EVP/MD Chris Mumford Talks "Good & Tough"

November 30, 2016

Martin Agency exec explains how to be 'good and tough' in the ad industry

BY LAUREN RENZ

November 29, 2016

Chris Mumford, executive vice president and managing director of The Martin Agency, recently spoke at the Newhouse School as part of the Eric Mower Advertising Forum about the current and future state of the industry. The Martin Agency, with offices in Richmond, Virginia, New York City and London, is a full-service agency with more than 500 employees. The agency is responsible for creating the GEICO insurance company’s award-winning caveman and gecko campaigns. Before his talk with students, Mumford answered questions about how to stay competitive in an evolving industry.

What do you feel is most important for maintaining an environment where great ideas are continuously born?

I’d say it begins with a cultural commitment. Everyone is so different in this business. I’ve had a lot of luck being around great people where a lot of great work happens. I’ve found patterns that I’ve followed, and it has been very messy to get to this point. Usually that’s what makes it so rewarding. We’re a company full of love and caring. But we have huge accounts with massive budgets and high expectations, so we’re also managing a lot of tension. You really have to love all aspects, and then it feels like anything is possible. The old ways of making things happen are gone. Frankly we’re in a marketing industry that’s like the Wild West, and you’ve got to embrace it. 


Chris Mumford, of The Martin Agency, recently spoke at Newhouse as part of the Eric Mower Advertising Forum. Photo by Saniya More

The Martin Agency has worked with GEICO for 25 years, and in that time has created infectious campaigns like the cavemen and gecko campaigns. How did these come to fruition?

It’s really easy to come up with ideas that have been done before. Imitating is not hard to do, but what’s hard to do is come in and do something that’s never been done before, and share it with a bunch of people who can build on that idea. Then, you watch the collaboration happen. The key to all this is creating a safe environment, where people can do this and feel great about coming up with new ideas.

These campaigns were the first of their kind for many reasons, one of which was the multiple story lines. Can you talk about that?

You just don’t have this kind of client agency relationship long-term, so it’s quite remarkable. Our relationship with GEICO is different than with most accounts. The way we got to the work that we do for them comes from a very strategic and tactful decision. There were several big decisions over the years that made us innovate in the space.

We were trying to create the personality of the brand, something that differentiated GEICO from other insurance companies. We had four or five story lines running at once, and other agencies would ask what’s up with that? We did it purposefully. One, we had a very large media budget. Second, we realized that the shows people were consuming had multiple story lines. We took advantage of this media trend and started using different story lines in our commercials to create message tweaks. We may have the gecko talking about the fact that GEICO’s been here for 75 years and we may have another campaign that talks about saving money. They all feel like a family of commercials, but they all do different things for us. 

How has the Martin Agency changed in the time you’ve been working there?

The reason I think the Martin Agency has been so successful over the past 50 years and will continue to be successful in this era of high change is our culture. Our culture is built on a set of values and a set of behaviors. Our behaviors are creativity, which means world-class creativity. It’s about collaboration and bringing the right chemistry together to solve problems. It’s about agility and the ability to adapt, and it’s about courage and being able to take risks as human beings but also as marketers.

The way we describe our culture is ‘good and tough’; good to each other but tough on the work. It’s the juxtaposition of really great people that care about each other, but want to come together and do something that’s never been done before. We didn’t call our culture good and tough 15 years ago—but I started almost 20 years ago, and we were good and tough then, too. We’ll keep on being good and tough in the future, but with an emphasis on using cutting-edge creativity to solve problems.

Lauren Renz is a junior advertising major at the Newhouse School. 

Photos by Saniya More, a sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School. 

Link to article.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Latest from GEICO's "It's Not Surprising" Featured on Campaign US

November 22, 2016

Geico puts a sumo wrestler on ice

An unlikely figure skating sensation makes his debut in The Martin Agency spot

The latest spot in Geico’s "It’s Not Surprising" campaign features a figure skating sumo wrestler, demonstrating unnatural grace with delicate moves like "the Flying Dutchman" and "the Baby Bird." The 30-second spot by The Martin Agency debuted this week and is running on broadcast TV and online. The campaign has been running since 2014, concurrent with the award-winning "Unskippable" and "Fast Forward."

Click here for full article.


Posted By: The Martin Agency

Martin London ECD Dan Fisher Talks Holiday Ads on "It's Nice That" Podcast

November 09, 2016

Martin London ECD Dan Fisher talks to It's Nice That about holiday ads. Listen to the full podcast here. Dan begins at 22:34. 

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Creative Directors Anne Marie Hite and Neel Williams Named to One Show Juries

November 03, 2016

Congrats to Anne Marie Hite and Neel Williams for being named to the One Club Juries for Direct Marketing and Film.



Posted By: The Martin Agency

Benjamin Moore Invites Fans to #PaintTheW

November 03, 2016

Benjamin Moore Is Giving Out 20,000 Stencils So Cub Fans Can #PaintTheW Around Town 

A colorful take on #FlyTheW 

By Tim Nudd

Chicago Cubs sponsors are celebrating the team's first World Series win in 108 years with various spots and stunts. For its part, Benjamin Moore is encouraging a little sanctioned graffiti—painting W's around town (a reference to the W flag that's flown at Wrigley after each Cubs win, and the associated #FlyTheW hashtag) and giving fans a way to do it, too.

Working with The Martin Agency, Moore put up a ton of wild postings with painted W's all around Chicago early Thursday, following the Cubs' historic Game 7 victory in Cleveland. It's also planning a major stunt for the victory parade—making 20,000 16-by-20-inch #PaintTheW stencils that it will hand out, so fans can paint their own.

Click here for full story.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

SVP/Group Creative Director Cliff Sorah talks "Retail Marketing Mistakes to Avoid This Holiday Season"

November 01, 2016

Retail Marketing Mistakes to Avoid This Holiday Season

For the last nine years, we’ve worked with the world’s largest retailer; that’s eight holiday seasons driving billions of dollars in revenue. We’ve learned a lot – from handling the stress of the heavy workloads, to managing the changing briefs and tight deadlines – but we’ve also learned how to avoid some of the most common mistakes that plague retail CMOs during the holidays. If you’re looking for better results (and a lot fewer headaches) this holiday season, here are five things to avoid:

Starting with Executions Instead of an Overarching Idea

As you begin to receive the flurry of holiday ad requests and briefs, it’s easy to get caught up in going straight to execution. Don’t make that mistake. Well before you ask your agency to go to execution, ask them to create an overarching idea that’s sure to be present in all executions. For example, one year we focused on ideas that expressed “more;” more joy for the holidays, more wonder for the holidays, and more ways to shop during the holidays.

Whatever your idea is, its strength should be determined by how well it answers a few key questions. How can it connect with people beyond assortment and price? How can it demonstrate that you care about the holidays as much as your consumers do? How can it create enough goodwill that it helps you win even if your item is priced higher than a competitor’s? Only when you have an idea that answers all of your questions should you move to execution.

Creating Ads That Don’t Add Up

While you might have separate concepts for ads across print, broadcast, and digital, it’s critical that your overarching idea is part of any and all forms of your brand’s communication, from TV commercials and display ads to social posts and content, even point of sale. 

Your idea will hold all of your communications together from brand and reputation executions to price/item executions. It, along with consistent visual branding cues, consistent musical style and a consistent tone of voice, will all work together to prevent misattribution. And the last thing you want is for your ad spending to benefit a competitor.

Forgetting to Leave Room for Emotion

This is the season when merchants have anxiety attacks. They want to be sure all of their products get maximum exposure, so they tend to ask for products and price in every single communication. There is a place for their products. There is a huge place – just not in every single ad.

Remember that emotion during the holidays, more perhaps than at any other time of year, is incredibly important. It is the season of cheer, after all. Be sure that in addition to price/item work, there is work that makes consumers feel something about your brand. The world’s largest retailer generally uses a few different levels of work, all connected by an overarching idea but with each level designed to do a different job. If your media plan allows such a mix, let the merchants see it. Let them see how brand and product communications support each other, especially when connected by an overarching idea. When they understand how their ads fit into the entirety of the communications plan maybe, just maybe, they’ll see how your plan can move sales and brand attributes at the same time.

Failing to Have a Backup Plan for Last-Minute Changes

Whether it’s an unforeseen product recall, a competitor who has a better deal or there’s a new hot gift prediction, we all know that there is no sure way to anticipate every possible change in trend or price during the holidays. So make sure you’re aptly prepared. As part of your holiday mix of ads, build a few “donuts” for flexibility. Donuts are basically ads that are prerecorded and edited but have a section built in that allows for switching in any product and price very quickly. So instead of having your agency concept, present and execute new work each time a change occurs, you can simply grab the appropriate donut, slug in the item/price/promotion/news and be ready to go. Trust me on this. You will need them, you will use them, and you will breathe a sigh of relief once you have them.

Creating a One-Trick Pony

Don’t create an entirely new idea every year if you don’t need to. Instead, learn from this year and keep in mind what worked that can be implemented again next year. If your overarching idea gained traction, sales were great and your brand affinity rose, try to use it or build off it for the next year. Make a holiday tradition. Evolving your idea from year to year will help people remember you, and it’s a lot easier than starting from scratch.

A brilliant example of building a holiday tradition is the work done by UK retailer John Lewis. Their holiday campaigns are eagerly anticipated and are said to kick off the holiday season.

No CMO, or agency for that matter, is immune to any and all mistakes. However, by keeping these most common mistakes in mind, you can hopefully have a few less headaches this holiday season. Above all, remember to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At no other time in the retail year are tensions and stakes as high as during the holidays – it is physically taxing and intellectually exhausting, both for you and your advertising agencies. Just remember that everyone is feeling the same … and it will pass. Plus, once the holiday season is over, Spring and Easter are just around the corner.


About the Author

Cliff Sorah is an SVP Group Creative Director at The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia. Since joining Martin in 1987, Cliff has touched nearly every account in the agency, most recently as the creative lead on Walmart, Penske, and Timberland PRO.


Posted By: Cliff Sorah