Maybe the garden can make Schwarzenegger an honest man

May 24, 2011

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

Why do these muckety-mucks muck up their jobs and their reputations, their loved ones lives and their own? Governor Schwarzenegger has an affair with his family housekeeper; Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF, comes out of the shower, sees a hotel maid, has a few minutes before his flight and allegedly forces himself onto her. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer works up an $80K bill for prostitutes. All of these men are married, by the way. And as Bernie Madoff showed us, it’s not just about sex: he financially screwed everyone. It’s abuse of power. It wasn’t that these men didn’t think they would get caught. It had nothing to do with thinking. They didn’t feel enough, they didn’t care enough. They didn’t feel connected enough to their promises as husbands, connected to their promises, fiduciary or otherwise. They didn’t feel beholden to their responsibilities.

I submit that gardening could teach them all a lesson about connection.

In the garden, these big shots, holding a single seed that one day could be a fruit tree that could feed their families, would know soon enough that they are not bigger than anything else. They would learn helplessness when dealing with the all-powerful weather, which has no time for political speeches, fools-gold promises, threats. They would learn to truly nurture, not merely take a one-time oath, watering regularly, fertilizing properly (ok, they have some background in this category), again and again. This is what it takes to have a healthy relationship — getting down on your knees, as it were. And even if they don’t feel it in their souls (they have them, I am sure), the physical repetition might summon commitment, or perhaps surface empathy, and if not, the constant trimming, grooming, will let them know that they must clean up their own mess. Humility will serve the ones who have mis-served.

To think of it, this might be easier for the politicians, it’s a more positive form of mud-slinging.

Being the center of attention is the most precarious place to be, ironically. Too much attention causes disconnection. These people need grounding. We all do.


Manny Ramirez Strikes Out as a Hero

April 11, 2011

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

This past Friday, April 8, 2011 Manny Ramirez suddenly retired due to allegations that he was using illegal, game-enhancing drugs for the third time in his career. We first ran this blog in May of 2009. We figure another look at values and integrity was worth a second read, even for Manny fans.

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Full disclosure: I never liked Manny Ramirez. Not when he was a hero of the Red Sox Nation. Not now as a Dodger.  Not because he was good at playing baseball because I do have an appreciation for his machine-oiled swing and his carefree clutch play. But Manny being Manny was two too many Mannys for me.

Manny Ramirez

So that takes me to a news show the other day reporting that Manny Ramirez’s Dodger jerseys are being bought at a record pace since the news broke of his steroid violation. He’s been suspended for 50 games but sales on Manny mania is up.

Tell me, why would anyone want Manny Ramirez’s name on their back – even more now than before – after he was cited for illegal drug use?

Full disclosure number two: I feel the same way about A-Rod. And anyone else who cheats in or out of a Yankee uniform.

I have no issues with success and the riches and fame earned from it if one gets famous for doing decent things, for winning fair. You don’t have to be a working class guy to be a hero. Talent and fame aren’t enough to make you a person to look up to. You can be admired for your physical beauty and social powers but to become a hero, character should count more than homers.

So here’s to the heart-pounding excitement of playing by the rules.

To the miles after miles of straight and narrow.

To delivered-as-promised accountability.

To doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching. And when they are.

Here’s to the guy who holds his trash to toss it in the garbage can and picks it up and tries again when he misses a fall-away jumper. With no stadium, no cheers, no two fingers to the lips and up to the heavens when it goes in.

Here’s to celebrating ordinary goodness at a time when celebrity is so prized and so attainable.

Here’s to aspiring to be that kind of everyday hero.

Hallmark ought to make a day for it.

Everyday Hero Day.

When you care enough to send the very best to those who care enough to always do their best.

Goodness doesn’t need a posse.  If a good act is executed and no one sees it each of us is made better.

It’s easy to see a ball smashed in the ninth inning fly over the wall to win the game. Should you miss it, they will replay it on the jumbo screen, on the sports shows, on the local news, in the paper, online, in the blogs, fan sites.

You think we can tell goodness without a batting average? Without a stage or if it didn’t step out of a limo in a $1,000 suit?

This requires more action on the spectator’s part.

We have a responsibility to see, point out and to judge who we each want to put on the pedestal. If anyone.

My heroes’ names might not be in lights above all others. Some are, though.

She may not be able to sing or dance or run at record speed.

He may not have the mind to understand advanced strategy.

And, then again, they may have all of that. They may be famous for their talent and a nobody for their deeds.

They may be famous for their goodness. Like I said, being famous for doing the right thing is a good thing. It inspires more good stuff since fame is such an aspiration.

Give me the common good guy.

I will be proud to wear his jersey.

I will wait outside his workplace for his autograph.

I will point him out to my kids.

And put his poster over our bed (especially if my wife thinks he’s sexy).

You do the right thing under the intense pressure of an ordinary day or in the dark when the spotlight is off then you’ll have my respect and my thanks.

Now it may not be worth millions so I will also send you a hero card.


Michael Mark featured in Direct Marketing News blog

January 11, 2011

Michael’s perspective, “Creative director is the title, but not the job” ran in Direct Marketing News’ Direct by Design blog today. Read the full article here.


SHOOT’s end-of-year POV with Michael Mark

December 23, 2010

NYCA Creative Director & CEO, Michael Mark, was interviewed as part of SHOOT’s end-of-the-year recap featuring POVs from industry leaders. Read the full article here.


Gratitude

November 24, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Thanks for reading this blog. Just saying thanks makes us feel good.

Here are 465 ways to say thank you. That’s nothing compared to the millions of ways to express the sentiment. Each and every one of them makes everyone in the world happier. Nothing works more productively, consistently, euphorically to make one feel happier than saying and being thanked.

It’s old fashion good business. Even if you text it! Saying thanks is a payment that enriches two ways at once; the receiver gets nourished just as much the giver. Plus it’s 100% tax free!

Future NYCAer, Kamryn

At NYCA, if we have one holiday that captures our spirit it’s Thanksgiving. We sit around the floor, eating pie – you know we are big pie eaters here – and share what we are each thankful for. It’s not about being clever ad people with pithy zingers. Quite the contrary. The room fills with warmth, openness, respect, love, appreciation. Sweet sincerity pie with enough to go around and around.

Thanks again for reading this.



What would Eldrick do? I am not Tiger Woods. Tiger, are you?

August 9, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

I am not Tiger Woods. Tiger, are you?

Tiger, this must sound weird to ask, considering you are the most famous person on the planet – but, do you know who you are?

Excuse me for this personal question, but I feel like we are connected somehow. And I have a bit of guilt with this “transgression” situation for having pressured you into being what I thought you should be. And the pressure was so extreme it forced you away from ever being who you might have always been. And to complicate the matter, I have been secretly pretending, like the commercial said, that “I am Tiger Woods.”

Every win of yours was ours. We all drove you hard, applying our mass will, pushing you further up the leaderboard, into the history books, away from us, so you could be better than us. And in pushing so hard, removing you from yourself. We never intended to lead you away from the rules of decency.

Like it or not, we’re all involved here. Yeah, you, me and two billion others. And yet, in the end, your transgressions are yours to live with. That’s the bad business of idol worship.

Now, for the record, and we know how we are attached to records: I am not asking whether you know what you have done on the course and off. It’s been documented.

Knowing yourself is not simple, especially with all the labels placed on the world’s most well-known person. You’ve got “world’s greatest golfer – ever,” “prodigy,” “elder statesman (Ryder Cup),” “celebrity at 2 years old,” “foundation owner,” “Asian,” “African-American,” “husband,” “father,” “son,” “hero,” “corporate endorser,” “adulterer,” “liar,” “billionaire,” “legend,” “friend,” “teacher,” and “role model” for starters.

It must be harder than any Sunday at a Major to live your life so publicly – so much so, maybe it wasn’t your life.

With all this, it’s tough to tell who is Tiger Woods.

But I come bearing an answer: change your name.

Take the name on your birth certificate. You can start over again, Eldrick. Maybe that original name switch started the whole series of events. Names are powerful mirrors, windows. Open yours.

It’s better than running off to board your yacht, Privacy, because as you know you’ll find no privacy there – big as that boat is. Sooner than later you’ll run into Tiger, the stowaway.

You’d still be somewhat famous, though, should that be something you want to keep. Google “Tiger Woods” and you get 56,700,000 searches. “Eldrick Woods” gets 429,000.

You might wonder would Eldrick have done the things Tiger did? Will he hit the shots that Tiger can? Can he fix the mess that Tiger has made?

Try this: “I am Eldrick Woods! I am Eldrick Woods.”

Well, it’s just an idea, a direction. And it’s not about erasing what was done like it never happened. That’s for the second coming. We know that’s not your role, now. This is just a second chance.

Might even turn your game around.

Best of luck. Whoever you are.


3 steps to 6 times the results.

July 9, 2010

By Dan Henry, Senior Business Manager @ NYCA

Advertising Age recently reported that clickthrough rates from ads on the iPad are between 0.9% and 1.5%, which is 6X the benchmark for click-to-expand ads on the web. Think about that. Six times the results.

Here’s what came to my mind as I read – will these help your business grow?

  1. Demand a higher level of relevancy. Not only the message should be relevant. Not just the message and the medium together should be relevant. The message, the medium, and how that message interacts with the content it lives with should be relevant. Then your not just asking for something from your consumer, you’re also offering them something. A better experience. Consumers reward brands that provide a better experience. The iPad isn’t the only way to do this, but the consumer reaction and business results at this stage seem to be saying there are benefits of delivering a higher level of relevancy.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of the execution. All these ads on the iPad have one thing in common. They are executed to the highest level.  Apple is making sure of it – to make sure the ads are in line with what their product is offering – an unsurpassed user experience.  It would be difficult to argue that the level of the creative executions isn’t one reason these ads are performing so well. Of course you want to invest in really smart ideas, but spending the right time and money on truly beautiful creative really does improve results. Apple is a perfect example of this – yes good ideas, but also flawless execution. Our digital age requires us to work faster and cheaper, but this doesn’t mean we sacrifice the details of the execution, it only means we have to work harder at it. We actually have to ‘sweat’ the details.
  3. Experiment. In AdAge’s article a Ford executive speaks of their investment in iPad ads as an experiment. I think it’s safe to say most marketers who are investing in iPad ads right now would say the same. Again, iPad isn’t the only way to experiment. Augmented reality is an experiment. 3-D is an experiment. And here’s one that did both – here and here.  I say experiment smartly, but experiment.

Some of you may be thinking, ‘yeah, but it costs double!’ However, what costs twice as much but gets me 6 times the results doesn’t really cost twice as much, does it? I wasn’t a math major, but am I not actually paying half what I would for the same results the old way?


Alex Bogusky, I think I love you.

July 1, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

(I wrote this after seeing Alex speak last year, but was told by smart people at my agency not to post it – “too weird.”  On the news that Alex’s doing something new, I wanted to thank him, encourage him and hopefully not scare him.)

Alex Bogusky, I love you.

Here’s why:

Your delusional positivity philosophy.

Your constant poking at everything, including your agency, your clients, the industry, the work, the media, the culture, your hair.

Your biceps.

Your comfortableness with yourself.

Your response to my email. When I wrote, “Thanks, you did some good for our agency group,” you replied: “Love it. Have a great three days.”

Now let me parse this dense, complicated poetry.

First: “Love it.” Love: Pure joy, exuberance, connection. “It” is more subtle, rich and could refer to the time you spent with the group because we were good listeners, intelligent and appreciative. “It” could be the love for what you are doing now, or more generally, a love of life!

Following this grand emotional expression your words snap into reality, connectivity: “Have a great 3 days” – the 3 days! You tuned into my immediate situation, this specific reference to the time I was scheduled to be in Aspen. You could have jotted off a generic “thanks, enjoyed it” but you connected with my life. And right there – the combination of the emotional with the pointed, every day made a deeper, personal connection.

Alex, you are a great communicator: All with 7 words. Elegant, mystical.

I love that about you.

And also how you live in the moment so you bring those around you in it. And we’re all there in it, vivid and electric with possibilities.

As the industry trades write our obituaries you innocently, knowingly, amusedly ride your bike by the graveyard, wondering why the gloom when there’s so much fun stuff to do.

So it seems, I really don’t know you.

I just love you.


Doing good matters.

June 30, 2010

By Meghan Tetwiler, Brand Planner @ NYCA

Last week I walked out of a strategic meeting with one of our solar start-up clients re-invigorated that what I do, to an arguably significant degree, matters.

Think about it. Advertising can fuel healthy competition and encourage progressive innovation yielding better products for consumers and society at large.  Advertising done well can also bring about much needed societal shifts in peoples’ thoughts and behaviors.

A few examples to which I’m personally privy: one advertising campaign can help recognize and champion the far too often neglected and invisible mom.  Another can celebrate “real beauty” across the planet instead of glorifying 21st century, computer-augmented glamour.  These “do good” ad campaigns have the power to impact more than just units sold.

Clean energy advertising, from exclusively an advertising point of view, has the greatest potential to fundamentally change our world; I believe it’s what is needed to catapult alternative energy adoption to the masses.

If you are someone who stays up on advancements in sustainable innovation, then you already know alternative energy is no longer a dream for tomorrow; it is a reality for today.  A recent NYCA project in the solar roofing sector validated, to me, how close we are to leading a more energy efficient existence, where the world is less reliant on finite energy resources and more empowered to be self-sufficient.

I was amazed to learn there are so many proven, and increasingly affordable, sustainable energy practices readily available in the building sector alone.

I predict somewhere down the road, cutting-edge architects and regular old homeowners alike will share my enthusiasm for integrated photovoltaic systems that blend into existing roof structures.  What’s the hold up? Well, people don’t yet understand the ins-and-outs of alternative energy nor do they realize entrepreneurs have made saving the planet profitable.

I believe the groundwork for solar success is in place; sustainable technologies are constantly being encouraged by governmental incentives and there appears to be an emerging appetite for solar growing amongst a segment of “citizen consumers.”  What is next needed to help transition our world into a sustainable era is widespread demand across demographics. Who can best influence consumer behavior and shape culture in a positive direction? Advertisers – those whose messages are heard by the masses.

I’ve spent over four years working in this consumer-centric industry and have become well-versed in understanding what triggers people and finding a way to position products/services in ways that have meaning.  In order to ensure people embrace alternative energy completely, we must find a way to create conceptual badge value of doing good for the planet as well as find ways to fulfill the human need to reap personal gain.

It’s undeniable – advertisers have an important job to be done; we can accelerate the speed of progress toward sustainability. I look forward to partnering with alternative energy companies, making strides in growing their businesses and simultaneously taking steps in changing our world.