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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 12.53.59 PM









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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 12.54.18 PM









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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 3.58.15 PM








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.

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.

Fan Up

me and my son, Chase, who was a PA on the shoot

It’s 2:03 a.m. and 5,000 sweaty, rabid, Texas A&M football fans at Kyle Field have just unleashed a collective scream that would make you think they’ve just won the BCS national championship. The funny thing is, these kids aren’t here to cheer on their team. They’re here to cheer on the filming of our commercial. See the video here: Midnight Yell

Make no mistake about it, these are not consumers. These are fans. Fans of the Aggies. Fans of college football. And fans of our program, College GameDay on ESPN. From the Making of College GameDay Campaign TV show on ESPNU

The question is, how did we work them into this state? Was it happenstance, or was it a carefully orchestrated effort on our part to play into the motivations of the fan?

And if the latter, are there learnings that can be applied not just to other sports shows, but to brands across any category? In short, is it possible to turn people from “consumers” of a product to “fans” of a brand?

To answer that, we have to go back to the source. Because you can’t understand the behavior of the fan until you understand the anatomy of the fan.

Over the years at WDCW we’ve worked on a number of assignments where fan support was not only valuable, but essential to a brand’s survival. These include adidas, ESPN, Michael Jordan Cologne, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Seattle SuperSonics, Teva Sports Sandals, Yamaha WaveRunners, Cobra Golf and Clif Bar.

While the brands themselves and the business challenges they faced were unique, there were clear commonalities among the various fan bases and the way they thought about themselves, their teams and the media that covered them. By analyzing and deconstructing these beliefs and behaviors, marketers can imbue a brand with triggers that will motivate fandom.

The first thing to understand is that fandom is not rational. There is nothing logical or even reasonable about cheering for a group of men or women simply because of the shirt they’re wearing. If there were, I’d be screaming wildly for anyone I noticed in a denim button-down. Given the irrational nature of fandom, it only makes sense then that to get through to this individual, your message must be emotional rather than logical. And yet, because most marketers are so hyper-concerned that consumers understand their communication, they undervalue the importance of whether the piece actually affects them. They over-explain, dumb down and speak to the brain instead of the heart.

If you really want to win a fan’s heart, embrace the absurdity of the situation. Let them know you applaud their conviction, their warped priorities and their occasional meltdowns. We’ve gone to great lengths to demonstrate that ESPN is not merely a purveyor of sport, but a crazed fan. One of our most successful campaigns over the last 19 years was based around a character called, “The Rick.” He’s a sports fan in his early thirties who still lives at home, treats useless sports items like priceless memorabilia and always introduces himself by saying, “My name is Rick but everyone calls me, ‘The Rick’.” The reason The Rick was such a hit with viewers, hosts and professional athletes is that every sports fan could see a little piece of themself in him and a lot of someone else they grew up with. Remember, a character doesn’t have to be aspirational to be effective. He or she just has to exemplify that emotional commitment to the product.

Another thing that’s inherently tied to fandom is immediacy. Fans have always wanted instant updates on scores. Now, they also expect to get injury reports, trade rumors, tweets and general scuttlebutt in real time.

If a brand appears to be on top of the latest news, it reinforces the perception that it’s equally caught up in the excitement, which, as I mentioned, creates that heart-to-heart connection with the fan. It also allows the brand to communicate with fans at the point when emotions are highest. I’m no psychologist, but I’m willing to bet that just as it is with soldiers on the battlefield, with sports teams, this heightened emotional state is where true bonds are made. When Manny Ramirez was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, we placed one hundred single red socks in various laundromat dryers around Southern California. Each had a tag on it that said, “Lose a sock, Boston? ESPN welcomes Manny to the Dodgers.” By just taking some photos of the socks in dryers and posting them online, we began a viral movement that spread all the way back to Boston by the next morning, where the headline on read, “ESPN Punks Red Sox.”

The expression “God is in the details” is never more relevant than it is in sports. Each game is comprised of a million little subtleties, from snap counts to hand signals. This extends into the bleachers and beyond, whether it’s the smell of the hot dogs or the way the crowd signs “Sweet Caroline” after the top of the seventh inning. Which is why it’s important to remember in your attempt to capture the bigness of the moment, not to lose sight of the little things that make it so special.

Add to this the fact that fandom is inherently competitive. You  second-guess the manager. You bemoan a bad call or a bad coaching decision. But most of all, you want to demonstrate that you know more than another fan, whether that fan is friend or adversary. And details are your ammunition — batting averages, field-goal percentage, trade rumors, the names of future prospects, and the understanding of rituals, traditions and expressions. Fans always want more and more proprietary information about their favorite teams and players. When a marketer displays an understanding of these subtleties, they communicate an understanding of the fan as an individual.


Finally, more than anything else, the sports fan wants to play a role. This is nothing new. For ages there have been football stadiums where the crowd is affectionately referred to as the 12th Man, the Cameron Crazies or the Black Hole. Add to this the Jumbotron imploring everyone to “Make some noise!”, sports talk-radio programs around the world, and the proliferation of fantasy sports and it’s obvious fandom is not merely about watching, but about participating.

Thanks to the Internet, fans don’t have to wait till game day to express their opinions, share their passions or challenge other fans. Not only that, they can personalize and promote our ad campaigns in ways we never could have imagined even five years ago. The key is to not merely take advantage of these opportunities as they arise, but to bake them into your marketing plan from the outset.

Which brings us back to why the voices of 5,000 rabid Texas A&M fans are currently ringing in my ears. You see, in addition to the eight commercials/viral videos we created for GameDay, this year, we decided to create a Facebook app and allow fans to vote for whichever Division 1 school they wanted to see us feature in our advertising. The GameDay crew would then travel to the school that got the most votes, where we’d shoot an additional spot. We got roughly a million people to vote online, mentions on most every participating school’s website and blogs, a good deal of celebrity involvement and coverage on a number of television networks and radio stations. (Particularly in Texas and Nebraska — the schools that fought tooth and nail till the end.) We also got the opportunity to bring 5,000 people onto our set. People who turned our commercial shoot into a news event and who will go on to tweet, blog and brag about their involvement. All because we simply left space for the fan to affect our communications rather than simply enjoy them.

In the same way that lessons we learn in a classroom can be applied to life, the stuff that motivates sports fans can be used to stir and evangelize other consumers. Just remember to feed into their passions, dial up the emotional content, stay current and leave room for the folks who buy your product to affect and personalize your communications. If you do, you’ll generate enough fans to be able to do “The Wave” in a major football stadium. Which, ironically, might not be a bad idea for our next ESPN effort.


Agencies Implore Clients To ‘Do Something Big,’ But Here’s Why They Need To Do It For Themselves

As seen on

There’s no more common refrain in marketing than that of the ad agency imploring the client to “do something big.” And yet, how many agencies do you recall actually doing something big? I’m not talking about big commercials, stunts or social programs for the brands they handle. But something big for themselves.

Looking back, I can’t tell you I expected our project to generate 55 million media impressions. Not even close. But I did know that it had the structure, heart and drama to make an impact. And that if executed properly, with a little of the luck that seems to befall all good documentaries, it had the potential to profoundly affect people.

It started with a simple, ad-like proposition: In a world of lines that divide us as people, let’s create one that brings us together. The first question was where to place this line that would unite? I chose the gymnasium floor at Compton High School—specifically the free-throw line, a decision based partly on the fact that my son, Chase, had played basketball with boys from Compton since he was young and partly due to an observation that Compton was probably the most rebuked and vilified community I had ever seen.

The first task was to work out the specifics of the program, which centered around a free-throw contest where the winner would receive at $40,000 scholarship and each of the seven runner’s up a $1,000 scholarship. The key was to ensure that the contest came off as a platform for these amazing kids to share their stories, rather than just another reward for athletic skill. My hope was that during our two weeks of filming, what began as competition would gradually become cooperation. Ultimately, the level of support and kindness these eight boys and girls showed one another rose to a level I could have never even imagined, as those of you who watch the film will inevitably see.

The final hurdle, if you don’t count lawyers, was money and resources. I turned to my agency, WDCW, for both. After an initial round of friends and family fundraising, we were still in desperate need of cash and skilled people to bring the project to life and adequately reward all the contestants. There was no way to justify these investments from a P&L standpoint. There was only the promise of doing something that felt important.  And I will be forever proud of my partners for believing that was enough.

You may have heard what transpired during and after the event, as it became the lead story on Yahoo News and one of Bing’s “Decisions That Shaped 2011.” But if not, it’s all here in the eight-minute TED Talk I recently delivered.

And the film, titled “Free Throw,” was just released on Apple iTunes, Amazon, Video On Demand and through our website,

Ultimately, the size and value of what we accomplished is better judged by someone other than myself. But as I’ve watched this line go from metaphor to a reality, I can say that, personally, I will feel less hypocritical next time I go to one of our clients and ask them to “do something big.”


The moment.

In addition to the obvious, “Seeing my children be born,” I realized last night that I’ve had the good fortune to experience some pretty cool things.

I got to walk the red carpet at Mann’s Chinese in front of Will Ferrell at the premiere of my movie, Old School, while a bunch of college kids on either side went nuts. At the time, my heart was beating so fast that I had to go to the bathroom and throw water on my face before I took my seat because I thought I might pass out.

I got to stand on the coast of Nova Scotia with Colm Meaney and my entire family as the director, Adam Massey, yelled, “Action!” on my independent film, a Lobster Tale, after ten years of watching the script fall in and out of “option.”

And just last month, I got to share the Audience Award for our film, Free Throw, won with about a hundred of my high school, college and work friends at the Boston Film Festival.

But I think the single most satisfying moment of my life took place two days ago at the Manhattan Beach TEDx event, Journey To Purpose.

It was partly being asked to be part of a dais of that included everything from a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, to the former ambassador of Uruguay, to someone who works with NASA’s aerospace and science technology. This group was so inspiring, yet humbling, and I couldn’t help but feel like a kid who had snuck into the party through a back door that some dishwasher accidentally left ajar while he was on a smoke break.

It was partly knowing that I was able to fight through my nerves and use my eight-and-a-half minutes to make a presentation that lived up to what I rehearsed in front of my dog. (I can’t tell you how intimidating it is to have no cue cards, multiple cameras, four hundred people and a giant digital clock that is forever counting closer and closer to “zero” from the moment you take the stage.)

Mostly though, it was simply realizing that this project that meant so much to me had, indeed, struck a universal chord. People laughed. People cried. And to my amazement, when I left the stage, they all stood and applauded. Walking back onto that stage was one of the strangest, most wonderful, out-of-body experiences I have ever had.

Thank you to John, Marla, Denise and everyone who helped make it a reality. It’s something I will genuinely never, ever forget.

Sign Of the Times?


About six months ago, I became intrigued with a group of people in our industry I had never thought much about— sign spinners. So one day on my morning commute, I decided to pull over and talk with one of them. Which inspired me to talk to another twenty. Which inspired me to get out on the street and try it myself. Which resulted in the article below that ran in the Los Angeles Business Journal last weekend. I hope you enjoy it.

Proof that Court took to the streets: the documented experience.

To read the full article, click here.

What Brad Pitt Taught Me About Creative Directing

I’ve known a lot of creative directors in my time. And the one thing we all have in common, is that at one time in our career, we were certain that our value was tied to our ability to sift through a mound of ideas, identify the ones with potential and help turn them into great campaigns. I used to think this way, and am pretty sure my partner, Tracy, did too. Heck, who doesn’t want to think that their personal taste, experience and certain je ne sais quoi are integral to the creation of every great campaign that comes out of the building? And don’t get me wrong, a good creative director can and should recognize the potential in an idea and be able to help steer it towards its finest iteration.

But, if you took a “Moneyball”-like approach to creativity and eliminated all the subjectivity and romantic notions about creative leadership, what would you find has the greatest impact on creative output? (For those who haven’t seen or read “Moneyball,” it’s an approach to baseball espoused by Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane, who stopped focusing o more subjective qualities such as speed, quickness, arm strength, hitting ability and mental toughness and instead, focused almost exclusively on simple on-base percentage.) Would it be the creative director’s ability to see and develop the big idea. Or would it be something else?

I would argue that in an industry that’s more driven by technology than ever before and spread across a number of disciplines that require more specialization than ever before, there can no longer be a single keeper of the creative flame. A creative director may be great at storytelling or great at digital or great at experiential, but he or she is invariably not the single best, brightest, most informed individual in the building on every possible initiative that will require creative thinking.

So if it’s not the keen insight and direction of the creative director that most directly leads to breakthrough creative work, what is it?

Continue reading

Bubbles 2

I was going through some old work this week for one of our new pitches and I came across a spot I hadn’t watched in a while. It was for the California Department of Health Services anti-tobacco initiative. And it was inauspiciously named, “Bubbles 2.”

Of all the spots I’ve been part of, this is maybe the one that means the most to me.

Not because it was the best. Don’t get me wrong, I always liked the original spot, entitled, “Bubbles,” simply because it was the only positive anti-tobacco ad I’ve ever seen, much less been part of. Like most sequels, “Bubbles 2″ had a little more action. A few more locations. And a bigger ending. But that’s not what made it remarkable. What made it special, was the fact that it was written by my friend and art director, Shawn Brown. Without the use of his arms or legs.

Continue reading