Goodbye 2008. Now Get Lost.

Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Ass 2008...

Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Ass 2008...

I won’t miss 2008.

We hit a rather rough patch this past year.  Personally, professionally, heck even meteorologically (Chicago’s wettest year on record)–2008 delivered a seemingly unending series of heartbreaks, bad breaks, and just plain disappointments.

But somehow, despite the fact that nothing more separates 2008 from 2009 than an arbitrary draw of chronological numerics, I know the coming New Year will be different.

Because I will be different.  And I believe a good number of people in our industry will be different as well.  

We will be different because we won’t wait to see what changes technology and evolving media habits bring; we will be a part of those changes, riding the wave and trying new possibilities on web, mobile, and social platforms.

We won’t wait to see how clients react to those changes, we will stay a halfstep ahead of our clients, introducing changes and helping make sense of them.

And we won’t wait for consumer confidence to return to the market after hitting record lows in December, we will hustle it back ourselves with ideas and campaigns that build something even more meaningful than short term sales: long term brand faith.

I don’t have a lot of John Mellencamp on my iPod (though in fairness, the man is woefully underrated and puts on a surprisingly amazing live show), still just this once, I want to quote a lyric from Your Life Is Now:  “CAUSE I BELIEVE YOU COULD CHANGE YOUR MIND AND CHANGE OUR LIVES.”

It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we make of what happens.  So on to a New Year, new thinking, and bold, new experiences.  I can’t wait.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

On Strunk and White…and Marty.

dsc_0191For the past twenty years, my wife’s brother-in-law Marty has steadfastly refused to use the word ‘party’ as a verb.  His diligence straddles that lonely border between nobility and futility, yet still, he holds to his standards.

I couldn’t help thinking of Marty tonight when I tripped across this Alexander Haig-esque bit of torturous new lexicon: ‘blogcation.’  In a small call out near the top of the page, the site’s author announced he was giving himself a ‘blogcation.’

Whoa.  I hardly tell anyone I’m blogging yet cause I’m not quite comfortable with that as a root word.

I’m a writer; I write.  ‘Blogging’?  Still trying to toss that off my tongue without tripping.

Which puts me a long, long way away from a blogcation anytime soon.  For better or for worse.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

No Whining.

picture-11Client confidence fails.  Income drops.  Layoffs stink.  

All true in a depressed ad market.

Still, we can’t complain.  Our work may be hard, thankless and at times, even excruciatingly  annoying.  But as I sit watching the bigscreen at home, I realize I will probably never experience workplace conditions like the Bears and the Packers feel tonight.  And for that, thank you God.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The Birthplace of Bad Work

real1My agency joined a number of our fellow agencies in a pro bono effort to help a big civic undertaking.  The clients were very well intentioned: they have a worthy endeavor, a LOT of material and a LOT of ideas.  What they lacked was focus.  And time.  And a budget.  

So there we sat, hopeful believers representing eight or so local agencies, listening as the putative briefing session for what could be a dream assignment slowly revealed itself as another unrealized opportunity redolent with layers, politics, and inconsistency.  Almost as one, every creative in that room lost their initial zeal.  It reminded me of that old business adage: “Hope is not a business plan.”  Sadly, these days, in both the charity and for-profit worlds, too many business leaders seem to forget that things like focus, discipline, and proper funding–if not financially then at least in terms of timing–are essential to success.  A blank canvas may appeal to an artist, but when your art involves driving action and results, a blank canvas proves useless at best.  All in all, it was a rather dispiriting experience.

But the worst part is, we will all probably try anyway.  Dreaming is what we do.  Even if our dreams sometimes become nightmares.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Omnicom Set to Cut Up to 3,500 Jobs: Advertising Age

–and this is the best creative marketing network in the world. the_six_million_dollar_man_1166490463If you need a more obvious sign that we as an industry must get ahead of convergence, I don’t know what else to add.
Instead, I will paraphrase the (re)makers of Steve Austin: “We will rebuild it. To be stronger, faster, smarter than ever before.”
We can’t start soon enough.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Regarding The Critical Intersection of Traditional and New Advertising Platforms published something from a conference rather extravagantly titled “The Empirical Generalizations in Advertising.”  Wow.  Anyone who knows me knows I like my generalizations to be empirical, so I read it closely.

Amidst other findings, they published this from the Keller Fay Group regarding Word of Mouth advertising.  Citing interviews conducted since 2006, they concluded that over 20% of conversations included a reference to advertising.  Further, they suggest ad-influenced WOM is 20% more likely to include an active recommendation to buy or try the product.

As a traditionally trained advertising creative, I’m wearing a huge happy hat over that news.  Because in the perpetual motion experience that defines the best of modern advertising, a medium labeled as ‘traditional’ as television, still drives engagement.  It can still push out a message that starts conversations.  And changes minds.

Not on it’s own, not in a vacuum, and not at the expense of other engagement points…but still, good TV advertising works.  It relies on the power of creativity.  And it doesn’t stop with TV.  The trick is to insure that every touchpoint reinforces and advances one message.

Which, as any experienced ad practitioner knows, comes down to Advertising 101.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The Beauty of Crisp, Smart Ball Movement

basketballhoopstockphotosmallTwo nights a week, a group of guys way past their prime play full court at the local Catholic elementary school gym.  Crowding the lane, slamming in the paint, occasionally committing acts of unlikely grace: it’s basically my version of Fight Club. And yet, two or three times tonight, we found an unusual synch with our offensive passing.   Great ball movement makes any team worth watching; it multiplies possibilities and sets up surprising scoring opportunities.  And it made me, however briefly and inopportunely, reconsider my obsession with push and pull marketing models.  Back and forth, over, around, through, across and back and forth again: the constant movement fascinated and engaged all of us, just the way you hope a symphony of multi-platform communications work for a brand.

Of course, I will still stand by the notion of a Perpetual Motion Experience instead of revising it to the Triangle Offense or something similarly basketball-centric.  Sports analogies don’t translate to every audience, and besides, when it comes to advertising sports analogies, no one can match the halcyon achievement of Bob Merlotti’s guest editorial in the October 22 issue of Adweek.  Genius.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Convergence: It's Not Just For Theorists Anymore.



The best ideas typify convergence: the smashing together of two ideas previously considered disparate: portable music,  cellular computing, canned beer.  When someone has the vision to combine things not ordinarily associated with each other, they create exciting new possibilities (or really horrific concoctions like chocolate covered bacon).

At last week’s agency Holiday party, someone made this very simple visual mash-up between a DVD and a chalkboard.  And reminded me all over again why we are so lucky to work in the idea business and earn a living this steeped in pure fun.  Merry, merry.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Too Much of You: YouTube Adds 9200 Hours Of Uploaded Video EVERY DAY


It's Not Just For Mail Anymore...

For comparison, the entire year only contains 8,760 hours.  So everyday, people clog YouTube with digital video requiring over fourteen months to watch…and apparently 90% of that video is original content.

These numbers stagger the imagination.  The sheer volume makes one wonder how anyone manages to comb through and dig up those apparently incredibly rare YouTube gems that fill our in boxes.  Because clearly most everyone is uploading hours of footage of sleeping kittens and Aunt Marge’s birthday and nine year olds delivering particularly loud belches.

On one hand, it’s staggering.  But at the same time, it gives me great comfort.  Yes, what I produce professionally, costs far more.  But you do get what you pay for.  And the vast majority of ‘user generated content’–at least when it comes to video–is forgettable, anonymous tripe.  Whew.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

How Long Will It Remain The Wild, Wild Web?

the Viral Hit of Summer '08

In what turned out to be our swansong on Gatorade, our agency created the biggest viral hit of the Summer with “Ballgirl.”  An Ad Age writer called to talk about it today and like most industry journalists covering viral, he steered the questions towards the issue of transparency.  Sure, not identifying “Ballgirl” as a Gatorade ad was benign, but is there a line not to cross with such ‘stealth’ videos?  Must you always announce yourself when creating web videos for clients?  How about working the comments and message boards–if you do that without disclosure are you within ethical boundaries?

All interesting questions but to me, they are all off point.  The fundamental issue boils down to governance: as of now, TV has it and the web doesn’t.  Clients can act in whatever way they choose on the web, unlike television where the FCC sets standards, enforces censorship and demands all claims be thoroughly substantiated (though somehow Enzyte and it’s execrable spokesperson ‘Smilin’ Bob’ got past them for a year or so).  The web is not paid media like television nor is it burdened with television’s standards, which must make network executives more than a little peevish.

Which is why I think we all better enjoy this unbridled freedom now because like it or not, legislation will be coming to the web.  This past February, the European Union enacted legislation that levies heavy fines on any advertiser that creates content for the web without identifying themselves.  With this much money involved in the fight over ever-shrinking media spends, its only a matter of time before the US follows suit.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79