. Art Director/ACD with 360° capabilities: a conceptual thinker and skilled designer who can shift seamlessly between digital design, broadcast/video, and traditional print media. This leadership role will also require you to be an inspiring and attentive mentor to Mortar’s creative team. You’ll collaborate early and often, working regularly with our strategy, account, and new business teams.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Develop creative concepts for high-level, integrated brand initiatives and campaigns that crystallize the Strategic Decision and drive the A-ha moment
  • Conceptualize and design campaigns and executions across digital, broadcast, experiential, and print media
  • Provide clear creative direction so designers can execute on your vision
  • Manage multiple ongoing projects from concept stage through to completion
  • Work with outside vendors: developers, photographers, production companies, etc.
  • Be able to generate interesting and viable ideas across all existing and emerging media, whether that’s direct mail or Snapchat
  • Participate in new business pitches
  • Provide quotes for time and resources when new projects come in
  • Be a true team player who works well with clients and Mortar internal departments. We believe good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone

Required Skills and Experience:

  • A portfolio that demonstrates exceptional creative thinking as well as superb art direction, graphic design, and typography skills
  • Minimum 8 years of experience in the advertising/branding industry
  • Proven ability to execute traditional print design, experience design, and information architecture
  • Works effectively with other departments to meet deadlines and solve clients’ problems while overseeing creative staff
  • Can proactively manage time and prioritize workloads
  • Must know Adobe Creative Suite like the back of your stylus-wielding hand (mouse-wielding hands ok, too)
  • Effective deck-writing and presentation skills
  • Proven ability to lead and manage a creative team
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills

Bonus points for:

  • Motion graphics or video editing experience
  • Knowledge of AfterEffects, HTML, DHTML, CSS, Actionscript or jQuery

To apply for this position, send your resume, cover letter and portfolio link to: iwanttowork@mortaragency.com with the subject line “Senior Art Director.”

Production Designer

We are looking for a Production Designer to create and support the visual design and production of our print and digital deliverables.


  • Design and execute campaign assets across digital platforms like ad banners, website mastheads, social brand assets (basic animation or video editing a plus) and print production materials, including tradeshow, direct mail, magazine and brochure layouts
  • Set up documents, templates, and finished artwork, properly preparing files for production
  • Review documentation to ensure files meet template and spec requirements
  • Work with vendors and supplied specifications to create pixel-perfect and print-ready final assets
  • Religiously follow and implement brand style guidelines, producing consistent and compelling designs
  • Proofread artwork for design and copy errors
  • Meet deadlines while juggling many projects and priorities simultaneously
  • Be a true team player who interacts and collaborates well with peers, supervisors, and clients

Required Skills & Experience:

  • 2-5 years of graphic design production experience in a production heavy environment, such as agencies or large in-house marketing department
  • A portfolio that showcases excellent design production skills in both print and digital media
  • Proven success working in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
  • High proficiency in InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Keynote, and Microsoft Office. Adobe AfterEffects, Premier, or Animate are a plus
  • Ability to take direction from leadership and incorporate feedback
  • Skilled in prepress, file preparation, digital file transfer, and printing techniques
  • Proper file management and impeccable attention to detail and accuracy
  • Superb organizational skills
  • Ability to manage time efficiently and to work independently

To apply for this position, send your resume, cover letter and portfolio link to: iwanttowork@mortaragency.com with the subject line “Production Designer.”

April 30th, 2019

Why all this fuss about difference? Be like the Eskimos—they have 50 words for snow!

Yes, Eskimos really do have more than 50 different words for snow.

Why there’s “aqilokoq” for “softly falling snow” and “piegnartoq” for  great sledding, to “matsaaruti” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, “pukak,” for crystalline powder snow that looks like salt. The Inupiaq of Wales, Alaska, use 70 terms for ice ranging from “utuqaq,” ice that lasts year after year; “siguliaksraq,” the patchwork layer of crystals that forms as the sea begins to freeze; to “auniq,” ice that is filled with holes, like Swiss cheese. (See this article in the WashPost, doubters).

If our Northernmost neighbors can find room for multiple ways to describe the most plentiful stuff they know, surely we, dear marketer, can find ways to separate our products and services from everyone else.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review in 1980, Theodore Levitt forcefully pointed out that there is no such thing as a commodity—in consumer or industrial goods. In the marketplace differentiation is everywhere.

But why? Why is differentiation so critical to marketing?

Simply put, we will pay more for what we perceive to be difference.  And difference can be produced by pulling on one of at least seven distinct levers:

  1. Target: Because not everyone cares about what your organization does or makes, we must learn early to focus on those that matter: the people who need what you make, and desire your solution. Insights into your target audience that lead to a superior understanding of motivation can go a long way to drawing a firm line around how you solve problems others can’t.
  2. Purpose: Customers can be very tribal: they find community in shared ideas. We see the differentiating power of purpose in politics, social networks, car ownership, and American’s odd belief that peanut butter pairs well with chocolate.  How you state your purpose can set your offering apart. Using your product can be self-affirming and rewarding.
  3. Story: The story you tell about your product and your heritage can be a powerful motivator and a distinct feature. Many of our favorite brands are as much story as they are performance—think about how you feel about Apple’s genesis or Nike’s much applauded transition from footwear manufacturer to champion of fitness everywhere. How you tell your story gets you noticed and feeds word-of-mouth.
  4. Experience: What you are like to do business with can be very attractive—how we meet customer need can be fulfilling and valuable. Southwest, Nordstrom, Zappos and Rackspace have all made a name for themselves by providing stellar customer service.
  5. Quality: Here in California, In-N-Out burger still attracts long lines of passionate customers despite the availability of much cheaper, more readily available burgers. One reason for In-N-Out’s continued ascendancy is the quality of their product, which, unlike its rivals, actually matches the product it advertises (and tastes awesome IMHO).
  6. Strengths: This is an easy one. If you are well-known for a specific attribute others find valuable, differentiation is often a given. We see strength in Amazon’s domination of the cloud in terms of high awareness, robust services and widespread use.
  7. Attitude: We love an underdog. We love a rebel. We often seek out and reward those who challenge the status quo because they see a need to do something different. And we agree with them. We see this effect in the zeal of Trump and AOC supporters alike. Many of our favorite brands started life with a novel take on the world. See how Eat24 upended online food delivery by attacking cooking—and ignoring their rivals claims to have organized the Internet. How we talk to the world about what we do—and don’t–can be as liberating and refreshing as our products.

Ultimately, effective brand differentiation needs to create value in the minds of its intended customer. And to do that you must pull on one or more of the difference levers to set yourself apart.

Making the decision to be different is a vital part of any marketing strategy. If you’d like to know how we can help you pull that off, send us a email.

April 25th, 2019

How smart decisions deliver powerful brand experiences: The SD & A-ha Infographic

The much-vaunted Sd & A-ha Mortar brand development process in one.