Category GenEx

The Digital Dilemma: What is being a digital agency anyways?

I’ve worked for the Hispanic advertising industry in the US for several years as a digital expert / creative / developer / producer / guy. I’ve worked from static banners to developing highly complex SaaS websites. I’ve seen some extraordinary ideas, many lame ones and lots and lots of… well.  No one to blame, as there is one thing that this new digital fever really has for certain: nobody knows what to do. And you know what? That’s OK. We’ve been for around 50 years (maybe more?) doing advertising in the same formats: a TV scripts/spot, a print ad, OOH and other below the line mediums. Then digital is born… 20 years ago that meant banner ads and a website. Now, it means… well, it means too many things. What to do, how to do and when to do whatever needs to be done to become a digital capable agency are the big questions. Yet, throughout my years of working as an independent contractor and an employee for many Hispanic agencies (and some GM ones), I’ve seen a constant issue and that is of structure. What is a digital creative? where’s the line between creativity and production capabilities? What makes the agency digital or not? When is the agency doing advertising and when is it acting as a digital studio? These are some of the scenarios I’ve encountered in the past 5-7 years:

Some agencies don’t have any in-house digital creative and/or production capabilities, yet they offer digital services. How do they deliver? They rely only on third party vendors and not only for the development of the idea, but for the actual ideas. This is not a very good approach because the creative agency never grows as a full service integrated advertising agency for it always depends on a provider. Also, their creatives never become very savvy in digital and never move away from their safe priority of doing their regular ol’ TV spots. Not that it’s a bad thing for TV creativity is more challenging (and fun) than ever nowadays, yet we are talking about agencies that are aiming to have an integrated team with a very wrong approach.

The previous scenario leads us to a second issue which is that these third party vendors aren’t digital advertising agencies, they are digital studios, so their real strength is in building things. Some of them are really extraordinary from an art direction and development point of view but most of them are really weak in creativity, for the lack of better words to describe it. This is exactly what’s happening with Sapient. They are a true digital production powerhouse but they lack creativity, hence their acquisition of  La Comunidad in Miami, FL. Same thing is happening with many digital studios like Digitas and Red. They have the great advantage of being capable of designing, programming and building anything a creative mind can think of, they just don’t have the creative minds. Yet, they are in the works of leaving their “provider” status behind and becoming full integrated agencies.

Other agencies have the two previous situations combined. They have a full in-house digital team of designers, animators and developers. This may sound very nice at first but the same problem as before happens. The agency relies on this team to come up with all of the digital assignations, the problem it renders is the same as having the third party vendor, but in-house. The way a friend described to me was “this is like an agency within an agency.” This situation, in my opinion, is even more complex and challenging in transitioning into a full integrated advertising agency because the isolation between departments is greater. But even a bigger problem is that if the agency decides to integrate both departments it unavoidably becomes overstaffed being forced to 1) keep the positions and somehow make it work without overlapping responsibilities (and egos) 2) Reassign people to new positions (sometimes made up), which most likely leads to confusion an even more complicated processes and understanding of their own roles and responsibilities, or 3) Letting people go… not very fun.

One thing I’ve encountered in all the above scenarios described is the lack of identifying when a project is an advertising one or simply a studio one. You see, in my mind if I work in an advertising agency I should be working on… well, advertising! But a lot of people don’t understand this and think that if we do digital then we do web design and if we do web design then we do your website! This really bothers me. I’ve seen how agencies end up doing corporate websites for their clients as if they were the little web design studio down the street. It kind of reminds me of a prank an ex co-worker (and good friend) did to a advertising production house we used to work for. He called asking for film rates and services… for his wedding. “No sir, we don’t do weddings… But, you are a film company, right? Yes. And you do video? Yes. So why can’t you do my wedding’s video?” Same thing. The fact that you offer digital services doesn’t mean you are a webdesign shop or “do their wedding’s website.”

Now the big questions again, What can we do? How do we do it? When? Small questions, big answers. I think that the recipe (or at least part of it) is a little bit in all of the previous scenarios I just described. How come? you ask… All of the experiences I’ve had, in my opinion, have a piece of the puzzle. First, we must never forget that ideas are ideas and if a creative is good, ideas are going to be good. That is the essence of our jobs as creatives, right? The big confusion in the industry is the thin line between an idea and an execution. Both of them have to be creative, indeed, yet they are not to be taken as the same thing.

If your agency has good creatives, rest assure that you will get good ideas, the question is if they can execute them in digital mediums, and therein lies the problem. For starters, In my opinion, for those agencies that only rely on third party vendors: stop spending that money and invest it in your own company. Yes, hire digital developers/technologists to work along with your existing creative teams. That way there’s a streamline of conceptualization, design and development within your agency’s pipeline, probably saving you some money since good and reliable providers aren’t necessarily cheap. Also, the agency has to be sure that they start hiring integrated creative people or training the existing ones. There is no use of having the right teams to come up with digital campaigns if their Creative Directors don’t have a clue. Granted, it’s very hard to find these leaders since the true digital generation is just starting to get out of school and even harder it’s in the Hispanic industry but… it is what it is.

Now, there are other structure issues when having a development team in-house, and that is… what’s the difference between a project manager and a producer? If the team is in house, and the agency already has a project management team and a production team, then who’s in charge of what? Here is a little puzzle, because in digital you actually never know what’s going to be done until you get your idea and come up with an execution for it. In my opinion, the agency should simply have the capabilities. Project management should be in charge of managing everything that happens in-house and producers in charge of managing with third party vendors and providers. If the agency doesn’t have a project management department as lots of the digital studios, then producers are the project managers as well; and if the agency already have digital producers then they should be either trained to be capable of producing video, audio, photography and all of the offline stuff; or reassigned as PMs. Here the agency may end up with an overstaff issue as well.

Should the agency have exclusive digital creatives? With what I just said I think it’s very clear that the answer is no. Having exclusive digital creatives is not the right approach. Will it be good to for the transition? Yes. Will it ease the pain of transitioning to an integrated agency and being able to deliver the day to day work? Yes. Will it ultimately cost more and make things slower and painful? definitely. Does it make sense to have an executive overseeing digital? I’m not sure. In my point of view, the digital vein (because I don’t see it as a department) falls under the creative and the production departments. If the ECDs and Heads of Production aren’t savvy enough to oversee, then I think an executive digital person it’s necessary yet not crucial. It might help the transition a lot though, especially because it will have the power (or at least it should) to make some very tough decisions. But, then what? After everything is done, what happens with this position?

I never said it was easy, and I actually haven’t even done this myself. Shit, I’m even one of those unnecessary exclusive digital creatives myself!!! I just say this is what I would try to do given the power and the ideal scenario (not very common) to do it. For now, I just write and post these ideas in my blog and… wait.

5 things I do for creative inspiration.

A big question a lot of people ask me. How did you come up with “this” and “that”? Very common, and I’m pretty sure that lots of creative people get the same question from other people. Thinking about it, I really haven’t had a real answer to this question. I haven’t even been able to answer it to myself neither have I paid a lot of attention to my creative inspiration process… not to the point where I can say “here’s where it comes from!”

The documentary Art & Copy starts by saying:

The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a creative person is that you have absolutely no idea where any of your thoughts come from, really. And especially, you don’t have any idea about where they’re going to come from tomorrow.

I agree 100%. Yet there are some things I do, not necessarily at the moment of thinking of ideas but I’ve made them part of my routine.

1. I Pay attention.

This is my main source of inspiration: life. May be because of my introverted personality, but I’m usually paying attention to things that I don’t think my friends pay attention to.

I love to think of behavior and ask myself questions about them. Why do people do this? Why is this girl screaming? why is this man wearing that shirt? What is it about that thing that people like or dislike? all kinds of questions. In other words, for me there’s nothing more important than curiosity, and I’m curious about everything surrounding me. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not talking about pretentious philosophy and writing poetry off of a plastic bag; I’m talking about the simple things that we all take for granted.

Also I think of culture, which is also part of everyday life. I tend to go back in time and remember experiences that may be common with my target. I remember one time when I thought of “El Cuco”, which is kind of the “Boogey man” in the country I grew up in. I started researching and it seams that “El Cuco” has different names in every Latin-American country, and digging into each country I could find lots of different funny stories. That’s a great source of inspiration that can leave you with a notebook full of ideas that can work with your target, because your audience will identify with it.

2. I Read.

And I’m not saying only reading a good book, but read everything: News, funny articles, scripts, comics, magazines, signs, the ‘about me’ section of sites, the fortune cookie, people’s t-shirts, random wikipedia articles… Read. Read. Read. It’s all over you, its incredibly accessible and it’s powerful. And what you read, digest. break it apart, question it, correct it if you have to, spell it in different ways, i don’t know, whatever you want.

I remember once I read Julio Iglesia’s biography on Wikipedia. Don’t ask me, I don’t even know his music, but for some reason I was curious. Why is this guy so huge in Latin-America? So I read his bio and how he started making music. Ok, so now I know why and how Julio Iglesias started singing. Fast forward a year or two, I’m brainstorming with my partner and *CLICK* Julio Iglesias’ story came to my mind while reading the brief, wrote the script and took it to the client. At the end, another idea was sold and interestingly enough, that idea that got sold came up by, again… being curious about something I didn’t even care for. I explain in the next tip …

3. I learn.

There are things I don’t do and I don’t care for. For example, I don’t give a shit about cars and sports car. The only weeks I cared for cars was when I was in the market buying a new car. That’s it. But, when I’m with one of these car aficionados, I’m the guy asking questions. Again, curiosity.

That idea I mentioned before, the one my client bought is an example of what I’m talking about. When I was in college I had a Puerto Rican roommate called Roberto. He was a surfer back in the island. I couldn’t care or know less about surfing. To me surfing was just a clothing style that I didn’t necessarily like. But I was curious and I asked questions. I remember sometimes we would spend entire nights looking at surfing sites because I couldn’t stop asking questions and, for a change, the guy was happy to answer. I remember even going to the movie theater with him to watch “Riding Giants” when it came out. Now I sound like a freaking surfer if I talk to somebody about it. Years later, I’m here brainstorming for a commercial that needed to communicate good and positive attitude against adversities, and I remembered this video that Roberto showed about a guy in Texas that surfed to tanker waves because of the lack of natural waves in the golf of Mexico. We developed the idea in a slightly different way because of production limitations, and that spot you can see in my portfolio. So by informing myself about something I don’t even do, I end up with an idea, years later.

So, it doesn’t matter that you don’t listen to hip hop. Go ahead and learn about the origin of hip hop and you’ll see that in your career, sooner or later, that knowledge is going to help a lot. Be curious.

 4. I mix things.

When I was in animation school, there was this guy who designed the most bizarre yet awesome monsters. Hell they were amazing!!! I asked him how he came up with such great looking designs, what’s his process and to my surprise, his process was very very simple: “I take at least two weird looking bugs and mix them together in a drawing.” And that was it. I did the exercise, and in no time I was creating the most horrendously looking sci-fi monsters I’ve ever done.

I think in advertising it works the same way. Mix the product you are trying to sell to something and you’ll come up with some crazy shit. Like how can you take a pair of speakers and mix it with a cat fish… Maybe I end up with a cat fish having a party with cats eating fish. I don’t know, crazy stuff that might or might not work, but you’ll come up with some interesting things.

5. I do and say stupid things.

And, that’s that. hehe.



2012: The web is a Mess!

Yes. I do think today, for any designer, developer, company, corporation, entrepreneur or any person who wants to have a decent website, the web nowadays is a complete disaster. Why? In order to have a good website, there’s a huge issue of compatibility. With so many systems, devices, browsers and versions of all of the above, launching a website is a complete pain in the ass.

First we had the cross-browser compatibility issue that has haunted designers and developers for years now. With so many browsers rendering the content differently in every system, it’s incredibly hard to even think of making something appart from ordinary. Let’s list the most common browsers by OS:

  • Windows XP
  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Firefox
  3. Chrome
  4. Safari
  5. Opera
  • Windows Vista
  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Firefox
  3. Chrome
  4. Safari
  5. Opera
  • Windows 7
  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Firefox
  3. Chrome
  4. Safari
  5. Opera
  • Windows 8 
  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Firefox
  3. Chrome
  4. Safari
  5. Opera
  • Mac OS X
  1. Safari
  2. Chrome
  3. Firefox
  4. Opera

(I’m not even going to go to Linux, because I wouldn’t consider it a mainstream OS.)

Now, you see that I repeat all windows versions, you might say i should consolidate it under only one but… no. In my experience I’ve seen that the same browser in different OS behave differently, even though they are supposed to be the same version.

Speaking of versions, here comes a really cool fact. To all that list, please add versions of each browser, which in most cases the differences are minor, but they are there. How can I explain this simply without turning this post in the disastrous melt of shit that developing a website is today. For each browser listed above, please add the possibilities of versions! In Windows for example, take Internet Explorer (which is HELL in a virtual existence). People out there are still using IE6!  Then you have IE7-8 that run on vista, XP, not in Windows 7, then IE9 that runs on all of them, and then all of them rendering differently on every single system.  Apply the same (but way milder) situation to all of the browsers in different Operating Systems. The result? 100% pure SHIT.

Not even Flash saved us from this one. 10 years ago, I was mainly a Flash web designer/developer and I thought to myself that being a single plugin that contained everything inside, I had no problem with different browsers, since all of them use the same self contained content rendered by the same plugin installed in the system. Na-ah. Same issues kept coming all the time, and then the versions. If I was developing in flash 9 and the client had flash 7 I was practically in a suicide (professionally) mission. Still, Flash was a more visually appealing output and it had less issues than having to work for all the different browsers and versions of browsers (10 years ago there weren’t that many anyways), but then came SEO and Google and all the Search Engine mania… I’m not going to get into that, but basically Flash began to die slowly, at least until Mr. Jobs came along and sped up its death by launching the actual smartphone revolution with the iPhone.

So, introducing MOBILE DEVICES. Don’t get me wrong… i love mobile devices. The only problem is that now we have MORE operating systems, MORE browsers and MORE versions of browsers to take into account for our designs, and even more important, a new whole device that’s tiny and works with fingers, not a mouse. So add to the previous list of systems and browsers iOS with its browsers, Android and its browsers, Windows Mobile and its browsers, and now windows 8 for mobile (i don’t remember how it is called), each device with different resolutions. Now you not only have to worry about how your site is going to look in all of the OSes and Browsers available, you also have to either make your site mobile compatible by making it responsive (google responsive design) or you have to develop a whole separate website just for mobile devices. at least Apple products are more or so consistent with their products and versions, but Android and Windows? their business model is that they license their systems to whoever wants to use it, losing all control of how it’ll work at the end, so for Android phones you have all kinds of resolutions, speeds, color profiles, rendering engines, etc. So both, making your site responsive or developing a mobile site, will come with those issues included.

Put in a very concise sentence, I go back to the title of my post… the web is a complete DISASTER. 

From my very humble (yet extreme) point of view, I think there’s hope in apps. The apps are the best thing that have ever been created since the… well, web itself. We have now a platform that doesn’t rely on the limitations of a browser, but in the capabilities of a device. Yes you still have different OS and versions, but, at least for now, it seems to be a bit more consistent. I mean, an app it’s a piece of software! just like Photoshop has been one since 1988(?). If the computer was too slow, then you knew you had to upgrade, but mostly everybody got the same thing… if you had photoshop, you had photoshop and developers simply created Photoshop for the Mac or for Windows. That’s it.

The more society adapts the tablet and mobile platform behaviors,  the more apps are going to be the way to go, and that to me is simply inevitable. Luckily (not for me cus I’m a Mac user), for once now I’ve seen Microsoft taking the lead on this transition. Windows 8 it’s a completely different OS that I think is a bridge to that different way of using computers and the web, and that’s what we need in order to transcend, for the model at the moment doesn’t suit everybody’s needs. But hey, we gotta give some time to it, because it’s still in it’s cradle. Yet, if I were to launch a new web store per se, I would definitely do it with an app; of course I’d do a website too, but my priority would be my app. Look at Facebook for example… it’s having a really hard time because there’s a higher percentage of users using it on their mobile devices (using the fb app) and don’t no need the dot com. I bet those developers have a really hard time getting their gigantic website work on all browsers without a hitch for that, still huge “minority” that uses My point is there’s a tendency happening.

In conclusion… I hate developing for the web right now. It seems stuck in this huge soup of segmented software trying to be the winner when in fact everybody, from the designers to the users and consumers, are the only ones losing. I know that in actuality there’s no other immediate solution, but I do hope for the emergence of a working model for apps to be the way for us to use the internet since the tendency from us is obvious.

The Death of Art Director/Copywriter teams.

The business change digital and social is creating is amazing. We have seen businesses being decimated (e.g. Blockbuster being destroyed by Netflix), a revolution at an industry level (e.g. the music industry and iTunes) and new businesses are coming through yet again which are quickly dwarfing their traditional counterparts (Zynga is now valued at more than EA, Spotify is trying to but Warner Music while Groupon, a business founded at the end of 2008, is now preparing to IPO at a valuation of $25 billion).

Yet I still work in an industry that still seems to be rooted in an idea that was first established in the late 1950s – that of Art Director/Copywriter teams. This idea of a team was first introduced by Bill Bernbach when he realized that by getting Art Directors and Copywriters to work together, two heads being better than one, that you get better advertising. And boy did it work for DDB who created some of the most iconic work of that era.

However that was a time when the majority of the best creative was print based, in which the key skills required were that of copywriting and art direction. Let’s face it, things have changed significantly since then and the world has become far more complex – in order to produce a truly effective campaign you need a variety of skills depending on the concept. This may include an art director, copywriter, planner, technologist, UX specialist and/or social media specialist. You need a diversity of skills to deliver a brilliant piece of communication. The best creative I ever worked with, recognized this and would always find people in the agency he knew would help him find the best ideas – it also helped that he was not part of a team and recognized that he needed to partner with good people to get great ideas.

While on the surface they seem to be saying that the art director/copywriter concept is not dead, if you listen to their words what they are actually saying is that the idea of the creative team is not dead, but it does not necessarily need be an art director/copywriter pairing? There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that bouncing ideas of someone you have a good chemistry with, leads to better ideas and you do not need to be a creative to know this. Since I have been consulting, it is probably the thing I miss the most – having people around me I can bounce thoughts off and building on them to make them better.

I also do wonder whether Sam touches on something when he says ‘creatives are like insecure people, they need people to bounce their ideas off’. Certainly my experience with this blog is that creatives don’t like putting themselves out there and I wonder what the ratio is between planners and creatives who blog. Maybe the best creatives do need to find someone that they can really feed off and give them confidence in their ideas. Irrespective I do think we have moved into a world where we should be considering different pairings based on the specific brief – sometimes it might be a creative/technologist team? Or a creative/social media planner team? Or even a storytelling creative/digital creative team?

Steve Henry, co-founder of the legendary HHCL, concurs: “there’s certainly no need for traditional art/copy teams anymore. But the most important thing to do is to create a working process that genuinely supports creatives and creative ideas. Because creative ideas are, at the same time, the most valuable and the most fragile things in the process. The “2-person team” structure worked for a long time because 2 heads were more obstinate and more argumentative than one! Right now I tend to enjoy working in brain-storming teams of 5 – 10. No individual working structure is always right – but you have to think about giving the creatives an “unfair advantage” in the whole thing. In Chiat Day in the 80s, it was open plan and disciplines sat with other disciplines – except that Lee Clow insisted that the creatives sat near him. At HHCL, it was open plan and and disciplines sat with other disciplines – except that I insisted that the creatives had small offices. No practical reason – just to give them an unfair advantage psychologically.”

When reading how W&K has to adapt to become Creativity’s Agency of the year, it is interested to hear Susan Hoffman, Executive Creative Director, say the biggest change was the re-imagining of the creative team. She goes on to way that they started to unmoor creatives from single accounts and created a bullpen approach, whereby team leader could pull from a varied pool of talent, which might include a writer, a technologist, a media person or an interaction designer to create bespoke teams for each account. However the article then goes on to say that the executive creative directors say the pendulum is swinging back toward the dedicated team model although the bullpen has led to change in the composition in those teams.

How are the schools reacting?
But what about the talent coming through? Are the key schools reacting to these changes in the way that they are delivering talent?

Laura Jordan Bambach, Executive Director of LBi, believes not “Whether working in traditional teams, solo or with other discipline partners, being a creative in a digital and social world at any agency has a much bigger remit than it used to.

We expect our creatives to have the same media neutral view of their brands as their audience does. Advertising is only the tip of the iceberg and they must be able to throw themselves at everything from content programmes, PR, service design, customer service platforms and product development – and everything in between.

However most of the tutors and colleges are still simply delivering traditional teams whose portfolio hinges on some clever print executions, which is simply not enough. A college need to help students take conceptual leaps, embrace failure and play with the all the media at their disposal.”

Andy Sandoz, Creative Partner at Work Club, goes on to say “A university should not follow an industry. It should lead it. We need our students to be creatively restless and ahead of the curve. Otherwise what use are they when they graduate into a world that has already passed them by. The issue needs to be elevated above disciplines to the teaching of fundamentals. Questions. Experiments. Innovation. Taste, I think, is innate.”

Ale Lariu, EVP McCann NY, has already taken to this changing landscape and has been partnering with a creative technologist for over 6 months now. However she feels that the issue lies beyond just looking at the make-up of the creative team “Other areas are also still lagging behind when it comes to training future superstars. Take production, for example. It’s really hard to find talent that really understands the how to execute on digital.” To combat this SheSays US have developed a hands-on digital production course, where the teachers are award-winning professionals who still work in the industry, so, as Ale says “they ‘live’ what they are talking about.”

However this does not mean that the copywriting skills and art direction skills are not important part of the mix and Dave Bedwood, Creative Partner at Leanmeanfightingmachine, goes as far to say it has been the one key missing ingredient in digital agencies:

“There can be no doubt that the creative team ‘mix’ has to evolve. Bernbach’s revolutionary change in the 50′s is certainly something we need today. This means we need creatives of all kinds of skill sets working together. Respecting these different skill sets is key to this.

But I’m afraid this is what has let digital down. The majority of creatives in digital are from a design or technology background, which is a different skill set to a creative team ( a creative team being a term used to describe two people bred to write ads for a traditional agency).

What a creative team of this kind bring to the table is being able to write, write ideas that are strategically and tonally bang on, but most importantly are succinct, insightful and memorable. Don’t worry about the media, these skills go to the core and are transferable.

The reason why the best teams can do that consistently is because, once they’ve graduated, on average, it takes over a year of crits and placements to get a job. During such time they write thousands of ads. An unbelievable learning experience, and a tough breeding ground which many never make it through. Out of the other end of this process comes the best writers.

But unfortunately over the last 10 years, the digital world has not embraced these people or really understood the difference between them, a designer, a programmer or creative technologist. In fact, what’s worse is that the last three, with a click of the fingers, often turn their hand to the writing job as well! That’s how much respect is afforded to it.

It’s this lack of writing talent, and knowledge of the job, that sees digital agencies losing ground to ATL agencies. Take the most lauded piece of this year, Old Spice, a great example of a mix of skills. Digitally on the button, but most importantly of all, it had writers that could nail a gag in a super fast time, about as old school as it gets.

So for us, along with all the other essential creative skills needed in digital, we still look to traditional skills for one of them. That then gives you the perfect blend.

Of course we want to see teams writing ideas in the latest media, if the products audience is there, that’s a given, but we are still very interested in people that can write a good poster. It takes a lot of talent to distill an idea, strategy, argument, in an image and eight words. If you can do that, the rest is a breeze.”

It is going to be extremely intriguing to find out what happens over the next few years. Personally, if I was hiring, I would be looking for more creatives who are versatile enough to work with a range of talent, depending on the brief, and one that realizes that it is all about getting to the best idea, irrespective of where it comes from. After all, as H. Truman said “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”.


Alma Is No. 6 on Ad Age’s Agency A-List

Latinos’ fondness for soccer isn’t exactly a new insight, but U.S. Hispanic agency Alma took that knowledge one step further to develop a novel project for client State Farm.

Alma’s “Play Now, Illuminate Later” initiative uses the beloved sport to bring electricity to Latin American communities that need it. It all begins with an online game in which players accrue points — aka “virtual minutes of light” — that go toward providing thousands of real soccer balls to communities in Latin America that lack electricity. There, kids play soccer with the donated balls, which have a unique feature: Every 15 minutes of play generate three hours of power when a light is plugged into a socket embedded in the fully charged soccer ball.

“We love to give back,” said Luis Miguel Messianu, the Omnicom Group shop’s president and chief creative officer. “We’d read about this technology and were looking for a way for State Farm to link itself to soccer, but in a different way.”

Consumers engaged with the interactive games on State Farm’s Spanish-language Facebook page for 142,602 minutes in one month, often choosing to donate the chargeable soccer balls to their native countries. The results were huge for the marketer: State Farm saw U.S. Hispanic insurance quotes grow 44% and registered a 47% increase in Hispanic sales.

That knack for matching Hispanics’ passion points with online efforts helped Alma’s digital revenue soar 300% last year. Overall, revenue grew 10%, boosted by a new-business marathon led by Isaac Mizrahi (the marketer, not the famous designer), who joined Alma two years ago as managing director after years at Sprint and Coca-Cola. Last year alone, the agency succeeded at bringing home 10 new accounts.

And at a time when Hispanic shops are increasingly defending their business against general-market agencies, Alma is being called upon for general-market work. It handles mainstream advertising for Visit Florida, once a client of DDB‘s Miami office, which Alma absorbed.

Still, Mr. Messianu doesn’t want to stray too far from the agency’s core. When an impressed client offered him the chance to compete for cellphone marketer Cricket’s general-market account during a pitch last year, he stuck to — and won — the Hispanic business.

Alma is at its best when helping long-time clients like McDonald’s lead with multicultural insights, and new clients say that’s part of what attracts them. A new smoothie for McCafé was introduced with a lyrical spot in which a young woman sips the drink and has a flashback to images from her Latin American childhood.

“I love the mango-pineapple smoothie work,” said Neil Golden, CMO of McDonald’s USA. “It’s beautiful and insightful. We ran it in Spanish-language media and also extensively in English-language.”

Last year, Alma relocated to a new office, which the Miami shop said was akin to going from “a warren of hamster cubicles on a highway to a waterfront dream castle.” But the move to the stunning new space incited a rebellion by creatives who were appalled to learn that to shake things up, the 111 staffers would be grouped by client or project teams, rather than sitting in the usual departments.

Mr. Messianu, a nonconformist who likes to cajole people out of their comfort zones, asked them to give it a try and, within a couple of months, the creatives decided the new approach worked. When the latest employee-satisfaction survey was issued, Alma, which is part of the DDB network but was allowed to drop the DDB name, scored among the top 20% of DDB offices.

“The creatives are more committed and have more business sense; the account people have more of a sense of belonging, and digital and planning are at the core,” Mr. Messianu said.


Twine: Small device, huge idea.

Reading some news today I stumbled upon this little device two guys came up with in MIT. There’s only one thing I’ve got to say: WOW. I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of freaky at the same time … but WOW. Very neat idea, innovative and smart. They posted their project on and man have they got funded! They were asking for $35k and they already have raised almost $435k with 4 more days to go! Isn’t that amazing?

This definitely is an inspiring project. How something so simple can give so much! Will I pledge? oh yes…

check the kickstarter page here:


@2012: My digital predictions.

The Mayan Calendar! Nibiru and the annunakis! Galactic Alignment! Apocalypse! These are only some of the predictions I’ve read online over the past 3 years about what’s going to happen in December 21st, 2012. My area of expertise is not religion or science, but… the end of the world? Please…

Now, going to what I really want to talk about. During my much needed holiday vacations I’ve thought a lot about what I expect in the next year; like a broker, what’s going UP and what’s going DOWN in the digital advertising world and the interactive world in general. So let’s see:

Flash: I don’t need to talk too much about this one. We all saw this one coming. We recently saw Adobe announcing that it’s discontinuing Flash Player development for mobile devices. Do I need to say more?

HTML5: And after saying that Flash is going down, well… HTML5 is the reason why. The advances that we’ve seen this year are amazing and now with new software like Adobe Muse and Adobe Edge being developed, I simply can’t see a way for flash to compete in 2012. Great example: The Expressive Web

Facebook engagement: Even though I’m in disagreement with engaging consumers in Facebook, there is no doubt that brands are in the social site to stay, for a huge reason: Consumers are there all day long. To be honest, I can foresee a downfall of Facebook if they keep on enabling brands become more intrusive to users and creating noise in their clean interface which was what got everybody into Facebook in the first place: the clean UI, without intrusive advertising.

Google+ Engagement: Well, as much as I like Google, I see G+ going nowhere but south. And now they want to start doing the same thing Facebook is doing for brands and companies, which in the long run, I see as a negative factor. I have to mention that Google, being the huge company that it’s become, is not being very smart by trying to do, well… about everything! Guys, keep it slim. Do fewer things great rather than lots of mediocre ones. And Google, you should know better: asking people to go use G+ by now is like MS asking people to use Bing! over Google. (ironic, right?)

–   Twitter: Going nowhere… people are still going to use it the same way, brands as well. The only thing that could happen is that they change functionality. More than 140 chars? Don’t think so but it could happen. Also, they could start charging brands for accounts, I remember reading something like that this year, maybe it’ll happen in twenty twelve.

E-Coupons: Including Groupons, Living Social, and all of the coupons sites. from my point of view, these were just a big buzz. I personally don’t believe in the business model. This kind of sites have been around for a while, so really the only innovation that Groupons brought to the table was a big sales team, but in reality the model has a lot of flaws and it’s very, very vulnerable. I may be wrong… let’s see how it goes.

Digital Signage: And a lot of you are going to be like … what? in a lot of ways. One way would be “What is that?” Sorry, won’t explain it here (google it) but that’s exactly one of the reasons I think is going down. The other face of the coin is that some of you are going like “What!? No way! Digital Signage is the future of signage! it’s digital, and can be interactive, and video and sound and Minority Report…” The truth is, like in Minority Report, consumers just walk by and don’t pay attention and DS is extremely expensive, for both sides, networks and advertisers. Another big problem I see in this area is the industry: No smart thinking (Sorry). A lot of corporate thinking but nobody is sitting down to think like a creative advertiser (meaning, like an agency).  While the advertising industry is thinking of being less intrusive and more engaging, DS networks are focusing on putting more intrusive screens on more places. Luckily, there are companies like my friends at rVue really making something that may turn this industry upside down.

Mobile: My biggest bet would go to Mobile. Everything is turning into mobile, and its no surprise. Nowadays having a mobile device is having a computer, GPS, radio, TV, gaming console, music player and more in one single device, and the most important thing… its portability, so consumers carry them everywhere, all the time. Do you really understand what that means? It means that everything you do as an advertiser, TV, radio or OOH can have a Mobile engagement right away. Consumers don’t have to wait until they get home to the TV or the computer to see a (intrusive) message, they can access it right away wherever they are. The trick would be not making ‘advertising’ but content. Consumers won’t approach advertising, they don’t want to be advertised, and the best way to avoid this is creating entertaining and useful Apps and/or experiences. The sky is the limit.

Interactive TV: I’m honestly not sure if 2012 is too soon for it to grow as much, but since we already have everything in place (gaming consoles, YouTube, netflix, hulu, Smart TVs, etc.) we just need to put the pieces together in the right way. I think that could happen in 2012 and we can start looking at growth in interactive branded content. One thing that worries me is how slow some of the services, like Netflix, are being able to keep up. I’ve heard of too many people cancelling their subscriptions to these services because of it. Let’s see how it goes.

Pandora: Although it’s a great service and it will not disappear, I think that more people are going to be moving to other platforms such as Spotify just for one single reason: Control. The fact that you cannot play whatever you want but what Pandora thinks is what your want to listen, it wasn’t a disadvantage until services like Spotify and Grooveshark came along. Needless to say that these services are going UP next year.

Ok so that’s it for now. I may come up with more later, so may rename this post to a part 1 and write a part 2. I could be wrong in what I say so please feel free to leave your comments.



QR? AR? WHAT? Oh Yes…

So… Twenty eleven is in the verge of being thing of the past, yet, did it bring a lot of the future? People were thrilled with a lot of stuff that were new to us in the digital world, but in my opinion the two things (if I can call them that) that got more attention were QR codes and Augmented Reality.

I remember in January the buzz that QR had. Everybody was talking about it, everybody wanted to know more, everybody wanted to do something with them. I personally saw a lot of campaigns using these as a medium… although very few of them were, at the very best, decent. It became a thing of just doing something cool (because of course, it’s a code, you scan it and it shows you something!!! that’s really cool, right?) more than really having a smart strategy and/or approach. Proof of this? Now. They are just “so, like, 2011”. Now, if you’re doing a QR code thing, you are behind… SO behind.

I really don’t like QR codes that much. They are a cool way to give away easy access to information but it has barriers, and those I don’t like. The most important one is that it’s kind of complicated to make people use them. Basically you’ve got to make people first know what it is, then make them download an app. Now, that may sound very simple but really for me is the best way to lose engagement: explaining. I’m in the advertising business, consumers don’t want to read a tutorial in order to get a message asking them to buy my product. It really doesn’t work like that, from my POV. The other barrier I hate is the  content. You can’t do a lot. And while the scanning aspect of it is interactive, once you scan you start losing that interactivity, unless you take users to a URL with an experience… which on a mobile phone… not sure. Are users going to make a call on the spot? don’t think so. Geo location? I mean… Scanning a QR code to get geo-location information seams to be unnecessary. I do have to accept that QR codes have tremendous potential, yet I haven’t seen anything that would make me go WOW. There was one project in Asia that you could do grocery shopping in a subway by scanning Codes on a wall and it definitely caught my attention. here’s the video:

Now there’s another guy in town: Augmented Reality. This is like QR codes on steroids. Cool, you ask? they are awesome! you scan a shape and can watch instantaneously  some cool animation, a video, a song, etc. and not only that, you can interact with the content!!  Now, why would you want to do a QR code when you can do AR? That’s been my question since I started doing my first AR experiments in flash.

The part that I like the most about AR is that you can interact real-time with an interface. Now, you don’t only have to think of a mobile use, or a desktop use. You can actually use a Digital Signage with a camera and … well, the sky is the limit!!! you can put things on top of people, make people play real-time, a virtual dressing room, etc.

What I don’t like? I really don’t like Desktop and mobile implementation. Why? It’s really weird to look at AR from a desktop… really, have you done it? You have to put the printed marker basically in front of your screen for the webcam to capture it and try to sneak to look at whatever happens, since you’re basically blocking the screen with the printed marker; doesn’t make any sense to me… Of course not all of them work like that, but… I don’t know, just feel like it doesn’t work. And mobile? The fact that you have to develop an application in order to execute I simply dislike. That gives people a requirement in case they are interested in experiencing this. From my perspective, in the end, the only people that are interested in looking at your advertising are your competitor advertisers… so they are the ones that are going to be eager to download my app and look at my AR campaign. Not interested.

Whether you go with QR or with AR, they are both mediums with lots of potential yet to be experimented. My vote goes for AR, but we definitely gotta think of an easier way to offer the experience on desktops and Mobile.



So today, while I was at work waiting for some stuff from my vendor, I decided I would do a little refresh to my site, and install a new blog to see if this time I keep it up.

So here it is… let’s see how it goes! Happy Thanksgiving!