“We think branding is what you do when you want likes or fans, or you want to be famous…actually, anyone who interacts with other people needs to think about branding. Your brand is how the world experiences you and what they believe to be true.”

—Personal branding expert Lida Citroën

I recently had the privilege of attending the Texas Women’s Conference, and one of the panels that I found most valuable was called, “Your Brand: How to Define and Market Yourself.” We often think that personal branding is only important for influencers and celebrities, but the truth is that we are expressing our personal brand constantly—from the words that we choose to use to the energy that we bring into a room.

 There are many ways to assess and build a personal brand, but I think Simidele Adeagbo explained it in the simplest way. Simidele, who led marketing campaigns at Nike for 15 years while training for the Olympics, described a process that Nike uses called “DIG.” 


Personal branding is anchored in what you believe. If someone took these things away, you wouldn’t be you. If you don’t know where to start, seek outside perspectives and feedback, whether it be from friends, peers or coworkers. Spend time examining the things that you’re good at.

Think about four core ideas or topics that are central to your identity and points of activation for your brand (aka brand pillars). Yes you, as a person, will have brand pillars.


This is where you should begin to focus on the narrative surrounding your brand. The way that your brand shows up is in your reputation. This does not just mean verbal cues, such as the way we speak, but nonverbal cues as well, such as our level of eye contact or our posture.

How do you talk about yourself? That sets the foundation for how others see us. How do you introduce yourself? It’s not just about your title, it’s about why you do what you do. Credential yourself, talk about your “why” and make it personal. That is what makes for an interesting elevator pitch. 

You should set the expectation with confidence, clarity and intention. People will believe what you tell them until you prove otherwise.  

Think about how you can establish a position around the things that make you unique. What are the ways in which this could manifest itself out in the world? Ideate around that.


Own it. Step into uncomfortable places and have the courage to take on the tasks that scare you or that others never would. People are drawn to realness, and if you let them come along, they will help you build your brand. Embrace the journey. Authenticity can be difficult, awkward and scary, but it’s about consistency, not perfection.

Be resourceful. Who is in the space that you want to be in? Connect with like-minded people. Surround yourself with people, environments and jobs that allow you to do what you’re good at.

When we think about “showing up,” we often think of social media, but we have the opportunity to show up far beyond that. The clothes that we wear, the products that we choose to buy and our professional network are all ways that we show up. They are all opportunities for us to tell our stories and they are all reflections of our brand.

Think about the ways you can tell your story and take action to show up in those spaces.

When you put all of these things into action, you will shine through in your personal and professional interactions AND your brand will be unstoppable. Keep discovering, ideating and going. Just keep DIGging.

IMG_5457 copy 2As a self-professed technophile, attending CES was a life goal for me. So in heading to 2016 CES, I couldn’t wait to find the next great thing to connect with my Sonos, Hue and SmartThings and make my “connected life” complete. More importantly, this was an opportunity to find the new advancements that would be game changers for our department, agency and clients. Bring it, Vegas!

But, upon arrival, as I stood longingly in front of a smart refrigerator that alerts you when your food is near expiration and creates a grocery list based on your purchasing patterns, an unexpected thought occurred to me: Not many (okay, none) of my friends or peers are jumping at the opportunity to have their home play their theme song when they rise in the morning or for their lights to alter to match their mood when they return home from work. In fact, I suspect the average American consumer is barely aware that CES—or this type of technology offering—even exists.

So if it doesn’t apply to everyone, how does technology of the future apply to the audiences of today?

Brands have to find ways to make ultra-forward-thinking technology accessible for and adoptable by the mass consumer. And by doing so, brands have to be realistic about adoption curves.

Brands have to look for insights into the problems technology is attempting to solve and find more realistic ways to address these issues.

Let’s use my coveted refrigerator as an example. Sure, it’d be great if I got a text when my guacamole was about to expire. But the bigger issue here is less about having excess tortilla chips and nowhere to dip them and more about the global problem of food waste vs. food scarcity. Now that’s an entirely different subject for a separate blog post, but my point is that high-end technology isn’t the only way to solve the problem of food waste.

Packaging: Let’s rethink it. What if food packaging changed color when nearing expiration? Or, food that had a 1–2 day refrigerator life was placed in green bags, while food lasting 3–5 days had an orange package?

Existing data. Grocery stores and brands already know what consumers are purchasing. What if we used the technology that gives certain customers certain coupons to send notifications when the bananas they bought last week were better fit for banana bread? 

Communities that work. The social network Nextdoor has made it exceptionally easy to alert neighbors of a lost pet. Could like-apps also offer up to neighbors that carton of milk or unopened tub of guacamole that will go bad while you’re at CES?

Perhaps I have a personal plight with the items in my fridge, but this is the type of thinking that CES inspired. What problems can we solve with the technology we already have, rather than assuming consumers are ready to adopt the latest-and-greatest—in smart fridges?

How can we solve transportation and commuter issues until the drone is ready for prime time? How can we make reality better than the virtual version?

Don’t get me wrong. I think technology is one of our best approaches to solving problems. But in doing so we can’t lose sight of the people who have never heard of CES and will never understand the need for a $10K refrigerator that beeps when their bananas are no longer that perfect shade of yellow.

We, as consumers, brands and advertisers have to be smarter than the smart things.

Now, about that robotic dog. Dog ownership sounds hard, so this is problem solver I could get behind. See you at the “dog” park.IMG_5456 copy

By Kelsey Karst, Studio Art and Design Intern

As the Cannes Lions Festival kicks off this week, marketers and agencies across the globe are anxiously awaiting to discover who will take home the 2015 awards across the Health, Lions and Innovation tracks. “The Cannes Lions will recognize and award the year’s most exciting creative ideas across 20 categories, covering everything from traditional print and film communications to technology and product design,” according to canneslions.com. Ideas and brands will be recognized and celebrated, in addition to introducing new creative ideas for the upcoming year.Cannes Picture 1This year, the spotlight is on Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat. Today at Cannes, Spiegel introduced what could become the most efficient, influential and useful media platform. Spiegel took the main stage to discuss his plan to open his company up to marketers, which is predicted by many to take the advertising world by storm. Discover partner and Cosmopolitan Editor in Chief Joanna Coles interviewed Spiegel onstage earlier this afternoon about creativity, millennials and what he thinks will excite this generation next.

Spiegel went into detail on the creation of Snapchat: four years ago in a college dorm room at Stanford with a few of his fraternity brothers. He goes on to discuss how “Snapchat is trying to incorporate relevant advertising without being creepily targeted in the messaging.” He touches on the importance of retaining the anonymity and privacy of users while still providing the tools advertisers need to be effective. Spiegel discussed that brands now have the ability to sponsor videos, location-based filters that viewers use when they are within a certain geographic area. He also highlighted the newest advertiser taking part, which is Procter and Gamble, who sponsored Snapchat’s Father’s Day story live-stream. A lot of today’s crowd was just getting introduced to Snapchat, but this talk left both Spiegel and the audience confident in the progression of this app and what it will do for the advertising world, according to Garett Sloane of Adweek.Cannes Picture 2What is especially worth noting is that, even just a couple of years ago, Snapchat would never have been deemed credible enough to be featured at Cannes. The brand’s evolution is extraordinary. What started as a peer-to-peer-image-sending app soon grew to incorporate video, location and visual graphics. Snapchat then went on to tackle texting by adding a messaging platform. Most recently, Snapchat added the “discover” button to keep its users up to date on news and current events through select media partners like Comedy Central, ESPN, Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan and VICE. In just four short years, Snapchat essentially has it all. It has the ability to take market share away from WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter—which is what makes it so appealing to advertisers. It is not a once-a-day use application, it is a 20-per-day use application; this user frequency is advertising gold.

Brands can replicate this style of user behavior to better engage with the Snapchat community. Brands could essentially take more risks in their advertisements if they appeared on Snapchat. They could create humorous ads that could be viewed for that allotted time, and it would disappear. I also think the quick viewing of an advertisement would make it more appealing to users because it’s an interactive video that would only take 10 seconds to watch, rather than interrupting you for 30 seconds to a minute, like YouTube video ads. Because of poor planning, some advertisements come up at an inconvenient time and are too lengthy, causing viewers to be agitated rather than intrigued. If marketers played around with this idea by making the message visually appealing, humorous and/or playful for this younger audience, I think this could be a very successful outlet. Whether it’s a quick snap of a delicious Chipotle meal, or a five-second video of someone trying to shove a burrito down in one bite, it enables viewers to keep the brand top of mind.Cannes picture 4Recently, Snapchat showed its powerful impact during ABC’s broadcast of the American Music Awards. Three million viewers tuned in, while Snapchat Live Story broadcasted snippets of the event and drew in 11.5 million viewers, according to the Adweek article, “How Snapchat’s CEO Plans to Conquer the Advertising World. His first time at Cannes, Evan Spiegel is already star of the show.” As Snapchat continues to increase its user base and expand content options, advertising is starting to become part of this platform, as introduced today by Spiegel himself. Both Spiegel and Cannes Festival attendees seem excited to see what direction Snapchat could steer advertising and ideas, if anywhere at all.

Written by Zinny Bonner

Apple announced its newest feat at taking over the world last week. Okay, not really the world, but might as well be. Improvements to Apple Pay, News Apps and their latest venture, Apple Music, proves that Apple continues to be a force to be reckoned with, not only with their ability to create a new phone every five seconds, but in fact, the leader in creating technology that influences the way we listen to music and ultimately, the way we live our lives.

Apple Music has finally jumped on the streaming train but not without adding their own touch. This new feature available to all Apple products (Android and PC later in the year) will have the entire iTunes library, the music added to your personal library, a radio with live DJs and a social media factor that connects artists and fans.

Apple Music

When iTunes debuted in 2003, it changed the way we listened to music and has now become so embedded in our everyday lives that we forget how much of a game changer it was. Now in 2015, iTunes is old news, and Apple Music is Apple’s attempt at reminding people they are still in the business of providing music. One component of Apple Music is, of course, music. This will give you access to your personal library of music you’ve downloaded and also access to the entire iTunes library for streaming songs on demand. Also, Apple “experts” handpick songs and playlists they think you might like based on what you listen to regularly. Jack Epsteen, SVP/director of production at GSD&M and self-proclaimed “Apple geek,” noted that although he’s excited to see how the music library works, he’s not sure that this latest venture by Apple will tear people away from their routine streaming program. “Unless Apple can do what Tidal and Spotify haven’t been able to do—find a real, sustainable streaming model that also pays the curators—I don’t think this will change how musicians do business,” he said.

Another piece of this project is Beats 1, “The world’s local station.” With DJs from Los Angeles, New York and London, Apple is trying to get people to appreciate a shared listening experience. It will be interesting to see how many people will tune into the 24/7 radio stations.


Lastly, there’s Connect. Connect is basically Apple’s own social media and “a place where fans can engage with their favorite artists.” Essentially the feature allows for artists to post directly to the platform, anything from unreleased music to rehearsals in the studio. This is where Apple has taken the risk, as it’s like nothing they’ve done before. As a social media lover myself, I’m curious to know what is going to make people and artists stray away from the traditional tweet or Facebook post that could serve the same purpose.


Jacqueline Coffey, associate media director at GSD&M, said that one somewhat overlooked aspect of Apple Music is that it does not offer on-demand music for free with advertising, and Spotify, YouTube and Pandora do. Although their option of $14.99 for up to six people on a plan is a better deal than Spotify’s $9.99 per person, Coffey said Apple will be playing catch-up and “coming from a Spotify user whose day-to-day life is rooted in digital media, the market is cluttered, and it will take a lot more than the Apple name for users to make the switch.”

On the other hand, David Rockwood, VP/community relations at GSD&M, thinks the goal of Apple introducing this new feature is not to necessarily switch from one streaming program to another, but instead convert all non-Apple device users. “Since there are over 100 million iPhones out there, downloading their new software update with one easy-to-use music service will help them sell even more phones, which is probably their bigger goal, to sell more hardware,” said Rockwood. According to Hardware Top 100, Apple is #20, with HP, Samsung and Foxconn in the top three positions.

So Apple Music could be the next big thing or just Apple’s failed attempt at remaining relevant and shiny in the music business. We’ll find out June 30 when it launches, and I can’t wait to see what it’s all about.

“More content was created yesterday than you can consume in a lifetime.”
—Dawn Ostroff, Condé Nast Entertainment

So it’s true. Content truly is king, and vast is his castle.

This week, we’ve been learning how content has dominated our culture, our audiences and our time spent, and translating those shifts into what that means for us at the agency and our clients.

We’re just getting Newfronts started here in New York. The Newfronts is a two-week long event, similar to the TV upfronts, where leaders in premium content and digital video announce new original programming, new distribution deals and new talent partnerships to excite agencies and marketing decision makers for the year to come, in hopes of attracting advertising budgets.photo 1We’ve got a packed agenda: listening, watching and meeting with media giants like The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Hulu, Yahoo!, AOL and many others.

Here are some of our early predictions.

Jacks of all trades.

We’ll be seeing more content providers and publishers diversifying offerings—meaning more tactics, targeting and placement opportunities than ever before. They’ll position their offerings as a “one-stop shop” for all client and agency needs, from data-targeted buys, to high impact to content creation and distribution. An example of this is Yahoo!, which has really amped up their capabilities with their acquisition of key players in social, mobile and video, namely Tumblr, Flurry and BrightRoll.

The once start-ups take the main stage.

Many once-small digital properties are going mass, attracting larger audiences and gaining in time spent—truly gaining ground on the more established media giants and shaking up the status quo. Hulu, for example, has quickly dominated the marketplace in its young eight years.

To combat audiences shifting, programmers at media companies will continue to strive for the next big hit show, investing more in production in hopes of attracting audiences who are burdened with content choices. We predict fall sweeps will be among the best programming we’ve seen in order to retain audiences and combat fierce competition.

What you’re going to see are some big announcements from independent, digital-focused media companies breaking more into traditional channels like TV.

The younger media companies get it;—they not only appeal to the millennials but they understand how content is consumed fluidly—and have invested in platforms that deliver anytime, anywhere. Vice, for example, has quickly become a leader in original storytelling through video, which has enabled it to grow its audience.

photo 3

Millennialization of media.

When it comes to programming this fall, you’re going to see more shows and content devoted to millennials coming of age. And you’re going to see this programming offered anytime, anywhere through devices and smartphones as millennials are turning off the TV and instead turning to more personal, portable devices. Expect to see more live programs as well.

Every story told.

Our last prediction is that content will become more diverse, not only in terms of format—long, short and even virtual—but also in terms of the types of stories it will tell and the storylines it will feature. We’ll predict content will be inclusive of every walk of life, truly leaving no story untold.

It’s no fairy tale; we’ll be seeing more brands aligning with audiences through content and well-told stories.

Leaving the office for a few days and focusing on the future is never a bad thing. Just getting out of the weekly onslaught of meetings gives your brain a chance to process thoughts and make room for new ones. Pair that with a few good case studies and conversations around innovation and end-to-end experience and you have yourself a nice little party for the brain. If anything, I’ve got more clarity on what is possible and a few ideas on how we can actually make those things happen.

One of the biggest themes from this year’s Ad Age Digital Conference was the importance of experience…not just from a digital perspective, but as an end-to-end awareness of how and when people interact with a brand. We saw examples of brands that have embraced simple insights and changed the course of how they market. A couple of my favorites include Visa and HBO.

Visa realized that most people are multitasking when they use their phones, so they decided to focus on a one-handed experience. Everything they do in mobile, from app development to advertising, is now put through a one-handed filter. The thought is reinforced in television and PR…but it is all derived from an insight around how people interact with the brand.



HBO spent a lot of time working on their second screen experience…then completely shuttered the program when they realized that people didn’t want to look away from Game of Thrones because they might miss someone die or another plot twist (a true phenomenon I’ve experienced myself). Where most television is passive, people watching HBO tend to be glued to the primary screen. If they are truly going to be the Home Box Office, they need to focus on replicating the box office experience as well as possible, and you aren’t allowed to surf the web while watching movies at the cinema.

The thing that has me excited is how big and diverse GSD&M’s brand experiences are. Buying a tractor is completely different than ordering a burrito…and that is a lot different than booking a flight. The time and context in which someone is interacting with a brand completely changes the way that brand should interact with a consumer. As I’m sitting on a Southwest flight flying home, I’m picking apart every aspect of my interaction: learning I’m going to travel, booking a trip, heading to the airport, checking in, going through TSA, waiting for my flight, boarding, sitting in my seat for four hours, deplaning, getting my luggage, heading home and telling people about my trip are all very different interactions with different sets of expectations. Being able to stream music or watch satellite television on my laptop or tablet makes me feel better about Southwest, and it has nothing to do with advertising. It is the exact right offering at the exact right time. Same with the abundance of plugs and charging stations at the terminal—it’s a simple, thoughtful gesture that makes the entire flying experience a little more pleasurable.

Every interaction is a brand experience, and every interaction is an opportunity—not to put a new ad or logo in front of my eyeballs at every waking moment, but to help define how people are engaging with our brands. Everything we can do to make those experiences a little more pleasurable or rewarding is going to make people appreciate that brand a little more, and that is an exciting thing to focus on.













I always find it interesting that “content strategy” in its strictest definitions is considered a relatively new function within the advertising space. It’s only in the last decade that you see official business cards or job postings with this moniker (thank you, Internet). But what I think is missing is a basic acknowledgement that we are ultimately doing what we have always been doing: telling stories using the right tools at the right time.

In the context of advertising, you could argue that before the age of the Internet, we were all employing content strategies simply using yesteryear’s golden trifecta of consumer outreach: print ads, radio spots and TV spots. Then the advent of the digital age upped the ante for channel complexity for consumer attention, engagement and interaction. Obviously, it’s fantastic (and preferable) that we now have a more robust toolset to engage customers. It affords us the opportunity to go deeper and broader in our storytelling, the chance to communicate in an instant, to be visible at nearly every touch point along the customer cycle, to actively interact and illicit feedback. But today’s channel complexity also forces an increasing need for developing an overarching messaging vehicle that that can rise above any one campaign or specific channel. I love the example of our Walgreens tagline “At the Corner of Happy and Healthy” because what a customer specifically needs to be happy or healthy fluctuates in the moment. They may need a last-minute Valentine’s Day card or wake up late at night in desperate need of cough medicine—events that are entirely different animals. The tagline can flex to accommodate known holidays/life events and then jump up and be relevant in unexpected moments that can’t be preplanned for as well. In other words, this is an idea that has legs.




So ye olde Internets were abuzz last week with reports about Samsung Smart TVs both tracking owners’ conversations and serving up ads in the midst of already purchased movie content. Samsung is quick on the defense to assure customers that the parameters of their products’ voice recognition and intent is perfectly business appropriate and not heralding the feared dawn of a dystopian surveillance state for all.

That all said, the hysteria over the initial reports of Smart TVs recording their unsuspecting owners really throws into relief the precarious balance we are going to have to strike in coming years as marketers. One of our core tenets as an agency is that the advertising we put out itself is an uninvited guest to consumers and that we always have to be cognizant that we are crafting engagement that begs their participation, enjoyment and trust. If potential customers are instantly turned off by a brand’s efforts at the data collection that is used to inform and time the creative messaging they receive, we could be hitting a brick wall by the time we arrive on the scene. As the age of the Internet of Things, Big Data and Empowered Data continues to unfold, we can’t lose focus on that delicate entity known as consumer trust during all phases of the marketing cycle.



GSD&M completed a second consecutive Super Bowl spot appearance on Sunday, featuring Avocados from Mexico. The spot spoofed the “First Draft Ever” and together with complementary social engagement was well received by viewers and media alike…and a collective sigh of relief has fallen across the building. However, inquiring minds still want to know: How do you actually get through game day? Enter the digital command center/war room: the true culminating end of the road of modern event social marketing. I wasn’t there myself, but from these numbers, we can get the drift:









Helping execute a Super Bowl ad campaign is, of course, on the bucket list of many advertising professionals, and I count myself lucky to have touched the campaigns I have in my career. The reality, though, is that the Super Bowl bar continues to rise in terms of brands creating a multifaceted experience. No marketer has the luxury of stopping with a Super Bowl ad anymore. With the over four-million-dollar cost of entry, the responsibility is real to craft innovative consumer engagement opportunities (e.g., contest, call to action) to complement the game day spot investment. Clever, headline-grabbing, real-time content and organic social participation featuring lots of positive buzz about the ad are also musts.

What’s a social strategist to do?