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I am fully prepared for the page views of this blog to drop by 50%, because sadly we just lost our most loyal reader, a family friend who even at 90, was the living embodiment of the phrase “Carpe Diem,” (Seize the Day for all you non-English majors).

Speaking of which, for those of you who didn’t know Charlotte Melville, she might sound like a fictional character, but trust me when I say she was the realest person I have ever met. My last correspondence with her (again, it started with a reaction to a blog post) was December 2. In every contact I had with Charlotte, I always learned something (and often something extraordinary about her). In this latest instance, it was that she had once performed in Gilbert and Sullivan productions in Philadelphia during the 1930s. She was returning to her home in Bristol, PA mid-month from an extended stay with daughter Ann and husband Jeff, who currently live in Budapest working for the foreign service. Everyone would be home for Christmas. She was already planning her next international excursion, to Burma in the fall of 2013. Unfortunately, a few days upon her arrival here, Charlotte suffered a stroke, followed by a brain hemorrhage on Sunday. Very early Thursday morning, she died at home surrounded by her family.

If Dos Equis beer had a “Most Interesting Woman in the World,” Charlotte would be her. Everything about Charlotte was fascinating, starting with growing up in a privileged family in Bristol, a descendant of the founder of the D. Landreth Seed Company, which began in 1784 and introduced to the United States the Zinnia, the white potato, various tomato varieties, and Bloomsdale Spinach. Landreth remains in operation under non-family ownership as the oldest seed house and the fifth oldest corporation in America.

Charlotte's family founded the D. Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seedhouse in America.

Charlotte's family founded the D. Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seedhouse in America.

Early on, Charlotte developed an appreciation for just how wide and diverse Planet Earth is, and she became a global traveler abroad and a hostess with the mostest at home, welcoming foreign visitors to this country through various organizations. At times, she seemed like she knew everyone in every country, on every continent. This last trip at age 90 included the following itinerary: Croatia, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and to celebrate her birthday, a gondola ride in Venice.

Despite a Social Register type upbringing, Charlotte eschewed luxury accommodations for hostels, huts, and the homes of her many contacts. For instance, last summer in Lublijana, Slovenia, she stayed in a prison converted into a youth hostel. Despite roughing it, Charlotte had very few unpleasant travel surprises — one of the few was finding herself behind the Iron Curtain during a Soviet crackdown  in 1968.

Charlotte was a force of nature, proving that if you rest, you rust. Every morning, she took a long, brisk walk with her good friend, Herta Mackay. If you were a friend of Charlotte, you knew that she never stopped talking or walking. Energy drinks would be lost on her because she had so much natural get-up-and-go.

There wasn’t anything she wasn’t curious about, from history, to culture, to politics. When she was home, she wrote travel articles for the Bristol Pilot community newspaper. She attended meetings, outings, and lectures. She kept in touch with a myriad of fellow travelers, old friends, new friends, and personal acquaintances.

If you can believe it, Charlotte also squeezed in a stint in the U.S. Marines into her busy, busy life. As a result, she made a point in recent years of attending the annual USMC Ball. Most recently, she was the oldest marine there at the one held in Hungary in November. She was honored in the same fashion at an earlier USMC Ball in Beijing and got to meet President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.

Charlotte was honored as the oldest marine at two recent USMC Balls in Hungary (here) and earlier in Beijing.

Charlotte was honored as the oldest marine at two recent USMC Balls in Hungary (here) and earlier in Beijing.

While back home in Bristol during the late 1980s, Charlotte met Gregory Peck when he was in town to see his daughter in a production at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Charlotte had a knack for being at the right place, at the right time, with the right people. By comparison, Forest Gump was a piker.

Even now, I am having a hard time imagining life without Charlotte. She was a wonderful neighbor and friend to my in-laws. She was a great mentor and friend to my wife when she grew up with Charlotte’s daughters. She instantly became my friend, too, after my wife introduced us several decades ago. She has been a terrific role model to my kids. She has been an amazing mother to daughters Ann and Linda and a loving grandmother to her two grandsons.  And she has been both a great patriot and a world citizen. Not a bad resume for someone born to tremendous privilege, who, while enormously proud of her own heritage, chose to make her own way and her own name.

Charlotte passed away at home, less than half a mile from where she was born. That’s a pretty poetic circle of life for someone who has been one of the great globetrotters and goodwill ambassadors. Semper Fi, Charlotte. Semper Fi.

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It’s been an amazing season for mainstream movies. Argo, an incredible backstory to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Lincoln, a transporting journey with the President during his fight to pass the 13th Amendment. Skyfall, arguably the best Bond movie ever. The list of cinematic gems goes on and on.

Silver Linings Playbook really nails the manic energy of the Philadelphia sports fan. The fact that it can be attractive to Jennifer Lawrence is icing on the cake.

Silver Linings Playbook really nails the manic energy of the Philadelphia sports fan. The fact that it can be attractive to Jennifer Lawrence is icing on the cake.

In particular, one of them resonated on many levels, most of all the local level. Silver Linings Playbook may be the quintessential Philadelphia movie (I know, Philadelphia Story it ain’t). If you haven’t caught it yet, please do, because it is a marvel on so many levels, not the least of which is how families and individuals grapple with mental illness, a matter that really matters especially at this sad moment in America.

David O Russell is a moviemaker who understands how much place plays a vital role in films. His last film, The Fighter, captured the down-on-its-luck industrial grittiness of Lowell, MA. Here, in Silver Linings Playbook, he absolutely nails the identity that an NFL franchise gives to its citizens. Along the way, he takes us on a wonderful visual tour of the city and Delco neighborhoods.

Philly may be behind other cities on a variety of initiatives, but it has long been way ahead in having its own film office to attract movie and tv production to our town. The list of films set here for all or part of storylines is long and memorable.  Credit Sharon Pinkenson and all the leaders who have supported her efforts to land location shootings as a way to showcase tourism and civic pride in our town.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Russell has assembled a great foundation adapting Matthew Quick’s novel, and a stellar A-list cast with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the romantic leads and note-perfect supporting performances by Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Anupam Kher, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker and others. Cooper and Lawrence do a sensational job of conveying a full range of emotions and human frailties while finding themselves and each other amidst a lot of wreckage from past events.

Not surprisingly, it is Philadelphia Eagles football that is the glue that binds the Solitano family together, so much so that Pat Sr. (De Niro) can only watch the games from home, because of all the fights he has gotten into in the stands (sound familiar, Philly faithful?). Russell really manages to spotlight the crazy streak that sports fandom generates. Fortunately, the story is set in a happier time —2008, a year when the Phils were World Series victors and the Eagles managed to make it to the conference championship game.

Perhaps the final gift that Silver Linings Playbook gives is that it helps Eagles fans forget for a little while the debacle that this season has been and which will likely lead to the departure of head coach Andy Reid, whose prior record more than speaks for itself, although no one says it so eloquently as Bill Lyons.

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Hurricanes have a way of getting your attention. Being part of the Mid-Atlantic path of Sandy has made me aware of many things out of the normal course of daily business. Storms of all sorts are increasingly opportunities for local news stations to push weather expertise and project themselves as round-the-clock regional communications centers. The result is typically a lot of supermarkets benefiting from bread and milk sales and a lot of snow shovels and sidewalk salt sold at Lowes and Home Depot.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

However, the potential for serious flooding, property damage, and power outages with Hurricane Sandy over such a wide path of the Eastern seaboard has upped the ante in many directions. Yesterday, a number of smart retailers like Wal-Mart and Office Depot had moved essentials to the front of their stores, including bottled water, flashlights, batteries, etc. Perhaps the only exception — portable generators are still tough to be had at a time like this.

Especially surprising were some smart radio commercials yesterday by two different major property/casualty insurance giants — State Farm and Erie Insurance. Both spots were direct, full of good preparatory advice, and reassurance that they would be there for policyholders. That is a solid message for corporations to send ahead of what will be a costly quarter for them as they help customers settle claims post hurricane. The media buy was expensive, but likely more than offset by the new customers they will gain from competitive property/casualty insurers who don’t treat their insureds well in the days ahead.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

I wondered about my own company, Travelers, but found a similar message emailed to me, along with important details on storm preparedness and claim follow-up. This is a terrific use of a Customer Relationship Marketing database, and while it may seem like a no-brainer, it requires advance planning on the part of the insurance company’s marketing department, along with coordination with all the departments within the company to ensure accuracy of information.

One of the biggest concerns related to Sandy appears to be about loss of electricity from downed trees taking down transmission lines and water affecting the power grid. I had one unexpected level of assurance from my friend Steven Brush posting to Facebook on Sunday — he snapped a smartphone picture of electrical crew trucks traveling north from Alabama via I-95. Now, that’s emergency preparedness and much appreciated out-of-state assistance even before it is officially needed.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

In the information age, all of us are getting better prepared to handle whatever nature throws our way, certainly following painful lessons learned during Katrina. And government, utilities, media, non-profit relief agencies, and businesses are getting smarter in helping citizens weather these storms.

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A roof over your head. Seems like such a basic concept, but ironically, what is the term for the biggest group of expenses of any business (the expenses that constantly get cut in order to maintain profitability)? Overhead — employee salaries and benefits, office or commercial space, utilities, taxes, insurance to maintain that office or commercial space. So, as businesses struggle to make payments, and often have to layoff staff, so do the many individual employees affected by such cuts. And with all the holes in the safety net of government assistance, more and more people are losing homes and without employment unable to find affordable housing. Vicious cycle, as they say.

Homeless is a term that says it all. You have hit rock bottom economically and you have the cold hard pavement as a pillow each night. A few weeks ago, our blog talked about the politics of cancer and how some forms were politically incorrect and less sympathetic (notably, lung cancer thanks to tobacco stigma). The same rules apply to the homeless and make them easy to dismiss — when you have a group that includes the mentally ill (many off meds or untreated), the drug addicted (alcohol, prescription, and/or illegal drugs), and the criminal (serving your time does not guarantee you a roof over your head upon release), many are going to be quick to write off the problem of homelessness as unsolvable or throwing good money after bad. But the group also includes people who can’t find work in a tough economy, entire families, veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other wars, and the poor who work but don’t earn enough to pay for housing.

Real life is seldom ever neat and tidy, however. I was reminded of this when hearing the latest presidential campaign tussles over 47% of Americans not paying federal income tax and some other percentage receiving government assistance. Regardless of which candidate you support, those numbers should disturb you. A lot. For me, they underscore that too many Americans are on the handout side of some kind of weighted scale and not enough are on the working and earning enough to pay federal taxes side.

One Step Away is a new newspaper sold by the homeless in Philadelphia to help the homeless.

One Step Away is a new newspaper sold by the homeless in Philadelphia to help the homeless.

That is why I was heartened by a casual event when I was down to the Pennsylvania Convention Center last week. I was approached by a street vendor selling a newspaper called “One Step Away.” It is a new publication designed for a noble purpose— to incentivize the homeless to earn money and get themselves on a path toward a roof over their heads.  Each homeless vendor pays 25 cents a copy but sells the paper for $1. That means every paper purchased puts 75 cents in their pocket. Most salespersons I know would kill for a 75% commission; however, we’re not talking about an easy-to-sell product in the digital age. In fact, I just saw a story about how newspaper revenues had dropped to 1950s levels. So, “One Step Away” is properly structured on a basic free enterprise level and the homeless vendors have a great carrot to help themselves. They have skin in the game, unlike a significant portion of those 47% who aren’t paying federal income taxes but receiving benefits.

“One Step Away” gets its name from the truism that too many of us are only a missed paycheck or a lost job or a medical crisis on the plus side of the homelessness ledger. That is a sobering thought.

If you would like to help the “One Step Away” mission, I encourage you to visit OSAPHILLY.ORG to donate, support, advertise. This video will introduce you to some of the many homeless vendors you will be helping get back on their feet.

Philadelphia once captured national attention about the problem of homelessness when an 11-year-old boy named Trevor Ferrell from one of America’s richest suburbs, Gladwyne, challenged his parents, his church, and a whole lot of other fellow citizens to help out. I am glad to see that is still carrying on his mission. It was a little bittersweet to read this account and learn that the adult Trevor elected not to leverage his fame into a career and is now dealing somewhat anonymously with adult challenges like the rest of us — meeting financial obligations and trying to make a good life for his own family. We all have skin in this game.

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There are few things that adults and children agree on, but a life-altering ice cream dessert might be one of them. In Philadelphia, home of so many great ice cream brands, we now have two very different ice cream palaces that are worth special trips to.

One is in the western suburbs (Audubon, PA) and embraces a Swiss tradition of ultra-rich, fresh ingredient ice cream and chocolate making — Zwahlen’s. You can’t miss their store, because it is in a chalet style building in the middle of a strip shopping center.  But cuckoo clock ambiance is not what makes this place special. It is the incredible melt in your mouth frozen goodness in a rotating lineup of great flavors. However, their vanilla is just so perfect for adding your own toppings that you will likely walk away a Zwahlen’s fan for life. It is a tough measuring stick for the ice cream chain stores.

Franklin Fountain

A very different experience can be had in Old Philadelphia, right on Market Street at the corner of 2nd Street.  Franklin Fountain is an old time ice cream parlor that has reinvented what ice cream sundaes and floats can be. In the winter months, they make a smore style confection with specialty marshmallows that they light with a blue flame. The lucky recipient gets a long spoon to break up the graham crackers in the ice cold stainless steel container. Or there’s the Franklin Mint made with real crème de menthe. Whichever great ice cream dish you select on their menu, you will find yourself transported to heaven.

Now, Philadelphia also has another kind of ice cream experience. My friend Pete tipped me off to a YouTube-based ad with a text link literally designated as “scarred for life” from the Hot Air blog. This is one of the oddest, creepiest spots (there are actually two of them) to ever attempt to sell ice cream. In this case, the brand is Little Baby’s Ice Cream. The experience of watching these two spots is about as far away as you can get from Zwahlen’s and Franklin Fountain. It is in Frank Zappa “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” – David Lynch Eraserhead territory. You have to be pretty damn sure of the quality of your ice cream to attempt something that is this far out on a crazy limb that you just hacked off with a crosscut saw. If you can’t join ‘em, lick ‘em.

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I’m in a strange place at the moment. I can’t seem to get away from mortality via daily reminders about cancer and its ability to crash through people’s lives like a wrecking ball.

The other week, my wife reminded me it was the 14th anniversary of my mother’s passing from pancreatic cancer. Thankfully, it was a very short three-month ride from diagnosis to the bitter end. Despite some chemo to relieve symptoms, my mother faded fast into jaundice and spreading disease. It was surreal to get the news and watch her deteriorate so quickly and completely.

Last week, my family attended a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society event at World Café Live, joining hundreds of others who will be participating in Light The Night walks this fall. I listened to two young women deliver inspiring talks — one who is soldiering on after losing her best friend (her brother) recently to leukemia and the other a strong but still shaken survivor who grappled with and beat lymphoma in her early 20s. These are tests that few of us could weather so strongly.

Yesterday, my youngest son, a leukemia survivor himself, went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for his annual check-up. He spent a lot of time at CHOP from ages one through four and a half, adhering strictly to a proven regimen for beating the acute lymphoblastic form of the disease. He is now a healthy teenager. During his exam today, his nurse marveled at the strength of his heartbeat. Something in her voice suggested that she seldom gets to hear such positive reinforcement among the countless other patients she sees.

Since the beginning of the year, two good friends who work at the same Newton Associates client have battled very different kinds of cancer at the same time. Thankfully, both adhered strictly to their protocols, were determined to beat cancer, and are now through their treatment cycles with positive outcomes. It wasn’t easy for either one but their unflagging commitment to health carried them through tough times.

This summer has meant a cruel, cruel blow to my wife’s cousin, a Vietnam vet and a perpetually hard worker who had only months ago begun his retirement. He was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of melanoma of the sinuses, rare because it is typically linked to an industrial cause, in this case, exposure to Agent Orange. This news comes on the heels of treatment last year for prostate cancer. Weeks of chemo and radiation are taking their toll and he is now having to have his meals put in a blender because of the throat discomfort he is experiencing. He is toughing it out, too, but of all people doesn’t deserve any of this.

I trade regular emails with a mutual good friend of my wife’s cousin, updating each other on his progress. This friend lost his wife a year ago. She had battled leukemia for an extended spell, but succumbed to a weakened heart. Her doctor had shared an ironic twist — that according to final lab results, she had beaten the leukemia she’d been fighting and was cancer-free when she died.

One of our all-time favorite clients at Newton was the CEO of a packaging company who had been recuperating for a year from a botched knee surgery. Just when he was bouncing back from the follow-up operation, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Like my own mother, he was gone in a very short time, leaving behind a lot of grief spread among a great many family members, friends, and colleagues.

If these stories don’t resonate enough, The New York Times recently ran an important series (part one, part two, and part three can be found here) on promising trends but with not always the best possible results in fighting cancer. The people profiled were carefully chosen to illustrate treatment pitfalls and the possibilities, as well as how none of us are immune from cancer’s threat.

I could keep going on (and you could call me excessively morbid), but my goal isn’t to make you feel bad. It is to make you angry — extremely angry — angry enough to take action against this incredible scourge. Since becoming involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I am aware of many others grappling with cancer; however, I am sure that you have your own stories of pain and loss involving family, friends, and neighbors affected by cancer.

Personally, my anger is fueled by seeing so many people I care about affected so adversely. Even if death is far less inevitable than it used to be, sometimes the treatment and its side effects are as harsh as the disease in terms of quality of life. Of course, if cancer is claiming even a single life, that’s too many if the person afflicted is you or a loved one.

It’s not as if a lot of the best minds in science (medical and pharmaceutical researchers aided by day-to-day practitioners) haven’t been tackling cancer in its multitude of forms for a very long time. And it’s not as if many committed people aren’t raising funds year after year. Truth is that significant progress toward a cure is made day in, day out. I know from my own son’s fight that common childhood leukemia (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) has been made beatable in just a few short decades. Still, I am feeling more, not less angry about cancer, because inevitably, it’s always personal.

Life is precious and fragile enough, and I didn’t just need a heavily-armed evil demon intent on playing God in a packed Colorado movie theatre to remind me. I don’t mean to digress, but this senseless massacre hammers home how capricious daily life and death instances can be. Shouldn’t each and every one of us be doing more in the larger fight to prevent, detect, and destroy cancer? What else could possibly be more important?

I encourage you to volunteer, even if it is only one Saturday a year, toward helping a cancer-focused charity. Raise funds, do support work at events, arrange to assist patients in need — choose something that fits your schedule and helps to advance the crushing of cancer. Here is my fundraising page for LLS and their annual Light The Night Walk. I encourage you to visit it to contribute (no gift in this fight is small or unappreciated) or to see how easy it is to become a Light The Night walker yourself. Or please investigate one of the countless other charities involved on behalf of specific cancers and see where you can begin to make a difference.

Let me tell you, anger is a terrific motivator. If one sick hateful ghoul with cancerous thoughts could achieve so much terror in Aurora, just think what so many of the rest of us can do on behalf of life and for loved ones and future generations.


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A front page article in today’s Wall Street Journal has my Irish up (and I’m mostly Scotch-German). It concerns the Washington Nationals organization trying to have it both ways — full stadium attendance when the Phillies come to town, but with those seats occupied only by Nationals fans. Currently, this is the work (and job) of one Andrew Feffer.

Feffer is outraged that marauding Phils fans have traveled south to take over the mostly empty Nationals stadium whenever the NL East rivals played. The article cites the usual predictable nasty anecdotes about how horrible the sports fans of Philadelphia are. In this case, vomiting on a local fan’s shoes when he took his father to opening day. Well, there are horrible Philadelphia fans, but they are in the minority. Also, they are in roughly the same proportion as horrible fans from other cities. Philadelphia fans are the polar opposite of fair-weather, they are knowledgeable about their teams and their competitors, and they are passionate enough to take their support on the road.

Philly sports fans are proud to root on their teams even in enemy territory.

Philly sports fans are proud to root on their teams even in enemy territory.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of witnessing this phenomenon while vacationing in Los Angeles with my family. We wanted to take in a Dodgers game that week and were thrilled to learn the Phils were on a West Coast swing. Our only concern was awareness that LA had gotten some serious bad press after Dodgers faithful had beaten a Giants fan nearly to death in the parking lot earlier in the season. Turns out our concerns were unfounded. Like the Nationals, the Dodgers were having real trouble filling seats and as a result Phillies fans turned out in force. It was a great atmosphere and a real kick to watch our team notch a win in someone else’s ballpark. During every trip to the concession stands, a sea of red was high-fiving fellow travelers.

Back on the East Coast, for the past few seasons, Phils fans have actually helped boost the Nationals’ revenue by selling large blocks of tickets that would otherwise have been empty seats. Now, Andrew Feffer is leading an organizational charge to, in his mind, keep the barbarians at the gates. Really sad and shabby idea.

The solution is to field a winning team. The Nationals have been so bad as to be nearly unwatchable in recent years. It’s understandable to not fill seats when your team is terrible. There have been times in recent years, when the Braves and the Marlins had good teams and were unable to fill their stadiums, even at playoff time.  This year, the Nationals have improved from those tough seasons and look like they might be more than competitive. Feffer should trust that winning baseball will attract people to the ballpark. I know there will be at least one. My friend, Glenn, has been a Nats ballpark regular when they were like watching paint dry. THAT’S a fan. Now, it’s thick. Glenn was also there through thin.

Competition is good for sports rivalries. You don’t build a fanbase by keeping other teams’ fans out of your own ballpark. I hope the Nationals new stadium is filled to capacity this weekend. With Nats and Phils fans watching some great baseball, cheering on their teams, and not vomiting on each others’ shoes. Go Phightins!



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My friends and I have had a running gag since senior year of college, every so often suggesting names for the rock band we never got around to forming. This article from A.V. Club renewed the conversation last December and revived another round, still nothing topping our default choice — Insipid Ostrich.
Two memorable songs from the late Jim Croce and the late Johnny Cash underscore the importance of selecting the proper moniker.

Not surprisingly, ad agency naming bears more than a passing resemblance to the rock world, which would help to explain some of the memorable names featured in this Adweek story. Here are the 40 strangest names in the global ad business; the article gives the background on each.

40. Taxi
39. Odopod
38. Bonehook
37. Big Spaceship
36. Droga5
35. The Bank
34. Razorfish
33, Naked
32, Wikreate
31. Steak
30. Creature
29. Lean Mean Fighting Machine
28. High Heels & Bananas
27. Blammo Worldwide
26. Omobono
25. The Chopping Block
24. Captains of Industry
23. The Glue Society
22. Farm
21. Adam & Eve
20. Elephants & Ants
19. Victors & Spoils
18. David & Goliath
17. For Office Use Only
16. Walrus
15. Mother
14. Mistress
13. G&M Plumbing
12. Moosylvania
11. The Barbarian Group
10. Omelet
9. Big Kitty Labs
8. Hello Viking
7. High Wide & Handsome
6. Barton F. Graf 9000
5. Kids Love Jetlag
4, Pocket Hercules
2. 72andsunny
1. Wexley School for Girls

In the past week, I’ve taken calls from two creative production houses whose catchy names were carefully chosen to set them apart — Fat Chimp Studios and The Nerdery.

Yesterday, I was reading an industry story on The Pitch and saw a banner for Gyro, the edgiest, buzz-worthiest branding/advertising agency to ever call Philadelphia home. When I clicked through, I realized it was not Gyro Worldwide, but another agency now using the name. A Google search for Gyro Worldwide led me to Quaker City Mercantile, a surprisingly mellow but still memorable (by comparison) rebranding.

The traditional agency nomenclature direction is a lot like the method followed by the legal profession. The name(s) on the door belong to the principals: Ogilvy and Mather; Doyle Dane Bernbach; Della Femina Travisano & Partners; even the fictional Mad Men shop, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

That’s the model followed and continued by Newton Associates. Yes, Virginia, there was and still is a Jon Newton. We continue to collaborate, lunch and kibitz with Jon regularly. In 2003, when Gerry Giambattista and I purchased the agency as long-time employees from Jon and his account service business partner, Harry Streamer, we made a conscious decision to retain the name, carry the torch, and honor the high standards set by Newton Associates. We’ve never regretted our name decision and we’re proud to soon be coming up on marking our first decade.

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Earlier this week, I was distressed to read (online) that long-time b2b publisher Penton had made a decision to give up on print. At first, I thought the move to all-digital applied across the board to each and every Penton trade magazine. Turns out it is strictly their tech group titles. With the cost of paper, ink, and press time combined with the explosion of tablets and e-readers, it is mighty tempting for publishers to give up on their print properties, especially if pages are down and advertisers are off.

I’m a print guy and always will be. I’d far rather hold a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, than strain my eyesight scrolling, adjusting screens, and absorbing pixels. Also, as our art director pointed out this week, doctors and hair salons are never going to fill their waiting rooms with stacks of Kindles and iPads.

However, some publishers are making the most of digital platforms and they are making it harder for print to keep up. QR codes and MS Tags are being used (some would say overused) to link ads to relevant online content and measurability. Meanwhile, ICIS and others are producing digital platforms that integrate rich media. Our client, Graham Engineering, was able to run a full page ad in the print issue. Then, we adapted it for their digital issue on the Ceros platform, integrating an extended video clip within the space of the ad (see page 6).  Sure beats banner and pay per click advertising.

The other way to look at this is for publishers being in the content business and connecting with readers (viewers?) in the way(s) that each prefers — print publication, digital version of print publication, web site, video clips, e-newsletters, webinars, in-person at events (and virtual events), and of course, all the flavors of social media.

It can be done and it is working . I had that reinforced by Michael Pitts this week, a hard-working ad sales rep doing his job the old-fashioned way, making face-to-face appointments with new prospects. What was he selling? The Philadelphia Tribune Media Group properties. Yes, the oldest, continually running African- American newspaper (since 1884) is still going strong. It was thrilling to hear that weekly print circulation is at 221,977, the vast majority of delivered to subscribers’ front steps. That’s a loyal and engaged readership.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Tribune hasn’t been content to rest on its considerable laurels either. In recent years, it has launched Metro editions taking it to specific Philly neighborhoods, as well as the Delaware and Montgomery County suburbs. It has also added special print publications like the Sojourner, a quarterly visitor’s guide to the region, and the Tribune magazine, with special editions on the Most Influential African Americans, Top African American Attorneys, and Women of Achievement.

Of course, like most newspapers, the Tribune has made its web site its 24/7 news platform, off which to build content for print via what is happening right now, what is engaging readers, and what demands the longer, more thoughtful coverage that print allows. Also, getting two-way conversations going via social media community pages. As Michael noted, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston has generated the kind of interest locally that it has nationally. offers some outstanding run of site ad opportunities, as well as rich media ad units that are going to reward sponsors generously.

I tire of the debate that digital is killing print. I’d far rather see examples like a 125-year-old newspaper continuing to successfully publish by delivering great content that doesn’t divide print and digital, but balances it instead.

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The ad industry was once filled with imaginative writers, amazing artists, and exceptional salespeople. Today, it still is, but there are a lot fewer of them, with their thinning ranks filled by technologists. However, I’ve always been buoyed by copywriters who manage to write their way out of the agency business and into fame and fortune. After working on Detroit automotive accounts, Elmore Leonard launched a prolific career as a crime novelist — most recently, his lawman character Raylan has spawned the popular cable show JustifiedJames Patterson, author of the Alex Cross mysteries and now a hugely successful children’s book author, once toiled at J. Walter Thompson.  Even, more serious scribes like F. Scott Fitzgerald (you know, the Gatsby guy) first penned ad copy to pay the bills.

Closer to home, I once had the pleasure of a book-signing meeting with award-winning author of young adult fiction, Jerry Spinelli, who worked on the trade media side of the business as an editor at the long-gone Chilton publishing empire in Radnor. He put Norristown and the Elmwood Park Zoo on the map in the classic Maniac Magee. I also once interviewed with a very personable Jon Clinch, a creative director at Schaefer Advertising, who went on to write a remarkable first novel, Finn, daring to take on Twain’s story from the perspective of Huck’s dead father.

Unfortunately, for every fiction and screenwriter writing about advertising from the outside (MadMen, thirtysomething), there are many more writers in the advertising profession hoping to midwife the Great American Novel. Fortunately, a few are also putting their talents to work creating exceptional thought leadership tomes about advertising, branding, and marketing. Some are brand names themselves (Ogilvy on Advertising). Some are in-demand lecturers like David Meerman Scott.  And others are terrific practitioners of what they preach.

One of the latter is a friend of mine, Lori Widmer, who fills every day as a professional writer, freelancing for corporations and agencies like Newton, writing Words on the Page, a writer’s blog, co-moderating About Writing Squared, a writers’ forum, and now authoring an ambitious and ingenious e-book of ideas, Marketing 365.

Marketing365 is an idea-a-day business-building treasure chest for entrepreneurs

Marketing365 is an idea-a-day business-building treasure chest for entrepreneurs

This work is literally a year’s worth of advice, (plus a bonus for leap year), to help small businesses and entrepreneurs develop and retain their customer bases by making marketing an essential everyday agenda item. The guide is a quick-read at 108 breezy pages, but it is chock-full of great recommendations. Lori doesn’t want readers to implement one a day, or anything close to all of them. She just wants businesspeople to mine her book for things that fit their company culture and personal comfort level. It is a great reference source to skim through to trigger new thinking about an age-old subject. She manages to mix traditional methods and media with plenty of digital and social options, all without repeating herself January 1 – December 31. It would make a great addition to any marketing curriculum and SBA support center.

Marketing 365 can be yours via PDF download for the bargain price of $14.95. I hope the many readers of this blog will help make Lori rich (just not rich enough to leave the profession and give up occasional freelancing).

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