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Cannes Lions 2015: Surviving a Zombie Attack

This post is written by Sara Ajemian, Senior Account Director, who is on the ground at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Day one of the Cannes Lions festival got underway in earnest on Sunday, June 21, and one of the morning sessions had an apocalyptic flavor as WPP’s MediaCom hosted a presentation titled “How to Survive a Zombie Attack and Harness Cultural Trends to Grow Brands.”

Dave Alpert, executive producer of AMC’s The Walking Dead,” Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks, Inc., and Steven Yeun, an actor on the show, were all on hand to discuss the art of their particular type of storytelling and give a small preview of next season.

MediaCom’s global strategy officer Jon Gittings shared how his agency categorizes storylines–hierarchy, individuality, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty, pragmatism and indulgence—and how different countries’ audiences respond to them. Gittings said, for example, that when episodes are indexed against global viewership, North America shows a high preference for individuality and indulgence while Spain, Turkey and Brazil showed a higher preference for storylines that had a strong element of uncertainty.

On day two, our DGC team was on the ground early supporting client-press meetings followed by more programming.

We stopped in to see Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and Citi’s Jennifer Breithaupt, SVP, Global Head of Entertainment Marketing, discuss “Music & Branding Moving at the Speed of Culture.” Billboard reporter Andrew Hampp moderated the session, which focused on the evolution of brand/artist partnerships.

For Metallica, corporate partnerships are all about balance, according to Ulrich, and if a company has credibility in its industry and offers a creative outlet for the brand, it’s a win-win for all involved.

If panelists had one major caution, it was this:  Don’t make the partnership a one-off. Invest the time to figure out how to amplify and give it legs to extend the life cycle. Otherwise, you’ll be yesterday’s news before it’s tomorrow.

We’ll be continuing to share updates from Cannes, so be sure to stay tuned here to the Hit Board, as well as following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

What Can Brian Williams Do?

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.brian williams

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.

I’m Not a Leader Because I’m a Female, But I’m Proud to be a Female Leader

What is the difference between how men and women lead? Are you a leader because you’re a woman, or is it about the individual? What do you think about Mary Barra and her role? All of these questions and more were posed to our fearless leader Sam DiGennaro on a panel this week at Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. headquarters in Montvale, N.J., in honor of Women’s History Month.

As successful women with unique perspectives on leadership, Sam, along with Samantha Meiler, VP, Content & Programming, at Nickelodeon’s NickMom, and Robyn Streisand, Founder & CEO, The Mixx, a marketing agency, were invited to sit on the panel moderated by Karen Matri, Product Manager, Telematics and Connected Services at Mercedes-Benz USA.

From left to right: Lisa Ragusa, Senior Purchasing Agency, Mercedes-Benz USA; Samantha Meiler, VP, Content & Programming, at Nickelodeon’s NickMom; Sam DiGennaro, CEO + Founder, DiGennaro Communications; Robyn Streisand, Founder & CEO, The Mixx

From left to right: Lisa Ragusa, Senior Purchasing Agency, Mercedes-Benz USA; Samantha Meiler, VP, Content & Programming, at Nickelodeon’s NickMom; Sam DiGennaro, CEO + Founder, DiGennaro Communications; Robyn Streisand, Founder & CEO, The Mixx

The event was sponsored by the company’s Women’s Innovation Network, an employee resource group that champions career advancement and personal growth for women.  Each woman offered the audience –a group comprised of both male and female Mercedes-Benz employees of all roles, levels and departments– tangible examples and tips to inspire them on their own career paths.

From left to right: Samantha Meiler, VP, Content & Programming, at Nickelodeon’s NickMom; Karen Matri, Product Manager, Telematics and Connected Services at Mercedes-Benz USA; Michelle Wirth, Marketing Communications Department Manager, Mercedes-Benz USA; Robyn Streisand, Founder & CEO, The Mixx; Sam DiGennaro, CEO + Founder, DiGennaro Communications

From left to right: Samantha Meiler, VP, Content & Programming, at Nickelodeon’s NickMom; Karen Matri, Product Manager, Telematics and Connected Services at Mercedes-Benz USA; Michelle Wirth, Marketing Communications Department Manager, Mercedes-Benz USA; Robyn Streisand, Founder & CEO, The Mixx; Sam DiGennaro, CEO + Founder, DiGennaro Communications

Here are three of Sammy D’s  takeaways for women who aspire to leadership positions:

1. Lean into the bad times: When asked what she thought of General Motors CEO Mary Barra and her handling of the company’s recall situation, Sam said she admired her willingness to “own” a crisis that she personally had nothing to do with, and that meeting with the victims’ families the day before she was to go on trial was a remarkable way to show empathy and true leadership. Sam’s takeaway? True leaders are measured by how they handle the bad times. By taking responsibility and using her company’s mistakes as a platform for growth, Barra likely elevated her standing in the public eye.

2. Crying in the workplace is okay: On the topic of gender bias in the workplace, all panelists agreed that crying on the job is okay. Sam said,  “I’ve done it. I’ve cried in front of bosses, employees and even clients. It’s who I am; I’m an emotional being, and I lead with my heart. It’s been said that empathic leaders actually resonate more with employees and stakeholders, and I’d rather be authentic and own who I really am than apologize for crying.” One male audience member actually expressed his understanding, saying that as a relatively new grandfather he recently cried watching his granddaughters perform in a school play, and as a result, became more in touch with his emotions, allowing him to relate to female colleagues on a different level.

3. Take time for yourself: During the Q&A portion of the panel one audience member asked the panelists how they carve out time for themselves, despite managing very busy and stressful careers. Sam mentioned her morning meditation ritual as one way she disconnects from technology, ground herself and re-set her mind before diving into the workday. Streisand talked about her Tuesday/Wednesday ritual of putting the cell phones down for dinner with her partner both nights, and Meiler mentioned that when she took her job at Nick, she actually negotiated leaving the office by 6 p.m. each day to get home to her three young children, even if it means she needs to get back online after her kids are asleep. The common thread was setting boundaries and taking time to do what matters most outside of work to be more successful and effective at work.

The panel wrapped up with each woman offering advice to the next generation of female leaders. Sam talked about the importance of giving back and of mentorship – both seeking mentors and being one yourself – and told the audience she actually thought it would be easier for today’s generation to find role models: “Young women now have so many great examples of leaders: their mothers, sisters, colleagues. I hope they seek out mentors to help manage their careers, and also give rising stars within their organizations support and guidance. That’s the only way we’ll continue moving upstream.”

Poster promoting the panel to Mercedes employees

Poster promoting the panel to Mercedes employees

DGC’s Countdown to the 2013 Cannes Lions

This Friday, the DiGennaro Communications (DGC) team will join the rest of the advertising and marketing community on the ground in the beautiful South of France to celebrate the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity’s 60th anniversary.  We will have the opportunity to spend some quality time with our clients from all over the world and meet with international reporters and industry influencers while attending seminars, special events and, if we can fit them in, maybe one or two cocktail parties…

This year, DGC clients are hosting some standout festival events, including:

Other highlights on the schedule include seminars with such celebrities as Martha Stewart, Nick Cannon and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs (presenting with Translation founder and CEO Steve Stoute) as well as a host of advertising legends, including Lee Clow, David Droga and Sir Martin Sorrell.

In the video below, DGC Founder, Sam DiGennaro, who will be reveling in her own 15th straight year at Cannes, shares a few thoughts about what she is looking forward to this year and gives a shout out to the many DGC clients who will be participating as jurors this year including Johannes Leonardo’s Leo Premutico and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Margaret Johnson on the Titanium Jury; Susan Bonds from 42 Entertainment on the Cyber Jury; and 11 DDB executives from around the world across various juries. Je vous vois en France!

Let’s Make the Industry 50/50 with ADC Initiative

ImageLast week, the advertising industry took a big step toward equal opportunity for all with the launch of the groundbreaking 50/50 initiative – an Art Directors Club (ADC) sponsored program focused on creating drastic, measurable change in the roles and participation of women within the creative communications industry. This means proactively seeking out and placing an equal number of women on award show juries, boards of directors, and speaker lineups.

DGC had the pleasure of sharing the news with media around the world and taking part in an exciting launch event. We saw firsthand some of the industry’s most talented and forward-thinking women such as IfWeRantheWorld’s Cindy Gallop, Creative Niche’s Mandy Gilbert  and our very own Sam DiGennaro speak to this incredibly important movement. In true ADC style, renowned photographer, Monte Isom, took part in capturing the moment.

Since the launch, other major industry organizations have joined the cause including the CLIO Awards, Social Media Week, the 4A’s, FID and the Tomorrow Awards. There is no doubt that it is an exciting time for the industry.

Perhaps Cindy Gallop, one of the 50/50 committee members, described it best when she said “what we do, what we create, has the power to change not only the future of the business, but the future of society.” Watch a clip of Cindy’s inspiring (and artistically backlit) call-to-action speech here.

To support this great cause, sign the 50/50 initiative petition

Sammy D on Jet-Setting, New Year’s Resolutions and Travel-Friendly Apps

Digital communication is a way of life for the PR industry. It’s second nature to share our news, views and communiqués in 140 characters, and a huge time-saver to Skype with non-New York-based clients. But even as life as we once knew it – with physical in-boxes and impromptu, non-scheduled phone calls – has long evaded our culture, our fearless leader Sam DiGennaro still believes in the power of face-time.

In a recent print and video interview with USA Today as part of a new series that aims to help business people work smarter on the road and in the office, USA Today reporter Charisse Jones talks with Sam about her 2013 new year’s resolution to spend more face-to-face time with DGC’s far-flung clients.

To accommodate DGC’s fast-growing west coast operation and clients, Midwest clients, alliance with London-based sister agency Eulogy!, industry conferences and other global prospects and partners, Sam’s first six months of 2013 alone includes business trips to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Istanbul, London and Cannes. Aside from work, she was able to work in a recent long weekend excursion to Milan, and a ski trip to Aspen.

Sam tells readers “No matter how free-spirited you are or how much wanderlust you have, it’s an entirely different experience than traveling for pleasure.”

Sam also offers her tips to make travel more efficient and fun, such as downloading mobile apps like Uber, FourSquare and Google Maps for transportation purposes, Pandora for customized music listening, Live Nation in case there’s time to take in a last-minute concert on the road, and a variety of meditation apps to de-stress on the plane, or in at the hotel.

Check out the entire piece for more travel tips including compartmentalizing clothes in shoe bags, booking wi-fi enabled flights, and taking any un-interrupted time to write handwritten notes.

The Robots Are Coming. But Can They Earn Media?

Wired cover_2101

The cover of Wired’s January 2013 issue

I just finished the January edition of Wired (which is a cracker by the way – you should buy it) and felt compelled to pen some musings on the cover story “The Robots Take Over!

The article reports on the array of robots that are currently making our lives easier and more effective – both at home and at work. The subhead starts with “Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?”, and it sells the inspirational notion that we will all dream up new things on which to spend our time when the quoted “epic” robot takeover kicks in. Creative things that critical thinking humans are custom-made to do that robots cannot do (yet).

This prompted me to recall a story about Tamworth, a country town in Australia, which was the first town in the whole country to be lit up by electric street lights. The tale goes that when the council first set out to educate residents about “electricity”, the majority proclaimed, “Why would we need this thing called electricity? We’re just fine as we are“.

It was impossible for Tamworth residents to imagine in 1888 that appliances like washing machines, microwaves or televisions could exist, let alone be the essential household items we see in nearly every home in the western world today. Technology begets innovation, even if you can’t humanly grasp the beginning of that path yet.

Every day we employ Google and Bing bots to search the world wide web for us and we use ATMs to access our cash, but can you see yourself taking orders barked at you from a “Gymbot”? Would you get your script filled by a pharmacist bot that demands a thumbprint ID for verification, or pay to go and see a “Data”, a TED-featured comedienne bot that adjusts its humor topics by measuring audience response to its gags?

The article states that over time musicians, athletes, yoga masters and even reporters will be replaced by robots. In fact, a piece of software by Narrative Science can write sports-focused newspaper stories directly from game stats, or “generate a synopsis of a company’s stock performance each day” from information available online.

A quote from our fearless leader, Sam DiGennaro in an Ad Exchanger article titled “Marketers Explain – What Is An Agency?” got me thinking about how a robot might replace the work we do as PR professionals. She states “…all the technological savvy in the world is for naught when an agency focuses too much on automation and algorithms at the expense of the human touch.

I agree 100%. There’s no tried-and-true PR formula that works every time. We engage many forms of technology every day to help us do our jobs but could the creative thinking needed to draw out newsworthy information on a corporation and package it perfectly for the press really be replaced by 0s and 1s?


The shocking opening image to Joshua Davis’ feature article in Wired on John McAfee

The quality of the journalism in Wired makes it one of a small handful of hard copy magazine subscriptions that I keep renewing. I simply have to mention the mind-blowing feature “John McAfee’s Last Stand” on the former virus software giant. It opens with a double-page spread of McAfee holding a pistol to the side of his head and the article doesn’t drop pace from thereon in.

I can’t begin to imagine what detailing the chronicle was like for the writer, Joshua Davis. He cites several middle-of-the-night paranoia-laden calls from McAfee weeks and months after their first interview, loaded weapons flippantly waved around as he sat on McAfee’s heavily guarded property in Belize, killer guard dogs, raids and suspected drug labs (claims are so far unproven)… and all the while he maintains a mature and honest, yet level-headed objectivity through the finished piece, making for compelling reading.

While I sincerely can’t wait to see the things a generation of coding, iPad kids will create, I’d like to see a robot try and write a story like that.

Important Update from DGC: Business Continuity and Server Outage

Dear Friends:

If you are located in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, we hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.

We at DGC are relieved to report that everyone on our team weathered the storm. Our office, however, is in lower Manhattan and without power. Our email server and phone system are down, and our off-site back-up server is down as well.

DGC staffers with power and Internet access are working remotely and doing their best to be accessible and responsive. As many of you know, cell phone access and connectivity are still quite limited. Texting seems to be the most reliable form of real-time communication.

Please reach out to your team via mobile phone and/or feel free to post a note here if you’re having trouble getting through to anyone, and we’ll do our best to route it to the correct recipient asap.

Many thanks for your patience and cooperation this week. We’ll be running at full speed again as quickly as possible!

Sam, Howard, Melanie and the DGC team

Forbes Shares “Aha” Moments of America’s Top Entrepreneurs

Image via Forbes

We’re in the throes of election season where topics like job creation and unemployment rates are being thrown around by candidates, pundits and citizens, alike. Did you catch last night’s debate?

While both sides of the aisle have ideas for change, Jim Clifton, the Chairman of Gallup, suggested that what we really need is more entrepreneurship inspiring people to start companies and grow organizations, ultimately leading to more job opportunities.

Well, ForbesAlan Hall recently spoke with 100 founders of growing businesses about the “Aha” moments that solidified their decision to move forward with their entrepreneurial initiative -– what inspired them, how they did it and ultimately, how many jobs they created in the process.

Our very own Samantha DiGennaro weighed in, explaining that after 15 years as a corporate communication executive at global companies where corporate politics “starved her soul,” she knew she could build a better alternative. And so, DiGennaro Communications was born.

Read on to be inspired by the experiences of 99 other talented entrepreneurs in “100 Founders Share Their Top “Aha” Moments — Guess How Many Jobs They’ve Created So Far?”

Creative Dept: Handle with Care

Last week, Nina DiSesa, a creative consultant at R3:JLB, had a column in Ad Age  talking about how love and trust were necessary ingredients in successful relationships between clients and their advertising agencies. She defined a “successful” relationship as one steeped in the following:

1)      Longevity. Love and trust made the client-agency relationship last a long, long time because it meant that during any rough patch, the account lead was able to empathize and smooth things over. Thus, throwing an account into review was a rare occurrence.

2)      Solid relationships between the client and agency allowed the agency to feel comfortable taking chances to produce stellar creative. The constant threat of having to pitch against other agencies makes creative professionals insecure, and they freeze up.

3)      Good relationships lead to a happy result. Agencies produce work that resonates with customers, and client sales go up.

4)      If agency creatives feel that their client loves them, they’ll go through walls to please that client. It’s important for clients and even agencies themselves to nurture and support the creative.

DiSesa should know. For many years she was chairman chief creative officer of the New York office of McCann-Erickson.  DGC’s own CEO Sam DiGennaro wholeheartedly agreed with DiSesa’s column, offering, in part, this insight (via online comments):

“… intimidation, ‘gotchas’ and fear tactics have the trickle-down effect of demoralized talent, marginalized results and, worst case, commoditized offerings. This hurts everyone in the long run.”

A lot of others weighed in as well with equally interesting perspectives. Worth a read if you haven’t seen it.

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