Category Archives: Rants

5 Simple Lessons in Effective Communication

My husband and I were tooling around Ocracoke Island last summer when we came upon this sign. It caused such a shift in my brain I’ve remember it since.

The sign could have said: Children At Play  Or End State Maintenance Or even Nobody’s In A Hurry Here, Pal.

But none—not even the Ocracoke attitude version— would have gotten my attention as immediately. Why?

The sign offers five lessons in effective communication, all well demonstrated:

1. Get to the point.

2. Say just what you mean.

3. Use words real people use.

4. Be truthful.

5. Fight for simple.

So often, we marketers are guilty of over-complication and (worse) ambiguity. We would do well to remind each other clever is never the goal. Communication is.

The Power of Music and Casting

Last week I was working on a quick video project with our pals at Mad Monkey — who as usual — just blew the ball through the stadium and out of the parking lot. This project wasn’t huge by any means but it reminded me of two things I adore about video and TV production.

First, music. The right music ratchets up the quality of any project. It doesn’t have to be scored or go through sound design although that’s always delightful to have in your budget. In fact, the music chosen for my project was stock, but it was ideal for the feelings it radiated: light and youth. The first time I heard it I liked it. The third time, I loved it. When I laughed to the editor that I couldn’t get it out of my head, he said that was actually a good very sign the music was right.

Even better was the handful of times this stock music fit our onscreen graphics like a glove. That synchronicity is gift you rarely achieve without the work of a highly talented sound designer. A highly impactful phrase of onscreen text that’s punctuated by music easily carries twice the power. In the edit suite and on consumers’ TVs and computer screens that togetherness is pure magic.

The second thing I love about TV work is great casting. One of the finest examples of ideal casting we’re currently enjoying is Allstate’s Mayhem — Liz Lemon’s pager wearing, scumbag of an ex-boyfriend, Dennis (Dean Winters). It’s casting so perfect I practically purr when a spot comes on.

You can have stellar casting in local spots, too. Those folks at Mad Monkey have an uncanny knack — dare I say talent — for finding THE talent that fits your concept even better than you imagined. Around the time of my edit, they’d just released a new campaign of lottery spots that have awesome casting. The office worker is my hero all the way down to his beige socks.

Working last week I was reminded that even a smaller-scope project can feel bigger when you sweat the details. When you work with smart, highly attuned professionals like Mad Monkey, they key in on even the smallest points.

Music and casting aren’t just steps in the production cycle. They should be wielded to their full effect. They are as important as the words and images that accompany them. They are light and shadows that can turn a good concept into something far better: a TV spot that’s actually worth remembering.

Gotham: the new Helvetica

Man, I love the typeface Gotham and the foundry that created it: Hoefler and Frere-Jones. Gotham’s a great design and has been used successfully for many companies and organizations since its release back in 2001.

The problem is that it’s just been overused — and yes, I’m guilty.

In a world where distinctiveness and originality is more important than ever, it’s hard to justify using a typestyle that is reaching Helvetica-like status. Typography trends come and go, and Gotham has had an amazing run. From my perspective, it’s just time to move on.

Bee Day

For the past two years advocates across our state have gathered together on the same day for an important cause. That cause is to stand against growing assaults on reproductive and women’s health rights. If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll know just how relevant these issues are. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has spoken out against the so-called dangers of contraception, promising to end its federal funding if elected. Infamous talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, called a law student a slut for speaking out about the need for contraception. The Left is calling it a war on women. The Right considers it a war on morality. Such divisive talk is only serving to further polarize our nation, painting conservatives as womanizing religious nuts and liberals as sex-crazed maniacs. No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s clear that amid such chaos lies a great need for cooperation and understanding that reaches across party lines — a need for a voice of reason.

Enter Tell Them, a nonpartisan grassroots e-advocacy network of more than 10,000 members across our state whose primary purpose is to give voice to the issues that matter. They advocate for those who support age appropriate reproductive health education and access to reproductive health counseling and services for all South Carolinians. I recently designed promotional materials for their third annual Bee Day, an event (happening today) in which members and reproductive health advocates stand together as one to tell legislators statewide that reproductive health rights are important to them.

These issues are more relevant to South Carolinians now more than ever. On average, three out of ten young women in our state will become pregnant by the age of twenty, yet we continue to pour millions of dollars into abstinence-only programs that fail to help in the prevention of teen pregnancy. The result, instead, is higher teen pregnancy rates in the South than anywhere else in the country. Regardless of your background, beliefs, gender or political affiliations, it’s clear that something must be done before these numbers get any higher. Tell Them is the resounding voice of reason needed to enact real change for the future of reproductive health rights. Join today and make your voice heard.