In the Office

A Q&A with Billy Barnes, Creative Director – Part II

In celebration of Billy’s 15th anniversary, we asked him to answer some questions. We posted the first half of the Q&A last month.

Here’s the rest!


Q: What’s the most significant change you have seen in the advertising industry?

A: Obviously, when digital as a technology and as a new medium came along, it brought about a gigantic change for everyone. So much so that all these years later, people are still trying to figure it all out. The mobile device is a monumental change. Advertisers can ride around in the pocket of their customers all day long. It’s incredible. More recently, I love the continued shift toward marketing that goes deeper than just trying to sell a product. We’re looking for ways to create an exchange of more than money between a brand and a consumer. It’s no longer one-way communication. And it’s leading us to much smarter, much more emotional and meaningful work.

Q: What do you think the advertising industry will be like in 15 years?

A: Ask me in 15 years.

Q: What advice would you give to a young person looking to become a creative in the advertising industry?

A: Become a farmer instead.

Q: What made you stay at Howard/Merrell for 15 years?

A: It just feels right. Always has. But I better get a gold watch for my 30th or I’m gonna be pissed.

Q: What is your favorite Howard/Merrell campaign and why?

A: Hard to pick a favorite after all these years and all the work we’ve done. The Power of Print campaign for Sappi Fine Paper has always been a favorite. It’s a good example of what we do really well here – tapping into human emotion. And I know it was powerful because at least a half dozen companies and organizations copied it. The stuff we did for Scott Rags in a Box was great too. Did really well for the client. Won awards. And to this day is still the hardest I’ve ever laughed on a shoot.

Photo Credit: Tibor Nemeth

Week In Marketing: Snapchat Filters, Tech Trends, PR=Lobbying, Google CTRs, Unskippable Campaign

1. Snapchat’s Chain Geo-Filters
Snapchat and IHOP developed what they are calling “chain geo-filters,” location-based dynamic art that can be added to photo and video snaps. howard/merrell pancake-640865_1920IHOP has released new geo-fencing Snapchat filters that can only be accessed in the restaurant. The goal for the Snapchat campaign is to pull more people into the restaurant, and then have those customers share their experience with their friends via the social media platform. IHOP also sees it as a new way for the company to engage with its customers. Less than a week after its release, the filter had already garnered 3 million views.

2. Five Technology Trends Among Millennials
With millennials being the most involved in the digital field, it is important to keep track of technological trends and habits. (1)According to research, millennials are most likely to get their news from social media, chiefly Facebook and Twitter. (2)Virtual reality is picking up the pace, and preparing to be common in households. (3)Video games are shifting over to the cloud, to allow for more storage space; they are also making a greater shift toward virtual reality. (4)More companies are jumping on the streaming services bandwagon (4)Startups that offer financial services are taking over the fintech industry and hurting banks.

3. New York Says PR Is Lobbying
New York State’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has passed regulations that require PR professionals to provide information strikingly similar to that which is required of lobbyists. This information includes details surrounding their relationships and interactions with media and government in New York. This comparison to a lobbyist is derived from the notion that PR professionals can have power over the government through the media, and under the new regulations a PR professional is considered a lobbyist if he or she is doing anything with an end goal of affecting a bill. PR professionals are shocked, and PRSA has released a statement suggested that the new regulations will have a “chilling effect on free and clear lines of necessary public communication.”

4. Google CTRs Rising After Redesign
Late last month, Google stopped serving paid-search text ads down the right rail of its search query results page. Early data confirms higher click-through rates on paid-search advertising for all positions except one after Google eliminated the text ads down the right rail of search query results. A fourth paid-search ad now serves up at the top of bottom of the page.

5. Geico’s Latest Ad Campaign Can’t Be Skipped
In the follow-up to its 2015 “Unskippable” campaign, Geico has created a new series of preroll ads that each introduce a scenario in the first five seconds, and then fast-forward to an unexpected and ridiculous ending. While these ads cannot be skipped to more quickly get to the content viewers are attempting to watch, they create a knowledge gap so profound that viewers can’t help but to wonder what happens in the middle of the story. Geico says the goal of the ads is to suggest that the company is speeding up the advertising period for the viewer, but they also give viewers the option of clicking on extended versions of the commercials, which fill in the missing content for viewers who wish to feed their curiosity.

Week In Marketing: Gas App, Apple-FBI Fight, Foursquare’s Tool, Battery Battle, Facebook emojis

petrol-996617_1920 1. Visa Takes Smart Cars to the Next Level
Low on gas? There (will be) an app for that. Visa debuted its connected car app – built with Honda – at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. How does it work? The app prototype is part of the car’s dashboard and alerts consumers when their gas levels are low. Once at a gas station, the app determines how much gas the car needs and uses Bluetooth technology to transfer payment from the car to the gas pump. Think that’s cool? Visa is just getting started.

2. Tech Companies Back Apple in FBI Battle
Facebook sided with Apple in its fight against the U.S. government after refusing to bypass security functions on the San Bernardino gunman’s iPhone. Zuckerberg stated that although Facebook supports the fight against global terrorism, weakening digital security of technology companies isn’t a good idea. Twitter and Google CEO’s also voiced their support, explaining that such actions could compromise user’s privacy and set a “troubling precedent.”

3. Foursquare’s New Tool = Digital Marketing Game Changer?
Tracking purchases, website visits, clicks, and impressions is nothing new in this day in age. But Foursquare’s new tool is promising retailers the ability to connect digital ads – on all platforms – with physical store visits. The social location/discovery platform’s new offering, Attribution Powered by Foursquare, uses voluntary data from Foursquare users to track consumers’ visits. The tool has been tested in several stores and restaurants, and used to measure the effects of Super Bowl 50’s advertisements on the brand’s foot traffic.

4. Energizer Takes Duracell to Court
It’s a battle of the batteries: Energizer is suing Duracell’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, for using Energizer’s iconic pink bunny on packaging. Although Energizer’s trademark prohibits Duracell from using its image in American advertising, the “Duracell bunny” has appeared in Colorado, Missouri, and online. The lawsuit will seek an injunction, unspecified damages, and recall of any Duracell products in packages displaying the bunny.

5. Say Hello to Facebook “Reactions”
The infamous Facebook “like” button will be accompanied by emoji-like expressions “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry,” courtesy of the new “Reactions” feature. Facebook’s new development, which has been in the making since October, is the most recent sign that emojis are taking over the digital world and are quickly becoming mainstream.

Week In Marketing: Tweet GIFs, Social Media Influencers, Memorable Super Bowl Ads, Tech Slowdow, Snapchat Capabilities

Howard/Merrell Tree

1. Twitter Improves Users Ability to Tweet GIFs
Twitter is pairing up with popular GIF search engines Giphy and Riffsy to allow users to add GIFs directly from a library. The animated images can be sent in tweets or direct messages from searching key words in the library to find related GIFs. Although Twitter is not the first to do this, more than 100 million GIFs were shared on the platform last year, making it a very useful feature for users.

2. Pandora Gets Help From Social Media Influencers
In December, Pandora launched a new feature called Thumbprint, which compiles all of the songs a user “likes” and creates a station from it. Pandora plans to promote the station with the help of Internet personalities – i.e. targeting younger people with the nostalgia from listening to old favorite songs. The campaign overall includes social media posts from each of these influencers that both promote the station and ask users to share their experience with the platform, as well as more traditional paid advertisements.

3. Can you recall the Brands Behind Famous Super Bowl Ads?
AdWeek interviewed New Yorkers a week after the Super Bowl and asked them the names of the brands behind popular Super Bowl advertisements, captioning the video with the phrase “let’s just say not every brand manager will be thrilled by the video above.” This raises the question if such a large investment pays off for brands and how brand recall should play into making these sorts of investments.

4. Preparing for an Upcoming Tech Slowdown
Several different things point to a possible slowdown in the technology industry, including a slowdown in the realm of venture capital, as well as some not-so-great outlooks from publicly traded tech giants such as LinkedIn. Silicon Valley seems to be preparing itself for the inevitable, so hopefully the slowdown will not be a total halt.

5. Snapchat Becomes a New Platform for Brands
Snapchat may be a useful platform for brands. The social media app allows brands to reach 18-24 year olds easily and in isolation from the older audience using other social media platforms. It also allows many options for how to promote a brand through storytelling, including filters, videos, photos, and text. Costs for advertising on Snapchat are also decreasing significantly from the prices in the past.

Account Executive Wanted!

We are committed to creating groundbreaking work that drives sales and wins awards – on every project, for every brand, for every client. We’ve created an environment based on the belief that there are no challenges that can’t be met, no problems that can’t be solved, and no conventions that can’t be broken. Our drive, determination as well as unique methodology and approaches, have created solutions that have sustained our agency for more than seven decades.

Howard/Merrell Hiring

Does this sounds intriguing to you? If so, let’s talk. We currently have an Account Executive position open.

Responsibilities include:
• Communicating with clients on a day-to-day basis

• Helping develop creative briefs and initiating new project startup meetings with the creative, interactive, social media, PR and media planning teams
• Providing insightful and strategic value to communications plans, creative work and client requests
• Working with Project Management to ensure that all timelines are met and that projects stay within budget
• Communicating changes/approvals from client to team – Clearly and in a timely manner
• Scheduling and participating in client meetings

• Updating job status reports on a weekly basis and running agency and client status meetings

We are looking for someone with:

• Bachelors Degree
• Experience working at an agency
• Excellent communication skills, the ability to be a team player and the desire to collaborate with multi-discipline teammates

• The professionalism and maturity to handle day-to-day client interaction

• A strong skill set in organization, multi-tasking and prioritizing

• The ability to keep projects on track
• Fluency in PowerPoint and Excel

• An optimistic mindset – who lifts those around them up, and makes a positive contribution to the agency culture and the clients they serve
• Agriculture and/or construction experience

Send cover letter and resumes to:

Peyton’s Plug, Twitter Feed, Super Bowl Ads, Facebook Videos and Local Marketing

howard merrell football

1. So Budweiser Didn’t Ask Peyton Manning To Promote Its Brand?
At the end of the Super Bowl on Sunday, Peyton Manning claimed that to celebrate his win he would “kiss his wife, hug his family and drink a lot of Budweiser.” Viewers disliked what seemed like an obvious sponsorship plug, saying it was a poor way to end his football career. However, Budweiser tweeted they were unaware the company’s shoutout would be occurring. As it turns out, Peyton owns shares in Anheuser-Busch distributorships, so when the company is successful, he profits.

2. Twitter Is Changing The Way It Does News Feeds
Twitter will be offering users an algorithm-based ‘catch-up’ news feed that picks the top tweets a user missed since the last time logging in. The algorithm will be based off of only organic social interactions, meaning that promoted tweets will not have an advantage in whether or not they are picked for this new and condensed feed. What this means is that companies with naturally larger reaches are likely to see more organic growth, as some of their non-promoted tweets get extra views through the new news feed. This ‘catch-up’ feed will be in addition to Twitter’s original reverse-chronological news feed, and users will have to manually turn on the function.

3. And The Super Bowl Commercial Winners Are…
AdWeek ranked its top five favorite Super Bowl commercials. Coming in fifth place is the Doritos commercial, “Ultrasound”; in fourth place is the Heinz Ketchup “Wiener Stampede”; third place is the Audi “Commander”; second place is T-Mobile’s “Restricted Bling”; and first place is Jeep “Portraits”. Jeep’s commercial aired at the half time, and showed a series of photos that told the story of Jeep’s history.

4. Facebook Enhances Videos For Sound-Off Environments
Facebook will automatically be putting captions on videos to increase views from people browsing in a sound-off environment. Facebook found that 80% of people react negatively when video ads begin playing loudly, and it wanted to find a way to improve responses without eliminating the meaning of the video. By putting captions on videos, Facebook has found through initial testing that view time increases by an average of 12%. Facebook hopes to bring more videos to its news feed that are visually enticing and less reliant on sound through its new tactics.

5. Taco Bell Uses Local Angles To Reveal New Menu Item
Taco Bell switched up marketing tactics for its Super Bowl reveal of its new menu item. In addition to its national commercial, it hired local celebrities from cities around the nation to promote the new quesalupa. The chosen local celebrities are known for being so quirky, they’re memorable. Deutsch L.A. Executive Creative Director Brett Craig said they chose the local celebrities to make it seem like everyone in the community was talking about it.

Week In Marketing: Livestreaming, Advertising Mix, Analyzing Ads, FTC Standards, Twitter War


1. Livestreaming No Longer Limited to Just Mobile Phones
In an interview with AdWeek, the CEO of Periscope had hinted at expanding the use of Periscope beyond the smartphone; now the new GoPro Hero 4 camera allows users to switch between their GoPro and their iPhone cameras. The change comes about just in time for the X Games. Meerkat actually partnered with GoPro before Periscope, but it will be interesting to see what devices live streaming goes to next.

2. Neuroscience Says A Print and Digital Mix are Important
Although there is a large move towards putting the most time and energy into digital advertising, a meta-analysis of studies show that print advertising can achieve a lot of the things advertisers are trying to get by strictly digital. It can also produce better recall than digital advertisements, as well as raise effectiveness of the company’s efforts as a whole and contribute to a positive ROI. The study indicates the importance of incorporating both print and digital to get the best results.

3. Viewers of TV Ads Can Now Be Analyzed in Real Time
With new technology, view rates and impression metrics can now be found in real time. hopes to provide metrics to their clients during the Super Bowl. Clients will be able to see valuable metrics while they are occurring, including who is changing the channel or who watches their commercial multiple times in relation to the viewing rates other advertisements.

4. The Latest FTC Native Advertising Standards
The latest standards on native advertising previously discussed in 2013 and now released, did not really come as a shock. The FTC ruled that advertising should not be deceptive in nature, which many were pleased with because they felt that being more obvious about the branding of such posts would aid in promotion. Although not everyone was thrilled with the standards, the projected spending on native advertising for 2016 will increase, indicating the policy will not hinder this medium at all.

5. Fast Food Burger Battle on Twitter
Wendy’s and Burger King had it out last week. After Burger King targeted Wendy’s “4 for $4” deal, Wendy’s had a quick reply to bash the rival fast food restaurant which received more than 9,000 retweets. Let’s hope for Burger King’s sake that all publicity is good publicity for them, as a lot of the responses were not so positive. Either way, watching fast food corporations battle it out has been pretty entertaining.

A Q&A with Billy Barnes, Creative Director

Recently, our Creative Director Billy Barnes celebrated 15 years at Howard/Merrell. Billy_Barnes
Billy oversees all creative development and production at the agency and has been responsible for award-winning campaigns for clients including CORDURA Fabric, KIOTI Tractors, BB&T, Georgia-Pacific, ZenPuppy Dog Treats, Cisco and Sappi Fine Paper. Prior to joining Howard/Merrell in 2000, he worked as a copywriter at both large and small advertising agencies in New York City.

In celebration of his anniversary, we asked Billy to answer some questions. Here’s the first of a two-part Q&A series:

Q: What was your first job in the industry?
A: In 1993 I moved to NYC and got a job as a Jr. Copywriter at a small agency on the 63rd floor of the Chrysler Building. Great building. Tough job. We worked really late every night. Sometimes straight through til morning. It was nuts. But we had fun and I was able to get a ton of experience very quickly.

Q: What made you move to North Carolina?
A: It was time for a change. No offense New York City.

Q: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
A: “Don’t be an ass hole. There’s already enough of them in this business.”

Q: What inspires you?
A: Everyday life. It’s amazing how much creative inspiration is out there if you just pay attention.

Q: What do you do to get your creative juices flowing?
A: Sometimes I listen to loud music. Sometimes I just sit quietly and focus. You have to have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to do first. Organize the pieces in your head. Then let the pieces fall in place. If that doesn’t work, I Jazzercise.

Q: As an award-winning copywriter, what’s your favorite ad you worked on?
A: Two billboards on a corner in Times Square was fun to do. But my favorite was probably the Super Bowl spot I did for Primestar Satellite TV. I’ve done better work since then, but it’s hard to beat the excitement of having your first Super Bowl spot produced. My Mom thought it was a pretty big deal. She told the lady at my hometown bank all about it.

IMG_2351_2Stay tuned for Part II.

In the the meantime, check out this press release about Billy’s 15th anniversary with us.

Congratulations Billy!

Week In Marketing: Trading Data, Chipotle Marketing, Local Advertising, Publicity Stunt, Risky Ad

chevy week in marketing jan. 18

1. Trading Data For Deals Is Not A Popular Option
Many consumers are not ok with grocery stores sharing the data that they receive from loyalty programs. Less than half of the shoppers interviewed said they would be ok with their information being shared in exchange for the discounts they receive from such programs, and 20% were on the fence. In general, people ages 50 and up were less likely to approve such a tradeoff, with there also being a negative correlation between household income and tolerance of the loyalty programs.

2. Chipotle’s Not Ready To Quit
Chipotle’s got big plans for its marketing tactics in the coming month after several E.coli and norovirus outbreaks have occurred nationally. These tactics will include revamping their internal communications and public transparency so that everybody is on the same page and aware of what is being done. However, a big component of their plans relies on an ‘All clear’ from the CDC. Will any amount of marketing allow help Chipotle recover?

3. Running In Style
A co-founder of Ministry of Supply, a menswear company, ran a half marathon in one of the company’s suits. The suits are design with wicking powers to make them more comfortable and durable, and these characteristics were evidenced in the publicity stunt. This goes to show that stretching a product to its limits can result in effective, and unprecedented, marketing.

4. Local Ads Will Rise In 2016 Thanks To Growth In Digital Platforms And The Election
Local advertising is expected to grow dramatically in 2016, thanks in part to growing digital platforms and political advertising dollars.The numbers predict a growth rate of 16.4% (from $113 billion in 2015 to $132 billion in 2016), and suggest that as much as $5.5 billion in advertising could come from state and local elections. Within the realm of digital advertising, it is expected that the most money will be put towards targeted display ($46.3 billion), followed by digital video and paid search.

5. Risky Ad Puts Nissan In The Spotlight
Nissan complimented its competitors in a bold ad that glorifies the vintage pickup trucks from before its time. The message of the ad is simple, with the narrator stating: “To those who have gone before us—Chevy, Ford, Dodge—thank you. We see the way forward.” This risky move seems to have paid off, with at least 4.2 million total impressions and nearly 4 million total views between Facebook and YouTube.

Week In Marketing: Ad-Free World, Fast Food, NBC, CES, YouTube Ads

1. Future of Marketing in an Increasingly Ad-Free World
With online ad-blockers, DVR, and television streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, traditional mainstream advertising has taken a hit. In order to survive, marketers have adapted, utilizing new tactics and putting money into digital media outlets where ads are almost impossible to avoid. Other companies, like General Electric, have shifted money to sports and other live TV programs.

2. Is ‘Fast Food’ Dying?
Don’t worry. Fast food isn’t really going anywhere, but the term is slowly disappearing. People are associating the term fast food with bad food, and that’s bad for business. As consumers are getting smarter about what they eat, companies like Chipotle, Shake Shack and Arby’s are strategically coining the terms “fast casual,” “fine casual,” and “fast crafted,” and improving ingredients to shed the fast food stigma. This new branding attracts a new type of customer who wants a quick meal but is also environmentally conscious and wants to feel healthy.

3. NBC Tops Broadcast Networks
Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, says the network is now No. 1 in 18-49 viewers in non-sports programming for the first time since 2003, Overall, including sports programming, NBC says it has maintained its leadership among 18-49 ratings so far this year. CBS is down 4%, ABC is off 14%, and Fox has lost 5%. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” remains the most-viewed TV series in any categories.

4. Key Takeaways from CES
Approximately 200,000 marketers attended the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year to get a glimpse into the future of technology. General Motors announced its goal of building self-driving taxis, Subaru partnered with AT&T to reveal their Ford Sync Connect initiative, and companies like Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Whirlpool presented their latest advances for achieving ‘a connected home.’ Cell phones are predicted to be consumers’ future personal control center, vertical video is quickly becoming the norm, and wearables are appearing to enter the health market.

5. 10 Most Watched Ads on YouTube in December
Supercell, a mobile gaming company, had five spots on the Top 10 list this month, including the number one spot, which also happens to be the first 360-degree video ever on the Leaderboard. GoPro, Volvo Trucks and Google made the list; along with Victoria’s Secret’s very own angles lip-syncing “Hands to Myself.” Learn more.