Archive: September 2015
September 30th, 2015

The Sucker for Punishment Dilemma…

What if your creative agency is working with(out) you?

Your agency works for you, but why do you feel so anxious during the creative presentation?

When you’re excluded from the development of your agency’s big creative presentation, there’s little wonder they will miss the mark most of the time. And often spectacularly.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason the industry not only accepts this sad fact, but glorifies the process too.

The agency business is addicted to the big reveal—the final, much anticipated unveiling of a creative solution after weeks of frenzied (and secret) hibernation. A presentation that is supposed to leave you, the client, in awe and the agency bursting with pride.

Only it fails more than it succeeds.

The big reveal is a terrible way to work.

You’re paying to suffer

Remember six weeks ago, when you sat down with your creative agency and poured your heart out? You spoke of your dreams, of where you are and where you’re going; you shared the very essence of your brand and your business.

Then you left the meeting, feeling confident that your briefing would translate into work that would knock your socks off. After all, an advertising agency takes the reins of your business in a very significant way—they help determine how the world will see you. Socks had better damned well be knocked off.

Today, after several nights of lost sleep and an expectant boss breathing down your neck, you’re back in the conference room about to see the fruits of your agency’s labor—the big reveal.

Boom. The curtains rise and your heart sinks.

It’s not that they have missed the point. Far worse. It’s that they’ve done a spectacular job of missing the point.

Agencies and clients often mix like oil and water

Herein lies the fundamental flaw in our beloved big reveal—the process sends both parties off on their separate ways, without ongoing communication, and attempts to reconcile the inevitable differences at the end.

We all love a good ta-da, but we have yet to meet anyone who would prefer to be surprised when the bottom line is on the line.

So what is the true cost of a creative anticlimax?

Time, money and emotional stress

A failed big reveal often costs money. It always costs time. And it saps confidence.

Probably the heaviest cost of the big reveal is collateral damage to the agency-client relationship, as it occurs on both sides of the equation. On the agency side, significant energy is spent creating impactful work in short periods of time. Each time an agency falls short, enthusiasm and passion die a little death. Similarly clients, and their colleagues, become increasingly anxious as the luxury of time begins to dwindle. As deadlines draw nearer, the opportunity costs of delay start to pile up.

Business changes a lot

Business is in constant flux, yet the big reveal demands that business conditions can be frozen, rendered “static”, while the agency is away developing their ideas. Several weeks of small changes—none of which on their own are significant, but taken together represent a significant alteration in course—threaten to put client and agency in very different places on the big day.

And even if business changes don’t throw you off, nobody knows your business as well as you do.  So why do you allow yourself to be kept on to the sidelines while you wait to be dazzled?

After over 30 years in this business I have learned that often the most important time to hear a clients’ voice is during the process. Not after.

The big reveal fails because it puts freezes clients out of the development cycle.

So partner, people

We have grown to believe that the excitement, drama and intrigue of the big reveal is essential to a healthy agency-client relationship. Its almost as if we are saying the agency’s job is to entertain first: and solve problems second.

Clearly it’s not.

My point is simple. Clients turn to agencies like us because we are creative. We see the world in a different way. And the best way to get the most out of us is to work closely with us through every step of the creative process. An open working style that emphasizes partnership and collaboration is the most effective way to land the big idea on the big day.

The traditional agency-client model is broken, but what if it were different? Contribute to the conversation #whatifmortar

September 29th, 2015

So, it has come to this! How to send an agency an RFP.

As an agency we’re always excited to see a request for proposal darken our inboxes.

Some of them are even well written, informative, and give you an idea of how well-suited your services might be to the sender’s needs.

So imagine the honor we felt to receive 102 pages of fun today from the City of San Francisco. All for us? #Blessed

Oh, what’s that? You’ve CC’d 20 other of the city’s finest agencies as well… #MixedFeelings


September 25th, 2015

A couple of kegs, a few dozen legs, and a guy with a camera. What could go wrong?

It was our turn to host the local agency mixer, Kegs with Legs, last night. So we rolled in a food truck, swapped out our front desk for a bouncer with a thingy in his ear, and told HR to act as blind as humanly possible.

The bass dropped and the rest is history.

It was back to business as usual this morning. Except with that vague fragrance of a fraternity floor on a Sunday morning, and a slightly less vague memory of monkeys getting intimate in the photo booth (there’s evidence, unfortunately).


Big thanks to Ad 2 SF and the Egotist for facilitating inter-agency co-operation through the mass consumption of beer!

Also, thanks to Sean Cope Photography for taking one for the team and documenting the monkey business.

September 22nd, 2015

All the awkwardness of a first date, three times as much booze.

Some geniuses at Ad 2 Denver and Denver Egotist thought it would be funny to put a handful of agencies in a room together, give them beer, and see what happens.

Apparently it’s become something of a hit.

Since comfort zones are places we frequently depart, come get awkward with us as we mill about chatting politely about the weather…. until the third keg.



Kegs With Legs @ Mortar
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: Mortar – 2 Bryant St #210 San Francisco, CA 94105
Register here

September 17th, 2015

We don’t care about your Facebook friends, oh wait… yes we do.

As great ideas go, our friends over at Dynamic Signal are pioneering some pretty darn hot ones.

Heard of employee advocacy, social selling, brand alignment? You know, using smart technology to gather and distribute your branded content via your employee’s social channels. Gone are the days of alt + tab every time your boss walks past.

Think of it this way:

You have 100 employees. They each have 500 social connections. Now, while math generally makes us queasy, a free and targeted media channel of over 50,000 people certainly does not. And most of them already know you, your company or are prospects.

Best of all, Dynamic Signal not only allows you to push material to this audience—it tracks how their connections engage with it, to what extent your employees participate, and who in your organization has the greatest influence.

Now not everyone public shames poor performing executives. But it’s nice to know you have the information should you choose to.

Our joint release is here. Dynamic Signal is here. There is a great Zuckerberg joke here.


Pictured: Majid Karimi, Tom Carr, Lauren Campbell, Mark Williams, Pavey Purewal, Scott Burke