Trick or Truth

December 1, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Here’s a little story about advertising within a story about truth. Our client, Ryan from the UK, sent it to us.

I like this very much for the inspiration to remember we are creating products and communications that have to work hard in the marketplace. We too often get caught up in the success of a meeting and yield to our own desires, too far from the needs of the consumer. In that smaller meeting room with internal agendas, we can unknowingly get smaller-minded, choke off opportunity.

Ryan’s story reminds us why we do what we do together so passionately – to create growth in the marketplace and to please consider who is doing the buying and who we are competing against. Here the agency gave the client the opportunity to feel not like an innovator, an entrepreneur, but a consumer – the role that could help him make the best call for the work. At first it appears like just a selling trick but it is really a wonderful way to get to the truth. A trick, yes, but with a happy ending!

Reminder for the agency: we also need to go through this porthole to understand the consumer, the competitive set, as well as the client’s state of mind. The more we can understand our constituents the better we can all do our work, harmoniously and productively.

Thanks Ryan!

THE TRAIN IS LEAVING THE STATION.

My wife is an art director.

Recently she went to The Marketing Forum.

Being a creative, she expected to be bored by lots of case histories, graphs, charts, numbers.

But one client told an amazingly creative story about the birth of a brand.

It started when he was working in Belgium.

Every day he had to try to sell margarine (butter-flavoured spread) to people who didn’t want it.

It was dispiriting work.

To cheer himself up, every day he went to the same pastry shop and ate a delicious chocolate pastry.

Eventually it became clear to him.

“I don’t like margarine.

I do like chocolate.

I’m in the wrong game.”

Doing what you love is always the best idea.

So he quit his job and began working on perfecting a delicious, rich, chocolate pudding.

He worked on it until he had it exactly right.

Now he needed marketing.

He needed a positioning, a name, packaging, a brand in fact.

So he went to see an agency and asked if they could do that for him.

They said leave it with us.

So he waited.

And he waited.

Three weeks later they hadn’t contacted him, so he called them.

They said “We-ell…. You’d better come in, we’ve got something to show you.”

He went to see them.

They said, “We’ve got some bad news we’re afraid. It looks like someone else has already done it.”

His jaw dropped.

They said “Yes, unfortunately, virtually the same product, same positioning, everything. We’ve managed to get hold of some pictures.

If you promise not to let it leave this room, we’ll show you.”

He nodded.

They said “You wanted a stylish, classy chocolate pudding, deliciously gooey, yet premium? Look, theirs is called Gu.

It’s got the German umlaut (two little dots) over the letter U, so it looks like a smiley face. And it rhymes with ‘goo’ so it’s fun but classy.

A bit like Haagen Dazs.”

The client’s face fell, he said, “I can’t believe it. That’s a great name.”

They said “Yes, and look at the packaging: it’s dark, rich, elegant. Indulgent and chocolaty, but also stylish.”

The client said “This is terrible. How advanced are they.”

They said “Their sales force is ready to start selling it in. We’re worried because we think they’ll be very successful.”

The client said “What do you mean: you think they’ll be successful. Of course they’ll be successful. It’s a brilliant product, a brilliant name, a brilliant pack design. It’s exactly what I wanted dammit.”

And he sat back, depressed, thinking about all the success he could have had if only he’d got that idea first.

Then the account man smiled and said “Well if you really mean that I may have some good news for you.”

The client said, “What?”

The account man said “I made that story up. No one has actually done anything. This is our presentation to you: the name, the packaging, everything.

If you want it you can have it.”

The client said he felt as if the sun came out.

Instead of the usual shuffling, and humming and hawing he just took everything as it stood and went with it.

Isn’t that great.

We never want anything so much as when we can’t have it.

So instead of selling the client an idea in a way that lets him think he’s got all the time in the world to fiddle with every tiny unimportant detail, they let him see what’s really important.

How will he feel if he sees a competitor has done it?

If he’s been beaten to market.

He won’t quibble about the serif on the typeface.

He won’t worry that the background colour isn’t exactly 100% perfect.

He’ll just wish to God he’d done it.

What a great lesson.

Show the client the idea in a situation where he would give anything to have done it.

But it’s too late, someone else got there first.

It’s like a nightmare.

Then wake him up and tell him it was just a dream, and he’s still got a chance to do it himself.

Instead of suspicion and hesitation, he’ll feel gratitude and eagerness.

He’ll be concentrating on the 95% that’s right.

Not holding everything up for the tiny 5% that isn’t.

We’ll have a client that wants to move things forward, not hold things back.

By the way, the name of the client who told that story was James Averdieck.

And he’s just sold that brand for £35 million.



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.


Giving voice to the silent

September 8, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

On our walls we display the artwork of the people of St. Madeline’s Sophie Center. Those who created the paintings are gifted artists and developmentally challenged people.

They are never listed as one of our target audiences on our briefs. These people have little discretionary budgets. We don’t do research on them; don’t obsess over what will make them change their behavior, what their media intake is. We don’t create our stimuli to engage them and so we don’t listen to them.

And that is why we have their art all over our offices and why we have had these artists in our offices. Their work is beautiful regardless of who created it but it’s important work because of who created it.

It teaches us to hear all, to learn from all, to be there for all. We are transformed when we accept all the gifts we are offered.

To do that we must hear what is out of reach of our ears.

As you pass by the artwork on the walls, a plaque reads: The wonderful art you are enjoying comes to us from the gifted residents of St. Madeline’s Sophie Center whose mission is to empower adults with developmental disabilities so they can discover, experience and realize their potential as members of the greater community. Feel free to be inspired.


The life force in the center of our universe

August 31, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Reaching up, out, with purple arms soaring nine feet high, head back with spiraling metal hair, antennae picking up the vibes of the universe, she dances in the center of NYCA, pregnant and singing “seize the day, dream big.” We brought her home on our second anniversary and she has never asked for a name. She is a life force giver, charging us to live, dream, create, love, and believe in possibilities. She is a strong woman. We have strong women all over NYCA, thankfully.


Gifts to the kids of the gifted.

August 25, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA


“You sure you want to work at NYCA?” I always ask, shove a bit, “There are many easier places to work.”

Though we are a wonderful place for some, we are not right for most. It’s my job to point out what we really have going on here with candidates to help them make the best decision for both of us.

I tell them we work long hours, including weekends now and again, we are meeting crazy (too crazy and we are adjusting that with the hope of keeping the collaboration strong), we are relentless, always searching for a better idea, even on the way to the meeting, in the meeting, after the meeting is over and the work is approved. It’s demanding. That’s why we always give birthday and holiday presents to the kids of the people who work here. It’s our way of thanking them for so generously sharing their loved ones with us and to let them know we love them, too.