To blog or not to blog?

 

I was amazed when I searched images to find that this headline had been done about 500 times before.

I was amazed when I searched images to find that this headline had been done about 500 times before.

When I originally began this blog more than 300 posts and nearly 100,000 viewers ago, I was fired up and pronounced that I was ready to do great things.

I still am.

I’ve written about a wide variety of topics, focusing primarily on advertising and marketing communications which is how I earn my living. Yet the most readership I’ve gotten through the many posts I’ve done has generally not had anything to do with those topics.

The potential merger of St. Louis city and county has drawn the most interest. That’s good, I guess.

I remain a firm believer that there should be a merger, that the current divide is harming our region and that we’ll never really capitalize on our true potential unless we join forces to address the variety of issues that need to be dealt with and eliminate the needless bureaucracy, fiefdoms and petty politics that continue to put a slow stranglehold on this region.

Other posts I’ve written that have drawn many views and elicited quite a few comments range from the glory days of Kenrick Advertising to the Rams leaving town to the loss of my dad this past December.

I’ve tried to position myself as a thought leader in the wonderful world of advertising and marketing communications.

But I’d be the first to admit that I’ve been playing catch-up to the ever-expanding digital and social media whirlwind that has hit traditional means of communications and knocked them down for a ten-count. Though I’ve made great strides in my knowledge base, new technologies and user platforms emerge on a daily basis. If you think you’re on top of something one day, you’re behind the next.

But one thing remains unchanged no matter how it’s being delivered: the simple ability to communicate.

These days, it’s more important than ever to develop your brand personality and connect with your audience in ways that are honest and true to what you’re all about.

I love to write.

I love to tell stories.

I have tried to assess the amount of business I’ve gotten through writing these blog posts. Directly, I know it led to one piece of business that has long since come and gone.

But people know I’m out there. Those who have read these posts know that I am capable of putting together a sentence or two that somehow leads you from Point A to Point B though I have a strong tendency to take detours and on occasion, run directly into roadblocks.

I’ll keep writing.

Business has been very good recently. I don’t think there’s any correlation to the work I’ve been doing and the blog posts I’ve been posting (or more recently, not posting).

If you’re still reading, you’re the reason that the answer to the initial question is this: blog.

 

 

25th anniversary of the demise of Kenrick Advertising

Coming back from a round of Labor Day golf today, I checked my email and saw that Steve Unger had sent me a message, letting me know that it was 25 years ago yesterday that Kenrick Advertising closed its doors for good.

25 years has created some cobwebs in my brain as the exact details are no longer quite clear in my head so hopefully, some other Kenrickian will clear up exactly what happened that day.

I don’t remember if we were shut down to begin the day or whether it happened after we were coming back from lunch. That seems to be the way I recall it – there were either armed security guards or police officers there to greet us as we got off the elevator at Aragon Place and told us to go grab our immediate belongings and get out.

Denny Long had filed Chapter 11.

Seriously? How could he? Why did he? You have got to be kidding me.

But it wasn’t a joke.

The third largest advertising agency in St. Louis and the only agency job I had worked at coming fresh out of college was no more.

Many of us gathered at Powers, a local Clayton watering hole that was the site of many a Kenrick gathering – both lunchtime and after work. I still remember Denny being interviewed on TV as the news of the shutdown made all of the local channels and how lucky Powers was that a beer bottle didn’t shatter the set. We were furious. We were dumbfounded. We were out on the streets without jobs.

In 11 short months, Denny had come in, purchased all of the Aragon Companies consisting of Kenrick Advertising, Aragon PR, MultaVista, Patrick Promotions, Kingsbury Graphics, Technisonic Studios and I think one or two others – Aragon Consulting Group and maybe some research-based company and before we could even celebrate a year with him at the helm he pulled the plug and abandoned ship.

Most of us didn’t see it coming.

But that’s life. That’s business.

I remember several of us meeting a few days after with hopes to save the company. Maybe buy it back, hold on to the key accounts we had, right the ship and all would be good again.

Turns out a few of us from that meeting had other plans. That was the birth of Brighton.

The rest of us had to fend for ourselves. And gradually, most of us somehow managed to land on our feet. Technisonic was purchased and continued on for many years. Quite a few Kenrickians went to Adamson. Geile-Rexford was born and turned into Geile-Leon and they’re doing great work now with a culture that is reminiscent of the Kenrick days.

I spent 16 years at Hughes and for the most part, it was a great place to work.

But it was never like Kenrick Advertising.

Maybe it was because it was my first real agency job. Maybe it was because I was in my 20s and didn’t know any better.

But I’ve never felt that.

Kenrick Advertising was a place that encouraged creativity. I used to think of it as a grown-up kindergarten, a place where I went to play and was encouraged to come up with big ideas that were totally targeted, totally focused but also out-of-the-ordinary. It’s where I learned the simple expression, “In order to do the extraordinary, you must resist the ordinary.”

There are so many great people that I got the opportunity to know through Kenrick.

Some are no longer with us. Others are scattered about the country. But most of us are still here in the midwest, many still here in St. Louis, many still doing the same kind of work that we were back then. Only different.

So to anyone that once worked in the Aragon Companies and particulary those who strolled the halls of KAI, wherever you are, join me as I raise a toast and pay homage to the many memories of Kenrick Advertising.

 

 

 

Waking up to Missouri

It’s been many years since I worked on the Missouri Division of Tourism account, going back to my days at Kenrick Advertising.

Back then, the overall theme we developed for the state’s advertising and marketing efforts was “Wake up to Missouri.”

Our goal was simple. Get people (primarily families) both in-state and out-of-state to wake up to the wide variety of things to do here in the Show Me State. And there really is a lot to do. It’s just that after living here for a while, many of us have a tendency to take it all for granted. Wake up, people – that’s what we wanted them to do.

Over the past few days, we did a little of our own waking up to Missouri at the Lake of the Ozarks as various family members experienced the following …

There was a helicopter ride, gliding over the Lake and Bagnell Dam. A visit to Bridal Cave which both surprised and delighted. An early morning wave runner ride at the base of the dam. Golf at Porto Cima, one of the finest courses I’ve ever played. We had two sunset dinners overlooking the lake, bought a few silly souvenirs and spent a fair amount of time just chilling poolside.

All in all, it was time well spent and enjoyed by all of us.

So that got me to thinking about Missouri’s current advertising and marketing efforts.

I remember how disappointed I was when our state adopted the theme line of, “Where the rivers run.”

Oh, I get it. There’s all kinds of river activity here in the great state of Missouri. But it seemed to totally neglect the three biggest tourism factors the state had going for it – St. Louis, Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks. Toss in Branson down in Ozark Mountain Country and you’ve got four major tourism draws that though there may be a river nearby, really aren’t focused around river activity.

The theme for Missouri these days is, “Enjoy the show.” My first impression was, “Huh?” But then, after a little more investigation, I see that Hoffman Lewis is back to following the same strategy we employed – only instead of waking people up to the wonders of the state, they’re playing off of the Show Me State nickname – and it’s true, Missouri does put on a variety of enjoyable shows. And not necessarily the theatrical kind.

After viewing some of the ‘enjoy the show’ TV commercials and print ads (http://www.visitmo.com/backstage) I think the overall effort is strong. The writing is a series of play-on-words (something that I’ve always enjoyed – both creating and viewing). The art direction of the print ads is simple and clean. The photography is very well done. The outdoor boards don’t do much for me but I won’t hold that against them. And the end logo treatment is contemporary, fresh and somehow fitting (good job by Rukus – the post production facility).

Overall, I think the folks at Hoffman Lewis have a good thing going.

There’s still plenty of summer left to get out and enjoy all that Missouri has to offer. And I’m sure that future advertising efforts will assure us that even though summer’s about to come to a close, the show will go on.

And whether you Wake Up to Missouri or Enjoy the Show, the urge to action is pretty much the same.

Wake up and enjoy it.

Pursuing other interests

Back when I worked at Kenrick Advertising, there seemed to be a revolving door of people coming and going and whenever one of them was sent packing, a memo would go out stating, “_______ has left the agency to pursue other interests.”

A few months ago, I issued myself a memo regarding BloodLines Creative.

I left to pursue other interests.

I am now the Creative Director of McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. – in fact, I’ve been in that position now for almost three months.

It’s been a great fit and I’m proud to be part of a company that will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2014 and keeps getting better with age.

So why the delay in the announcement?

At first, I was hesitant to spread the news that I had taken on this opportunity. And it definitely is a tremendous opportunity. McCarthy is one of the top ten builders in the United States. Our goal is to be the best builder in America and I can now use the word ‘our’ because I am a part of that team.

I have a lot to learn – not just about the building and construction industry but about how to better use technology to continue improving the communications process.

In the limited time I’ve been there, I’ve been involved in all new communications projects, most notably in the area of digital publishing. I’ve had the privilege of working with two super talented designers who amaze me daily. I’m back to writing and overseeing the development of posters, print ads, videos, invites, e-cards, logos and a wide array of other assignments. I’m no longer working on my own, I’m now part of a team that is more than 2,500 strong. Every day is different. Every day is a challenge.

And that’s the way it should be. So it’s way past time for me to start spreading the news. It’s time to update my LinkedIn profile, time to tell whoever might be interested that my allegiance is now pledged to McCarthy.

BloodLines Creative will continue – only now, it’s turned into a side operation – I’m no longer out there searching for new business opportunities. If a freelance job comes along, I’ll accept it, time permitting. But my focus is 100% on doing the best possible job every single day for McCarthy. I’m a builder now – a builder of the McCarthy brand.

This blog will continue and I’ll keep writing about a wide variety of topics – advertising, marketing, St. Louis, sports, and life in general. (Though not necessarily in that order.)

I’ve had almost 15,000 readers of some of the words I’ve written over the past two years. That seems like a lot, though in the grand scheme of things it’s not much at all.

But that’s okay. It continues to be a good exercise in writing each time I sit down to the keyboard.

So thanks for reading.

Blogging is one interest I will continue to pursue.

Kenrick Advertising’s last Christmas

From time to time I said I would re-live some of my favorite memories from Kenrick Advertising. This isn’t necessarily a favorite memory – in fact, the whole evening is a bit of a blur.

The Denny Long era was actually very short at Kenrick Advertising.

In a span of 11 months, the third largest advertising agency in St. Louis became history. The former president of Anheuser-Busch took over not just Kenrick Advertising, but all of the Aragon Companies. At the time, that consisted of Kenrick, Aragon PR, Aragon Consulting Group, Kingsbury Graphics, MultaVista and Technisonic Studios. I believe another company was created after Denny’s arrival – Patrick Promotions – but that’s another story.

All I know is that once Denny arrived, things changed very rapidly.

I had been with Kenrick Advertising since September of 1980, arriving as a junior copywriter, fresh out of Mizzou. I was given a tremendous amount of opportunity in those first few years. Thirty days into the job, I had my first TV commercial on the air.

As Kenrick grew, I had the opportunity to grow as a writer and creative guy as well. By August of 1988, I was an Associate Creative Director working on local, regional and national accounts. We were doing work that was getting recognized in Advertising Age and AdWeek and were winning both awards and new business.

I was actually on the road shooting commercials for the Missouri Division of Tourism when Denny first took over. I came back from the shoot to discover I no longer had a corner office. We had appointed a new Creative Director and my office was the logical one for him to take.

There went my view.

I remember there used to be a lot of memos from Denny that would go out telling us of new changes.

Those memos always featured lots of ellipses … you know … those irritable dot-dot-dots that … when used incessantly … and often without any real thought behind them … will drive you crazy.

It was in one of those memos that we discovered there was going to be the first ever Aragon Christmas party to be held at … The Sheldon Concert Hall.

I had never been there before and was always up for a party so it sounded good to me.

When we arrived, there was kind of a lecherous looking Santa Claus who was there so we could get a memory of the evening by having our photo taken with Santa. At the end of the evening, we were all given our photos in a little framed party pic … though I don’t remember if  I actually brought mine home or not.

There was a band … there was plenty of food and drink … and lots of us not knowing exactly what to do other than to eat the food and drink the drinks.

I made my way to the men’s room and I remember standing next to Kevin Monahan and asking him if he had received his Christmas bonus yet. Kevin informed me that his Christmas bonus was going right down the drain … of the urinal where he was standing.

That was how I heard there would be no Christmas bonus that year.

In its place, we were a given a genuine Waterford crystal tree ornament. Coincidentally, I was told that Denny’s brother owned a Waterford crystal store. We were also given a cassette by the Anheuser-Busch Choral Group featuring … Denny Long … who was actually a very good singer.

As I said earlier, the rest of the evening was somewhat of a blur. I know that Denny sang a few songs with the band … including his favorite, ‘Moonlight in Vermont’.  I also recall that quite a few of us wondered what kind of New Year awaited us in 1989. Little did I know that my then fiance who accompanied me, would soon be my ex-fiance … and that every employee would be out on the street looking for new opportunities before Labor Day.

That was a long time ago. I always believed when Denny took over the Aragon Companies, that he tried to apply big business management skills to a smaller business … and it simply didn’t work. I never had anything against him as a person … If I saw him today, I’d be happy to see him and would wish him well.

When we put up our tree this year, I looked for my Waterford crystal ornament and couldn’t find it.

Oh, well … I guess it lasted a lot longer than my bonus would have.

Merry Christmas to all former Kenrickians and Aragonians … wherever you may be.

And this is the last you’ll see … of all these ellipses.

 

A one-year “best of” from the BloodLines Creative blog

It was a year ago today that I made my first BloodLines Creative blog post. http://bloodlinescreative.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/

If, by chance, you click on that link you’ll notice the original WordPress format of the blog. Since that time, there have been 170 additional BloodLines Creative posts garnering more than 12,000 views.

My original intent was to focus on the world of advertising and marketing communications and on occasion, offer my thoughts on the rest of the world, particularly focusing on St. Louis.

Looking back at all my posts, I’ve done just that – though I seem to focus on whatever happens to be on my mind at the time and that’s not always advertising or marketing communications-related.

BloodLines Creative number one viewed post

I looked at the number of views for all of these posts. The number one post was, “My Return to the St. Louis City-County debate”.

My return to the St. Louis city-county debate

That’s a topic that still gets people going – and for good reason. Even though it makes all the economic sense in the world to combine St. Louis city with St. Louis county, it will probably never happen due to the existing political structure and the mistaken belief that the county will have to absorb all the problems of the city.

In memory of …

It’s interesting that two of the higher ranked posts I’ve had were tributes – one was for Chip MacDonald, one of my college buddies who I lost track of once I got married. http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/in-memory-of-chip/

The other was for Steve Puckett, a tremendously gifted writer who consistently produced great work throughout the ’90s and on into the new millenium. http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/steve-puckett-rocked-the-boat/

Tales from my Kenrick Advertising days

Many of the readers of this blog know me from my days at Kenrick Advertising. I featured several posts re-telling memorable stories and promise to add a few more from time to time. These were two of my favorites. The first detailed a memorable morning featuring Warren Wiethaupt:  http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/the-day-warren-broke-into-work/

Steve Unger, (stevethewordguy@aol.com) who has a much better memory than I do, told me I got a few of the details wrong and perhaps I did. But the gist of the story is still there. My other favorite involves a pair of shoes that have followed me around throughout my career. This post also takes you back to my old look but it contains a nice picture of the bronzed topsiders with the built-in storyline. http://bloodlinescreative.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/the-story-behind-my-writers-shoes-2/

My urge to action

I could go on but know I’ve probably already exceeded the norm for amount of words in a post before readers begin bailing.

So thanks for viewing and if you like what you’ve read, please become a follower.

I hope you enjoy the words I bring you. I’ve always tried to take that same approach to advertising – create something that captures your attention and delivers a selling message in a unique and memorable way.

Should you or anyone you know be in search of some Big Idea Thinking for your business, organization or event you have coming up, here’s where you can find me – www.bloodlinescreative.com

Now, on to Year Two …

 

 

 

Baseball on the brain

Here we are, moving in to the last day of February and I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

My son, Michael is currently going through tryouts for his high school baseball team. He’s in day two, three more days before the first cut. For the past three months, he’s had pitching lessons, getting him ready for his tryouts as well as four weeks of hitting lessons. All those lessons aren’t exactly cheap but his love for baseball is great and they really do help him. Though Michael isn’t exactly a fireballer, his instructor, Matt Whitesides, who’s taught him over the past seven years, has helped him develop great form and last year, worked with him to develop a pretty wicked curve ball that made a number of hitters look downright foolish. It was fun to see.

So while those tryouts are on-going, my coaching career will soon come to an end. For nine years (starting in kindergarten), I coached Michael’s grade school team. Last year, when he went on to play high school ball, I got the opportunity to coach my daughter, Catherine’s team. I had no idea what to expect – but quickly discovered it was every bit as fun coaching her team as it was coaching Michael’s. This year, Catherine’s team is merging with another and I’m just going to be an assistant coach which is perfectly fine by me.

Then there’s the Cardinals. With Albert and Tony gone, there’s a different feel already to spring training. I haven’t been all that enthused to hear Yadi griping and moaning but hopefully, he’ll get his millions and will maybe run out all of his ground ball outs. (Well, one can dream, right?) My expectations for this year’s Cardinals team aren’t very high. It’s just too difficult to repeat. But for now, the talk is about 12 in ’12. I doubt it, but it sounds good and is an interesting spin to have – at least until after the All Star break.

I’m also extremely interested to see the new ad campaign that’s going to come out of Hughes – or rather, HLK, my former agency. I must admit, I’m jealous. I will always remember working on the Cardinals account back when I was at Kenrick Advertising.  In 1982, we created the campaign, “You and the Cardinals. That’s a winner!” Obviously, we borrowed directly from Jack Buck but it all made sense. I can still remember directing Jack as we recorded some radio commercials. “Uh, Mr. Buck, could you maybe slow it down just a bit?”

“Listen kid, I say it the way I read it and if you don’t like it, you can get somebody else.”

“Actually, that sounded great. I think we’re good.”

And we were good. Two of the radio spots I created that year were Flair winners (the equivalent of today’s ADDY award). I got to meet Willie McGee, create some commercials with Ozzie Smith and sit in the dugout for a game which was like a dream come true for me. When the Cardinals went on to win the World Series, it was an instant classic – the year I got to work on the Cardinals account that they won it all.

So as we head in to this leap year day when the weather’s warm enough to throw the ball around it’s no wonder I’ve got baseball on the brain.

Bring on March with all its basketball madness, knowing that the first pitch of the season will be here before we know it.

 

The day Warren broke into work

From time to time, I said I would relive some of my favorite memories of Kenrick Advertising. This is one of those times.

Warren Wiethaupt was one of the most interesting humans I’ve ever worked with in my 30-plus years of advertising. Warren was an account guy and worked almost exclusively on the Missouri Division of Tourism account. For a while, we also did work for the Missouri Division of Community and Economic Development as well as the Missouri Film Commission. But the tourism account was Warren’s primary piece of business and he was a fanatic about it. Warren had an extremely interesting way to view creative work – if the client loved it, he loved it. If the client hated it, he hated it – and there really was no in-between.

Warren also had an extremely interesting way of working. He would arrive in the office around 4 am, create a flurry of memos (long before people would send out a flurry of emails), distribute them to the necessary recipients throughout the office and then he’d be gone, out of the office by 6:30 or 7 in the morning leaving everyone who received his meanderings wondering what exactly we were supposed to do next. Cell phones weren’t even around back then so he would largely be incommunicado, showing up occasionally for a meeting, particularly when client deadlines were looming. As long as Marjorie (our tourism client) was happy, everyone seemed to be happy.

Kenrick changed dramatically when Ken Hieronymus, Ric Sides and Gene Duncan all opted out for retirement, made possible by Denny Long, the former president of Anheuser-Busch, who bought Kenrick Advertising, along with several other companies (including Technisonic Studios, Aragon Public Relations, Kingsbury Graphics, Multa-Vista Productions, Patrick Promotions and I think there may be one other I’m forgetting). Anyway, with Denny in charge, things were – well different. I came back from a tourism shoot to discover that I had lost my corner office and that I would be reporting to a newly installed Creative Director. Okay. When the Christmas holidays rolled around, our Christmas bonuses were eliminated – instead there was a party at the Sheldon where we all received a Waterford ornament. Okay. Things continued to change, none really seemed for the better, but there was still plenty of work to be done.

One day, I needed to get in early myself – not exactly Warren time but I did roll in before 7 am. I was walking toward Warren’s office and could hear the furious sounds of him typing away on his electric. As I approached his doorway, I noticed a small pile of sawdust on the floor and when I actually saw his door, noticed there was about a four inch circular hole that had been cut where the door knob once was. I stopped at Warren’s office, peered in and asked, “Hey, Warren … what’s the deal with the door?”

Warren stopped typing, turned in his chair and faced me.

“Those bastards locked me out,” Warren said and then turned and resumed typing.

That wasn’t enough of an answer by me so I dug a little deeper. “So you cut a hole in the door?”

Warren got up, walked up to me and was mere inches away. There were little bits of sawdust on his forehead and sawdust specs covered his glasses. He was red in the face. He said, “I come in early to try and get work done and someone goes and changes the locks on my door. I’ve got to get work done. So I got in my car, drove home, got what I needed and sawed my way in.” He then smiled, went back to his desk and resumed typing. I looked at the door again. It was solid oak or walnut and I figured cost at least $800, if not more.

“Someone’s not going to find humor in this,” I thought to myself.

I was correct. Warren paid for a new door. A few months later, Kenrick Advertising and all of the other Aragon Companies that had been purchased 11 months earlier closed their doors when Denny Long filed Chapter 11 and about 130 advertising and marketing related employees were out on the street.

We all went on to different things – several agencies sprang up as a result – Brighton, Geile-Rexford (now Geile-Leon) among them. Warren died a few years ago – but his memory lives on.

So I guess it’s true what they say – when one door closes, another one opens – preferably without a hole marking the spot where the door knob belongs.