March 13, 2018

VCU's 2018 CreateAthon

BMA Account Executive, Michael Foster and Jeff Smack, our Director of Interactive Media, were invited to be team mentors at VCU's annual CreateAthon this year and had a great time getting involved.
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February 13, 2018

3000 Years of Valentine's Day History

“Valentine’s Day is a marketing holiday manufactured by the gift card industry.”
We've all heard that position stated before. Okay. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at this anti-sentimental view of an otherwise tender holiday.
Is Valentine’s day a consumer holiday? Was it invented by greeting card companies? Where did it come from? And how did it become what we know it to be today?
According to, 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year worldwide. This makes the holiday the single most popular greeting card holiday and the second most popular greeting card giving occasion behind birthdays.
The average person spends $146.84 on the holiday, according to Time Money. Between these two facts the consumer marketing angle seems well reasoned. So people are definitely buying cards, flowers and candy. Where did all of this start? Let’s take it back to the beginning.
V-Day is named after St. Valentine, a third century Roman saint. But the holiday is believed to have origins in traditions that pre-date St. Valentine himself. Hmm, let’s go all the way back...
February finds its meaning — 800 BCE
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia is a pagan celebration anchored to February 15th. It was a holiday of health and fertility, alternatively called “Dies Februatus” or “purified day” and gave the month it’s name.
Valentine’s day gets its name — 250 AD
Next on the calendar we have the execution of St. Valentine on February 14th in the third century AD. Legend has it that the saint wrote a letter to the daughter of his jailer the night before he died and it was signed “from your Valentine.”
A couple centuries later the church named St. Valentine’s Day a holiday to memorialize the saint and further subdue the pagan traditions of courtship and matchmaking from Lupercalia.
Flowers take on symbolic meaning in the West — 1714
The modern tradition of flowers as messages is credited to King Charles XIII of Sweden in the early 18th century. He learned of flower arranging in Persia and identified the various meanings of different flowers when presented as gifts.
Manufactured cards and candy take off! — 1800s
The tradtion of St. Valentine’s day remains largely focused on romance and hand-written notes until the 1800s when the industrial revolution hits and “fancy” cards manufactured in Europe are newly in vogue.
This is also around the time that Cadbury Chocolates was founded in England and chocolates were introduced on a large scale as a quintessential gift for sweethearts.
Conversation hearts were introduced in 1866 and were not heart shaped until almost 40 years later. This is when the full-on marketing hit, the early twentieth century.
Hallmark is born — 1900s
In 1910 Hallmark was founded and they produced their first Valentine’s Day card shortly after. 1910 is the same year that “Florists Telegraph Delivery" was founded, still around today as FTD, Florist’s Transworld Delivery.
A look back through ancient history to the 20th century confirms that Valentine’s Day, as we know it, truly came together in the first decades of the last century. So what we view as a traditional approach to Valentine’s Day, flowers, chocolates and cards is really only the last 100 years of a 3000 year old tradition.
In the 21st Century consumer audiences are participatory, not passive, and marketing of all kinds has become very self aware as social attitudes evolve. Will this post-modern progression take Valentine’s Day somewhere it’s never been? Only time will tell.
However, maybe it’s already gone irreversibly into a bizarro future.
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 6, 2018

Which Ads Won The Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl ads this year were up to par with the previous years. They were clever, real-time relevant, funny and featured a ton of our favorite celebrities.
But let’s talk about what was new and different.
The spots that grabbed my eyes were the ones that spoke directly to the customer. And not figuratively as used in the common marketing saying, but they actually addressed the audience as viewers of an advertisement.
Advertising during the Super Bowl has come a long way over the years. What started as a break for the sponsors, has grown into a supporting act of the game itself — a highly anticipated component of the entertainment. In these hours, marketers are putting forth their very best content to appear in front of the largest audiences. But let’s just say,  by this point people are 100% aware of they are being marketed to, no matter how creative these ads have become.
The brands this year that decided to own up and acknowledge, “yes, we are marketing to you right now,” were the ones that made me appreciate them and their transparency. It was nice to have a good laugh knowing that they understand, and give them a nod of approval. Here are some favorites:
Tide: Did a comical mash-up spoof of familiar Super Bowl commercials from other industries. Mimicking the vibe of each commercial, Tide would stop and reminded the customer that every ad with clean clothes is a Tide ad.
Jeep: Decided to expose the marketer’s thoughts behind the average car commercial. They stated that they don’t need some “overarching human truth” to sell their vehicle, and they don't need a manifesto, all they need is for the customer to see what the Jeep itself can do.  

Skittles: Decided to take an unconventional route and go live on Facebook during the Superbowl. The idea was to create a story leading up to Sunday explaining that Skittles would only be advertising to one single boy during the Superbowl.
Michelob Ultra: In this hilarious spot, Chris Pratt gets the part to “star” in a Michelob Ultra commercial but later finds out what that really means in a second Michelob Ultra commercial.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

February 1, 2018

The Big Game — Super Bowl LII Ads

AdWeek's Super Bowl Ad Tracker received a fresh round of updates this week giving the world an early glimpse of what will likely be some of the most talked about brands of the year.
Personally, I try not to do too much "teaser" viewing before the event because I still like to experience the ads in the traditional environment and evaluate the impact with other folks, who don't work in advertising.
It's fun to see which spots demand attention and what may get missed in real time.
Also, there's no way I won't see every spot by early next week so I try pretty hard not to get too far in front of game-time unveiling. However, the Avocados from Mexico spot got me curious. It's arguably the most relevant product for the experience. They've done some pretty absurd and inventive things in the past, so I just had to check it out.

The spot is pretty clever and goes a long way to make a really simple point. But what really got me was the peculiar Chris Elliott cameo. I'm a big fan (See Get a Life and Handsome Boy Modeling School). His absurd presence in the ad forced me to YouTube which paid off with another Chris Elliott spot that sets up the first one.
Bizarre, entertaining, and well received with this focus group of one. This foray into Super Bowl sneak peeks should whet the appetite and keep me satisfied enough to wait for the full course on Sunday.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

January 26, 2018

What, exactly, is the media value of Snapchat?

We can go ahead and just air that question out loud. It’s okay to ask.
By now most folks are aware that Snapchat is a bit of a wildcard in the arena of media. Five years ago it was the up and comer. Two years ago it was threatening to be the future of social media. One year ago it was the Facebook Ad killer — and none of that has actually panned out. But the platform continues to hold solid ground while anyone that isn’t a daily user continues to scratch their head.
Snapchat has 170 million daily users at last count. That’s their flagship statistic. By comparison using late 2017's figures, Facebook has 1.3 billion, Instagram has 500 million, and Twitter has 330 million. And when you know that Snapchat’s audience of daily users is almost entirely between the ages of 13 and 30  you have an audience platform that can't be ignored. And now we can begin to understand the hype.
However, what is the platform doing to deliver on that value and monetize that opportunity? We aren’t sure. The data on how users are using Snapchat is extremely limited as of now, but in the meantime, Snapchat can tout the daily users and the valuable makeup of that audience to advertisers.
Putting the advertising value in perspective, Instagram’s Story feature alone has more users than Snapchat has total users, that’s 180 million. The makeup of that audience leans older but the volume and behaviors of Insta’s audience makes it more practical as a “planned, bought and measured” ad platform. The ad units available through Facebook and Instagram are more versatile and more adaptable to different objectives as well.
We call it a social media community. And social advertising is a commodity, but Snapchat is  really more of a messaging application. First and foremost it's a space for young people to send video and images to each other in privacy. But are these young people interacting with the publisher content in the Discover section of the app? Are they engaging with the ads in a meaningful way? According to a recent article on The Daily Beast, the data is not made available by Snapchat, but the simplest answer is “not much.”
So what exactly is the value of Snapchat? It’s what the kids are doing. And that’s cool. It’s setting new trends and inventing new rules. It was the first to favor vertical video and gave the world face filters. If a brand can do something organic and innovative and it gets noticed, then it can help your brand gain some favorable press, and it’s definitely fertile territory for cool points in the industry.
The data is still out on whether the ad product matters with the audience and whether the audience is who they say they are.
At this point, among a variety of very effective pay-and-measure ad channels, it’s still a variable. We believe it’s absolutely a worthwhile experiment for brands that are committed to the channel and able to optimize on performance. It’s definitely a testable variable that’s well positioned to generate word of mouth (and industry PR) for a brand that’s authentically participating in the culture of the community.
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

December 12, 2017

Five Key Lessons Shared Between Non-Profits and Franchise Businesses

Recently, I’ve had some very honest and candid chats with some national non-profit leaders about the future of fundraising. Simultaneously, I’ve been talking with local franchise owners about the greatest challenges they face — regarding everything from communications to operations.
As it turns out, their challenges and struggles echoed each other. Be it easing cultural tensions, improving communication, encouraging mission alignment, or fostering consistency, many of the same issues keep them up at night. Between the two segments, I’ve distilled some parallels and will outline here five key lessons that local franchise owners can learn from national non-profit leaders.
1. Everyone can fund raise, but not everyone is a fundraiser.
To be a skilled fundraiser takes training and practice. Just because someone has the desire to go out and raise money, does not ensure they will be successful. Even if they are successful, it doesn’t guarantee that the success will be sustainable. Instead, train your people for the skills you need. Training should happen every time someone joins, but should also be on-going. Teaching the skills needed enables both success and sustainability.
2. It’s critical to connect people to your mission.
For non-profits, connecting people to their mission is the key to keeping the lights on. When individuals and corporations believe what you’re doing matters, then they show their support through donations and gifts. However, as more and more non-profits develop and ask for donations, the mission becomes a critical differentiator between them and their competition. Likewise, as the number of businesses increase and therefor competition, why you do what you do becomes as important as how you do it or what you offer. Know your mission, live your mission, and clearly communicate your mission so others can align with you.
3. Plan on people making it personal.
The more people invest in something, the more it matters to them. This investment could be time, money or both. Whether it’s the woman who dedicates hours volunteering for a cause because she or a family member is affected by a disease, or the husband and wife team who poured their retirement savings into buying into a franchise store. When it matters, it becomes personal. Channeling this passion can be an organization’s greatest challenge. To do so, give people a chance to express themselves. Listen as they express their concerns or share their ideas. Empower people to use their passions and motivations in creative ways. Give them a platform and the support needed to plan their Do-It-Yourself fundraiser, or design their own local marketing outreach. Yet, be clear and direct in policies and procedures so they know where the boundaries are.
4. Think global, act local.
The best executives always remember that for both non-profits and franchises, many of the most critical decisions happen quickly and at the local level. It’s easy to fall back on the national name recognition and forget about how stressful the small business environment can be. It’s tough! But, always remember to prioritize your goals, and work toward reaching one goal before moving on to the rest.
5. Incentivize initiative and show your appreciation.
Above all else, remember to say thank you. Be it volunteers or franchisees, expressing your gratitude matters. And it’s usually the little things that mean the most. A coffee mug filled with chocolates, a t-shirt with a note, these small things let the individual know that their hard work is noticed and appreciated. You can even set incentive levels to reward good work along the way. However, be weary of saying thanks with things. If you go too far and give someone too nice of a gift, it makes the whole experience transactional, cheapens it, and demotivates. Instead to motivate employees, thank then sincerely and frequently with small, appropriately sized gifts.
Though I never recognized it, the similarities between the national non-profit and the franchise business models are striking. Both have a national brand supported by local factions, yet, though connected by name, these chapters or stores often operate independently. So, it makes sense that they share similar struggles. All of these listed takeaways represent real organizational challenges for both non-profits and franchise businesses. They are all primarily people concerns and every organization will benefit from realizing it’s living, breathing, human value.
Jane Broadbent
Senior Strategist

November 21, 2017

Lottery Scratchers Aren’t for Playing, but for Giving

Like every other retail brand that ever was or will be, the holidays are traditionally a peak sales time for the Virginia Lottery. Of course, Lottery loyalists will be buying holiday-themed Scratchers and raffle tickets with a $1 million payout, but the gift-giving nature of the season presents an opportunity to gain interest from new players who want to get in on the fun.
This year’s holiday campaign for the Virginia Lottery aims to drive both loyal and new player segments to try Lottery Holiday games. So, with our knowledge of traditional player habits and holiday shopping behaviors, we zeroed in on appealing to gift givers. And we did so by positioning Scratchers as the ultimate holiday gift, not to receive or play, but to give.
Our “Win the Holidays” campaign for the Virginia Lottery is all about the feeling you get when you give someone Scratchers. The campaign title itself refers to the idea that you “win the holidays” by giving Scratchers, not by playing them.
This focus on giving allowed us to deviate from the usual comedic tone of the television spots we produce (and totally enjoy producing) for the Lottery, and inspired us to create a narrative that’s more emotionally charged.
The campaign’s two television spots and one digital video feature people of different backgrounds in different scenarios “giving the gift of joy” by giving holiday Scratchers. Scratchers are shown tied to dog bones and mistletoe, left on doormats and office desks, and passed out to family members, parking attendants, hairstylists, etc. Every scenario captures a moment of joy from the giver and receiver.
The spot also features a cameo appearance by actor Jason Kypros of Norfolk, also known as the Virginia Lottery’s Game Guy.

We know a lottery Scratcher isn’t an Apple watch or tickets to Hamilton, but that’s part of their charm. “Win the Holidays” celebrates the idea that a Scratcher can make people feel good by simply acting as a symbol of appreciation.
This campaign does a lot of hard work for the Lottery brand, almost acting as a holiday brand anthem. It positions the Virginia Lottery in a feel-good, emotional light that we think will cut through the holiday clutter and, of course, sell Lottery Scratchers.
Profits from holiday sales, like all Lottery games, benefit K-12 public education in Virginia – another thing we can all feel good about.
See our complete Giving the Gift of Joy holiday campaign for the Virginia Lottery, here.

October 20, 2017

Contemporary Coupons — More Than Old Fashioned Value

I was the kid that thought it was fun to cut the coupons out of the Sunday paper then sort and organize them for the proper category placement in my mom’s coupon organizer. Sure, you could call that OCD, but it instilled in me a habit that still holds true today.
No longer am I waiting for the Sunday paper, but rather, going to my grocery store’s website and loading the coupons straight to my loyalty card. Why, because, well who doesn’t like to stumble upon a good deal and save a little money. Free pint of Haagen Dazs, yes please!
This trend doesn’t end with the grocery store. Within minutes of searching, customers can find a discount or online coupon within a variety of retail categories.
And these savings aren’t just targeted to those of us that grew up with physical coupons, they have also transcended generations. Millennials are savvy and fickle shoppers. They aren’t as brand loyal and their willingness to buy private-label brands and try lower price brands has kept retailers on their toes. It’s their desire for a good value that will lead to choosing the brand that offers a discount.
And with the availability to find savings online and load them to a loyalty card or combine multiple coupons through an app, these fickle shoppers have become frequent online couponing users.
Now the question is, how to keep your brand top of mind for these millennial shoppers. Maybe it’s following the Bed Bath and Beyond method. Their coupon for 20% off shows up at my house and in my inbox regularly. Sure, I rarely use it, but when I need something and I don’t have the physical coupon, the first place I go is online. Just having it available when I need it is a definite perk.
Now, if only there was a digital coupon organizer. Good thing there is an app for that: Krazy Coupon Lady. Might have to give that a try!

Christie Hach

Account Director

August 29, 2017

Facebook is not a News Source

Where do you get your news and current information?

I get a lot of mine via Facebook. I like to think I have a well-trained eye for the source behind the content, regardless of the branded blue and white interface that it’s presented in. But the perception of “Facebook as a news source” is an increasing problem for a brand that authors no content. This is the age of news-entertainment and hyper-partisan journalistic agendas.

Facebook simply stack-ranks the posts that users seem to care about and then pushes them forward to relevant audiences. So in fact, I get a lot of my info “through Facebook” but not exactly “from Facebook."

Facebook is not in the business of editing or editorializing the content that is shared there even though they have increasingly acknowledged their corporate responsibility for the experience they provide. They offer a connected environment for the exchange of information first, and a very lucrative advertising product second. Some might argue those priorities are reversed. But I’m fairly certain Mark Zuckerburg still believes that advertising on Facebook has no value if the audience is undermined by it. This is a principle that is seriously challenged by the current reality.

The company has a major product issue in this way, and they’re trying to dismantle it without losing their secret sauce. In the current social environment, it is actually profitable for entities spreading misinformation to build larger audiences by doing so. Facebook has attempted to address this but seems to be outpaced by the issues at hand — AdWeek - Facebook Pages that Share Fake News Will Be Blocked from Advertising

If a story is getting attention, Facebook deems it more relevant, and accelerates its exposure to more users, compounding the viral effect. This makes sense when it’s something harmless, funny, interesting or truly relevant. But when information is deliberately crafted to do political damage, the fact that users are fascinated by it without gauging its veracity is a huge problem for the platform.

The algorithm’s reward for zeitgeist has been harnessed by partisan publishers in a way that is politically potent, yet profitable for Facebook. The company understands this threat to it’s future, but the solution cannot be simple when audience engagement substantiates the value of the content, especially when it’s apparently “false” information.

People have been talking about the “death of Facebook” since it opened itself up beyond a student-only social network. The organization tends to figure out the issues and navigate them extremely well to remain relevant and useful. The pressure is on, but I have come to expect that Facebook would rather make the most responsibly balanced move for their audience and their business than the most popular or expeditious one.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

May 17, 2017

Agencies as Full-Circle Partners

AdWeek has addressed the topic of “agency vs. consultancy” a lot this year. As agencies engage in more consulting and consultancies strive to deliver more implementation and execution, the point of our previous post is underscored.

At Barber Martin, we know that doing business requires strong partnerships.

And in the marketing field, there’s no shortage of specialist vendors and agencies to help brands pursue all kinds of objectives in a rapidly changing and fragmented environment.

As the role of “agency” evolves and businesses adjust to the changing behaviors and needs of the market, the need for a full-circle leadership becomes more apparent. Some brands add depth to the internal marketing team while others look for more direction from the existing lineup of vendors and partners. In this case, one partner must step up to advocate for the brands internal decision makers and preserve a clear strategic vision to align competing collaborators in service to the client’s own well-informed priorities.

At Barber Martin, we see the role of “Lead Agency” as a progressive one that addresses the need with a practical understanding of daily business and real world parameters. Here are few highlights on this topic from recent articles by AdWeek’s writing staff.


“'Marketers are keen to remain innovative and future-focused, so having consulting solutions available helps to ensure they’re always one step ahead of disruption stemming from technology and consumer change,' says Richard Hartell, global president of transformation at Publicis Media."

“RFPs today solicit competencies that reach beyond the traditional agency mandate and include integrated content and distribution strategies, greater operational agility, transparency, data science and analytics, and programmatic expertise.”

— David Gianatasio writing for AdWeek:
Ad Agencies are building out their own consultancies.


“Those requirements might seem like a tall order, but there are a few things agencies can do to meet them. The first is simple: simplify. Agencies can flatten their structures and tear down silos that separate integral disciplines. Agencies 3.0 demand a rebundling of disciplines that were historically unbundled—creative, media and analytics. Creative and media practices should be built upon a strong data and analytics foundation and be woven closely together.”

— Lesley Klein writing for AdWeek:
Agencies Can Achieve 3.0 Status


“'Business strategy and marketing strategy have always been two separate things, and brands had to go to two separate places to get them: consultants and ad agencies,' said Barkley president and COO Dan Fromm, adding, 'They don’t want to do that anymore. They want one partner who can give them all or most of it in one place.’"

“XperienceLab, a St. Louis-based business that describes itself as 'an experience strategy and design firm,' launched in 2013. It specializes in user-experience design and 'workforce transformation' projects for clients like Monsanto, Blue Cross Blue Shield and insurance provider RGA with the goal of improving brands’ relationships with both consumers and their employees.”

— Patrick Coffee writing for AdWeek:
This Ad Agency Bucked the Trend and Acquired a Consultancy

Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

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