Ad Age: Marketing to Women As Your Lead Consumer

Advertising Age
Marketing to women: If she’s happy, then everybody’s happy.
By Tiffany Meyers

Author’s Note: Women expect a lot from their products and services. So when marketers create offerings to meet women’s criteria first, they’re likely to have something that other demographics will go for, too. That’s the premise of this piece, the cover for Ad Age’s 2006 special report on marketing to women.

For all that blather about alpha males, adult men are a beta demo. There are 6 million more women aged 20 or older than males. What makes the 21st century woman a consumer phenomenon is her own deep pockets, born of greater education and clout in the workplace. The rise of the female consumer phenom–or she-nom–merits an overhaul in strategic thinking. Marketers must keep feminine preferences in mind not just for “women’s products,” but for items ranging from digital cameras to beer, that have traditionally been pitched aggressively to guys.

“The concept of marketing to women as your lead user is the way of the future,” says Bridget Brennan, founder of consultancy Female Factor Communications. In virtually every category, smart marketers will put women in the bull’s-eye, not on the periphery, she says.

Many marketers fear that direct appeals to women will alienate men, but the opposite is true, Ms. Brennan says. Products with a feminine veneer are apt to turn off not just men but women who suspect these are watered-down versions of the real deal, she says.

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Marketing to Kids Under Attack

Special Report: Kids Marketing
Marketing to Kids Under Fresh Attack
By Tiffany Meyers, February 21, 2005

Assuming that it’s ok to market to 11-year-olds as if they were 16-year-olds is shocking to some media and advertising critics who have taken up the battle against marketing to kids.

Marketing efforts playing into tweens’ aspirations to adopt attitudes of much older teens are one alarming development that author Susan Linn sees. “The message they’re getting,” she says, “is that playing with toys and not being interested in the opposite sex is babyish and they ought to be acting out in sexual ways.”

Ms. Linn, associate director of the Media Center at the Harvard-affiliated Judge Baker Children’s Center, sees such efforts as part of a marketing maelstrom surrounding kids that puts normal childhood development at jeopardy. The question of whether marketing to children does them harm isn’t new, nor are efforts to curtail it. In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission earned the moniker “national nanny” by calling for a ban on ads to children under age 7, a proposition Congress overruled.

More than 20 years later, that concern has spread to even the most cutting-edge marketing tactic of “word-ofmouth.” The National Institute on Media & the Family this month called on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association to prohibit the “exploitation” of young people, after the association released a draft of an ethics code. Among the institute’s concerns are word-of-mouth campaigns that take place in Internet chat rooms.

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Amex: Ad Age’s Marketing 50

Advertising Age
AmEx Members Project: Marketing 50
By Tiffany Meyers, November 2008

For American Express Co., it’s marketing that does good as it does well.

“Having the opportunity to do marketing and do good at the same time is a great feeling,” says Belinda Lang, VP-consumer marketing strategy, who oversees Members Project From American Express.

The online initiative solicits AmEx card members to submit and vote on ideas for humanitarian projects.

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NBA: Ad Age’s Marketing 50

Advertising Age
NBA Playoffs: A Marketing 50 Case Study
By Tiffany Meyers, November 2008

Nielsen ratings are one thing. But when Carol Albert saw a “Saturday Night Live” parody of the National Basketball Association’s 2008 playoffs campaign, “that’s when we knew ‘There Can Only Be One’ had made its way into popular culture,” says Ms. Albert, senior VP-marketing at the NBA.

To build excitement over the six-week NBA playoffs and into the finals, Ms. Albert, 45, laid out a strategy “to focus on the intensity of competition and players’ shared commitment to win.”

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Sicolamartin: Best Workplace

Advertising Age
A Pat on the Back Just Won’t Do at SicolaMartin

By Tiffany Meyers, September 20, 2010

Agency’s Management Style Keeps Morale High by Rewarding ‘Martians’ With Flying Saucers, Cash, Time Off

NEW YORK ( — In ad industry years, SicolaMartin’s average employee tenure of 7.5 years is tantamount to a lifetime. “A lot of us have worked together so long that there’s a personal bond,” said Cherie Cox, president and 19-year veteran of the Austin, Texas-based agency. “We care about each other.”

They have fun, too. Stress will always be a part of business, said Diane McKinnon, senior VP-exec creative director. So a little levity goes a long way in fostering a healthy workplace. “We take the work that we do very seriously. But we don’t take ourselves so seriously. That’s a fundamental truth about who we are as an agency.”

Employees call themselves Martians, for instance, and each of their business cards features a different Martian character.

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Mckinney: Among Adage’s Best Workplaces 2010

Advertising Age
At McKinney, Nice Guys and Gals Really Do Finish First
By Tiffany Meyers | September 20, 2010

Employees Work in a Renovated Lucky Strike Factory Where Involved Partners, Philanthropy and Professional Development Are Keys to Success

NEW YORK ( — If culture is a weapon, then McKinney follows a “no-jerk” policy (they use a stronger word) when stockpiling its proverbial arsenal, hiring talented people who also fit culturally. “We believe that there are too few great places to work, and that culture can be a competitive weapon,” said Brad Brinegar, CEO, McKinney. “The kind of people we work with matters — and we think that you don’t have to be a jerk to be talented,” he said.

“There’s an atmosphere of possibility,” said Art Director Nick Jones. “It’s about, ‘how can we make your ideas happen?’ instead of, ‘here’s why we can’t.'” In 2009, Mr. Jones was lured from a comfortable freelance life partly because of McKinney’s commitment to training employees to work laterally across media.

At McKinney, employees work among different disciplines and get their own darn mail to encourage interaction.Still more professional development happens at the in-house Blackwell School, named for the Durham-based agency’s street address. Courses include everything from HTML5 to “How We Make Money,” a show of transparency about a topic many companies prefer to shroud in mystery.

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The Resurgence of Hand-Made Design

HOW Magazine
A Show of Hand

By Tiffany Meyers

Recently, designer Kevin Grady came across a cardboard box. In it: Some of his work from the early 1990s-and a copy of Emigre 29. Published in 1994, that issue of Emigre featured a 12-page insert by the British collective The Designers Republic.

“I have to admit, I was kind of shocked,” says Grady, Partner of design firm Grady&Metcalf and Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of Lemon. “When that issue came out, I remember being totally blown away by it. And it was one of the most celebrated issues of the magazine.” (Illustration by Janice Kun.)

No doubt, he concedes, it did break great big swaths of new ground. But in hindsight, Grady realizes that it was also a product of its times: That was a period in which designers were piling layers upon layers of vector art, stretching type, and throwing enormous ellipses around everything-just because they could.

“The typography of that era was very much about itself,” he says. “It was very apparent that designers were just figuring out the computer. It was like, ‘Wow, I can stretch type. So that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”

One turn of the century later, designers have fully figured out every feature and filter. The novelty of the Mac—the thrill of stretching stuff they couldn’t previously layer-has worn off. And in the past few years, they’ve rediscovered the process of working by hand, producing a marked surge of graphic design that incorporates diverse elements of handwork.

Some are using letterpress and silkscreen technologies to produce small-batch or one-off products like invitations, posters, and handmade paper. Others are feeding their handwork-like hand-drawn or painted type and illustrations, mixed media, and collages-back into technology, scanning and manipulating those elements in order to scale up the handwork for large print runs.

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When Designers Moonlight

Communication Arts
Advertising imitates art
By Tiffany Meyers | 2005

At some point in history, the advertising industry decided to turn an adjective into a noun and formally call its practitioners “creatives.” Aside from bewildering people on the outside, the title aptly describes a type of person inclined to explore diverse forms of expression in a lifetime, and not just those that move product.

More than a few creatives manage to produce a body of art even as they build successful careers in advertising. Invariably, one influences the other.

Creative director Tom Lichtenheld is also the author/illustrator of several acclaimed children’s books, including “Everything I Know About Pirates” (Simon & Schuster, 2000), “Everything I Know About Monsters” (Simon & Schuster, 2002) and “What Are YOU So Grumpy About?” (Little, Brown & Company, 2003). Two more titles, “Everything I Know About Cars” (Simon & Schuster) and “What’s With This Room?” (Little, Brown & Company) are slated for publication in 2005.

Lichtenheld—who began as a fine-art student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then realized he might want to buy a car one day—served as a creative director for BMW and United Airlines at Fallon, Minneapolis, when he stumbled into book illustration by accident: His young nephew asked if he might draw him a pirate or two. Lichtenheld more than satisfied his requirements as an uncle, completing a pirate book—his first—with Fallon’s support.

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The Rise of the She-M.O.

PINK Magazine
The Rise of the “She-M.O.”
By Tiffany Meyers

In a business of predominantly male pilots, mechanics and engineers, Joanne Smith has had to shout over more than the din of aircraft engines in the course of her marketing career. The vice president of marketing for Delta Air Lines recalls a meeting at another airline a short decade ago, when she tried to convince a roomful of men not to cut hot towel service on flights as a way to save money. When she added that, in fact, the hot towels should be scented, her former CEO tossed a quarter across the table and quipped, “Call someone who cares.”

Contemporary boardrooms are hardly free of chest-puffing antics like these, but Smith believes such an incident probably wouldn’t happen today. “Not so much because it’s rude behavior,” she says, “but because I think women [marketers] have forced the point that consumers do care about these kinds of things.”

At Delta, Smith often finds herself reminding colleagues that the concepts of “safe, clean and on time” are merely the price of entry. “In a male-dominated industry, I find that I sometimes have to be a very loud voice that says, ‘If operations is all we focus on, we’re going to lose an opportunity to engage customers in a brand connection beyond those things.'”

Such sensibilities among women in marketing are earning more respect in corporate America – and giving women execs a boost up the career ladder. A quick scan across the business vista shows that in marketing, women are thriving in the most senior roles – making the CMO into the “She-M.O.,” as it were.

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Culture Mosaic

Special Report: Kids and Tweens

Culture Mosaic
By Tiffany Meyers, March 13, 2006  

“Intraculturalism” a challenge to marketers when kids try on different ethnic identities as easily as they switch their T-shirts.

From urban to “hurban,” there’s no shortage of terms to describe marketers’ efforts to reach today’s culturally diverse youth. Now make room for one more concept: intraculturalism.

The concept comes from consulting company Cheskin, where Exec VP-Partner Stephen Palacios defines intraculturalism as the tendency for American youth to adopt traditions and attitudes of cultures other than their own in “a fluid process of identity formation.” Young people shift back and forth among cultural sensibilities continually-not just from year to year or month to month, but even sometimes from hour to hour.

Think beyond the obvious example of the white, middleclass kid who emulates hip-hop culture. Intraculturalism is seen in young people of all ethnic backgroundsencompassing children, tweens and teens, and is most prominent among Hispanic youth, Mr. Palacios says. A Hispanic child, for example, might speak Spanish at home with his family and English at school. In turn, his non-Hispanic peers of all ethnicities are increasingly “picking and choosing from the cultural sensibilities that they find attractive,” says Mr. Palacios. Intracultural kids “can be Asian at home, bicultural at school and something entirely different with their goth friends.”

This fluid notion of cultural identity differs from multiculturalism, in which distinct ethnicities are celebrated — and in the case of multicultural marketing, targeted — separately.

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Concept Farm Among Ad Age’s Best Workplaces

Advertising Age Special Report:
Best Places to Work in Advertising and Media

The Concept Farm
Only One Silo, a Real One, Exists in the Concept Farm
By Tiffany Myers, September 20, 2010

A Farmhouse Table, Open Floorplan, ‘EIEIO’ Blog, Zero-Tolerance Policy on Egos and Lack of Hierarchy Mean Farmers Are Free to Sow Ideas

NEW YORK ( — When the Concept Farm launched in 1999, the partners used their farm analogy to support a vision for an ego-free, roll-up-your-sleeves culture. “It was about organic thinking and getting our hands dirty,” said Gregg Wasiak, partner-creative director. “Stripping things down and getting it done without silos.”

Eleven years later, employees and partners still check their egos at the barnyard door. At least one partner sits on every account, giving staffers the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with executives. When Art Director Robert Singh started as an intern in 2004, his direct report was none other than Partner-Creative Director Ray Mendez.

“An intern is the lowest rung on the ladder,” Mr. Singh said, “but I had the chance to hit the ground running.” These days, he hears about more hierarchical organizations and feels spoiled. “Here, you’re not running things up a ladder and having to wait. The creative directors sit a few feet away, so you can always grab someone for input. I think it’s a luxury.”

The Concept Farm, whose clients include Windstream Communications, BNY Mellon and ESPN, is all about community, starting with open floor plans in which the disciplines mingle. “We do have some doors,” Mr. Wasiak said, “but they swivel.”

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Adage Special Report: Luxury Marketing

AdAge Special Report: Luxury Marketing
Marketers learn luxury isn’t simply for the very wealthy
By Tiffany Meyers, September 13, 2004 

Purveyors of luxury products increasingly have their sights set on Joe Average as well as Joe Millionaire, and that’s changing the definition of “luxury.”  

The democratization of luxury-variously labeled as the “massification of luxury,” “class to mass,” “new luxury,” “masstige” and even “luxflation”-is taking two main routes: Traditional luxury marketers are expanding their brands to more affordable merchandise, while at the same time the middle class is increasingly willing to, at least occasionally, buy expensive luxury goods.

The latter trend is at the center of the recent book “Trading Up: The New American Luxury,” co-authored by Boston Consulting Group Senior VP Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske, CEO of Bath & Body Works.

“New luxury is not about aristocrats,” Mr. Silverstein tells Advertising Age. “It’s about average Joes on the street who want to buy premium-price products that have real technical, functional and emotional benefits.”

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