Author Archives: the HIT board
The Brian Williams story will ebb and flow until NBC figures out whether it will bring him back to the anchor chair following his six-month suspension, which began in February. As you may recall, Williams, the $10 million man, was disciplined for exaggerating some of his experiences reporting on the Iraq War, among other stories.
Williams has his supporters, not least the eight million nightly viewers he drew to the NBC Nightly News.
Some of the debate has revolved around Williams’ journalistic credentials or lack thereof.
Sam DiGennaro, founder and CEO of DiGennaro Communications, is in the camp that thinks his journalistic chops are beside the point and argues that this is more of a CRM story—the relationship Williams has with the general public and devoted viewers.
She writes on the Forbes Leadership blog that Williams’ situation is a cautionary tale for everyone: “In the age of social media, public and private citizens alike, not to mention brands, are at risk of being pilloried at any moment,” and offers some steps the anchor man can take to restore the public’s trust in his personal brand.
The first time Ann Wiltshire visited New York from her native England, she was 13, and it was the dead of winter.
In April 2015, she returned to the city to work for a week here at DiGennaro Communications in the Flatiron District as part of an exchange program with the shop’s sister agency, Eulogy, in London. Ann is an account manager there.
Ann saw lots of similarities between the working cultures of New York and London and could definitely imagine herself living in the Big Apple, especially after the celebrity encounter she had in an elevator, which she reveals in the video.
The 9th Ad Age Digital Conference kicked off today in New York with a packed first day lineup. Some of the hot topics addressed today included viewability, humanity, and failing.
The morning’s first discussion between Rob Norman, Global Chief Digital officer at GroupM and Lisa Valentino, SVP, Digital Sales at Conde Nast, surprised some in the audience when the two executives vaguely discussed the terms of a recent deal where Conde Nast agreed to only charge GroupM’s clients for ads that were guaranteed to be viewed by consumers. While 100% viewability is never a guarantee, the two partners stressed that they reached an acceptable & agreed upon viewability level for their ad units.
The afternoon panel “The Story Makers” talked about the evolution of storytelling to storymaking – where consumers work with brands to create the story. Hirschhorn stated that it can be much less risky for brands to enter stories already being told rather than create one of their own. Anne Lewnes, SVP and CMO of Adobe, showed an inspiring video celebrating Adobe Photoshop’s 25 year anniversary wholly created with user-generated imagery and exhorts viewers to “Dream On.”
We loved the “Fail Fast Forward” series of 10 minute vignettes, that highlighted a “fail” moment, the learning, and what was implemented to “fix” things. Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP, Advertising, New York Times, led with the story of a 161-year old article in the Times about Solomon Northup, aligned with the release of Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, and a subsequent Gawker piece entitled “This Is the 161-Year-Old New York Times Article About 12 Years a Slave” that performed way, way better than the Times piece about the original article.
The three actions the Times took? One was to “defy the gravity of tradition”, by embracing the notion that finding the audience is just as important as the story itself — Alexandra MacCallum was recently appointed to audience development and there is now a “masthead level” or leadership-level focus on finding the right audience. Two was to “Invent new ways to create value” which spurred the creation of T-Brand Studio and the Times’ entrance into the branded content biz, continuing striving to create content that makes people feel things, regardless of whether it is paid or not. Number 3. is to “never lose sight of what got us there in the first place” summed up with two simple words: Quality. Storytelling.
Our favorite quotable from the “Moving at the Speed of Culture” interview with Beats by Dre’s Omar Johnson: Jimmy Iovine said to me one day “What’s a SWAT? Your job is to sell headphones, right?” We had to work at a speed that most brands don’t have to. And they live it every day – Beats agency, R/GA, has to present every idea on one slide. Love this challenge!
Atlas’ Jennifer Kattula wrapped the day eloquently with “Five Things Marketers Ought to Know,” challenging us to move on from the Four Ps from Philip Kotler’s 1967 book Marketing Management, to the 4 Cs…. from Product to Choice, Price to Convenience, Place to Cross-Device, and Promotion to Creative Sequencing. Some compelling stats within, including touting the cookie’s demise and how people-based marketing is more effective for reaching the right people at the right time – something that digital marketers have a responsibility to aim higher on.
As much as golf is an outdoorsy and somewhat leisurely sport, its players are very serious about proper attire when playing. There’s no uniform of course, but looking like a tall, cool glass of gin and tonic is preferred. That’s why fashion is so important on the links.
Venice, Calif.-based ad agency Zambezi has created an online and print campaign for golf apparel brand Ashworth, part of the TaylorMade Apparel Group. On March 23, the agency and the client launched a “magalogue” in print and a digital version online called “Golf/Man” to engage with the modern casual golfer.
As AOR for TaylorMade and Ashworth, Zambezi made the brand as much about lifestyle as about the game. The publication chronicles days in the life of the brand’s marquis professional athlete, Justin Rose, as he plays top golf courses around the world. The first issue follows Justin playing Streamsong, a luxury resort in Florida. The hard-copy and online publications are both very image-heavy with photos of Justin, wearing Ashworth attire.
Zambezi and Ashworth published this rather upscale book of scenic photography, printed on heavy paper stock, thinking it was an innovative way to position this niche brand before a discerning audience.
This post was written by DGC’s International ACE Award winner, Senior Account Executive Megan Sweat. Recognizing her stellar work and contributions to the agency, DGC sent her to London to spend time at Advertising Week Europe and to meet with our strategic partner Eulogy!
Many people in the U.S. ad market are oblivious to Advertising Week in London, and vice versa. This year Advertising Week Europe ran from March 23-27, and compared to past ones in New York (which take place in the fall) the programming had a unique edge.
Many of the players were the same, including Publicis Groupe, Google and the IAB but the gorgeous historic venues such as St. James’s Church and outdoor settings (pictured below) gave Advertising Week Europe an entirely different feel from the New York edition.
Outdoor seating outside of the ADARA Stage
St. James’s Church in Piccadilly
Collaboration, creativity and inspiration were recurring themes throughout the week, and here are some of the highlights that stuck with us:
- When asked to leave the audience with one “astounding nugget that would blow their minds,” Steve Hatch, Director of EMEA from Facebook replied that everything in our industry “starts and ends with people.” To be successful, we as an industry need to follow people’s trends, and the customer is truly always right, he said.
- Maurice Levy, CEO of Publicis Groupe, predicted that marketing will become more and more about the “omnichannel” experience. With a few exceptions, he said this is still a complicated world to clients, and it hasn’t yet been mastered.
- Inter-agency collaboration and how to foster it was also top of mind. One possible solution that came out of MEC UK’s session was having a shared workspace, where a client’s different agencies could meet and work together as opposed to working in silos and trying to come together at the end.
As one panelist put it, “We tell our clients they need to co-own their brand with their customers… Now, we need to co-own our ideas with others.”
A handful of other memorable declarations over heard during the week made us laugh: (Since these are not exact quotes, I’ve removed the attribution—which didn’t include people’s titles and affiliations either)
- “Pitches are the crack cocaine of our industry – we’re all addicted to them.”
- “Is it better to follow your dreams and not make it, or make it and betray yourself along the way?”
- “Stupid people think complicated is clever. If you can’t explain it to an 11-year-old, you have failed.”
- “Be uncool. Coolness is a form of orthodoxy. Being uncool is actually a powerful creative force.”
DiGennaro Communications CFO Michael Isaacson was among those recognized on March 16 with an Executive Management Award from SmartCEO, which lauded his leadership and management accomplishments.
Isaacson joined DGC in 2010, and as his profile attests, he has helped our company to double its revenue and headcount. He’s also a significant contributor to building the company’s robust culture through employee-engagement programs, including weekly happy hours, quarterly social outings, and holiday parties. The agency supports employee participation in philanthropy programs–several times a year, DGC devotes hours for staffers to read to elementary school students and to visit nursing homes to play bingo with residents.
DGC specializes in B2B communications on behalf of advertising, media, marketing, entertainment, and tech companies as well as for consumer-facing multinationals such as Ringling Bros / Feld Entertainment, Live Nation, and McDonald’s.
Isaacson (second from right) was accompanied by some colleagues to receive his award at the Hudson Mercantile in New York City.
Everyone at DGC extends their heartfelt congratulations to Mike Isaacson. We’re grateful for his tireless work to make DGC the agency it is today.
Another year, another SXSW. There was certainly a whirlwind of activity – and our DGC team always faces the same problem after industry conferences as big and exciting as this one: How to experience everything SXSW has to offer? The correct answer: It’s extremely difficult, so pat yourself on the back if you see at least one cool thing per day. Fortunately we saw many. Here are a few takeaways and insights that we’re bringing back to the office and sharing with our teams, clients and peers:
- Create Deeper Experiences with Fans
From Samsung, to the United Nations to National Geographic, many brands engaged with fans via cool, interactive experiences. The A&E network’s drama series, “The Bates Motel,” had an exact replica of its on-set hotel in Austin, and it was fully-functional, accommodating overnight guests. The promotion give fans a deeper experience with the show, based on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” National Geographic’s fantastic activation promoting the hit series “Life Below Zero” was an immersive adventure that plunged fans into the icy, cold conditions of Alaska. As the temperature dropped, fans were forced to connect clues, complete challenges and solve puzzles to escape back to the warm, south Texas sun. We also saw some of-the-moment brands team up to reach their fans. The Spotify House, for example, hosted daily SoulCycle classes with live DJs, free snacks and juice, and a full-on flash mob to accompany and motivate sweaty cyclists. This unique activation proved that music, fitness, and SXSW can go hand in hand.
- Consider all Brands as Tech Companies
Move over Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo. Today every brand considers itself a tech brand, which is part reality and partly an effort to get ahead of digital trends and appeal to the younger, more plugged in Millennial crowds that flock to Austin. For example, Equinox Fitness launched new data-driven spin technology so its members can track their workout progress and help determine future fitness strategies. The data that is gathered on the bike is also attached to member profiles on the Equinox app so users can keep track of their data.
- What’s Next?
SXSW wouldn’t be the festival it is today if it weren’t up to the minute. The buzziest app of the week leading up to the festival was the recently launched Meerkat, which enables users to live-stream video directly to Twitter. Twitter moved quickly to block the service, despite its popularity on March 13, before SXSW got fully underway. While live-streaming has been around for some time, it will be interesting to see how marketers engage with these platforms for future brand activation strategies.
“The first rule of building a ‘love culture,’ is to love what you do.”
Although the session’s panel descriptor was about the brain, Spence and his co-presenter Mac Brown (founder of Spur Leadership and Founding Pastor of Lake Hills Church in Austin) spent the bulk of their time talking about the heart.
They offered three rules for building what they call a “love culture” within your organization:
1) Love what you do. Spence, who built GSD&M with four partners from the ground up over the past 45 years, encouraged audience members to “create an environment where people can play to their strengths.” He relayed a story from his childhood about his struggles with spelling. After numerous C grades, he scored an A- on a term paper when he was about 14 years old. His mother remarked that while he may not ever be a great speller, but she could see that he was a great writer. Her advice? Don’t waste your time trying to be average at something you’re bad at doing, but spend every second trying to great at what you’re good at doing.
2) Hang out with people you love. “Love cultures are about people helping you, and you helping people,” said Spence. Brown added that part of loving people is accountability: “You have to operate alongside people with an established set of values. As a leader you have a greater responsibility to the group than the individual. You have to be willing to let someone go if you want to build a love culture. You have to do it for the health of everyone else. You love people when you hold them accountable.”
3) Love the impact you have on lives and communities. Brown said that any thriving organization has two things: Love and good deeds. Spence recited some of the purpose-based companies he and GSD&M have worked with over the years from Southwest Airlines to Whole Foods.
Their one common denominator? They’ve all cracked the code on creating environments where people can love what they do, be deliberate and intentional about their jobs and have license to literally change the world. To Spence and Brown, those are the ultimate markers of a “love culture.”
As the session came to a close, one woman asked Spence for his personal definition of a leader. He replied: “I’ve never called myself a leader, but I do know this…If you don’t have followers, you’re not a leader. Leaders build the ship, and they do so through love.”
The DGC team hit the ground running on Saturday morning at SXSWi with a quick stop at and an 11 a.m. deep-dive into how data will build high-performing humans. The panel featured New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz and Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan, joined by Michael Gervais and Mashable’s Haile Owens. We were fascinated with the panel’s discussion on how data can make even the highest achieving athletes more powerful on and off the field. One nugget we took away from the session was data and tools are great, but don’t forget about your body’s biggest source of information: your brain.
After a quick selfie with the man of the hour, our team dispersed to other sessions before gathering to prep for DGC’s first-ever #SXSWi happy hour. The team set up shop at the JW Marriott to entertain clients and friends of DGC over margaritas, chips and guacamole, and the best darn jalapeño cornbread Austin has to offer.
Day three saw us checking out some of the week’s best brand activations and experiences. We swung by Samsung’s Studio Experience, where our colleague, Sara Ajemian, made a DGC t-shirt in its design studio. While the A&E network offered up nightly stays at a faux Bates Motel to promote its series of the same name, neighboring station National Geographic took it to the extreme with a challenge to promote its new season of “Life Below Zero.” We dared to see if we had what it takes to Escape the Cold, as the promo was called, encouraged players to find clues to get out of the room in twenty minutes working with teams of 6. It was tough going – we didn’t find the key. Brands should take note for 2016 as this was an incredible way to bridge the gap between brand experience and user interaction. It tied to “life below zero” which is a show about people living in isolation in Alaska
Other panels we checked out:
– Argonaut, an agency that’s part of Project Worldwide, had two executives on a panel: Robbie Whiting, Creative Technologist, and Garrick Schmitt, digital advisor, who spoke to a packed house about “Malevolent Marketing.” Recap the conversation on Twitter with #letsbeevil.
– Deep Focus CMO Jamie Gutfreund cracked the code on Millennials at the Pandora Lounge, encouraging marketers to be smart about their consumer and audience. She was later joined on stage by Nana Menya, AVP of Investment Strategy of GE, whose talk on the mindset of music was equally intriguing.
– DDB’s Global Business Director Marina Zuber discussed art, tigers and an #EndangeredSong with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and on-the-rise band Portugal the Man.
Stay tuned for more!