Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Now of TV

It’s one thing to read the proclamation that “TV is dead,” and quite another to see that “dead” industry on display, vibrant and alive at this year’s Emmy Awards, which I happily attended. Leave it to a tech-infested strat geek to look past a pageant of literally the most beautiful people in the world and into the guts of “What the heck is really going on with TV these days?” Based on the Emmy festivities hosted by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, there seems to be more energy behind TV than any other medium, internet included. That energy is flowing on all fronts.

The Emmys 2016 Inspired “The Now of TV”
TV Helps Us Question and Better Understand Life?

Creatively, TV gives nothing away to motion pictures in terms of quality of its storytelling, performance and production. Despite the Kardashians, there’s incredible intensity behind social change and diversity. TV at its best breaks through the dogma, helping us question and better understand what we believe, who we love and how we look at the world. Heck, even the title sequences are breakthrough. My father was a TV “pioneer” back in the ’50s, and he’d be floored to see that the altruistic promise of the medium paid off as well as it currently has.

That’s because TV untethered from the tyranny of the three networks takes risks. Big time. As an example, actor Jeffrey Tambor and director Jill Soloway both won Emmys for Transparent, a show about gender roles told through a transgender woman that is produced and distributed by Amazon. Every part of that sentence was impossible to contemplate even five years ago. Amazon sells stuff, right? The shift away from network TV is complete. The three big “network” winners were HBO, Netflix and FX. HBO’s total of 22 awards was nine more than the traditional Big Three combined. More telling was the vibe. It felt less like an “industry event” and more like an edgy conference of creatives.The Emmys 2016 Inspired "The Now of TV"

The New Big Three

So what’s really going on here? Massive creative destruction where undeniable, fast-moving subversive forces are overturning a massive, antiquated status quo. Again, despite the Kardashians, TV is no longer a race to the bottom. It’s aspirational. That’s because companies like Amazon and Netflix don’t need to aggregate millions of viewers for their business models to pay out and therefore don’t need to produce vapid “common denominator” entertainment. They can afford to push the limits and do so at every turn.

A Refined, Boundry-Breaking Medium

Finally, TV untethered is TV redefined. For the past five years or so, clients, agencies and technologists have been wrestling with the shift from TV as a device and a medium, to TV as a loose descriptor for “long-form content.” That transformation is complete. The net of it is that TV is far from dead. It is still a premium reach/branding vehicle (time-shifted, IP-delivered or otherwise). But it’s also become a powerful culture shaper and newly minted hotbed of creative risk-taking and boundary-breaking content. Which actually defines what we should strive for, for our clients: brand-building, culture-shifting, boundary-breaking work.


Employee Engagement: Tips from a CEO

Recently, Richard Smallwood, president and CEO of our client, Falken Tires, appeared in a Fast Company article highlighting the most creative people. Since then, we asked him, and our own VP of people and culture, Jill Elliott, to talk more about employee engagement. Richard, who is famous for taking top-performing employees anywhere in the world for dinner as a reward, shared his three top tips for engaging employees. The second part in this series will feature some of Jill’s thoughts on engagement, core values and culture.

When asked to share his strategy on engaging his employees, Richard shared these three tips: 

  1. “Create regular opportunities for your associates to provide unfiltered feedback to senior management.

    One practice I enjoy using to gain insight on how things are working within the company is to take a small group of four or five associates to lunch and ask them for ideas on how to make their jobs more efficient. The reality is that most executives really don’t understand the unnecessary obstacles or distractions that prevent our teams from executing optimally and, more importantly, we generally can’t provide the best solutions. The people doing the jobs know the roadblocks, and they usually have the best and most practical solutions for removing them. From my experience, our teammates have really appreciated playing an active role in the improvement process.

  1. “Regularly remind your associates of the importance of their specific role in the success of the company.

    It always bothers me when I hear one of our associates state that their role is not important to the success of the company. First, it tells me that we as a management team are doing a poor job of communicating to our teams what their roles are and how their performance can impact every other person in the organization. Secondly, it takes away the very important “pride of ownership” from that associate. Every human wants to feel that what they do is valued and appreciated by those around them. This is true with work, home, church and sports teams. How can we, as leaders, expect our associates to make the best contribution possible if they don’t believe that what they do is important?”

  2. “Create a culture where associates want to achieve great results, not just in order to survive, but in order to please those affected.

    This is often a tricky concept for me to explain, but it is a very important one for leaders to understand. In many work environments, the associate is driven to achieve the targeted result by avoiding failing and being fired for poor performance. This is performance driven by the fear of failure and the subsequent punishment. What I want to create in our environment is one in which the associate wants to achieve a great result, not in order to avoid being punished, but out of the desire to please those impacted by the result. A simple, likely politically incorrect, analogy would be that of a child proudly presenting their stick figure drawing to their parents and saying “look what I made for you.” This motivation is quite different.”


New Safety Initiative: Stop to Talk, Text

Due to a recent rise in Utah roadway deaths and increased summer traffic on major highways, Staker Parson Companies hired R&R Partners in Salt Lake City to raise awareness for its long-held corporate goal of Zero Harm to all Utah drivers and travelers.

Staker Parson leveraged an opportunity to create a public social cause message to impact the overall safety of Utahns, as well as to create support for its ongoing safety efforts in the communities in which it operates. It’s consistently building safer roads by encouraging drivers to put down their phones while driving (employees in work zones and community members on public streets). The call to action? It’s simple: Stop to Talk. Stop to Text.

The intermountain region’s leading construction materials and services provider, strategically chose to partner with state safety officials and the Utah Highway Patrol to eliminate distracted driving—calling particular attention to cellphone use behind the wheel. Leadership from Staker Parson Companies and the Utah Highway Patrol joined Lt. Governor (of Utah) Spencer Cox to launch the new safety initiative at a formal press event on Thursday, June 2. This press event featured several speakers who shared their commitment to work-zone and Utah roadway safety initiatives, and encouraged all Utahns to pledge their commitment to the same worthy

Event speakers included: Lt. Governor Spencer Cox; Scott Parson, president and CEO of Staker Parson Companies; representatives from the Utah Highway Patrol; Lee Goodrich, Staker Parson employee and uncle of the late Chet Goodrich; as well as a student body officer from Corner Canyon High School.

press-event-1      Stop to Talk. Stop to Text.

In addition to the formal press event, several creative assets were built to complement the event. Branded concrete mixer truck barrels, banners, a Snapchat filter and printed collateral featured law enforcement and Staker Parson road crews working together to build safer roads.

By partnering with local and statewide law enforcement, state elected officials and other community members, we were able to secure successful media impact behind our safe-driving initiative. But, at the end of the day, it’s the lives saved that determines whether or not our efforts were successful. “If one accident is prevented from all this effort, one injury or one life not lost, it will all be worth it,” Parson said. “That would be success.”

Las Vegas VR is Virtually (and Literally) Amazing

Vegas VR, Las Vegas’ virtual reality app, sure knows how to get around. Since its debut in March 2016, the app has been downloaded over 11,200 times; has traveled to more than 10 countries; and has been incorporated into over 20 events, activations and trade shows globally.

Las Vegas has quickly become a leader in the virtual reality (VR) destination marketing field and is still one of the only destinations globally to incorporate virtual reality into its marketing efforts and to have a VR app.

Vegas Goes Virtual

For over 35 years, R&R Partners has been the communications agency of record for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Campaigns like “What happens here, stays here®” were responsible for creating the modern Las Vegas brand that attracts more than 42 million visitors annually.


But, in order to keep campaigning fresh and relevant, R&R Partners envisioned a new direction for positioning the brand that would tap into the visceral and deeply emotional reasons visitors connect with the city. Thus, Vegas VR, Las Vegas’ virtual reality app, was born.

“Las Vegas is always looking for innovative ways to engage visitors. The VR app allows us to showcase the destination to first-time visitors and remind Vegas enthusiasts about all of the unique offerings,” said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Vegas VR gives our visitors a new way to connect with Las Vegas.”

When using Vegas VR, consumers are directly connected with a series of original 360-degree interactive videos that become immersive virtual reality experiences when used with a VR viewer compatible with smartphones, such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.


From zip-lining through the Fremont Street Experience aboard Slotzilla, to being serenaded on an authentic gondola ride through The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and more, Vegas VR places trade show delegates, consumers and would-be visitors alike into some of the most iconic Las Vegas experiences.

A City Seen ‘Round the World

Las Vegas became one of the first destinations to utilize virtual reality technology in March 2016 when Vegas VR was showcased during the ITB travel trade show in Berlin, Germany.

Domestically, the LVCVA introduced the destination’s virtual reality technology to industry and tech media at the 2016 South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas, which celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries.

Since its initial debut, it has continued to be used on a global scale. From trade shows, to media events and consumer brand activations, Vegas VR continues to shine.


Over summer 2016, Vegas VR went through its first major refresh, which brought new content and a new design. Additional features were added to some of the videos, including fact overlays, scene-change capabilities and time-lapse footage.

Reality Check

The LVCVA’s foray into VR technology started about two years ago when it partnered with Google on GeoVegas, a site that featured steerable 360-degree photos and videos inside Vegas hotels and attractions. It functioned like a digital walk-through, enabling viewers to tour a hotel, nightclub or restaurant.

To create the VR content, R&R Partners worked with the LVCVA and its destination partners to film 360-degree videos of experiences that only exist in Las Vegas using a Pro7 360 Plug-N-Play Holder and seven GoPro Hero 4 Black cameras, professional tools used for filming virtual reality 360-degree content in various environments.

Once the videos were created and stitched together, R&R Partners worked with Wemersive to create the Vegas VR app users can download today. Depending on the content of the video, the entire process can take anywhere from one to six weeks to create.

Vegas VR continues to be one of the most accessible VR apps on the market. All users need is the app, a smartphone and a cardboard viewer. Even without a cardboard viewer, users are able to watch all of the 360-degree videos on the app and interact with the videos using gyroscope, swipe and zoom functions without using additional virtual reality technology.

Looking Ahead

The Vegas VR app has been downloaded more than 11,200 times. The LVCVA has also distributed its virtual reality content through social media channels and other digital platforms where they’ve received over 17 million views.

The LVCVA and R&R Partners are always looking for new content and will continue to create and add new VR experiences to the app. Moving forward, the LVCVA and R&R Partners will look to add storytelling elements to the VR content and continue to use new elements such as the fact overlays, multiscene capabilities and time-lapse elements.

Vegas VR is available for iOS and Android platforms and is free to download here or through the App Store and Google Play. A selection of 360-degree videos are also available to view on Las Vegas’ YouTube channel.

The LVCVA has also launched VIVA, a dynamic and engaging platform that captures the best Las Vegas has to offer through original destination digital content, and WhereToVegas, a mobile app that provides visitors with a social heat map of trending locations and events in Las Vegas, helping visitors maximize their Vegas vacation experience by informing them of the “hot spots” in town during their stay.


The time is now. Like, right now.

In case you didn’t notice, Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert. Water conservation has become a way of life for most residents – using less, means more. Each year, the Southern Nevada Water Authority reminds residents to help conserve and save water by changing their watering clocks to comply with mandatory watering restrictions. Previous campaigns were English only and missing a key demographic of the valley – our Spanish-speaking audience.

Southern Nevada Hispanics live in multigenerational households with about 40 percent of them primarily speaking Spanish at home. Our task was to create a campaign that would resonate with the Hispanic audience, tapping into the cultural nuances to incite action.

Creative development was headed up by CMV/R&R out of Mexico City. The team landed on a theme common to many, but especially in Hispanic households. That theme was “Ahorita,” which can mean “I’ll get to it now,” but as it’s more commonly used, the task will “get put off” indefinitely. Imagine a wife asking her husband to take out the trash or do the dishes; his response, “Ahorita.” We all know what that means. It’s the eternal struggle between spouses. “Yes, dear, I’ll do that now” and yet, it doesn’t get done.

As with previous SNWA spots, such as “There’s Nothing Sexier Than Saving Water” or the infamous and Effie award-winning “Mrs. Nuttington,” “Ahorita” uses humor to engage audiences, which ultimately entertains as well as gets the main message across.

“Ahorita” is an integrated campaign that includes broadcast, radio, print and digital executions.

“Ahorita” Campaign Web Banner

Bad Decisions and Communication Arts

R&R Partners’ “Behind Bad Decisions” billboard for Parents Empowered has been selected to appear in the prestigious Communication Arts (CA) 2016 Advertising Annual.

CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most coveted in the advertising industry, and of the thousands of international entries, only 138 ads were selected for publication this year.

The Parents Empowered billboard was the result of research showing that many parents viewed underage drinking as a teen boy problem. Based on that perception, these parents often didn’t talk to their daughters about not drinking underage. (In reality, teen males and females report roughly the same rates of alcohol use.)

Communication Arts

Award-Winning Communication Arts Billboard

The research, however, also showed that when it came to their daughters, parents were extremely concerned about unplanned pregnancies. By connecting teen pregnancy to underage drinking, the billboard helped elevate the issue of girls’ drinking underage.

The “Behind Bad Decisions” billboard-behind-another-billboard execution was so convincing that many people posted about it on social media, commenting on the irony of the situation. Then other people commented on how naïve those people were. Then, people said, “Stop being mean. How was I supposed to know? It’s a really clever ad.”

Apparently, Communication Arts agreed.

An Ode to Low-cost Airlines Disrupting the Industry

A funny thing happened to me when recently researching airfares for an upcoming trip. While looking at cross-country flights on Southwest Airlines for a route that I have flown dozens of times over the past two years, I noticed a price I had not seen so low in years. Not marginally lower, but 33 percent lower. Surely it wasn’t a typo. Nor was it simply Southwest Airlines’ attempt at being charitable. So what is the explanation?

Frontier Airlines.

After doing some more research, I learned that Frontier Airlines recently announced it would begin servicing the exact route I was researching, beginning in the fall. Obviously, the additional competition caught Southwest Airlines’ attention, which, in turn, caught my attention. As any frequent traveler knows, unless you’re flying short flights to undesirable destinations, Southwest Airlines is no longer the “low-cost” carrier that propelled it to widespread success and adoration. In fact, I often find it among the most expensive options when searching for flights. This, of course, flies in the face of its advertising and endless email bombardment – but I suppose that’s an entirely different gripe.

Point is – despite the grief capitalism gets from folks such as Bernie Sanders – it does sometimes work perfectly. Why do you think we’re no longer paying $700 for microwaves or $599 for Blu-ray Disc players? More consumer options create competition, which puts pressure on an assortment of variables, chief among them, price. The airline industry is no different, although it is a very precocious industry with fewer choices than home electronics or automobiles or just about anything else. After all, the price on entry is tremendous and operations are significantly challenging. Yet, above it all, one thing remains true − more airline/flight options translate into lower costs for consumers.

This is how low-cost carriers such as Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit airlines are disrupting the industry and providing consumers with more choices, lower costs and more empowerment. Additionally, as consumer technology and customization have changed consumer perceptions, expectations and purchase habits, the low cost carriers seem to be ahead of the curve with their business models.

To be clear, the major carriers still vastly dominate schedules and routes due to overall fleet size. While Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit are all growing in size, their fleet sizes still pale in comparison. Each of the low-cost airlines has a fleet around or under 100 planes. Compare that to the size of Southwest Airlines (704) or Delta Airlines (1,426) and it’s easy to see why the little guys are still considered little. Very little. Yet, consumers are clearly catching on. Frontier Airlines’ net income rose tenfold from 2013 to 2014. Allegiant Air quadrupled from 2014 to 2015. And Spirit Airlines saw net income growth of 79 percent from 2013 to 2015.

The most common criticism of low-cost carriers is the “nickel-and-dime” approach they have with fees. It is commonplace for these carriers to assess fees for select seats, baggage and even carry-on bags. For consumers not informed or expecting this, it is seen as excessive and tawdry. However, there are two realities associated with this: the new normal and consumer empowerment.


Airline fees have become the norm.
We were asked to feel sorry for major airline carriers when the cost of oil skyrocketed a few years back, causing them to saddle consumers with baggage fees. Yet, when oil prices tumbled to their lowest level in decades, the airlines forgot to raise their hand and inform us these fees were being taken away. Excluding Southwest Airlines, baggage fees are standard across the industry. And the latest JD Power report confirmed that American consumers have given up fighting them – and have become accepting of airline fees. Even fees for seating choices have become more prevalent. If you think the low-cost carriers are the only airlines charging fees for seat selection, you haven’t flown American Airlines recently. Flying a red-eye from Las Vegas to Miami, I was presented with additional fees for my seating options. Wanting to sleep on the cross-country, red-eye flight, I paid $37 (each way) for a window seat in the middle of the plane. Want extra legroom and to be closer to the aisle? That will cost an additional $58. This is why I am dumbfounded when I hear, read or see these types of nickel-and-dime fees being groused at regarding the low-cost carriers. They exist elsewhere. And they are higher than the $12 lowest fee charged by Frontier Airlines.

Consumer Empowerment
With the low-cost carriers, consumers are able to purchase lower fare tickets and then make their own decisions on how much more they want to spend. Here’s an example of how simple this is for me: looking for nonstop service for a trip August 25–28 from Las Vegas to Orlando, a round-trip ticket on Frontier Airlines was $215.10. A similar itinerary on Southwest Airlines was $419.96. That is a difference of $204.86, or 95 percent. Even once I pay for a seat ($12) and choose to check two bags ($70), there is still a difference of $122.86. But what if I don’t need to check two bags? What if I’m visiting a summer home stocked with clothes and don’t need to check a bag at all? Instead of having inflated costs and the illusion of “free bags” stuffed into my Southwest Airlines ticket cost – I get to make my own decisions. And in my opinion, that is the point with these low-cost carriers. Consumers are more in control of their final costs, and it doesn’t take much to avoid excessive fees. On a trip last fall with my two children, we chose a low-cost carrier and approached it with minimal intelligence. We checked one large suitcase, instead of three smaller ones. We selected standard seats. We also packed snacks and iPads into our backpacks for the plane ride, as “personal bags” are free, while carry-on bags result in a fee. The result? Overall ticket costs that were more than 60 percent lower than they would have been any other major carrier.

To be sure, these low-cost carriers have work to do. Customer-service scores rank low on Frontier. Spirit is the worst in the industry for on-time arrivals. And Allegiant has been questioned regarding the age of its fleet. But each of these airlines seems genuinely committed to improving on these marks. In addition, Frontier recently announced 42 new routes and Allegiant has plans to purchase newer Airbus planes. But the larger point is that these airlines are a net positive for an industry that hates competition (see: domestic carrier open skies agreement) and is slow to provide customers with the type of service we expect from other industries (imagine showing up for a salon appointment and being told there is a three-hour delay and switching to a different time will result in a $100 change fee and the difference in cost of the new stylist?!). Consumer empowerment and more choices are a benefit to all of us. After all, that is the hallmark of capitalism.

It’s also why you can purchase a Sony Blu-ray Disc player at Best Buy for $34.99 + tax.


Disclosure: R&R Partners has a current affiliation with Allegiant.

Media Tailgate: A Celebration of Partnerships

We have a simple belief here at R&R Partners in that anyone from the sales community is not a rep or a vendor, but rather a partner—a partner of our agency, our team, our clients. Someone who is committed to winning on behalf of our clients just as much as we are. R&R Partners is well-known as a close-knit family, and our media partners, near and far, are a big part of that family.

Our culture and communications manager, Sean Suggs, said it best, “Honestly, our employees, partners, clients and media partners are part of the R&R ‘Partners’ family. There’s no distinction between the groups. This brand of inclusiveness is evident in all of our core values, but especially candor, vigilance, respect and loyalty.” It’s this belief that was instilled in the media team long ago by group managing director, Fletcher Whitwell, and it’s one that is still front and center today.

Eleven years ago, an idea was born to celebrate our partners. Every year around the start of football season, the media team throws its annual Media Tailgate Party. We invite our partners in for an afternoon of food, beverages and a whole lot of fun, including chicken-wing eating contests, inflatable sports games, raffle prizes and, most importantly, to show our appreciation.

It’s this simple gesture that is often missing in today’s cutthroat world of advertising, but it’s one that can help push everyone forward, to work a little harder and to be all-in on the project at hand. So, to our partners around the world, on behalf of the R&R family, I say THANK YOU!


Media Tailgate 2015