Posts Tagged ‘Leo Burnett’

Guest Blogger: Tom NapperPicture 2

Tom Napper is our Director of Digital at Element 79, but that hardly describes his real mission; what Tom does better than anyone in his field is drive convergence in constant practical ways.  For years, agencies wrestled with the best way to integrate online expertise into traditional creative development.  Instead of theory, Tom does that everyday through immersion and a calming understanding that, in the end, all that really matters in digital or any medium is the power of ideas.  Our recent awards for interactive creative at the Addy’s, D&AD, and New York Festivals all bear Tom’s influence.  For the past fifteen years, starting at Accenture and then on to Chemistri, Burnett and WhittmanHart, Tom has strengthened brands’ relationship with their customers in the digital marketing space, from Harley-Davidson and their owner/travellers to the KISS nation and the band.  With experience on everything from Secret to the US Army, Adidas, Quaker and Gatorade, Tom connects people, brands and minds.  Our agency deeply appreciates his willingness to commute down from Milwaukee, bringing us his insights and experience across the Cheddar Curtain…

Say what you want about what we do but I think it is magic. We take everyday things and do something remarkable with them. Our creative invokes a sense of wonder or curiosity: “What the heck was that?”

As a geeky kid in Connecticut, I was an amateur magician. I was paid so I guess I was a pro but that would put me in the league with Houdini and I was nowhere near that.

One of my best tricks was the coin-in-the-matchbox trick. Maybe everyone knows how this is done, but back when I was doing the cocktail party/birthday party circuit, it amazed even the most skeptical person. I would ask for a coin, telling the audience member they could mark it however they wanted. I remember one time a guy spent ten minutes marking his coin. When the guy was done marking it, I dropped the coin into my left hand pocket and pulled out of my right hand pocket a match box. You know, the big cardboard ones that have a bunch of matches in them. The box was secured with a bunch of rubber bands. I handed the matchbox to the guy (or anybody) to open up. What they found inside was not the coin but a series of five increasingly smaller matchboxes that were bound with rubber bands. The final box was about 2×3 and covered in rubber bands. Inside that box was a pouch that was secured at the top with another rubber band like a very tiny money bag.  Inside that pouch was the coin.  It freaked people out.

What was so great about this trick was that it used props that everyone had seen before. I let them handle every part of the trick. They could inspect the rubber bands, the boxes, the pouch, the coin. As I made more money doing magic, I tried buying fancier tricks from magic shops, but those tricks looked like tricks and people weren’t as satisfied. They liked my tricks that used everyday things, like their stocking caps to pull a bird out of or stuff like that.

MagicOkay, so what does this have to do with advertising? See I got into this field because I liked making something really cool, things that surprised people. The internet really helped with that. People logged into their computers and holy smokes; there was AT&T with a castle and a frog at their front door.

Our clients want magic to happen constantly. They want that magic moment where eyeballs turn to their table. If our clients were out there standing in the grocery store trying to get someone to buy their product, you bet they’d want a magician. That’s who we are. We take everyday objects or intersections or actions and surprise people. Sometimes we literally surprise them and they are surprised by how we’ve made them feel. We usually do this not by some fancy trick but by using things people know and relate to.

Working in the digital space, I’m constantly asked about the latest thing and how we can use it and what is it all about. In those conversations, what people really want to know is how is everyone else using it?  Until we know that…well, it is hard to find out what the surprise will be and how to create the magic.

One of the things I learned by being a magician was that it isn’t the fancy stuff that made you good, it was what you did with the normal stuff. We fall down when we start turning to the magic stores to supply our tricks. The trick or the surprise isn’t in the things that people haven’t seen before, it is in the cool ways we make the things everyone has seen before act. Everybody is talking about convergence and to my way of thinking, that is just about opening up and looking around. Digital is a space were we all can play. The best minds making creative in TV, print and radio can make really great creative in digital.

The digital space allows us to surprise and freak people out on so many levels because its reach is so great. What is freaky about Twitter today will be old news in about two months. But how the crazy creatives use Twitter to freak us out?  That has no time frame.

The digital space allows us so much flexibility because it is so fluid. What is out of reach today will be normal after you turn the page on your Kindle. And that is just so cool, right?  It can be frustrating to feel the sand moving under your toes, but the next wave is coming for you to body surf into shore. Paying attention and listening is what the best folks in the digital space are doing.

So what I love about this magical thing called advertising is that I can surprise you by pulling a lion out of my hat today, but tomorrow, through the magic of internet, I can make a lion eat your tweet.

Well, not really.  Not yet.  But wouldn’t that freak you out?

by Tom Napper, Element 79

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Guest Blogger: Neal StamellNeal

For nearly twenty-five years, Neal has lived and breathed consumer research and advertising at agencies like Leo Burnett, Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, FCB and now Element 79 as a Group Planning Director. Along the way, he’s interviewed and canvassed all sorts of people for their thoughts and opinions on Philip Morris, Tropicana, Pillsbury, Glad, Starkist, Gatorade, Amway, ConAgra and literally hundreds of other brands. As a natural puzzle solver, he instinctively converts that kind of data into usable insights: connecting, inciting, and inspiring. Though a curious planner’s mind never turns off, Neal has also somehow found time to master the nuances of cooking classics like Kung Pao Chicken and Hot & Sour soup along with blues riffing on his electric bass. Neal also won Element 79’s very first Film Fest with his deeply-moving documentary “Inez Holly.”

Someone recently posed a challenge on the LinkedIn AdPro forum. In a nutshell, it was this: how to rebrand ‘America?’ What would you rename it, what’s the logo, the tagline or slogan, that would concisely sum up what America is, or wants to be perceived as?

This question reminded me of an article I recently rediscovered, written in 1984 by L. Robert Kohls called “The Values Americans Live By” – sort of a primer for international guests. He wrote:

“If the foreign visitor really understood how deeply ingrained these thirteen values are in Americans, he or she would then be able to understand 95% of American actions — actions which might otherwise appear strange, confusing, or unbelievable when evaluated from the perspective of the foreigner’s own society and its values.”

What are these thirteen ingredients that distinguished us as Americans twenty-five years ago? According to Kohls, with my color commentary, they were:

  1. Personal Control Over The Environment/Responsibility. Our lives are our own to shape, not a function of luck or fate, and of course, “we can do anything if we put our minds to it.”
  2. Change Seen as Natural and Positive. Tradition-shmadition; Change = Progress & Growth (the original P&G?)
  3. Time and Its Control. Make a schedule, keep to it, and that way accomplish more. “Idle hands are the Devil’s tools.”
  4. Equality/Fairness. “We are all created equal.” At least that’s the ideal.
  5. Individualism /Independence. We believe we’re unique, we hate being lumped into groups, and, we likes our privacy.
  6. Self-Help/Initiative. Land of the self-made man or woman. “Mom – I did it all by myself!”
  7. Competition. “It brings out the best in everyone.”
  8. Future Orientation. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!”
  9. Action/Work Orientation. “Don’t just stand there – do something!”
  10. Informality. Yup.
  11. Directness/Openness/Honesty. Stand up for yourself, be direct; or, in the vernacular, “In yo’ face, sucka!”
  12. Practicality/Efficiency. Okay, this list is like way too long. I’d bundle 3, 9 & 12, and also pair 5 &6 just for starters. Hey – I’m American!
  13. Materialism/Acquisitiveness. Need a David Hasselhoff flip top cigarette lighter? ‘Nuf said.

So what to make of all this? And more important, will it help me win the logo contest?

Let’s assume that by and large Mr. Kohls had it right in his search for what most Americans held in common as of the early 80’s. It’s easy to trace some of the values he cites back to the country’s founding (1,2,4,5) as well as to more recent events like WWII and post-war Baby Boomers’ coming of age in the 60’s and 70’s (6-10).

And while some values seem to counter each other – Fairness vs. Competition, Efficiency vs. Informality – his descriptions make sense of the seeming contradictions. (A lot like Python’s Dinsdale Piranha: “he was a cruel man, but fair.”)

But what’s changed in the past twenty-five years, and what might be missing?

Writing in1984, Kohls was relatively closer to the post-war booms in construction, technology and materialism that so occupied our lives. The “Great Generation” that pulled itself up the by the bootstraps, rebuilt nations and scorned “wasting time” (#3) is dying out. Certainly their values were passed along, but perhaps in watered down form.

Things aren’t as seemingly simple or black & white as they once were. We live with more shades of grey and fewer solid role models to follow. And it’s become a lot harder to make it by sheer grit.

Are we as likely to think that “time is of the essence,” to worry about not losing or wasting time? Or has our informality overshadowed our obsession with being “on time?” (And has Mr. Kohls ever been in an ad agency?) It seems that some more Puritan ethics around time and work have gradually given way to our love affair with the couch, the Xbox, big screen, the popcorn. Although we also pretend to “save time” by checking email while in the shower.

I’d say our desire to acquire has outweighed our prior respect for delayed gratification. And while we’re probably still more private than other cultures, with kids expecting their own rooms and our back yards fully fenced, could someone please tell the woman three rows back on the train to get off the phone?!

And what of Competition? This may become the most challenged pillar of the American ideal, as the Millennials and “Generation O’s” (for Obama) have been raised to value cooperation and collaboration, and will expect more of it in their occupations.

So back to the challenge: is there a big enough paintbrush for a broad stroke characterization of who/what we are? Is there room in a single positioning for this remarkably diverse, varied and complex society?

Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope:

“Not only did my encounters with voters confirm the fundamental decency of the American people, they also reminded me that at the core of the America experience are a set of ideals that continue to stir our collective conscience; a common set of values that bind us together despite our differences; a running thread of hope that makes our improbable experiment in democracy work.”


Happy Independence Day America/Opportunisia/

Happy Independence Day America/Opportunisia/Massafornia/Youtopia

 If the President thinks there’s a common thread, well, there’s gotta be, right? With no further ado, here’s my short list of new names and slogans for America.

OPPORTUNISIA: “300 Million Immigrants Can’t Be Wrong”

MASSAFORNIA: “Mighty Hopeful”

YOUTOPIA: “Have It Your Way!” (that one might be trademarked)



Your turn. Happy 4th of July!

by Neal Stamell, Element 79

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Guest Blogger: John Fraser

Picture 1

John Fraser is a marketing machine with a mind finely-honed for the key detail and meaningful insight–to wit, he is our first guest blogger to use footnotes.  Following the classic media department training in Burnett, he worked on brands like Kellogg’s, Kraft, GM, and eventually Philip Morris.  What few realize is during these early days, he also moonlighted weekends exploiting his silky baritone voice by announcing beauty pageants.  Moving to Bayer, Bess, Vanderwarker to pursue sports marketing, he began working on the Gatorade business.  He moved with Gatorade first to FCB and eventually Element 79 back in 2001, where he was a founding partner and served as Executive Vice President of Business Development.  John has probably forgotten more about sports marketing than most people know; his proprietary exposure analysis for Gatorade sponsorships helped the brand win its first Gold Effie.  He left the agency world to become Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Rosa’s Horchata to scratch a persistent entrepreneurial itch.  An inveterate raconteur, a frighteningly powerful golfer and a quick to laugh father and coach, John builds brands and relationships with equal skill.  We fully expect to be two bottle a day rice milk consumers when he introduces Rosa’s to the Chicago market…

Advertising as a profession and practice has been taking it on the chin lately. As pressure mounts, clients expect more and more while returning less and less for an agency’s efforts, including civility (See: Marc Brownstein, 5/21/09, Advertising Age). While it can be a struggle to maintain a positive outlook, it is important to keep the big picture in mind. As we approach another Independence Day in America, advertising professionals have something to celebrate: our role in preserving the American “way of life”.

 Advertising to the Rescue

It is well documented that advertising helped drive the cycle of increased consumption, production and affluence even in the darkest of times in our nation’s history.  Ernest Dichter, consumer research guru from the mid 20th century, suggests that because “our economy would literally collapse overnight [without a continuing high level of consumption] defenders of a positive outlook on life, the real salesmen of prosperity, and therefore of democracy, are the individuals who defend the right to buy.”[1]

Several specific events during the 20th century prove this point. During The Great Depression, which many people, including economist John Maynard Keynes, believed was caused by underconsumption, advertising was used to spur purchasing. Private sector activity, along with New Deal programs, played important roles in preserving democracy and delivering on President Roosevelt’s promise of “Freedom from Want”. Next, as American democracy was threatened by the totalitarian regimes in Europe during World War II, advertising was called on to urge Americans to stop consuming essential resources needed for the war effort. “To persuade Americans to save rather that invest, the government embarked on an unprecedented marketing campaign, selling common sacrifice so that, as Lawrence R. Samuel has noted, it became a ‘secular religion’ which promised to minimize class consciousness, promote pluralism, revive democratic capitalism, and foster postwar affluence.”[2]

The next challenge for advertising was to get Americans spending again following World War II in an effort to prove democracy’s superiority during the early days of the Cold War. “From the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, businesspeople, politicians, the mass media, and many leading intellectuals trumpeted the benefits of the American way of life. They celebrated democratic capitalism, which, in contrast to Soviet totalitarianism, had produced ever-growing prosperity and in turn provided the foundation for an egalitarian and harmonious society.”[3]  

Early in the 21st century, advertising was once again called on to catalyze consumption following the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.  As Daniel Horowitz summarizes, “An external threat of unimaginable dimensions, the possibility of a recession, massive corporate scandals and bankruptcies, and a declining stock market prompted Americans to perceive consumption as a critical factor in the nation’s health, and even its survival. We have to spend our way out of this danger, millions of Americans believed, so that the enemies who had attacked us would not have won. The consumer was it the saddle. Unlike in the situation the nation faced during World War II or the energy crisis, this time there seemed no turning back from a full embrace of affluence and a commercialized consumer culture.”[4]

Where Do Things Stand Today?

Newsweek 1It is clear from the two recent Newsweek covers that, once again, consumption fueled by advertising will be critical to preserving our economic and political system in America. [5]

Unfortunately, though, the economic downturn is making this more difficult by reducing the advertising resources available to drive consumption and help dig America out of this current deep recession. Ad spending declined 12% during the first quarter of 2009 and VSS, a leading media tracking firm, now expects advertising expenditures to decline 7.4% overall in 2009. Following a corresponding dip in 2008, it was the first back-to-back years of advertising recession in 75 years.[6] This pullback in spending comes amid yet another study showing the effectiveness of marketing during down times. According to a new Ad-ology Research study, Advertising’s Impact in a Soft Economy, more than 48% of U.S. adults believe that a lack of advertising by a retail store, bank or auto dealership during a recession indicates the business must be struggling. Conversely, a vast majority perceives businesses that continue to advertise as being competitive or committed to doing business.[7]

Newsweek2Compounding the problem for advertisers are indications from the new administration and Democratically controlled congress that government may be intervening more in the industry. Increased regulation is first on the list, with tobacco and advertising to children in the crosshairs. As Dan Jaffe, EVP, governmental relations at the Association of National Advertisers, points out, “Advertising is the engine of our economy. But the whole movement is toward greater and greater regulation in all areas and all at once.” He quoted FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, who has reportedly said: “Industry needs to do a better job of meaningful, rigorous self-regulation or it will certainly invite legislation by Congress and a more regulatory approach by our commission.” Commissioner Leibowitz also suggested that advertising could be taxed in the near future. He pointed out that with the projected deficit this year of $1.2 trillion, lawmakers on both the federal and state levels would look at taxes on advertising as a way to garner revenue. “There are ways taxes could be imposed: from across-the-board ad taxes [which would] garner as much as $160 billion in the next five years, to specific taxes on unpopular categories, such as tobacco, direct-to-consumer pharma, and certain food categories.”[8]

If the federal government is serious about consumers spending their way out of the current recession, then they need revisit history about the important role of advertising in making it happen. If they do, then they will find that restricting advertising through regulation and taxation will be counterproductive to their efforts. Instead, I would argue that incentives should be given to companies who advertise in a down economy. Further, I believe that the federal government should increase its budget to include a pro-consumption advertising campaign of its own (what’s another $100 million on top of $1.2 trillion?). It worked during the depression and it worked following World War II. Why not now?

I was recently comforted to find that advertising seemingly remains at the corporate grown-ups table and at the forefront of preserving our capitalist economy and our democracy. Over the past month, CNBC has been airing a primetime, limited interruption panel discussion “Meeting of the Minds: The Future of Capitalism.” As CNBC promotes, “The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has made the American taxpayer an owner in some of the most storied companies in the United States, and in the process, have given the government unprecedented influence in the free market system.”[9]  The program “assembled some of the country’s most influential leaders to explore and make sense of this new reality”. Seated among such captains of industry as Jack Welch (former CEO of GE), Vikram Pandit (Current CEO of Citi) and Marc Morial (CEO of the National Urban League) was Shelly Lazarus, Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Not only does her presence on the show suggest advertising still has an impact on capitalism in this country, but it suggests it may help retool our economic system for the future.

The weight of evidence suggests that over the past century and a half, advertising has emerged to become one of the foremost economic engines of American prosperity. Further, in times of economic, political or military crisis, advertising has been called upon to promote, maintain or even reduce consumption in support of the nation’s critical interests. So, I say, the next time you pass a weary ad man or woman in an airport…thank them for their service to America. 

by John Fraser, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Rosie’s Horchata

[1] Horowitz, Daniel, The Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939-1979, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst & Boston, 2004, p. 60.


[2] Horowitz, Daniel, p. 37.

[3] Horowitz, Daniel, Introduction, p. 7.

[4] Horowitz, Daniel, epilogue, p. 256.

[5] Newsweek

[6] Mandese, Joe, “’09 To See Lowest Growth Rate For Media In 30 Years”, Media Post News, Marketing Daily, Tuesday, February 24, 2009

[7] Loechner, Jack, “Advertise or Die”, Media Post Blogs, Research Brief, Monday, May 25, 2009

[8] Freidman, Wayne, “Congress Pushes Tobacco Marketing Restrictions”, Media Post Blogs, Research Brief, Wednesday, March 4, 2009.

[9] CNBC, CNBC.com, Maria Bartiroma, May/June 2009.

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BrianBGB Guest Blogger: Brian Williams

Element 79’s President and CEO Brian Williams has dedicated his three-decade career to helping clients win. Prior to founding Element 79 eight years ago, he honed his skills in a variety of top management positions, including President & CEO of Foote Cone Chicago and EVP Managing Director of one of Leo Burnett’s seven operating agencies. He’s put his considerable talents to work for such world-class clients as Quaker Oats, Dean Witter, Hallmark, Kraft, S.C. Johnson, Pepsi, Smuckers, The Beef Council, Procter & Gamble, Nintendo, Gatorade, Sony, The National Dairy Association and Morgan Stanley.  In his rare moments outside the office, he’s also a fiercely competitive golfer and tennis player.  In other words, don’t play him for money.

In praise of Dennis.

Dennis asked for contributions to his collective thinking blog while he’s on shore leave.  I raised my hand.  But only with the understanding that I’d publish unedited and uncensored.  After all, isn’t that one of the underlying, inherent appeals of blogs?  But, there’s also a method to my mad insistences.  I immediately realized that had Dennis pre-screened this submission, it would have been quickly pocket vetoed and go unpublished.  And that wouldn’t do.

I first met Dennis at the Pretty Good Café in Winnetka for breakfast in the fall of 2001.  Element 79 was just being launched, and the company needed creative leadership as blue chip, as inspirational and as honorable as the clients and brands who were the foundation of our fledging enterprise.  There was only one candidate.  It was Dennis Ryan.  And to our great fortune, he accepted.

And so began a partnership that has benefited me personally and Element 79 professionally well beyond anything I initially imagined back in 2001.  From the day he first stepped across the 33rd floor threshold, Dennis has contributed to Element 79 more than any two of the rest of us combined.  And he does so in content and in context.  The content benefits of Dennis are easy to discern.  His intelligence, writing skills, eye for the unexpected, production expertise, salesmanship and his uncanny and unselfish ability to impart such wisdom to others are unparalleled.  And for this, we are all most grateful.

But, the manner in which Dennis plies his skills is what really impresses me and genuinely sets him apart from other top industry creative leaders.  At the core of his essence, Dennis really, really cares!  He cares about the quality of our work.  He cares about the people of Element 79.  He cares about treating others with respect and inspiring them to reach higher than they believe they can.  What’s more, Dennis is the hardest working person at E79.  This is a fact!   But he never wears it as a badge.  He’s a humble, ever thoughtful, appropriately demanding, decisive, diplomatic, results oriented and driven.  He leads by example and his integrity is unimpeachable.  Let me repeat that last trait.  Dennis’ integrity is unimpeachable.  This is absolutely critical.  Dennis may not always be right, but his motives for his actions and his decisions are always driven by his desire to do the right thing.  And this, more than anything else in life, is what distinguishes great leaders from the posers.

Dennis has contributed mightily to Element 79’s success since we first opened our doors, and his contributions have never been more strongly felt than over the past six months.  Thanks, Dennis, from me.  From everyone at E79.  I’m proud to be able to work alongside you.  A pleasure it truly is.  Enjoy your vacation.  We’ll see you upon your sunburned return.  Remember, summer hours start at 8:30 a.m.

By Brian Williams, President and CEO, Element 79

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