What goes into an idea?

February 23, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Every idea has its creator in it. The uninspired idea has nothing more.

A good idea has its own self in it as well; its voice, mission.

A great idea has other voices in it. The client’s, the consumer’s, the brand’s, the product’s. They all have to be attached to it, to hear themselves in it, and deeply want to, since it is a great idea.

The grow! idea has all these voices in it plus it has the power to make people act.

It guides, changes, improves, breeds.

If you have one of those, know two things: it’s not yours alone and you should celebrate all for having it come to life.


‘Round here stop signs are suggestions.

February 11, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

Seth Godin said it better than I could. We try to live it here every day.

“One way to think about running a successful business is to figure out what the least you can do is, and do that. That’s actually what they spent most of my time at business school teaching me.

No sense putting more on that pizza, sending more staff to that event, answering the phone in fewer rings… what’s the point? No sense being kind, looking people in the eye, being open or welcoming or grateful. Doing the least acceptable amount is the way to maximize short term profit.

Of course, there’s a different strategy, a crazy alternative that seems to work: do the most you can do instead of the least.

Radically overdeliver.

Turns out that this is a cheap and effective marketing technique.”

You got that right, Seth. We decided at NYCA for us success isn’t only found on the bottom line. NYCAers do whatever it takes to grow clients businesses – and we know how hard that is. No neutral gear. The halls vibrate with this hunger to pass ‘get it done’ on the way to sweet excellence. It shows in the huddles over the details, and the raised-hand honesty when we miss and the prideful but never cocky rhythm in our team’s strides.


They killed my great big idea – I should give them a raise!

January 25, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

I had a great idea – no really, a big, rare, juicy one. It was clear, unique – it was an app for cripes sakes! And for a client who is innovation focused!

I ran to the digital producers, “Get your heads out of your cloud computing and get on this faster than now!”

They did their wireframes. Had some questions – actually doubts: cost, timing.

“I don’t care how much money,” I said, “This is a great idea – do it, now!”

They brought it to strategy and they did some research on the target and had reservations. Actually they thought it was a good idea but not in coordination enough with the rest of the work we were doing.

“Go renegade with me!” I called, charging in no one direction.

They brought in media and they did some data digging – interesting idea as it was the target would be insignificant.

Dead. They killed the idea because it wasn’t a grow! idea.

Lucky me, lucky clients.


I trust you with my life

January 20, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

I read that 40% of the people who get a diagnosis from their physician will doubt the doc if their social network friends question it. Now, I like second opinions like I do another slice of cream pie but will this undermine the medical attention one gets? How about when people start taking advice from their Facebook buddies and start exercising more than the doc wants and have a heart attack?

And if this happens with someone who has gone to medical school, what happens when you are buying light bulbs from the hardware store and ask your peeps what they think of the sales associate in overalls’ opinion that 60 watts is the way to go?

People trust other people because those people are like them. Comfort is healthy when not numbing. This is a new shift; it used to be comforting to know that the person you were being advised by was different from you. Doctors would wear lab coats to show they were medically superior and perhaps cleaner. These days, fewer physicians wear those coats. Overalls once showed that the hardware salesguy was more serious about his handcrafting; that’s why he had all those places for his tools on his jumper. Now he is either in a costume or seen as a bad dresser. Uniforms in stores are rarely seen and if you took off the associate’s name badge you couldn’t tell the customer from the patient from the tool guy from the doctor. They’re just people talking to people. This puts pressure on the information over pomp — which is a good thing for all advice takers.

Still, expertise needs to be questioned in order to be trusted. I still check the fine print on the diplomas when waiting in the examining room for the doctor.


Hiring For The grow! Gene

January 14, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

Hiring is more and more the key to our success. We are out of the way of others in our industry and we need to be a destination point – not geographically but for services provided.

The cultural and the technically-fit fit here. One without the other won’t work. I read that those whom people like will be better on a team than those who are disliked but are stronger at their discipline. If that makes the team better and the work better, then I see that as a win, win.

Our hiring process is long and slow and deep and expensive. There are interviews over the phone, in our offices, via email, on our social site; presentations, group discussions, test projects, reference checks.  We have many of our people meeting, weighing, and prodding the candidate. All to meet people who have the ‘grow gene,’ as we call it – curious, beginner-minded though experienced in their field, irrepressible (with lots of bounce-backability); mentally strong enough to be a loner yet community-minded enough to be able to collaborate with abandon. When people say our work is great we measure that by the growth in the marketplace that the work helped stimulate. Our key indicators that we can achieve such growth are in the right people for us and our clients.

Hire slow, fire less, grow more.


You gotta trust your advertising agency

December 23, 2009

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @NYCA

I am taking off my shoes and walking over to the fire.

I want you to hold my feet to the flames.

I am to be held accountable.

If this is kinky to you, let me tell you it is business to us.

We do what we say, we say what we do. This way no one gets burned.

Yes, we’re an advertising agency. We think there are others like us out there.

But when the Gallup Poll does an integrity survey and our industry ends up below politicians – well, it’s time to stand up. Barefoot.

We’re in Encinitas. California. We are experienced creative entrepreneurs from the biggest and best agencies in the country.

We grow our clients’ businesses with a process that is harmonious with our clients.

Grow is everything.

We use integrity and virtue, along with creativity, insight, innovation and analytics.

We use moral skill.

It’s what makes our work stand out. It’s what makes our work actually work in the marketplace.

But what’s deeply important to us is how we do it.

We make promises. We keep them.

One promise we made to a client was that we would go bankrupt before giving up on solving his company’s problem.

The CEO of the prospect-turned-client asked me to sign that.

We delivered.

Next time he accepted a handshake.


What is creative?

November 10, 2009

By Michael Mark, Creative Director & CEO @ NYCA

The first question I ask all NYCA candidates in all departments is this question, right after what they are passionate about. Makes for a good conversation and lets them know two things: that they are responsible for being creative and the answer “something cool” will get them a job next door. Not here.

For us the answer is simple. Not easy mind you. It’s what the agency is built on.

NYCA strategyWe create growth in the marketplace. So any idea or execution that is powerful enough to help that to happen is creative.  It’s not about pretty pictures, not about engagement, or the plan, or the insight or even if we like it or the client thinks it great. All those are roads to getting to the destination for sure. But it’s about the growth.

Now much as we think and sweat over them not every idea is what we call a grow! idea. The odds are stacked against each one as it struggles for life. Compassionate as we are with each other – you have to be if you’re going to be so tough on ideas – we are merciless when it comes to a grow! idea. 

Here’s a check list to see if you have the makings of one:

To be grow! work it must be powered by a message that is highly relevant to the target.

It must be true to the core values of the brand/product/service.

It must be executionally inspired.

If you get all yeses you have a well intentioned grow! idea. And once it performs dramatically well in the marketplace then you have creative. 

Simple. Impossible. It’s what we do.