How difficult is it–trying to explain a new idea or concept to someone? Especially when there may not be supporting materials to substantiate the use/need/purpose of the idea. It’s difficult. And even more difficult when the people you may be communicating with have absolutely no familiarity with what you are talking about.

I think most agency’s do not want to claim a style, or look, or type of work. Styles are very transparent. And very disposable. They eventually become peripheral noise. Many struggle to remain neutral regarding their personal brand positions, as a company that builds brands–how ironic. I think one key reason may be that, we generally pride ourselves on being able to learn, understand and communicate new ideas, products or services across a broad spectrum of markets. This also tends to yield ideas and creative that are not subjected to the existing rules.

There may be criteria that is applicable and consistent across a wide spectrum of markets, but that does not usually last very long. And this criteria often creates lethargic behavior and tendencies. Innovation is good. Newness is very profitable. Often, an idea works once, and someone thinks that it’s a perfect package. They believe it can be mass produced. Which ironically, is the exact reason a client will hire a new agency. We’re hired to help the brand reignite it’s fire and reposition itself within the market place.

Because we are in the business of ideas, to take a position ( visually inferred through the broader visual language of design; interaction; writing; communication/media arts ) might mean the lose of a potential prospect. There are niche-based agencies that demonstrate extremely successful portfolios for one market. But this talent for specialty becomes a scapegoat for stagnant creative and slumping sales–this becomes the excuse for an agency review. When something new is presented, like new creative for a campaign, it’s immediately measured by/against an existing system that was previously used for another objective. How biased is that? How truly new will this campaign be if it’s measured against a floor plan that was designed for someone else’s house?

Ideas, as a service or product, are not tangible goods. It is very difficult to reference something new without using an existing context to reference it, or re-represent it. I could show you a new way to draw a tree, but you would only perceive it as a tree if it resembled the types of trees you are familiar with. And if you didn’t recognize it as a tree, you’d say it was abstract. How then, does someone show something new, without being subjected to the old? Basically, you can’t. And matrices won’t *insert dramatic music* qualify new creative work either. If that where the case, I’d begin to feel ashamed for contributing to such a boring creative pool. And subsequently screwing a client’s campaign up. Having been fortunate enough to work under a lot of creative people, I’ve come to understand that everyone has ideas, at times, even the same idea. But it’s the execution of that idea that helps a brand rise above it all. It’s the new tree we’ve created against a backdrop of older trees within the forest.

Marketers and clients alike are known for saying, “we care about the ROI.” Fair-enough. Who doesn’t? –well, the consumer doesn’t. And your ROI is dependent on the consumer being able to relate, understand and be informed about your products, services or ideas. The means by which these ideas, products and services are communicated are, as we all know, considered media. Media must look, act, and communicate/interact in a way that is relevant to the surveyor. Relevant to the surveyor, not to you, me or the guys sitting at the table next to you. This often requires us to uproot the old tree and plant an entirely new species. This tree has been created around someone else’s idea of a tree. It references their understanding of a tree, more so than it references mine. We’ve seen this tree before. We’re looking for something a little more unique.

Advertising is an end-result. It has no true form. And in this brand landscape, interactivity and engagement are facilitated by people and online users. Those matrices and plans are being circumvented more and more by x-factors. Form can not over-power function. However; due to the increased value of Saas, brands are beginning to consider Function more important than Form. –Be very careful with this. The power of context rules the internet landscape. As it does the world.

It is very easy to sell advertising or to sell another iteration of the same idea. My point; there are those who create new forms of communication and media and there are those who reiterate what has been done before, in an attempt to mass produce advertising itself. I can’t imagine a client wanting to hear that their budgets are being spent on revisions/iterations to an old idea when their paying for ideas that are new and unique. Never underestimate the power of peripheral vision and contrastingly, peripheral visual noise filters. People will ignore the uninteresting. Especially when we’ve seen the same thing over and over again. Changing a color or typeface isn’t a reinvention. We cannot paint a new portrait if the brand is continually wearing the same outfit.

10 years ago, someone on the agency-side might have mentioned using Craigslist as a means to promote something. I wonder what that knowledge was worth? Such a simple task–yet, the RIO was huge. And for all that it was eventually worth, how long did it take us to convince a client that it was an emerging medium? A tool that exceeded expectations and unfortunately, someone’s personal frame of reference.

Websites and blogs have begun to explore the notion of fluid brands and interchangeable logos that work as containers for the centralized used of a specific campaign, but I’m not really sure that this is a new idea. It’s a strong approach to an old problem but I have concerns. It can also have the reverse effect in that, someone experiencing the communication my not connect with the work at all. It’s become to abstract.

As software and web-based applications, desktop applications and programs that automatically do things for us are being packaged as DYI marketing kits, remember that it’s only providing you results based on what has already been done before. And it can only produce results based on what it has been programmed to understand as a viable result.

Your tree will be slightly taller or shorter and perhaps a little more green, but it still blends in far to much to be noticed. And I can’t imagine a client allocating their budget towards a simple trimming and topping.




Roy Wagner

Excerpt from: Too Definite for Words

… The distinction here is not a trivial one, because all words, and all symbols, insofar as they are points of reference, can be considered “namings”. It is clear that both modes of viewing symbols, as coding and as analogy, have a certain potential, and that the construction of an explanatory microcosm called “structure” realizes only part of the potential…

( using something, to make something else still leaves the result, open to individuals respective interpretation )

… Dealing with primitive elements that are themselves configurations, our problem is very much the opposite of the semioticist or structuralist, who seeks to determine the manifold systematics by which elemental units are combine so as to construct complexity. Appropriate transformation (“how to paint”), rather than accurate reconstruction (or deconstruction) is my goal…

( using a concept to create a concept, everything in essence, is contrived from something else. )

… Such a generic need not be a determinant, or a picture, or a structure, of “culture,” but rather what we could call an image of our own “interpretation,” and hence of meaning.

( despite one’s best effort, some will not see what a majority of people–may see )

A single metaphor, regardless of its scope, invariably presents the enigma of what Freud called “condensation”–a richness of potentially elicited analogies, all at once, that makes the “reading” of the expression, or the fixing of its intent, a matter of the interpreter’s own selection.

… using the pattern or tendency of other associated tropes as guides in the interpolative interpretation of a particular example.

( the surveyor is comparing and contrasting the experience of the art or ‘object’ and constructing a perception based in their previous perceptions of something they consider related )


Source: “is a term used in the history of architecture, design, and archaeology. It refers to a derivative object which retains ornamental design cues to structure that was necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs may be deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar.”

A deliberately placed ornament, function or otherwise–superficial element added to something to help the surveyor or prospect relate. Look in the old–to find something new.


I recently tried to present this at a PKN event. I didn’t do so well and frankly, it wasn’t the right venue for discussion/debate or tomato-tossers. PKN= 20 slides, each slide presented in 20 seconds… No fuss.

Chris Wodja and Kellie Osgood put this little shin-dig on and have successfully completed 2-out-the-4 meet-ups required by PKN.

Tonight, while writing this post, I received a ping from Paul Isakson’s blog. Once I followed, I noticed a recent post containing a presentation that compliments mine in various ways. It seems that everyone is starting to see the same things happen. Actually, its been happening for a while, some just refused to admit/embrace it.

Please keep in-mind, I was talking through portions of this to keep pace, so slides may disconnect conceptually. Feedback is always appreciated!



Creativity is an intellectual labor. The truth of the matter, no idea can be considered a potential failure until it’s respective execution has been experienced or utilized in some fashion.

Show me something that is not art. Show me something that was not created, for a purpose. Even if it’s purpose was defined after it’s inception.


I used this and it made me think this.
So I did this and this happened.
What will everyone think about that?
Do you like it?
Why not?
What can I do to make it more valuable to you?

Practice your creativity, or you’ll never know what might work in the future.


The Decline of Heroes


Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

” For The Crisis of the Old Order, the first volume in his continuing study of the Rooseveltian era, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., won the Society of American Historian’s Francis Parkman Prize. His The Age of Jackson, published in 1945, won the Pulitzer Prize. Like his father, who has written fifteen important social and historical studies, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., is professor of history at harvard University. He is married and has four children.

Ours is an age without heroes–and, when we say this, we suddenly realize how spectacularly the world has changed in a generation. Most of us grew up in a time of towering personalities. For better or for worse, great men seemed to dominate our lives and shape our destiny. In the United States we had Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt. In Great Britain, there were Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. In other lands, there were Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Clemenceau, Ghandhi, Kemal, Sun Yatsen. Outside of politics there were Einstein, Freud, Keynes. Some of these great men influenced the world for good, others for evil; but, wether for good or for evil, the that each had not died at birth made a difference, one believed, to everyone who lived after them.

Today no one bestrides our narrow world like a colossus; we have no giants who play roles which one can imagine no one else playing in their stead. There are a few figures on the margin of uniqueness, perhaps: Adenauer, Nehru, Tito, De Gaulle, Chiang, Kai-Shek, Mao Tse-tung. But there seem to be none in the epic style of those mighty figures of our recent past who seized history with both hands and gave it an imprint, even a direction, which it otherwise might not have had. As De Gaulle himself once remarked on hearing of Stalin”s death, “The age of giants is over.” Whatever one thought, wether one admired or detested Roosevelt or Churchill, Stalin or HItler, one nevertheless felt the sheer weight of such personalities on one’s own existence. We feel no comparable perssures today. Our own President, with all his pleasant qualities, has more or less explicitly renounced any desire to impress his own views on history. The Macmillans, Khurshchevs and Gronchis have measurably less specific gravity than their predecessors. Other men could be in their places as leaders of America or Britain or Russia or Italy without any change in the course of history. Why ours should thus be an age without heroes, and whether this condition is good or bad for us and for civilization, are topics worthy of investigation.

Why have giants vanished from our midsts? One must never neglect the role of accident in history; and accident no doubt plays a part here. But too many accidents of the same sort cease to be wholly accidental. One must inquire further. Why should our age not only be without great men but even seem actively hostile to them? Surely one reason we have so few heroes now is precisely that we had so many a generation ago. Greatness is hard for common humanity to bear. As Emerson said, “Heroism means difficulty, postponement of praise, postponement of ease, introduction of the world into the private apartment, introduction of eternity into the hours measured by the sitting-room clock.” A world of heroes keeps people from living their own private lives.

Moreover, great men live dangerously. They introduce extremes into existence–extremes of good, extremes of evil–and ordinary men after a time flinch from the ultimates and yearn for undemanding security. The Second World War was the climax of an epoch of living dangerously. It is no surprise that it precipitated a universal revulsion against greatness. “