Rodgers Townsend Account Director recaps the highlights from SXSW 2017

Rodgers Townsend News / Views

SXSW 2017 Recap

During a whirlwind 68 hours in Austin, TX this past week, information, inspiration and lots of tacos were on the menu at SXSW, one of tech’s premiere conferences. The global celebration of innovation and interactive trends is a melting pot for marketers, entrepreneurs and the generally tech-savvy. And while I experienced just a small slice of the weeklong festivities, I flew home with a notebook filled with new ideas for my team and my clients. Below are my top 10 takeaways, in no particular order.

  1. Virtual Reality is Very Real.

VR experiences dominated the panel discussions and the tradeshow flow at SXSW this year. It seemed that every. single. booth. was selling a VR solution, or demoing VR hardware or using VR to invite visitors to immerse themselves in a branded experience. Whether you were virtually flying over rooftops around the world, playing a virtual turntable as a virtual DJ or diving into a 360-degree virtual beer tasting, you couldn’t escape the virtual experiences. VR is undeniably the new playground for marketers to provide a branded experience for consumers – but the challenge will be to do it well, with purpose, and in a way that stands apart from the crowd. And that’s still a very high bar.

  1. ROAS is the new ROI.

Because we don’t have enough acronyms in our lives, social media scientists spoke of “Return on Ad Spend” as the new primary metric. A small but important shift from traditional ROI measurement, ROAS puts marketing at the forefront of the investment, measuring the revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising (vs. the profit relative to the cost).

  1. We all just need to take a minute to breathe.

SXSW 2017 had a heavy focus on health and well being, so I attended a panel moderated by Ferny Barcelo, a local therapist, who offered tips and tools to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into everyday life. As a budding meditator, I was inspired to make the practice a part of my routine, taking the time to be present and to be proactive in my own wellness. Research shows that as little as 5 minutes a day can have a profoundly positive impact on stress, anxiety, depression and self-esteem. And who doesn’t want that? Namaste.

  1. Instagram is innovating.

One of the best panels during my time in Austin was moderated by Michael Hondorp, the retail category lead for Instagram’s Brand Development team. Michael highlighted the new tools that Instagram is offering to advertisers – Stories, Boomerang, Hyperlapse and Layout, to name a few – that enrich the connection between user and brand. He also showcased the new “Tap to View Products” functionality that invites brands to create an immersive shopping experience that mimics the brick-and-mortar approach. It’s more than just selling a product – it’s a fully merchandised store experience, offering inspiration, discovery and storytelling.

  1. Tacos are appropriate for every meal.

Breakfast. Lunch. Appetizers. Dinner. I did it all, and I don’t regret it. My personal favorite is the fried avocado taco at Mighty Cone food truck. But in Austin, you really can’t wrong with any taco, any time.

  1. Predictive modeling is the future of path-to-purchase.

Both Diageo and Kohl’s shared case studies on the use of data (big and small) to drive a better experience for consumers in the store and at the bar. While the collection of data is up for debate (see #7 below), savvy marketers recognize that micro and macro trends can enrich a brand’s connection with consumers at retail and increase the basket ring.

  1. Big brother is watching.

Retailers are tracking your movement around the store via their Wi-Fi network, to better merchandise the floor. Facebook is monitoring how you react to big events like the Super Bowl and Academy Awards, to understand why you’re using the platform. The University of Pennsylvania analyzed your tweets to better predict your risk of heart disease – and did so more successfully than the CDC. So if you weren’t paranoid before, you should be now. But (for the most part), these prying eyes are using data to enhance our lives, our brand experiences and our social outreach. That said, the collection and analysis of this data is hotly contested; most panelists agreed that consumers should “opt in” to data collection. Though none really spoke to exactly how that process works for their brands.

  1. Do good and be happy.

That advice from Aristotle was central to a panel presented by Austin entrepreneur and unofficial spokesman Roy Spence, a longtime friend of RT and a co-founder of GSD&M. Roy shared advice on finding purpose in business and in life, with anecdotes from his decades in advertising. His belief that we must ladder up to a higher emotional purpose, that we need to shift from what we do to what we stand for, was a rallying cry for anyone looking to make a difference in their organization and in the world. That’s some good ol’ Texas inspiration, y’all.

  1. The gap between Facebook and Instagram is widening.

A team from the Marketing Science division of Facebook and Instagram shared a multifaceted research study that identified the differences and similarities in user behavior on and attitudes toward Facebook and Instagram. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the place for “real-time information and opinions” while Instagram users seek “inspiration and exploration.” And while the two sibling platforms now offer more integration than ever, a separate yet complementary strategy that plays to the strength of each can have a significant impact on results – with Instagram delivering upper-funnel metrics like recall and awareness, and Facebook delivering lower-funnel metrics like preference and sales. The one-two punch offers advertisers a larger, more active audience than any other channel available.

  1. Walter White would be jealous.

The hands-down best activation of the week was courtesy of AMC, promoting its “Breaking Bad” spinoff series “Better Call Saul” (that you should watch, immediately, if you don’t already). Without giving away any spoilers, a fast-food chicken chain called Los Pollos Hermanos is central to both shows – and for three days in Austin, fans were transported to Albuquerque via a real-life brick-and-mortar popup restaurant. Anyone who braved the long line was treated to free curly fries, and stars of each series even signed autographs and took photos behind the counter. It was a fan’s dream come true, and if the hashtag search is any indication, it was SXSW’s most popular exhibit.


Celebrates a 20 year client partnership with AT&T.

AT&T and RT go Bragh

Twenty years ago today, we began a long and proud journey with a company that would become our longest client relationship.

On that day in 1997, Southwestern Bell selected Rodgers Townsend to handle their small business advertising. Less than a month later, SBC purchased Pacific Bell and moved its Business Sales division to San Francisco. We went on to make a lot of new friends there, too, as well as at Nevada Bell, Ameritech, Southern New England Telephone, Cingular, Yellow Pages and, in 2005, AT&T

 After twenty years, five different headquarters locations, and more logo changes than you can count, we’re still celebrating our partnership.

 And still thankful that Irish eyes were smiling on us that day.

Rodgers Townsend wins 24 Golds at 2017 St. Louis ADDY Awards

Presos, Panels and Plexi

ADDY Week is our annual rite of self-congratulation, and self-evaluation.

It also serves as a demarcation point from one year to the next—and sometimes in our business, from one era to the next. ADDY Week is always cause to stop and reflect, which none of us seem to have enough time for anymore. It’s also a time to renew old acquaintances, see new possibilities and form new alliances.

This year, I was honored to present at the ADDY Student night, where I did my best to convince them that a life in advertising can lead to happiness, and that the qualities that help you succeed in advertising can lead to a fulfilling life beyond it. Though I can’t be sure I was convincing to them, talking with our next generation convinced me the future is in good hands.

The topical panels that followed over the next three days were insightful and motivating as well, and the many RTers who participated got as much as they gave. Anyone attending those sessions had to have come away thinking there’s work to be done, both in St. Louis and in our industry, and that advertising and marketing continue to offer limitless possibilities to those who are willing to work for it. It’s interesting to note that just this week in Money Magazine online, Mark Cuban said, “In ten years a new skill will be more in demand than it ever has been: creative thinking.”

The highlight, of course, was the ADDY Awards ceremony, which was held this year at the spectacular Bissinger’s Caramel Room—itself a testament to creativity and rejuvenation. Socializing on their spectacular outdoor deck with February temperatures in the 60s, it seemed the gods were indeed favoring our passionate pursuit of the coveted plexiglas idols.

Congratulations to all of the other winners, and to the breadth of work recognized. In our case, our 24 Golds, 19 Silvers, 2 Best of Shows and a Special Judges Citation represented clients including AT&T, Black Flag, The Black Rep, Cutter Insect Repellent, Everclear, LouFest, The Hartford, the Magic House, Museum of Transportation, Rebel Yell Bourbon, Saint Louis University, Scottrade and Spectracide Bug Stop. Most importantly, this recognition is testament to those special bonds between client and agency that nurture and nourish great work.

To all of the Ad Club people who worked long and lovingly to pull it together – you more than hit your mark. And the rest of us leave this glorious week behind more inspired, more determined, and more certain than ever that this is the only profession we want to make our own.


RT takes home Gold and 4 Silver awards at the 2017 Graphis Advertising Annual

RT wins Gold and Silver Graphis awards

We’re proud to announce Rodgers Townsend has been recognized in the Graphis Advertising Annual 2017, with 1 Gold and 4 Silver awards across three different clients. Our “Cork” video for The Hartford took home gold, and these four pieces took home silver:

The Hartford “Skinny Jeans”
The Hartford “Extra Zero”
Discover Pearl Series
Spectracide “Bug Stop”

Check out all of the awarded work here.

Rodgers Townsend shares - Direct response: What’s hot and what’s not.

Direct response: What’s hot and what’s not

Our industry changes as quickly as the technology that supports it, and we all know that the pace of change continues to accelerate exponentially. Increasingly, we are seeing how tried-and-true, “always works best” direct response tactics have become “tired and untrue.” We can no longer count on them to deliver the results of old. Looking at the current B2B landscape, here are some key trends we, at Rodgers Townsend, will be keeping an eye on:

What’s Hot:

  1. What’s In a Name?: Today, “personalization” must go way beyond printing someone’s name throughout the piece. To persuade them, we need to know about, and write to, their particular motivations. That’s how we can put muscle behind getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.
  2. A Tale of Three Emails: Our research has shown that most small business owners have three email addresses: one for business, one for personal, and one they use when they want information or promotional literature, but they don’t want it clogging up their main account with ongoing sales pitches. That means we need to be vigilant, and potentially “pay more,” to get their active business email address via gated content or other more restrictive appeals.
  3. Three-Stop Shopping: Small business owners tend to pick up the phone once they’ve made their buying decision, but usually after researching online and speaking to friends and associates. This points to the urgent need for integrated social and search programs along with DM, EM and OTM.
  4. It’s the Friendly “From”: More important than the subject line or promotional offer, the most influential element in email open and click rates is the name of the sender. If it’s a name the business owner knows and trusts, he or she will engage.
  5. C-Suite Execs Like Shiny Objects: High production value, dimensional direct mail gets the attention of recipients and their administrators at much higher rates than traditional formats. The higher cost of these tactics demands that the targeting be sound, the calls to action have clarity and urgency, and the personalization be letter-perfect.
  6. Lock In on LinkedIn: Targeted LinkedIn placements enable more efficient lead generation based on title or vertical industry, getting us close to the real decision-makers and influencers in a business environment.
  7. ’Tis the Season: We need to recognize that certain industries have no time for us marketers at certain times of the year. Their already-short attention spans are focused on driving revenue when they need to make hay; not considering new technologies or approaches that could drive their business haywire.

What’s Not:

  1. Traditional Webinars: If we build it, they may not come. In fact, they probably won’t come. We need to serve up shorter, mobile-friendly, personalized on-demand content.
  2. Limited-Time Inbound Call Centers: Are limiting, and infuriating. Nobody works bankers’ hours anymore, including bankers. And any marketer who is just realizing this, well, never mind.
  3. One-Size-Fits-All Formats: The #10 business envelope isn’t dead, but it’s best saved for official notifications, not selling.
  4. The Desktop Computer: In the first half of 2016, 70% of emails were opened on a smartphone. Think small format for small business.
Twitch, the leading social video platform for gamers

What is Twitch, and Why Should I Care?

If you’ve heard of the game streaming platform, Twitch, you may be amongst those wondering, “Why would anyone want to watch a stranger play a video game?” The stereotypical persona of a “gamer” doesn’t provide many answers – the word “gamer” can still conjure an image of a guy who hasn’t bathed in months, lives in his parents basement, eats a lot of Cheetos and “trolls” other gamers on the internet. Who’s watching that guy? With an estimated 9.7 million daily active users per day on Twitch, it would appear that a lot of people are.

That Cheeto guy is not the reality of the gaming industry’s audience. Today’s gamer is anyone. According to a 2015 annual report from Entertainment Software Association, 63% of all US households include at least one frequent gamer – and 41% of all gamers are women. If you play games on your Xbox or on your phone, you technically count towards that number. And Twitch covers all of those bases, with personalities and programming that appeal to a much broader audience than most might suspect.

Twitch, which was purchased by Amazon in 2014 and recently added into its Prime offerings (a.k.a. Twitch Prime), is the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers and video game culture. And it’s not just “games” being streamed anymore – there’s Twitch Creative, which has broadcasters streaming cooking shows, art tutorials and home-brewing shows.

But what is the appeal – as a viewer, a streamer or an advertiser? Let’s break it down (drums please!):

A Twitch Viewer

Like any other popular social channel online, Twitch is a place where like-minded users can communicate and commiserate. Choosing a channel to engage with can lead a user to conversations about games they enjoy. Also, like professional sports or reality shows, this is a form of entertainment. Many streamers are highly skilled players, or have engaging personalities, or both. On top of all of that, Twitch users might just really love gaming and be looking to spend time with games they already love – or discover new ones to buy.

A Twitch Streamer

The “streamers” (or the users who choose to record and share video of themselves live for an audience) are growing in number and gaining ground as web personalities. For many streamers, Twitch broadcasting is a way to have fun and connect with friends (and fans) about their mutual love of games, cooking, sewing or other creative endeavors. It can also be an opportunity to entertain and engage with audiences for money. Whether it’s through donations, advertising or channel subscriptions (which is where Twitch Prime comes in, giving members one channel subscription for free – but paying the streamer), there are popular streamers now making a living by playing video games. For real.

A Twitch Advertiser

Opportunities for advertisers continue to grow and expand as much as Twitch does. Each day, users watch and talk about games being played by more than 2 million streamers per month. Currently, Twitch claims to reach “half of millennial males in America” – 75% of its users are male, and 73% of them are between ages 18-49.

With these statistics in mind, the appeal for game makers and developers to have streamers play their games is obvious – attracting new fans and buyers to new and existing games and building buzz. For non-gaming brands, there’s also a growing opportunity with everything from traditional display and takeover ads to having high-profile streamers act as influencers to their specific audiences. Amazon is actively growing this list of mainstream advertisers, and has already attracted brands like Coke, Bud Light, Pizza Hut, Old Spice and more.

Similar to YouTube and other native video platforms, Twitch also serves video pre-, mid- and post-roll ads. To make those video options even sweeter, Twitch is currently rolling out its SureStream video technology platform, claiming ads on it cannot be blocked by third-party ad-blockers.

Twitch’s longevity and overall growth potential remains to be seen, and its unfiltered UGC nature certainly presents some concerns for many mainstream brands. However, with Amazon continuing to push this platform forward and find new ways to manage how content and ads are being seen, it’s definitely setting itself up as a media powerhouse worth keeping an open mind towards.


Rodgers Townsend celebrates 20 year anniversary

“It was twenty years ago today…”

Looking back, 1996 seemed to be a more quaint, unmuddled and innocent time as Sgt. Peppers was meant to conjure. In truth, it was a generation ago, though the changes in that time to our world and to our industry could be more accurately described as an epoch.

There are so many memories going back 20 years, and I won’t attempt to recollect them here, or try and thank all the people who deserve it.

But as this anniversary approached, people have been asking two questions:

“Did you think you’d be in business for 20 years?”

The answer is no; you can’t even conceive of twenty years when you start a business, and know the odds are greater that you’ll be back at your kitchen table within twelve months. It takes a lot of luck, and it takes a lot of great people, like the ones I’m lucky enough to saddle up with every day, and the clients who entrust us with their voice.

And, “What’s going through your mind when you think back on 20 years?”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of my thoughts have been about the accounts or awards we’ve won. I recall the zany stories and courageous stories, but mostly it’s the stories of being there for each other. Of caring for each other.

Of our current RTers, nearly a quarter of us watched together as the towers came down on 9/11. Another 15% have been with us 10 years or more. We’ve shared countless laughs, tears, births, deaths, promotions and retirements.

Those aren’t measures that define mere employees, personnel or associates; those are milestones you associate with genuine friends, family and relationships you know will last a lifetime.

The winning that mattered was winning over a group of talented people, and even better human beings, to a unifying cause and purpose: Simply to be the very best for our clients and each other, and to care for one another with equal abandon. That’s worth getting up for each morning, and helps you sleep soundly at night.

We’ve put together a brief video that captures glimpses of the blood, sweat and tears expended, spanning most of those twenty years. I wish we could have captured more of the amazing work we’ve done in DM, social, digital, print and posters, but even in this condensed version, I can see and feel the fingerprints of every RTer who’s graced our halls reflected in the work.

And I can tell you that like the last twenty years, if you blink, you’ll miss it.

How do you like me now? 2016 Social Media Trends - Rodgers Townsend

How do you like me now?

Social media: selfies, vacation pics, memes-and ads promoting your favorite local café? Yep, 2016 is officially the year that brands are taking over the newsfeed.

Connected World

Social media marketing generated $16B in revenue last year, and marketers are making it a bigger priority in 2016. 70% of advertisers anticipate spending more this year than last, and total spend is expected to exceed $35B by the end of next year. Even small businesses are getting in on the game: a recent Constant Contact survey reported that 66% of small business owners use social media to acquire and engage customers.

With so many prospective advertisers ready and willing to spend marketing dollars in social media, the platforms are taking notice. Throughout 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have made it easier than ever for brand managers to play the role of Chief Content Officer, allowing greater access to and connectivity with current and prospective fans. Through enhanced analytics capabilities, lower costs-to-entry and simplified dashboards that make targeting users and boosting posts easier on less-savvy community managers, brands now have a bigger voice in the top social channels.

The upside: as marketers become savvier, using technology to connect with customers, they open the door for new low-cost/high-engagement avenues of communication, driving customers to interact with more branded content across all channels. The downside: the newsfeed becomes noisier and more crowded every day, and every marketer will need to work harder and smarter to stay relevant, stand out and drive engagement.

To make sure you’re on top of the latest trends, check out the new offerings from the industry’s biggest social media players:


Rodgers Townsend Dogs at work

Meet the RT Dog Pack

It’s Pets at Work Week. Did you know that only 10% of employers allow pets at work? Once a year, this #PetsAtWork movement hopes to bring cuteness and cuddles to cube dwellers everywhere. We’re behind it 100%.

Every day is Bring Your Dog to Work Day at Rodgers Townsend. We have an informal pack that’s as diverse and interesting as the people who work here – big dogs, little dogs, old dogs, young dogs, quiet dogs, crazy dogs, pure breds, rescue dogs, obedient dogs and dogs that consider themselves free spirits.

We’ve noticed some interesting outcomes since the pack took over and made itself a cultural force within our walls and out in the downtown St. Louis green spaces:

– Delighted Clients. Some of our clients request puppy play time when they visit. Usually we keep dogs away from the fancy, formal conference room, ceremonially named “5D.” It’s hilarious to watch our guests flee the gilded cage of 5D to roll around on the floor in the lobby with a dog.  Important note: All dog hours are non-billable because cuddles are free.

Laura and Alex Samoyeds

– Strategic Insights. We tried the FURminator product on Ollie and Riggins. If a de-Shedding tool works on Samoyeds, then it’s a great product. It works miracles. But the fluffs of fur everywhere were the beginnings of a strategy and campaign idea. We credit their thick, white coats for the insight that lead to the Shedlings campaign for FURminator.

– Happy Employees. Advertising is stressful. The deadlines are crazy. Sometimes, you just need a dog to help you put it all in perspective. Cheryl, our miracle worker head of production, is less stressed out when there’s a dog about. Internally we call the phenomenon#DogsOnCheryl

– Casting Dog Talent. Otis was featured in this adorable, I mean highly effective, Cyber Security Awareness Month post for AT&T as part of the #GuardPets campaign. He is not just a model. He’s a certified service dog with the official jacket and special skills.

Otis the Guard Pet

– Attracting Top Talent. Several of our recent hires cited the dog friendly work environment as a reason to work at RT. The new hotshot developer said something like, “I can bring my dog! This is awesome.” The new account guy actually said, “As a single guy, that flexibility in a workplace allows me to both work longer hours when needed as well as be more social outside of work. If I can bring Dash, I don’t have to feel guilty working late to get things done or going out without him after I’m off the clock. I’ve been fortunate to only ever work at pet-friendly places, and I hope to keep it that way.”

– Giving Back. Last week our dog policy enabled us to give back to the community and help Stray Rescue by fostering a dog during a power outage in a heat wave. You can learn more about Ken and spread the word about finding him a forever home on our Facebook page.

If you check out the #PetsAtWork hashtag or watch the news on Friday you’ll see stories about how pets increase morale, boost productivity, appeal to Millennials and boost your employer brand. That’s all terrific. But we do it because we just love dogs.

The Magic House, campaign 'Remember to Play'

The Magic House is about child’s play.

ST LOUIS (May 23, 2016) – Today’s children are experiencing a very different childhood than those of generations past. With their time filled with nonstop structured schedules on top of hours of screen time each day, there is a growing concern that a key component of child development is disappearing from children’s lives: Play. Numerous studies have shown that play is important for developing social skills, critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills, all important for academic as well as professional and lifelong success. The Magic House hopes to combat this growing trend by partnering with two of St. Louis’ most influential creative companies, Rodgers Townsend and production company Bruton Stroube Studios, to create a community-wide message encouraging families to “take time to play.”

“Children learn through play, yet research shows that they are not getting nearly enough opportunities for hands-on, exploratory free play,” said Beth Fitzgerald, President at The Magic House.  “As a children’s museum, we feel a responsibility to be an advocate for play. This summer is perfect time for encouraging families to take time to play, and in the process enjoy the many benefits associated with it from physical well-being to social, emotional and cognitive development.”

The “Play to Learn” campaign will launch this summer with messaging at The Magic House as well as on billboards, radio and television. A video will also appear in movie theaters and be accessible through a variety of social media sites. “As parents who grew up going to The Magic House, we love being able to share the message that play is important,” said Jake Edinger, writer and creative director at Rodgers Townsend. “It’s a good reminder for all of us.”

Learn to Play. Play to Learn. Video Link

Find more details on the benefits of play through these resource links:

About Bruton Stroube Studios

We are an independent studio of creative collaborators working together to create beautiful imagery through still photography and motion – all under one roof. We have a squadron of more than 30 full-time employees. Our 55,000 square foot work space was originally built in 1896 as a Beethoven Music Conservatory on the outskirts of downtown St. Louis. It houses three shooting spaces (each with a full kitchen), a retouching/3D department, five editing suites, audio engineering and custom composition, an entire floor dedicated to prop and wardrobe storage, and an Elton John-themed pinball machine. Check out what we make at

The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

The Magic House is a not-for-profit participatory museum that provides hands-on learning experiences for children and families and encourages experimentation, creativity and the development of problem-solving skills within a place of beauty, wonder, joy and magic. Regular Museum admission is $10 per person. Children under the age of one are free.

The Magic House is located at 516 S. Kirkwood Road, one mile north of Highway 44 in historic downtown Kirkwood, Missouri. Summer hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm; Friday, 9:30 am to 9:00 pm; Saturday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm; and Sunday, 11:00 am to 5:30 pm. Parking is always free at The Magic House. For more information, please call 314.822.8900 or visit The Magic House online at

#LearnToPlay #PlayToLearn #TheMagicHouse

Never Say Always - When to Use Templates in Advertising - RT Ad Agency

Never Say Always

More and more, brand executives are pressured to be in market faster, especially in demand generation campaigns where there are revenue expectations within a specific time frame. They, and by extension as their agency partners, we, push every level to squeeze more time from a hasty schedule to think, design, react and revise our creative solutions to the business problem.

One common approach to save time is to use design templates in which the layout and graphic elements are already established. Depending on the template, the theory goes, the art director would simply (and efficiently) swap out the visuals and the writer would provide copy to be placed in the space allocated. Once the original template is designed (and tested for consumer response in the marketplace), it’s reasonable to expect that the development process would be significantly reduced, especially in direct marketing. Direct mail templates would allow for advance production of envelopes and letterforms. Email templates for tablet, mobile phone and full screen consumption would take the guesswork out of what goes where.

The University of Texas at Dallas Marketing Science team shared a research study showing the wearout (and, interestingly, the wearin effect) of a repetitive advertising formula. While it works well for awareness, it has a diminishing effect on demand. If the campaign is taken out of media for a period of time, awareness decreases, but demand increases when it is re-introduced.

It’s tempting to say certain tactical elements, once proven, should be always applied based on one’s experience with it. But our experience, along with that of various other agencies and institutions, show that “always” is a dangerous word. One of our B2B clients tested the use of a Starbuck’s gift card in a demand generation DM campaign with terrific results. We applied the same tactical approach to a slightly different segment and found significantly higher preference for the Amazon gift card, which was tested against the Starbucks version in an A/B split test.

Some of the most memorable campaigns are indeed templates, but they’re conceptual templates around a common creative approach as opposed to efficiency-based design. My favorites include Goodby’s “Got Milk” for the California Milk Board featuring white mustachioed celebrities, Penn’s “Official Ball” series showing various interpretations of their tennis ball at the French and U.S. Opens, and the Tiffany jewelry ad that appears every day in the New York Times – same size, same layout, same amount of copy, but the surrounding environment helps it stand out, as noted by Ross Bleckner in A3: Our Lives in the New York Times:

Every day, on page three of The New York Times, section A, an ad for Tiffany jewelry appears in the upper right corner of the page. Because of its placement in the paper’s first news section, the advertisement generally appears alongside a major new story, most frequently an international disaster or tragedy of some kind. The effect of these juxtapositions, for those alert and lateral-minded enough to notice them, are variously humorous, tragic, tragicomic, ironic or subversive. An ad for a pair of Tiffany earrings is titled “Gold Rush”; to its left is positioned a photograph of a line of Palestinians at a cash machine, after Israel had begun to release frozen Palestinian Authority funds. An ad for a Tiffany bracelet bears the tagline “A Charmed Existence,” and across from it the headline reads “Despite Embargo, Haiti’s Rich Seem to Get Richer.” An ad for four Tiffany rings carries the title “The Masterpieces of Engagement,” and to its left, below an image of the president, is the headline “Obama Chastises Wall St. in Push to Tighten Rules.”

That said, here are thoughts on where and how to use efficiency-based advertising templates.

When we SHOULD (nearly always) use tested templates

  • Reaching a fresh audience of consumers who fit the same prospect profile as the  originally tested template
  • Fulfillment of requested content, such as newsletters or white papers, to people who  request them, allowing the recipient to become familiar with content style and to build a  sense of continuity
  • Providing official notices regarding legal updates, change in pricing or other elements of  service agreement

When we should NOT (nearly never) use tested templates

  • Attracting the same prospect base with the same or similar message within a close time  frame or space proximity
  • Reaching a different prospect base whose attributes are not the same as the originally tested group
  • Facing significant shifts in the competitive landscape or consumer preferences
  • Introducing a new product, service or offer that deserves a different approach to stand out in the mailbox or on screen

In other words, we use templates to save time when we don’t risk losing touch with our audience, or losing sales for the sake of efficiency.

Rodgers Townsend Imagines a Bug Apocalypse in Spectracide Spot

Rodgers Townsend Imagines a Bug Apocalypse in Spectracide Spot

When we last heard from Rodgers Townsend and its client Spectracide, the bug spray’s new Accushot technology played stand-in for a certain male body part as a very excited homeowner looked on.

Earlier this week someone sent us the latest work for that client, and it’s a bit more subtle. In this case, the agency imagines a bug apocalypse of sorts.

That was pretty effective. We also appreciated the English folk song, which led us down a primrose path toward the Fairport Convention.

The spot was filmed in Vancouver with the help of production company Tool. It marks a new stage in the campaign, which still focuses on the guy with the ripped thighs and the green beard from the last ad on social.

The new work is so far only visible online, but it should begin airing on network TV later this month.


Agency: Rogers Townsend
Client: Spectrum Brands

Chief Creative Officer: Michael McCormick
Account Director: Laura Yarbrough
Associate Creative Director: Jon Hansen
Senior Copywriter: Conor Barry
Producer: Marianne Daniels
Senior Account Planner: Alex Kerlick
Media Specialist: Christy Bockler

Production Company: Tool
Post-Production: Coolfire

Original Article:

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 - Rodgers Townsend, Ad Agency

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.

The Black Rep print campaign was awarded Grand Prize at the ANA's Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Excellence Awards

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 2015 Chicago Association of Direct Marketing Tempo Awards

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.”

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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 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.