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posted by Michael Powelson Oct 26,2016 @ 08:18AM

A political ad you can learn from (believe it or not)

Everyone hates election season. But I’m not sure anyone hates it more than advertising creatives. In addition to the usual indignities that put most all of us off our respective lunches, political campaigns subject the ad professional to a host of more specific crimes. They inflate the price of media. They stoke public cynicism to a point that it can carry over onto even the most ideologically neutral brands. And then there’s the simple fact that political ads are, as a rule, terrible.

Grating, unimaginative, and insulting to nearly everyone’s intelligence, most campaign commercials defy all principles of creativity. They shout. They pander. They lie. They take shortcuts no self-respecting brand would dream of because, unlike brands, they have only short-term objectives and media war chests large enough to bludgeon audiences rather than doing the conceptual work of winning them over honestly. And we all get dumber in the process.

That’s why my vote for Biggest October Surprise goes to the fact that a senate candidate in Missouri has made one of the best spots, political or otherwise, I’ve seen all year.

Take thirty seconds:



Yes, this may be the last post I’m permitted to write in this space. Not only did I just encourage you to view a political ad, I just encouraged you to view a political ad about guns.

Easy now. Rest assured, I have no interest in your opinions on gun control. Nor does this piece have any intention of advocating for either side of that complex issue. As proof, I need only confess my own convoluted stance — one that I’m sure both camps would find equally contemptible. On the one hand, I own a handful of rifles and shotguns for sporting use and a handgun for home defense. On the other, I’d sooner join the Church of Scientology than the NRA and see no reason why a civilian such as myself should be able to possess the type of militaristic weapon that Kander poses with in his ad.

None of that is particularly relevant. But hopefully it ushered the ideological elephants out of the room so that we can get to the real point. What Kander’s ad can teach us has nothing to do with its content and everything to do with its execution.

Kander felt that an opponent had mischaracterized his relationship to firearms simply because he supports background checks. But rather than counter with the usual hallmarks of the category (blood-and-thunder voiceover, overwrought imagery), Kander fights back in a calm, confident voice. He speaks straight to the camera, albeit with one unique twist: He faces the lens through a blindfold while expertly assembling the AR-15 he carried as a lieutenant in Afghanistan.

The performance is at once understated and unforgettable. His words are simple, finely sharpened nails. His action, a hammer that echoes long after the thirty second mark.

The takeaway for marketers illustrates what good creative directors have preached for decades. Kander didn’t tell viewers who he was and where he stood. He showed them.

Ad Yoda Luke Sullivan likens this distinction to the advice of Miss Manners who famously noted, "It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help."

Where Kander’s good qualities begin and end is not for me to say. I don’t know anything about Missouri politics. I don’t know if he should be in the Senate. I don’t know if he’s a good guy or just a good actor. But I do know I’ll be thinking about the standard his commercial set for every project our creative department works on in the near future.

Next time a communication opportunity arises for your business, (be it on TV, the web or social media feed), remember Kander. Push yourself and your team beyond the single dimension of telling and into the impactful territory of showing.

After all, customers vote with their dollars. And no business can afford to leave them undecided.



posted by Teresa Coles Oct 19,2016 @ 05:14PM

On Riggs. CreateAthon. And more than a little grace.

Twenty-nine years ago today Cathy Rigg said enough. Enough to mediocre thinking. Enough to creative short cuts. She left her job on a Friday, bought a Mac SE with money from her grandmother, and opened up C.C. Riggs on Black Monday, October 19, 1987.

What a little vision and a lot of believin' looks like

There were a million reasons why this company would fail.

And yet, here we are.

Nineteen years ago, she and I wondered if there might be something more for our company. A higher calling, if you will. So we came up with the notion of pulling an all-nighter to help nonprofits that couldn’t afford professional marketing.

There were a million reasons why this idea would fail.

And yet, here we are.

So what matters in all of this? What have these markers in our collective history taught us about our work, our lives and each other?

Consider it all joy.

On this birthday of Riggs and the eve of CreateAthon 19, I’m mindful of the cords of grace that have bound us over the years. The unspoken covenant that held us together when we just didn’t think we could do One More Thing. The willingness to listen generously to each other’s point of view in order to solve the unsolvable. The abiding sense of teamwork that pulled us out of chaotic seasons and returned us to a place of peace.

I'm grateful for every one of these challenges and foibles. They are testament to both our humanity and to what can be accomplished when we uphold each other in pursuit of something that’s bigger than any one of us.

Riggs Partners hasn’t been in business for 29 years because we’re smarter than anyone else in marketing. CreateAthon hasn’t delivered more than $24 million in pro bono service because we came up with the idea first.

It happened because we had faith in each other. And we knew that by standing as one, there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish – even if it wasn’t always perfect along the way.

Tomorrow morning, CreateAthoners will walk into the WECO building and breathe air that is electric, inspiring and humbling. We will bear witness to our very best selves. And we will see that as much as our CreateAthon clients may benefit from our gifts, the joy we receive will be tenfold.

That, my friends, is more than enough to say grace over.

posted by Teresa Coles Oct 13,2016 @ 04:34PM

24 hours, 24 dollars. That’s all it takes to change the world.

This time next week, we’ll be burning the midnight oil over at Riggs Partners during CreateAthon 19. It seems like only yesterday that we pulled our first all-nighter for good, working 24 hours nonstop to deliver pro bono marketing projects for nonprofits and the important causes they represent.

As you may know, CreateAthon has grown organically and exponentially since we founded the program. We’ve served more than 150 different nonprofits in South Carolina. Plus, we’ve recruited more than 100 different marketing groups throughout North America as CreateAthon partners, all of whom have hosted CreateAthon events for nonprofits that otherwise would not be able to afford professional marketing services. To date, the program has delivered over $24 million of pro bono marketing service to the nonprofit marketplace.


What you may not know is that CreateAthon has recently become a national 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Moving forward, the goal is to generate $100 million of pro bono service to nonprofits by 2020. That’s a big calling, and it needs human and capital resources to make it happen.

That’s why we’re asking for your consideration in pledging $1 an hour for each of the 24 hours our team will be working during CreateAthon next week. All of the proceeds will go to helping us bring more CreateAthon events to nonprofits in the US and beyond.

To pledge, just visit the RP Power of 24 fundraising page. You may choose to make a gift directly from this group page or make separate pledges on behalf of your favorite CreateAthoners!

Thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement of our efforts to serve nonprofits through CreateAthon. Together, we’re putting creative super powers to work in some pretty remarkable places!

posted by Teresa Coles Oct 06,2016 @ 03:10PM

The Coming of CreateAthon 19

Two weeks from this very day, the WECO building will transform itself yet again from the quiet workplace of Riggs Partners and truematter to the Mother Ship of CreateAthon. To be exact, this increasingly natural phenomenon — fueled by the transference of creative superpowers for good — will begin at 0800 hours on Thursday, October 20 and will remain in effect until 0800 hours on Friday, October, 21. ish.

Like every year, we here at RP are in full-on tilt mode, onboarding the newest class of CreateAthon clients in an effort to fully understand their work, determine how effective communications can help move that work forward, and scope out a plan of attack for producing strategic and creative deliverables within the 24-hour marathon.

From the moment we encounter these fine souls, we’re instantly awed by the impact of their work and their willingness to answer the call to community service. For that reason, and many more, we’re happy to introduce you to our newest CreateAthon clients and sure-to-be dear friends:

Friends of Harbison State Forest: Works to preserve the recreational and educational aspects of Harbison State Forest as an urban forest resource, with an emphasis on planning, designing and building a sustainable trail system.
Gun Sense SC: Raise awareness about gun violence as a public health crisis in South Carolina and inspires communities and lawmakers to work together toward sensible gun safety solutions.

Healthy Learners: Devoted to removing children’s health barriers in South Carolina so they may be healthy, happy and learn to their full potential.

Homeless No More (formerly Trinity Housing Corporation): Seeks to eradicate family homelessness through a holistic, community-wide approach to providing emergency shelter, transitional services and long-term affordable housing solutions.
NAMI Mid-Carolina: Advocate for mental health awareness, education and resources in order to improve the treatment options and quality of life for people affected by mental illnesses. 


Palmetto State Base Camp, Inc. Provides transitional housing services to homeless veterans as well as employment support and access to additional community resources.


At a glance, you can readily see that these organizations — and the people behind them — are about the business of changing life as we know it here in South Carolina.

As the days leading up to CreateAthon unfold before us, we know our lives will be changed, as well.

We invite you to come along with us.

posted by Cathy Monetti Sep 29,2016 @ 03:28PM

Marketing Fundamentals in the Age of Revolution

My head spins as I think of the billion ways the science of marketing has changed in the last few years. Our toolbox has become so expansive, the options so varied for creating communications and brand experiences it is as daunting as it is thrilling to consider them.

When you find yourself overwhelmed, remember this bit of good news. Some things haven’t changed—and these truths apply to every business challenge marketing can help address, no matter what the delivery channel.

Resist the urge to begin with a solution.

It’s so easy to leapfrog to the exciting (and seemingly productive) endgame. It feels efficient, and in this warp-speed competitive landscape, who doesn’t want that? We hear it often as clients come to us with their requests for specific deliverables. We need a TV spot, or a brochure, or a social media campaign. Our response is always the same. What business problem are you trying to solve?

Next, solve the right problem.

This takes hard work. It also requires that you be honest, direct and specific. Ask enough tough questions that you get a clear picture of the challenge you’re dealing with. Things like: Why is this the problem? When did it begin? What caused that? What are the contributing factors today? Is one of those the real issue here?

If you don’t go through the drill-down, you’ll likely end up with a solution that never gets at the cause, and therefore provides short-term relief, at best. It reminds me of an issue we’re dealing with in my neighborhood right now—the fact that our cove on our pretty manmade lake has disappeared since we moved in eight years ago. There’s a plan for digging it out, something about which we are thrilled. We will have water again! But it won’t solve the real problem, which is the silt that flows in every time it rains. Stopping that flow is the real problem to be solved.

Once you’ve drilled down and have identified the right problem, there’s another important question.

Is this an issue marketing can help solve?

Of course we marketers love it when the answer is yes. But so often there is other work to be done before marketing can help. Perhaps the issue is operational, or it could be a substandard product or service. Are employees informed, engaged and able to uphold the brand and its promise? If not, address these issues before spending a dime promoting or you’ll not only waste your marketing budget, you’ll also likely dig a deeper hole. As advertising guru David Ogilvy stated so poignantly: Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster. It’s so true. The last thing you want to do is spread dissatisfaction with your offering or invite customers in for a poor experience.

So the cards are on the table, the contributing issues have been addressed, and it’s time to market. Now what? There’s a lot to consider in developing powerful messaging, a plan for sharing and meaningful opportunities for engagement. But I’ll offer this vital step as a starter.

Look through the lens of your customer first. It sounds so simple, and yet most of the time this is done so half-heartedly—or not at all—much of the work that follows is off base. For most of our Riggs Partners’ clients we recommend bringing on a researcher who can get true and unbiased input from the target audience. And our goal is not to confirm what we suspected. It is always, always to discover something we didn’t already know. (That’s where the proverbial pot o’ gold lies.) When you find that sweet little nugget—that comment or recurring theme or nudge that shifts your perspective, even if just a little bit—begin there. Because now you’ve got something meaningful to work with that will resonate with the folks you are trying to reach.

Even in this age of person-to-person digital communications, developing and deploying a marketing plan is an expensive proposition. Add to this the reality that options for communicating are virtually limitless, and good decision-making becomes an overwhelming process. As in all things, when you’re not sure where to start, start with what you know. Begin with the basics.

*This article was originally featured on Columbia Regional Business Report 




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