thirtysomething

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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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Nerf arsenal in Red Tettemer's interactive department.

Nerf arsenal in Red Tettemer's interactive department.

Today, something very exciting happened. Advertising Age gave national exposure to a Philadelphia shop for the first time in a long time and in a very big way. Not since Gyro tilted the Philadelphia advertising world off its axis has an agency in this town captured national exposure in the long shadows of Madison Avenue. Advertising Age’s new Agency Digs video feature visited Red Tettemer’s awesomely creative workspace. I encourage you to do the same. Not because I like to give exposure to competing agencies in the same metropolitan area, but because you’ll get a fascinating tour of a truly unique and creative enterprise.

Red Tettemer has come a long way from an old house in Narberth to the top two floors of the PNB ( former Philadelphia National Bank) building, complete with rooftop access. On those two floors is an agency workspace that is part Dave and Busters, part CBGB’s, part South Street head shop, part pet shop, and part Las Vegas lounge — in other words, every square inch seems to be conceived to spark the imagination, the funny bone, and the creative drive. It’s the coolest agency workspace I’ve ever seen.

From large to small, most of the agencies, I’ve visited over the years would not find themselves featured in Architectural Digest. Ours included. But these days especially, when great work is being produced on iPads in crowded Starbucks, the digital landscape and end results are what clients care about. Most clients never set foot in an agency anymore. The agency’s web site is as close as they travel.

I remember an early interview at Lewis & Gilman (the mega-shop that later became a unit of Foote Cone and Belding and later Brian Tierney’s firm). There was an air of importance to the place as I sat in the waiting area with my portfolio. Early episodes of Mad Men brought back the exclusive Old Boys Network air of the place.

Later, Philadelphia advertising captured national attention again through the TV show “thirtysomething” where the main characters Michael and Elliot had their own agency and later worked for DAA. The firm’s open workspace and the indoor basketball court were patterned after the offices of California based Chiat Day.

Some of the more interesting spaces I’ve visited in recent years have been creative firms that combine video production and all things digital. Howard McCabe’s firm Blue turned a former Fairmount residence into stylish editing and animation suites and workrooms. JPL in Harrisburg took over an editing facility from Tyco and converted it into one of the Best Places to Work in PA. The other week I sat in on a social media strategy session for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Think Brownstone’s great open space dominated by couches and a white board, in a Conshohocken brownstone.

But as exceptional as each of these offices are, none are as mind-bending and fun-filled as Red Tettemer’s featured space. It’s a theme park for left-brained types. Congratulations to Steve Red and everyone at Red Tettemer for creating a great environment for creative to thrive.

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