Rodgers Townsend News / Views

Behavior Design: Marketers Should Reconsider Filters, Feelings and Fit

I just bought a pair of size 42 men’s Scarpa “Helix” Italian rock climbing shoes in Hyper Blue for $99 at REI. This purchase is remarkable and highly unlikely. I had to climb over lots of psychological hurdles to get the right shoes for me. The experience made me think about Behavior Design hacks for better strategies, particularly for products and brands with low awareness.


I’m a novice climber still working on my first punch card at Climb So Ill, so I don’t have brand preferences or experience to rely on. All these performance gear brands are new to me. Brand shortcuts aside, REI had a nicely curated collection of shoes to limit the choice set. This purchase should have been as easy as a 5.8 rock wall. It wasn’t.


The literature in psychology, behavioral economics and behavior design is chock full of goodness on the power of filters, nudges and default options. Theory met reality today in the shoe aisle.

The most powerful filter was gender, suggested by social convention, the store layout and the salesman: “Here are the ladies shoes and over there are the unisex and men’s shoes. Let me know if you need any help. Try on anything you like.” There was also a powerful nudge with the mention of unisex shoes and the encouragement to try on anything I liked. REI is cool like that.

I’m a woman. I shopped in “ladies shoes” without a second thought. My choice was anchored in my gender identity and spatially filtered by the store design. I found a pair of size 41.5 women’s Scarpa “Helix” climbing shoes in orange and set that as my default.


I’m also a fashion rebel. “Unisex” was a nudge to think about these shoes as just shoes. Feet are feet. I buy unisex Converse shoes on Amazon all the time. But in a store, I have to literally walk over to the men’s section and publicly break a social norm. The walk was only four steps. No one was looking. It’s Women’s History Month. I hesitated. Then I angrily shook myself for even giving it a second thought.

But norms are norms. Breaking them requires thought – an executive command to override habitual behavior and social convention. And then there’s the emotional tax of feeling uncertain and uncomfortable. I unpacked all of this baggage on the walk to check out the shoes. No turning back. I was committed to shopping men’s shoes in the name of fun, fitness and feminism.


Climbing shoes fit funny. The sizes vary. It’s not as bad as trying to buy jeans, but it’s close. So I grabbed several different pairs of unisex/men’s shoes in 41, 41.5 and 42 and smuggled them over to my ladies nest to try them on. A pair of Five Ten brand “Rogue” shoes felt terrific. Should I go Rogue? Hmmm. They were size 42. I wondered if it was the shoe style/brand or something more basic, like the size. I tried the men’s version of the Scarpa ladies shoes I had set aside as my default. They felt just as good, only better. Why? Because they were the right size.

The most basic human filter was the best.

I love my new shoes. They feel great. They’re adorable. My post-purchase rationalization has kicked into overdrive. I’m new-shoe happy – a special kind of joy.


Filters and feelings can get in the way of a great fit. What if you dared to change the filters for your brand on the path to purchase? Can you make your customers new-shoe happy?

My experience confirmed powerful insights from Behavior Design, the art and science of hacking how people think and choose stuff. Advertising is all about changing consumer behavior. My journey towards better behavior-change briefs started with a new pair of shoes.

A Question Every Creative Director Should be Asking

Creative Director sounds like a pretty schmancy title. And when you consider that Taylor Swift, Usain Bolt, Alicia Keys and I have similar business cards, it’s easy to see why people might assume it’s all glitz and catered sandwiches.

But if you’re not a CD like Justin Timberlake you may find yourself running into tight timelines, tight budgets and the competing pressure to approve, defend, revise and sell-all while having a strong point of view.

So here’s one suggestion on how to remove some of that pressure, improve the work and strengthen your team along the way. Just ask:

“Which idea do you think is best?”

That’s it. Just that one little question when they’re sharing work. Ask the team, “which idea do you think is best?” And wait for an answer. They know what feels right. They’ve gotten intimate with the brief. They’ve searched far and wide and come to you with a range of thinking. See what they say.

Ideally, they’ll have a feel for what’s getting there, even if it hasn’t gotten there yet.

Again, timelines add stress. But a moment of reflection in the safety of a creative sharing session (I hate the term “review,” and “presentation” sounds a bit overblown) can allow teams to recapture their objectivity and back it with some heart.

This question can be daunting. But answering it honestly can accomplish a lot.

First of all, it gives the illusion of time. When sharing sessions can be over-the-shoulder (not necessarily ideal), asking “which idea do you think is best” can take someone out of the rush of the moment and encourage brief but meaningful thought. Weird how that works.

And if nothing else, you can ask “which idea do you think is best” while your A.D.D. focuses back in on the task at hand.

But this little question is more than a stall tactic. It shows that you care. Because asking the question means you’re going to listen to the answer.

They may love an idea that you dismissed because it wasn’t brought to life in all its Photoshop-with-stock-images glory. But in the minds of your team, it has tremendous upside. You should hear what they’re thinking, and consider it before opening your trap.

Then, there’s the business of articulating what makes an idea great. How can we expect teams to grow and stand up in front of a client to explain an idea if we don’t let them practice in front of the mirror? Or in front of a forgiving audience like, say, a creative director?

That’s important stuff. Even if you disagree with their choice, if they can explain why they like it, you might be able to help make it work harder, better and more simply. And isn’t that the most important part of Lady Gaga’s and your job title?

Our job isn’t to hand pearls of wisdom down to our underlings to execute and then raise our fists to the sky when they just don’t get it. Our job is to foster great thinking and surprise ourselves and our clients with unexpected solutions that set them apart. And how can you do that if you don’t ask the most basic of questions?

By asking “which idea do you think is best,” you’re not asking which idea is the most out-there. Nor are you asking which one do you think the client will like the most. Or which one do you think will please me. You’re asking how it pays off the brief and how it rewards the audience.

And while you have no obligation to approve that idea or direction, at the very least, you can harness the enthusiasm for that idea and reinvest it in another. Or you can urge the team to pursue the idea at a slightly different angle.

There’s a lot to be said for having heart for an idea. Clients can feel it. And ultimately the audience will, especially when the team (along with you) is dead-set on making it come to life.

And between you, me and the open floor plan, being receptive to new thinking is contagious.

I don’t pretend to be the most lauded or ideal CD myself. I’m lucky. I’ve had creative directors who did this to great effect and little fanfare. And it stood out. It helped me separate myself from the last idea I came up with on my way into the room. And it let me know that there’s always time to make an idea better.

Even for Jessica Alba, this doesn’t cover all the responsibilities of a creative director. It’s just a question.

Scottrade “Moments” Campaign Breaks

Scottrade is launching a campaign focusing on the company’s commitment to investors and traders.

The campaign initially features two TV spots with several more to follow in early 2016. The effort will be supported by digital advertising and integrated broadcast sponsorships with leading national outlets.

“With our 35-year history of putting clients first, we’re positioned better than ever before to help our clients on their financial journeys,” said Kim Wells, Scottrade’s chief marketing officer, in a release. “Our clients know that our friendly, dedicated support sets us apart.”

The TV spots, from St. Louis-based Rodgers Townsend, demonstrates that whether clients know where they’re going or need guidance to get there, Scottrade is there to help.

The “Moments” campaign features specific moments when a personal financial situation needs attention such as when starting a new job or saving for a long-term goal like college. The ads showcase Scottrade’s breadth of solutions and how it is positioned to help clients seize those moments.

The first two spots,  “Rollover,” and  “First Visit” are airing in news, finance and sports media outlets. Featuring a dreamy slowed-down motion effect, the spots highlight the help clients receive from their investment advisers in situations like rolling over a 401K or planning for retirement.

The effort comes on the heels of the financial service company’s announcement in November that it is evolving its business model. The company established Scottrade Investment Management, offering portfolio guidance and personalized financial advice through its Advisor Access program. The firm is deepening existing client relationships and creating new relationships with those specifically seeking advice.

Rodgers Townsend Wins Grand Prize at 2015 ANA

Rodgers Townsend, St. Louis’s largest, full-service advertising agency, took home the Print Grand Prize at last night’s ANA’s Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Excellence Awards, which recognizes marketers that produced industry-leading multicultural advertising campaigns between June 2014 and June 2015. Grand prize winners across ten different categories were announced at a ceremony during the ANA’s 17th Annual Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference, November 8-10 in Miami Beach, FL.

Rodgers Townsend earned top honors in the Print Category for the agency’s campaign for The Black Rep, the largest professional African American theatre company in the nation and largest performing arts organization in Missouri.

Sponsored by the ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Committee, the awards were created to help raise awareness of and recognition for the outstanding work being done in multicultural marketing. A portion of the proceeds collected will help fund scholarships for high-potential multicultural students who plan to pursue careers in advertising and/or marketing.

To learn more about the conference and the other winners, click here.






Rodgers Townsend Most Awarded Agency at Chicago Association of Direct Marketing Tempo Awards

The Chicago Association of Direct Marketing (CADM) Tempo Awards is a Midwest award competition recognizing stellar work in direct, digital, mobile and social media marketing.

This year, Rodgers Townsend, based in St. Louis, took home the lion’s share of awards from the Chicago show. Rodgers Townsend took home a total of 26 Tempo Awards, half of the 52 total awards given at the award ceremony. Other agencies awarded that evening include FCB, Ogilvy and Havas Worldwide.

Rodgers Townsend received a special Judges Citation for Innovation in Print for their Blacklight Dimensional Mail for the Hartford. In addition to the Judges Citation, Rodgers Townsend received 10 first place awards, 8 second place and 8 third place.

“In one of the most important direct marketing award events in the U.S., it’s great to see how our work stacks up against our esteemed competitors,” said Katie McGrath, Executive Director of Rodgers Townsend. “We’re proud to work with such great client partners to make this incredible work.”

CADM_image 2

About Rodgers Townsend:

Rodgers Townsend is a nationally acclaimed, full-service marketing communications agency located in St. Louis, Missouri. The agency provides strategic planning, advertising, digital, social, direct/one-to-one marketing and design services to a wide range of clients both nationally and regionally.

Current clients include: AT&T, The Black Rep, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Enterprise Holdings, Great Circle, The Hartford, Luxco Brands, Missouri Baptist Medical Center, St. Louis University, Spectrum Brands and United Van Lines.

Rodgers Townsend is a part of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC). Omnicom is a leading global advertising, marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, interactive, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

About CADM:

Since 1955, the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing has been a response marketing resource for marketers in the Midwest. We bring together professionals in the areas of direct mail, mobile marketing, digital marketing, social marketing, marketing analytics, response generation and more.

Rodgers Townsend Promotes Michael McCormick to EVP/Chief Creative Officer

Rodgers Townsend, a St. Louis full-service advertising agency and part of the Omnicom Group (OMC: NYSE), announced today the promotion of Michael McCormick to EVP, Chief Creative Officer. Previously serving as Executive Creative Director at the agency, Michael will continue to be responsible for overseeing all creative across the agency’s roster of clients and new business endeavors. McCormick assumes the CCO role following the 2014 retirement of Co-Founder Tom Townsend.

“Mike is an extremely talented creative leader whose high standards and standout work have positively impacted our agency and clients’ businesses for more than 15 years,” said Tim Rodgers, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rodgers Townsend. “I know he will continue to raise the bar ever higher, and fearlessly lead us in whatever new directions we need to go.”

Since returning to Rodgers Townsend in 2009, McCormick has produced campaigns for such brands as AT&T, The Hartford, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Spectrum Brands, Mayflower and the St. Louis Rams.

Prior to Rodgers Townsend, McCormick spent time at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago, where he worked exclusively on Porsche Cars of North America. Before that, his career included a stint at Austin’s McGarrah-Jessee, where he worked on brands including Shiner Beer, Whataburger, Hyatt Resorts and Frost Bank. He began his career at Publicis in Dallas after graduating from The Portfolio Center in Atlanta.

“What I love about Rodgers Townsend is the rare combination of hunger and humility,” said McCormick. “I’m honored to lead a talented, growing team and look forward to producing even more inspiring, innovative work for our clients.”

McCormick’s work has been recognized by the Art Director’s Club, International Andys, Graphis, Luerzer’s Archive, Print, Communication Arts and Creativity. He’s also received the Austin ADDY Best of Show and St. Louis ADDY Best of Show five times, in addition to multiple National ADDY awards.


Rodgers Townsend is a nationally acclaimed, full-service marketing communications agency located in St. Louis, Missouri. The agency provides strategic planning, advertising, digital, social and direct/one-to-one marketing, and design services to a wide range of clients both nationally and regionally.

Current clients include: AT&T, The Black Rep, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Enterprise Holdings, Great Circle, The Hartford, Luxco Brands, Missouri Baptist Medical Center, St. Louis University, Spectrum Brands and United Van Lines.


Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE – OMC) is a leading global marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, digital and interactive marketing, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.


Rodgers Townsend Wins Best of Show at St. Louis ADDY Awards

Rodgers Townsend, a St. Louis full-service advertising agency, was the most awarded agency at the St. Louis Advertising Club’s ADDY Awards in February, including winning Best of Show for the Everclear website.

In addition to the Best of Show, Rodgers Townsend received two Judges Citations for the AT&T Toggle Phone Case and the Rebel Yell distributor kit, and 10 gold ADDY Awards for work on AT&T, The Black Rep, Cutter Insect Repellent, Everclear, Rebel Yell, Lewis Osterweis and The Hartford. The agency won an additional 24 Silver ADDY Awards in various categories, by far the most of any agency.

“In one of the more hotly-contested shows in a long time, full of great creative, we’re incredibly proud to have work recognized for nine of our clients-big and small, local and national,” said Michael McCormick, Chief Creative Officer.

McCormick said the agency’s dedication is what helped the Everclear website win the highest honors at the show. “Even our team’s approach was on strategy for a site called Our guys cared for every word, crafted every cocktail, even shot every photo themselves. A true labor of love and a fitting way to reintroduce Everclear to the world.”

Everclear final

About Rodgers Townsend:

Rodgers Townsend is a nationally acclaimed, full-service marketing communications agency located in St. Louis, Missouri. The agency provides strategic planning, advertising, digital, social and direct/one-to-one marketing, and design services to a wide range of clients both nationally and regionally.

Current clients include: AT&T, The Black Rep, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Enterprise Holdings, Great Circle, The Hartford, Luxco Brands, Missouri Baptist Medical Center, St. Louis University, Spectrum Brands and United Van Lines.

Rodgers Townsend is a part of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC). Omnicom is a leading global advertising, marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, interactive, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

About the ADDY Awards:

The American Advertising Awards, formerly the ADDYs, is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting over 40,000 entries every year in local AAF Club (Ad Club) competitions. The mission of the American Advertising Awards competition is to recognize and reward the creative spirit of excellence in the art of advertising.


Agency Culture: Look Inside RT

I’ve been asked quite often, “How would you describe the culture at RT?” It’s a great question. A question I get from college students eager to learn the ins and outs of agency life. A question I get from prospective employees as they evaluate if RT may someday be the spot for them.

But while it’s a simple question, it’s just not a simple answer.

How do I describe the culture at RT? Culture is how we feel when we walk in the doors each day. How we feel about our teammates, our surroundings and the work we are engaged in. I’ve never hesitated to answer the question, but while I probably eventually got to the point, I find myself rambling to describe it. To answer this question in a couple of succinct words is a challenge.

So when I wanted to come up with a stronger answer to this question, I asked my fellow RTers – “How do you describe the culture of RT?” And here is what I got back:

We are people who thrive on seeking out opportunities, not having them handed to us along with a big title and an office with a mahogany door. We work hard. We are scrappy. No one, and I mean no one, ever utters the phrase “that’s not in my job description”. Everyone here is creative and will go the extra mile because we simply don’t believe in a cookie cutter approach to the way we do things.

There were several words that resurfaced time and again in the answers. Passionate. Friendly. Committed. Smart. Creative. Supportive. Genuine. A list of stellar words, but not all encompassing of who we are. We aren’t perfect. At times, we are messy and unpolished. We are proud, but mellow. We are a team full of opinionated creative thinkers who can’t all always get our way.

We are a couple of floors of people with strong opinions and definitive points of view. We are proud of who we are and the family we represent. And like a family, we will push each other’s buttons. We will speak our minds, but only because we want to make everything we do exceptional. We have our good days, we have our bad days, but in the end, what we care about is simple. We care about the quality of our work, we care about each other and we care about what’s best for our clients.


And what’s even better, we try to have as much fun doing that as we can.

So while I may still ramble the next time someone asks me to “describe the culture at RT,” I have a few more phrases in my back pocket. And maybe this gives a few of you a small peek behind our doors. And if you want to see more, well, the door is always open.

Small Data

The buzzword of 2013 is Big Data. Well, so far at least. We still have a few months to go before we can officially award the honor. But the term is everywhere. It’s enough to give anyone not working with large data sets a complex.

The term has moved into mainstream as more and more brands are beginning to collect data at every touch point, from social to sale. But is all of this data helping or hurting your insights? The answer is:  it depends. If you are a business analyst charged with enhancing an operational process, then more data points may help you hone your output. But, if you are in charge of putting the right message in the hands of the right consumer, at the right time, then additional data might be clouding your view.

For example, Netflix is collecting and analyzing a large amount of viewing data to influence programming choices. This makes perfect sense since creating personalized recommendations heightens the relationship and can increase usage and retention rates. But, they are also capturing screenshots to analyze “in-the-moment viewing habits” like “volume, colors and scenery, to provide valuable signals about viewers’ tastes”. How much time and money are being invested to generate this level of granularity? If I paused and rewound two car chase scenes, does that mean I really like that genre, or did I simply use the basic feature of the service:  the ability to stop and start movies around my schedule? How does this level of detail correlate to my selection history? I have a feeling that Nate Silver might question this level of analysis paralysis, and some subscribers might question any recommendations created at this level.

In most cases, Big Data is not necessary to successfully manage a CRM program. Simply collecting and aggregating customer purchase data will provide details on the buying cycle. Adding response data to the mix will provide feedback surrounding communication and offer effectiveness pre, during and post purchase. With the addition of a few household metrics from a third party data provider, you can create customer profiles for targeting and tactical optimization. And finally, you can always augment those profiles with qualitative data. One simple way to collect that data while enhancing the relationship between customers and the brand is to ask.

Sustaining Our Small Business Ecosystem


You may not know that St. Louis has become a mentoring mecca for would-be entrepreneurs. If that’s news to you, there’s no better time to get with the program and progress than during Small Business Week, the week of June 17th. If you need further proof of our prowess, all you need to know is that St. Louis is one of just five markets the Small Business Administration has targeted for its big event.

We love the notion of the ecosystem as a metaphor for how we need to nurture our nascent entrepreneurs. And with St. Louis being a hot bed and hothouse for so much medical and bioscience, we ought to care a lot about ecosystems.

You might ask, what would I know about the entrepreneurial mindset, given that Rodgers Townsend has been owned by Omnicom, a global communications giant, for the last six years? I would tell you that as an entrepreneur who, with Tom Townsend, started an agency with no accounts, no office and a combined six children to feed seventeen years ago, I never forgot what it’s like to take that leap into the great unknown, equally energized and terrified. No matter how secure things may look like from the outside, inside you’re still planning paycheck to paycheck.

We’ve also had the privilege of working with AT&T, The Hartford and others on communications targeted to small business owners. When you consistently see how fearlessly they take on the challenges and opportunities that confront them, with little or no support, you can’t help but come away inspired.

With 40% of all new businesses failing in their first year, and 60% by the end of their second, it tells you everything you need to know about entrepreneurs: they’re willing to take the gamble with odds they’d never accept at a blackjack table. It takes both fortitude and good fortune for the rewards to outweigh the risks.

I think being in the advertising business also gives us a special insight into the entrepreneurial mindset. Granted, we advertising people think we have special insight into everything, but let me explain why this is especially so with entrepreneurs.

Like their budding businesses, our ideas are fragile hatchlings that need nurturing and support if they’re to have any chance of flying. There’s always a skeptic pointing out the folly of our thinking, or demanding proof in the offing when the proof only comes through the power of commitment and competence.

Like us, the hopes and aspirations of small business owners are tied up in things their friends and families may not see, nor certainly not understand. I like how Jon Burgstone, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California, Berkeley, puts it:

“You can look at the array of choices that present themselves, pick the best available option, and try to make it fit. Or, you can do what the true entrepreneur does: Figure out the best conceivable option, and then make it available.”

In honor of Small Business Week, what can you do to help them along their path? If you’re in a position to help and have the requisite experience, consider mentoring a small business owner in an area that might be outside their area of specialization.

If not, attend one of the many events, or read their inspiring stories, as it just might inspire you in your current line of work. It might even prompt you to take the plunge yourself.

Each of us can seek out a small business solution to that next product or service we need, andthen spread the good word when you come across that gem of a business that most needs awareness to give them a fighting chance. Remember, they don’t have research budgets, so they’ll live or die on the feedback they so desperately need that you can provide.

At the very least, stop what you’re doing for a minute on June 19th and tip your Cardinal cap to the undaunted courage of our entrepreneurs. And remember, with small businesses accounting for 64% of the job growth in this country they’re more likely to hire your daughters, sons and grandkids than anybody else.