Innovation Blues

November 19, 2009

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA 

In this world you got to use what you got. 

He thumped and whomped his two suitcases – a Samsonite floorbase and a tom-tom that had long lost its logo. His drumsticks worked every inch of a snare drum made from a transmission oil can with thick strips of black tape in the pattern of a Union Jack.  “Yeah, well, we’re Americans. Americans,” he spoke with the syncopation of a drummer who hears the beat even when he sleeps. He was jamming on a Sunday afternoon for the flip-flop crowd’s dollars. 

The rest of the drum set is comprised of a tin prison-type coffee cup and a cymbal that was formerly a garbage can. 

“Been playing these since I joined up with him six month ago.” “Him” is the coughing-croaking lead singer and steel guitar picker in the cool-daddy sunglasses. “This guitar cost me $50, parts from the junk yard, better sound than my Gibson which I have but why would I play it?” 

They were playing, answering questions about their instruments and collecting crumpled bucks from the breezy strollers at the farmer’s market. 

This wasn’t a musical performance as much as it was a study in innovation. “Lost most of what I had since the downturn in the economy,” Said the ski-capped drummer, smiling a victim’s smile of acceptance. “The economy broke into my room, took my stuff. I lost the IOU.” It was likely a gimmick but I was buying.

They made their instruments from scraps and played them for all they were worth. 

The recession may have found its troubadours. 

“I heard it’s a cruel world – I don’t buy it. The world is and we are. No meanness,”   he who is known as “Him” side-talked at me while nodding to a dollar dropper. 

“Let’s play another. I think we should play another.” The drummer tapped – more like twitched — on his garbage can. And then they broke into, “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself,” by Clapton. 

Were they good? Is that really the question? They upped the game from rhythm and acumen to resourcefulness and drama. They gave us a clue on survival, a ‘we’re-all-in-this-together’ nod of community, and showed their invention. They told a story of gumption and vision. Where some see junk others hear music. And where there’s music there’s bound to be some crumpled bills looking for a new home. That’s branding – something more than the usual song and dance to relate to, be better by.  These guys gave me a reason to stick around, to take a picture, to be involved and for that they have a brand advocate. All for replacing a drum with a broken suitcase – because they created a story that engaged me and brought my attention to what could be.  Thanks luggage drummer dude! 

And so I, and I’m sure many others, will pay for some of that. I dropped a dollar in the only suitcase that wasn’t a drum and then I applauded — me and a kid in diapers who’d been twirling enough to tell anyone he agreed with Him. If it’s a cruel world, he too, wasn’t going to let it get in the way of music.



July 17, 2009

By Michelle Edelman, president @NYCA

We recently conducted a survey among top US marketers. We wanted to know how they were faring as the Great Recession drags on.


We’ve witness declining media spends and our sample of $100+ million companies was no exception. 58% had reduced media expenditures and 79% had slashed their production budgets too. 19% of our sample reported significant change in their marketing strategies as a result of the economy. 69% of these top marketers were experimenting with new ways to get their messages out and sway consumers.

In short, it’s tough out there – getting tougher – and there’s a need for change in the air.

You would think agency partnerships would be more mission-critical than ever. Agencies can help their clients change paths quickly, and deliver alternate media solutions. As third party experts, we live and breathe this stuff all day every day, across industries and see different successes across different companies. 

But only 1/3 of companies reported that they viewed their agencies as collaborators in this dollar-shift, dollar-shrinking challenge. 2 out of 3 marketers said they would hand the changes down to the agencies to execute.

If you’re one of those 2 out of 3 – try your agency out. Put them in brainstormings to see if they can bring creative ways to help you through. If not, drop us a line and we’ll send you 5 ideas next week. Sometimes our solutions sound rather weird for a creative shop – like improving the efficiency of a process so it costs less. As creative entrepreneurs, this is business as usual for us – not just recession talk.