Does what matters to CEOs matter to you? Put these “crucial capabilities” in order.

May 26, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

IBM conducted a study of over 1,500 business leaders across 60 countries and 33 industries. And it showed they value creativity most in a leader. Above integrity.

What do you think?

Even as a creative director/CEO I find this wrong-minded.

Nothing in my mind should be above integrity for anyone in any role.

IBM study 2010

At NYCA, we value technical expertise very highly but it takes a back seat to doing what you say you will do. We are not our disciplines, we are human beings who are accountable to all our constituents for the quality of our ethics and the quality of our deliverables.

The poll cited creativity as the most important leadership quality because creative leaders are seen as more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and they are 81% more likely to rate innovation as a “crucial capability.”

Although we are a global community, I find it reassuring that there was a disparity between the views of North American CEOs and those from other territories.

In North America, 65% of CEOs think integrity is a top quality for tomorrow’s leaders, while only 29-48% of CEOs in other territories view it as such.

Meanwhile, nearly double the amount of CEOs in China view global thinking as a top leadership quality, compared with Europe and North America.

Here’s my order from the IBM list of the most important leadership qualities over the next five years and why.

Integrity – If the leader can’t be counted on the company will not reach its potential.

Influence – Leaders must be able to inspire their team; if they have great ideas but can’t influence the company will fail.

Creativity – Leaders must be flexible, create value for all.

Dedication – Leaders can’t ask of others if they don’t deliver themselves.

Openness – Leaders can’t do it alone; leaders must listen and be strong enough to be guided.

Fairness – Fairness depends on the leader’s values; as long as she makes them clear and has the integrity to stand by them the company will stand by her.

Humility – Openness and integrity can help keep the leader’s ego in check.

Focus on sustainability – Of course important, but may not be a successful corporation’s top focus.

Global thinking – Depends on the goals of the company.

What do you think? Put the list in your order and let me know. More importantly let your CEO know.

“Those damn marketers.”

May 21, 2010

By Katy West, Associate Business Manager @ NYCA

Last Sunday, I decided it was time to purchase outdoor furniture for my back patio, so my roommate and I took a trip to the local Target Superstore. As we were strolling through the aisles toward the Patio Furniture + Garden section, I got completely derailed by the sight of softball equipment (this is normal). I looked at the bats, checked the weights and lengths and had wonderful memories of spending my summer days on softball diamonds. Then I saw something that caught my attention – a flowery, pink softball bat. My initial reaction was skepticism regarding the design of this particular piece of equipment. As someone who takes her sports seriously, I saw this bat as anything but! I vocalized this opinion and, unbeknownst to me, a passerby was listening.

This passerby was a very rugged man, about 70 years old, with one comment that struck me as hilarious and a bit thought-provoking. “It’s those damn marketers!” he said, “They’ve been manipulating us since the ‘50s.” After my roommate laughed at me, knowing where I work, and further encouraged the man to defame my career (jokingly, of course), we both talked about it.

As a “damn marketer” myself, I felt instantly responsible for the fact that a random consumer would so quickly place blame and guilt on the marketing industry as a whole. People are distrustful of marketing and therefore we need to be careful to be authentic in the minds of the masses. We must remain clear about the reason we are advertising in the first place: to sell a product that consumers need or desire.

Despite my initial reaction, that flowery, pink softball bat wasn’t an inferior product or object of poor marketing. It was merely meant for someone other than me. It was indeed authentic to the little girls and parents that purchase the bat because it is what these consumers desire. Hence the difference between marketplace choice and misfired marketing. As a fan of the former, I am also grateful for that anonymous consumer who reminded me to respect him. It’s a memory I’ll take into the conference rooms here each day.

True blue, baby.

May 19, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA’s corporate color is baby blue.

We paint our walls with it, our PowerPoints show it off, so do our biz cards, our site, and our grow! studies. One of our beach cruisers was even dipped in it.

Baby blue is a mindset.

Our baby blue Electra cruiser.

We bravely fly the pirate flag of innocence. This is hard to do with a team as deeply experienced as ours.

With knowledge comes history. History brings memory. Memory can make you lazy, whispering, “Oh please, we’ve done this before; just go about it this way again.”

We firmly resist such a paint-by-numbers approach – politely, of course – as our culture is one of spirited collaboration.

We go at the daunting task of growing our clients’ businesses fortified by our daily dose of naiveté.

This beginner’s mindset is fearless, eternally optimistic and wide-eyed to better see the possible along the well-trodden road or ones forsaken just because there’s a sign that says, “Dead End.”

The world’s too young and abundant with great opportunities to be so cynical. You can’t be anything but productive and hopeful in baby blue.

Some great brands are affiliated with colors. Coke has trademarked Coca Cola red, a color suggestion from inventor John Pemberton. McDonald’s has golden arches reminiscent of its famous “golden” fries. Apple does gray to let its products star and bring the color.

Baby blue represents the vision to see and the ingenuity to create what’s next.

And it makes a great t-shirt.

You have something you believe in? What’s your color?

The Ever-Evolving Social Network

May 17, 2010

By Fiona Beitdashtoo, Business Manager @ NYCA

Over the past few weeks Facebook has made some major changes affecting its users’ experiences. We’re playing around with them here at the agency.


Users will now be asked if they “like” a page (brand, product, cause, public figure, etc.) rather than “become a fan” of a page. This decision to re-name the “fan” function contradicts the idea of building community. When Facebook users had the ability to “become a fan,” it gave them the sense of joining something special. Whether a cause, car brand, favorite restaurant, athlete, or idea, Facebook users were comfortable saying – “yeah I’m a fan.” Now, with the ability to merely “like” a page, the idea of being a part of a niche community has become diluted.

Still, don’t underestimate the viral “fan” power that Facebook still has despite the change in semantics. In this changing Facebook environment, marketers should fuel conversation on the pages that they administer and around the social network by providing content that matters to the people. Cool content rules because:

  • when people comment on your content, Facebook alerts that person’s network that they interacted with your page by posting that activity on the homepage wall.
  • it gives you a good reason to continually touch advocates. Tip: Whenever you post cool content on your page, announce it via a status post!  By doing this you will alert that person who “likes” you, and their network of friends. If the content you are promoting is region-specific you can geo-target your status posts!
  • you can use this content to develop Facebook ads. Homepage sponsor ads, while they can be expensive, do provide marketers with power to share rich content such as video with people who may not know your page even existed. These ads are a great opportunity to give people who should “like” your page a taste of the great content they can experience if they opt-in.


Facebook is now giving users the opportunity to link their interests from their personal profiles to pages within Facebook. Facebook suggests which pages a person should link to. With thousands of pages on Facebook, the chances a person will be matched with an “official” page versus a page created by an Average Joe is to be determined. My guess is that Facebook serves the page suggestion based on what page is most popular (meaning has the most people who “like” it), or algorithms based on key words.

So now applying SEO strategies in the Facebook environment is essential. Marketers can do this by integrating their brand’s key words in content created for their page. Key areas for SEO key word integration are:

  • Company bio
  • Product description
  • Photo descriptions and Photo album names
  • “Notes” posts
  • Status posts

To increase the number of people who “like” your page, we recommended that companies engage in both paid and earned media opportunities. The paid media (Facebook ads) will drive traffic to your page, and the earned media (content you create for your page) will keep people there and hopefully inspire them to share your brand page’s content with their friends.

Let’s face it… Facebook is ever-evolving. It’s creating a dynamic environment for people to stay connected to people and brands. We’ll keep you posted with our POV on future developments.

Mixology – A tender crash course in NYCA’s grow! culture

May 13, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA vibrates on the edge of the ocean. We put the agency’s roots down here to be close to our core customers. Encinitas is our home; known for sun-dazed walks along the beach, awesome surf spots called Swamis and the Boneyard, cutesy eclectic retailers displaying their wares and social consciousness. We made sure to put ourselves far from the city and the hum-drum, conventional thinking of the ad agency world and land in a neighborhood where the hairdressers take cigarette breaks while thumbing through People magazine, by the hardware stores, and a diner, the kite store (never saw one of those before but it makes sense when you’re on the ocean), indie sneaker store, used-car lot, Self-Realization center, French bakery, dry cleaners. We’re with the people, and that keeps us in touch with reality – something I’m not convinced most agencies are and the cause for many of the misses in their work. It’s hard to relate to people when they look like ants from the 47th floor and you’re cooler than thou.

Being far enough to be close puts added pressure on us because if we are to fulfill our mission of growing every client’s business in the marketplace, we must be — and remain –current to what is happening in their businesses. We must be stimulated by each other, by our clients, their products, their customers, their competition, the industries, the mediums, the marketplace, the technologies and more. That’s why Michelle, our president and chief planner, invented Mixology – and I love Mixology! It’s 1 hour every other week around 4 pm when we have guest innovators come visit our beach shack to share what they have been tinkering with, what they have learned. These generous experts jolt us. We learn, we apply, we grow!

Last week we had an engineer from Apple in to show us the marketing uses of the iPad (he was kinda cooler than thou but in a real way). We’ve had people from Yahoo!, Facebook, musicians, loads of media companies whom I think are the real night crawlers searching for connection between message and audience – thanks for that! And we have hosted technology companies and a dream interpreter and nutritionists, futurists, and bakers opening us to the new, the effective, the failures. We have focused the SoCal sunlight on our own NYCAers who recently shared breakthroughs in TiVo: we experimented and crushed the projections on this campaign! Lisa showed us how in PowerPoint our ideas can be more powerful and useful in meetings.

We are a contradiction to conventional approaches, a connection with the ever-changing present – a culture that has ourselves on the edge and in the middle to make sure we are inside the customer’s heart and mind because we are so out there. The dichotomy is NYCA, and we are comfortable with the oxymoronishness.

We are the sharpened teeth of New York and the tradewind vibes of California. We work in harmonious chaos, comfy and danger-filled days, mashing up science and mysticism, instinct and data, music, pictures, words and silence; we are the fathomless open mind of the Pacific Ocean and the social technology revolution that is happening in mobile now.

My favorite cookie growing up was a black and white: 50% vanilla frosting, 50% chocolate frosting. I would eat from the edges into the middle, side by side, leaving two pieces at the end – each purely themselves — and then smush them both in my mouth for the ultimate flavor mélange sensation. That’s the taste of NYCA.

Mixology is that. You gotta come by and check it out. Let me know if you want to teach or be taught – either way you learn. Both sides working distinctly and in unison, like a black and white cookie.

Kind, but no hero.

May 10, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

I received this article from several associates. They know I am interested in integrity and golf so, in Avatar lexicon, thanks for “seeing me.”

This is the story of two collegiate golfers going into the playoffs; the winner would get into Nationals. One of the players was already going to the finals because his team had won. The other, though he’d had a wonderful golf career, had never gotten to the finals, and being a senior, this would be his last chance. The story tells how the player who was already going to the finals intentionally hit his tee shot out of bounds by 40 yards, suffering a penalty, and the other player went on to win the hole and get into the finals.

The Giving Trees by Terrance Osborne

I think my response to the article surprised the people who sent it to me. Here it is. I’d love to know what you think.

In my estimation, the player who purposely lost made it too obvious by hitting the ball out of bounds by 40 yards. My issue is one of intention. Hitting the ball so far off line brings attention to himself and his act, and so the gift is about the giver not the receiver. It’s like keeping the price tag on the present for all at the party to see one’s generosity.

The player could have simply three-putted to make it appear that the other guy won. This way the winner gets the pride of victory instead of knowing he was given charity. With this approach no one but the “giving” player would have known. That would take courage, humility and grace and would have earned my deep respect and gotten him no glory.

Imagine being the player who performed this act in such a selfless way, reading in the sports section, if it even made it being so mundane, how he blew it on the payoff hole. What a joyous story that would be!

Action Drives Growth

May 5, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

Action demands motivation.

Motivation demands relevance.

Relevance demands insight.

Insight demands understanding.

Understanding demands clarity.

Clarity demands simplicity.

Simplicity demands discipline.

Discipline focuses energy.

Energy drives action.

Action drives growth.