Ingredients: What goes into producing a commercial

What do…

inspiration, 30 seconds, 8 actors, an Art Director’s childhood memory, a classic song from 1961, multiple creative meetings, a man born in 1823, a personal dislike for the polar bear, a tech scout, an unscheduled construction project, a DPW crew to fix it, a rehearsal day, several 40-pound blocks of chocolate, a five person food stylist crew, a 100-pound vat of melted chocolate, 70,000 watts of light, 200 pounds of vanilla ice cream, 50 pounds of ground dry ice, a talent director, a tabletop director, 27 hours on set, a steady cam (with operator), a high-speed camera shooting 1600 frames per second, a choreographer, 2 wardrobe stylists, 2 hair and make-up stylists, 30+ gaffers and grips, an art team, 2 music composers, a craft services table, an editor, a colorist, an animator, several producers, creativity, persistence, and a 167-year old New England tradition all have in common?

They’re all the ingredients needed to introduce you to Harvey. Meet Harvey…

Have you tried one yet?


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The Importance of Expressive Voice; the storytelling of a Maasai woman

We are storytellers. At the heart of what we do in advertising is the creation of a story that we want the listener or viewer to relate to, interact with, or become part of.

Over more than 20 years, I’ve developed a fairly strong sense for the ways to take on this challenge and the talent and tools I can tap into to accomplish it. On the ever-moving technology curve, we have so many sensory cues from all our electronic devices that there seems to be little to do without them.

But my sense of storytelling took on a whole new meaning when I was completely off the grid in a remote northern part of the Serengeti in Tanzania, with no electronics and no way to recharge anything …I sat listening to a Maasai woman tell stories of her childhood, in Swahili (or maybe the Maasai language, Maa). I was mesmerized.

maasai woman & storytelling

This woman, 65-years-old perhaps (they don’t keep track of years), had a nearly shaved head, earlobes stretched by a lifetime of large, heavy and beautifully beaded hanging earrings. She wore wide, flat bead and wire Maasai necklaces, a flowing print wrap of a shapeless dress. And I couldn’t miss her life-experienced sparkling small eyes, her generous smile with large white imperfect teeth, and her large hands and long fingers. She was tall, as most Maasai seem to be.

That was how she looked. How she spoke was something else.

The only words I understood were the ones that could not be translated by a young, elegantly tall and graceful Maasai translator named Johnson, robed in their signature red draped cloth. They weren’t actually words. They were sounds. She told her story by braiding sounds of emotional expression, animals, snoring, breathlessness into her sentences as if they were words.

“My father had me tend the cows mooo, but I kept losing ahhhoooueeee them because I would hachhh fall asleep!”

I can’t replicate it. And it wasn’t just sounds. She was using her body to tell the story as well. I watched her hands waving, clapping and tapping her punctuation. Everything in a continuous flow. She was entirely immersed in the telling, knowing that words, alone, weren’t enough. In fact, using words, alone, was inconceivable.

In a business where we work hard and spend more money in an hour than many Tanzanians make in a month, using every tool and hired talent at our disposal to create the perfect sound to convey the perfect message, none of it is as real as this woman. In our culture where the show can usurp the story (i.e. the recent Oscars on tv), we confuse the two.

Today, I will focus my energies on what I can bring to the creation of a thirty-second television commercial. And the quest that’s more reinforced in me than ever is the need to be the story you’re telling or you just can’t tell it well enough.

Do you know what makes a story work for you? I’d like to know.

Postscript: Ironically, as I drove on the Mass Pike to work this rainy grey morning, the huge WGBH screen that faces the Pike showed elephants foraging across a sunny grassy plain and it instantly transported me back to the Serengeti as I approached the express lane toll. I always go back. Hard to explain in words. That’s another story.


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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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It’s a Jungle Out There: How to choose 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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Are marketing costs an expense or investment?


Certainly, marketing communications can be expensive. Whether it’s a responsive website, onsite materials, social, TV, collateral…doing it well, reaching your target, and getting results require appropriate financial support. But the commitment to a marketing communications strategy and its related projects is really a commitment to business objectives.

Whether it’s support for a sales force that benefits from a positively predisposed prospect, validates the decisions of current clients and customers, or creates a message that stimulates a buying decision, that cost is an investment. Consistent and effective marketing, advertising, social engagement, and brand presence should have an outstanding return as a requirement.

Consumer products companies know the importance of “being out there” to create and build customer loyalty translated into increased purchase decisions and share. For many companies and institutions in more of a services business, it seems less obvious because the correlated business results are more difficult or impossible to measure.

What’s certain for us all is that competition is an impressive (or an oppressive) force. We also know that there’s a need to be known and relevant in order to be top of mind, whether to secure a place on the short list of a large and potentially business-altering client, or to have a place in a consumer’s shopping bag.

Amortized across sales efforts, employee recruitment, and brand growth, a marketing budget is an investment, provided that the resulting work is smart, intrusive, memorable, meaningful, and empowering. Viewed as an investment, the sometimes significant expense of strong marketing becomes much more than a discretionary line item. It becomes an indispensible bottom line item.

How do you view it? Do you know how to ensure that the results make the cost in time and money worthwhile?

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What’s luck got to do…got to do with it?

I have a knack; some say a gift, for finding 4-leaf clovers. I randomly discovered it last year after listening to a segment on NPR, where a girl discussed having been able to do it as a child and recently remembering her ability to do it.

This year, in a nod to just because and why not, I decided to keep track. As of this post I have found 111 4-leaf clovers this year. Most I have given to coworkers, who are probably sick of them by now, and family, but some I have given to random strangers. And when I give them one it’s as if I have given them a little optimism, a little hope, or maybe a chance for something more. Honestly, if it helps them get through their day a little easier, I’m happy to deal with the awkward initial interaction to do it.


The NPR segment also got me wondering what and where the derivation of the 4-leaf clover mystique came from. Well to no surprise it comes from Ireland, connecting back to Celtic priests and their connection to Shamrocks (3-leaf clovers). Apparently Shamrocks gave the Irish the ability to spot evil spirits coming and gave them time to escape, while the fourth leaf gave some additional magical protection and warded off bad luck. It was even thought that children holding them could see fairies. (FYI, I have never seen an evil spirit while holding one and my kids have never seen a fairy. Although they would love to.)

At the end of the day, what has this 4-leaf clover quest taught me? What wisdom can I pass on? I guess it’s that you should never stop trying new things and keep pushing yourself. Why not!? People have many more hidden gifts and talents than they realize hiding inside of them. They just need to get out of the ruts their life puts them in and try. It makes me wonder what I should try next.

And as a closing note and a random fun fact, for every 10,000 3-leaf clovers there is one 4-leaf clover. That means I’ve either looked at 1,110,000 clovers this year or I’m just a little lucky.

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Event Marketing & Post-Engagement: 15 Tips to Engage Your Event Attendees via Social Media

Incorporating social media into your nonprofit event, or any event for that matter, helps build relationships with your audience in a comfortable format. Social media also allows event marketers to ramp up excitement pre-event and keep the conversations alive after everyone goes home.

But, being truly engaging with live events means more than slapping a hashtag on an invite. In order to really get the most out of your event’s social media engagement strategy, consider these 15 things:

  1. Check Your Internet Connection – First and foremost, before you plan any social engagement around your event, you MUST double check with your event site to make 100% sure that you’ll have access to wireless internet and that your guests will either have the same access or will be able to utilize their cell data plans. If no wireless is available, you’ll need to check for or secure hotspots or create an engagement strategy that doesn’t rely on live tweeting or uploading as the event is in progress. Also be sure to test the connection the day of the event.
  2. Social Feed Display – One of the best ways to encourage interaction among your attendees is with the promise of visuals. We’re all narcissists at heart – we’re much more likely to contribute to the conversation if we know our tweet or post will make it to a feed the entire conference can see. Not to mention that dedicating screens to showcase social activity is also a subtle reminder to guests about your owned social networks and a guest’s opportunity to connect with your brand. We recommend using Tint, as it has the ability to pull in social data from several networks and create an appealing visual for attendees.Tint Social Feed Display
  3. Really Go for it – If you want to leverage social during your event, try to think about ways to incorporate it into the event program or make it central to what you’ve already planned. We recently created a whole segment based on live Twitter questions that not only inspired greater conversation, but it also gave the whole night a much more interactive feel. Check it out.
  4. Schedule in Advance – Even though your plan may be to generate content as the event goes on, you’re apt to get behind if you haven’t considered the kinds of content you’ll want to share in advance. We like to generate sample tweets and posts (based on the event’s program) that are either scheduled in Hootsuite or saved as drafts in Twitter. This way you can make small changes, add live photos, and then push this content live on your schedule, without feeling constantly behind everything that’s happening.Twitter Drafts
  5. Take Advantage of Pre-Planned Events – Events can be crazy! There are usually more than several compounding elements happening all at once and, unless you have a team of 50, it’s hard to cover everything from the right angle (photo-wise and quote-wise). So take advantage of any event dress rehearsals or pre-planned events in which you may be able to snap higher quality images or predict what content you’ll want to share. That way you’ll have a database of great content to pull from on the fly.
  6. FYI to Followers – If you do plan on live tweeting, be sure to let your current followers know that you’ll be tweeting or posting more regularly. Otherwise you run the risk of annoying or alienating followers who aren’t used to you posting as often.
  7. Scope out Influencers and Attendees – Either in your registration process or right before the event, do your best to figure out who is likely to be tweeting & generating content during the event. It’s not uncommon for attendees to forget to use your promoted hashtag, so making a Twitter list or stream in Hootsuite of these influencers will allow you to engage with them no matter what hashtag they use (or don’t use). Not only can you engage with them at the event, but you can encourage their participation by welcoming them (via Twitter) to the event before they tweet.HOOTSUITE DESKTOP SCREENSHOT FROM FOUNDATION DINNER
  8. Hashtagging – Create a hashtag that works easily within sentences or is pretty short so that attendees are able to fit in their statement plus the hashtag into the very strict 140-character limitations. Try to chose something memorable that can be leveraged again and again.
  9. Follow the “WWYS” Principle – When you’re deciding what to share throughout the night, think: What Would You Share? Unless your strategy is to tweet every word (which it shouldn’t be), you need to be sensitive about how much content you decide to post within your time frame. So, choose the quotes, images, and elements you share carefully. Be sure to share things that are memorable, give a human element to the event, and content that others can relate to.Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 3.36.32 PM
  10. Be Present! It’s easy to get sucked into the small things while an event is happening, whether it’s responding to attendee tweets or making sure you get every word of a quote correct for a tweet. But all of those interactions are irrelevant if you’re not able to accurately reflect the vibe and tone of the event. Instead of making sure to share the video that played at the event, make sure you watch along with the audience and pay attention to how they respond. You need to attend the event with everyone. This will ensure that all your content is on point and, at the end, you’ll know that you captured the event adequately.
  11. Be Relevant & Evoke Emotion- This is especially true in the nonprofit world. No matter what you share, be sure there’s some emotion tied to it. Tweeting straight facts and figures alone is boring unless you compare it to something that makes sense to the audience. For instance, if you’re talking about childhood hunger, give statistics around how many children are at-risk of hunger in the town in which the event is held.
  12. Calls to Conversation - Yes, you want to include calls to action (see #13), but you also want to encourage conversation. Give your audience ways to talk amongst each other and with you before, during & after the event by leveraging Twitter chats, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. that allow people to continue interacting post-event.Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 3.35.28 PM
  13. Save Calls-to-Action & RT-type Posts for Meal Times or Breaks – A good way to encourage participation among people who aren’t as socially savvy is to create posts that are easily re-tweetable or that have calls-to-action within them. However, this kind of content must be posted during event down times. If you include a call to action within a tweet, during a captivating speech, attendees are unlikely to see and respond to it. So, increase engagement rates by thinking about when there will be the most down time for your guests (e.g. dinner) and schedule that type of content then. 
  14. Consider the Virtual Attendee – With every piece of content you share, make sure you add enough context that allows users who aren’t at the physical event to understand and participate. Believe me, people will be curious as to why you’re posting more often, so give them a reason to get involved and follow the conversation.Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 3.35.17 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-11 at 3.37.55 PM
  15. Tweet Afterward – No matter how late your event ends, it’s a good idea to continue posting content and engaging with your audience afterward. Most people don’t go to bed right away, they need unwinding time, or “networking time” (aka post-event drinks). So keep the night’s engagement going with more content, or give them ways to keep the conversation going themselves.Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 3.38.05 PM

What are some of your must-do’s for live events?



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Filed under Event Marketing, Social Media, Work by db&r