blog – An Agency

Archive for the ‘blog’ Category

Tall Advertising People Suck.

Let them eat cake.

It’s been said that I have a Napoleon complex. That, being of compromised height, I’m quarrelsome, too challenging, a bit too extra. That I’m always spoiling for a dust-up.

However, and in the words of the late Dame Edna Everage, this is a phallus I want to explode.

I don’t dispute that I’m a passionate person; I think most creatives would lay claim to that, and with pride. But the reason for this isn’t my limited distance from the ground. Nor is it from being born a gadfly. Rather, it‘s driven by a spirit of righteousness.

For better or for worse, and as a professional consequence, I like being with people who want to defend the high ground. I want to work with advertising people who believe that what we do is meaningful and worth standing up for. 

I particularly want to work with people who cherish imagination and endeavour, and who, as a result, understand that bending a knee to safe, predictable, thoughtless practices isn’t what any of us signed up for when we first got into the business. 

We didn’t imagine a world where we’d have to stop working on a project because a timesheet said so . . . or that winning creative awards wasn’t evidence of excellence. And we most certainly didn’t imagine working in a world where processes were consciously, deliberately, and happily embraced by management as ways to suffocate any possibility of expressing ideas or developing creative messages.

Sod that.

I’m at An Agency because there are more people like me. Maybe not as righteous or as short, but like me. 

They’re agency professionals who come in every day excited about the chance to create something remarkable. Built on real brand strategy and burnished by years of experience and craftsmanship. Agency professionals who go home every evening weary but proud, exhausted from doing their best, and braced by the knowledge that they’re only allowed to stop when the work is ready.

These are my people. These are the people we court as clients, as creative partners, as advocates, and as allies. This is why I work here.

Or as Napoleon said: Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.

Pip Pullen
Advertising Guy

What’s the Most Important Thing in Advertising?

Trust.

I grew up in an advertising agency. My dad ran the largest independent agency in Houston. His career ended in the Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame. We talked about advertising incessantly. My room had a wall that was covered by the DDB VW ad ‘Lemon.’ The entryway of our home had a Peter Max 7Up billboard. Advertising was dinner conversation. When dad and I would go to Pizza Hut (a client), he’d explain to me why they had PacMan games built into the table. When we’d go to Foley’s (a regional department store and client), he’d tell me to watch how people behave in the store. He’d talk to me about merchandising. He’d tell me about signage (shopper marketing before, well, it was a thing).

Dad would play tennis with several of his clients. One of them was Jack Helfman. Jack owned car dealerships. After the matches they’d talk about traffic count, deals closed, inventory issues, and financing. 

Dad was a runner. On occasion we’d run Memorial Park together. He’d talk to me about the importance of honesty in client relationships. Transparency, just like in a good marriage. The importance of treating business partners as if they were your closest friends.

It was the simplest of lessons. Dad would tell me that when a client’s business was successful, his business would be successful. And vice versa. It takes two, he’d say, both focused on solving the daily challenges each business faced.

It’s been a purposeful path toward my position as CEO at An Agency — working in Los Angeles, working in a multinational, working as a client, settling into the bulk of my career at Kentucky’s largest agency, Doe-Anderson. And experience after experience brought me to the same conclusion: Ad agencies are a dime a dozen. 

Today’s sales story is data and AI and digital nimbleness and of course the long-stated and long-true omni-channel pitch.

And all that is good . . . and it matters . . . and I understand that those are often the boxes clients are checking off with their agency partner.

But I think we have a better box. 

And the foundation of that box is trust. Because when I go to sleep at night, I’m replaying my dad’s words: “Build your business by building their business. Think less about you and more about them. Don’t promise creativity that’s unfathomable to others. Focus on creating opportunities for your clients. Care more about them than you care about yourself.”   

So that’s my space at An Agency. And that’s my promise to you. We’ll care more about you. We’ll focus on you. We’ll eat, sleep, and breathe your mission — until we’ve so internalized it, it’s almost become our own.  

What are you talking about around the dinner table?

Michael Littman
CEO

Labor Love = Brand Love.

Dusty Bottoms the drag performer leaving an elevator.

We recognize that it strains credulity exclaiming our professional love for Labor Day.

As frequently noted, advertising is neither rocket science nor a lunch bucket profession. Your vision of our team huddled over a Grande no-whip white chocolate mocha with five pumps of an extra shot, made with soy is, well, decidedly accurate. 

Where Does the Twain Meet?

An Agency exists to drive commerce through evocative creativity. We are strategists. We are designers. We are writers. We are makers. We invest whole-heartedly in creating brands that challenge convention. That truthfully reflect our client’s capabilities. That make people smile. Because we understand that your brand is an expectation. A promise.

The Fruit of Our Labor.

We accept the responsibility to lift sales. To make your brand more likable. To develop ideas that fit both your brand and your culture. To create real value in terms of long-term brand equity.

What Makes Our Work Work?

Creativity that touches hearts works. Creativity that is true works. Creativity that simplifies the complex works. Creativity that is disruptive works.

The Proof Is In the Elevator.

Common Bond Hotel Group came to us with an interesting challenge. They were building a boutique hotel outside of Louisville’s Central Business District in a neighborhood called the Highlands. Like Austin and Portland, the area prides itself in staying weird. Common Bond was converting America’s last disco ball factory into an elevated, modern hospitality experience. Expressly not luxe, but absolutely a one-of-a-kind experience that is as unusual as the area in which it is located.

Allow us to introduce you to the Myriad Hotel and a taste for this campaign through this :15 launch spot and :06 pull live streaming through YouTube and other connected services. Love it. Hate it. We believe that this work will touch hearts and is aligned with brand and culture.

A Final Splash.

This weekend when you‘re enjoying that final splish-splash of summer, consider putting our team on your Fall agenda. As much as we love AOR assignments, there is no project challenge that we are afraid to take on. We promise to treat it as a labor of love (see what we did there?).

Michael Littman
CEO

Better with Age.

Better together.

I was searching for inspiration while working on a recent financial service assignment. I visited the Bain, Boston Consulting, and McKinsey & Company websites searching for inspiration — and I found an interesting piece Bain published about the growing importance of older workers. You can read it, here.

America has long had an obsession with youth, particularly in the advertising agency business, in which 40 has long been the new 70.

Reading the Bain white paper, I began to reflect on why professional life after 60 is anything but a death sentence. Rather, it’s a time when the fog fully lifts, allowing the expertise gained over decades of repetitions to shine through.

As your team evolves to fully reflect today’s workforce, make space at the table for those whose life passion fuels their daily work product. We choose to work because it’s what we love to do.

And you know what else we choose? We choose to work for you.

Give me a ring. Send me an email. Text me if you must. Let’s go. Time is wasting.

Michael
CEO

Dancing Through the Social Scene.

Better Together.

In today’s digital landscape, social media has become an integral part of any successful marketing strategy. With billions of active users worldwide, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X offer an unparalleled opportunity to connect with your target audience. However, when it comes to social media advertising, many brands often find themselves debating between paid social media advertising and organic social media advertising, and they’re unsure which approach will help their businesses the most. 

In reality, these two disciplines aren’t mutually exclusive. Rather, they work together to maximize a brand’s online presence.

It Takes Two to Tango.

Rather than pitting paid and organic social media advertising against each other, businesses should look to leverage both approaches, and to explore how they can in fact be complementary. 

Here are some tactics to consider when integrating paid and organic into your marketing efforts: 

Strategic Planning: Begin by defining your goals and target audience. Paid social media can help you reach new potential customers, while organic social media helps build and engage your existing audience.

Cross-Promotion: Use paid ads to amplify your best-performing organic content. By boosting top-performing organic posts, you can extend their reach and maximize their impact.

Leveraging Insights: Paid social media provides valuable data and insights that can inform your organic strategy. Analyze the performance of your paid campaigns to identify successful content, messaging, and targeting, and apply those insights to your organic efforts.

Amplifying Events and Campaigns: When running a specific campaign or hosting an event, a combination of paid and organic social media advertising can drive greater participation and engagement. Use paid ads to create awareness and reach a wider audience, and complement it with organic content to foster engagement and build excitement.

We Can’t Dance.

In the traditional sense, that is. Thankfully, we’re fond of a foxtrot and we’re quick to a quickstep in the social space.

If you’re looking to dance your way through the social scene and you’re a partner away from a duet? Let’s chat.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Santa at the keyboard

Those of us who’ve been in advertising a while were raised to appreciate that nobody actually wants to look at ads. Because an ad is selling you something, and unless you specifically want that thing, or want to be reminded that you want that thing, then an ad is just one more assault on your eyeballs. So our job, as ad people, used to be to create messages that people enjoyed receiving. Gifts. Things that made people smile. Or think. Or just made them glad to encounter.

Nowadays, of course, the world of advertising has changed. Now it’s all about highly targeted, measurable offer-driven selling. We know who you are, where you are, what you want, when you want it, and how you want to hear about it. There’s no longer a need to entertain you or beguile and seduce you. We can just feed you specific information with a high likelihood that it’ll be relevant — and that you’ll bite.

But here’s what’s abandoned in the race to the bottom for those thin-sliced leads: The power of a brand. Famously, brands are what make products and services meaningful to the folk who seek relationships with them. It’s why we’re willing to sacrifice more when we choose between two almost-identical products . . . one simply holds more value in our hearts, regardless of facts and information. And it’s a value we’re happy to pay for.

Which brings us back to those ads that make people happy. See, great brand advertising tells stories. Great ads provoke us, tease us, intrigue us, cajole us, urge us to engage with them for longer. To appreciate them for their wit or their insight or their gut-punching ability to stop us in our tracks. Their power to evoke a reaction is the gift we alluded to earlier. By moving us, by stirring our hearts, they’re giving us something special. A reward. A small thank you for letting them in.

These are the kind of ads we make at An Agency.

So sure, we do all the left-brained-data-drenched-information-rich-media-facing stuff our peers do, but we wrap it inside something magical — a brand’s power to enchant our clients’ customers.
We love creativity and passion and courage. We love working hard to mine the pictures and words that communicate a feeling, and we love clients who have the pride to stand up and — as importantly — the moxie to stand out.

If you’ve got something wonderful that you believe the world needs to hear about, and if you want the right people to not just hear about it but to tell all their friends about it too, think about summoning your brand’s power to electrify and attract people. Think about hitching your wagon to a place that’s still smitten with that ol’-fashioned notion about creative ideas and the most powerful ways to express them.

Let’s chat.

AI, Empathy – Hey, Boomer!

I will admit it. I am a proud product of the Baby Boom. I began my career in Los Angeles armed with an IBM Selectric, a bottle of Wite-Out and the expectation of producing 60 hours of work in a 37.5 hour week. Every day was in the office. Every meeting was in person. Technology was a messenger service that picked up packages. The fax machine was a Godsend. FedEx was the last stop of my day. Then Steve Jobs made that funny looking typewriter and everything changed.

Imagine that I grew up with an 8-track player in my car listening to Boston, Bruce and Buffet. I fell in love to Desperado and fell asleep to Johnny Carson on one of the five channels my family tv could produce. Somehow my hair went from over my ears to over my collar to over and out. Like many of my fellow Boomers I have somewhat grim memories of road trips that simply elicit the ‘are we there yet’ mantra of my generation.

Which is as good of a segue to where we stand as marketers in this never-ending technology forward driven economy. Are we there yet with AI? We use AI to boil the ocean digging for insight hidden in reams of data. We use it to jump start creative development. AI produces not-quite-yet-ready for primetime final art. AI optimizes our paid traditional and social media placements. We even use it to drive from one meeting to another (if Pip’s driving weren’t scary enough). We are into it, but are we wholly ready to abandon individual expertise to machine learning?

As a Boomer, I admit to being something less than a digital native. But don’t accuse me, or my generation, of being technophobes. We have lived the learning curve. And I suspect we will continue to adapt as we move through Web 3.0 and whatever else the genius of Silicon Valley produces.

That’s an underlying theme of this blog post. Employing AI to advance our hard skills while continuing to draw from empathy, intuition and experience to bring humanity to all of our work.

The attached long-form reports on Boomers’ lives from two perspectives. The first section largely handles the cultural references that have shaped the generation and how in the broadest sense Boomers are moving into retirement. The second half is a more traditional look at aging through numbers and what the Boomer experience is today.

When you think Boomer, think Brad Pitt. Or for those of you reading this who are Boomers, think Susan Sarandon. Your brand may or may not be Boomer reliant. That is not essential to this read. The takeaway here is to consider the entirety of a person, not simply their intersection with your brand. When you meet a person where they stand, you meet that person in their entirety.

Of course our true purpose is to create a connection with you. To begin a conversation. Our agency is built on the premise that evocative creative work must be built from a sound commercial base. Or as my fellow Boomers might say, let’s run it up the flagpole, think outside the box, get on the same page so that going forward we can cliché ourselves into a Cloud of agility. Ping.

Boomer out!

Michael Littman
CEO

Here’s to the Kind of Clients Who Believe in Punching Above Their Weight

There’s a singular truth in today’s marketing world that’s unavoidable – the one true advantage in a marketing budget is the power of the creative work to elevate your brand beyond competitive spend.

If the work has stopping power. If the work is emotionally connective. If the creative work is built on a sound strategic foundation. If each of these components are in place, the value of a marketing dollar is multiplied.  If these elements aren’t in place, the power of the marketing dollar is minimized.

Which is why we are so pleased – having been in business for a short period of time – that the work An Agency produced in 2022 made us the third most awarded agency in The American Advertising Federation – Louisville.

No award won by any agency at any time has been won without a great client. Everything we do begins with the people who hire us. It’s our clients who win these awards. More importantly, it’s the power of our creative work that makes marketing budgets punch above their weight.

Connecting with your audience today is hard. We live in a :06 world. We must earn our video completion rates, our listen through rates, our lowered cost of customer acquisition. It’s not like the ‘good old days’ when we could bludgeon audiences into action with 400 TRPs from Thursday – Sunday.

Today it’s an ‘opt-in’ world.  Which is why I’m suggesting to you that your team should ‘opt-in’ to An Agency. That decision simply increases your chances to earn hearts and minds. And if you have to make a little extra room on your corporate mantle for a few shiny objects – well, consider that a nice side benefit.

Let’s do this thing. Let’s break through the noise. Let’s make evocative work together. Let’s build brand equity while driving immediate sales opportunities.

Let’s win together, now!

Michael
CEO

Brand Love – Hype or Happening?

In November we introduced you to number 87,713 – our roster spot in the world of advertising and marketing firms in the US. Undaunted, in fact, challenged, we have begun to make our way.

On our launch, we promised that we would live at the intersection of emotion & commerce. We shared our belief that evocative creative work is the ultimate brand advantage. We believe that is our job to challenge category convention. To truthfully reflect our clients’ capabilities. To make people who are exposed to our ideas smile.

We understand that your brand is an expectation. A promise.

We invite you to experience the promises we have made in our early days as An Agency.

Proof positive that it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog (courtesy Mark Twain).  

And on that rather snarly note, we thank you for your time and look forward to the moment when you enlist us to create Brand Love for your team.

Michael Littman
CEO

An Agency creates Brand Love for Airport One, Aviation Insurance Association, Common Bond Hotel Group, Dant Clayton, First Breckinridge Bankshares, ISPA, Kentucky Fair Housing Council, Mary Dowling Whiskey Company, Papercone, Rabbit Hole Distillery, The Grainwright, Third Lutheran Church, Whitney Strong Foundation, Wild Eggs, Work Architecture + Design and Zeochem.

Fear, Loathing, and the Need to Define True Customer Value In 2023

Fear, Loathing, and the Need to Define True Customer Value In 2023

Uncertain times such as these suggest a rethink of how marketers approach brand messaging in 2023. Let’s start with an optimistic view. A recent Ipsos survey found that 64% of Americans are hopeful that 2023 will be better than 2022. Perhaps that’s why holiday sales rose 7.6% from the prior year. Underpinning that growth were two factors, the first unsurprising, the second critical to addressing marketing opportunities in the year ahead.

Retailers discounted heavily. Not a surprise, and not a tactic that should be universally pursued.
Consumers diversified their holiday spending to accommodate inflation — directing more dollars towards shared experience and festive gatherings.

While inflation has slowed (so-called ‘core inflation’ stands at 4.7%, more than double the Fed’s preferred level of 2%), its impact is clearly felt — particularly for grocery items — with prices increases of 12% year-over-year.

How Have Consumers Responded?

People are reevaluating where they shop and which items they choose to purchase. Short term, both discount retailers and private label brands benefit. Longer term, discretionary purchases are reevaluated. Consumption continues as Americans decide which products/services we value and which we can reduce or eliminate. In our world, that suggests that people are shopping harder, a continuation of two megatrends from the past decade: empowered consumers and omnichannel shoppers. Proof points: holiday season on-line sales were up 10.6% from prior year, while in-person spending rose 6.8%.

Stepping away from the sales register, the Chapman University Annual Survey of American Fears digs into our deeper concerns:

One last piece of troubling news. Experts predict that 2023 will be the tipping point year for AI messaging on-line. We have come full-circle with our Terminator moment. Fact and fiction becoming completely impossible to distinguish while being rapidly disseminated through social media.

How we see it:

An Agency creates brand love. We drive commerce through creativity — from a single project assignment to a fully integrated brand campaign. What we lack in overhead, we make up for in well-seasoned expertise. Get to the big idea faster by calling Michael Littman at 502.541-4454 or sending an email to michael@anagency.com.