Monthly Archives: August 2015

Drinks After Work. They Help You Evaluate Your Work.

PJ Clarke's in New York. Maybe you've been there.
PJ Clarke’s in New York. Maybe you’ve been there.

Every marketer worth his or her salt demands great work from their ad agency.

They want the best.

‘Highly creative stuff’ tops their must-have list.

But can they recognize breakthrough work when they see it?

That was the topic of conversation among creative people packed into a bar after work.

Just about everyone had a story about a campaign that was killed. Work that was given the heave-ho by a marketer.

We heard about rejected campaigns that were unusual, powerful and loaded with surprise value.

Those in the bar said the killed ideas were ‘light years ahead of the limp, safe, so-called acceptable’ work that finally ran.

When worthy campaigns are turned down most agreed … opportunities to take the brand further are lost.

‘Too different’.

‘Too unusual.’

‘I’ve never seen anything like this before.’

They were all reasons for rejection of work that was on strategy.

It was agreed that education could help.

If marketers were savvier about creative work, it would make them better able to compete.

To that end it was decided MBA programs should teach more than courses like ‘Corporate Strategy’, ‘Entrepreneurial Finance’ and ‘Managing Human Capital’.

Business schools could also offer courses on creativity and its value in the marketplace.

After all, a company’s appeal rides on making informed and correct content decisions.

This reminded us of a reading assignment at ad school years ago.

The book was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The assignment wasn’t to read the book.

Or even the first chapter.

It was to read the first sentence — 14 words.

Here they are:

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks

were striking thirteen.’

The opening is a lesson on how to gain attention … to stop people right from the start.

Orwell turns his back on what’s ‘ordinary’.

In its place you get something that’s different, dramatic, challenging, involving, engrossing.

It’s an example of giving your audience more than they expect. A jolt.

Equally, it reminds you that to get people to read the second line of any kind of writing, the preceding line better be damn good. And so on throughout the piece.

As you know, making people read on is crucial when you want to change minds and drive sales.

If these points about differentiation and sales aren’t enough, here’s another thing about that night.

It took place at PJ Clarke’s in New York. Maybe you know it.

They have a tagline that makes the place stand out.

‘The Vatican of Saloons’.

There’s a thought that stops you.

Maybe it should become the title of a creative course in business schools.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:



A Car That Inspires You To Write Better Content.

For greater performance other cars have a ‘sport mode’. But a Tesla Model S Dual Motor has an ‘Insane Mode’.
For added performance other cars have a ‘sport mode’. But a Tesla Model S Dual Motor offers you an ‘Insane Mode’.

Your Websites, emails, blogs, videos …

Are they packed with appeal and value?

Are they attracting customers from your competitors?

Are they resulting in more conversions?

Because without the kind of content that stops people, lengthens attention spans and creates the moment someone buys, your messaging is like a shirt with no buttons.

Nothing much comes together for you.

Actually Bill Bernbach said it best.

‘If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.’

So for attention-getting content, take a lesson from an unusual messaging source.

The touchscreen monitor of a new car … the Tesla Model S Dual Motor.

The Tesla may be electric but few other cars have the knack of alleviating boredom so thoroughly.

The ‘drive selector’, alone, is the opposite of monotony.

On the touchscreen you’ll see the normal ‘drive mode’ which makes for a quick car. Fast only begins to describe an all-wheel drive experience with two motors, one over each axle.

But instead of the usual ‘sport mode’ of other marques, you can shift to ‘Insane Mode’.

That’s how Tesla brands it.

Click this link for a demo:

You’ll want to note, ‘Insane Mode’ isn’t an exaggeration; Tesla isn’t riding on the street of dreams.

The Model S Dual Motor is faster than a Ferrari.

It beats many super cars in a telling way … the way Four of a Kind shades a Full House in poker.

But that’s not the whole story.

Because if you can resist wolf whistling the car for a moment, things get even faster.

Tesla is ahead of events. They’re planning to add even more oomph with a software upgrade.

It will accelerate you from ‘Insane Mode’ to what they call ‘Ludicrous Mode’.

The language here may be a bit over the top but it’s accurate.

We’re talking about the kind of speeds that might be more appropriately measured with a G-Force indicator than a speedometer.

It’s not enough to say Tesla has engineered a novel car.

They seem to have unlearned most of what everyone has said a car should be to create an electric car beyond expectation.

You get the feeling Tesla doesn’t look to anyone for how to think and proceed.

They follow their own approach to see cars as all they can be.

Even the language of the drive selector, with Inane Mode, is in line with that.

It’s messaging that intrigues first timers who slide behind the wheel.

How about your messaging, your content … is it working in the same way for your brand?

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:


Assumed Knowledge. Good Luck Trying To Succeed With That.

JD Salinger. His book, The Catcher in the Rye, was rejected at first. To date more than 65 million copies have been sold. The book continues to be a money-spinner with 250,000 sales every year.
JD Salinger. His book The Catcher in the Rye was rejected at first. Hard to believe.
Because to date more than 65 million copies have been sold. The book continues to be a money-spinner with sales of 250,000 copies every year.

In 1950 a publisher called Eugene Reynal assumed nobody would read The Catcher in the Rye.

He wasn’t exactly good-humored in his criticism.

Reynal hated the book and refused it for publication as it was unlike anything else in print at the time.

He said it had to be rewritten with major changes to be more like the kind of books that were selling.

The character of Holden Caulfield needed to be completely re-done, it was a non-starter.

There’s an assumption for you.

Chances are you’ve read The Catcher in the Rye and loved it.

If so, you’re among the 65 million people who bought the book.

65 Million books … how’s that for a money-spinner?

The fact is The Catcher in the Rye is still selling 250,000 copies a year.

So much for Eugene Reynal.

But you may come across people like him in marketing and advertising.

We heard about one from an intern spending a summer in a product company.

Their ad agency came in after two unsuccessful attempts to sell a new campaign.

Unhappily, it wasn’t a case of third time lucky.

The marketing director rejected the campaign as it was like nothing he had ever seen before.

There was no precedent for it.

More to that, the marketer director said the solution should have been more along the lines of his ideas … ideas, incidentally, which were not shared in the brief.

One wonders then … why bring in an agency in the first place. Why buy a dog and then bark yourself.

As you might have guessed, the intern thought differently about the creative work that was presented that day.

His take was more along the lines of not-so-fast-on-the-rejection-thing’.

He realized the ads made the brand a stopper. In short, the campaign was different and for that, great stuff.

Precedent didn’t come into it.

But nobody asked the intern for an opinion.

Too bad.

Assumed knowledge killed off a strong idea.

Let’s hope it didn’t also kill off an intern’s desire to go into advertising.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:





In Advertising You Face Many Challenges. Now Add Bed Bugs.

Somewhere out there you may find and unwelcome surprise. Bed bugs.
Somewhere out there you may find an unwelcome surprise. Bed bugs.

We just had a brand project that involved travel.

Two cities over a few days for focus groups.

The client booked the hotels.

Then we discovered a Website that signaled a problem.

Bed bugs. had the details. One of our hotels was on their list.

More than few appearances of the little critters were reported over a period of time.


This hotel isn’t a creepy place like the Bates Motel.

It’s not obscure and it isn’t a roadside eyesore in decline since 1980s.

It’s part of a large upmarket chain. Pictures online reflect taste and comfort, if not a bit of luxury.

Still, even with a polished look you’re not about to check in, are you?

Further research reveals some of the best hotels in America have, or have had, bedbugs.

The highest priced, most swish places can be infested.

Sorry for that depressing news.

But you can see the problem for yourself. Just troll through the listings on

Check TripAdvisor while you’re at it.

As you’re probably well aware, it’s the site that keeps hotels on their toes with content written by customers.

To us, the power of the customer is never better exemplified than on this site.

It’s an education to read the good and the bad to get into the mindset of people and their expectations.

Call it a useful exercise in studying personas.

Another option for you could be Airbnb.

They’re claiming 1,500,000 unique listings in more than 190 countries.

You can even rent a castle if Ireland is your destination.

Impressive for a 2008 startup.

But apart from finding accommodation, if you have a focus group in another city use the power of the Internet.

Do your research online.

That way you can stay home and sleep as you’ve always done. Without critters.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn: