Does creativity matter anymore in marketing?

I like data. I actually enjoy looking through statistics, studies, surveys, reviews, all the numbers that give us an idea of where the world is going and what the world is thinking.

However, as a copywriter, Creative Director and Professor of Marketing who teaches copywriting, I don’t live by data.

I think of all those numbers as ingredients in a recipe. Individually they each bring a specific flavor to a dish. But blended together the taste and appeal becomes something special, a mixture of sweet and sour, spicy and smooth, ying and yang for the taste buds.

What I have found is that so many marketing approaches currently appear to be one taste fits all. If data shows that influencers are popular, everyone uses influencers. If statistics reveal that one media form is overwhelmingly favored by a certain demographic, everyone marketing to that demographic jumps on to that media and ignores everything else.

While this makes sense from a business perspective it also leads to similarity (if not downright duplication) of messages and a media clutter that will be avoided by consumers.

Then there is the messaging itself. I don’t want to sound like an old and complaining codger but there was a time when creativity in marketing messages was valued and sought-after. The reason being that breakthrough creative was found to result in what every client and business I have ever dealt with demanded and expected — sales increases. I have never, ever met a business who doesn’t want their marketing dollars to deliver a strong ROI.

I’m not advocating a return to the “good old days” because there was a plentitude of lousy advertising back then. What I am urging is for creative thinking to extend beyond technology.

Let’s make every media form a platform of creative excellence. Let’s use all the media available to us marketers as a place where consumers can go to satisfy their appetite for new-exciting-breakthrough-need fulfilling products and services.

This will take much more than the latest statistics and data. Remember these are just ingredients. What will you do with these ingredients to create marketing dishes that go beyond simply filling you up but bringing a smile to your face and keep you coming back for more and more and more.

Will this be easy? Of course not, creativity that delivers never is simple to achieve. It takes knowing the product, knowing the market, knowing exactly what you want to say, and then letting the ideas flow. Whether it’s through testimonials, demonstrations, comparisons, or facts, creative messaging can persuade and motivate.

Think of how delicious that bowl of statistical, survey and test data can be when it all comes together in one amazing Big Idea.

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I never thought I would see it but corporations are showing courage and being responsible. By dropping their advertising spend on a number of news channels they are making news directors and publishers think twice about what messages and news stories they will promote.

Even more encouraging are the actions of a number of social media companies in acting to shut down the accounts of individuals and organizations who are dedicated to inflammatory statements.

In my teaching I have found that young consumers are more concerned with what a company stands for rather than what they are selling. Now more than ever a company logo makes a statement about the buyer and the seller. In marketing we talk about establishing and developing a profitable and productive seller/buyer relationship. This aspect of marketing and advertising is more important than ever right now.

Listening to or reading a certain news source says volumes about the user. Wearing a specific apparel tells the world the wearer’s views on everything from global warming to race relations.

Companies are learning that is important to not only stand behind their product but stand behind a specific issue or cause as well.

The days of sheep-like consumers are over. With so many information-gathering sources the buyer of today is smarter and better informed than ever. The consumer of today is looking for something more from a brand a company than the usual benefit we have all been selling for decades.

We can analyze the metrics. Mull over the media choices. Evaluate the ROI. Dig into every detail and specific of every marketing penny spent. But at the end of the day the decision to buy or not is in the hands of the consumer and today’s consumer has more power at their disposal than ever.

Where marketing goes from here is going to be my topic for 2021.

Can the consumer trust companies and their messages any longer? Many corporations made a good start in restoring trust with the actions taken this week. Let’s see where we go from here.

What do you think should be done?

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Advertising during a pandemic?

I sit in quarantine and turn on the TV. While being pummeled with news reports of death, dying, desperation and depression, I’m bombarded with bright lights and cheery marketing messages.  “Drive this car and enjoy life.”  “Drink this soda and you’ll smile.” “Eat this burger and happiness will fill your belly.”

Feel bad-feel good. Frown-smile. Cry-laugh. We talk about roller-coaster emotions but this is ups and downs with built-in commercial breaks.

Unemployment has exploded. An economic depression is looming. Images of mass burials in the middle of New York City assault our senses.

As a marekting professional, teacher of advertising, and a consumer, I undertand perfectly the necessity for businesses to sell their products and services, even in these horrendous times.

But as a human being I feel violated by the pursuit of profit. I make my living creating advertising and instructing students on composing effective messages.  I am conflicted.

I can’t stop watching the news if I want to be a responsible citizen. I can try to ignore the advertising but that would be acting irresponsibly as a professional marketer.

Talk about a disconnect. Yes, I am conflicted.


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Bad Luck

No, this isn’t about the coronavirus.  I’m sure you’ve heard and read enough about it at this point — and I’m certain much more will be heard and read daily.

This is about a friend of mine who told me a tale yesterday that is the definition of bad luck.

Tom, my friend, is a sweetheart of a guy. He’s the kind of person who will help you and smile while doing it. Maybe you’re lucky enough to know someone like him.

Tom is retired and has his son,daughter-in-law and grandchildren living with him right now. He loves having his family with him and he’s grateful that everyone is healthy and they all get along.

A few years back Tom’s wife left him for another man.  I don’t know the particulars about the break-up and for the purposes of this true story they aren’t important. The one specific I do know is that Tom was heartbroken over her departure. To his credit he didn’t sit around moping and moaning. Tom jumped into community work helping neighbors and friends with projects and simple everyday tasks.  He felt that by not thinking about himself and thinking more of others then others might think more of him.  (He’s right.)

For the past few months Tom has been debating and agonizing about — maybe, perhaps, possibly — looking for and starting a relationship. He thought it over long and hard. Could he do it? Should he do it? How would he do it? Where would he meet someone?  In other words he went through start-up relationship agony.

A couple of weeks ago Tom decided to go ahead. He was going to ask a lady out who he knew, enjoyed speaking to, and shared a common interest with in being helpful.  This was not an easy or simple decision. It took a monumental amount of courage-building.  If there was such a thing as a Confidence Enhancing steroid Tom might have taken it.

Tom picked a specific day to ask her if she would like to join him for coffee. He figured that was a non-threatening gesture and what the heck he had a 50/50 shot at success. The night before he checked his phone to be sure he had her number and even her email if his courage faltered at the last moment and his throat constricted making him incapable of speaking.

As he was checking his phone he noticed a news alert on the TV screen. He turned up the volume and heard the newscaster say, “The Governor has declared a statewide shutdown starting tomorrow due to the coronavirus.”

Tom thought, “Tomorrow?  Tomorrow!”

Just when Tom was ready to step out into the social world again he was pushed back inside by doctors and politicians and the quarantine.  And a 6-foot social distancing get together wasn’t going to cut it.

Now he would have to wait until the “all clear” until he could make his move.  Or should he call now and start a discussion?  More will be revealed.

True story.




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Best Coaching Advice Ever


This morning I went to my local gym where I watched the start of a 6-10 year old kids’ basketball game. The boys and girls were in matching uniforms, playing on a true hardwood floor basketball court, and bouncing with energy.

Before the opening buzzer the coach gathered the kids around her.  The young players stared at her expectantly.  What advice was she going to give them?

Kneeling in front of her team the coach looked them each in the eye and said, “Don’t forget: Run….Dribble….Pass….Hit the Open Man….Rebound….and most important, don’t throw up on the court!”

Can’t beat that advice.

True story.

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So Why Do I Teach?

EOP class

If it’s true that a “picture is worth a thousands words” the photo above explains why I started teaching advertising and marketing 18 years ago.

I never set out to become a teacher. I was, and still am, an advertising copywriter. For close to 40 years I have been creating and crafting advertising strategies and messages for businesses and services of all sizes and for products in virtually every category.

What is it like to be a copywriter? Creativity is challenged. Strategic thinking is demanded. Brevity and clarity of verbiage is mandatory.

When I was first asked to teach copywriting I wasn’t sure if I could do it. How do you translate what you do on a daily basis in a 2-hour classroom setting? How do you convey the emotional and mental turmoil you go through trying to craft a marketing message that will live up to objectives? How do you make students feel the anxiety you undergo when presenting an idea and then the crushing self-doubt you feel when your concept is rejected? But on the flip side how do you explain to a class of novices the joy and relief you feel when an idea is accepted, produced, launched and embraced by the public segment you want to reach?

There is no greater challenge. But seeing students go from kids who don’t know what to expect when they walk into the classroom to realizing what they are capable of creating is tremendously awarding for both me and those smiling creators.

I’ll let a former student of mine tell you…“I want to thank you for your role in preparing me with the skills, education, and most importantly the confidence, that has led me to where I am today, and where my business venture will lead me in the future. “

That’s why I teach.









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To Vote or not to Vote

It seems that whenever news correspondents quote polls regarding the upcoming elections they use the term, “People say…”.  What people?   Are they talking about people who could vote or people who actually vote?

I started doing some digging from a marketing perspective and I discovered something that cheered me up because it presents a compelling problem.

TotalIf you look at the chart you will see that only 64% of the people who could register to vote are actually registered. That is 88 million people who could vote who don’t vote.  88 million!

So why don’t they register? Here are the reasons they give.

Not RegisteringThe #1 reason for not registering, by far, is a general lack of interest in the political process.  Simply put, 36% of the US population of voting age can’t be bothered with politics.

That is fine.  I’m not interested in gambling, fashion, home heating sytems, and a slew of other things that are important to millions of people but don’t provoke a scintilla of curiosity on my part.

But should peopole be interested in the political system?  Well, it impacts taxes, education, healthcare, national security, the roads we ride on and the bridges we cross. In short, politics, whether we like it or not, has a bearing on almost everything in our daily lives.

Then I was curious as to why so many of the people who are registered to vote don’t actually go out to vote.  I thought there would be some compelling reason like disgust or mistrust with the system and process. But I was wrong.  Here’s what I learned.

Not VotingThe main reason, and growing fast, for not voting is dislike for the candidates running for office. From the spike in dislike from 2012 to 2016 it is obvious that people REALLY dislike the two candidates for office the two major political parties were offering.

So you have people who don’t bother to even register to vote because politics doesn’t interest them — although it should and in a big way.

Then you have people who registered to vote but didn’t because they viscerally disliked the two people competing for office.

So as marketers what does this say?

It tells me that people have to be persuaded to take political policies personally. We take eating, dressing and recreating very personally so why not politics? Eating affects our health. Dressing affects our self-perception. Recreating affects our emotional well-being. Politics? It affects the very lives we lead in a variety of ways.

As for the people we elect to office it is obvious that we take this aspect of politics very personally. We won’t go to the trouble of taking ourselves to a polling station which means spending personal time and effort, unless we are going there to give an individual our most precious democratic possession — our individual vote.  We have to like the candidate personally. There has to be something about her or him that we find attractive, personable and relatable.  There has to be a positive chemical reaction when we see and hear this person.

So if I were marketing the upcoming Presidential election I would approach it as a two-step process:

  1. Convince the non-registered 36% of the US population to go and register. Make them see how important their individual vote is to the health and welfare of the country.  Yes, politics is important and we all need to care.
  2. Present the candidates in a manner that will make them appeal to a mass audience rather than a market segment in spite of what political consultants espouse today.

I hope we all go out and vote. Our future depends on it.  Truly.

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Work saves lives

I heard a news report on the radio recently that verified a belief I have held for years. A study was done on the opioid crisis and who has been most affected by it.

The study found that the folks who fall victim the most to opioid addiction live in states where manufacturing, particularly the auto industry, are the main forms of employment.

What the study revealed is when manufacturing jobs left, the people employed by those industries were not only unemployed but were also exposed to a sickness that overwhelms minds and results in physical

When the jobs left the disease of despair stepped in and infected whole communities.

Despair eradicates hope. Despair crushes the human spirit. Despair drives people to live a life filled with a sense of emptiness.

The lack of daily purpose and seemingly pointless existence is not merely harmful but deadly.  A job means so much more than a paycheck or place to go. A job gives us a reason to be.  It makes our lives productive and even interesting.

When we lead lives that are interesting and productive the dual poisons of jealousy and resentment don’t have space to take root and grow in our minds. When despair grows out of control we look for a way out. Temporary relief can come in a pill or a bottle of booze, both of which create their own forms of sickness and addicition which can eventually lead to crime, hospitals and even death.

All of that from the lack of a job?  Yes. Work not only occupies time. Meaningful work gives meaning to our lives. Work gives us freedom to live. Despair enslaves us. Drugs and alcohol provide a temporary reprieve. But eventually despair wins.

I don’t know about you but I don’t see myself ever not working in some capacity. I’m fortunate enough to be someone who is curious about how things work and how to use the information I gather.

For me, work means more than life. It means living.

That’s me in the picture. Working.

True story.

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Does Prez persona mean stock market plus?


Stock market

The stock market is at an all-time high. This is great for the 55% of Americans who actually own stocks.  Of course this rise doesn’t mean much for the other 45%.

So who gets credit for the stock market surge?

Let’s look at some recent history. In 2017 when the new President was elected he entered the White House with a solid economy behind him.  The economy was growing. Not by a great deal but it was growing back from the disaster of the economic crash of 2008.  Back then  economists were in agreement on one point — it would take 10 years for the economy to get back to the pre-recession point. Keep that in mind.  That meant 2018 was going to mean the time when the economy would get back in shape. Until then it would mean a decade of struggles and economic fits and strains.

Jump forward to 2018 and the economy was growing slowly but it was still continuing to grow.

That year a major tax cut was introduced. The corporate tax cut gave companies more money which they were supposed to reinvest but many chose the added cash to buy back stock and increase their bottom line to make their stock more valuable. 

Was it legal?  Yes.

Was it contrary to what the tax cut was intended to achieve? Yes.

Did the national deficit take off and explode? Definitely yes. We’ll be paying this debt back for a long time to come. Some in economic and government circles claim that debt doesn’t matter.  Tell that to the person who has to pay back student loans, businesses who are saddles with start-up loans, consumers who are wangling credit card balances and homeowners who face monthly mortgages.

The increased stock market was supposed to mean we would grow our way out of debt. Is it happening?  Not so far.  Will it happen? Let’s hope.

So the stock market is up. The debt we citizens are carrying (shlepping to be more accurate) gets bigger every single day. That debt will have to be paid off eventually or the whole USA will need to declare bankruptcy.  Imagine that.

After all is said and done, would all of this have happened if someone else won the 2016 Presidential election? Remember that economists said it would take a decade to get the economy back into shape regardless of who was sitting in the Oval Office.

So can the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue take any credit or take any blame for the current economy?

Consider this — when the market was moving from recovery to robust did it happen because of Presidential tweets, crowing and posturing? If it did then does that mean the success of the stock market depends on Presidential popularity?

Following that logic the market should then decline with Presidential unpopularity.

So what do we make of the fact that since the President is now impeached, at a low point in opinion polls and more than half the country wants him out of office, shouldn’t the market be crashing and tanking?

Instead the market is still growing and as 2019 closes it’s at even higher levels and the economy is benefiting from the ten-year recovery that economists said would happen.

Bottom line….does the President make any difference in the market’s health? When business decisions are made by CEOs, CFOs, and entrepreneurs do they honestly and truly think of who is currently President, or whether or not they personally like the Presidential persona, before they develop budgets; plan strategies; put the economic wheels in motion?

Or are business decisions made on business principles regardless of who is delivering speeches, tweeting, boasting, hectoring or complaining? What do you think?  History doesn’t think so.


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I have an outdoor shower.  (Yes, before you ask, I also have a normal indoor shower and a bathroom.)

This past summer I have been using my outdoor shower on a daily basis.  In the morning I go to the gym.  Then to the beach to swim in ocean.

Then back home to wash off the sweat and salt in the warmth of my blissful shower.20190821_151306

Being a city dweller, primarily, for the vast majority of my life an outdoor shower is total and absolute pleasure.

Standing in the shower as the water flows down over me, with the trees and hedges swaying in the breeze, the bees and hornets and wasps buzzing around,  the flowers spreading their aroma, what could be more decadent?

I love my outdoor shower. So do the carpenter bees who are constantly trying to burrow into the wooden shower enclosure and build their nests.  The bees and I have become mutual beneficiaries of the shower. I guess that’s how nature works.

If you can’t have your own waterfall then go for an outdoor shower.



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