How has marketing and advertising changed from the beginning of your career to now?
I went from an ‘in-house’ ad agency at The Washington Post to a series of traditional advertising agencies. In that entire time, 1966-2009, advertising targeted customers using ‘traditional” media’ — magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, outdoor, direct mail and collateral materials. As digital media emerged after 2000, we all scrambled to add banner ads and websites to our toolkits.
And while the impact of powerful, emotional, attention-getting creative advertising grew and then subsided, overpowered as it is today by splintered social and customer-driven text, the principles of marketing are still unchanged and critically important. Product, Delivery, Promotion, and Price.
Who were your mentors?
John Dower, my boss at The Washington Post; Henry J. Kaufman, my first ad agency boss, and Mel Stein, a New York creative director. Like most mentors, they led by example and represented honesty in advertising, an emphasis on strategic planning and how things are done when you push for excellence.
Which person/company in the industry do you admire most? Why?
When I led my own ad agency, we joined peer group forums and once visited an agency in Pittsburgh called Blattner/Bruner. Oh. My. God. They were HD digital before it was popular, and used interactive Wi-Fi to blaze imaginative systems from research to accounting to floor management (no receptionist, only signals that visitors were nearing). Their creative work was astounding and their office architecture made Silicon Valley look Victorian. They had coffee bars, crepe stations, game stations and dazzling artwork all over. To this day, I wish I could build an agency like that.
What was your favorite project?
The best was a restaurant chain called Fritzbe’s, who trusted us to take their limited budget and maximize its value with outstanding creative that would magnify a small budget through its emotional power. We showed them a risky campaign where their logo was embedded in a series of really funny full-page comic strips (instead of ‘ads’) in magazines. It worked.
What was the high and low of your career?
Somebody famous once said “advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” and I agree. The thrill of seeing a tremendously exciting ad campaign break and getting people talking and responding is hard to describe. The spark of finding that ‘breakthrough’ idea and then persuading resistant, worried clients is an amazing feeling. What I liked least about advertising as a career was losing big clients for bad reasons. You have to fire people as a result and regain that revenue, all the while trying to keep morale and spirits high.
What lessons did you learn throughout your career that could help others?
- Manage positively and be positive; people need their brains relaxed and happy to come up with great ideas.
- Get out of the weeds. Keep thinking of the strategy and encourage others to do that.
- Be honest. Say what you think.
- Keep pushing. Don’t settle for inferior ideas or mediocre production values.
- Know your weaknesses and have highly talented people in those positions.
- Take vacations.
If you could do it again, would you take a different career path, or are you satisfied with the route you followed?
Since ‘retiring,’ I have been drawing editorial cartoons, and I think back about that glass office in The Washington Post where I once sat down with their cartoonist, Herb Block (Herblock). I think if I could start over, I would intern as a political cartoonist where I could still create ideas and see them published—but instead have a small but direct influence on the world and its political outcomes.
This article was originally posted by Ironmark at http://blog.ironmarkusa.com/dc-ad-man-dan-rosenthal