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The Pitch AMC Series

Did you watch The Pitch?

In August and September 2013, AMC aired season 2 of The Pitch. For those of you who haven’t seen the show, each episode pits competing agencies against one another and follows their teams as they prepare to battle for a piece of new business—with only seven days to perfect their pitch. It’s a real competition shot documentary-style, featuring brands like Little Caesars Pizza and

Some folks in marketing might consider hiring an agency a necessary evil. An outside team can be a great well of creative strategy, but may carry the risk of being expensive and “excitable.” And there’s always the mysterious “creative process” that often produces the great work, but can’t be defined or revealed. The Pitch aims to the expose the “secret sauce,” which (at times) can appear a little unsettling or flat-out grueling.

Secret Sauce in the Spotlight

It looks as though it might be both excruciating and, at brief moments exhilarating to come up with a provocative idea that resonates— if the documentary is true to life. Some of the agencies sharing their esoteric ingredients on national TV include MC2, Pasadena Advertising, Neuron Syndicate and The Monogram Group. (These four agencies just happen to be customers of Extensis.)

Love or hate the show, it can’t be easy to place yourself in the spotlight while you’re trying to work. We’d like to congratulate these teams for putting themselves under the microscope and on the chopping block—at least they’re all winning publicity!

Sometimes Clients Choose People Over Ideas

Here’s an interesting perspective from Rob Goldberg, Senior Vice President for Tommy Bahama, who selected Neuron Syndicate as the winning agency during their pitch episode.

“I think what’s important when you’re going to work with an agency is that you share a lot of the same personality traits, because a brand is really a reflection of our personality,” explains Goldberg. “So in this case, we actually liked the agency more than the idea they came up with…”

See the full article.

So what did you think?

The show averaged 330,000 viewers during the first season, according to Nielsen. Ratings have declined in the second season, to about 167,000 viewers per show.

Do you think we’ll see a season three and do you think the series poses an accurate representation of the agency pitch process? Tell us in the comments below and we’ll send you some swag.

Want to watch?

Episode 202: Bliss and MC2

Episode 204: Tommy Bahama, Pasadena Advertising and Neuron Syndicate

Episode 208: The Fuller Brush Company and The Monogram Group



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Finally, 2012 is the year of CHANGE!

Of course, we know we are guilty of some of these (I’ll let you be the judge) so, we’ve decided that it’s time to embark on a makeover. Truth is, we’ve been working on the research piece of this in the background for a while. So why not learn from our trial and error? Swallowing our pride, we are going to share throughout the process to help those of you who may also be considering taking the plunge.

And now, a reality check.

A Pep Talk

There is never a good time for a brand refresh. It’s a universal truth you just have to suck up. Sorry.

For us, we are always on the cusp of some new product launch or initiative that will hamper the process. That’s how it works. I suppose if you don’t have competing priorities that complicate it, then you’re likely missing something.

But, don’t let timing deter you from the big decision. There are obvious and compelling catalysts for a company rebrand: acquisition, technology shift, etc. And then there are less obvious, organic catalysts. (See list above)

The bottom line is this: Companies Evolve. You find yourself introducing products or services in response to market opportunities and one day you wake up and realize that the overarching brand in your head is not the one the outside world is experiencing.  At least that’s our situation. Lets face it, if you are moving your business forward, you create the opportunity to ‘outgrow’ your current brand—and a refresh is in order.

What’s the desired outcome?

Smarty-pants marketers (and academics) will cite things like “increase shareholder value”, “capitalize on market trends”, “create buzz”, yada. I can’t subscribe to this. You increase shareholder value by fostering happy customers. If your effort doesn’t, in some direct way, touch your customers, then what value is it?

In my mind, brand is about connecting with your audience. It’s about how you, as an organization (of people), interact with the audience (people) and how they (people) feel about it. That’s it. Granted, there may be a hundred ways to impact this, but it really is that simple. And when you bring in new audiences, or narrow in on one market, you may need to noodle on how your company communicates.  If you keep it simple, probability of success skyrockets.

Why agencies LOVE brand redesigns and marketing teams LOATHE them:

As an agency, a rebrand is a huge challenge that gets the juices flowing (it is also a large task which is good for your bottom line). It is quite exciting. No matter how invested you are however, you are never going to forever ’live’ within the brand you help define.* It doesn’t work that way. Some may regret this disconnect, others may relish it.

This is why marketing teams hate rebrands (no, you are not alone). They are thrilling, in a ‘stick-your-neck-out-and-subject-yourself-to-endless-lashings’ sort of way.  Have a vision—on any given day you will need to defend your decisions. You have to commit (because you DO need to live within this brand). And above all, you have to be fiercely brave. Easy, right?

Well, I’ll let you know. We won’t be rolling out new materials for a while yet. They are coming soon, so until then, you can go through the process with us.

Next up: Why Extensis dove into the icy cold waters of a brand refresh

* If you do bring in a partner to assist in the process, choose wisely. Make sure they are as invested as is humanly possible. Fortunately, we’ve done just that. Shout-out to Blue Collar Agency and Owen Jones Partners.

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We haven’t done one of these in quite some time, so it’s about time we got back to it.

I love to see how people use typography in signage. It’s an area where companies can quickly identify their brand, and communicate a lot about themselves in a few short letters.

I’ve always found Seattle to be a very forward leaning city that is frequently on the cutting edge of design, fashion, food and architecture. I took a few pictures of signage during a recent trip there. Enjoy!










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I’ve found myself thinking about advertising lately. No, I don’t produce any physical ads myself, nor do I place ads for our company. Thinking about ads is a rare beast for me. Like most consumers in the US, I’m awash in advertising from the moment I wake up until I return my head to the pillow. So, when something rises above the noise to make me smile, or even better, make me think about it long after I’ve seen the ad, I’d call it a success.

Two pieces have have struck me within the last 24 hours. Ironically they were both in an advertising medium that I tend to regard with little respect. I view billboards and outdoor advertising as astronomers view light pollution – an annoyance that makes me relish my time in the woods.

The first ad is a simple logo design on brown background that says “Slay dragons with Sir Snacksalot.” The words are set in distinctive typeface on a white background that is framed by a red line. Nowhere on the ad does it mention the product name, yet it’s immediately apparent which product is being advertised. How’s that for the power of a typeface?

Slay dragons with Sir Snacksalot, Snickers advertisement

It’s the multilayer thought process that made this effort sink in for me. After figuring it out, my thoughts immediately jumped to thinking how impressed I was that the corporate client approved the ad. My applause also goes out to the guys who created this masterpiece. I’m sure that there were no end of nay-sayers in the process, and that impressed me even more. Perhaps some of the negatrons might have said:

  • “You can’t do that! You need the product name!”
  • “Nobody will understand that it’s for a candy bar.”
  • “Most of our consumers are kids. And the younger generation doesn’t like to think, right?!”
  • “What’s up with the dragon? That’s too Dungeons and Dragons for me.”

The second piece was more of a clarification of corporate slogan. From my childhood, I remember television ads for the company Sara Lee. To be honest, I don’t remember any of the products specifically, but I remember their tagline song that played at the end of every commercial. What I thought the lyrics were saying was “Nobody does it like Sara Lee!” The reality of the lyrics were brought home to me on my sleepy morning drive to work on the side of a Sara Lee company van. The real slogan “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee!” drove by me this morning and even got my un-caffeinated brain going. They could have chosen the straightforward “Everybody likes Sara Lee!” but instead, they went with a double negative that rhymes with the positive phrase that I misheard. Pure genius that probably took some courage to accept at it’s initial inception.

So, turns out if you wanna get me, you’ve gotta catch me intellectually.

Have a favorite ad or slogan that’s made you think? Tell me know about it!

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While I haven’t “experienced” this new form of advertising just yet, it’s yet again more proof the “if you can think of it, you can do it” concept. Now, just where is this new place that people are placing advertising you ask?

It’s not across someone’s forehead.

Or across, a well-endowed woman’s chest.

Think lower, and dirtier. Yup, it’s urinal advertising. I suppose that this type of advertising has been around since the 80s. Remember Nancy Reagan’s “Say No To Drugs” slogan all over urinal cake holders? Well, this time the only function of the item is to advertise.

The advertising technology is basically a slick that is mounted in the corner of the urinal (apparently 8 out of 10 men prefer aiming at the corner) that is heat-activated. Yup, it’s a little black square with text and an arrow telling the participant to AIM HERE. The heat changes the black square to reveal the advertising message.

While apparently this has been used effectively in an anti-drunk driving campaign, I’m not exactly sure what other product would be a willing participant in this type of advertising. I could see unscrupulous companies placing their competitor’s product this type of ad with the message “it’s only fit to pee on.” But of course, calling out your competition in this manner is generally a classless way of going about business.

Bond. James Bond.

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Man oh man do I like James Bond. Old movies and new, Connery AND Craig. I don’t need it to be all gadgets and over the top pickup lines to be entertaining, but boy the stuff Q would come up with! I know people were eight kinds of worked up over “Blonde Bond” but I think he’s doing a fine job and I can’t wait to see the next two (it is said the next one will be the end of this “trilogy” and the one after that will be whatever they want).

I read all the books a long time ago and I’m working my way through them again. They are really good and pretty short so there’s not a lot of extra stuff to wade through just to read the good bits.

This new movie (which I got to see on my birthday Sunday and I really enjoyed) is called Quantum Of Solace which is only a short story title and has nothing to do with the film’s plot (sort of like the last two Bourne movies). Well in honor of the Bond franchise in general I have seen a couple of interesting things I thought I’d blog about today. What I like most about the movies is that they are very stylish and all of the designy things that go into them are really fun. So here you go:

They started as books, so I’ll mention the release of Quantum Of Solace the complete James Bond short story collection. It’s GORGEOUS and you can get it from Powell’s. So pretty! I want one but not to read, just to look at. I think I have all the short stories, so this would be strictly a “look at my book but for pete’s sake don’t read it” book.

Swatch has released a series of Bond Villain watches which are fun to browse through. Yes, there is a Walken watch. I could never wear it but I think the Blofeld watch is neat. I think the Rosa Klebb is one of the nicest ladies watches in the collection too.

If you aren’t up on your Bond villains or gadgets or other bits of Bond info you can find more than you probably ever wanted to know from MI6 or Licensed To Kill, labeled as the Ultimate James Bond Wiki.

For fun I added a Photoshopped James Bond movie poster after the jump, and I included a Lego animation of a bit that Eddie Izzard does about James Bond and his gadgets (insert language warning here).

I hope you enjoy my stack of James Bond goodies. Giving you all this cool stuff makes me sort of like Q, doesn’t it?

Continue Reading »

Type aliens, now animated

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Renee Davis created a short animated version of our “Aliens” print ad for Suitcase Fusion. It looks like she created this for a class project. We’ve never had any contact with Renee, but we’d like to say thanks! It definitely fun to see what she did with our source material.

Do you have a cut and paste mash-up of any of our previous advertisements and fliers? Did you happen to do something interesting with your Suitcase 9 boxer shorts? Wait, never mind, strike that last question.

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Not much introduction necessary, except to say that we are getting very excited about opening night.

Take a quick peak behind the curtain.

International Symbols

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Just a few weeks ago we were brainstorming for a new very exciting marketing project we’re working on.  A requirement for the project was that it needed to be understood by international audiences.  I’m a good sounding board for those sorts of things, since I have a multi-cultural background.

One of the ideas would have utilized symbols as creative elements to get our message across.  However, the concept was dropped because not all symbols are recognized internationally.  Of course, some are used worldwide:

International Signs

But what about some less popular like the ones below:

Restricted area sign No Durian Allowed Sign

Food for thought — humor doesn’t always translate, so be cautious when designing, writing or creating for a wider international audience.  Happy Friday!

Design Goes Mainstream

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I saw a post over at the How Design Blog which asked a question I don’t feel qualified to answer, but I think is a valid question: Is it me, or is there a lot of design humor floating around the interwebs these days?*

I don’t feel qualified because between all my non-work time spent online and the work time I spend looking at design blogs I think I see a lot more design related bits on the Web than most people do. So if you are someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time prowling design blogs for cool things, are you seeing more of them online?

I think I’ve seen more offline as well, there’s that commercial where the woman pulls a faucet out of her bag and says “design a house around this”, that Font Conference video I saw everywhere, and the attention Obama’s campaign font got, not to mention the blog I linked to is the blog for a documentary about a FONT and it got a fair amount of attention on release (not just from us).

Are people really becoming more aware of design and how it affects them? I know I am but I know part of it is from talking to designers a lot and going to conferences where I am surrounded by creative people. Is it really something to take notice of, or is it just that the circle of design-y folks is really that big?

*That post linked to a video that I embedded below. It made me chuckle. Enjoy.

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