Everyone has an in.

Whether it’s the cute coworker at the office or millions of moms around the world, everybody has a way into their hearts and minds.

Here’s the problem though — figuring it out.

That’s when strategy comes in. But, before that, we need to know a lot about the person (or persons) we’re trying to sway.

In comes research. So many types of research. I bet that whoever first said, “knowledge is power,” was in the middle of some research study. And, I believe they were correct. (But, this piece is not about research.)

So, let’s go back to the “in.”

I’ve learned that emotional cues (sometimes called “human truths” or “universal truths”) are often the most successful ways to enter into your desired person’s (or persons’) life.

For example, let’s go back to the coworker at the office. Perhaps you notice how they arrive to work at the same time, always holding a beautifully designed cup of coffee from that local shop with the “hipster logo” shining in the morning sun.

You may have never heard of the shop, or even like coffee, but you love that style of design. Then, you notice that both of you have the same brand of water-infusing bottles. Six months in, you also notice their afternoon snack-time patterns (fresh veggies, organic Greek yogurt, sea salt dark Mexican chocolate). All things you truly enjoy.

These are all data points. Opportunities to get “in.” Design, food, style, manners — all truths of the human experience. All opportunities to enter someone’s life.

Going global

Reaching the masses is basically the same idea. Just a bit more complex. A bit bigger.

Enter BIG DATA. A trendy name, yet a real movement, that expresses the collection of everyday behaviors in all of humanity. Our traces. Our breadcrumbs left behind in and around our lives. Both digital and analogue.

Very smart people have this down to a science in many businesses and companies. Often turning information into great, useful, personalized stories tailored to specific audiences, shoppers and customers at specific moments in time.

Recently, Google built and announced “a personal Google” for each individual using their products by bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning to everyone’s hands and homes. (SEO shout-out to the #madebygoogle line: Google Home, Wi-Fi, Chromecast Ultra, Daydream View, Pixel and Google Assistant.)

The concept is a little scary at first, yet the usefulness these products provide is undeniable.

The idea is actually simple: Bring relevant assistance to people around the world in the most natural form possible. Apple and Amazon aren’t too far behind with Siri and Alexa inside their hard- and software ecosystems. Even Microsoft’s Cortana is infiltrating all things IoT (Internet of Things).

Finding an “in” with people’s own behaviors — that’s the reality we’re living in. That’s the world we now have to build for every day.

So whether you’re trying to find love, or make the masses fall in love with your brands and businesses — start with their emotional cues (their truths) — and make yourself part of their stories to come.

 

 

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Copy UX: Wireframing Your Message Hierarchy

As digital and the Internet of Things continue expanding, so has the art of writing copy and messages with impact.

Much like an art director sketches before touching their Creative Suite tools, for the past three years, the biggest change in my writing has actually been wireframing my copy messages.

Copy Wire

Here’s why:

1. Everything should be responsive

Screen size fluctuation has become the norm in our generation. From TVs, pagers, sidekicks, smartphones, watches, tablets… (You get it.) Everything keeps getting smaller, then bigger, then smaller again. (And now, according to Method, we need to start thinking beyond the screen.)

What’s exciting about these times is the new design approaches that let us enjoy a product experience without feeling like we’re wondering through “Into the Woods” before we knew it was a two-hour musical. (The feeling we’re looking for is horror. Horror I say!)

Responsive design (and my current personal favorite, Material Design) has changed the way people consume information, and it has been a true challenge for those of us trying to figure out how people will consume information moving forward.

Many brands are finally tackling this new responsive era, but it is just truly becoming the norm across all types of businesses.

This alone made me think of messaging differently: Are people scrolling? Are they moving? Is it as simply human as it can be?

Exploring so many potential answers has been a true adventure, but one thing is clear: if it can’t be digested quickly, anywhere they are, it ain’t gonna work.

2. Message hierarchy matters

Now blessed by Lee Clow himself, @leeclowsbeard has one of the most influential tweets in my career: “An ad should be an appetizer, not a buffet.”

This idea is not only true, but is the one rule most clients simply don’t understand. Unfortunately, most businesses want three to ten messages in one ad. (That’s just a sad fact of ad life.)

My response is always a question: “What do you really want your audience to remember?”

Once I land on that idea, I tend to guide my clients into the top three messages they want to say, and stop writing. Anything else can be said in a different ad, email, tweet or any combination there of.

But why does it matter in the first place?

According to MIT, there are four simple Design Principles for Effective Communication:

A. Organize the presentation about a hierarchy of messages.
B. Use a constantly evolving attribute of the material to sequence it along a path.
C. Order the concepts so that earlier concepts facilitate the understanding of later concepts.
D. Provide a memorable introduction and conclusion.

There are many schools of thought on what makes a message work. I happen to identify with these because of the tech-centric, conversation-driven world we’re building.

What doesn’t change is the human experience. And, how we communicate — successfully — with each other through well-told stories.

3. Evolution is a given (and necessary)

Even though a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, someone needs to put those words in the proper order, so your audience cares, engages and shares your brand’s story.

Our society is definitely becoming more visual (think of Instagram, YouTube, KIK, Snapchat, etc.). However, the art of storytelling still drives the human experience, which is why you need someone who understands how we all behave, evolve and continue sharing stories with each other.

No matter how many screens, gadgets and gizmos we continue inventing, someone needs to continue passing our stories and findings with each other.

That’s where you’ll find a good copywriter sitting with a pen or pencil most likely over a blank piece of paper ready to fill it with grace and purpose.

@Ogilvy On Advertising | @HeyWhipple | #TheIdeaWriters

Since I got into advertising, and copywriting specifically, I quickly learned about two people, David Ogilvy and Leo Burnett. Reading about them in the book The Art of Writing Advertising: Conversations with Masters of the Craft, which was a collection of interviews by an Ad Age editor published in the ’60s, awakened my passion for advertising and copywriting.

While at McCannSF, my MAIP mentor advised me to get Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising by Luke Sullivan, which made me realize how incredibly naive and behind I really was in comparison to so many other young and talented writers, art directors and advertising professionals. But, I did not take my mentor’s advised for granted: I got the book, dove into it, practiced many of Mr. Sullivan’s points and I am sure it will serve me as a go-to-guide in the next… well, my whole career. The book is priceless.

However, just two weeks ago I read about this new book coming out called The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era by Teressa Iezzi, editor of Ad Age’s Creativity. The moment I read the Ad Age post about the book I knew I had to buy it, so I went to Amazon and I pre-ordered it. Two days later the book came in and I dove into it. I had just began reading the classic Ogilvy on Advertising, but I felt this new book had something big to say. And, I was not mistaken.

If you follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook you are probably sick and tired of hearing me praise this thing, but I cannot stress how incredibly wonderful this book is. Let’s just say that reading was never a passion of mine (I can be honest, right? Advertising books got me into it), yet I finished this book from cover to cover in less than a week.

I am aware this may not be a big deal for most avid readers, but for me this is HUGE!

Thankfully, but not to my surprise, a couple of days after I was done reading it, Mr. Sullivan praised the book in his site and even The Wall Street Journal joined the conversation apparently I was having by myself on Twitter. What can I say, I am a Millennial! #TheIdeaWriters

Now I am back to Ogilvy on Advertising, and I honestly think I appreciate it even more because once you get into it you can sense the trends and tones that have changed since he wrote the book, but you can also appreciate the general craft of copywriting and the evolving role of the copywriter.

So why am I sharing all of this? And, who am I to advise anyone about what to read or not to read?

Honestly, I guess I am a nobody. I am just entering the field, I have never written a book, nor have I won any award in advertising.

But I am in love with this field. I am passionate about this field. And I am smart enough to recognize and understand trends when they are in front of me – and this book will be a classic – so you should get it now, especially if you are not fully sure what the role of the copywriter is (or will be) in the advertising world.

Stay cool, stay connected, stay balanced.

Alex

Amazing Reach | Fabulous Frequency

I will have to say that a year can really be flipped upside down, drilled sideways and built back stronger than ever thought possible.

This brutal semester has finally come to an end. And guess what?

I LOVE ADVERTISING MORE THAN EVER!

Masochist? Maybe. But after learning Media, Digging into Account Management, Playing Account Planner and finally getting to solve real problems as a Creative, my love for advertising has actually grown so much more.

I wanted to share two recent advertisings that hit me hard. One was so brilliant I only saw it once and I was hooked. Saw it on TV, went to YouTube, played it four times, shared it on Facebook, then watched it four more times there.

What was this magical advertisement? Michael Jackson The Experience video game for the Wii and XBOX Kinect, of course!

I say no more, here it is:

The second one made me appreciate media planning, placement, buying, creating, managing and PR – and everything else advertising for that matter – to the next level.

I saw this awe inspiring video/commercial on a random website; I then YouTubed videos for almost 15 minutes (I have a 4-year-old, you see); then I was totally hit by a 10 minute interview with Jim Dooley, composer of the video game’s music, while listening to NPR News’ The Record on the radio on my way home from school.

This was such a perfectly executed advertising campaign, I cannot wait to learn who put this brilliant campaign together.

But, I will just let you see the brilliance that was that original video/commercial.

And FYI, I am absolutely “getting the game for my son” this Christmas.

 

Stay cool, stay connected, stay balanced,

 

 

Alex

Once a performer…

This past Monday I got to finally speak in front of the USF Ad Club. I was invited to speak while in San Francisco and it was a little strange because since then I had become part of their exec board and had been working with them for awhile. But, I had a blast doing it.

Our own Jordan ‘YouSleepWhenYouDie’ Zimmerman dropped by and surprised the club, which was really great and added a nice level of reality to our presentations. He definitely made everyone nervous, which made us spend more time than allotted, but I still think we all did okay.

There were four of us presenting: Sarah Page, PP+K Tampa; Erica Novak, Zimmerman Advertising Ft. Lauderdale; Julia Powling, The Creative Farm NYC and I spoke about my 4A’s MAIP McCann Erickson San Francisco summer experience. We all had great stories to share, so I think we got through some people.

I had to rush through the presentation, but I guess once a performer, you are always a performer. If you would like to see the visuals, the presentation is hanging out below. And if you would like me to share the presentation with your organization, send me an e-mail.

Presentation

It is strange being asked to hopefully influence or inspire your own peers. Most people probably think were are nobody’s, but hopefully I am wrong. Needless to say, I think we all represented our companies and experiences very well.

Expand Your Margins

In the middle of my presentation, I shared this document I created earlier last week during a quiet moment filled with inspiration. It was honest. It was pure. And I am really hopeful that some people got it.

And since I have this nifty tool to express and converse with those interested, I would like to share the document and ask for your opinion.

Am I right, wrong, kind of close? It is a personal experience, so I understand if it is not fully relate-able, but I believe it speaks in many different planes. I am just curious about your opinions.

Expand Your Margins

Thank you for reading.

Stay cool, stay connected, stay balanced,

Alex

‘Shadow’ II | Smart. Creative. | ‘Bad-Ass’

Yesterday felt good. Staying in my home town to shadow a talented production ad agency was quite refreshing. After all, Lakeland’s reputation and talent is often disregarded or not spoken about. So, seeing it in this level was quite refreshing.

I spent my day with Fred Koehler (owner) and Chad Kostella (“bad ass” freelance designer) at Smart Creative, a young ad agency with a great core of clients and a fun, talented staff in the heart of Downtown Lakeland.

A Day At the Shop

I am not going to lie, not having to drive to Tampa or Orlando and still enjoying the feel of an awesome ad agency was quite fantastic. The vivid red from the front door to the office space, kitchen and war room gives you the feeling of doing something. Quite a nice location and atmosphere the Smart Creative team has created.

Being a smaller shop, I really got to converse with the owner. He told me all about his life story and how he got into the business. And, he actually took the time to give me pointers so I can grow and enter this market, which really made my experience unique.

The food was great as well. Got to try a local shop I had not tried before so that was cool, but I believe perspective was the most flavorful dish served that day. Sometimes you just have to have a heart-to-heart with a brilliant person to help you grow and reach new levels of brilliance yourself. It was a wonderful experience to have.

Luckily, I got to work a little, too. Due to its sensitive nature, I cannot share details, but I got to do some back and forward with the owner – and that was just cool. Two interactive shadow days where I got to do some work — not too shabby.

How to become a Fred or Chad

Fred – BA in graphic design, few small agencies, Peace Corps Health Program (did marketing work within), Polk County School Board public relations, The Partner Marketing Group, Publix corporate, opened his own agency.

Chad – BS in graphic design, The Mallard Group, toured the US as an indie artist, pre-press artist at The Ledger, began a career as a freelance graphic designer.

At the end of it all…

Passion, dedication and hard work has definitely been the winning formula for most of the people I have shadowed, worked and spoken with in the past year. Doing this helped me realize that pride for one’s successes is nothing to be ashamed of — yet one more thing my college adviser was correct about.

Stay cool, stay connected, stay balanced.

Alex