Category: creativity

Here’s to the crazy ones: A salute to Steve Jobs

Sad MacWe were saddened to hear the news of Steve Jobs passing today. We offer our condolences to his family and friends. His battle with cancer was well known but we were hopeful he might be able to experience a longer retirement since he stepped down from his role at Apple. We in the creative field of advertising and design feel a kinship with the innovative spirit of this man. The way he continued to bring astonishing new products to the world until today was impressive.

Many of us have had a lot of experience using Apple products. I remember when I was studying design back around ’90 at MICA that we had some of the first Apple computers. I used the original Mac to create an illustration that was printed out on a dot matrix printer. Macs were less immune to viruses back then and our whole computer lab was shut down for a month from an attack. I continue to use Apple’s products now and rely on my trusty iMac.

We were drawn to the “think different” philosophy created for Apple Computer in 1997 by the Los Angeles office of advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day that drove Apple’s product creation. Their products worked better for design and publication back then and continue to do so today. Here’s hoping Apple will continue in the direction that Mr. Jobs envisioned. Let’s raise a toast to a truly creative spirit.

Imitation vs. Inspiration: You’re Doing it Wrong

In the marketing world being “the first” is an incredible thing. Whether it is being the first brand in a niche product category, the first to use a new media strategy or the first to make a creative new ad claim, people take notice. Firsts also provide tremendous competitive advantage. The only thing worse than being second is blatantly copying the brand that did it first. We’re talking to you Dairy Queen!

If you haven’t seen Dairy Queen’s latest campaign – take a look. For me, it’s a little too close to Old Spice’s campaign. We all know how popular and successful Old Spice’s use of the sarcastic new icon was with the over-the-top irony of their spots. They scored a huge “first.” They came up with a creative strategy that really worked to grab (and hold) the attention of their target audience. It was so popular many of the spots went viral, topping the most watched YouTube video charts. So I can certainly understand why someone in a board room at Dairy Queen must’ve thought – let’s do that! And granted, the two brands aren’t even in the same product category, but still – did they really think the copycat campaign wouldn’t be obvious? And the worst part? Others (like Edge Shave Gel) have starting shamelessly jumping on the bandwagon.

Lesson learned: do your own thing. Sure, plenty of people say there are no more new ideas out there; that everything we come up with has probably been used in some way, shape or form at some point over the past 100 years (even if we don’t know it). Maybe that’s true in many cases, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our ability to create new and impactful advertising. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t use creative ideas and strategies from great campaigns that are already out there. We should be inspired by the great advertising around us, not take the easy, copycat way out.

Happy 100th Birthday, David Ogilvy!

One hundred years ago today, the Father of Advertising was born, and we at TCA are tipping our hats to him. While the big party is going down in Cannes, people all over the world are celebrating one of the most influential figures in advertising, David Ogilvy.

David Oligvy

Want to join us? At, Ogilvy & Mather will turn your Twitter profile picture red, Ogilvy’s favorite color. Or just keep up with the hashtag #DO100 to see other’s tributes to the inspirational ad man.

And if you aren’t sure why the world is stopping to honor a stove salesman turned “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry,” take a look at his bio – or even better, get some nuggets of wisdom straight from the guy’s pipe at Inspire Me David.

Don’t be such a Post-It!

Two of the little things I’ve been working on lately are drinking more water and improving my posture. In order to help myself keep these goals top of mind, I used a very simple tactic: Post It Notes (real original, I know). I put one-word notes on my monitor to remind me to sit up straight and refill my water glass (or drink the one sitting on my desk, still full from 2 hours ago).

The first day was remarkable; I corrected my posture at least a dozen times and drank 6 glasses of water. The next few days I still found myself correcting my posture and drinking more water. But by the end of the week the impact started to fall off and by the second week the notes had no effect whatsoever.
I finally realized the problem – my brain adapted to the presence of the notes and after a while just filtered them out and ignored the cues to work on my goals. It’s an unfortunate application of the power of the human brain. I became immune to my own surroundings, without even trying.

This whole experience got me thinking about the minds of consumers today. They work exactly the same way. We all know advertising is ubiquitous. We live in a world where target audiences of every shape and size ignore marketing and ad messages daily. I just never considered how easily consumers do so without even trying. Overexposure has caused the consumer brain to easily tune out even the most intrusive ads. The question is how do you ensure your marketing efforts aren’t just another post-it note that people can ignore? The answer is what it’s always been.

Step 1 – Understand your target audience in deep and impactful ways.
Step 2 – Be strategic. About what you say, how you say it and where you say it.
Step 3 – Be creative. About what you say, how you say it and where you say it.

I’m not expounding some new insight or wisdom here. This is nothing new, I know. But it’s worth taking a look at your strategy and making the necessary changes to get consumers to change their behavior. Then you’ll have consumers that will listen to your message (and maybe have better posture, too!).

No Cruelty in Beauty: Effective Anti-Fur Ads?

Here in the office, we are always coming across interesting or intriguing pieces of ad work. It often spurs a moment or two of discussion. This one got us talking.

Often times, anti-fur ads are extremely graphic in nature (like this one – but beware, it is intense), alienating both the target audience (people who wear fur) and people with weak stomachs. People are prone to stiff arm the ads that make them feel uncomfortable or that cast them villains in their own lives. The anti-fur ads below are a bit different – they drive home the point without being too graphic. And because of the mannequin nature of the characters in the ads, consumers can become detached in a way that allows us to get the message without being alienated.

What do you think? Are these ads successful, or do the graphic anti-fur ads work better?

Ad Messages

Ad Messages

Ad Messages

Via I Believe in Adv.

Super Bowl Ads May Fail to Move the Needle

Super Bowl 56Every year it’s the same thing. The day after the Super Bowl, we’re all comparing notes on our favorites ads and someone brings up “that funny one with…[fill in the blank]” and inevitably the response is “Yes, but can you remember who it’s for?” It’s become an old cliché in our office. But there’s something to it.

At The Cyphers Agency we strive to live in a culture not just of creativity – but of strategy. The fact remains that a lot of people are creative. There’s a world of musicians, artists, writers, and architects out there creating new things and bringing new ideas to the table. But to create a worthwhile execution in advertising there are different standards. A truly good ad has to be both creative and strategic. It has to be unique and original to stand out and grab attention, but it also has to finish the job with a well thought out ad message that resonates with the consumer to accomplish an advertising objective.

Sure the ads that are funny, over the top, or outlandish certainly attract attention and maybe even win awards. But those types of ads won’t help move the needle on the marketing and advertising goals our clients have tasked us with. That’s not to say we don’t do amazing creative work. We do. It just means we hold ourselves to a higher standard: the best creative ideas with the strongest strategic foundation. And that is what makes us different.

The New Starbucks Logo: A Redesign We Can Get Behind

A short letter to Starbucks Coffee from me, a self-proclaimed addict:

Dearest Starbucks,

You have fueled me, consoled me, and energized me over the past few years. You have been there, through thick and thin – on warm days and cold. Your only flaw is not offering Pumpkin Spice Lattes throughout the entire year. So maybe I am biased when I say that your logo redesign doesn’t bother me one bit. In fact, I dig it. You know that it doesn’t really matter what you put on that cup – I will forever be faithful.

Your slave,


But aside from my personal obsession love for the iconic brand, there are a few reasons why I, as part of the ad world, am behind Starbucks’ recent logo design (and you should be, too):

Purpose – Starbucks is moving into their 40th year as a company. They started small, selling coffee in the Seattle Pike Place Market. They’ve grown, changed, and are now moving beyond just coffee (hence why they dropped “coffee” from the outer circle around the siren). While their new logo “respects their heritage,” it also allows them to renew their look as they expand in their endeavors. It’s refreshing to see a company do a logo redesign with purpose and strategy, unlike some others (uh, Gap, Tropicana, Comedy Central to name a few).

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We’re Not Warhol… And We’re OK With That

I know we agency folk can sometimes get a little uppity about our “strategic process,” like we’re saving lives with this stuff or something. But for the most part, there’s a reason we’re that way: because it’s legit! I’m the first one to admit there are certainly some situations that truly may not call for some intense strategic process – like designing a letterhead or a pocket folder. But most of the time, design is NOT just design. I think Jef Richards put it best: “Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called advertising.”

No offense to our design peeps out there that are in it to just make things look pretty, but at The Cyphers Agency, we aren’t. We’re not in the business of producing creative executions that we just happen to LIKE. Our core philosophies and passions dictate that our clients come to us for strategic creative and, by George, that’s what we give them.

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Upping the Ante: Keeping Up with the Digital Joneses

Every morning, I come into work (usually with a Starbucks in hand, much to the dismay of my bank account), and sit at my computer. I take a moment to glare at the beauty of my Mac, and turn it on. First things first, I check my email. Next, I check Tweetdeck. And lately, after those two crucial things, I read blogs.

I haven’t always done this. Normally, I immediately delve into my workload. Sometimes my pile of work sits staring at me, forcing the belief that there just isn’t enough time in the day to catch up on industry news or trends. Forget checking Mashable, I’ve got to write that blog post or prepare for that brainstorm meeting. Well, no more!

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Giant Crab Claws Invade Maryland

Been seeing crab claws all over the state of Maryland? Well, we’ve put them there!

We are working with The Chesapeake Bay Trust to help educate Marylanders about the impact of buying Bay Plates. Part of the overall campaign is trying to overcome misconceptions about the Chesapeake Bay Plates. While most residents can recognize the license plates, most don’t know that revenues derived from the $20 plate directly support Bay restoration or education programs.

The integrated campaign includes an interactive website, online advertising, social media outreach, digital billboards, mall kiosks, bus shelters, bus posters, metro dioramas, bus wraps, and ambient media signage. In addition, listen and look for radio, tv, and print news coverage.

In addition to helping educate Marylanders, the Trust is also hosting the Hooray for the Bay Contest. Bay Plate factoid signs, which you can see above, have been placed all over the state of Maryland to help people learn about how the Plates support the Bay. Simply snap a pic of the factoid sign and send it to, and you are eligible to win a free Bay Plate or $2,500.

Surround yourself with talent

Every brand dreams of becoming a brand powerhouse. Most will never achieve it because along with vision and determination you need talent. When you have talent, skill automatically comes with the gift. However, being skilled at something doesn’t mean you have talent. Talent is about having people who turn ordinary into something extraordinary.

In the advertising business, talent is about the people who create a big idea and then execute it in a way that resonates so loudly that you can’t get it out of your mind. At The Cyphers Agency, we hunt and recruit the best talent that money can buy. We make sure they are happy and well taken care of. We think of it as a benefit to our customers. After all, your advertising dollars without talent are worthless. Our success is your success. It takes talented people to run your business. It takes talented people to market your business. Use this advice in every business decision you make.

Best Ad Agency in Maryland

See!? We hire the most talented!