How Does a Creative Agency Set Itself Apart?

These days, I’m fortunate enough to work with a ton of great creative agencies. Turnstyle Studios, Don’t Blink Media, Angelvision, and PanBuilt are four that immediately come to the top of my mind. 

It’s a world with more start-ups, where more companies (and the VC’s that fund them) are demanding more work for less money from a talented team that isn’t part of the "big agency" experience.  In a world of thousands of agencies, the question is, how does one small agency stand out?uselessaccount.jpg

Well, the answer is to create compelling materials that market yourself.  And that doesn’t mean one-sheeters and direct mail pieces anymore. 

Brisbane Creative launched a funny site last week called Useless Account, in which they mock start-ups around the globe.  I found it through TechCrunch, and it’s likely Brisbane sent a link to Michael Arrington.  From a revenue perspective, they gain nothing.  In fact, the server capacity may even be an expense. 

But now you know who they are.  When you are in a meeting, you may say something like, "We need an agency as creative as Brisbane."  This is a long post to say that this we’re all trying to figure out what the "new" forms of marketing will be in the net 5 years.  But the creative agencies really should be the ones driving that.  They’ll come up with genius guerilla tactics, we’ll notice them, hire them, and we’ll want the same type of genius when we start cutting them checks.

Update: Turns out Brisbane Creative is actually a University student in Australia named Jim WhimpeyHis blog details the story of Useless Account, and pretty much makes everything I said, well useless.  He wasn’t trying to create buzz for his agency in the way I imagined, but it certainly worked out that way. 

The Search for Jim Gray Continues

This story is about a week old now, but the disappearance of computer scientist Jim Gray sparked a remarkable social collaboration led by’s Mechanical Turk. TechCrunch details the story here, so I don’t want to rob them of their deserved readers.

But the side commentary concerns the power a globally connected network can have.  It’s unlikely we’ll be able to find Mr. Gray, even with everyone looking at 5-10 satellite photos.  But this kind of application can be taken national for missing chlildren, or down to the neighborhood level for lost dogs. Using this technology, it’s really not hard to forsee us using our 5-10 minutes of goof off time to work on a complex problem with 100,000 other people.

But on this project, we hope someone finds something of note in the photographs, and Mr. Gray can be found. 

Screeniac and Screencasts

Well, it had to happen someday.  Sure HTML and Flash had gotten pretty easy.  But us Marketing folks still didn’t have a way of producing really slick multimedia shows without the help of someone creative.

Part of the design hurdle may have been cleared with Camtasia Studio from Tech Smith. I could try to explain it in a lot of words, but the keyword is "Screencast."  If you need to explain what your Web site does, or how to use anything online, or even just record a visual list of all the gifts you want someone to buy you, this piece of software does the trick. 

Best thing to do is check out an example on and click on any of her links for "Flash Demo."  She may be doing free Screencasts on products she likes as a way to market herself to companies she wants to do some work for (which would be quite ingenious).  Or she may be getting paid to do the screencasts.  Either way, look for bloggers to start using this kind of visual/audio mix as a way to bring their news to life. 

Guy Kawasaki’s Tips for Hindering Market Adoption

Guy Kawasaki published 14 ways that companies hinder their own marketing efforts.  The article offers some informative insights, and some just plain laughable things that "smart start-ups" do when they fail to see the forest for the trees.

It’s funny to think about how wrapped up some companies get in their own importance, that they fail to remember the one giant rule – No one needs you and no one knows you.  Make it easy for them to find, try and remember you. 


Shelfari is a new company I ran across recently. It looks like an interesting way to monetize your blog or web site in a visually appealing way.

The wizard is a little hard to find, but once you track it down, it’s wickedly easy to use. I use Squarespace for this web site because I have little to no code skill whatsoever, and it took about 4 seconds to insert the Shelfari Bookshelf on the page.

Of course, I need to register as an Amazon Associate to make the money part of it. It doesn’t seem clear whether I can do that through Shelfari or not. That would be ideal, but it’s not a headache they need to take on. I’m sure the Amazon signup process is easy as well.

This plugin requires Adobe Flash 9.

Carena MD

I stopped by the University of Washington CIE Program’s "Springboard" event last night.  42 interesting companies were out looking for MBA and undergraduate help in Marketing and other Business skills.  It was a well attended and well organized event, which is no surprise considering it was run by Connie Bourassa-Shaw and her team at the CIE.  if you are a small business, you should seek them out.  They really are doing great things over there.

One of the companies is run by Ralph Derrickson, and stood out for being so simply ingenious without being a tech firm.  Carena MD brings doctors to corporations.  You get your checkup, physical, any consult on site, rather than taking time out of your day to travel to your family practitioner.  It’s one of those ideas that you can’t believe hasn’t been part of daily life for years.  Anyway, find  out more from their website at

Add “Abalone Fisherman” to List of Jobs I Don’t Want

Word comes from Reuters in Australia about Eric Nerhus, the Abalone Fisherman who survived being caught headfirst in the mouth of Great White shark.

"He stated that he was head-first into the shark," a spokeswoman for Snowy Hydro SouthCare rescue service told Reuters after airlifting the diver to hospital.  When he came to us he was conscious and alert but had a broken nose and lacerations to both sides of his torso and chest — bite marks all the way around," the spokeswoman said.

Nerhus told fellow divers he didn’t see the shark coming as the water was so dirty that visibility was severely limited.

"It was black. He didn’t see it coming, but he felt the bite and then started getting shaken, and that’s when he knew he was in the mouth of the shark," said local diver Michael Mashado.

Nirhus miracuously survived because of a lead vest abalone divers wear to stay underwater, which in this case also took the brunt of the shark’s bite.  He escaped by stabbing the shark repeatedly with some tool he had in his hand.  

No word on whether Nirhus’ boss is giving a few days off, or if he plans to move to the finance and operations side of the business, where chances of being caught in the mouth of a shark decrease by about 100%.

Congrats to UW VCIC Winners

I was fortunate enough to spend this weekend as an observer at the UW Intramural round of the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC).  The team of Rahber Thariani,Thomas Moore, Lauren Witt, Bradley Roberts, and Stephen Hawdley ran away with it and now look to competing at the regional in California.

This is a great University event, and one the UW has done quite well in, winning Nationals twice in the last 3 years.  Good luck Rahber et all! 

I’m always glad to see Congress working hard

It’s not often you see news from the U.S. Capitol on without the words “steroids” and “baseball” somewhere in the lead. But while some hard decisions – like Iraq – were being tabled to later in the month, our reps did manage to agree – nearly unanimously – to commend the Florida Gators for winning the NCAA Championship. Now, according to the ESPN Story:

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)…who has represented District 1 in southeast Georgia since 1993, was the only member of Congress to oppose House Resolution 39, which commended “the University of Florida Gators for their victory in the 2006 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and for winning the national college football championship.”

The House bill passed by a vote of 414-1. Eight other congressmen from Georgia voted yes to the proposal, two voted present and two others didn’t vote at all. The bill was sponsored by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and 19 other representatives from Florida.

I don’t know which part I find the funniest. There’s a lot to choose from.

1) Congress takes time (granted probably about 5 minutes) to pass a resolution commending a college football team.

2) That one Congressman from Georgia chose to give the Gators the finger just for spite.

3) Or that 4 Congresspeople chose to neither support or oppose the resolution! How worried are you about public opinion that you can’t take a stance on whether or not to support a meaningless , non-binding resolution about college football? Can you imagine the staff meeting of those 4 Georgia reps:

“John, how should we vote on this Florida Gators thing?”

“Well, we don’t want to look like we are anti-Georgia.”

“But won’t a no vote look mean and spiteful? I thought we were trying to shed that image.”

“Maybe supporting another state would show true bi-partisanship and a willingness to work together.”

“Ted, that was Augusta National. They’re threatening to pull all of our golf privileges if we support the measure.”

“Mary just called with the polling data. 94% hate the Gators, but 54% of those are glad at least the SEC won. “

“Maybe we could tack on a rider that says we support the resolution, but think the school should be investigated.”

“Damn those Florida Gators. I just don’t know what we should do.”

Cool Web Site –

I’m not going to regurgitate stuff I see on TechCrunch every day.  But here’s a site the non-TechCrunch crowd can get behind.

At first seems like a neat Web 2.0 application, and that’s it.  Great, we make a family tree.  We’ve seen that before.

But this truly has some awe inspiring potential when you consider its viral nature.   I can start building a little mini-tree.  I may not know it, but my brother in law may be building one as well. As soon as I connect myself to him by entering his email, I suddenly get hooked up to his work in progress.  Take this out horizontally about 6 generations, and you suddenly have a global project for mapping an entire generation.

Sure, there are limitations because none of our grandparents are going to hop on and create the same type of network effect.  But the next generation, and so on and so on….

Now think of an overlay of MySpace, Friendster,  or Facebook.  Include Google Maps.  You start to see potential to link everything and everyone together.  I’d be surprised if this doesn’t turn into a Google property at some point.  We have all this info on everyone, we just never connected anyone with anything stronger than a MySpace friend list.  Using the familytree as a way to connect people and information will have powerful implications in the future.