Recruiting A New Class: The Harvard Ed.L.D.

How do you inspire 500 extraordinarily talented, experienced, and motivated candidates to apply for 25 spots in one of the world’s most innovative education leadership degree programs?

Start with one program (the Harvard Ed.L.D.) and one ad.

A new program created to change things in the American Education System.

And an ad to reawaken the desire to reform education, targeting bright and passionate professionals across diverse backgrounds in education, policy, and business.

Then, after year one, make it bigger.

It was time for another class. A new group willing to uproot their lives, their careers, and move to Cambridge for 3 years, all for a challenging, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a network of people with the influence to transform children’s futures across America.

So we called on them.

The approach? Create an aggressive digital & inbound marketing strategy that put current students at the center – because they are the story. They’re the ones making the difference. So prospective students needed to identify with them and imagine being part of it too.

Include a targeted digital campaign to focus in on specific demographic and psychographic profiles and obtain a broad range of applicants. The goal of the ad: reignite the drive and desire to change education.


What happens post click? Drive prospective students to an engaging web presence to interact with and re-invigorate their passion, making the degree and its mission relevant and memorable.


A blog, The Ed.L.D. Speaks, to add transparency and give future students a glimpse into a day in the life of an Ed.L.D. Student. A blog to not only showcase what they work on, but also how they manage family/work balance, what makes them tick, and drive traffic to a two-way conversation.


A conversation on the blog and on Twitter, to engage and converse with prospective students and showcase the innovation bred on Appian Way.

EdLD Tweet

Create all of this with one goal in mind: to exceed the number of qualified applicants and increase awareness about the program.

We achieved that goal and positioned HGSE as the leader in education reform, creating a new class, THE New Class, with the energy and intensity necessary to transform education in America.


In the 3rd year of the program, we refreshed the look of The New Class…


targeted a more diverse audience,

and captured the attention of a national audience via paid search.

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And another class will graduate, while yet another begins their journey at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

We feel honored and proud to have played a small role in what will be a significant positive change in American Education.

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Filed under Advertising, Client Stories, Digital Media, Search Advertising

Give Me S’more Summer!

Second to maybe ice cream, the s’more remains one of America’s favorite summertime sweets. So it makes sense that this three-ingredient dessert sandwich would be central to major product advertising throughout the season. There were two spots that caught my attention recently, each for a different component of the s’more: Hershey’s Chocolate, and Honey Maid Grahams.

In both ads the s’more was made exactly the same: graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow, then graham cracker, all squished together to make a beautiful-gooey stack-of-flavors-that-will-inevitably-make-your-fingers-stick-together-and-your-soul-smile.


But what I found interesting was the difference in product placement and emphasis on that brand. Clearly, the Hershey’s commercial s’more was all about the chocolate. We pause on the perfectly embossed chocolate bar for a one-Mississippi, give it a squish, and then cut to a tray that has way more Hershey’s chocolate than any American family should ever consume. With each bite the chocolate is so large, the grahams and ‘mallows are dwarfed in comparison. (However, overall a gorgeous spot.)

The Honey-Maid spot showcases the grahams in a way that makes them look like giant planks of plywood being craned in to construct the floor of a building. You see a blur of white and dark brown between the boards for a mere moment, and then you’re out. (Again, overall a beautiful spot with a fantastic message.)

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So you are probably thinking: thanks for pointing this out captain obvious! Of course each brand would make their product the hero of the spot. Of course there would be enough chocolate to feed a small army and graham crackers the size of your head. It makes complete sense.

My question is, WHERE IS THE MARSHMALLOW COMMERCIAL? Where is the spot that gives the most important ingredient of the s’more the :30 seconds of fame it deserves? It’s what makes it all stick together. The marshmallow is the BEST part!

So it’s your move Campfire Marshmallows. Be the glue that brings American families together over a fire at night. You invented the extrusion process… you have a history that’s rich with sugar and egg whites. Make your marshmallow a gorgeous pillow of white that has everyone asking for s’more! Shout it from the rooftops and broadcast it all over the nation. Be America’s marshmallow! (And make sure you call us to help you do it!)

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Filed under Advertising, TV

World Cup Lessons for An Agency Player


Penalty kicks. This is a serious business. It’s a lesson in soccer (aka football) and in any competitive business (aka advertising and marketing).

What can we learn from watching this tense, decisive, game-ending choreography?

To prevail as the victor, the striker must overpower and/or psych out the goalie. And the goalie has to anticipate where the ball will go before the striker’s foot hits it. Know where things are going with limited information. Psych out and anticipate. Know the game, know your opponent, and trust your own experience and instincts because in that moment, that’s all you have.

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Notice how the goalie dove to the wrong side, misjudging the kicker’s intention.

After an excruciating amount of work (the core 90-minute game plus two 15-minute overtime sessions), at the nanosecond (the no-time-to-think-instincts-take-over moment), everything is at stake. Everything is tested. From team status to fan love.

Agencies like ours live in a somewhat similar environment, albeit without the derisive fans and enormous viewership. We work our hearts out, throw ourselves into the challenge, passionately and completely. We are constantly tested and constantly immersed in opportunities to prove ourselves worthy of the trust we enjoy from our clients (fans?).

Tim Howard constantly tested









Invariably, however, it often comes down to a moment. One word in a conversation, a quick judgment on limited information, a sound instinct, or a reflex. Forget about all the interactions; everything is on the line at a single moment. A win or a loss. Something that can lift you on its shoulders or something unexpected and crushing.

The irony is how much everything turns on something that could have gone the other way.

Personally, I would give up the heroic sensations in exchange for a more rational context for what decides the outcome. Others would say that how you play is beside the point; only the win or loss matters. After all, the fans come for the play, but, in the end, they are left with the outcome.

The truth is that having your heart in the game has to be a given, no matter how much hangs on the final seconds. If you want to be your best, that’s the only way to play.

Tim Howard is World Cup Hero

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When do you stop calling it work?

Last month I attended Sodexo Foundation’s 15th annual fundraising dinner. A dinner I’ve attended about 10 times over the years. It’s a night filled with awards, speeches, catching up, a few tears, lots of laughs, being inspired, and remembering what got us here. It was a great night for a great foundation that’s doing an admirable thing, working to end childhood hunger in the US.

While I was sitting there taking it all in I realized there is a point at which work stops being work and it turns into a shared passion to achieve something great, to make an impact. A point when your client becomes your friend, and you have the chance to help make the world a little bit better… is really why we all do it.

This year for Sodexo Foundation’s 15th anniversary we created an animated video that told their story — how it came to be, what they do, and the impact it’s made since its inception. And as I’m sitting in my chair consumed with anticipation, waiting for the video to play, it came to me that my nerves were not about whether or not the video was going to play smoothly or would people like it, but it was nerves fed by pride.

A pride similar to that of a father watching his daughter perform a solo for the first time or a mother sending her child off to college. Knowing that you’ve been there through it all and played a part in their journey. A pride that comes from having the opportunity to partner with an amazing organization for the past 15 years and to be a part of their team. Being there through its growing pains, celebrating its accomplishments, and helping tell its story.

It’s one of the great things I love about doing what I do. I get to help non-profits, businesses, and people do what they do, but better. Whether it’s rebranding, promoting a great product, raising awareness for an incredible cause, or maybe even ending childhood hunger…there is absolutely a point at which work stops being work.

Have you ever experienced that?

If you want to check out some of the work we’ve done for Sodexo Foundation over the past 15 years check out this playlist.


Filed under Non-profit, Video, Work by db&r

The Rise of 2nd Screen Viewer Engagement: Implications for Advertisers

The first time I heard the term “second-screen viewing” or “second-screen viewer,” I rolled my eyes. We have been watching TV and eating, reading, doing homework, “studying,” emailing with clients, etc. for as long as the TV tray has existed.

But what we haven’t experienced for decades is the ability to track what viewers are doing while they’re watching. Are they playing Candy Crush and sort-of watching CSI or are they watching The Voice and following the singers virtually as they sing on screen? In other words, are they tuned out or hyper tuned in?

Thanks to social media (and our inherent need to share), we’re now able to pinpoint just how engaging our shows are. And, more importantly, we’re able to capitalize on this engagement with ads.

But just how much second screen viewing is actually happening and what’s the potential for second screen engagement?

In 2012, Nielsen reported that 40% of smartphone and tablet owners used their devices while watching TV. In just 2 years, that number has increased to 80 percent! So as advertisers and “official engagement engineers,” how do we capitalize on this?

Thankfully, technology has given us the ability to track the real-time interactions happening across multiple networks, platforms & devices and associate those with what’s happening on TV. And they’re not mapping back to to the TV guide to determine when something’s airing. It’s way more sophisticated than that –  companies like Bluefin Labs (now a part of Twitter) have technologies to determine what’s on TV in conjunction with real-time conversations on Twitter and Facebook.

All of that aside, engaging with TV viewers is now not just an opportunity, it’s a necessity. But what does this mean for advertisers?

  1. In-depth knowledge of your target audience. Gone are the days of shot-in-the-dark intuitions around where your target audience is and what they’re talking about. To engage in the second screen, you have to KNOW what shows your audience is watching, when they’re watching it (live or DVR?), and what networks, hashtags, etc. they’re using while viewing.
  2. Live Interaction. Okay well that’s sort of a given. With social, you need someone manning your account basically 24/7. But if you want to engage with TV viewers, you must also watch along with them – otherwise how would you know what they’re even referencing in their #scandal tweets?
  3. On-the-fly Content Creation. Brands always struggle to find the perfect balance between getting content approved before it goes live and creating content that leverages real-time conversations. But with the second screen, this balance is even more important. You can’t wait until the second commercial break to promote a tweet about something that happened in the first two minutes of a TV program. So you either need to be able to predict a few content areas and have the ability to adjust based on the show OR you need the ability to create images and associated text with an “ask for forgiveness, rather than seeking approval” mentality, forgoing the approvals process.

How do you engage with brands and/or TV shows while watching the tube?

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Filed under Advertising, Social Media, Technology, TV

An Integrated Approach: When a Commercial Becomes More Than a Commercial

When we set out to create a new commercial to promote the versatility of Hood Sour Cream, we tapped into creative thinking, proven techniques, and rallied the power of social media to get the word out and engage consumers. And did we ever.

Hood Sour Cream Integrated Approach

Click here to see more of our work with Hood Sour Cream.

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Filed under Advertising, Clients, Social Media

It’s a Jungle Out There: How to chose the perfect Facebook ad format for your goals

Facebook advertising is more sophisticated than it was a year ago, or even 6 months ago. When advertising was first introduced to the platform, Right-hand Side Ads were the only option, but now the options are almost endless (at least with the various types they seem endless!).

Navigating these different ad options can be tough for a marketer to do without a ton of experience under his belt. There are so many things to consider:

  1. What are your goals?
  2. How are you measuring success?
  3. What kind of content do you have at your disposal?
  4. What kind of content does your target audience engage with the most often?
  5. How do you want users to change with your content?

To help you more easily choose the right ad type for your specific needs, here’s a rundown of the different ad types and the best ways to use them:

Right-hand Side Ads

Right-hand Side Ads

Right-hand Side Ads

These are the traditional ads provided by Facebook that allow advertisers to get in front of users who are on their desktop devices. The important word here being…DESKTOP. They aren’t served on mobile devices, so if you’re trying to reach people when they’re on the go, this is not the best option for you. Also consider that at the end of January 2014, Facebook mobile users surpassed desktop users.

Right-hand Side Ads work well as a means of awareness and continuity for the rest of your campaigns – they’re a great way to keep your brand and message top of mind throughout your campaign.

With a platform like AdRoll, you can use Right-hand Side Ads to retarget users and get them back to your website or landing page to achieve higher CTRs and engagement rates.

Facebook Promoted Post Ads – Link & Image

Recently, Facebook changed its algorithm (EdgeRank), making it nearly impossible for brands to appear in a user’s News Feed without serving an ad. So, if you want to make sure your post gets seen, you’re going to need to put some money toward it. The good news is that promoted posts (when done correctly) are very engaging and see low CPCs.

There are two different types of Promoted Posts to use for different purposes.

Image Promoted Posts

Image Promoted Posts

Image Promoted Posts used to be the only option for Promoted Posts. This was based on the knowledge that users interacted with image posts more often than link or text posts. In fact, photos on Facebook generate 53% more Likes than the average post. So if you’re looking for user engagement in the form of page Likes, post Likes, comments, or shares, Image Promoted Posts are a great way to go.

The one downside to Image Promoted Posts is that you cannot ensure a click to your landing page or Facebook tab with one of these posts. When a user clicks on the image, he or she is taken to a larger version of the picture, not to your website, so there is no way to guarantee that a user actually gets to your site. When bidding on a CPC basis with these posts, you aren’t paying for a click to your landing page, you’re paying for a bigger image view.

The best way use Image Promoted Posts is to increase your Page Likes or interactions with your brand in general, as they garner more shares and Likes (in my experience) than any other format.

Link Promoted Posts

Facebook Link Promoted Post

Facebook Link Promoted Post

A month or so after Facebook introduced the new link post format with much larger images, they also introduced Link Promoted Posts. Like Image Promoted Posts, Link Promoted Posts can be served to users on both mobile and desktop devices and are best used for directing users to another landing page or Facebook Tab, because no matter where a user clicks on your post, he will be directed to your landing page. In that vein, if you’re measuring success by the amount of leads your campaign as generated, or entries your contest received then Link Promoted Posts are the most efficient use of your budget.

Facebook has also introduced Cost Per Action bidding, which allows an advertiser to pay only when a user has visited your website or when a user completes some pre-determined action (like filling out a form). In my experience, though, the average cost per action is much higher than your average cost per click AND Facebook will generally serve fewer impressions of your ad because they’re not guaranteed to make as much money off of it.

Page Like Ads & App Install Ads

There are a few other ad types I haven’t mentioned, like Page Like Ads & App Install Ads. As their names suggest, Page Like Ads are used to help you generate more Likes to your page and App Install Ads (allowed only on mobile devices) are used to advertise a new app to user.

The best campaigns use a mixture of all of these ad formats (except for the App Install Ads, which don’t apply to all situations). As they all serve a different purpose, they’re complementary in that manner – Increase awareness with Right-hand Side Ads, increase user engagement with Image Promoted Posts and, further down the funnel, capture a user’s information with link promoted posts.

What other questions do you have about the different Facebook ad types?

We’re more than happy to answer them – just tweet @dbrboston.

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Filed under Advertising, Social Media