Archive: May 2014
May 20th, 2014

A BART Domination, a Billboard Sensation, and a 20-foot-tall Norwegian.

An economic upswing is good for just about everyone. Except for graduate schools, who historically see enrollment go down when job prospects go up. With that top of mind, GGU’s new marketing director was looking to make a big impact this year to reverse that trend. Like, Prince George’s baby kangaroo backpack big.

Uhm…yes, please! All we do is sit around waiting for clients to ask us to go big. GGU’s graduate audience is an ambitious group who are wont to react to energizing, active language that helps them envision their future impact on the world. So we readied an arsenal of powerful headlines, refreshed the design, and proceeded to make our mark on the Embarcadero BART station.















































Whether you’re familiar with the GGU brand or not, know that you’re looking at a lot of firsts here. The layout and imagery are bolder and more contemporary than before. It’s the first time we’ve done location-specific ads for GGU, playing off different areas in the Bart stations. And, it’s the first time we’ve executed a programmatic campaign that calls out specific degrees.




Program-specific ads. Because the more tailored your message, the stronger you’ll resonate with your respective audiences. 


But most notably, it may very well be the first time an agency has launched this many ads at one time. Knowing that volume = impact, GGU chose to flood the Bay Area with 900-odd ads. (There aren’t even that many grocery stores in San Francisco!) In addition to hitting Embarcadero and Powell BART, we placed billboards in the East Bay and posters at Walnut Creek, Lafayette, and Pleasant Hill stations. And that doesn’t include the litany of digital banners that are running. The sheer quantity of work produced is astounding – as is the amount of booze and snacks that was required to keep us alive.

But wait, there’s more! Have you seen the billboard up on Bryant Street between 3rd and 4th? Call an Uber and hightail it over, cause this is huge!


The biggest challenge was finding a Scandinavian woman tall and willing enough to stand up there for an entire month. Don’t worry, we’ll tip her well.

900 ads, a billboard, and a brand that’s more relevant to its audience. If you’re a Bay Area resident who’s even flirting with the idea of maybe, possibly considering a graduate business degree, you’ll now be thinking about GGU. Our work here is done. (We think. Unless those are the footsteps of the account team running to hand us another deliverable. Quick – to the fire escape!)

May 12th, 2014

The Never-Ending Importance of Strategy, Now Applied to Cleantech.

The clean technology industry is worth $170 billion and counting. But spend that money the wrong way, and it all goes down the low-flow drain. When Mortar started working with Westport, they told us they were a Canadian IP company, citing Dolby as an analogy. In the same way Dolby develops technologies for speaker systems, they said, Westport built the technology behind natural-gas-powered trucks.


But when we took a tour of their Vancouver facilities, we saw this.

That’s a natural gas engine designed for a long-haul truck. Oh, and it’s about the size of a smart car. Imagine this bad boy dangling from a factory ceiling on a thick metal chain, connected by giant wires to giant computers, whirring and humming as engineers test its power and agility. It was like the truck equivalent of a disembodied brain-in-a-jar, hooked up to a life support system.


Eets aliiiiive!!


Westport sure didn’t look like an IP company to us. From our initial observations, it seemed like they needed to focus less on their technology, and more on the human impact their technology drives. It’s a common situation we find our tech clients in, ingredient brands in particular – and cleantech is no different.

And so the Mortar360 process began. Our conversations with customers, partners, prospects, and industry analysts confirmed our suspicions. The same way that Intel was a computer processor company, Westport was absolutely an engine company. And these were no ordinary engines. They were more efficient (read: cheaper), better for the planet, and powered by domestic-fuel – which happened to be exactly what Westport’s early adopter audience was looking for.

Our research also revealed an important market perception. In 2013, Westport’s natural gas engines were already being used in long haul trucks. Yet most of the world was still talking about industrial natural gas vehicles as “the next big thing.” Why? Well, when your friend starts wearing mesh shirts to work, that’s an obvious change. When trucks start running on new engines? Much harder to see. And having an unclear brand message certainly doesn’t help.

Guided by these insights, we crafted a positioning that celebrated the powerful advantages of Westport engines and declared natural gas a thing of the present. The tagline, “Here and Now,” said it all. Add a custom photo shoot, and a stunning brand book and print campaign were born.





And some snazzy print ads, too.




The white balloons are a quiet nod to clean fuel. They represent purity, clarity, and the wonder of discovery. They represent possibilities and potential. They signify how Westport is changing transportation in cities and industries everywhere, helping make the world a cleaner place. We also brought those ideals to life in a brand video that’s been used at events, trade shows, and online.


Visit our case study page to see the brand identity, website, and manifesto ad we also created. We enjoyed helping Westport find its place in the clean transportation world. And now we’re doing the same for CALSTART, a nonprofit that knocks down the political and financial barriers standing in the way of clean transportation. That’s all we can divulge about our adventures in cleantech for now. ‘Til next time.

May 9th, 2014

Mortar Creative Director Featured in HOW Magazine.

It’s official. Brian Scheyer, our digital creative director/resident fashion designer, is famous. HOW magazine recently interviewed him for a story on creatives who live double lives. We’re pretty sure Brian has at least twenty-seven different lives, three of which are superheroes on other planets. But this is a nice way of making him feel like part of our society.

We’ve excerpted the segment on Brian below. To read about three more hybrid creatives, you can buy the May issue of HOW magazine here.





By Stephanie Orma


By day, Brian Scheyer is creative director at the San Francisco-based ad agency Mortar, where he develops print and interactive campaigns, directs commercials, and leads a creative staff. By night, he’s fashion designer of the award-winning label gr.dano, a womenswear line with a distinct architectural style. Launched in 2006 with his wife Jill Giordano, the duo designs everything together, from sketching ideas and selecting fabrics to draping silhouettes.

But while Scheyer has a 20-year graphic design career working with brands like Dockers, Google, Yahoo!, and Kohler, his fashion training has been mostly DIY. “Essentially, I learned the process of fashion design through osmosis,” Scheyer says. While he was dating Giordano, she enrolled in the fashion design program at the Academy of Art University San Francisco. “I was part of her education the whole way through. We would work on projects together; I would ask questions and learn the process,” Scheyer says. “But when I started to apply my graphic design eye to fashion design–that’s when it clicked.”


FIND THE CREATIVE THREADS AND MAKE MAGIC. It’s Scheyer’s ability to see the parallels in his endeavors that’s played a crucial role in his seamless second career jump. “All the things that make a great graphic designer–like visually understanding the problem, solving it in the most simplistic way, and having a cohesive voice throughout all the campaign touchpoints–are the same when you’re developing a fashion collection.” He advises, “Take the knowledge and creative voice you’ve already honed in your first career, and refocus it into your next venture. That’s what’ll make you stand out.”

Scheyer is all about process, rather than outcome. Many times, he’ll find himself working through a graphic design challenge and realize later that the same thinking can be applied to his fashion line. “You don’t immediately come up with the answer,” he says. “It’s that journey that gets you there. So you have to allow yourself to dig in, find those nuances and slowly develop it into something tangible. That’s where the magic is.”

FUSE CREATIVITY INTO YOUR EVERYDAY. Scheyer treats every endeavor–not just his careers–as a creative exercise. “When I haven’t been food shopping in two weeks because I’ve been busy and only have a couple things in my fridge, I could easily order-in; or I could try to make something interesting,” he says. By constantly sharpening your chops, you’re readying yourself to take on that next venture.

PURSUE WITH A PASSION. How does Scheyer actually balance two 40-hour-a-week jobs? With a crazy amount of hard work, energy and passion he finds every opportunity–when he’s not at his full-time creative director day job, of course–to work on the gr.dano label. That means evenings, weekends, and even vacations. “Fashion design is a tough business,” Scheyer says. “It takes a lot of work and dedication, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like work because I’m with my wife, the person I enjoy the most.”

He also finds keeping lists and prioritizing insanely crucial, as well as taking power naps and snagging a little time for himself. “Working on something you’re passionate about takes energy. It helps to go for a walk, zone out with your favorite song on loop and give your brain a rest,” Scheyer says. “Absorb all you can, practice your craft as much as possible. …And find that perfect blend of coffee and alcohol during the day.”