The last tour on 101

January 26, 2011

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

I gave my last tour of the agency today. We’re moving this week. Jason, Joel, and Tracey, the three newbies, walked with me, starting outside on the sunny, nostalgic 101, lost in a time of vintage cars, chatty neighborhood diners and bike shops, then inside, walking around the boxes, spilling over with stuff, making the move all the way to the back, the Grove, by the Pacific Ocean where our fruit trees are bursting with winter oranges and lemons.

I give a tour of the NYCA world headquarters to all new NYCAers and long-timers. We talk about who we are: a sales agency;  how we work: harmonious chaos; what is success, what I expect from them, and what they should demand from NYCA. We give this tour to prospects, too. It’s pretty much the same talk, as we all are relying on each other for our mutual growth. We talk about the art on the walls from the gifted people of St. Madeline’s Sophie Center, and why we don’t like our own work in frames — “it’s a working tool, not precious art” — and The Learning Grove. Why we are by the wide open ocean and not in the crowded city. Why our color is baby blue and why we plant a tree for every one of our clients.

I moved more slowly than usual this time, not just due to age. I was saying good-bye and thanks to each touchpoint: the laundry line with our dozen NYCA different celebration t-shirts, the lyrics to the song, “Spirit of Water,” the harvester who reminds us to serve generously, even the awful stain that looks like Africa — and is almost its size — left by someone’s (I know whose) coffee. I explained why we have Frank Sinatra tilting in a too-big gilded frame in a conference room that is called Fargo and why we have another fancy frame cock-eyed around the fire extinguisher: “Challenge the norm!”

We have been here for 8 years and now are moving to a place which we are staging to be more current with the way communication works today and perhaps the day after: for more free-flowing collaboration, more openness and to be much faster, lots more fun.

On the back door that is our front is the word, “grow!” This is our greeter, our task master,  relentless as it is encouraging. And it is leading us two miles south. As we pack, I am reminded that little is essential to take except our creativity, courage, compassion and integrity. Don’t even need a box. We have it on our walls to make sure we do what we say we do: “integrity is better than pie.”

Above all, we are thankful.

Thanks to every single one of you, all the NYCAers, all our inspiring clients, partners who work so closely with us, and every single thing – yes, even you Africa coffee stain! — who took part in our growth, and helped us be all we can be here and push on to better places.

Thank you for the love that made every moment so valuable. I hope you felt it from us. See you not so far down the road.

Got to grow!


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.


Work where you do your best work.

November 16, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

I work at Carl’s Jr. and in my car.

Where do you work? Is it the place you do your best work? Shaking your head, aren’t ya? That’s why we try to stimulate NYCA – with art, flowers, junk food, painting parties, quotes, a grove of trees, questions on the walls. The place is an idea prodder.

I work best in the morning. I tend to wake up before 6 and go hard at it while still in the dream state before the socializing takes over – the daily hygiene, the dressing, and the conversation. By that time, I am normal and less able creativity-wise.

Personally, I love Carl’s Jr. to work. I’m here right now, 6:45pm on Monday. They have great ‘60’s music playing – “Wooly Bully” is on now — and I am tapping with my foot and with my fingers on the keyboard. And there’s electricity here. And carbs and fat. Idea generators.

They have big windows so I can see the world, get the late sun, and be sparked by the people in adjacent booths and t-shirts that say funny things. And I’ve got a big ol’ desk with all the napkins, salt and pepper I could need. And I think, ‘cause of its macho advertising, it doesn’t attract pesky little kids: Paris sliding over a soapy car in a jeweled thong eating a burger is not everyone’s idea of a happy meal. Ooh, “Midnight Train to Georgia” just came on! Love the Pips! That just drives me to come up with something – whoo-oooh!

Which reminds that I also like transportation when I’m working: movement works for me – trains, planes, buses, cars. Maybe I love windows — they help you see outside and in. Maybe because if I can’t get out of my seat, it forces my mind outwards. Maybe it’s the motion that moves me.

Sometimes when I run low on energy, having sucked the place dry, I will move from a Denny’s to Burger King or a McDonald’s to a Panera to tap into a current. Keeps the thinking going.

Anywhere you work best – that doesn’t mean just for yourself but for your team — is the best place to work. Find out what time of day and where and go at it.

Try the fast food joints – they’re full of positive energy – will work even if you’re vegan. Just being near a Happy Meal makes you feel like a kid again. And kids always have ideas.


Change is hard. Wait, no it’s not.

November 9, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

At NYCA we have a criteria that our work is only good if it grows the business. We say, “Nothing Matters But grow!” Of course, many other things in life matter but this is a mantra to help us focus and steer clear of the staticky small stuff that can get in the way. Like noise cancelling headphones. It works, but extreme focus can cause rigidity, fear, burnout or repeating a method because it is known, or merely time efficient. We want consistent production of grow! ideas and the benefits and joy that comes with them.

It’s easy to get stuck, trapped emotionally, creatively and fall into a pattern (a pitfall in consistency). This is bad for new ideas, bad for the soul, bad for business.

That’s why change is not only good, it’s a must. They say change is the only constant thing in life and I have heard and know personally how hard it is. But it beats the same every day. So I’m going to try to convince you and myself to stop resisting the inevitable and learn to embrace change, flow with it, even push it along.

1- Change requires deep introspection. That means learning about yourself. Who can be more interesting? So we gotta love that!

2- Change causes internal shifts. Shifts remind you that you’re alive; you can’t argue with life!

3- Change is giving up the known. I love pizza but how many times can I eat it? I discovered sushi many years ago when someone pushed me to it and it’s my favorite now!

4- Change challenges our self-image. I hope I’m better tomorrow than I was today, so thanks, change, for the opportunity!

If I haven’t convinced you of the joy of change think of this: what does it cost you to constantly stay the same? Talk about tense! How does it feel when you have to shut down your own natural energy and desire to stretch, to explore? That’s one person with two mega- forces inside them going against each other! Pepto anyone? How does staying in a rut, going over the same spot, again and again, affect your heart, your mind, your sense of self? I think it’s against the Geneva Convention.

So as we say in the NYCA Seed book each NYCAer gets when they drink the grow! juice (paraphrased to protect the ancient secret code of the NYCAer): Try new things, fail, fall, learn, take a new route to work, go out to a new place to eat, sit in a different spot at the conference table. Reinvent yourself in part and find your authenticity. And never ever be boring! Oh yeah, and grow!


The Harvester

September 14, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

He stands tall outside of our NY conference room offering his last food. His hand extending a bronze apple is a reminder of the power of generosity and the strength of our servant mentality. When the collective ego is in the goal of growing the business, this is not a sacrifice but a show of power. NYCAers are generous in spirit. Each fully offers their experience, their talents and passion to growing our clients businesses, growing each other, themselves, and the world around us. Hungry to succeed. Full of optimism. Always giving.


To find an idea, get lost.

September 10, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

I’m scared of the usual. I go out of my way to avoid it. So I’m perpetually lost. And I’m good with that. It’s why I try to eat at different places or never sit in the same chair in the conference rooms. Anything to give me a new perspective. New stimuli to react to. Anything to run me off the road of a routine and jab my senses awake.

The safe and well-lighted can be deadly attractive. But the need for originality has a greater power than the comfort of the known, and forces me into the gray. Off-balance is better than balance. I’d rather fall than stay still; I’d prefer to trip forward and land wherever. You have to live in-between, in the synapse, in the fog. Romantic, isn’t it? Yes, and we all love romance but there’s a danger: Will she kiss me? Will she slap me?

That’s the only way I believe you can discover a new way, invent a new road, what we at NYCA call a grow! idea. You gotta make yourself uncomfortable.

I actually like working on trains, planes, in the car. (You ever wonder how you got to where you’re going? Me too.) The motion pushes and pulls me, and my mind shakes free of the everyday. I might see something out the window, and that sparks something. I might hit the car in front of me and that makes me think something else. I might hear something on the radio and that makes me sing something. I might get off at a different exit – not wrong but unexpected – and that makes me see something new. I might not get to where I was going but I might get to a better place. And “I might” is what I’m after, not “I have” or “I did.”

So when my team tells me they’re lost, I know they are on their way. When I hear, “Oh, this assignment is easy,” I start getting tremors. Sometimes it is easy – the vision presents itself in a moment, and that’s great — but more often you bite into it and it’s fool’s gold.

You know that term “losing your mind”? I recommend it. The mind will tell you the rules, the mind will tell you fire burns or that is a bad thought. When you lose your mind, I think you lose your connection to the traditional – the acceptable way of doing something. And you can have originality – let’s call it temporary creative sanity. And what do you replace your lost mind with? A new idea, I hope. If not, get on a bus to anywhere.

So if you’re looking for a grow! idea, my direction to you would be to get lost.