Sep 13

Skip-Ads. Not Blogs

Few things (aside from the nightly news) are more annoying than having to deal with Skip-Ads on “must see” video links forwarded by friends or colleagues. 

I’ve got to believe marketers can find far more cost effective ways to:

A) Engage in an authentic conversation with key stakeholders

B) Not permanently enrage target audiences to the point where they won’t even consider buying a product or service because the damn YouTube ad is preventing them from seeing what they really want to see.

As you’ll read in this Marketing Land article (which, mercifully, contains no Skip-Ads) marketers are faced with two choices:

1.) Paying audiences to watch their bogus spots.

2.) Creating lavish, spellbinding serials that sell the product or service in question and entice viewers to actually look forward to the next thrilling episode.

Good luck with the latter strategy.

Personally, I’d reallocate the ridiculous amounts of creative and production costs necessary to churn out a memorable, snackable and watchable YouTube series and, instead, spend bucks on:

– Creating relevant and shareable social media content

– Developing way cool Apps

– Engaging with credible influencers (who seem to grow fewer as the days grow shorter)

– Investing in my integrated marketing channel of choice: public relations.

As far as Option One is concerned, marketers would have to put me on a serious retainer to get me NOT to press Skip-Ad (but, note to advertisers: I’m open to entertaining your best offer).

Until then, I shall continue to skip at will (and do so with equal parts relish and disgust).

And I sure hope you didn’t hit Skip-Blog right after reading my headline.

Sep 09

Purpose Goes Back to School

There’s been an overwhelming amount of coverage about the critical role of organizational purpose (especially in light of the recent Business Roundtable announcement. But how many high schools do you know who are in the midst of developing their reason for being?

Longtime Peppercomm Partner and New York General Manager Jackie Kolek has quite the tale to tell. Enjoy (and please share your thoughts, reactions, etc.)….

Last week I attended the annual back to school night at my kids’ high school. I typically skip the principal’s opening remarks, but since we have a new principal this year, I decided to check him out. I walked in expecting to hear the same spiel about academic excellence, building resiliency, helping our kids manage stress and what a wonderful school we have. What I wasn’t expecting was a 20-minute purpose workshop.

Taking over as principal of one of the top high schools in the state is no easy feat. Where does one go from there? Well, turns out that with our top SAT scores, high college acceptance rates and competitive athletic programs there was still one thing missing: a purpose.

Corporate purpose has been the buzzword of 2019, but I never thought about the need for a purpose at a public high school. In explaining how he is working with the teachers, staff, administrators and students at the school in creating their purpose, Principal Thomas walked the parents through an exercise to create our own purpose. He instructed us to ask ourselves five key questions:
1. Who are you?
2. What do you love to do?
3. Who do you do it for?
4. What do they want or need from you?
5. How are they changed or transformed by what you give them?

This is brilliant in its simplicity. Over the course of twenty minutes, he really got the whole audience thinking about why we show up every day. In my client work I often run into brands that are confusing their mission or values with their purpose. Purpose, our new principal explained, must be intentional and it must tap into your passion. It isn’t a tagline and it isn’t a goal for revenue or market share. Rather, its what moves us all forward and keeps us engaged and driven to succeed.

This month Peppercomm will mark its 25th anniversary. Due to a recent business transformation, we are in the unique position of having 25 years of experience and expertise, coupled with the hunger and drive of a start up with just one year under our belts. I’m looking forward to asking these five critical questions of myself and asking my colleagues to answer them as well.

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Sep 04

What do 25 years of experience and 11 months of entrepreneurial zeal add up to? A new breed of agency

I’m beyond proud to announce that Peppercomm is marking the beginning of our 25th year in business. That’s no mean feat in any field, much less the roller coaster world of public relations. 

Rather than focus on those brutally difficult first few months in the Fall of 1995, I thought I’d instead salute three brave souls who had the gumption to retain an unknown start-up and entrust their blue-chip business with us (thereby providing the credibility so desperately important to any start-up).

So, here’s a special 25th anniversary shout out to:

  • Gary Sullivan, who at the time was chief communications office of Alexander & Alexander, a global business insurance company. Gary retained us to execute a national thought leadership campaign whose goal was to elevate the role of the risk manager within the C-Suite. The program was enormously successful and Gary took us with him when Aon acquired A&A and, later, when he joined SwissRe.
  • Valerie Di Maria, current owner of The 10 Company but, at the time, CCO of GE Capital. Valerie was looking for a creative way to re-position GE Financial (an amalgam of insurance companies the conglomerate had bought over the years) and position GEFA as THE go-to source for personal finance needs. Cutting to the chase, she invited us to compete against two global agencies for the business. We labored day-and-night to devise a breakthrough campaign that would create the GE Center for Financial Learning, a first-of-its-kind online learning center that appealed to all age groups and demographics. We won the business and maintained the relationship for over a decade.
  • Ben Case, dean of external affairs at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. I’d been fortunate to convince the Fuqua account to follow me as I jumped from one agency to another in the late 1980s and early ‘90s but I knew I’d have my hands full trying to convince Ben to assign the Top 10 B-School’s business to a start-up. We met at the Yale Club and agreed that Peppercomm would work pro bono for one month. If we proved we could still generate A-Level results, we’d continue as his AOR. If not, well you can guess what the outcome would have been. Needless to say we nailed it and eventually went on to win a Silver Anvil for the launch of Duke’s global MBA program.

Those three, blue-chip accounts transformed Peppercomm into a force to be reckoned with. And, I’m pleased to say that Gary, Valerie, Ben and I still stay in touch and are good friends.

Some 23 years later, Peppercomm underwent a seismic metamorphosis and was reborn as an entirely new breed of firm 11 months ago (Note: The firm is named in honor of my late black lab, Pepper. Hence the use of breed as a double entendre).

Today, I believe we own a positioning NO other firm in our field can match:

  • 25 years of deep category expertise
  • 11 months of an entrepreneurial drive and zeal that meets, if not exceeds, the energy and enthusiasm I experienced when I first launched my firm a quarter century ago.

And boy, oh boy, have we ever been on a roll. In just the past 90 days, we’ve begun work with the likes of trivago and Pirelli, extended our scope with BMW and engaged with two other major retailers while maintaining all of our existing blue chip clients (and being invited to pitch several other sizeable pieces of business).

I’d like to think the market is recognizing the uniqueness of the ‘new” Peppercomm. It sets us apart from every other firm and provides the two things that are front of mind for every client and prospect I’ve ever met: decades of expertise and the entrepreneurial passion that only a start-up can bring to the plate.

Today, I know that we are not only poised for limitless success, but are a far wiser and hungrier agency than the one that first entered the business world a quarter century ago.

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