July 18, 2018 - 1 comment.

3 Lessons from a Week at Second City

Last week I visited the Windy City to take a writing class at the famed Second City, and, wow, what an experience! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Lauren, I always knew you were funny, but I didn’t know your talents extended into thespianism. What’s next? SNL?” And who could blame you for thinking that!? But no, as fate would have it, I believe the similarities between Chris Farley’s career trajectory and my own stop at “Second City’s Writing 1.”

So, a little about the class. The class’s official title was “Writing 1: 5-Day Intensive” and it was just as it sounds – a week-long intensive intro to sketch comedy writing. I didn’t have to apply or send in writing samples; anyone with a dream and a handful of vacation days to burn can sign up. Of course, a suggested acting/improv experience prereq would have been nice. That’s right, everyone had to do cold reads and improvisation during, and I can’t stress this enough, a WRITING class. Actually about 70% of class time was allocated to “acting out” our sketches we were assigned as homework the day prior. The other 30% of class time was spent learning about genres, character dialogue, scene setup, etc.

Enough about the stuff you’d find in a course brochure, here are three things I personally learned from my week with Second City.

  1. Ask “why” more. Everything should have a purpose and a reason to be – your storyline, characters, props, etc. While this may seem obvious, asking myself “why” throughout my writing process helped me to stay true to my characters, storylines and point of view, the latter being a major theme throughout the class.
  2. Act confident and no one will question you. Did I have any improv experience going into this? No. Do I like being in front of an audience? No. But I had fun with it because that’s all I really could do! No one doubted my improv ability, because I didn’t let myself doubt my ability (aside from my questionable Italian accent). And for me, that’s a powerful takeaway.
  3. Everyone has stories to tell. In our class of 9 we had an Aussie, a Canadian, a mom, a dad, a counselor, a pizza delivery guy, some students, some wanderers and only one writer by trade – me. We all told our own provocative, weird, original stories in our own hilarious ways. In advertising we often say, “everyone has a story,” but it was amazing to witness those stories being told organically, firsthand.

There you have it, some lessons you won’t find in my class notes, but ones that I surely did take away from my experience. If you ever find yourself in Chicago with a few hours to burn, you should absolutely check out a Second City show. I highly suggest seeing She The People. And if you’re at all curious about taking a class at Second City, I say go for it! Chances are you’re funnier than you think.

See more pics from the trip on the BMA instagram.

Lauren Barrett
Copywriter, Excursionist, Amy Poehler Wannabe

May 22, 2018 - Comments Off on The Fortnite Craze — A Foreshadow of The Future of Media?

The Fortnite Craze — A Foreshadow of The Future of Media?

The popularity of E-Sports is exploding. And the recent Fortnite craze may foreshadow the future of media.

Let’s start with a story about a young man named Tyler Blevins. You may already know of him as Ninja. Ninja currently drives the heaviest social media interaction of any athlete on the internet. He doesn’t play in the NBA or the NFL. He’s a professional E-Sports gamer with a wildly popular YouTube channel and he earns $500K+ monthly from subscribers on Twitch who watch his video game-play.

I first heard of Blevins back in March when he was challenged a game of Fortnite Duos by platinum rap artist, Drake and their contest broke the internet. Ninja’s success story totally blew me away for a few minutes. The next weekend while on a playground trip with my kids (4 and 6), I heard a group of 10 year olds debating Ninja’s greatness. They understood exactly how he had monetized his video content, what he was earning, what charities he supports and they had all watched countless hours of his game-play.

The past 10 years have given us the mainstream-ification of social media and mobile user experiences. As I ponder where media is headed in the next few years it’s stories like Blevins’ that are breaking in the news and alive on the playground that make me wonder what’s next for emerging media.

This is emerging as mass culture. It leads the imagination into all aspects of communication and media behavior. Especially because it’s popular with a variety of ages but it’s huge with very young audiences who will be growing up quickly and taking their expectations of media with them. Their behaviors will shape the future of media.

We’ve seen what technology and social media have done to the attendance and ratings of live sports events. However it’s done very little to diminish the celebrity value of sports. Professional athletes and musicians are increasingly influential in our culture and video games are a way for them to relate with fans, as well as compete with each other in a crossover channel and merge audiences into an entirely new context by doing so.

There’s a story just this week of David Price, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, who had to sit out of a game (his job!) due to carpal tunnel from playing Fortnite. He’s since committed not to play the game while in the ball park! “The Internet of Things,” especially voice enabled devices in the home and increasingly powerful portable technology means that all of this stuff is going to be always-on and always available, very soon. Brands and organizations that aren’t familar with e-sports or real-time social gaming may be the victims of the next massive disruption in marketing.

The marketing and media industries have been looking at real time opportunities, augmented reality, vIrtual reality, The IOT, Influencer marketing and social advertising among so many other things knowing it’s big and wondering exactly how it will all tie together. The interactive environment that gaming provides and the instant access to celebrity that social media offers seem to be merging right now in a manner that could shift from “rapidly growing” to “full on mainstream adoption” of internet connected, socially interactive environments for live entertainment.

There are fewer and fewer walls between people when it comes to communication. The opportunities created by that increasing level of connection is reinventing entertainment and leading media culture into new frontiers.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

May 18, 2018 - Comments Off on Time’s Up Advertising — Taking a Stand and Creating Change

Time’s Up Advertising — Taking a Stand and Creating Change

“I may have gotten this job because I’m a woman, but that won’t be why I keep it.”

–Kristen Cavallo

In response to recent and some not so recent events a few of the most powerful women in advertising started talking about trajectory-altering change in the industry. Those few grew to many, and those conversations became Time’s Up Advertising. On Monday May 14th the original steering committee called industry women across the nation to action with an open letter that signs off by saying:

“…As women in senior leadership positions in advertising, we’ve agreed that we have the power to change this business we love until it looks more like the industry we want to lead.“

The Richmond panel discussion held at the Byrd Theater was one of 14 events that took place and was lead by panelists Kristen Cavallo (CEO of the Martin Agency), Camille Blanchard (VP, Head of Innovation at West Cary Group), Danielle Flagg (ECD at Arts & Letters Co.) and Jessica Hyche (Director of Client Services at the Martin Agency). The meeting was a public opportunity to address terms of sexual harassment and systemic inequality in the workplace, and begin to explore tangible solutions that would result in action.

We as communicators have an incredible responsibility to humanity. We have the power to drive cultural change, and so we rise up in the face of injustice and work to have a profound impact on those who will come after us.

Gloria Steinem said it best in her letter that was read aloud at the live stream of the Time’s Up Advertising event. It read:

“I wish I could be with you today raising consciousness and standards in the ad world, the biggest influence on human behavior. Create ads with men raising children and millions know it's possible. Show girls playing sports and girls see that our bodies are instruments, not ornaments. Show diverse people together and diversity becomes community. That's why Time's Up in the ad world will create such a multiplier effect for us all."

The event was an honest exploration of real issues, one that was long overdue. And for me, only 2 years into the industry it’s refreshing to look around a room and see fiery passionate, unabashedly bold and wickedly smart women who are not just talking about taking a stand, but have taken the stand and are talking about change.

-Connor Wood
Proofreader / Jr. Copywriter

March 2, 2018 - Comments Off on Lacoste’s  Alligator Steps Aside for Conservation

Lacoste’s  Alligator Steps Aside for Conservation

Lacoste, formerly IZOD- a brand that peaked in the 80s and 90s but has faded out of mainstream fashion is hoping to draw some attention  through a new campaign partnering with Union for Conservation of Nature. An article by Fast Company tells us the campaign will feature limited edition polos that replace the iconic alligator logo with depictions of 10 threatened animals in efforts to help protect the remaining wildlife. The shirts can be seen in detail on the Lacoste France website. We also like the simplicity of this shot from Creative Review's instagram feed.

Lacoste is only creating the quantity of polos that corresponds to the number of each species recorded in the wild. “Since there are only 350 Sumatran tigers, there will be only 350 tiger logo polos for sale. The gulf of California porpoise only gets 30 shirts, due to its dwindling numbers.”

Take a look here.

Cause marketing continues to gain steam as brands develop their social and political voices. But the incentives can’t be ignored. Is the true alignment to the cause as strong as the benefit for the brand? Is the brand exposing issues that would have been unnoticed by the general public?

These questions have to be taken seriously to work authentically. For now we can be appreciative of brands taking steps to tackle the issues that define their position in an ever complicated world.


Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 27, 2018 - Comments Off on Were The 2018 Winter Olympics World Class?

Were The 2018 Winter Olympics World Class?

This year’s Winter Olympics were more connected than ever, and there were more ways to watch them than ever before. Viewers could even receive text updates from NBC when their favorite athlete made his/her debut.

The number of people using NBC’s app to stream the Olympics this year was impressive. 11.6 million users have been reported along with a 174 percent increase over the 2014 streaming audience (NPR). But despite these media factors, viewership was still down from the last Winter Olympics held in Sochi.

An article from NPR states, “overall in prime time, from the start of the games to Monday, the boost from total audience delivery was just 12 percent. This data suggests that traditional network TV viewing is still the way most viewers watch the games. And like much broadcast TV, there is an erosion in prime-time viewership.”

This is an interesting problem to solve. Most people want to watch the Olympics on TV, it’s a  tradition people are used to. But that tradition doesn’t line up with modern media habits. People don't want to adjust their schedules to tune in to the event  they want to watch in real-time.

Streaming is more popular than ever and traditional television viewership is declining. The decline in overall viewership seems mostly attributable to the rate of change in the TV and video user experiences combined with totally different media consumption behaviors. As mass audiences get used to viewing on their own terms in their own time — what’s the incentive to go back and watch an event if the outcome is already in the headlines? 

The media environment is changing too fast for the Olympics' media partners to iron out the best viewing product? We'll have to wait two or four more years to see if the program offering catches up with audience behavior and viewing preferences.

Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 22, 2018 - Comments Off on LinkedIn, J. Crew and WeWork – Unlocking Personal & Professional Brand Potential

LinkedIn, J. Crew and WeWork – Unlocking Personal & Professional Brand Potential

It’s a fascinating time to be alive. As a society, our connected experience is no longer straddling the line between “the real-world” and online — it’s distributed through both and fully interwoven.

Anchoring this point, a new alliance has caught our eye. Linked In x WeWork x J Crew have joined together in a very interesting partnership. Each partner has a different reason for existing, but all three merge elements of the other’s primary customer experience.

The fashion brand J Crew, is searching for a radical shift in strategy to succeed in modern retail world. Partnering with LinkedIn and WeWork, they benefit from direct access to entrepreneurial customers who already understand the value of looking clean and stylish.

WeWork and LinkedIn view this opportunity as another way for their brand to serve their customer’s professional image and meet the needs of their mutual audience segment.

Whether this experiment takes off or not, we expect to see more of this kind of corporate teamwork, as brands strive to unlock their experiential potential.

More on the story over at Retail Dive.


Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 13, 2018 - Comments Off on 3000 Years of Valentine’s Day History

3000 Years of Valentine’s Day History

“Valentine’s Day is a marketing holiday manufactured by the gift card industry.”

We've all heard that position stated before. Okay. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at this anti-sentimental view of an otherwise tender holiday.

Is Valentine’s day a consumer holiday? Was it invented by greeting card companies? Where did it come from? And how did it become what we know it to be today?

According to history.com, 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year worldwide. This makes the holiday the single most popular greeting card holiday and the second most popular greeting card giving occasion behind birthdays.

The average person spends $146.84 on the holiday, according to Time Money. Between these two facts the consumer marketing angle seems well reasoned. So people are definitely buying cards, flowers and candy. Where did all of this start? Let’s take it back to the beginning.

V-Day is named after St. Valentine, a third century Roman saint. But the holiday is believed to have origins in traditions that pre-date St. Valentine himself. Hmm, let’s go all the way back...

February finds its meaning — 800 BCE
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia is a pagan celebration anchored to February 15th. It was a holiday of health and fertility, alternatively called “Dies Februatus” or “purified day” and gave the month it’s name.

Valentine’s day gets its name — 250 AD
Next on the calendar we have the execution of St. Valentine on February 14th in the third century AD. Legend has it that the saint wrote a letter to the daughter of his jailer the night before he died and it was signed “from your Valentine.”

A couple centuries later the church named St. Valentine’s Day a holiday to memorialize the saint and further subdue the pagan traditions of courtship and matchmaking from Lupercalia.

Flowers take on symbolic meaning in the West — 1714
The modern tradition of flowers as messages is credited to King Charles XIII of Sweden in the early 18th century. He learned of flower arranging in Persia and identified the various meanings of different flowers when presented as gifts.

Manufactured cards and candy take off! — 1800s
The tradtion of St. Valentine’s day remains largely focused on romance and hand-written notes until the 1800s when the industrial revolution hits and “fancy” cards manufactured in Europe are newly in vogue.

This is also around the time that Cadbury Chocolates was founded in England and chocolates were introduced on a large scale as a quintessential gift for sweethearts.

Conversation hearts were introduced in 1866 and were not heart shaped until almost 40 years later. This is when the full-on marketing hit, the early twentieth century.

Hallmark is born — 1900s
In 1910 Hallmark was founded and they produced their first Valentine’s Day card shortly after. 1910 is the same year that “Florists Telegraph Delivery" was founded, still around today as FTD, Florist’s Transworld Delivery.

A look back through ancient history to the 20th century confirms that Valentine’s Day, as we know it, truly came together in the first decades of the last century. So what we view as a traditional approach to Valentine’s Day, flowers, chocolates and cards is really only the last 100 years of a 3000 year old tradition.

In the 21st Century consumer audiences are participatory, not passive, and marketing of all kinds has become very self aware as social attitudes evolve. Will this post-modern progression take Valentine’s Day somewhere it’s never been? Only time will tell.

However, maybe it’s already gone irreversibly into a bizarro future.


Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 6, 2018 - Comments Off on Which Ads Won The Super Bowl?

Which Ads Won The Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl ads this year were up to par with the previous years. They were clever, real-time relevant, funny and featured a ton of our favorite celebrities.

But let’s talk about what was new and different.

The spots that grabbed my eyes were the ones that spoke directly to the customer. And not figuratively as used in the common marketing saying, but they actually addressed the audience as viewers of an advertisement.

Advertising during the Super Bowl has come a long way over the years. What started as a break for the sponsors, has grown into a supporting act of the game itself — a highly anticipated component of the entertainment. In these hours, marketers are putting forth their very best content to appear in front of the largest audiences. But let’s just say,  by this point people are 100% aware of they are being marketed to, no matter how creative these ads have become.

The brands this year that decided to own up and acknowledge, “yes, we are marketing to you right now,” were the ones that made me appreciate them and their transparency. It was nice to have a good laugh knowing that they understand, and give them a nod of approval. Here are some favorites:

Tide: Did a comical mash-up spoof of familiar Super Bowl commercials from other industries. Mimicking the vibe of each commercial, Tide would stop and reminded the customer that every ad with clean clothes is a Tide ad.

Jeep: Decided to expose the marketer’s thoughts behind the average car commercial. They stated that they don’t need some “overarching human truth” to sell their vehicle, and they don't need a manifesto, all they need is for the customer to see what the Jeep itself can do.  

Skittles: Decided to take an unconventional route and go live on Facebook during the Superbowl. The idea was to create a story leading up to Sunday explaining that Skittles would only be advertising to one single boy during the Superbowl.

Michelob Ultra: In this hilarious spot, Chris Pratt gets the part to “star” in a Michelob Ultra commercial but later finds out what that really means in a second Michelob Ultra commercial.

Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights