Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I've moved my blog!

I've moved my "Mad Man" Blog from Blogspot to Wordpress.
Please continue to follow me at

Your feedback to my topics is always welcome.

Larry Clayman

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I guess I've Gone Digital (Musically Speaking)

It should come as no surprise to those that know me that music has always been a big part of my life.  A frustrated musician who resorted to becoming a music listening afficionado years ago, I have lived the transition from LPs to 8-tracks/Cassettes to CDs to digital downloads. I have preached often (without request) to the 20 and 30-somethings the evils of listening to music as mp3 files and how they are losing more than 1/2 of what the artist intended in sound quality.

So what did I do yesterday? I had a hankering for buying 3 CDs (is that even what you call them if you are not buying the disc?) that had been on my list. So it was time to put my money where my mouth is and take a trip to my local independent record/CD/vinyl store. But that's not what I did. I downloaded them from iTunes. Was it laziness? Possibly. But I think it was more than that. I think it was a crossroads in my mind. Part of the reason I have mostly purchased CDs in the last couple of decades is that I like having the disc for my collection. I like reading the liner notes even though I can barely make them out in the small type required for a CD insert. I am, after all, a music collector. I still have over 500 LPs and another several hundred CDs. Now just resorting to having these 3 new CDs on my iPod seems to cheapen the experience. It would be the equivalent of having photos of baseball cards back in the day as opposed to the real thing. Nevertheless, I did it. It's the same reason that one day, I will finally stop my subscription to the local newspaper. But that doesn't mean I like it.

What's ironic about two of the CDs I purchased is that one is So Beautiful or So What by 71-year old Paul Simon and the other is Locked Down, the new CD from 72-year old Dr. John, the New Orleans great ably produced by Dan Auerback of Akron's own The Black Keys. Both of these artists have enjoyed storied 50+ year careers in the music business and have seen the same transition in their business that we have seen in the "print to digital" revolution in our business.

So now it's all come home to roost. Older guy downloads music of two even older guys. Oh my, what have we wrought? Time for a session with the digital shrink.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How Do You Put a Value on Experience?

Recently I was talking to someone who had just had Lasik surgery. He was in his early 30s and had worn glasses since he was in 7th grade. He was exhilarated by his recounting of the experience and outcome. Being considerably older than this young man and having worn glasses since 2nd grade, I was interested in his description of the process. I asked how long it took for the procedure and he said 7 minutes! I didn't ask how much it costs but average cost for the procedure tends to run around $2,000 per eye.

Assuming that most people have both eyes corrected, that would mean $4,000 for both eyes. Applying some basic math, that means the cost per minute is $571. Nobody that I have talked to feels the cost for this procedure it out of whack based on the end result. After all, the cost of the procedure includes the cost of the equipment, the cost of the doctor and the support staff, etc. In other words, we don't say to the doctor "Hey, that only took 7 minutes. Shouldn't it just cost a few bucks?" One of the reasons the procedure only takes 7 minutes is that the skilled doctor has done so many of these surgeries that he/she has developed a high skill level which allows for the surgery being completed in a short period of time. We don't hold this against the doctor. On the contrary, we applaud him for his skill and efficiency.

All of this gets me to my primary point. In cases like Lasik surgery, we "get it" that the cost is based on the surgeons skill and knowledge which has been honed over many years. Yet, in the area of marketing, we are often challenged with the remark, "Why is that so much when it took so little time?" Even though we are not doctors, the answer to the question follows the same principle. One of the reasons that it takes so little time is that we are knowledgeable professionals who have been doing this for a long time and, like the doctor, have honed our skills to be able to do quality work in a short period of time. So it begs the question as to why people in our profession are challenged on these issues when in other professions (sports, for instance), achieving a high level of proficiency is rewarded?

I think the answer may lie in the fact that all of us know we can't do Lasik surgery without considerable training yet many of us believe we are writers, designers, photographers, media experts, etc. based on the simple fact that we engage in these disciplines. I take photos and draw pictures but anyone who has seen my "work" in these areas quickly understands why I hire professionals to do these jobs. It's true that we work in a somewhat subjective arena where opinions do matter. But there are still clear principles that apply to advertising and marketing just as there are in any other profession. Sometimes we may choose to break those "rules" to achieve an objective but like in any matter, it's best to know the rules before you break them.

So how do you put a value on experience? That's up to you but for me, when I hire a professional in any area, I am hiring him based on his experience, expertise and my perceived value of that. The price is just part of the equation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What Blogging and Rap Music Share

If you've ever blogged like I have, you've probably done it. You read a blog that somebody else wrote. It inspired you to write a different take on the same subject and, voila, you had a new blog without creating a totally new subject. Happens all the time. Is it wrong? I don't think so as long as a) you give credit where credit is due and b) create something brand new with a new perspective even if it was originally inspired by another blog.

So where is the connection to rap music? When rap music started, it was primarily a singer/rapper/MC along with a DJ who spun and "scratched" LPs. To create the music behind the rapper, the DJ would "sample" short music riffs from old R&B artists like James Brown or funkmasters like P-Funk. Using this "borrowed" music became quite controversial, especially considering the original artists were being cut out of the mix when it came time for payday. Soon, the wrong was righted and the appropriate liscensing fees were paid when artists "sampled" previously published music. Most of these samples used just a few bars of the original song and would then repeat the rif over and over as part of the beat or background.

Today, much blogging is done the same way. A creative thinker will write a blog with a unique perspective and others will "play" off of that idea. In some cases, they will credit the original blogger. In other cases, not so much. Now there is a group trying to implement a new way to credit those who provided the seed or inspiration for a blogger. The name of the organization is The Curator's Code If you check it out, you will see that there are two symbols that can be used to provide credit to others. A Via! represents a link of direct discovery. A Hat Tip represents a link of indirect discovery, story link or inspiration. The symbols for these attributions are on the website as well as the rationale for using attribution. Do we really need to explain the reason to provide attribution for another who contributed to your "great idea"?

Anyway, just as the rap world cleaned up its act (not necessarily in terms of lyrics but at least in terms of paying for borrowed music), it seems time that we would have an easy to use vehicle for doing the same in the blogging world.

So for this blog, I could include a Via as a direct link to but I could also provide a Hat Tip to the NPR show OnTheMedia where I heard about the idea in the first place.

Check it out and give me your feedback.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is our job to create great advertising or satisfy our clients?

I recently read a great article in the WSJ about creativity and where it comes from. I am always inspired by reading these kinds of articles. It's the same exhilaration I feel when I hear a creative speaker or watch a movie that isn't afraid to take some risks or listen to music that stretches my appreciation for lyric or sound.

Ultimately, my thoughts about creativity come back to my profession. We are in the creativity business. Granted, some of our work lends itself to a more creative approach than others but at the end of the day, we are selling creative ideas. When I say "creative", I am using the word broadly to mean creative writing, creative graphics, creative media buys, creative marketing approaches and more.

But what happens when our creative juices come in contact with our client's wishes to "go in another direction with the creative concept"? Ah now, there's the rub.

Some small part of me has always envied math teachers. It's a black and white business. There usually is only one answer and it is indisputable. There is virtually no subjectivity in it. You either got the problem right or wrong. Now looking at our business, there is very little black or white. But there is certainly a whole lot of gray. This subjectivity can create friction in a business relationship. I just saw it last evening in the premiere for the new season of Mad Men. Agency makes the big pitch for the bean account. Client rejects it. Agency goes back to the drawing board. Was the pitch wrong? Were they off base in their thinking? Were they lacking good research to support the concept? In the end, it really doesn't matter because the client will have the last say. And that's the way it should be. It's no different than if an architect designs a beautiful new house and positions the master bedroom in the back left so that it benefits from the eastern sunrise only to have the couple dictate that they want the bedroom in a totally different location for reasons unclear to the architect.

How far we push with our clients is dependent upon our relationship. In most instances, we will make our case, support why we feel it will work and hope that the client agrees because when it is all said and done, we are not in the business to win creative awards and yet we are also not in the business to just bow to our client's every whim. If we are to continue our relationship with our client, it is our job to ultimately relent to their wishes, regardless of how much we may disagree with their position. Gulp hard and move on.

In my three plus decades in this business, I have seen many instances where the client pushed for an idea that turned out very well. On the other hand, I have also seen instances where I know our original concept would have worked much better but that is life. You win some and you lose some. I learned long ago not to take these losses personally or you will not survive in this business for very long.

The young, cocky art directors who are known for their tempers and their "my design cannot be altered in any way" attitudes quickly learn this lesson or end up moving from agency to agency until they mellow with age.

So is our job to create great advertising or satisfy our clients? On the good days, we accomplish both.
On the other days, Jack Daniels will suffice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Digital Devices are Cluttering My Already Cluttered Brain

I remember the thrill I had when I purchased my first Palm Pilot. This handy device would help me organize my day, keep track of appointments and, in general, tidy up my life (which needs considerable tidiness). Then, I purchased a cell phone using the same operating system and discovered that I now no longer needed to carry two devices around. I was down to one.

Now I have gone from one to three. I am trying to simplify my life but despite my best efforts, it seems to be getting more complicated. I compare it to getting dressed in the morning. For many women, it means staring into the closet for 15 minutes trying to decide how best to accessorize for that day's outfit. For me, it means, pulling off a pair of dark pants from the hanger, grabbing a button down shirt, deciding if I want to wear a tie that day and seeing which sport jacket is clean. No thought. No pondering.

Such is not the case though when it comes time to leave the office for an appointment. Is this a laptop appointment? Is it an iPad appointment or is it simply a smart phone appointment? Does the client have wi-fi? Can I jump right on it or is it password protected? These are all the thoughts cluttering my brain now as I prepare to see a client. Thank goodness, I don't have to include whether I should bring my iPod or whether the music on my iPad will suffice. Life just got so complicated.

I'm still on my honeymoon with my iPad. The reason it took me so long to get one is I wanted to make sure I had a real reason to own one and was not just getting one to get one. I enjoy technology but I am at the point where I don't need to own a tech device just to say I own it. After more research and analysis than my wife could stand, I determined it would make good business sense. Now I just need to decide where to slot it in my digital device decisions each day. I may need a new device to help me with that decision.

Friday, March 9, 2012

MEMO: Clear Communication Can Save You Time, Money and Customers

You would think in the world of uber communication (email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that our communications skills and success would be at an all time high. Wrong!
Not only do I feel that, in general, communication in business is worse than it used to be, it is costing us all what we cherish most: time and money.

Example: We are currently involved in a major phone and technology upgrade at Clayman. Our vendor is a large "communications" company. One of the aspects to our upgrade is a high level IT security system on all of our digital assessts. Sounds good, right? The only problem is that the security portion of our contract is a subcontractor to our primary vendor and we have no way to reach them directly without going through a 15-minute fire drill of button pushing and/or voice commands just to get to the right person. By that time, I have to go into a meeting and abort the whole process. My frustration is beyond words.

Example: We've all been there. We have a simple question that we need clarification on with our client.
Instead of simply picking up the phone (Yes, I'm guilty of this too), we engage in a series of emails that typically go something like this:
Larry to Client: "Hi Sue, when can you send over the new product for photography?"

Client to Larry: "Are you available for a meeting tomorrow at 2?"

Larry to Client: "Yes I am. Can I pick up the new product for photography then?"

Client to Larry: "Sorry I have to change the meeting time. Jim is out of town and he wants to sit it."

Larry to Client: "No problem. Give me a couple of options as my schedule is filling up. Also, we need to photograph that new product if we are going to make deadline."

Client to Larry: "Jim is not going to be back in town till Monday. Can we meet then?"

Larry to Client: "Sure, what time?"

Client to Larry: "Anytime, we're flexible."

Larry to Client: "Does anytime mean 10 AM?"

Client to Larry: "Sure, that will work."

10 exchanges back and forth and the original question was never answered. Everyone is busy in their own world trying to do the job of at least two people in an 8 (or 9 or 10) hour day. Our priorities to get things done are not necessarily our client's priorities to get things done. Between all of those emails, life is happening.

That's why in this case, a simple phone call could have alleviated the entire exchange. While both brains are fully engaged, the client could have addressed the simple question about the status of the new product for photography and I could have spoken to my availability to a meeting. Two minute phone call max.

If time is money, that time savings is money in the bank. When the problem becomes extreme, that can cost you customers and I don't have to explain the cost of that.