In the Office

Deidre Hartley – She’s Baaaaaack!

We’re excited about the return of Deidre Hartley. After leaving the agency more than ten years ago to spend time with her family, she is back at Howard/Merrell as our newest Media Planner and Buyer.


In this role, Deidre will maintain client media schedules and assist with media planning and recommendations. As part of these responsibilities, she will be in charge of processing digital invoices, resolving print and broadcast discrepancies, pulling analytics data for reporting, securing media kits, completing print media investigations and evaluations, helping prepare client documents, and conducting media research for new business pitches.

With a strong work ethic and drive, Deidre is not the type to sit idle. Since she last worked at the agency, Deidre has been actively involved in the local schools. She has served as the President of the Adams Elementary PTA, Yearbook Chair and Chief Editor of the Adams Elementary PTA, and most recently, substitute teacher for the Wake County Public School System.

We’re glad to have Deidre back. She has already hit the ground running!

Week in Marketing: Zoo Crisis, Facebook Engagement, Ad-Blocking War, e-Commerce, Brand Storytelling, AP Style

Cincinnati Zoo under Criticism
The public took to social media following the news breaking of a 17 year-old gorilla being killed at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend. People from all over the country voiced their opinions and criticized the decisions and opinions of the mother, the zoo, and other social media users.


In its press release and press conference, the zoo did not mention or confront the public, but defended their actions and detailed the procedures used during the incident.

Facebook Engagement Declining
Over the last 12 months the engagements – likes, shares and comments – of posts on Facebook by top publishers have been steadily declining. Studies have also shown that the new Facebook Reactions have not had a significant impact on users engagements with posts. However, native video is getting more and more attention, publishers that are posting the same number of native videos this year as last year are now getting twice the engagement.

Ad-Blocking Wars are Moving to Mobile
Ad-blocking had traditionally been confined to desktop browsers, but it is now becoming more popular on mobile devices. It is even possible to block ads on Facebook or in apps. The shift to mobile ad-blocking has taken off more in Eastern nations, but is expected to make its way toward the Western world as manufacturers include ad-blocking as an offered feature for their products.

Instagram Makes e-Commerce Push
Instagram is stepping up their advertising game. The app has launched new features called “Instagram Business Tools” that allow businesses to track and analyze campaigns they run on the app. Instagram has also introduced “Business Profiles”, which allows companies and users to talk in the app. The new advertising tools are targeted towards small businesses, but large companies are welcome to join in on the fun.

Zappos Embraces Brand Storytelling launched the new #ImNotABox campaign. The company also released a short film titled, “Box Home”, to accompany the launch of the campaign. The film has been called an “interesting piece of content marketing”, and is really trying to tell a story while also serving its promotional value. The campaign is aiming to connect with consumers by sending them boxes with templates that instruct consumers how to make the box into something else.

AP Stylebook 2016 Updates
The new 2016 AP Stylebook was just released. A few changes had been made to keep up with the technologically-advanced times: internet and web will no longer be capitalized, and emoji and its plural, emojis, have been added. A detailed section on data journalism has also been added to the Stylebook, along with about 250 other additions or updates.

Week In Marketing: Twitter Characters, Google Search Ads, Victoria’s Secret Catalogs, Spelling Bee, 20th Century Fox


Twitter to change Character Counting and upgrade replies
Twitter users will experience an overhaul in what constitutes 140 charactes over the next few months. Certain attachments that previously were included in the character count, such as photos, GIFs, videos, polls, etc., will no longer be tallied. Additionally, in a reply, the @name will not be counted either. This update allows individuals and companies alike to get more bang for their buck and has the potential to significantly alter Twitter marketing strategies in the future.

Google Maps to integrate local businesses in Search Advertisements
Utilizing different pin colors, Google Maps hopes to provide users with a more personal experience through the incorporation of local advertisements. The Internet mogul is aiming to connect users with small business owners and marketers in any city via cellular location services. Local business pages will have the ability to feature special offers, pictures, virtual tours and product browsing, as well as the opportunity to market their establishment with a ‘promoted pin.’ This Maps update could change the way that small businesses market to customers in clients.

Victoria’s Secret Sheds Weight of Physical Catalogs
For reasons ranging from environmental degredation to financial security, Victoria’s Secret is discontinuing its iconic catalog. The fashion company has been producing “up to 300 million copies of its catalogs per year, at a cost of $125 million to $150 million annually,” according to Adweek’s Kristina Monllos. When the retailer began to diminish its catalog production and distribution, the sales didn’t drop. Victoria’s Secret has revealed that their main marketing focus moving forward will be in the digital sphere, primarily through social media platforms and individual accounts.

20th Century Fox takes over Snapchat
The highly anticipated summer blockbuster X-Men Apocalypse will be released in theaters soon, and 20th Century Fox pulled out all of the stops to raise awareness for the film on Snapchat. While some companies have been known to feature multiple lenses (the Snapchat feature that allows users to animate their face) on the same day in addition to Snapchat’s stock lenses, this marks the first time that the only lenses available were from a single company. Users were able to choose from nine lenses of the movie’s popular characters and millions across the world viewed the ads.

Amazon capitalizes on Spelling Specialists
In addition to sponsoring the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Amazon is partnering with the contestants to produce four commercials that will air during the finals competition. The ads focus on the dedication of the contestants, their lives outside of spelling and their dreams while also shedding light onto the supportive families and the lifestyles of their loved ones.

Week In Marketing: Aggressive Social, DoubleClick, Facebook Credibility, TV Station Performance, Digital TV

Too Aggressive on Social?
Almost 75 percent of millennials (ages 20–39) and Gen Z (ages 16–19) say they’re disinterested in brands that advertise too aggressively on social media. A Harris Poll study found that although organizations should have a strong presence on various digital and social media channels, it’s probably best to let these consumers come to you. follow-1210793_1920-2 The study revealed:
– Today’s younger consumers are much more likely to trust information they seek out themselves
– Direct targeting on social media via ads can actually lose you customers
– Although younger consumers have a greater need for fast interaction from brand managers, they want to be the first to initiate contact
– When millennials reach out online, nearly 80 percent of them expect a response back within the same day

TV Stations Performance on the Rise
In the midst of a big election year – and Summer Olympics to come – U.S. TV stations are poised to see strong double-digit percentage rises in over-the-air advertising revenues in 2016. Stations are expected to post 12.6% rise in 2016 ad revs; 13.3% Gain In Online/Digital. TV station advisor BIA/Kelsey forecasts this to total $20.8 billion, up 12.1% over 2015.
– Local TV over-the-air revenues sank 7.2% in 2015 versus 2014
– This year, local TV stations’ digital/online revenues will rise by around the same rate as-over-the air TV – up 13.3% to $1.0 billion
– During the last Presidential election year, local TV stations were estimated to have taken in $20.3 billion in over-the-air advertising, and $600 million in online/digital advertising
– East Coast TV stations will see an 11.1% gain
– Southern TV markets will rise 12.6%
– Western TV stations will grow 11.9%
– Midwest markets will see the greatest climb – up 14.6%
– Southwest markets will rise the least – up 8.4%

Digital Video More Popular Than Prime-time TV?
Television programming is losing more of its audience to digital, according to a new study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. According to the study, the number of U.S. adults watching original video programs online at least once a month has grown to 63 million from 45 million in 2013 with users describing digital video as more “innovative,” “memorable” and “fun”. According to IAB, 26 percent of the U.S. adult population now watch original digital video. The study found that those who do watch online prefer it over prime-time, news, sports or daytime TV. Around 62 percent of those surveyed said they prefer original digital video over prime-time TV because it allows them to watch their shows on their own schedule.

Updates for Google’s DoubleClick
Google has updated DoubleClick for Publishers. This will make it easier to sell native ads that look good across device screens and experiences including mobile websites, apps and desktop sites. Google’s solution works by asking marketers to provide individual ad components such as headlines, images and article text, then fits them to each screen.

Facebook Loses Credibility
News outlets say that journalists who were hired to give Facebook news credibility—routinely suppressed stories about conservative leaders and issues. According to an article in PR Daily, Facebook news curators said conservative topics were suppressed on the site and conservative-leaning websites such as Breitbart, Drudge Report and Red State were pushed down in the rankings. The former curators also accuse Facebook of injecting stories into the “trending section” that didn’t necessarily warrant that tag.

Week in Marketing: National Geo, People-based Advertising, Re-gramming, truTV, Labeling


National Geographic’s First Instagram Video Series
National Geographic announced plans to leverage that social dominance with several new digital initiatives, including 10 digital series, its first Instagram video series and a virtual reality platform. With more than 49 million followers on Instagram, National Geographic is the No. 1 media brand on the platform, and the No. 13 brand overall, trailing only celebrities like Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian.

People-Based Advertising
Largely fuelled by social networks, the new world of data is enabling marketers to connect with the right audience, at the right time. The change in focus is causing many to re-think their traditional approaches and use the data available to create more refined messaging for specific audiences and audience subsets. If you target people based on more of the things they’re interested in, you can save money and increase response. A recent survey of 350 senior North American marketers to better understand the impact of people-based advertising in their businesses. Some interesting findings include:
– 70% of North American advertisers are buying people-based ads.
– 83% of North American advertisers report that people-based ads outperform traditional digital media.
– 92% of North American media buyers are increasing people-based advertising buys this year.

Using Re-Gramming
Why are brands tapping into the value of the Instagram re-gram, and re-posting real customer content from their branded handles? Because it can accomplish a variety of marketing goals – from building an online community and generating brand awareness, to driving more sales. Here are a few ways to repost on Instagram to improve your marketing: to celebrate customers, to propel your social campaign, and to integrate with ecommerce,

TruTV Is Attracting a Younger Audience
truTV says its median audience is now 35 years old, a full three years younger than a year ago, and ranks among the top cable networks with young adults. On the content side, truTV is adding three new series and a pair of specials, in addition to six more pilots in development.

Want a six pack of ‘America’?
Budweiser has sought approval for new labels that replace the Budweiser name with “America,” according to a filing with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The labels don’t stop there. They include phrases such as “E Pluribus Unum” and “from the redwood forest to the Gulf stream waters this land was made for you and me,” as well as “indivisible since 1776.”

Take Your Child To Work Day


We were lucky enough to have some tweens in our office last Thursday for Take Your Child to Work Day. They shadowed their parents in their daily routines, and were able to see first hand how an agency operates.

They helped with filing, participated in meetings, observed the complex video editing process, and even tried writing headlines.

It was a great experience for all involved!


Of course, we were not the only ones who participated in this national event.

More than 37 million Americans at 3.5+ million workplaces brought their sons and daughters to work.

A Quick History
Like many good things, Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day got its start in the 1990s. At that time, it was called Take Our Daughters To Work Day.

The event began in New York City in 1992 as the brainchild of Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation. It caught the attention of Parade magazine editor Walter Anderson, who interviewed Steinem and helped the event go national. It rapidly gained popularity.

By 1996, more than 5 million girls from 14 countries participated in the event. It was lauded as a fantastic opportunity to encourage girls to consider all different types of career choices, even those in traditionally male-dominated fields.

At that time, many organizations also began allowing boys to join in on the event and informally called it Take A Child to Work Day or some equivalent. For the tenth anniversary of Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day in 2002, young men were officially included in the career exploration event.

Over the years, this the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day event has helped millions of children gain a first-hand appreciation of the realities of the working world.

Source: National Women’s History Museum, Ms. Magazine, Los Angeles Times,

Week In Marketing: Snapchatters, Speaking emoji, 5-second Spots, Latest Media Deals


Snapchatters Are Watching 10 billion Videos Daily
Bloomberg reported that 10 billion videos are now viewed each day on Snapchat, the ephemeral photo- and video-sharing app. This is up from 8 billion per day in February. In addition, 60 percent of the app’s daily users crank out their own snaps every day. Looks like Snapchat is going head-to-head with Facebook to acquire new users while boosting views.

Viacom-Roku Advertising Deal
Viacom and Roku announced a new partnership which will give Viacom access to Roku’s audience data and enables the company to deliver targeted advertising to Roku’s various audience demos. According to Viacom, this is the first time a programmer has gained access to Roku’s audience targeting data. Roku users streamed 5.5 billion hours of content in 2015. Viacom anticipates a thriving TV upfront marketing this year, so this Roku deal gives the company even more data to tout during its upfront talks.

DreamWorks vs Disney
NBCUniversal announced it will acquire DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. The deal was mostly hailed as a film play for NBCU’s parent company, Comcast, as it seeks to challenge Disney’s big media dominance. Now both companies will be in the short-form, millennial-focused multichannel network space.

Brands are Speaking emoji
Emojis are now a part of the marketing strategies of magnet brands such as Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza and General Electric. The typographical cartoon symbols have been lifted from the smartphone screens of millennials and inserted into the strategies of brands. Recent data reveals that more than a quarter (28 percent) of Facebook’s top-brands have used emojis in their posts in 2014. By 2015, that number had increased to 40 percent. During the same time on Twitter, the number of top profiles using emojis in their tweets increased by 15 percent.

Embracing the 5-second Spot
Pepsi created 100 five second spots that will air on TV and in search-triggered digital media this summer. These are emoji-themed commercials, creating a slew of 100 five-second spots showing brief, charming, cartoon vignettes of Pepsi bottles doing summery things like skydiving, sunbathing, eating ice cream and more. Want a sneak peak?

Marissa Joins the Howard/Merrell Family


We’re excited to welcome Marissa Porcaro – our newest Senior Account Supervisor. Marissa will manage day-to-day client work and collaborate with public relations, media buying and planning, social media and creative teams to develop and execute our marketing campaigns.

With valuable experience, insight and skill in digital marketing and brand strategy, Marissa is a perfect fit for the agency. She plays an essential role in providing insightful and strategic value to the development and execution of campaigns. Marissa brings with her a lot of experience in account leadership roles. From the Sieb Organization, to the E.B. Lane and Professional Beauty Association, to her most recent role as Marketing Director at the North Carolina Chamber in Raleigh, Marissa is well suited for the job.

Marissa is a graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and an emphasis in Strategic Communication.

Welcome to the team, Marissa! We’re so happy to have you.

Week in Marketing: Live Graphic Novel, Live Streaming, #RestInPurple, Group Voice, Barbie Campaign

1. Illustrator Promotes Sunglasses Through “Live” Graphic Novel
Illustrator Jonathan Bartlett is helping with a new campaign which features a graphic novel posted on an Instagram series. The story highlights protagonist Frankie Malone in a dystopian thriller setting. iphone-500291_1280Followers can comment what they want to happen next, creating an interactive and live experience that’s gained some traction.

2. Live Streaming Just Got Better
Mevo has released a new live stream camera that allows for video to be edited in real time. This means no more shaky iPhone or Go Pro videos. The device is pocket sized and allows for video to be edited at the same time its being shot and posted on several different platforms. Users can also “crop” the video into about nine different “shots” that make it look like there are different camera angles, all while not moving the device itself. This is definitely a huge game changer when it comes to the popularity of live streaming video.

3. Going Purple in memory of Prince
The passing of Prince Rogers Nelson on Thursday garnered 4 million tweets in only a few hours — and that number rose throughout the day. Prince was recognized online by brand managers, celebrities, fans, news and lifestyle publications—and just about every other type of person or organization #RestInPurple #Prince

4. Facebook Messenger Added a New Feature
Facebook Messenger has been introducing a ton of new features lately including a feature that allows people to pay back their friends over the app. The most recent feature is a group voice call option. The newly introduce phone icon in the app, when pressed, will immediately call all of the members in that group at the same time, adding a quick and interesting new communication option.

5. Is the Barbie Campaign Working?
Earlier in the year, Barbie started a new campaign hoping to sell more realistic dolls for girls. The new dolls come in all shapes, sizes, skin tones, and hair and eye colors. The new toys received a lot of great feedback, but the company’s Q1 report seems to indicate that they are still down in sales. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Nice Way To Make A Living


Farm livin’ is the life for us when we’re shooting for client KIOTI Tractors.