What a game?

Here is where I netted out on the ads −

Kia with Melissa McCarthy. I love this ad. Yes, it is silly. Yes, it is slapstick. But it has Melissa McCarthy getting tortured and it took my mind off all the hell of losing money on the game, personal crap, political crap, stuff I had to work on, and all the other serious things. She has this wonderful Belushi-type energy and, with the SNL piece, owned the Super Bowl weekend. There is some fun extra stuff with her that shows off car features as well. I have watched her hit the side of that ship 10 times now − AND I LIKE IT EVERY TIME. BETTER HER THAN ME.

 

Skittles. Yes. It was weird, edgy, very Skittles-like. And fun.

Bai − I liked it. I don’t drink the drink and I don’t think I will, but I love Justin and I have a love/hate with Walken. We wanted to do an LVCVA ad with him and he refused us. It’s not the first time I have been rejected, and it won’t be the last, but it hurts when it’s Chris.

Coke, Audi, Budweiser − INCLUSION ADS – These were the winners in the game of inclusion. Born the Hard Way harkens back to Bud’s immigrant beginnings. Nicely done, until the very end when he has the drawing of the beer bottle, which feels much less authentic than the rest of the ad. But I can forgive. Coke was way ahead of the game with an ad it ran two years ago. So Coke ran it again. It fit and I like when brands are ahead of their time. Audi went after equal pay for women and the ad was a nice surprise when everyone else was staring at the WALL. Instead, they focused on the ceiling. Still nothing brought tears to my eyes except Brady winning.

Honda’s ad didn’t really feel right when the car came in, but I still liked the way they executed the yearbook photos of the celebrities. It was different and interesting. It is weird though that both Bud and Honda have such a hard time once the product comes in. It’s like, “Story is over. Here comes the sell.”

Wix.com ads were really well done. They were solid and big, but somehow missing that Super Bowl “thing.” I don’t know why I didn’t think they were the best ads. They had action, decent idea, great performances and lots of money. Maybe it was the money. When you have Statham, Favre and explosions, I should care more.

Tide − solid with some really fun extras on the web featuring Gronk and Tambor. I have to say that I knew it was going to be a Tide ad after first seeing the stain. But most of America probably thought it was legit. It’s Bradshaw. I could see him sneaking a chicken wing or two between plays.

Hyundai did a really nice thing for the troops that allowed families to watch the game in 360 virtual surround with their families. Again, didn’t make we want to hug a Hyundai, but it was nice.

Mr. Clean’s butt − enough said.

BIG LOSERS

 

Brady. YES, HIS AD WAS HORRIBLE. So at least he was a loser there. It was like watching a piece of cardboard in 360.

Snickers – Total losers during the game with a live commercial that no one got. Total winners before the game by planning a live commercial no one would get.

T-Mobile − It had all those people, including the Bieber, and it was all bad. It would have been better off slapping them all together in some sort of Mashup ad. If I was working on T-Mobile, I would fake my own death right now. In other words, the Sprint ad was terrible too.

Mercedes – I would put our simple ad with Fonda against theirs any day. And ours cost considerably less.

 

 

 

When You Buy the Chance to Speak to 100 Million+ People, What Do You Say?

Before we begin, let’s get a couple of non-advertising subjects out of the way.

First, the game ended up being very exciting. The first SB overtime ever. The biggest SB lead ever overcome (blown?). Some say the Patriots won it. Others feel they were simply there to accept the gift that the Falcons so generously gave them. I saw a little of both. And since I’m a fan of neither team, my hope was for a close game. Mission accomplished.

Second, Lady Gaga is really brave (and clearly not afraid of heights). Her 19-minute greatest hits medley was fun and predictably over-the-top. I always wonder where they find a place big enough to rehearse those productions. The drones were cool too. Drones are almost always cool.

Okay, on to the ads. My initial impression: not a great year, not a bad one. In terms of quality, pretty much in line with the last two or three. Not quite as many anamorphic animals. (Hey, Budweiser, no dogs and Clydesdales this year?) The usual boatload of celebrities – some used very well, some totally wasted. Lots of movie trailers for big, bloated summertime tent-pole action films. Not sure the world is clamoring for new entries in the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers canons, but the new Fast and Furious movie looks like it might be fun.

If there was one very noticeable trend, it was this – there are a bunch of big-money advertisers that spent a lot of money making the point that, regardless of the opinions held by many of the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, things like inclusion, diversity, understanding, equality, empowerment and the struggle of immigrants to find a better life are still an important part of our social fabric.

Air BnB led off with an in-your-face (literally) declaration:

Then, Coca-Cola did its Coca-Cola thing:

Google Home, with a very nice celebration of diversity and commonality:

No Clydesdales, but Budweiser did tell an (admittedly, somewhat embellished) immigration story. This is interesting because it’s almost exactly the opposite of the brash, bellicose, supremely annoying declaration of “all things ‘Murican’” it ran in last year’s game. Many, including Sarah Palin, are now calling for a boycott of Budweiser. Can’t think of a better reason to Buy Some Buds:

A10 warns of “four years of awful hair.” Good for them:

Audi talks female empowerment and equality, through a kick-ass little racer:

Finally, the ballsiest of them all. 84 Lumber, of all people, gave us this:

The original spot ended on a shot of a great big wall at the border. Fox Television said “no” to that (shocking, I know). But if you go to the website teased at the end (which crashed on Sunday evening, but it’s working now), you’ll see the end of the story – and the wall. I applaud 84 Lumber not only for the communication, but also for the fact that it is a lumber supply and hardware retailer based in Western Pennsylvania. As such, I’m sure a great many of its core customers may not feel really in sync with its message (see the Budweiser boycott above). Kudos to 84 Lumber for having the conviction to follow through with it.

Advertisers don’t usually view the Super Bowl as a spot to make political or societal statements. The costs and the stakes are usually seen as too high. Hence a lot of animals, celebs and playing it safe. Of course, there was plenty of that this year as well, but it was heartening to see some marketing kahunas (Coke, Audi, Budweiser, Google) put their money where their mouth is and make some waves. Clearly, this year is different.

Now, some random observations from the game:

Worst product category, by far: telecom. Sprint has a guy faking his own death to avoid Verizon fees, while the “Can You Hear Me Now?” guy appears from nowhere on skis (even though there is no snow). Meanwhile T-Mobile serves up actress Kristen Schaal making bad 50 Shades of Gray bondage and discipline jokes with a Verizon customer rep. T-Mobile also gave us Justin Beiber, and a bunch of other really famous people are doing I’m-not-sure-what. And then, naturally, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. Of course. Why not?

Enjoy (or not):

The ad that got the biggest reaction from the R&R Super Bowl party crowd:

Mr. Clean creeped me out. A lot.

The ad that won the annual USA Today Ad Meter Contest:

Pretty funny in a slapstick kind of way. Great choice of music.

The Coen Brothers did this one? Really?

Not really up to their standards, IMHO. Plus, how many people born after 1970 even recognize Peter Fonda? Nice looking car, though.

My favorite ad of the day. This one was a little bit lost in the shuffle. Great writing and acting, which get a little bit overlooked at most Super Bowl gatherings. The R&R party crowd ignored it completely. I’m showing you the long version, because it’s so much fun. Watch it more than once to catch all the jokes.

There you go. Another “Big Game” in the books. More social statements, fewer animals. Though I was happy to see the Ghost of Spuds Mackenzie for Bud Light. I always liked Spuds, and though not great, the ad was a big step up from last year’s Seth Rogan/Amy Schumer election year fiasco.

Until next year, I’m out.

New Roads in Automotive Advertising

R&R Partners and the transportation market have a great history together. From our work redesigning Boeing.com to our highway safety efforts, our agency has continued to produce successful results for all of our transportation clients. Most recently, we helped Ford enter the European market. What does it take to have this type of sustained success in an industry?

In today’s transportation market, there are very few segments more crowded and competitive than the automotive industry. This market competition leads to an endless supply of advertising targeted toward potential and current customers. So what tactics allow brands to rise above their competition? Here’s a look at some of the latest ads and tactics that are shaping the automotive advertising and marketing industry.

Out of Home

What better way to convince a car owner to upgrade their old car than by targeting them while they’re in their car. This fall, a billboard in Tokyo will automatically identify the make and model of vehicles driving by and customize the billboard message to the consumer driving by.

How does the billboard accurately project the vehicle make and model? It uses an AI called deep learning, which allows a computer to recognize patterns in huge piles of data – or in this case, hundreds of thousands of images of used cars.

When a market is flooded with ads, one of the best ways to stand out is through personalization. Consumers pay more attention to an ad that speaks directly to them, so this new technology will allow auto brands to increase their visibility during the customer acquisition and retention phase of the purchase process.

While being able to directly target a segmented consumer group is great, increasing the number of test drives is another key benchmark during the consumer purchase funnel for any automotive company. With this in mind, the Range Rover Evoque took the test drive away from the dealership and into the city.

An ad in Singapore placed a real vehicle inside a billboard with a “Test Drive This Billboard” call-to-action. The eye-catching motion of the vehicle pulling in and out of the billboard created a sense of excitement about the test-driving experience − something that isn’t always seen favorably by today’s consumers. Once the car was on a test drive, a clock would count down the time until the vehicle would return. This created a level of intrigue and excitement that led to an increase in test drives five times over, compared to the number of test drives from the showroom.

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In a segment where a test drive is a key point in the path to purchase, finding new ways to get people into a vehicle will be essential. As consumers get smarter and continue to value ease of accessibility, bringing the test drive to the consumer will be an effective tactic for any brand.

Social

The automotive industry continues to be one of the most active industries across social media advertising. Consumers want to engage with brands before, during and after their purchase process, and finding ways to leverage this desire to share will help increase brand loyalty and prominence.

Buying and owning a car is something that everyone can take pride in. Your car can be your go-to audio system, your place of serenity and everything in between. Toyota’s more than a car campaign uses this personal connection to collect social posts from all of their drivers, rewarding them with personalized nameplates for their Toyota.

By encouraging and compensating social engagement, Toyota continued to build a brand loyalty that positioned them well with their audience and encouraged customer retention.

Digital

As consumers continue to spend more time online, digital media consumption will rise. With consumers who are using digital tools throughout the entire purchase funnel, having a strong digital presence is essential. Before heading to the dealership, users will spend the time researching vehicles online and even purchase directly on site. This provides brands the opportunity to build engaging content, in multiple languages, much like R&R Partners’ Ford Vignale site.

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Every car has a varying version of design highlights, 360 tours and more. These assets continue to be consumed during the research phase of the purchase process, but the best brands are using the assets to tell a complete story for their potential customers.

BMW recently built an interactive showroom that created a unique digital experience that encouraged engagement and differentiated their brand from their competitors.

While the final assets created were similar to those of its competitors, BMW’s digital showroom built a complete picture of their brand, vehicle fleet and key features, all in one medium. In the digital space, the most successful brands will continue to have multiple digital assets that work together to tell a cohesive brand story.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

One of the hottest content forms that consumers continue to digest is virtual and augmented reality. Trust me, we know. Brands continue to find the benefit of creating virtual and augmented reality content as it provides unique and new experiences for a consumer. For the automotive industry, this new technology can help brands provide consumer-focused content throughout the purchase funnel, either at home or in dealerships.

Audi has recently taken a dive into the VR space by creating a VR showroom for their customers at select dealerships. This showroom will let the customer view an Audi in a number of different exciting environments, such as space, while giving them exclusive looks at the vehicle (X-Ray vision, anyone!?).

As automotive brands continue to pursue the latest technologies, the use of VR will help give a brand the perception that they are at the forefront of the tech race. Consumers want as much information as possible before purchasing, and VR will help inform and excite a consumer before making a purchase.

While VR is becoming more mainstream, augmented reality (AR) is just beginning to make its mark. Volvo recently announced a partnership with Microsoft’s HoloLens – one of the newest AR headsets on the market.

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Augmented reality will help Volvo create a car-buying experience unlike any other. Using AR, Volvo will be able to project virtual images while still allowing the user to interact with the real world around them. This means consumers will one day be able configure a car’s color, wheels and other specifications without ever having to see the real vehicle. Don’t like those rims? Simply swipe them away from your augmented vehicle and put the next set on. Other safety features can be highlighted as well, and pieces of the car that are normally difficult to see can be easily projected.

Ultimately, AR will help the automotive industry give more information about their vehicles and their brand than ever before.

Asset Production

Whether it’s car availability, model revisions or access to locations, creating an awe-inspiring car commercial is not an easy production. However, a company called The Mill has recently created The Blackbird that allows advertisers to shoot and repurpose a car ad without needing the car. From TV spots to digital assets, including VR and AR, this new technology can help change the way all automotive brands advertise.

Ultimately, all of these advertising tactics will help automotive brands improve brand perception, awareness and loyalty. There is a real strength in having advertising that tells a story across a diverse set of content. The race among the automotive industry will continue, but the brands that continue to explore new marketing roads will be the ones that win the race.

Las Vegas, a very appropriate place for western governors to discuss the drought

As an experienced advocate for Western issues such as energy, natural resources, public land use and water, R&R Partners was honored to attend the annual winter meeting of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 4 and 5. Founded in 1984, WGA represents the governors of 19 Western states and guides them in developing and implementing policy decisions of major importance for the West.

Why are there specific associations that are dedicated to Western issues? With its abundance of natural resources, and the fact that over 90 percent of all federal land is located in the West, the region is one of the most highly regulated in the United States. This makes the West vastly different from the East, especially when it comes to controversial issues such as water and public land use. Nothing sums up water issues in the West better than the famous Mark Twain quote, “Whiskey is for drinking, but water is worth fighting over.”

WGA 3This year’s annual WGA meeting was attended by dozens of elected officials and political influencers, led by governors Matt Mead (Wyoming), Butch Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana) and Brian Sandoval (Nevada). Important issues discussed that have serious implications on the West included drought, wildfires, endangered species, transportation and cybersecurity. The keynote address was delivered by the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, who spoke of the importance in collaborating with the governors of Western states on key federal actions impacting the West.

R&R Partners’ depth of experience in the West gives it an understanding of the unique pressures and public scrutiny that governments and companies operating in the area face, and their need to communicate clearly and strategically to their constituents, customers, shareholders and regulators. Having opened its doors in the West and the fact that eight of its nine offices are still located in the area, R&R will continue participating in the ongoing conversation about Western policies and help bring together important stakeholders.

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Digging deep for a brand

By Andrew Snow

When a group of us from R&R Partners went on a trip to Elko, Nevada, to create a video highlighting Barrick Gold Corp., it didn’t take long for us to realize the similarities.

On the surface, you wouldn’t think that an ad agency and one of the world’s leading mining companies would share much in common. But the deeper we got into this particular project, the more this symmetry became apparent.

After all, in this case, we were the ones doing all the digging – interviewing a range of Barrick employees, and in a sense, “mining” for information, personality, and anything else we could use to represent our client and help their brand.

Elko was the appropriate setting, too – a small rural town more than 400 miles from Las Vegas and nearly 300 away from Reno, the Silver State’s most populous cities.

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Our crew, which included myself, Videographer Jordan Oliver, Brand Manager Toni Niccoli and Government and Public Affairs Deputy Director Charlie Bradley, also discovered another welcome commonality we shared with Barrick staffers: Passion. These guys care deeply about what they do, and it was our job to make sure people know that.

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To enhance their stories, we conducted off-site interviews at local organizations in which Barrick is a contributor. We visited the Elko Boys & Girls Club, Elko Senior Center, and shot unique content all over town – from the Goldstrike Open Pit, to a mill, a lab, and more.

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At Cortez Underground, we even got to check out a real monster truck – a Leibherr. an off-highway, rigid-frame, two-axle highwayultra class, rigid frame, two-axle powertrain haul truck. This beast could eat Hummers like M&Ms.

Extracting both a locals’ perspective and a sense of community involvement and partnerships were key takeaways for us on this strategic mining excursion. Since Barrick’s existing videos touched more on the operational side of their business, we felt it was paramount to tell the stories of these miners and what makes them so passionate about their job and brand.

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The finished product will be visible on Barrick’s social channels in the coming months, and hopefully, we will have helped others to see Barrick in a whole new light.

 

Celebrating our independence

I recently attended the Worldwide Partners Inc. (WPI) annual North America conference in Chicago. WPI is a network of independent agencies that have come together to leverage the thinking and resources of 70+ top independent agencies from across the globe. Besides R&R Partners, the network includes fine agencies like BSSP, Mering Carsen, Shipyard, Juice Pharma, Bailey Laurerman, just to name a few. In fact, collectively, WPI ranks No. 10 in terms of billings when compared to other large holding companies.

The conference really shed light on why being independent is really special and unique.

WPI1

Our clients’ success is paramount – we are all-in for our clients. Creativity is at our core – typically with smaller budgets, we have to find efficient, yet effective and breakthrough solutions for our clients. We are also nimble and quick – structure and process exists, but isn’t a barrier to moving quickly in a fast-paced environment. We invest for our clients – we aren’t beholden to any holding company, so we do what’s right for our clients, not what’s in the best interest of our bottom line. And when needed, WPI agencies come together to scale up to meet the clients’ needs, whether it be geographical, resources or specialty areas.

Independence is at the core of R&R Partners. Our unique experiences and culture, coupled with our candor and empathy, deliver results for our clients. Clients that have been around 20+ years in most cases.

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The WPI conference theme was Catalyst, and the diverse programming and content really stimulated some great thinking and new ideas. What follows are 12 things I learned this week:

  1. Programmatic buying is a great way for publishers and clients to take advantage of real-time bidding and traffic spikes due to timely and topical events. But the key to programmatic buying is being transparent to clients, both delivery and cost.
  2. Tongal, a creative, on-demand production studio, not only does great cost-efficient work, but a partner like Tongal could also serve as an alternative to freelancers or help supplement your social content program.
  3. “Your vision is your creativity … but change requires gut and grit … you are the catalyst …” – Jen Spencer, the Humanity of Creativity.
  4. Michael Farmer, author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter, shared with us that consultants have greater value than agencies, thanks most in part to holding company agencies who have squeezed margins so low. Consultants are keen on a desire for client results and shareholder value; meanwhile, holding company agencies are about their own bottom line. He believes big agency brands are becoming more and more irrelevant, and this is good for independent agencies who are similar to the consultant philosophy above.
  5. Doug Wood of Reed Smith law firm has a site called legalbytes.com with interesting information on issues facing marketers today – bot fraud, patent trolls, native advertising, programmatic, etc. – all too technical for me to further expand upon.
  6. Vertical networks, particularly in the B2B, but also in some B2C categories, make a lot of sense for clients and marketers. Spiceworks is the top network in IT; Doximity for doctors; Edmodo for educators; Showcase for marketing; just to name a few.
  7. Forbes has put forward the road map for managing, systematizing and optimizing the marketing content supply chain: Own -> Reorganize -> Systemize -> Operationalize.
  8. Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, the incubator space in the Merchandise Mart, knows his stuff! He believes search is out, and answers are in … and data and accessibility is driving this phenomenon. He also says context is more important than what you’re saying; ritual and regular is more important than frequency; reach, resonance, reaction. Raise is a really cool gift card app where you can buy unused gift cards at really low prices and retailers aren’t balking as they would rather get some revenue versus rebating the unused gift cards based on recent regulations.
  9. Mintel talked about the iGeneration, 5−14-year-olds, since we’re all tired of talking about Millennials. Interesting statistics that prove our country truly is a minority-majority: 5−14-yea-olds are 40 percent diverse today, 25 percent Hispanic, 10 percent African-American and 5 percent Asian. We, as marketers, need to wake up to this; or should have woken up to this a while ago.
  10. rFactor showed us some interesting social trends and success stories: social connect to CRM, segment based on sales criteria, and align key sales and marketing stakeholders.
  11. One large consultancy company measures success in terms of its clients’ financial results. An interesting approach that should be considered for clients who are open to innovative compensation structures.
  12. I terribly missed my kids, Hudson and Sawyer. It was a powerfully packed two-day agenda, which I don’t regret being a part of at the very least, but I was glad to do the redeye in and out in order to limit my time away from my kids.

#WPINAR15

 

 

Is your brand on the path to irrelevancy?

Can you recall the last time you heard anyone speak of his unmentionable BVDs? How about the last time anyone asked for a Nuprin? How about Xerox? Has anyone xerox’ed paper lately? It was a very common function at one point.

Remember the good old days when Oldsmobiles, Plymouths and Mercurys traversed the country’s roads? How about when Nolan Ryan took Nuprin for his aches? Or when smokers and coffee drinkers knew exactly which toothpaste to use to maintain their pearly whites. Do you remember that premium coffee was available in a can?

There are many factors that contribute to the demise or irrelevancy of a brand. This is not about listing those factors — ultimately, bad brand management kills a brand. Rather, this is about another huge factor that is at the marketer’s doorstep and in due course will be the death of additional brands − demographic shifts in population.

You might know of demographic shifts. But do you know about the effect on your brand?

According to Census data, the percentage of foreign-born population is the highest in more than a hundred years. At almost 13 percent, it is the highest since the mass European immigrations at the end of the 19th century.

Now think of how we acquire brands. How does the relationship begin and how are we introduced to them? When young adults leave the nest and begin their acquisition stage, they don’t do it with a blank slate − the brands used at home are already embedded in their lives; the relationship with brands, not necessarily the use of them, is old. And who introduced the brand relationship? The parents. And if the parents lack a relationship with a brand that was introduced to the American public decades ago, then not only are they lacking a relationship with the brand, they are lacking awareness and understanding of the brand.

Let’s look at the Hispanic consumer segment as it relates to this topic. While 60 percent of all U.S. Hispanics were born in the U.S., the family history in the country is rather short. The generational relationship to American iconic brands is not well developed or is nonexistent.

Think of iconic brands developed 40 years ago in the U.S. How many of the death or dying brands mentioned at the beginning of this article fall into that category? Does Brooke Shields remind you of wearing your Calvin Klein jeans commando? Does the Pillsbury doughboy elicit the same emotional response with Hispanic consumers? What about Mr. Clean? Is Wonder Bread building strong bodies? All the efforts conducted in the past lack a reference and emotion; they are irrelevant.

Moreover, immigrants bring in the brands from their home countries, and these days, they are also found in the local grocers’ aisles. Hostess brands compete with the portfolio of Mexico’s Bimbo snack cakes. Mexico’s Picot brand is the go-to effervescent indigestion brand over Alka Seltzer − and it outsells Alka Seltzer in Walmart.

It’s OK then. Native-born Hispanics will speak English and know my brand, right?

Native born Hispanics will speak English because they are and will be educated in the U.S.; however, they will be unfamiliar with your brands. Branding is not about language. It’s about creating relevancy, about acquiring real estate in the consumer’s mind. And if the brand ignores the consumer, the consumer will also dismiss the brand.

It gets worse. Hispanic consumers are drastically changing the definition of mainstream consumers. Food items and customs previously thought of as Hispanic are now part of the mainstream. Think about that during your next Dia de los Muertos party as you dip into your guacamole, or the next time you indulge in your churros at Disneyland, or get ready to eat serrano-topped sushi rolls.

How do I learn if my brand will be affected by demographic changes?

Learn if the category is developed with the Hispanic consumer segment. Is your brand history seeded in the post-WWII baby boom? Is your brand steeped in 1950s Americana? Are you using Catskills humor to position your brand with consumers who think Catskills is the YouTube piano-playing cat? Are you tapping the emergent consumer markets not familiar with your brand? If you are, is the message relevant or simply a translation?

Think about your personal experience: Remember traveling in the old station wagon and spending the night at the Holiday Inn? Remember the familiar shag carpeting and Astro-Turf by the pool? The fun time you had while stretching your legs by the pool, the horseplay and the cannonballs? That’s a memory − a brand perception not shared by more than 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Your cellphone is ringing

Imagine a negative attack has been launched against your company by a well-organized and vocal collection of critics who are determined to inflict as much damage as possible on your company, your brand and CEO. The attack has gone viral and now the mainstream media is picking up the story – a firestorm has begun and your cellphone rings. It’s an investigative journalist with a history of going after companies like yours. Are you ready for that phone call?

For far too many companies, the answer to that question is no. They are not ready and the result will be corporate leadership resignations, a hit to your stock price, congressional investigations, prolonged litigation, and a barrage of bad media that will take years to repair. It’s often a situation that should have been handled better and, in retrospect, was entirely preventable. As Warren Buffet once famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” In today’s world of instant communications, dropping the ball on a high-profile event can undo decades of work. Fortunately, there is a way to be prepared in the event a crisis strikes.

There are a million excuses for not having a quality crisis communications plan in place. Some corporate executives view them as an unnecessary expense that will likely never be used. Others think they have one when in reality all they really have is an outdated plan and an internal communications team ill-equipped to modernize it and put it into action. Still others think they can just invent one on the fly should a crisis break out. These are examples of mindsets that lead to PR disasters and cost corporate executives their careers.

 

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So what are the elements of a good crisis communications plan? For starters, have one. A good crisis plan should contain the following items:

  • A good crisis consultant with experience developing and executing crisis plans
  • An internal leadership team in place that makes crisis planning a priority
  • Previous crisis communications practice/simulations
  • Reliable and current spokespeople
  • An internal company protocol for handling crisis media inquires
  • Existing media relationships with priority press
  • A draft holding statement
  • Anticipated Qs & As
  • A reputation rebuilding plan post-crisis

Every crisis is unique (that’s what often makes it a crisis), but by having a plan in place and anticipating and practicing problems and solutions, your leadership team can rest easier at night knowing they are prepared for whatever comes their way, whether it’s an attack on your company from determined activists, a data breach, an employee scandal, a product malfunction or a fatality (hopefully not).

R&R Partners offers a range of services for managing crisis and high-profile events. Our team has a proven track record of helping clients weather the storm of a bad situation while protecting their brand. We can help you develop a plan and prepare for that day when your cellphone rings.

Your cellphone is ringing – are you ready?

Former Congressman Steven Horsford Enters Partnership with R&R Partners in Washington, D.C.

Office will serve as full-service agency, with emphasis on diversity marketing

Increasing diversity marketing reach through authentic and empowering voices isn’t just a win for R&R Partners. It’s an essential and exponentially beneficial victory for the people who matter most – our clients and their customers.

When we launched CMV/R&R Partners in Mexico City, it was more than a move into an international marketplace. It also marked the beginning of an agencywide focus to become an authority on diversity marketing.

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To do that, we need some of those key voices. The exciting addition of former Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford to our Washington, D.C., office is another leap forward in the diversity space, giving R&R Partners a unique position in Washington, and indeed, in the national communications marketplace.

R&R Partners and Horsford’s company, Resources+, have joined forces to establish a full-service agency with integrated services, specializing in diversity marketing, media training and corporate communications, workforce and vendor/supplier engagement and international affairs. Horsford will serve as senior vice president of strategic integration and partnerships for R&R’s nine offices throughout the United States and Mexico City. He will also serve as managing director of our Washington office.

“Steven started his career with R&R, and in the many years since his departure, he has gained incredible experience in business and through public service,” said Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners. “The changing demographics of the U.S. coupled with today’s global interconnectivity make it essential that marketers speak to their customers in a voice that is credible. Our recent opening of a Mexico City office, combined with Steven’s strengths in diversity marketing, places us at the forefront of this new space in marketing communications, and will place our clients at the forefront of the diversified consumer and employee base.”

Steven will also chair the board of directors for Nevada Partners, Inc., a nonprofit workforce training, youth development and housing assistance agency. He served as president/executive director of Nevada Partners from 2001 to 2008, and was the CEO of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, its sister agency, from 2001 to 2012.

Digital Content Developer Sal DeFilippo contributed to this article.

Art vs. Commerce

There is a new film – Wonderland – that features commercial directors talking about the difference between true creativity/art and commercial work. Bottom line from the film is that they find commercial work to be anything but artistic.

I have worked with a number of directors on commercials. Many of them went on to do feature films. Others were doing feature films when I started to work with them. From my experience, the best of these directors treat commercial film the same way they would treat an artistic film. The ones who didn’t did boring, lifeless commercial work. The ones who treated it as a piece of them and gave the endeavor their artistic soul always made better work.

Is a commercial work purely creative? NO, of course not. Many times in Wonderland they talk about the restrictions that clients and agency people put on the work. They talk about the money behind the work and how that affects it. Basically, they talk about how they can’t do whatever they want and how that differs greatly from artistic work where they decide what the subject and tone of the work is.

Having read both Coppola’s biography and numerous stories about Orson Wells and other film directors – I can tell you that projects with complete creative control do not always come out better than those where studios dictate a number of the decisions. Directors such as Woody Allen and Spielberg tend to have more control than other directors – and their films do feel more like art than some other films. But I am not convinced that having less control – they won’t make great work. They are great directors. They made great work when they had less control … they just didn’t like it as much. It is harder. It is frustrating. But if they didn’t make great work in the first place with studio collaboration, they would have never had the control the have now. So what comes first – the chicken or the egg?

It is easy to say that when it’s someone else’s idea, there is no art in it. Art comes from the heart and experience. It’s something that garners emotion from the viewer. Commercial work is not that different. … Commercial work comes from a brand heart. The experience is that of the brand and the creatives, while the emotion is felt by the consumer. And make no mistake – creating an emotional tie to a piece of work is extremely important for a brand. Without the emotion, there is no relationship with the brand. And that is basically what a brand is – the relationship with the consumer.

There is a reason why creative directors hire film directors to work on their commercial endeavors. They want art infused into their commercial piece. This is no easy task. The voice of the brand and the client are always repeating rules and strategies even in the most creative creative directors. There is no way around it. But when you add that voice of the artist to the project, you get a voice more concerned with the emotion than the voices in their heads. The best film directors will fight with the creative director to make that art. And the best creative directors will let go of some things and fight for others that he/she knows are necessary for the communication. In the end, the project will become a commerce/art collaboration.

Sometimes the balance goes more toward commerce and sometimes more toward art. Sometimes, the emotion that comes from the art transfers to the brand and sometimes the brand overshadows the emotion created by the art. The best of these collaborations gives you both a brand communication and emotion.

If you look at the two ads below, you will see both art and commerce in them. “Stiff Upper Lip” is as close to some modern art as you will ever get in a television ad. It is mysterious, weird, and definitely pulls different emotions from the viewer like any modern art piece. There are those who don’t understand it, those who love it and many who hate it … but they can’t stop looking at it. And I would say the commercial is art until the commerce ending. I would say the same for the POM Wonderful spot. If you turned off the sound and cut off the product at the end, it’s a very artful piece of film. The composition, beauty, interest and emotion are all there with a product at the end or not.

Also, the digital landscape has opened up the creative avenues tenfold. Think about it. … Now there are brand films where artists are asked to interpret the brand. They are given more freedom because the cost of such films is less and a certain freedom is expected on the Web that isn’t expected as much on television. And, of course, Web films need an authenticity to be shared – and that authenticity means more art than commerce.

Then there is the whole definition of what art is in the first place and how it came to be. Art from the beginning was not always meant to be art. As a form of expression, it has changed with the times. And often, great art was commissioned from great artists. How is getting a portrait of yourself painted different from having a commercial done for your brand? There are obviously rules for both subjects. The artist can’t paint a portrait of someone else when you paid for a portrait of YOU … although a portrait from Picasso might look like someone else – depending on your perspective. The beginnings of art come from telling a story, almost a journal, of early man’s adventures during hunting season 30,000 years ago. These early paintings on caves could well have been advertisements. “Check out Mogu. … He is best at finding meat. He has big weapons. He has a cool cave. Wild animals and women fall at his feet.” Painted by Gred. Gred lives outside Mogu’s cave on a rock. But he paints a mean story about Mogu.

The first artists lived by a set of rules as to how they painted subjects. When they broke those rules, then the needle of art moved. And along the timeline, more rules were broken and art moved again. This is very close to the commercial world, where the rules are continually broken and changing – especially with the advent of a digital landscape that continues to evolve commerce and art as well.

This excerpt says it all. …

“… the lessons of Egyptian art had not simply been discarded and thrown overboard. Greek artists still tried to make their figures as clear in outline as possible, and to include as much of their knowledge of the human body as would go into the picture without doing violence to its appearance. They still loved firm outlines and balanced design. They were far from trying to copy any casual glimpse of nature as they saw it. The old formula, the type of human form as it had developed in all these centuries, was still their starting point. Only they no longer considered it sacred in every detail.” – E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art

That is what a great director does for a piece of commerce. They don’t regard a brand’s rules as sacred in every detail. They are still working from the strategy. They are still trying to get across the right message for the brand. … But the things you hold onto as sacred about your brand … are not in the mind of that director. If he’s good, he’ll try and get you to break some sacred cow that sits in your mind, grazing away at the grey matter. Once that happens – anything is possible. …