Iteration Is Not “First to be Second,” It’s First To Be Next

Advertising creativity values originality above all. Firsts have long been considered its highest expression.

In less than two months, we’ve already been through lots of iteration.

But that’s so last millennium. One of the best aspects of digital development is its embrace of fast iteration; whether that means improving your own idea or someone else’s. Fast-following is not copying; it’s adapting and learning in real time.

Back in the mid-90’s we all used the AltaVista search engine. Two years later, Larry and Sergei introduced their own search engine, which added popularity ranking based on backlinks. Now the platform they iterated is so omnipresent it’s become a verb.

We believe today’s creative agencies must make a practice of fast-following and fast-adapting. As choices for platforms and technology-enabled executions expand at exponential rates, we must keep learning and reviewing, simply to keep pace with what’s possible, what’s been tried, and how it’s worked. We need to be heat-seekers, because that helps our clients engage with relevant immediacy. And makes our ideas louder.

Happily, the endless waterfall of information shared on the web make this not just possible, but inspiring. So every client deck we present cites breakthrough ideas from other places and other agencies that inspire our iterations to solve the problems at hand.

Building ideas on proven foundations provides a measure of assurance when the stakes are high.

And these days, when aren’t they?

Mike & Dennis

Fast, Cheap or Good. Pick Four.

Venn_2You might not like the new math of marketing, but that’s today’s reality. Agencies no longer have the luxury of just offering any two; we need to provide all three. As the world grows more social, clients demand work that’s cheaper, faster and in this highly distracted society, louder.

Cheaper because the market’s desire for new content never slacks and clients must feed the beast.

Faster because context is now critical to creative and by the time ideas pass through traditional development, that context is lost.

Louder because we now live in a world where people add three hundred hours of content to YouTube every minute. That’s nearly fifty years of content every day on just one platform. Which, technically speaking, is a whole lot.

Experienced people who love the idea business don’t have to like it and it’s understandable if they don’t. The agencies we grew up with were all built for the long haul, for steady, predictable output.

But to keep moving forward and advancing the industry, we must embrace these changes and leverage them.

Which is why Fetrow Ryan & Partners believes the right approach is to pile on one more descriptor to those three: on brand. Yes, the market is fragmented but that’s no excuse for fragmented brands. If a marketer’s only goal is getting clicks and eyeballs, hire a bot.

But we believe with the right talent and the right approach, you can get cheaper, faster, louder and better.

It simply requires change. But today, what doesn’t?

Dennis & Mike

Virtual Reality: A Practical Application for Volvo

We had the opportunity to experience Oculus Rift technology in Dallas last week and the experience was pretty remarkable. The sense of total immersion, even in the obviously digital in-store environment we reviewed was stunningly complete. It was amazing how quickly the senses adapted to the new inputs and filled in the missing gaps.

Which may be why this story about Volvo’s use of low-cost, easily-acquired Google Cardboard as a platform to introduce pre-launch interest in their XC90 SUV caught our attention. The video synopsis below makes us yearn for an opportunity to see what having a larger budget and fully-immersive wrap around video would be like.

Building an virtual reality experience off little more than folded cardboard and a smartphone is a brilliant way to reach a broader audience. Our congratulations to the innovative minds at R/GA and the filmmaking skills of Framestore for collaborating to create a seamless world we would love to visit.

Beyond automotive, the commercial applications for tourism, cruiselines, themeparks and hotels seem immediately obvious. And we can’t wait for the first innovator to create a true, Google Cardboard feature movie. Wow. That will be fun.

Dennis & Mike

3-D Printing, Co-Creation, and a New Day for Automotive Design and Production

Detroit should be watching Project Redacted very closely.

Last year, Local Motors–makers of the Strati, the first 3-D printed car–launched a challenge to their co-creation community to imagine and design the next generation of 3-D printed cars. From the outset, they’ve worked to create a deliberately outsider feeling with videos like this one:

A few weeks ago, they announced the winner of the project. Designer Kevin Lo, a community member for four years, won with his design “Reload.” Now Local Motors plans to design, build, and sell his design as a Low Speed Electric Vehicle (LSEV) to debut in early 2016. Local-Motors-3D-printed-car-2-537x310

This is a total disruption of process, a total reinvention of supply chain, and a radical new way to build an audience long before a vehicle is even created.

It’s also a new frontier for both manufacturing and design with huge potential for large scale disruption. Hardcore traditionalist or not, you gotta admit, it looks pretty exciting.

This is yet another benefit smart organizations can realize when they build and encourage communities of rabid fans. Companies like Lego, Microsoft and Crayola have been leveraging their biggest advocates to advance their product development pipeline. Could you do the same?

Mike & Dennis

Adapting Linear Mindsets to Exponential Change

The typical human mindset is linear. From the way we project the future to the way our intuition works, we are wired to be sequential. Unfortunately, this means exponentially-advancing technologies, like the digital world that surrounds us today, are tremendously hard to assimilate into our thinking.

That’s the thesis of a fascinating hour-long presentation we watched today from Salim Ismail, executive director and founder of Singularity University (condensed half hour version posted above). Salim builds his remarkable presentation from Moore’s law and how we’ve been doubling the price/performance of computation for over 100 years–far longer than most people realize. This exponential growth of information technology presents real challenges for marketers, manufacturers and society itself. In a speech bristling with anecdotes and facts that are in turn inspiring and sobering, he makes these three statements:

  1. “When you try to do disruptive innovation in a big company, the immune system of the organization will come and attack you. All of our big organizations are built to withstand change, withstand risk.”
  2. “We’re going from nine billion connected devices today to a trillion in a decade and a half or so. We think we’re thirty, forty years into the information revolution, but on this particular metric, we’re about 1% there. We’re literally just starting.”
  3. “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the way technology changes our behavior.”

It’s well worth watching, uncomfortable bits and all. And we so appreciate being pointed to this clip by a client who wanted to help the participants in her mobility ideation offsite recalibrate their thinking. God love you for that Carol.

Dennis & Mike

Ideas > Media Dollars: Using Facebook To Make the World Love Obermutten

ObermuttenChances are, you’ve never heard of the tiny Swiss mountain hamlet of Obermutten. We certainly hadn’t. But this article from Europe’s Digital Tourism Think Tank describes how a remote picturesque town with a mere 80 villagers created a viral sensation by taking a decidedly personal approach.

The offer was remarkably simple: if you liked Obermutten’s tourism page on Facebook, the town would print out your picture and pin it to a bulletin board in the town square.

That’s it. No t-shirt, no cash, no cars; just that most human of rewards–recognition. They also promised to answer any question posted on their page.

The response started slowly. Here’s an early video showing the town Mayor pinning up the first ten likes. In short order, they would need a bigger board and eventually, the postings would cover every major wall in the town.

Maybe it was the direct engagement. Maybe it was the palpable sense of participation. Maybe it was the simple reward of being part of something. Whatever the reason, this unassuming idea made Obermutten’s the most liked Facebook page in Switzerland. Before long, their quirky campaign was picked up by the international media and tourists began flocking to this town in droves. Within six months, Obermutten attracted over 60 million fans from 32 countries.

And the real kicker? The total investment totaled just over $11,000 US, for an ROI of $2,500,000 in tourism increases and media attention. That’s a multiple of 240.

There are lessons here for digital and social marketers;

  1. Keep things simple and whenever possible, make them personal.
  2. Create delight by engaging directly.
  3. If at all possible, build a community to belong to.

It’s like the old theme song from Cheers: “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” Or face.

Mike & Dennis

Profiting from Social Media: Instagram Stars Earn Luxury Hotel Stays

If you want to get comped in Vegas, develop a big gambling habit. To get comped in luxury suites pretty much anywhere, develop at least ten thousand followers on Instagram. With any luck, you’ll soon be ordering room service and lounging spa-side in an embroidered bathrobe, uploading the occasional selfie with a prominent location tag.

Next time, try to avoid reflecting your smartphone in your designer sunglasses, Marianna.

Next time, try to avoid reflecting your smartphone in your designer sunglasses, Marianna.

This article from tells the story of 28 year old lifestyle blogger Marianna Hewitt who takes an international trip about once a month, all expenses paid. It highlights her trip to The Mulia Resort in Bali, Indonesia where her entire stay was comped in exchange for some prominent mentions on her Instagram posts.

Marianna is not signed to CAA. She isn’t part of Maker Studios. She is simply a photogenic woman with a good sense of personal style and a predilection for shooting tastefully-composed selfies with a narcissist’s bent. Oh, and she has 431,000 followers on Instagram. Let’s not forget that.

This is the brave new world of individual network broadcasting, the same one that transformed the Kardashians into ultra-wealthy moguls of modern media. Most of these social stars lack representation, many want to monetize, and all juggle the balance between the content that built their reputations and the corporate dollars that can make them pay off.

Today, any advertiser willing to do some social media research can find bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers, Viners or Tweeters with an audience they would like to reach. And they can usually find those audiences at a far lower cost then they will at the annual television upfronts. As Allison Sitch, vice president of global public relations for the Ritz-Carlton, contends, these social stars deliver extremely qualified audiences. “If they have a luxury audience and a passion for luxury travel, the engagement, that metric, is way more important to us than the fan count. We don’t want to have 100 million fans that we never ever hear from.”

Some stars like Marianna play on photogenic looks and a crowd-endorsed editorial photography style that promoters consider a proven commodity. Others play on their ability to build engaged communities around various passions, some of which inevitably overlap with advertiser’s needs. And some will never really find a home in corporate America, at least not without risking the following they’ve earned through their own, original voice.

We’re living in a brave new world filled with all kinds of valuable social ad networks to leverage. This is where your best content should play. Because this is where you best audience probably is.

Dennis & Mike

Before We Build Our Agency, We Are Building Our Culture.

7:4Yes, business plans matter. And clients remain decidedly crucial. But the fact remains that the market doesn’t need another ad agency. And we agree.

Today, we’re introducing Fetrow Ryan & Partners. And we aim to be much less than an ad agency. Much less staff, much less process, much less overhead.

Simultaneously, we aim to be much more. Much more informed. Much more forward leaning. Much more insatiably curious about the technologies changing the world of marketing and communications.

So before we build our website or client roster or even a presentation template, we are building our culture. We have seen how culture directly impacts sustained agency success. Cultures built on fear lose great talent. Cultures built on quarterly earnings shortchange clients. And cultures built on rigid perspectives quickly fall behind.

So our culture will embrace constant learning. We devote part of every workday to scouring the web in pursuit of the new, the innovative and the inspirational. We catalogue it and we will share it. Here, and in some form within every presentation to our clients and partners.

To us, constant learning is a requirement for embracing and leveraging change.

And the only viable way forward when change is our most abundant resource.

Mike & Dennis

Teddy Goalsevelt on What Makes Shareworthy Content

Mike D’Amico is a wonderfully talented art director. We worked together when he first got into the business with a gig at Element 79. As a digital native in a largely TV shop, he was an amazing font of information about these new things like Twitter and Foursquare.

But today, suddenly, he’s far better known to soccer fans around the world as “Teddy Goalsevelt.” As you can see in this interview with Chicago’s Very Own WGN Channel 9, he’s rode his costumed-enthusiasm to massive social media fame.  Check out these write ups from Buzzfeed, the NY Post and ESPN. He is viral. And truly winning the internet.


Despite what must be a dizzying maelstrom of international attention, Mike makes an incisive point that is nothing short of absolute genius at 5:31 of his WGN interview on what he’s learned about this experience.

“It’s funny. My job literally is to make content go viral online. And I’ll tell you what; if there’s one thing to learn from this about the internet, it’s that you can not do this on purpose.”

For those of us who work in this business, that statement is undeniably true. Trying to ascertain what will capture the fleeting attention of our ADD society at a specific moment in time is something of a crapshoot. Still, in those rare moments when you do, the result is pure joy. And Mike, you’ve brought a ton of pure joy to fans of US Soccer, and by association, our ever-manly 26th President.

By the way, epic gloves Mike. So fired up for you. So. Much. Fun.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson