Change is the Only Constant

“Change is the only constant.”

You said it, Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus. Especially in this industry. Creative concepts and new business opportunities constantly shift with the wind, but we’d be remiss to assume outer currents of change aren’t reflected within agency shops as well.

A decade or two ago, it would be commonplace for an employee to stay with one company for 10-15 years. Today, the average worker stays 4.4 years. But even that is old news to advertising and PR companies, where 4.4 years at one firm is considered a lifetime by today’s standards. That’s what happens when Millennials flood the job market.

This dictum is reflected in strategic and creative projects as well. A social media campaign takes approximately 90 days to build momentum, typically lasting three months before the message has peaked and the audience needs something new. Is it because constant multitasking has become an audience norm? Or is it just the nature of our work?

The truth is, we live in a world of momentary exposure: 30-second spots, 140 characters. Fireworks alight for a moment in a sky full of stars.

What separates good firms from great firms is the ability to capture that moment, with the talent you have and the client at your door, and make something spectacular.

We cannot lament lost ventures and missed opportunities or hang our heads when change inevitably comes to collect. What we can do is take the passive concept and make it active. Seize the moment. Pursue the fleeting idea. Realize that change creates opportunity and challenges monotony.

Embracing change, ironically, supplies a consistent long-term strategy to keep an agency afloat.

Change is the only constant?

For a great firm, change is the only necessity.

Them's Fightin' Words

There’s a shaky truce among advertisers to resist sucker punching the competition. No matter if you’re looking to increase a client’s market share or demonstrate product superiority, the moment names are named, you enter a whole new arena. After all, the communicative risks are much higher when you’re the aggressor. Could you come off as a schoolyard bully? Will your message inform or will it belittle? Is it cheeky and playful, or rude and mean-spirited? Whatever your intent, the moment you “call out” a competitor by name, all eyes are on you. Cuz them’s fightin’ words.

Frankly, from outside the industry, it’s fun to cheer on faceless companies as they duke it out in public. This is America, buddy. The only thing we love more than entertainment is competition. A good old- fashioned scuffle might have been limited to intended audiences a decade or two ago, but now, the entire Internet takes notice. Lucky us!

Most recently, Taco Bell has been taking jabs at its competitive juggernaut, McDonald’s. To highlight a foray into the fast-food breakfast market, Taco Bell released a nationwide ad campaign showing people named Ronald McDonald enjoying the new Taco Bell breakfast. It isn’t a particularly biting ad, but Taco Bell was certainly wearing its intentions on its sleeves.

To retaliate, McDonald’s simply posted this picture on Twitter.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-29-at-1.01.57-PM

 

Have you ever had an encounter with a Chihuahua? They’re not typically the most timid pups. In fact, they’re known for a particularly yippy demeanor, and if you challenge them, they’ll bark and nip at your heals for hours.

That’s exactly how Taco Bell responded. Its next ad used the theme of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” to imply that McDonald’s breakfasts are behind the times. The exchange has now been dubbed “The Breakfast Wars” by online publications, and the Internet waits with bated breath for a McDonald’s retaliation.

As agency insiders, we cringe at the slightest possibility of a mishap when the gloves come off. Take Audi’s “Your Move, BMW” billboard. In launching its message of superiority, the folks at Audi were counting on limited billboard availability and a small, specific audience to minimize the risk of retaliation. Or so they thought. What they didn’t count on was the people at BMW taking notice.

They noticed.

bmwaudiwars1

When you make the first move in an attack ad, you leave yourself open to a riposte. In this case, Audi gave the clever agency behind BMW an opportunity to fire back twice as hard, making Audi look quite foolish in the process.

So how do you walk the fine line between launching an offense while fortifying a defense? That’s where the Joe Fraziers of advertising step in.

Remember Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign?

These advertisements brilliantly tight-roped that line by mixing polite positivity, cheerful music and comedy all around the basic differences between Macs and PCs. Apple didn’t pull its punches (until later), but it didn’t back down from its message either. How could Microsoft respond heavy-handedly to light-hearted comedy and deductive intelligence? It couldn’t. Not successfully, anyway.

The campaign ran its course, with each new TV spot guaranteed to elicit a new giggle and a “hmm” from the audience. And that’s what a successful attack ad should do. Even ad wars have casualties, so when the fightin’ words start flying, it’s important to respond with calculated messaging and a side of wit instead of sucker punching.

Unless you have one hell of an uppercut.

 

Hirons Snags Five Trophies at the Newly Dubbed American Advertising Awards

Hirons walked away from the 2014 American Advertising Awards, formerly the ADDY Awards, with a hefty load of hardware this year. Going up against twice as many entries as the previous year, the Indianapolis-based advertising agency was able to garner five awards  — two gold and three silver — in this year’s local competition.

The Alice in Wonderland-themed event at the Scottish Rite Cathedral — hosted by AAF-Indianapolis— was a magical celebration complete with theme characters, marvelous decorations and even sets in which party-goers could feel larger or smaller after drinking the “potion” before tumbling down the rabbit hole.

“Hirons always makes it our top priority to create the best work we possibly can for our clients,” said Tom Aschauer, executive creative director at Hirons. “To be able to come back to our clients with the distinction of having created award-winning results, especially against such stiff competition, just makes for an even better payoff.”

Hirons received awards in the following categories:

Gold:

Eskenazi Health Donor Gala Invite

Creative Director: Pam Linsley

Copywriter: Tom Aschauer

Print Production Director: Jane Burch

Senior VP Account Director: Deana Haworth

Account Coordinator: Precious Little

Kammy’s Kause Poster

Designer/Art Director: Bob Ewing

Illustrator: Bryan Beaver

 

Silver:

“My Two Pills” Testimonial for the Indiana Attorney General

Creative Director/Writer: Tom Aschauer

Associate Creative Director: Drew Hill

Producer: Meghan Hirons

Senior Account Manager: Courtney Edmonds

Account Manager: Tiffany Holbert

Hill 2nd Birthday Party Event Materials

Associate Creative Director: Drew Hill

Writer: Drew Hill

Father: Drew Hill

Mother: Whitney Hill

Children: Preston and California Hill

Hirons 35th Birthday Celebration Ad

Copywriter: Tom Aschauer

Art Director: Pam Linsley

White Knight: Tom Hirons

Dark Overlord: Jim Parham

Junior Art Director: Wonder

Really Junior Art Director: Winter

Inspiration: Drew and Bob’s new Hirons branding materials

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About Hirons

Hirons Advertising and Public Relations, established in 1978 by Tom Hirons, is headquartered in Indianapolis and is ranked as both a top 100 advertising and top 100 PR firm in the U.S. Hirons is a digital leader in advertising, public relations, public affairs and media buying. Hirons’ clients include leading private, public and nonprofit sector organizations locally and nationally. Hirons is an employee-owned company.

About the AFF and American Advertising Awards

AAF-Indianapolis is a member association that comprises advertising and media professionals. Proceeds from the ADDY Awards help fund AAF–Indianapolis’ educational programs, public service projects and proactive government relations efforts.

The American Advertising Awards are a three-tier national competition, conducted annually by the AAF. The competition is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition for creative excellence.

Be Bold.

By Nik Heimach, Digital Communications Management Assistant

The night before I started my very first day at Hirons, my roommate gave me a coffee mug as a good-luck present. As I blithely accepted, I noticed it displayed the Hirons insignia, along with its tagline:

Be Bold.

Useful advice for an introvert intern freshly moved to the city.

But I’m in the advertising world now. I couldn’t possibly think of it as “advice.” I had to start thinking in terms of strategic rhetoric, market strategy and audience perception. That’s all a tagline is, right? Nothing more than a calculated foray into my vulnerable subconscious to promote brand loyalty.  Sophistry at its finest!

On this side of the coin, a tagline is just the repetitive expression of an idea, simply created to tap into a collective emotion or purpose. Yes We Can! I’m Lovin’ It! Pop Pop, Fizz Fizz, Oh What A — you get it. Be Bold is a great tagline because it positively challenges audiences to live life fuller, to not hesitate in the face of fear, danger or doubt. For a company like Hirons, it translates to creative enthusiasm, enlivened communications and resolute professionalism. Pretty good for a tagline.

But every morning I look at that mug, it starts to seem like something more. Be Bold, it tells me, before heading into a still unfamiliar workplace. Be Bold, on a weekend when I could stay in or go explore my new city and meet new people. Be Bold, as I sit at a coffee shop, laptop open to watch YouTube or maybe write a script.

Be Bold.

But wait. When did a tagline become a motto? A maxim? A dictum? A truism? An AXIOM! The more I adopt it, the more I question what I thought I knew about advertising. It’s easy to boil down advertising or public relations to simple keywords for cynical 20-somethings, but what happens when an advertisement becomes something else entirely?

Call it artistic integrity. Call it intelligent branding or strategic implementation. Call it whatever you want. It’s the meaning that matters, and, to me, it means something.

It means I have the opportunity to leap into the fray instead of tiptoe on the sidelines. I get to work for a company that challenges me not to be inhibited by the fear to succeed, the fear to matter.

Be Bold. 

But what do I know? I’m just a recent college grad, starting my life in a new city, with a new job and a new perspective. And you know what else? I’m Lovin’ It.

He Said, She Said: Word-of-Mouth Marketing

By Deana Haworth, Senior Vice President, Director of Account Services

It’s no secret that the most trusted form of advertising is word-of-mouth. Consumers tend to trust friends and family over an advertisement because of course an advertisement says their product is best, that’s what it’s there to do. In fact, word-of-mouth accounts for 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions (McKinsey Quarterly).

So how do we, as advertisers, make advertisements count while also providing word-of-mouth results? It today’s economy, it’s easy for business to hear that word-of-mouth sells and simply assume that advertising and public relations are an unnecessary expense, when in reality advertising and word-of-mouth can — and should — work hand-in-hand.

Digital Natives

By Tom Hirons, President & CEO

Growing up in a digital world has its advantages. Digital fluency with existing technology. An intuitive sense and adaptability to emerging technologies. Thumb speed.

But, do you have to be 20-something to get it? No. Take, for example, Michael Hanley, a professor at Ball State and one of the world’s leaders in mobile marketing.

As professional communicators, we owe it to ourselves and our clients to not just stay current in technology but to also be leaders in technology.

Interactive Targeting, from Basic to Slightly Creepy

By Amy Mitchell, Vice President, Media Director

Through the strategic use of pixels and cookies, advertisers are able to tag and reach their intended audience in more relevant and timely ways than ever before. Sure, we can still target users by simple demographics such as age, income and geography, but things have gotten a lot cooler (or creepier?) than that.

Old School Visionary.

By Tom Hirons, President & CEO

Philip Ward Burton was an advertising genius.

Burton’s career started at Procter & Gamble where he responded to letters from consumers and rose to be the senior creative officer consulting on all Procter & Gamble brands. He went on to be a professor at Syracuse University, the feeder school for New York agencies. His textbook for advertising concepting and copywriting became the most widely used in the U.S. His weekly column in Advertising Age, “Which Ad Pulled Best?” popularized his research on advertising perception and explained what factors contributed to advertising effectiveness.

In 1987, the American Advertising Federation wanted to present him with its inaugural Distinguished Educator Award and name it the Burton Award. He accepted the award but declined to have it named after himself, saying, “You never know what scoundrels may follow me.” In reality, he was too humble to have the award named after him.

Standing Out: A Fine Line Between ‘Unexpected’ and a Gorilla in a Jock Strap

By Tom Aschauer, Vice President, Executive Creative Director

“Well, that was unexpected.”

In the world of branding, we strive for consistency. We preach over and over again that only through consistency can you build a strong brand. Doing something that your customers would never expect from you breaks the trust you’ve built up with them and sends them scurrying to your competition.

And yet you want your messages to stand out. You want to zig when others are zagging. The last thing you want is for your message to blend in. Right? So you look for something “unexpected.”