Wednesday, August 30, 2006

“Business Development”

I was just introduced to an articulate, fascinating man whose primary work is “business development.” What does that term mean? I asked. When his comments were boiled down, his view of business development involved some very detailed work on healthcare information technologies: IT.

Our conversation wasn’t a dialogue. In that time and place, two people were talking about different things. He was all about features.

My POV was benefits – what’s the value of the technologies for the consumer (whoever the consumer might be: patients, doctors, nurses, medical administrators, hospital managers)? There was no common frame for us, black versus white. Business development (or IT, in this case) versus marketing.

Maybe you’ve confronted this challenge before. I have, in my work for some clients. It’s worth re-examining it right now. Anthony Huang, Chairman of Techxans, said in a recent e-mail, “As the Texas market is thriving once more, the demand for information technology resources are again on the rise.” That’s a little formal, statement-wise; but there is a growing level of IT activism (again) all over the country, fueled by new government regulations covering everything from corporate governance to doctors’ prescriptions.

The painful disconnects between IT deliverables and marketing are once again a hot topic – especially if you’re one of the companies (or agencies) suffering from them.

Fortunately for us (IT business developers and marketers), this is a path that’s already been explored. I want to refer you to an excellent article in CIO Magazine, by Lee Pender. Even though it appeared five years ago, in June of the Year 1, it is still relevant – and the cases it highlights are still apt.

Pender made some major points:

1. Gung ho salespeople make deals that IT can’t support. Marketing professionals want sexy new features installed on their companies’ web pages immediately. Companies lose deals because marketing's glossy image doesn't always accurately represent IT’s back-end capabilities. And IT professionals don’t always have the communication skills or clout in their company to withstand marketing’s demands.

2. As technology becomes more and more central to the operation of many companies, it is increasingly imperative that IT and marketing heal this longstanding rift.

3. The root of the problem is that CIOs and marketers have strikingly different job mandates and personalities. Marketers think about opportunities: raking in revenue with new accounts, promising new and more exciting services, dreaming up bold new images for the company. CIOs, by contrast, constantly deal with limitations: a nagging lack of IT resources, financial barriers to implementation of new systems, the frequent need to sacrifice exciting new projects in order to keep legacy systems up and running.

Pender included solutions-by-example, with stories from companies like Northrop Grumman, MCI and Thomson Multimedia. After five years, it’s more than likely that the people have changed jobs and the companies have certainly changed too.

The “how-to” of solving the IT development/marketing interface problem is just as valid here and now as it was in 2001.

“Oh,” you say, “our situation is completely different.” Is it? Are you (and I) condemned to repeat mistakes because we haven’t learned from our predecessors? I don’t think so.

IT can bring more pieces to the game than ever before. I suggest to clients that their IT people need to be involved with marketing plans; that Marketing people needs to talk with their IT departments to make sure they can deliver what we’re creating in terms of new sales channels; that we make a team effort out of the project. Everybody plays on the same board.

That way, “business development” is made whole – everybody benefits.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Elderberry Syrup

The bare facts are these. Barbara has been cleaning and rearranging the kitchen cupboards. She discovered a cache of fruit syrups put up by her sister, Stephanie Murphy, and given to us as Christmas gifts. In 1991.

I just tried the 15-year-old elderberry syrup on waffles. Not only is the elderberry syrup outstanding, it has turned into a liqueur. [See Note 3, below.] So I used more elderberry syrup on my waffles. And more. It’s outstanding! For somebody from Minnesota, however, such straightforward praise is a little over the top.

So it seems appropriate to try translating this series of events into Minnesotan*. Follow along closely so you don’t miss the action.

Barbara: “Hey, hon, look what I found?

Richard: “What is it, then?”

B: “Steph’s elderberry syrup. Don’t know how long it’s been back there. Kinda funny what gets pushed into the back of the shelf, doncha know?”

R: “It says ‘elderberry syrup’ right there on the label, sure enough.”

B: (removing the obligatory scrap of decorative cloth on the Mason jar’s lid.) Will you look at this. Steph put this up in 1991.”

R. “That’s different.”

B. “Wonder if it’s still good?”

R. “Well, if a guy was to try it, maybe he’d find out whether it’s still okay or not.”

[Note 1: The elderberry syrup was NOT found during breakfast. Even though we now live in Texas, one of us still follows “Minnesota Rules” during breakfast time, mostly: You get up and sit in your bathrobe and stare until the coffee is done. Maybe you have a doughnut with your second cup. When the other members of your household wander in, you don’t speak unless spoken to. Barbara would never have discovered Steph’s syrup during breakfast – it’s just not done. Back to our story.]

B. “You don’t have to do that.”

R. “It’s no problem. I was going to have waffles anyway.”

B. “No, I wouldn’t want to put you out. I’ll just open it up and see – it’s probably gone off or something.”

R. “You don’t have to go and do that. I’m going to have the waffles…may as well try a spoonful, just to see if it’s any good – not that Steph doesn’t make great syrup.”

B. “Well, if you’re going to do it, let me just pry off that lid. Seems a little stuck.” (She does so, using a ‘church key’ imprinted with the logo of the 1981 Bemidji, Minnesota, Wild Rice Pageant and pouring the syrup into a bottle.) “There you go.”

R. (Pours some syrup over his waffles. Takes a bite.)

B. “Well, how is it, then?”

R. “Seems kinda different, you know? In a good way, though.” (Takes a few more bites of the waffles.) “A guy could maybe get to like this.”

B. “You thinking about trying some more?”

R. “I don’t need it, really. But hey, as long as the bottle’s right there, maybe I could have just a little more of it.”

B. “I guess it’s the least you can do, seeing that Steph went to the trouble of making it.”

R. (Pouring about half the bottle over the remains of the waffles.) “Yeah, well, boy!”

B. “I guess it’s okay, then?”

R. “It sure beats some of that other stuff we been paying 20 bucks a bottle for down at Spec’s.”

[Note 2: Spec’s is a Houston institution, an immense liquor store that has about a thousand different wines, whiskeys, beers and liqueurs – not the kind of exotic retailer you’d ever find in Minnesota, whose inhabitants are suspicious of excess.]

B. “Well, that’s a keeper, then?”

R. “Not to bad a deal, really. Kind of a shame it’s gone, mostly.”

B. “There’s another jar here with the same date on top, only it’s strawberry.”

R. “Heckuva deal.”

[Note 3: In 2006, an elderberry liqueur with 17% alcohol won a Silver in the Great Taste Award run by the Guild of Fine Food Retailers. These awards are regarded as the “Oscars” of the fine food world and recognize the exceptional standard of food and drink available in Britain, which is somewhere over thataway with people who kind of sound just like Minnesotans, only different.]

B. “What are you going to do for the rest of the morning, hon?”

R. “Think I’ll go out back and cast for some walleyes.”

B. “Are you all right, Richard? I can’t recall there’s ever been any fish in our swimming pool.”

R. “Whatever.”

*We moved to Houston in ’84, so it has been quite a long time since I spoke Minnesotan. I used a book by Howard Mohr called How To Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide as a kind of a reference guide. It’s about 20 years old now and I guess it’s a pretty good book, thought Barbara doesn’t find it nearly as funny as I do. But that’s because I was never a real Minnesotan in the first place. Maybe you’d like it, or not.

†This part is an exact quote from Mr. Mohr’s book. I wouldn’t want him to think I was trying to get away with anything here. He might still be alive.

Photograph © 2000 Rosie Lerner, Purdue University.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

F Minus

The ladder. That’s what I noticed about this cartoon strip from Tony Carrillo. “F Minus” has been picked up by the Houston Chronicle recently – United Media just syndicated the strip this past April.

I enjoy it. Minimalist and funny. But here the cartoonist’s blatant disregard for the basics of workplace safety…well, it’s shocking. Shocking.

A major consumer organization, which must remain nameless because of its rigorous and heavily enforced policy of complete independence, issued a compelling review of ladders in its magazine: the September 2006 number, pages 42-44. Clearly, Carrillo’s ladder wouldn’t meet the standard of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). No spreaders. Of course, the article quotes a leading ladder expert who said that side-stability tests haven’t been substantially updated for more than 25 years.

The standard is older than the cartoonist.

Then there’s the American Ladder Institute; don’t get me started about it. It claims there’s a revised ANSI 14 Standard available. You should download its “Ladder Safety & Education” single-sheet here right away.

Today’s CONSUMER WARNING: Don’t let Carrillo’s image of the ladder lead you astray. At least follow the consumer organization’s three how-to-choose steps:

1. Look beyond the label.
2. Consider the material.
3. Try before buying.

Oh, yeah: the artist misspelled the word “Signs.” Maybe that’s his idea of a gag. Humph!

Strip ©Tony Carrillo/Distributed by UFS, Inc. Please, Mr. Carrillo, don't take it out on me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

AKBank Ad

Watch this TV commercial for AKBank in Turkey. It’s called “Akbank Türkiye’nin Yenilikçi Gücü” and it’s terrific: must-see advertising.

Stop reading for a minute and go to the bank’s website; click on the picture from the commercial (or try this), and run the commercial for yourself.

The commercial’s in Turkish. Normally, that’d be a problem for me. But first, AKBank has an English version of its website. It’s clear the bank is committed to supporting the growth of Turkey and Turkish business…particularly the technology sectors…and you can get this conceptually from the outstanding commercial without understanding a word of the language.

Fortunately, Renan Tavukcuođlu explained it all to me. The “back story” is always the extra added attraction. Renan is Stratejik Planlama at Oyku, our Dialogue International affiliate in Turkey.

He told me that the objective of the commercial was not to bring in new AKBank customers, but a work of image with great messages. It’s a brand spot. Renan gave me the translation of the Turkish titles:

To grow
To be innovative
To support
To give energy
To be creative
To move forward
For Turkey
To grow and to help you grow

He added these additional notes:
...The TV spot aired during World Cup 2006

...It enjoyed great success in terms of repeat views
...150 South African dancers took part
...It was shot in South Africa in five days
...The music (which played a major role in success) is by Ömer Ahunbay
...Penny Jones, creator of the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, made the preparations for the shoot.

Its music aired on radios and everybody knew what commercial it was. The campaign used all media (print, outdoor, etc.) during World Cup 2006 and now it’s over.

You can still watch it on the bank’s website. See some innovation and energy – and pure visual fun – from the Turkish advertising industry.

Many thanks to my colleagues at Oyku in Instanbul and Ankara.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New Above

What’s in your attic? In ours, it’s a new Ruud 5-ton furnace, complete with fan drive. (This is the important bit - read on.) About 8.30 Wednesday night, the air conditioning system gave a mortal groan…and stopped. Our a/c went u/s…out of service. Kaput. Joined the Choir Invisible.

Thursday here it was 105°F. For two days, the temperature in the house rose in direct proportion to the day’s heat index and beyond. On Friday afternoon, it was actually cooler outside than inside.

Makes you wonder how William Faulkner actually got any writing done, back in the drip-sweat-on-the-paper days before home air conditioning. I didn’t, much; which is probably why I’m a somewhat-known ad-guy instead of a famous novelist.

Fortunately, our long-time HVAC service company, Sun Air Conditioning & Heating, came out on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, after a lot of banging about, Richard Socha (the Sun service tech) made his way down our rickety ladder bearing an immense double-shafted electric motor with two blowers attached. Further unfortunately, the manufacturer of this particular apparatus itself went belly up about five years ago. Replacement unit not available. We were double-shafted ourselves.

Thursday evening was not comfortable. It took three Martinis to get me into a soaking sleep. But the Sun team came out again on Friday with our new upstairs thing. It took three of them to hoist the thing up into the attic. And by 5P, we were back in business. In my case, you should take that literally.

Thursday and Friday were the times that try men’s souls. Barbara wasn’t too happy either. And yes, it took a certain level of…investment…to get ourselves back into the comfort zone.

Thanks to Sun, we're once again the height of cool. A good thing, too: above 100°F, photographic film (remember that?) turns reddish. The coatings of pills melt. The energy starts to drain from batteries. Barbara glows. Richard sweats all over the keyboard. That’s just plain Ruud.

Photo of a completely different but decorative piece of machinery by Sten Porse, Jutland, from With thanks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

About Kin

The moderator of the AdRants section of SoFlow asked a question that generated more than 50 responses. The question was, “Is it fun being you?” My answer (short form): “Yes.” Part of the fun is the people I know. Part of the fun is thinking about the people I know. Which generated the lines below – the porch is in Atlanta and belongs to Bob and Edith Fusillo.

Fourteen Lines About Kin

Locusts sing in the daytime.
They sit in the sun and fiddle madly
Knowing that their lives are short.
They don’t care.
It’s their song in the sun.

Cicadas sing at night.
Can’t you hear them when the breeze is still
And the pines are tall and dark?
They don’t care.
It’s their song in your sleep.

Locusts sing in the daytime,
Cicadas sing at night,
Edith told us sitting on her porch.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

Copyright © 2006 by Richard Laurence Baron. May Shakespeare forgive me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nucor Ads

A small note in today’s Business Section pointed out that Nucor (NYSE: NUE), the steel company, had just announced outstanding quarterly results – 21% revenue growth and a 40% rise in operating income. Superb numbers from what’s supposed to be a “dead” industry here in the US.

It also reminded me of Nucor’s fine ad campaign, which should be filed under “ads I wish I’d done.”

The ad agency, though, is Eric Mower & Associates Group B2B, an outstanding shop with a great track record. You can see the whole portfolio of Nucor ads here. The campaign’s been featured in the September, 2005, issue of US Ad Review. Just as important, the ads’ look and feel have been carried over to Nucor’s website and other materials.

You know it’s hard to connect business results with advertising, especially in industrial categories. But the industry, at least, has noticed: Traci Purdum bylined an article in Industry Week a few months back that specifically highlighted the ties between Nucor’s advertising claims and Nucor’s performance. The same ad campaign has to have had its effects on investors in this industry segment as well.

Give Mower and Nucor a big round of applause for bringing (and sustaining) a fresh look in an “old economy” industry. Can you say the same for your advertising?

Nucor ad from, with thanks.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Inventor Dies

James A. Van Allen, 91, who invented the famous white belt that made the polyester leisure suit the hallmark of the early ‘70s, has died after a heart attack August 9 at a hospital in Iowa.

Van Allen’s creation actually allowed the leisure suit to reach its fullest potential, the Full Cleveland. As one commentator has noted, “…your basic 70s traveling salesman stereotypical getup [included a] brightly-colored polyester leisure suit, shiny white belt and shoes, clashing colors...”

Mild and unassuming, the inventor/scientist was always secretly disappointed that he did not get credit for his fashion statement. He had to settle for his fame as the discoverer of the Earth-circling radiation belts that bear his name. He also sent spacecraft instruments to observe the outer reaches of the solar system. Far better known as an early pioneer in US space exploration, his obituary is here.

Photo from with thanks.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Markus Natri

When Dialogue International had its first Managers Meeting in Helsinki, Finland, years ago, that’s when I met Markus Natri. We sailed across to Suomenlinna Island and Fortress, where the Finns introduced us to the world’s largest sauna (originally designed to contain a Finnish Army infantry platoon). The idea: get all these agency managers into the sauna, let them wrap themselves up in sheets, then run ‘em down to the rocky shoreline and push the lot into the Baltic.

Truth: even in June, the Baltic is bloody freezing, breath-stopping cold. The Finns got a big yuk out of that. I think I was brave enough to do it once. Karl Woerlen, CEO of WWW (our German member agency in those days) did it three times – one tough guy.

The entire gang (which included Barbara and Rachel) warmed up considerably on the sail back across the harbor to Helsinki with food and drink – lots of drink. And songs and stories led by Markus. This is the same trip Markus and the Konsepti team introduced me to Lapinkulta beer and a particularly staunch liqueur called Salmiakki Kuso…if I needed more hair on my chest, this would have grown it. The Finns thought that was pretty funny, too.

Now Konsepti, one of Dialogue International’s original and longest-term members and Finland’s best independent agency, has announced: “Markus Natrista Konseptin uusi toimitusjohtaja.” For us English speakers, it means Markus has just been appointed Konsepti’s new Managing Director.

In making this appointment, Martti Viitamaki and Timo Kivi have established new leadership for this outstanding agency in Helsinki. For me, it means seeing a friend and colleague achieve a considerable position in his career – one that he deserves and will fill the post with energy and good humor.

Best wishes for a great future, Markus, for you and for Konsepti. And keep that sauna fired up – I hope to be coming back to Helsinki someday soon.

Suomenlinna photo by Tomtom-Paris, with thanks.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dear Howard

Walking into the McMurtrey Gallery here and seeing your newest work covering the walls was as fulfilling an experience as I have had in weeks.

The colors, the liveliness – the lives of your paintings – gave me a sense of history. Too exaggerated, maybe, but it’s how I feel. Since I bought your figurative “Moment of Clarity” four years ago, you’ve given me the chance to see an artist develop his work into new and more expansive expressions. Usually, I get snapshots of artists’ careers: the single piece here and there in a gallery and museum; then the occasional retrospective that lets me see how a painter grows and changes over the years.

These are different times, especially for the occasional collector who doesn’t live in art-centered New York City, San Francisco or London. You’ve not only continued to develop (in leaps and bounds). You’ve communicated that development actively with your friends and collectors.

When I talked with Roni McMurtrey yesterday, she went considerably beyond her role as gallery director. She was as proud of you and your “Venti Americano” show as any parent and with good reason. The fact that every piece (except one) had little red “sold” dots beside it is just part of it. The two stunning new works you’d just brought in – and which were already spoken for – was another. She was particularly thrilled with the idea that your talent has been increasingly recognized, and that new fellowships are coming your way.

I don’t have the eye or the vocabulary to have written a review like the one by Keith Plocek in the Houston Press. My own efforts (like this past post) haven’t conjured up the descriptive imagery he used: “Happy, violent, dark, bright, expressive…”

I do know that the McMurtrey intends to hold your show over for at least another week, ‘til August 12th, and that most of the patrons have agreed to leave their Howard Sherman pieces on her walls until the show is over.

I’ll pass the word in the usual way, because other people should see the exhibition in this outstanding space. I hope others will look at your new works on the interactive portion of the gallery’s website.

Keep it up. All the best from your hometown…and one of your early fans.

“DMO,” mixed media on canvas, 60” x 50”, Howard Sherman. Courtesy of McMurtrey Gallery, 3508 Lake Street, Houston, TX.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

AWNA Announced


WASHINGTON (August 3) - Congress is considering sweeping legislation, which provides new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNA) is being hailed as a major legislation by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition. It is widely seen as one remedy for the complaint that Americans cannot do low-paying or “demeaning” jobs.

“Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society,” said Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they do a better job, or have some idea of what they are doing.”

Former President Bill Clinton pointed to the success of the US Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack job skills, making this agency the single largest US employer of Persons of Inability.

Private sector industries with good records of nondiscrimination against the inept include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%), and home improvement “warehouse” stores (65%). State DMVs also have a great record of hiring Persons of Inability (63%).

Under AWNA, more than 25 million “middle man” positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.

Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given, to guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations which maintain a significant level of Persons of Inability in middle positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the proposed new law contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the Nonabled, banning discriminatory interview questions such as "Do you have any goals for the future?" or "Do you have any skills or experience which relate to this job?"

“As a Nonabled Person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them,” said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, MI, due to her lack of notable job skills. '”This new law should really help people like me.” With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), “It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her adequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation.”

Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to Rob Schoenbeck and The Onion.