Category Archives: Perspectives

a lesson in simplicity

A few bare-shouldered days, the first dapples of pollen along my windshield’s edge, the ammonia-laced scent of Windex… these are spring’s true signifiers.

The urge to spring clean is perhaps the most instantaneous, the most bewildering effect of spring’s first blush. Through the winter, I make peace with the disorder of my desk and closets. Stray papers and forgotten tchotchkes go unnoticed, or perhaps excused as yet another layer of insulation against the cold. It’s only when the season turns and the evening light lingers that the charming disorder is illuminated for what it really is—a mess in dire need of fixing.

In my own march toward madness, clothes are boxed for donation, surfaces scrubbed, shelves dismantled, dusted, rearranged. And so it happened that I found myself deep in the dust of college keepsakes last night.

Between empty folders, old photographs and half-filled composition books, there it was: one thick, two-inch binder containing every upper-level English lit paper I had ever written. Including one particular critical theory essay with the following comment scrawled toward the bottom:

There’s a kind of reliance here on your own good writing that both saves your essay and prevents you from examining the question more tellingly.

Put another way, “If your sentences weren’t quite so prettily strung together, you’d be in a heap of shit.”

I’ve always been particularly adept at manipulating language. I love the way crepuscular crinkles and ameliorate stretches like taffy. I love the crests and troughs of English, the fussiness of its rules, and the ability of well-placed punctuation to lend starch to a sentence. I know how to use these rhythms to my advantage. What I like to forget is that all those lovely syllables should add to a meaningful thesis.

As we work our way through no small number of annual report assignments, this reminder to examine the challenge at hand couldn’t come at a better time. It would be easy enough to write a few “Look at all we accomplished!” pages on behalf of our clients. But to accurately put the year in review, to tell a story unencumbered by needless superlatives and bloated prose, takes a little more effort. It takes an unsentimental eye for what’s worth keeping and what doesn’t need to be there. And, maybe, just a little seasonal zeal.

As for all those old essays, professors’ comments scribbled down margins and in between paragraphs, I think those I may just keep.

The Power of No

Guinness, the iconic brand of Irish stout launched a blonde lager brewed in America. The brand’s roots date from 1759, the tone of its witty advertising initiated in 1794 and the “Guinness is good for you” tag line is over 80 years old.

I believe one of the most powerful brands in the world has just sacrificed itself at the altar of more. Sadly, we see it all the time. No brand wants to inhibit growth; therefore, no company wants to exclude a potential customer.

To Guinness, finding any way to increase sales in the US trumped its heritage, product niche and brand equity.

We believe that sometimes, companies need to say no. That means knowing:
a) What you stand for
b) The value of your brand
c) What you are unwilling to do

Guinness will likely have some success with its US blonde lager. In the short term, it may even prove a good move. Long term, my bet is that they’ll regret it. Riggs Partners believes in longevity, being true to yourself, and being true to your customer. If you’re struggling with short-term gain versus long-term value, give us a call.

A Vibrant Spirit

I was making my way through the rows of booksellers at last year’s South Carolina Book Festival when I saw a familiar face at a booth just to my right. The smile was unequivocally Marvin Chernoff—broad, joyful, genuine—and I walked closer to discover he was promoting a recently released book he’d written about the ad industry. I bought a copy and told him I’d be honored if he would sign it.

I don’t know that we’ve officially ever met, I said as he wrote. But I’d like to tell you something. Not only are you responsible for the development of an entire creative class in Columbia—but every person I know who ever worked for you continues to hold you in the highest regard. Every single one. I aspire to that. And I thank you.

He smiled again, and then said something funny and self-deprecating. I walked away, my new book in hand, and thought how deeply I regret never knowing him well, how I wish I’d had the opportunity—like so many talented ad folks who have done and continue to do great work—how I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn from this trailblazer, a man fearless and committed. Marvin Chernoff served this community, the agency he founded, and every person who ever had the honor of working with him with great aplomb. How the world will miss his vision and passion. But how lucky we are his indomitable spirit will live on in the many, many lives he shaped.

Camera Ready

It’s not often we get the chance to help a start up, but that’s exactly what we are doing for Film Columbia, the newest initiative of One Columbia For Arts and History.Unknown

As the city’s “unofficial” office of cultural affairs, One Columbia’s mission is to strengthen and unify the arts community with an ultimate goal of attracting more visitors to events and activities. They do this through a number of high profile projects like public art and the Cultural Passport. But, they haven’t stopped here.

The idea behind Film Columbia is to create a video library of art events and activities that groups can use to promote their own endeavors. It works like this: One Columbia hires emerging and established local filmmakers to shoot video of cultural events that take place in the city (most artists cannot afford to do this on their own). The filmmakers edit the footage into shorts videos that can be used to market various events, festivals, gallery openings, performances and lots of other happenings. Attendance goes up, artists are happy and Columbia is better known for its robust arts scene!

With several videos completed, it’s time to take the initiative to the next level. That’s where CreateAthon can help. One Columbia already has a good foundation from which to build—a strong visual identity, a great website and an even better digital newsletter. The challenge is carving out space for Film Columbia within the One Columbia brand and increasing awareness among local artists of the free service. CreateAthon deliverables will include positioning, marketing planning and collateral. With the right tools in place, Film Columbia will be ready for its big premiere!

Helping Y Guides Grow

We’ve seen our fair share of great youth programs over the past 17 years of CreateAthon. This year, we’re pleased to have discovered yet another program that offers a positive experience for kids: Y Guides. Founded in 1926 by Harold Keitner, Director of the YMCA in St. Louis, Y Guides is dedicated to forging bonds between fathers and their children through dedicated time together and specific activities designed especially for them.

Nation Chief Chris Miller and his favorite Y Guides at a Longhouse camping event: daughters Eva (left) and Helen (right).

Nation Chief Chris Miller and his favorite Y Guides at a Longhouse camping event: daughters Eva (left) and Helen (right).

Inspired by Native American culture, dads and their kids form tribes and get together on a monthly basis to enjoy activities ranging from arts, crafts and outdoor exploration to discovering local, family-friendly attractions. These individual tribes combine to form a larger federation and gather from time to time for signature events such as campouts and other excursions.

Chris Miller, as Nation Chief, leads the dads in the local Three Rivers Federation. He has been involved in Y Guides for several years with his two daughters, Eva (9) and Helen (7). “I did Y Guides with my dad as a kid, and it was something really special between the two of us. It’s time that’s set aside just for dads and their kids — no relying on moms, no dropping off with other leaders. Dads are 100% responsible for the programs and for time spent with their children. I’m thankful for this time that I have with my girls, and my greatest hope is that we can make the kind of memories together that I did with my dad. I can’t imagine a greater gift than that.”

As well-established as the Y Guide program is, Chris tells us that participation in the Midlands is at an all-time low. “That’s why we applied to CreateAthon,” he said. “We know the program is growing in other similar markets, but for some reason it has dwindled here. There’s also research that shows the positive impact Y Guides has on young boys and girls as they grow. So we need to turn this enrollment trend around, and we know the CreateAthon team can help us do that.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Y Guides, help out now by spreading the word about this wonderful program for dads and their children. In the meantime, be on the lookout for more news about Y Guides and the work we’ll be doing for them during CreateAthon next Thursday, October 23. While you’re at it, check out all the national CreateAthon action that’ll be taking place next week as part of international Pro Bono Week. As an official Pro Bono Week partner, CreateAthon is bringing together 14 groups across the country that are hosting CreateAthon events next week. We couldn’t be more pleased!