Delivering positively stunning results.

There aren’t a lot of posts designed to build the Positivity brand. This isn’t so much a conscious effort, as it is the natural consequence of a business model which only has room for three clients (Two advertising, one entertainment). That said, aided by the efforts and partnership of a lot of other smart people, Positivity has helped Oberto Beef Jerky achieve some pretty remarkable business results in the last three years.

Let’s start with the results.

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Since the advertising campaign’s inception at the start of 2014, Oberto Beef Jerky has seen dramatic increases in market share as well as velocity.

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Over the past twelve months, share has grown 40% across all channels and 67% in convenience and supermarket, where the majority of the product is sold.

Here are a few of the things that helped get us there.

1. Creation of a tagline with nutritional, inspirational and philanthropic extensions.






2. Introduction of a brand campaign built around an iconic character called, “The Little Voice In Your Stomach,” whose job is to deliver sound snacking advice and convey the merits of a protein-rich diet centered around All Natural Oberto Beef Jerky.

3. Traditional media, digital media, social media and PR working in a symbiotic fashion, where each not only compliments, but fuels the other.

Gronk & Sherm Talk About Stuff While Eating Jerky: The original digital series that inspired a special on ESPN, dozens of articles and was tweeted out by the NFL themselves.


Great White: Launched at the start of Shark Week, this video notched nearly half-a-million views, was picked up by and tweeted about by a number of celebrities.

Gronk Brackets: Like other props featured in our marketing, the actual brackets used in our commercial that ran during the Final Four were signed by Rob Gronkowski and given away on our social media channels.

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Jerky Jam: To help bolster retail sales in the New England area, we had Rob Gronkowski lead a dance class and introduce his new touchdown dance, The Jerky Jam. The event was covered by every major local and national sports media outlet.

4. Carefully chosen and managed relationships with celebrity partners who embody the brand, have strong social media followings and embrace the out-of-the-box creative approach we take to content.

5. Constant communication between agency, marketing department, senior leadership and sales.

This probably seems like common sense, but the fact is, at most companies, fiefdoms typically trump inclusion and a mutual understanding of the business goals and realities. At Oberto, the contact between team members is hourly rather than weekly and a culture has been established where everyone from the head of grocery sales to the CEO share their needs and insights. As a result, things get done more quickly and with greater efficiency than is normally the case.

This concludes Positivity’s self-promotion for 2016. And probably, most of 2017.

Different is good.

There are industries that defy convention. Places where heart sometimes trumps logic and madness regularly intermingles with genius. Advertising used to be one of those industries. But folks started getting MBAs, analytics replaced intuition, belts were tightened and, suddenly, the advertising business began to behave a lot like the insurance business. In an effort to prosper in this not-so-brave new world, we all fed the beast. We created new titles, added new offices and touted the power of our network over the potential of our ideas. The dreamers got really good at being responsible and the rebels, well, they became the establishment.

Just under two years ago, I set out to forge a new model. One that mimicked a business consultancy, talent agency or even a personal trainer far more than a traditional ad agency. Some thought it could work. Some thought it couldn’t. Some thought it was a joke. But having been part of teams that handled everything from luxury automobiles to government contracts, I observed that no matter how different the categories, success always came down to the same things. It was always about high-level thinking, the right creative and the right kind of attention to a small group of really good marketing people. I felt all that all these things were achievable without slavishly following the tiny-to-small-to-medium-to-large agency model. In the time since Positivity’s launch and Oberto Beef Jerky’s re-launch, I would argue that a combination of personalized service, creative output and business results has made ours one of the strongest client-agency relationships in the industry.

But the truth is, the model has never been validated outside of Kent, Washington. Not until a couple weeks ago, anyway. At the risk of sounding smarmy, let me tell you why I’m about to start tooting my own horn for the first time in my career over an award—and not even really an award, but a mere finalist certificate.
Oberto Effie Finalist

You see, when Oberto Beef Jerky was recently named one of the four finalists in the Effies “Snacks” category, not only did it put my client in the company of packaged goods giants Mars, Nestle and category leader, Jack Link’s, but it confirmed the effectiveness of the Positivity business model. Because there we were, right alongside very established and very good agencies like DDB, Carmichael Lynch and Dailey. Sure, our respective staffing plans, architectural plans and growth plans couldn’t be more different. But the results were the same; results that place Positivity in the top 1% of what all ad agencies delivered for their clients last year.

Which is starting to sound a lot like boasting or a thinly-veiled attempt to generate new business. And yet, it’s neither. It’s simply an effort to inspire some of the multitude of friends and colleagues I’ve heard complain about the state of the advertising industry to do something about it. If you’re an agency chairman who doesn’t think your business approach is special and unique anymore, create one that is. If you’re a creative director or planner who believes you could do a better job with a half the layers and a third of the employees, go do it. Most of all, if you’re a CMO who is still trying to rationalize a previous decision to hire the ad agency that made you feel safe over the one that made you feel inspired, stop. There are wonderful campaigns to be created and astounding results to be delivered. And as has always been the case throughout history, they likely won’t come from the expected sources.

A Little Inspiration.


And now, a piece that has a bit to do with advertising and a lot more to do with our purpose as human beings and as parents.

Last weekend, I began filming a series of inspirational videos for Oberto Beef Jerky around our tagline, “You get out what you put in.” Most of the time, this slogan speaks to the fact that the performance you get out of your body is directly related to the quality of the food you put in. For these videos though, we were focusing on something bigger — the karmic cycle of how putting good out into the world, often results in good coming back to you.

For the first of these videos, I spent two days with six-year-old Brady Wein, his parents and their extended family, the Brady’s Bunch Lacrosse program. Small for his age, Brady is full of energy, full of life and full of tales from doctor offices and hospitals. You see, he’s been battling leukemia since he was three-months old. As his mom, Rachael, will tell you, Brady has never known what it’s like not to have tubes stuck in him. Or to get painful shots, drink “yucky” medicine or race to the hospital in an ambulance at a moment’s notice. He’s spent days, nights, weeks and holidays in hospital wards. He’s played more with nurses than children his age. He talks about the “port” in his chest as if his condition is so common we should all be familiar.

And yet, I dare you to find a more happy and enthusiastic kid. His parents will say, “That’s just who he is. That’s just Brady.” But it’s more than that. It’s who they’ve helped him become. And it’s not simply that Mike and Rachael quit their jobs and effectively dedicated their lives to being by their son’s side during this long, often heartbreaking journey. It’s that they’ve expressed the words many of us have all too often swallowed. They’ve voiced more “I love you’s” and taught more life lessons in the last six years than most of us will have heard by the time we turn eighty. They relish it all — the laughs, the tears, the temper tantrums. Because Mike and Rachael have come to appreciate just how special a gift life is and how wonderful each moment is with their child. They take nothing for granted.

In the way that the toughest of circumstances seem to birth the most beautiful of results, Brady’s Bunch was born. Equal parts inspiration and personal therapy, Mike formed The Bunch around a photo of Brady, the line, “B Strong” (The similarity to Boston Strong that came years later is not coincidence) and the faith that this organization could somehow keep his son alive. Whether by intention or happenstance, the cornerstone of the program became not the performance on the field, but Mike’s speeches to the players and parents on the Friday night before each tournament began. Speeches that six years later, still seem as cathartic for him as they are motivating for his players. You see, unlike 99% of what you hear from coaches in youth sports, Mike’s (AKA “Papi’s”) speeches have very little to do with lacrosse and even less to do with X’s and O’s. He wants to teach the kids to be winners at life. To appreciate their parents. To value themselves and their teammates. To understand what a gift it is to be able to play a sport, because whether it’s for financial, medical or other reasons, not everyone is lucky enough to get that chance. And so, between the tears and periodic efforts to catch his breath, Mike talks about how character, family and something that typically makes teenage boys very uncomfortable– Love. He explains that if they choose to wear one of the Brady’s Bunch rubber bracelets, they’re not just representing themselves, they’re also representing his son. And with that comes an obligation to try to do the right thing, not just on the field, but off it. He tells them that over the weekend, they’ll win some games, they’ll lose some games and that in the end, the score won’t really matter. What will matter, is that they were good to their parents. That they believed in their teammates. That they were respectful to the referees. And that they picked up the trash on the sideline afterwards.

The speech concluded and as I wiped a tear from my own eye, I looked around the room and saw something you don’t normally witness: fifteen and sixteen-year-old boys crying. And suddenly, it hit me just how rare this all was. I had played sports my entire life and sat in more bleachers and stood on more sidelines watching my kids play than I care to remember. And yet, I had never heard anyone reach young athletes on such a profound level. Sure, there were some good coaches who talked about how we’re all in it together. Who encouraged the players to seize the opportunity and leave it all out on the field. But nobody had opened eyes and hearts like this. Nobody had told them, “You’ll send out what, 300 text messages today? Send one to your mom and tell her you love her. You probably won’t get in trouble for it.”

Gradually, something more enlightening and disturbing hit me — Not only had my boys not heard a speech like this from any of their hundreds of coaches. They hadn’t heard it from their dad, either. Yeah, I spoke to my oldest about the importance of driving to the hole, being unselfish and keeping his composure on the court. And I talked to my youngest about using his left hand more, believing in his natural athletic abilities and taking control of a game when he needed to. But of all the times I praised my sons for a great a move, shot or pass, I don’t recall ever applauding them for helping an opponent to his feet or making the worst kid on the team feel like the best. I never truly used sports as an opportunity to make them better people or an excuse just to tell them how much I loved them.

I’m guessing I’m not alone in these failings.

If you have a son or a daughter in youth athletics, ask yourself how much money you’ve spent on coaches and specialists to perfect your child’s skill, versus how much you’ve spent to help them perfect themselves. If this calculation comes out the way I imagine it will, and if it becomes clear that you don’t have a Mike Wein in your child’s life, find one. And if you can’t find one, become one yourself. Because I guarantee, when high school ends—and I can say this as someone who has both a son in college that’s stopped playing competitive sports and one who is going to continue on at the Division 1 level—every dollar you invested in making your son or daughter a better person will be worth a hundred you invested in making them a better athlete.

The joy of grocery share, increased velocity and reinvention.

If you watch television, you’ve seen it by now. Super Bowl winning cornerback and arguably one of the biggest voices in the NFL, Richard Sherman, is training hard on the football field. Exasperated, he takes a swig of water, only to be chastised by the “little voice in his stomach,” played one of the loudest voices in sports broadcasting, Stephen A. Smith. When Oberto Beef Jerky first ran the ad featuring Sherman and Smith in May, it certainly garnered laughs and attention. However, for the company, it garnered something more important: A bigger size of the market share.
–Forbes, “How Richard Sherman And Stephen A. Smith Helped Oberto Beef Jerky See Significant Growth In 2014″

About a year ago, I took my career and dumped it on its head. I’d like to say it was a carefully calculated move. But like most things in life, I suppose, it was a bit hasty, a bit clumsy and driven at least as much by impulse as by logic. Okay, probably more. While I was busy writing a sitcom for FOX, I got a call inviting me to pitch an account — Oberto Beef Jerky. Which wasn’t anything new. The way I pitched it, though, was. You see, I didn’t have anyone else in the room with me — no planners, creatives, account people or media folks. More importantly though, I didn’t bring any of the baggage I had accumulated over twenty years of running an agency. No running through our list of awards and accomplishments. No carefully orchestrated transitions to other team members. No trying to be something I wasn’t.

Instead, I just laid out why I thought my company, Positivity, might be perfectly suited to their business needs. After all, Oberto didn’t need international resources. They needed high-level strategic and creative leadership that could push them into cultural relevancy. Fortunately, it was the perfect storm, where I made the right presentation to the right people at the right time. It was a gamble for all of us, and yet, we all pushed our chips to the center of the table without hesitation. No contingency plans. There were no nagging doubts. No second guesses.

And so, to have Forbes Magazine write a piece about the success of the campaign we created together is quite possibly the most satisfying experience of my career.

I never thought I’d be more jazzed about a 37% increase in velocity (a term I only learned in the last twelve months) than winning a One Show Pencil. But I am. I truly am.

The fact is that this experience is just more personal. The way we work together is more personal. The war we wage against our competition is more personal. The ups and downs and, ultimately, our success, is just more personal. So yeah, this post about the meteoric growth for Oberto Brands in 2014 is about as self-serving as they come. But it’s also confirmation that our unorthodox marketing model is succeeding at a level few brands can fathom, much less duplicate. And hopefully, that will inspire a few other folks in our industry to launch their own misfit models and encourage a few clients to think about which marketing partner might offer the biggest upside instead of merely the least risk.

Read the Forbes article here.

Why trying to sound smart may make you look dumb.

It’s a big meeting. You’re either trying to win the business, trying to show you deserve to keep the business, trying to sell a campaign, or all three. So you want to sound smart. Here’s why I’d like to suggest that the very effort to seem eager and intelligent may not be having the desired effect on your audience. And that like a lot of behaviors you’ve been taught, “Sounding Smart” could well be overrated.

Somewhere along the way unspoken yet understood rules of how the agency is supposed to behave in meetings were formed. These rules, which apply to everything from pitches to conference calls, have been passed down as “best practices” by agency people through the years. Somewhere along the way, the rules solidified into something approximating absolute truth. Which is unfortunate.
Now, I’m not saying that the way agencies conduct business is wrong. Hardly. But due to the nature of my new company, I now have the luxury of hearing at least as many pitches as I deliver. And I’m more often sitting beside my clients than across from them. And what I can tell you, is that there are certain accepted—heck, encouraged– agency behaviors I believe are self defeating. And chances are, you have a few people on your staff exhibiting these behaviors on a regular basis. In fact, you may even be applauding them.

The first of these actions is what I’ll call, Five-Hour Energy Enthusiasm. You know who I’m talking about—the man or woman who hits the conference room like an NFL linebacker sprinting out of the tunnel. They want you to know just how pumped they are about this project. In fact, they’ll often say, “We’re so pumped about this project!” This message is typically delivered in a voice that’s an octave too high and more than a few decibels too loud. You’re excited to have work—we get it. It’s the price of admission. But it’s not that this tenor is unnecessary. It’s more that it comes off as either insincere or, worse yet, desperate. Marketing executives want to work with folks who have some level of calm– People who expect to be included in high-level strategic meetings and are more eager to show what they can do than they are to convey their level of enthusiasm for being allowed into the room.

The second self-defeating behavior, is the need to share one’s alleged expertise early and often. Don’t get me wrong, if your agency does not display a high level of competency, there’s really no reason to hire you. But the analysis you came up during your two weeks thinking about the business is often cursory and simplistic, even when delivered in an English accent. And those brilliant ideas you pinned on the wall in the war room—There’s an excellent chance the client has already seen them. Possibly twenty minutes ago, when the last agency made their pitch. Which is okay. The only time you look bad, is when you preen and pontificate about how brilliant your stuff is. Present it confidently but casually, and the power of the idea will come through without all the baggage. Plus, if there’s a tie, your agency will get the nod because you behaved like you have lots of ideas this good.

Now, with the proliferation of new and proprietary technology and media, there is a need to have someone in the room who can explain things like best practices when creating an asset for an Android-based operating system or what type of functionality to build into a social program for maximum pass along. The problem is, experts tend to spend a lot of time talking and very little listening. Which means that somewhere around the twentieth minute of any given meeting, they typically go from informed colleague to pain-in-the-ass showboater. If you feel the need to include someone on the team who is steeped in particularly relevant knowledge, give them clear parameters as to what you do and don’t want from them in the meeting. And remind them that a client who leaves wanting more is way better than one who leaves wanting earplugs.

The final behavior worth noting and avoiding, is what I’ll call, “Oh yeah, we do that, too Syndrome.” Alec Baldwin’s “Always Be Closing” speech in Glengarry, Glen Ross is probably my single favorite piece of movie dialogue ever written. But it’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing in today’s market, despite the obvious temptations. Look, I understand that industry lines have become blurred and that your company has both the skills and resources to take a larger piece of any given marketing pie than the one you’ve currently got. But before you try to expand the size of your wedge, first, ask yourself, “Are we honestly best-in-class in the new area we’re trying to colonize?” If the answer is, “No,” focus on doing your part really, really well, before you try to drink someone else’s milkshake. (For those keeping score, that’s two movie and two food references in this paragraph.) Second, consider how you’re coming off to the client. Chances are, you’re not letting them know you’re “eager to take on more” as you’ve rationalized. Instead, you’re communicating that you’re not a good team player and more interested in lining your pockets than doing what’s best for the business. It’s possible that someone will also come to the conclusion that you’re delusional about your group’s abilities. (In my Ground Zero days, I remember trying to convince clients that yes, of course, we had international resources. It made my pancreas hurt to say it and I always left feeling silly and disingenuous. Which is exactly how we looked, I’m sure.)

One closing thought: I’ve found the smartest people in any given room are rarely the ones jumping at the bit to show their hand. True wisdom comes from listening, processing, asking questions and, ultimately, forming opinions. So, no matter where you got your masters or how many tech or creative conferences you attended last month, don’t be in such a rush to display the grandiosity of your thinking. What comes out of your mouth in a first meeting may not be quite as genius-laden as you think and everyone will appreciate your insights even more if they build off the knowledge that can only be acquired with time and connections to the people sitting on the other side of the table.

Mary Warlick, in a One Show category of her own

Needless to say, our industry is changing pretty rapidly. Which got me thinking about creative people who were big names when I first entered the business and have somehow managed to remain relevant today. Like any creative profession, it’s not easy to maintain a career for more than a decade. Much less two. So hats off to the likes of Jeff Goodby, Dan Wieden, Gerry Graf, Dave Lubars, John Butler and others who are as vital to the business today as they were in early nineties.
What’s interesting though, is that the person who has remained at the creative forefront more than any other during this period, is not a copywriter or art director. It’s the head of the One Show, Mary Warlick. I first met Mary in 1988, when I tried to coax her into telling me which form of metal was used to cast my first One Show Pencil. (She never told me by the way.) Since then, I’ve spent countless hours with her in different hotel ballrooms in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and LA staring at ads, attended the premier of her film, Art & Copy and become very good friends. Those of you who’ve met Mary along the way, either as part of a judging staff or through a handshake following a walk across the Lincoln Center stage, know she always carries herself with grace, humility and an unwavering appreciation for the creative product and the people charged with developing it.

So I decided I was going to interview Mary. Which I did, poorly. So I redid the interview, this time, asking questions that had less to do with what she’s accomplished and more to do with what she thinks. Here are the results. As always, I’ll just have to wait to discover whether the piece earns gold, silver, bronze or merit.

Court: How long have you been with The One Club and how did you come into this job?

Mary: I’ve been with the One Club since 1989. I was working as a creative manager with Levine, Huntley, Schmidt and Beaver – the late great agency that did a lot of creative work for Subaru and Maidenform and Citizen’s watch. And Allan Beaver was president of The One Club at the time. The position of director opened up and he asked me if I’d be interested in it. I went and met Angela Dominguez, who was then the current director, and you know, asked about the job, and well, I said, “It has a gallery, it’s advertising and its in New York and I think I could do something with this.”

Court: How has the organization changed over the years?

Mary: The organization is what I am most proud of. We have embraced content. We were able to with the support of the board of directors to make a film, Art & Copy documentary that premiered in Sundance in 2009 and then we later sold the film to Independent Lens and it aired on PBS and we were awarded an Emmy that year in 2010. So that was pretty exciting. We have developed a whole education department in the years past. They would do the occasional portfolio reviews but now we have a whole scholarship program built in and really fostering the next generation of advertising professional. Then a couple of years ago, we really upgraded our diversity initiative – a diversity outreach. And we’ve done, I mean, our signature event is Where Are All The Black People like in it’s 5th year now or 4th year. Which is specifically a Create A Job fair for people of multi-cultural backgrounds. And were also doing a creative boot camps around the country– reaching out to young people in community colleges that may not have thought about advertising or design as a career.

Court: How have you changed?

Mary: I hope I’ve gotten a little mellower. I know I still obsess about details, how things are done. I want everything to be done stylishly. I want everything to be top shelf. But I hope that I don’t sweat the small stuff sometimes. I have been able to let go and delegate. I’ve got Emily Isovitsch as managing director of The One Show, and she and her staff pretty much organize the logistics of judging. We have a whole computerized digital judging system which has been developed under Kevin Swanepoel and the other people working here. So I’ve been able to let go of things like that. But I still, I guess, I haven’t changed. I still believe in the work, I still believe in the integrity of the judging process and they always complain and want to like change things. And I said, well, this is The One Show, this is the way we do it. This is the One Show that you’ve all come to fall in love and this is the way we do it. In a sense, do it with a bit of a firm hand. But I want to say, I hope I’ve become mellower.

Court: I think all of us hopefully feel like we’ve become mellower.

Mary: Court, you’ve judged from the very beginning and you’ve also judged just this past year. So you have had a good eye on the evolution of the show. And I think that you’ll see that some things are very similar than what they used to be and other things have changed.

Court: Speaking of which, I heard rumor that one time you were both annoyed that I rallied Mike Shine, Ty Montague and some other judges to stay out drinking little later than we should have and impressed I sent you a thank you note after the judging. Do you confirm or deny theses allegations?

Mary: I think I can confirm both of them. Back to how have I changed and how I have not changed, Court, I would get livid when judges would stay out too late and then show up next day hungover. The reason why, is that these same judges would not show up for a new business pitch hungover. And I ask them to give the same sort of respect to what I do for a living that they would to their client.

Court: That’s good insight.

Mary: I don’t mean to be prudish, but people have invested a tremendous amount of creative energy, financial resources and staff time into entering The One Show. And The One Show is respected for certain reasons—above all, the integrity of our judging.

Court: So who’s your favorite judge of all time?

Mary: You!

Court: Present company excluded.

Mary: Well, I have to think about that and get back to you. And this is the truth, Court, just in general, without naming names. When it used to be a lot of young hotshots who’d come from young hotshot agencies in the US, they had a sense of entitlement. Where, when you would invite European judges, they were very respectful of The One Show. And very often, I did get thank you notes – handwritten thank you notes from European or South American judges. And that’s why I was so impressed when you wrote your thank you note. Because the European’s tend to be a little more – “I’m judging The One Show, this is really important.” As opposed to a lot of Americans who have thought – “I finally get to judge The One Show, it’s way overdue.”

Court: You worked with a lot of creative people through the years. What is your favorite thing about creative people?

Mary: My favorite thing about creative people, is that they are smart. They get it. They are not one-dimensional. Creative people– whether they are art directors or copywriters, from Argentina, London or Minneapolis or Los Angeles–are quick on the uptake. They are well-versed. To me, that’s what the industry is about. And that’s why I love the creative side of the industry. Because of the people and the relationship you build over the years and I think they are really a super, super bunch of people.

Court: Do you think creative people are treated with the same level of respect by clients these days they were previously?

Mary: I couldn’t say that, because I am not in on the client meetings. I don’t know if anybody is treated as well as they were 20 years ago. Whether it’s politics or anything. There has been a kind of a lowering of gentility almost. I don’t know if it’s reality shows that has lowered the bar of what’s acceptable to say to people. I don’t know. It’s a good question though.

Court: That’s an interesting observation, because clients need the breakthrough creative more than they ever have. And yet there is this sense of commoditization and people just kind of dismissing what goes into producing that sort of work.

Mary: It’s hard to do good creative. I mean, I remember hearing Cliff Freeman say very seriously, “It’s hard to be funny. It’s really hard.” They do need breakthrough creative. And because there has been such lowering of the bar, breakthrough creative is more difficult to do now than it ever was. But it’s what I love when we produce The One Show– that small 6% of the work that we see that rises to the top. It really rises to the top.

Court: So, if there was any one piece of work you’ve seen through all the One Shows you could put your name on, what would it be?

Mary: Well, some of the Nike work. The Nike print campaign with Janet Champ and Charlotte Moore. Certainly, that Keep Walking campaign for Johnny Walker Scotch done by BBH a couple of years ago. The Guinness work from London and the “Back to the farm” piece Chipotle produced last year. There’s some wonderful stuff. You know, wonderful stuff.

Court: It’s interesting because you span quite a range of time just in that description of work. And I was thinking that it’s so difficult to stay relevant in this business for any extended period of time, and yet, you’ve managed to on the cutting edge for a series of decades.

Mary: Thank you. It’s the juries. You’ve got to keep the juries fresh. You’ve got to keep people that have perspective who’ve been in the business for a while and mix them with people doing cutting edge stuff. Everybody has equal voice. We generally don’t have the chairman of the jury for One Show. I mean, we do in Design and we do in Interactive because that work has to be so the judging has to be kind of managed. But in One Show, we generally haven’t had a jury chair, because everybody has an equal vote and that’s what keeps it relevant.

Court: Tell me a little about Art &Copy and what it represented not just as film but as a statement about The One Club.

Mary: Art & Copy, I have to say that was my – what is the moment? That was my “AHA!” moment in The One Club. It started out as a series of interviews with people in the creative Hall of Fame. I mean, the people who worked on it, Doug Pray, the director, Kirk Souder, Michael Nadeau Jimmy Greenway– they were able to pull this series of interviews together into a magical narrative of creative work from the 60’s creative revolution up until 2009. That is sort of what The One Club is about—art and copy. It’s creative excellence. It’s exciting. It’s, “When you do it right, it can really be great.”

Court: Having dabbled a bit in the entertainment world myself, I’m always telling anyone who’ll listen that I believe ad people are exceedingly well-suited to write features, TV shows and other long-form content. Do you feel the same way?

Mary: Absolutely. We have a couple content projects in the works right now. One of them we’ve been given a green light from PBS for a 3-part television series that we are working on about creative solutions to bigger worldwide problems. I think advertising people are trained to be quick, in the sense that they can communicate an idea in an elevator pitch. I mean, that’s what creative people do in advertising industry and they know how to bring in different resources, too. And that’s exciting.

Court: I find that they also think about the audience a lot more than typical entertainment writers, who think first and foremost about their projects and what they want to say.

Mary: Oh, of course, that’s a very good point. Because people in advertising can sculpt projects and fashion projects to suit the audience without pandering to them. That’s what happens in entertainment today– A lot of pandering going on. And in advertising, you don’t have the luxury of pandering. You’ve got to be on point.

Court: Over the years, my attitude toward creative directing has changed, to where I now feel like my job is to provide inspiration at least as much as it is to evaluate work. What would you say to inspire this next generation of advertising?

Mary: I think this is an industry where you can really produce some good work and you could have some fun and you can work with good people. And you can come away from the end of the day saying, “I made this.” You can have a product at the end of the day. You’re not just pushing numbers. You are creating. I mean, if you are creative, you have to make some things. Whether that something is a 90-minute full feature film or a 90-second long format or if it’s a killer app. I mean, it’s making things that keeps people going. I think as far as creative people, go—and, granted, this sort of validates the One Show—they need to hear the applause. They need reinforcement. Because you can work year after year, but unless somebody acknowledges you and says that’s really great, I want to share that with somebody else, you can’t flourish. I remember interviewing Rich Silverstein talking about making Billy Balls for Hal Riney. And the first time he saw it in a big stadium – a baseball stadium with several thousand people raising their hands. He said that was the first time I understood that I could affect thousands of people at one time. And people whose commercials run on the Super Bowl experience the same sort of group excitement.

Court: You’re right, as a creative person, I find I have this almost guttural need to make things and put them out into the world. It’s integrally tied to my personal happiness.

Mary: Sharing it with other people. A part of you that’s connecting with humanity. And if it’s associated with a product, it’s okay. That’s helping the society that’s moving the economy forward and that’s okay.

It’s About Focus

On set and in the stomach with Andre Pontes (Brand Manager), Bob Rice (film director), Tom Ennis (CEO), Greg Yahn  (Chief Marketing Officer), Mike Ginal (Marketing Director) and myself holding giant fake piece of All Natural Oberto Beef Jerky.

On set and in the stomach with Andre Pontes (Brand Manager), Bob Rice (film director), Tom Ennis (CEO), Greg Yahn (Chief Marketing Officer), Mike Ginal (Marketing Director) and myself holding giant fake piece of All Natural Oberto Beef Jerky.

“It makes you sharper.” That’s what my real estate buddy said about operating on the precipice of financial peril. And he’s right. Six months into my new gig, I feel like I have less security and more good ideas, insights and clarity than I have in a decade.

But it’s not about fear, it’s about focus. It’s about waking up every morning knowing exactly what you need to do to be successful. Which, due to a myriad of pressures and influences, is something I believe has largely been lost in the advertising business. I know, because for the last twenty years, I was a perpetual multi-tasker across multiple brands. And here’s what I can tell you—I concentrated more on the big clients than the little ones and my greatest efforts were spent not on the clients we had, but on the ones we didn’t. That’s the way the system was set up. Now, you can say that I was inefficient or that I had my priorities in the wrong place. But the fact is, my behavior was emblematic of what most people do in my role. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who works at a multinational how much of their time the Chief Creative Officer bills. It’ll be somewhere between 200-300%.

It’s an epidemic. And clients are just as much to blame as agencies. You simply can’t ask an agency to participate in a four-month review, where they’re tasked with not with just providing an opinion on a representative business problem, but solving every single issue facing the brand. If you choose to make participating agencies endure this experience at the expense of their paying clients, you should expect them to do the same for another brand less than a year down the road.

On the other hand, my Oberto clients know that while I may field calls from prospective clients, I am not going to spend time actively soliciting them, nor will I “pitch” their business. If you checked my time sheets, this simple act will effectively give me back about half of my man hours. Eliminate commuting, internal staffing issues, performance evaluations, company finance meetings, offsite retreats, email chains and “quick regroups,” and I’ve suddenly got more hours to dedicate to my client in a week than I previously had in a month.

Granted, on any given day, there’s still plenty of multi-tasking. Today I jumped from a website discussion, to brainstorming advertorial piece with Outside Magazine and Horizon Media to writing a radio spot for Pandora. All before noon. The difference, is that all these efforts were focused on a single brand, with one initiative actually helping to inform the thinking on the others. Especially since they all revolve in some way around the new tagline I wrote, “You get out what you put in.” Which means that everything I’m involved with is an opportunity to come up with ideas.

And it’s a funny thing, when you’re bringing your clients ideas rather than simply responding to their requests, they tend to be a lot more interested in what you have to say. Because now, you’re not just an ad guy who spends an alleged portion of his or her time overseeing the creative for their brand. Now, you’re a catalyst. You’re invested, hungry and active. And every brand could use someone like that as part of the marketing team.

Over the years, different companies have consciously or unconsciously placed a value on my involvement in their business. And that value has probably ranged from “Totally expendable” to “Absolutely essential.” Due the emphasis on creativity and longevity of our relationship, I believe ESPN and The State Of California Anti-Tobacco group would both say I was pretty integral to what they were doing. But in the 29 combined years I spent working with them, nobody ever paid me the compliment I received in my fourth month on the job with Oberto. I was walking the halls of their headquarters last week, when a guy who just joined the marketing team stopped me and said, “Nice to meet you. Our CMO says you’re the best hire in the history of the company.”

I could try to convince myself that this response was due to my years of experience or some God-given talent. But if I’m honest, I think it’s because I stopped being an agency CCO and started being someone who rejoices in the fact that, for better or worse, my future is tied to a single ad client. And I’ll be damned if it’s not going to be for better.

It’s time for Positivity.

The world has changed. You hear people in advertising say that a lot. Typically, this proclamation is followed by some diatribe about how social conversations are key to a brand’s success or how real-time analytics are essential for the modern brand. But I believe our world has changed on a more fundamental level than whether Twitter is more “sticky” than cable.

I believe our world used to be about possibility. No dream was too big, no goal too great, no premise too outlandish. But over time, the world changed. “What if?” went from being about possibility to being about risk management. Everyone from lawyers to marketing directors to agency owners started to wonder, “What if the worst case scenario happens?”

And then, they went about protecting themselves.

By copying rather than creating. By saying “yes,” when they desperately wanted to exclaim, “No!” By trying to be something to everyone, rather than everything to someone.

Well, whether it was the twenty years I spent running an agency or all the hour-long discussions I had with marketing director friends about the dysfunction of the system, I decided there had to be a better model. And so, Positivity was born. A place that celebrates the possibilities this world offers and gives a select few brands and studios the opportunity to create work that is compelling and fulfilling on a human level. Stuff that makes people think, feel and buy.

Positivity is designed to have a profound impact on brands without all the usual trappings of a typical client-agency relationship. With Positivity, brands pay for talent and thought leadership rather than overhead and staff who may or may not be the best fit for the immediate task at hand. Spearheaded by myself and my experience building numerous brands, writing movies, TV shows and branded content, we employ a combination of elite talent on a project-by-project basis, according to what each job requires.

In the two years since its launch, Positivity has been directly credited with massive sales, share and velocity gains as proven by Simmons data, Nielsen data and the Effie Awards.

The world has changed. And if you’re someone who’s more taken with potential than precaution, there are a whole lot of possibilities out there. Let’s go seize a few.