July 31, 2011

Book Review: “The Accidental Creative” is My New Life Guide. Seriously.

Filed under: Account Management Training,Book Review,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 1:12 pm

I recently completed the book “The Accidental Creative” by Todd Henry. It is not a self-help book; at least, that is what I am telling myself to feel better about loving it so much. But it kind of is a self-help book for those with creative pursuits, specifically in the advertising business. The author has a background in agency business and it felt like he was talking directly to me and only me, the experiences and stories were so dead on.  And, I am a not a “creative;” I work in account management.

As the readers here know, based on an epiphany and an encounter I had in April, I have taken on a mission to recreate the account management department at our agency to act, and be perceived by their peers, as more than notetakers and communications conduits between clients and creative teams. There are a lot of aspects to this shift, but one major piece is that the account managers have to think of themselves as creative and thereby contributors to that creative process and output. To quote the book:

“While a designer will solve a problem visually, a manager may solve it by developing a new process. But they’re both using the same creative tools and wrestling with many of the same obstacles.”

I have been doing a lot of work against this effort, mostly in the form of research and notes, without much implementation yet. I believe this  book can explain to my team how important their creativity is, that they are all creative, and they just need the right attitude, approach and plan to be creative in their contributions to the agency, their teams and their lives. To that end, I am going to ask everyone on my team to read this book. (Don’t worry, I’ve learned none of them read this blog, so I am not spoiling any surprise for them by posting it here. Although, if my boss wrote a blog about our business, I would definitely be reading it regularly. Perhaps that is a post and vent for another day.)

The book starts by walking through the hinderances to creativity, especially those in an ad agency. Then, it takes the reader through recommendations for overcoming those obstacles. I am not going to outline them for you here, you have to read the book. Some of the recommendations seems so obvious, but none of us our doing them, making the time to even attempt to do them or thinking twice about skipping over the obvious steps to creativity just to check something else off our to-do list. Other recommendations are easy to accomplish, it is just a matter of setting out to do them and getting them on the calendar.

So, why is this book my new “life guide”? “The Accidental Creative” it also about leadership, team work, time management and life happiness. To quote the book again:

“It is more and more difficult in today’s world to segment your life into buckets like ‘work,’ ‘home,’ ‘relationships,’ hobbies,’ and so on. Every area of your life affects every other, and a lack of engagement in one area will quickly infect the rest. As you implement these practices, you will find that your newfound creative energy will infiltrate not just your work life, but other areas of your life as well. A rising tide raises all boats.”

This book is a definite recommend.

July 14, 2011

Loving Turntable

Filed under: Culture,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 5:16 pm

Have you checked out turntable.fm yet? While music is in my life everyday, I am not very knowledgeable about or good at finding the stuff I like. Let’s just say I don’t have an exceptionally discerning ear, but I know what I like when I hear it. And I like being around people who know more about than me and are willing to teach me.

Turntable is that online version of being around people who know more and are teaching me when an in-person lesson is not an option. The reason that I am talking about here is the social and gaming aspects of site participation are interesting:

  • Anyone can set up a room and DJ to a theme of their choice. Up to five people can DJ in a room and the control rotates between them.
  • Anyone can join the room and “vote” on the song playing as “lame” or “awesome.” When you vote “awesome,” your avatar’s head starts bobbing to the music. You can see how the song is fairing on the lame/awesome meter while it plays.
  • The more people that favor your song, the more points you build as a DJ. With more points, you can change your avatar (choices open up at different point levels). Every visitor can see your score.
  • There is a chat column in each “room” and visitors talk about the music.
  • The name/title of the song shows and there are built in features for sharing the song to your social networks and saving the song to your music player of choice.

CNN recently called it the “cool kids’ Pandora” and offered some spinning tips for the new visitors.

I am loving it right now. Check it out.

Book Review: Rework

Filed under: Book Review — Emily Reeves @ 4:56 pm

Rework, by Jason Fried and David Hansson (the founders of 37signals), is a simple book of wisdom for business, entrepreneurship, and really, life. The authors are realistic, to the point and minimalist in their advice.

I wanted to highlight the entire book. It inspired me to think about my day-to-day job approach differently and to think about possibility and opportunity differently. Rather than complicating business with structure, people, planning and excuses, Rework advises–among many other things–things like making do with what you have to force creativity, doing every job in the office before you hire someone else to do it, doing what you have to do not what you could and want to do, making decisions and moving on rather than sitting on things, and not always worrying about the details.

The book is short and easy to read. Pick it up, read it and be inspired.

July 7, 2011

We are hiring!

Filed under: Account Management Training,Current Events,Marketing — Emily Reeves @ 9:56 am

It probably goes without saying, but I love my job at Stone Ward. I must if I have been here for over 10 years, right? It is a great place to work, the culture is like family and creative work is what we do best. Who wouldn’t want to work here? Well, now is your opportunity. We are looking to hire an experienced account manager.  If you are interested, please contact me at ereeves@stoneward.com.  Here are the position details:

Stone Ward is seeking an Account Manager with 5+ years agency experience. Experience should include a demonstrated ability to think strategically about the client’s business and a demonstrated ability to direct and recognize results-oriented marketing communications that are on brand strategy.

The Account Manager will be required to provide business and marketing counsel to clients at an executive management level and oversee an associate account executive in the daily execution of client projects. The Account Manager will also oversee the client profitability and will be responsible for managing the client budget and agency revenue.  The Account Manager will report to the Director of Account Management.

Job responsibilities will include:

  • Serving as an agency leader across all disciplines to lead an integrative approach to all client marketing communications.
  • Acting as a leader for agency teams, creating a culture of team-level responsibility for achieving agency and client goals.
  • Developing strong relationships throughout the client organization, particularly at executive management level, maintaining thorough understanding of client satisfaction and ensuring client retention.
  • Maintaining a thorough understanding of client’s business, category, competitive landscape and customer base to ensure agency is proactive in delivering strategic marketing direction.
  • Recognizing and contribute to creative account planning that is excellent, results-oriented and strategic.
  • Providing strategic consultation about client’s business and marketing initiatives on a regular basis.
  • Supervising clients budgets and billing, as well as agency profitability by client.
  • Continuously seeking out education and information on communications tools, techniques and trends to apply to client’s communications initiatives.

Desired traits in an Account Manager include (in no particular order):

  • Flexible
  • Proactive
  • Organized
  • Innovative
  • Cheerleader
  • Collaborative
  • Numbers nerd
  • Detail-oriented
  • Not reactionary
  • Strong work ethic
  • No shrinking violets
  • Calm under pressure
  • Know when to say “no”
  • Ability deal with multiple personality styles
  • Willingness to learn new things
  • Willingness to take hit for team
  • Good written communications skills
  • Good verbal communications skills
  • Producer-type personality
  • Ability to defend creative
  • Good time management
  • Good creative instincts
  • Ability for forethought
  • Good negotiator
  • Problem-solver
  • Thought leader
  • People person
  • Open-minded
  • Good listener
  • Team player
  • Multi-tasker
  • Technophile
  • Self-starter
  • Passionate
  • Confident
  • Realistic
  • Creative
  • Diligent
  • Patient
  • Leader
  • Coach
  • Agent
  • Calm
  • Fair

About the Account Management department at Stone Ward:

The Account Management function at Stone Ward serves an extension of the client’s marketing department, with a specialization in creative communications and customer experience interactions. We are a partner in the client’s strategic communications planning, execution, budgeting and measurement.

July 4, 2011

Talk Business Interview: Mobile Apps

Filed under: Talk Business,Technology — Emily Reeves @ 6:39 am

In case you missed it Sunday night, here is my discussion with Roby Brock of Talk Business on popular mobile applications. More from Talk Business here and more details on these apps from me here.

July 3, 2011

Book Review: Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Filed under: Book Review,Technology — Emily Reeves @ 4:14 pm

One of the most interesting facts from this book:

“A recent major survey of high-level executives, including chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and presidents, revealed that 70 percent of them regularly play casual computer games while working. That’s right: the vast majority of senior executives report taking daily computer game breaks that last on average between fifteen minutes and one hour.”

I wouldn’t believe this startling statistic had I not spotted one of my clients playing Solitaire during a meeting, and another playing Words With Friends while walking to a meeting. The bottom line is that everyone is playing games and in surprising numbers. Games have huge power and potential influence over our behavior. Because there has been a lot of talk in the technology and social worlds of this influence of gaming and its growth potential, and because I believe know nothing about gaming–not being a gamer myself–I decided to read the most talked book on the subject. While I am still trying to figure out gaming and how it can be used in our business as an effective tool, this book did shed some light on the appeal of games and how they can influence change:

“The real world just doesn’t offer up as easily the carefully designed pleasures, the thrilling challenges, and the powerful social bonding afforded by virtual environments. Reality doesn’t motivate us as effectively. Reality isn’t engineered to maximize our potential. Reality wasn’t designed from the bottom up to make us happy.”

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal explores why people play games, the psychology behind good game mechanics and gives real examples of games that have the potential to change behaviors for world-wide good. I have a new appreciation for both game developers and game players after reading this book. McGonigal walks through specific games, like World of Warcraft, and talks about specific skills the gamers learn and build by playing these types of games.

Ultimately, McGonigal is saying that game play makes people happy, and when they are happy they will play more, and when they play more they will ultimately reach the defined game goal:

“There are many ways to be happy, but we cannot find happiness. No object, no event, no outcome or life circumstance can deliver real happiness to us. We have to make our own happiness–by working hard at activities that provide their own reward.”

“On the other hand, when we set out to make our own happiness, we’re focused on activity that generates intrinsic rewards–the positive emotions, personal strengths, and social connections that we build by engaging intensely with the world around us. We’re not looking for praise or payouts. The very act of what we’re doing, the enjoyment of being fully engaged, is enough.”

So McGonigal wonders if we can define a goal within a game that can fix really big world issues, and that is the impetus for the book:

“What if we decided to use everything we know about game design to fix what’s wrong with reality? What if we started to live our real lives like gamers, lead our real businesses and communities like game designers, and think about solving real-world problems like computer and video game theorists?”

“Game developers know better than anyone else how to inspire extreme effort and reward hard work. They know how to facilitate cooperation and collaboration at previously unimaginable scales. And they are continuously innovating new ways to motivate players to stick with harder challenges, for longer, and in much bigger groups. These crucial twenty-first-century skills can help all of us find new ways to make a deep and lasting impact on the world around us.”

With this as her premise, McGonigal walks the how games are created, defined, played and improved upon. From the basics like the four defining traits of a game:

  • A goal
  • Rules
  • A feedback system
  • Voluntary participation

To the details like scalability and social integrations. With this kind of detail and range, this book is great for a non-gamer looking to understand what impact games have and how to go about thinking about game design. I enjoyed reading and learning from McGonigal’s extensive experiences and would definitely recommend this to anyone curious about game mechanics and design.

Zynga IPO

Filed under: Current Events,Technology — Emily Reeves @ 3:29 pm

Last week, Roby Brock and I talked about the trend for social media companies to enter IPOs, and Zynga came up in our conversation as one on the horizon for entering that realm. Well, it happened a couple of days ago.  Zynga’s user-base and proven profitability have made it desirable:

  • 232 million monthly active users
  • $597 million in revenue in 2010

Mashable provides a list of 11 other interesting stats about Zynga’s success.

Zynga is the company behind social games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars and is highly dependent of Facebook for its players.  ”The company admits that basically all of its revenue comes from its partnership with Facebook: ‘We generate substantially all of our revenue and players through the Facebook platform and expect to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.’” This fact may make investors a bit wary of buying in immediately, but with the success of LinkedIn and the talk about growth potential of gaming/games in general, Zynga will probably fair well in this market.