On The Critical Matters of Social Marketing, WOM, Digital Convergence…And Letting All of It Wait

The best thing about writing a daily weekday blog about the changing advertising business are all the new ideas you come across as you dig around for worthy topics.  And over the course of my twenty-five year career, there’s never been more remarkable things happening in the ad business.

But those can all wait for a moment.  They’ll have to.  Because today, the little redhead in the photo below, caught napping on my couch back at JWT Chicago, turns sixteen.  We’ve been helping her learn to drive and dealing with the high school things and by and large, feeling really pretty lucky that she’s turned out as sweet and compassionate and thoughtful as she has.


But bottom line, she’s sixteen today.  Man, that’s a headsnapper.  Caught up in the day-to-day of this business, you tend to forget the rest of the world doesn’t stop either.  Change is a constant indeed.

Happy Birthday Zoe.  As long as I have a couch at work, you’re welcome to crash.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The Right Tool For The Right Job: Old School Outdoor

Not That Henry Would Want Billboards Near Walden, But...   


Not That Henry Wanted Billboards Near Walden...

My older daughter Zoe spent this Spring rowing crew: a beautiful sport that involves a great deal of standing around waiting and driving across states to regattas.  As a result, we recently roadtripped to Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, both of which took us down that long stretch of I-65 connecting Chicago to Indianapolis…

Which may explain why billboard creative is on my mind these days. Most of us learned the old ‘seven word guide’ for billboard advertising, but few of us follow it.  Too often, either the client or the agency wants to force in more branding or support points or that long wordy tagline from the TV.  All well intended, all incredibly unfortunate at 70 mph: billboards are not print.

The best billboard I saw was not a creative masterpiece.  It would not make it into anyone’s book.  It simply featured a huge Wendy’s logo and these four words: “Next Exit Turn Left.”  And guess what?  I got off at the next exit and turned left.

Sometimes it takes great discipline and restraint to use the right tool for the right job.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

R.I.P. Pontiac Motor Division: 1926-2010

I’ve owned exactly two Pontiacs in my life: both GTO’s, both convertibles.  Sitting still, they exuded a raw, rumbling, asphalt-shaking power.  Which was a really good thing…

Zoe, Me and The Goat in Happier Times

Zoe, Me and The Goat in Happier Times

–because they never ran worth a tinker’s damn.  Truth be told, I’ve never owned more unreliable automobiles. The list of major family events where my cars wouldn’t start is legendary, including my older daughter Zoe’s Eighth Grade Graduation, where only the combined efforts of three grease monkey Dads and the janitorial staff of the Joseph Sears Elementary School brought my car to lurching, sputtering life a full three minutes after the rest of the cars had driven away for the traditional parade through town. Determined not to let Zoe down, I drove like a bat out of hell, confident in the knowledge that our entire small town police force was at the front of the parade. Screeching to a halt at a less-trafficked corner, I was able to hijack my daughter and two of her classmates out of their makeshift rides and back into the GTO before sneaking into the tail end of the line and turning down our town’s main drive.  We passed our family and friends, waving and smiling Grand Marshal style with no one the wiser.

Through the years, my Pontiacs proved to be mechanical nightmares; rusty frames, overburdened door hinges, entirely unreliable convertible top motors.  Both had huge, loud V-8 engines, yet a tiny Honda could smoke them off the line.  I got nowhere near the value out that I invested into them, with one major exception…

They looked vicious.  Exciting and sexy, they were bold in a notice-me-dammit way that no affordable production car is today.  Pontiac GTO’s and Tempests were integral to a proud Detroit muscle car heritage, even if my two specimens were pathetically out of shape.  Sadly, that era is now long gone, ground under the iron heel of assembly-line efficiency, wind tunnel dictates, and the total elimination of individuality the corporate industrial process engenders.

And there lies the real threat, not just to GM as it struggles to find a way back from the dangerous precipice it drove to under its own freewill, but to every American manufacturer. Yes, efficiency is useful to production.  Certainly, management can eke out greater productivity from a workforce.  But neither efficiency nor management are agents of inspiration.  They can’t capture our imagination.

In a world cluttered with too many choices and too much parity, we would be wise not to discount those rare products that represent the maverick, the singular, the non-focused group fever dream of a true-believing zealot.  Because unlike every other species, mankind alone respects and needs art.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79