Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Question of the Week: Is “Advertising Agency” Even an Accurate Term Anymore?

When faced with this question, we pondered whether the trouble was with the word “advertising", or with “agency”.

Yes, there’s no arguing that “advertising” is, to some, akin to a dirty word. And telling people that you work in advertising only makes you look good if you’re in a room full of lawyers. 

It’s more than just that though.

Companies in the “Ad Business” Are Doing More Than Just Advertising  

To stay relevant, agencies have to be able to wear many hats. So along with the dazzling whiz-poppery creative work, they’re doing other things like branding, web design, media buying/trading, marketing, social media management and taco eatery pop-ups. Okay, maybe not the last thing. But then again, maybe. 

At any rate, there isn’t a word that covers all of the above. Some businesses are branding themselves “experience” agencies - attempting to unite brands with their target audiences through live experiences, digital engagement and traditional marketing. And it’s working. Sorta.

Still, the problem isn’t just with the word “advertising.”

The Term “Agency” Causes Some Confusion Too

Consultancies have been in competition with traditional agencies for quite some time. And because they’re able to crank out anything at a massive global scale, they’re giving agencies a run for their money. 

As such, some companies are trading out agency for consultancy. But there’s something dull and factual about the term which seems to imply that it’s the place where creativity goes to shrivel up and die.

So where does this leave us? 

Collectively, the Words “Advertising Agency” Don’t Really Cover It 

And companies that have comfortably slapped this moniker
on their business cards and stationary for decades are wondering whether potential clients are even looking for an ad agency any longer.

It smacks of 1960s (glorified sexist) Mad Men.

Still, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative term that’s killing it at this point. 

So for the time being, when it’s a keen marketing strategy that includes a snappy headline, stellar design, a strong media buy and effective social media management, the advertising agency continues to be your go-to. 

You just might be able to get a taco too. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

What Are the User Interface Design Elements to Watch for in 2018?

Somewhere around the time that Pokémon Go sent people walking head on into traffic in 2016, web designers started to shifting their focus even more to interface design. They moved the emphasis from purely landing the sale to creating user experience. Coincidence? Probably not.

How users were interacting with screens had been a thing. But now it was a really big thing. And from it all rose some great new ideas in UI design.

As such, 2017 asked designers to focus on designs that were more personalized and would save users time. But, miracle workers that they are, designers still needed to deliver deeper metrics than ever before.

So What Can We Expect from User Interface Design in 2018?

The good times just keep coming.

1. Gradients

Colors are going to be brighter and more vivid. And there will be more use of gradients. Yep. When it comes to user interface, 2018 is going to be the web designer’s dream.

2. Long Form Content

Content continues to be king. Or queen. Or some form of tyrannical royalty. 

The demand for lots and lots of words means that web pages require scrolling. This make writers happy (no easy feat) and is great for search engine optimization. But for designers, it’s challenging when content extends below the fold. So in 2018, UI design trends will be addressing this issue. Because designers deserve happiness too.

3. Full-Screen Video

It’s true that rich stories are developed through powerful writing. BUT, videos can speak a thousand words. Or more. Plus, they don’t require the user to scroll down. Or to read. (Which, for some, is a four-letter word.)

Visitors can more easily immerse themselves in the full-screen video experience. This leads to more involvement and, if all goes well, better metrics. So with that goal in mind, this trend is likely to grow in 2018.

4. Typography 

Yeah, while sites will be heavy with long-form content, full
page pictures (so gradient rich!) and videos, bold and expressive typography is expected to be in the limelight for 2018.

Forget minimalism. That’s so 2016. 

5. Illustrations

While color and typography contribute in their own way to story-telling, illustrations can stand on their own. 

That’s because illustrations are a versatile bunch. They can be sophisticated or simple, playful or serious, calm or animated. And they’re capable of creating unique experiences for website visitors. 

So they’re bound to stay relevant in 2018.

6. Cards

Cards are nothing new. They’ve been used in website design for a while.

They’re getting more attention now though because they’re easy to use in mobile design, are included Google’s Material Design and are such an  effective way to pack information into a small space.

And since people currently have an intimacy with their phones that surpasses what they feel for most other humans, this design element is expected to become even more popular in 2018.

Change Happens Fast - Trends Come and Go

So even though these trends in user interface design are bound to hold for the coming year, technological developments and humans’ capacity for fickleness will forever keep designers on their toes. 

For example, the increasing popularity of voice user interface could point to the possibility of a far less visible UI in 2019 or 2020. Who knows?

Here’s one important thing to remember though:

It Doesn’t All Come Down to the Designer

Sure, typography and custom illustrations depend on savvy designers. But long-form content requires skilled writers. And, of course, the drive for metrics involves experienced marketers

The group effort of creating a website requires everyone to play well together. And that’s some real user interface.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Question of the Week: Which Social Media Platforms Are Most Relevant for B2B Brands These Days?

This is an interesting question. Not on the level of “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” But similar in its elusive answer.

On one level, it’s actually gotten more difficult to gain organic reach on social media over the past few years. Yet at the same time, many new doors have flung open to create a lot of opportunities. 

Start with the Established Channels 

These are the old school platforms. These wizened dinosaurs (anything over ten years old) still offer reach. But simply spamming these channels doesn’t work anymore. So now you need a new approach.  


Aside from being able to create customized messaging to a highly targeted audience and having powerful analytics to make whip-smart decisions, Facebook is the largest of the dinosaurs. 

There are around 1.55 billion users on Facebook. And over 1 billion of them are active each day. So yeah, your audience is likely on Facebook. 

Even if you don’t use Facebook for lead generation, not being on Facebook means NOT showing up in the largest social-media conversation on the planet. So there’s that.


While many groups have disappeared, those that are established are still going strong and offer solid visibility. Plus, its publishing platform also has potentially good visibility - depending on the publisher’s profile. 

And if you have a blog (and you should), you can syndicate content you’ve already created to save time. It’s a "two for."


While it may not bring as much engagement as Facebook or puppies and kittens being friends on YouTube, Twitter is still
an effective tool for answering questions and providing support. It’s ideal for having one-on-one conversations.

It’s can also be good for building relationships with micro influencers in your industry. This means visibility from the right people. 

It’s a good idea to keep an active stream of valuable content on Twitter.


If you generate content in formats that fit on this channel, it’s going to continue to be effective because, come on, it’s YouTube.

So that’s the big four of the old school platforms. And you might be content to stick with those for now and leave the newer platforms to those millennials. 

But You Might Want to Consider the Newer Platforms

Especially if the goal for your B2B company is to make your company seem cool and playful - the sort of place that understands the fun of peeing on a spark plug.


Although B2B audiences are generally not hanging out on Instagram, it does offer visibility and loads of engagement if you’re in an industry that focuses on brand awareness or public perception.

In fact, one recent survey found that even though B2Bs are still more likely to choose LinkedIn, 53% are now active on Instagram.


This question and answer platform offers visibility with specific target audiences. So if you can offer up an impressive answer, it can help to establish you as an authority.  

And if your website is relevant is the question and will actually add some value, you’re allowed to add a link to it.


Like with LinkedIn, you can reuse content on Medium from your blog. That means less work for you. And that’s good because Medium can be a little work intensive. 

But it does offer big readership and visibility. And you can even choose it to host your blog. Cut out the middle man (or woman).  


Though generally considered a younger person’s game, Snapchat has demonstrated the staying power that makes it worthy of consideration. 

Let’s face it. The workforce is growing younger and younger. That means your audience increasingly lives on non-conventional channels. Channels they understand way better than you do. 

Yeah, we get it. 

If you’re not an internet native, then making headway on Snapchat or Instagram can be challenging. But what isn’t these days?  It’s just like with any other platform - you’re looking to build relationships with your audience.

And since more and more B2B companies are seeing they have plenty to gain from these popular networks, they’re getting on board.

Blending the Old and the New

It comes down to understanding what you’d like to achieve and whom you’d like to reach. From there you’ll figure out the right approach and networks for your B2B company.

Adjust how you use those established channels. Try one of the new ones. Or both. 

Gary Vaynerchuk puts it best when he says, “Behind every B is a C.” Of course, if you’re being silly, C could stand for any number of things. But what Gary’s saying is that even though you’re a B2B company, you need to remember that you’re really not marketing to another business. You’re marketing to a human decision-maker behind the business.

If those decision-makers are hanging out on Instagram or Snapchat, then start getting familiar with them. If not, maybe just stick with the classics for now. 

There’s something to be said for cozying up with dinosaurs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Adaptive Vs. Responsive Design - Which Is Better?

If you’ve been following this blog, then you already know that we aren’t going to give you a straight answer. Partially because it wouldn’t make for much of a post in we answered it definitively with one or the other. But mostly because there isn’t a definitive answer.  

Life is tough for designers these days. Aside from being misunderstood as the tortured artists that they are, they’re also expected to cater to a whole  bunch of different screen sizes. The humanity of it all. 

So as they’re looking to bridge the gap between the vast array of devices, they essentially have two options for their designs - adaptive and responsive. (A third option would be to abandon the field of design in a huff, though those sorts of histrionics are typically reserved for high-strung actors and stylists rather than mild-mannered designers.)

Perhaps you’re wondering this:

What Is the Difference between Adaptive and Responsive Design?

Experienced designers know the difference. But to the layperson, there seems to be some confusion around the difference between the two. So we’ll dumb it down for you. Not that you’re dumb, of course…

Responsive Design

As the name implies, sites with responsive design respond to changes in browser width by adjusting the placement of design elements to fit in the available space. All without the aid of black magic.

A responsive website will display content based on the available browser space. So, for example, if you open a
responsive site on your desktop and then change the size of the browser window, the content will move to arrange itself in the most optimal way for the browser window. That’s the theory, at least. 

On mobile phones, this happens automatically. The site checks for the available space and then, like a toddler beauty pageant contestant, presents itself in the ideal arrangement. 

Responsive design is straightforward and fluid. It enables users to enjoy the online world without the deep and horrible frustration of having to adjust their screens. (First world problems.) As such, designers need to have a strong concept of the site they’re designing, as well as a sense of the end users. 

Adaptive Web Design

Adaptive web design is a newer animal. It was introduced in 2011 and is also known by the far less sleek moniker - progressive enhancement of a website. Notice how it writhes on the tongue.  

While responsive design relies on changing the design pattern to accommodate the available real estate, adaptive design has multiple fixed layout sizes. In this case, when the site detects the available space - be it a phone, tablet, desktop -  it selects the layout most appropriate for that screen size. Resizing the browser has no impact on the design.

Sites were quick to embrace adaptive design. They have no qualms with the fact that the layout displayed on a mobile website using adaptive design may be different from the desktop’s version. Although this is often because the designer - who may arguably have control issues - picked a different layout for the phone’s screen rather than leaving the design to try to rearrange itself.

When working in adaptive design, it’s normal to develop six designs for the six most common screen widths; 320, 480, 760, 960, 1200, and 1600 pixels.

So which is better? That's another loaded question. We will say this:

Responsive Design Is the More Popular of the Two  

For now, at least. Though popular isn’t always better. (It doesn’t, for example, decide who's going to be president.) Nevertheless, responsive design allows designers to show content based on the browser space available. And all of this equals consistency between devices.

The fluidity of responsive design makes for good UX. It’s SEO friendly and often easier to implement than adaptive design. Plus, there’s a plethora of exciting templates to use. Fun, fun, fun!!!! 

So what are the drawbacks? In a nutshell: 

  • Not as much screen size design control
  • Advertisements can get lost on the screen 
  • Longer mobile download times

Adaptive Design Is More Involved 

The designer has several fixed layout sizes. And that means more work. But it does offer an alternative to the “one-size-fits-all-once-it’s-stretched-out-all-over-the-place” approach. (Which is how the clothing labels should REALLY read.)

All of this extra work does allow for the best UX based on the device for which it is designed. Mobile devices are able to sense their user’s environment, and designers can optimize advertisements based on user data.

Here’s where adaptive design doesn’t shine:

  • It’s labor-intensive to create – especially when retrofitting traditional sites
  • Tablets can have trouble with site configuration that’s smartphone- or desktop-oriented
  • Search engines have trouble appreciating identical content on multiple sites so it’s challenging for SEO

So there you have it. 

The Choice between Adaptive and Responsive Design Is Yours

There’s something to be said for sticking with responsive design in terms of saving money, improving SEO and keeping users content. Then again, adaptive design can tune in more to users’ varying needs.

It all comes down to thinking about your product or service when designing your site. Will you be accessing users in a specific setting? What aspects of their behavior can you use to keep them informed and engaged?

You might want to start with responsive design while keeping an eye on adaptive design and the ever changing field of design. More and more devices are getting “smart” and designers are increasingly designing to that notion.

It’s all part of the evolution of web design. Your job is to remain aware of these changes. After all, survival of the fittest isn’t about being the smartest and strongest - it’s about being the most adaptable to change. 

Just ask Darwin.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Question of the Week: How Has Copywriting Evolved Over the Decades?

Early in his career, Salman Rushdie was a copywriter. It’s safe to say that if he’d stayed in advertising, he could have avoided years of hiding. Because no matter how offensive or horrible copywriting might be, it’s never been known to incite a fatwa. 

It’s also safe to say that at the time Mr. Rushdie was in advertising, the kind of copy that was getting tongues wagging and ears flapping was of a different ilk. For instance, it served to “wag tongues” and “flap ears.” Yep. It was the bee’s knees.

Back in those days, copywriters were frequently specialists in advertorial copy with a background in English or Journalism. They learned how to sell to consumers through conventional ad copy. 

Conventional Copy Does Not Cut It Any Longer 

Actually, it hasn’t for a while. 

Consumers have seen and heard it all before. The old tricks of the trade aren’t convincing to folks who’ve been “sold to” for decades. Athletes and celebrities just don’t have the selling power they once did - in spite of a certain car insurance company’s belief that Shaquille O’Neal will send people running for affordable coverage.

And over-the-top disruptive advertising copy only works when consumers don’t see right through the “look how awesome we are thinking outside the box” tactics. It can’t insist upon itself like a Wes Anderson movie. And it has to be done well.

Copywriting is in a perpetual state of evolving. But the internet has been a serious game changer.

These Days, Consumers Are Research Driven 

They’re going to go where their internet searches take them. And they want brands that have useful, relevant, actionable and entertaining content. Rather than being bamboozled and sold to, they want to be informed. Especially millennials.

That’s why the name of the game these days is inbound marketing.

Thus, copywriters need to sound distinctive. They need to have something valuable to say. Having good and relevant content is one of the biggest differentiating factors in today’s marketplace. 

Oh, and here’s another thing that’s different. Writing for a niche. In fact, there’s a verb for it - niching. A copywriter can really capitalize on writing extensively on one thing really well. Because, again, consumers want to be informed. Even if they’re being informed about clothes or cars or… platypuses

Some things haven’t changed though.

Copywriters Must Be Able to Tell a Compelling Story

It’s the key to effective advertising.

Copywriters still need to get into their target audience’s head. Not in a creepy Stephen King sort of way. They simply must possess the skills to craft words in a way that’s meaningful enough to inspire action. 

Another thing that hasn’t changed is the necessity of balancing logic and emotion. Like it or not, humans are emotional creatures. We are led just as effectively by an emotional leash as a rational one. Classic and modern copywriting equally play on both aspects - stirring up feelings while simultaneously giving the “why.” 

So no matter how copywriting continues to evolve, the element of human psychology and its many needs will remain the consistent thread. 

Until we start marketing to robots.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Question of the Week - Why Don’t Ad Agencies Advertise?

With a few exceptions most advertising agencies don’t advertise in mass market media because, unless they have an Ogilvy behemoth-like presence, the probability of reaching their desired client is low. 

Ridiculously so.

It means paying far too much for reaching far too few target market potentials. And that's just bad marketing (i.e. a piss poor return on investment).  

But even if ad agencies don’t take the mass marketing route they advise for many of their clients, it’s not really fair to say they don’t advertise themselves. 

Ad Agencies DO Advertise

Yep. It’s just that ad agencies need to target a very narrow market. And they do this a number of ways:

  • Direct Mail - done via the internet or snail

  • Inbound Marketing - which has, in essence, killed its more annoying cousin, cold-calling

  • Public Relations - who doesn’t have a soft spot for press releases?

  • Social Media - LinkedIn in particular (or Instagram if you’re under 28)

  • Trade Shows - show up for some good times in the industry you target

  • Award Shows - a big old spring board for agencies with a creative focus and wide shelves to hold all of their awards 

In fact, the ad industry award shows once had so much clout that agencies not winning the awards felt that the winners were getting soft in the area of marketing savvy, since they were only getting chosen on the merit of their work. Truth? Sour grapes? Probably some of both. 

But here’s the thing.

One of the Most Effective Forms of Advertising for Agencies is the Success of Their Products

And word of mouth. 

That’s just the nature of the beast.

For example, when a commercial or a print ad goes viral and starts bumping sales, inquiring minds want to know who made it. And that drives business to the agency that created it.

So yeah. You won’t see an ad for an agency during the Super Bowl. Or even the Puppy Bowl. But the ads you see during them might stick with you and the millions of other people viewing them. (Or in the case of the Puppy Bowl, the hundreds of others.)

And soon everyone is talking. 

As they say, loose lips sink ships and get work for ad agencies. Or they should be saying that.