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Category : Press

Brandweek Recap: It’s All About The Consumer

At the inaugural Brandweek conference this week in Palm Desert, CA, I learned a LOT.

I learned that marketers at big brands don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to embrace their brand’s problems — and sometimes even faults, when they are in a safe space.

I learned that the newest brands on the block, like Away, are able to be so consumer-centric, that adding in an agency wouldn’t have a bigger impact than what they’ve built internally.

I learned that everyone who works in marketing is always going to be chasing the next ad tech and working hard — like, really hard — to explain that to anyone who will listen.

I learned that there are so many things I would have never learned if I hadn’t made the time to get out of our office and see what everyone else is talking about.

But today, I want to talk about something that all agencies need to learn. If you are an agency, and you aren’t focused on the value you provide to clients, then you are doing it wrong. If you work in an agency and you aren’t focused on the ways you can help brands better communicate, engage and interact with their consumers, the ways you can help them UNDERSTAND their consumer better, than you could take some advice from the people behind the brands that I met at Brandweek.

This was a well-attended conference. Marketers like Rick Gomez from Target, Jen Rubio from Away, Michael Dubin from Dollar Shave Club, and Leesa Eichberger from Farmers Insurance were in the audience and on the stage talking about what ground they are breaking and what problems they are facing. I even got the opportunity to sit next to Victoria Russell, the Chief Diversity Officer of Papa John’s, during a workshop. Yes, she knew about the scandals before she took the job, and yes, I believe she will be the person to turn that brand around.

Between the varying degrees of brand awareness and brand loyalty, the thing that everyone had in common was the fact that they are all SO laser-focused on their consumer. What is their experience? How do I draw them in? How does their feedback shape my product lifecycle? How does their feedback save my business?

We got to hear about all of these issues from the marketers themselves, but even better, we got to work through them together during two different break-out workshops. People were asked to connect on issues and topics like “collaboration” and “the brand’s role in society.” They were asked to think about new media opportunities and new technology that could solve problems. And then entire rooms of people got to connect on those issues and problem-solve together.

So, what did I learn that I will take back to my team that I think will REALLY make a difference? It’s all about the consumer.

At DiGo, this isn’t a new idea. We’ve worked alongside inspiring action companies for over two decades, and each time, we’ve placed the consumer at the center of everything we do. Inspiring action companies know the importance of  “learning what your devotees love about themselves with you”.

This is what we do for our clients, even when they don’t realize it.  It’s our focus on this that allows us to truly act like a brand-and business-building partner to our clients. It’s what turned Weight Watchers around, and what led HelloFresh to outpace Blue Apron in the meal-kit delivery wars of 2017. It’s what re-launched Reader’s Digest, and what is behind the work we’re doing for the Partnership for a Drug-Free Kids and Salesforce.org.

It’s Inspiring Action.

Mark DiMassimo on Ad Age’s AdLib Podcast

Last week, our Chief Mark DiMassimo went AdAge’s Ad Lib Podcast to talk with host Brian Braiker about building brands and businesses in a direct-to-consumer world, why traditional advertising is less important today, how behavior change marketing can be used to help fight the opioid epidemic, and much much more. Full transcript and podcast below!

Mark: What experience do you want them to have? Like when you think about this thing?

Brian: What experience do I want my listeners to have?

Mark: Yeah, why should they tune in?

Brian: I want them to be entertained and informed, inspired, possibly scared. I think they are already probably a little scared.

Mark: So they feel like they need to listen, might be dangerous not to listen.

Brian: If they miss a single episode of this podcast, they’re doomed.

Mark: Alright well, I wanted my brief, so I gotta be entertaining and interesting.

Brian: And who are you? You’re Mark DiMassimo, Chief of DiMassimo Goldstein. Welcome to Ad Lib podcast

Mark: Great to see you and be here. And we are literally seeing each other across this card table.

Brian: It’s a shoestring budget here and you can change that with sponsors. First, let’s start with the basics. DiMassimo Goldstein, what is that? You’re an independent agency that’s 22 years old.

Mark: You know a lot about this business and you know a lot about my business. We are an independent agency in New York that I founded in 1996, 22 years young. Even though we’ve been around for 22 years, we have not had the same year over again because we work with growth-stage turnaround state of businesses so our clients are constantly driving us to embrace change.

Brian: Well I don’t think you have a choice in the matter when it comes to embracing change. So who are these clients?

Mark: Let me give you a few because right now, this is not about being self-promotional…

Brian: Yes, because this is not the DiMassimo Goldstein hour.

Mark: We believe in a direct-to-consumer, choice-filled world, and that people are actually out there in the marketplace trying to get inspired to do great things, and the right things. We want them to do that so some of our top clients right now are Salesforce.org. So Salesforce is one of the big tech companies in the world. And Salesforce with Salesforce.org they really help drive the not-for-profit economy and really help a lot of people so we’re really proud we’re working with them. TradeStation is a fantastic company that went from small competitors to Charles Schwab, to now the fastest-growing programmatic trading, very excited about them. I should mention the Bronx Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society.

Brian: What a cool client. So you said the words direct-to-consumer, you say those words a lot? I’ve heard those words a few times before we turned on the mics. What do you mean, really, what does that look like?

Mark: So when I founded the agency in 1996, I had this thought.

Brian: Were you a holding company refugee?

Mark: Right before I started DiMassimo Goldstein, I was Creative Director at Kirschenbaum, which was an amazing experience, and we were challenging the holding companies; but before that, I was at J Walter Thompson, YNR, started at BBDO and I went on to be this integrated guy who was working with the brand and advertising. But I had this early experience with direct-to-consumer and I saw technology making everything more and more direct-to-consumer all the time and I thought, man, when they turn to agencies, they always get the folks who don’t know brands, who don’t know how to build brands. I thought, wow, we could be the agency that builds brands for this direct-to-consumer world. For twenty years, I couldn’t really say that, because agency people always heard direct marketing, performance marketing, and it isn’t that. It’s building brands and businesses in a direct-to-consumer world. Dollar Shave Club, for example, all these platforms, Uber, Airbnb, I could go on and on.

Brian: So how does that work? Direct-to-consumer means knocking the agencies out of the way.

Mark: Look, absolutely. We are also agents in the middle and about 10 years ago, Google got together and talked about if it was time to get rid of the agencies and, thank god, they decided to work with us for now. But any middle professional can ] be pushed out of the way. We have to find how we add value.

Brian: How do you add value?

Mark: In a world where everybody has these expectations, I want instant, I want choice. In order to respond to that, you need your agency to understand those expectations. Those people are choosing an experience, but they’re also choosing what club to join. Thats why its also a subscription world, right, we’ve heard that with Amazon and Netflix. It’s people piecing together their own service world. So what inspires me? What clubs do I identify with that I want to make part of my life? You need agencies that can think those things through. Business and brand experience delivered through product service and then marketing, that’s the hierarchy today. So I think one thing that large agencies that grew up and built large factories for advertising, one thing they’re suffering with are these legacy agencies that were built for a world where the advertising drove the brand positioning. That’s not the case anymore.

Brian: The case today is agencies help build the brands themselves; is that where you’re going with this?

Mark: Exactly, I see it again and again, your CCO better be promoted to chief marketing officer and service content and brand or else someone else will. Then, your CMO will be reporting to a chief growth or product officer. Everybody has access to the opinions of others through consumer reviews and rating sites in every category. So product experience that you give and the story you tell around it through content, PR, social media, has to all hang together so advertising is a lot less important than it used to be.

Brian: So this need for brand building at holding company level has made room for consultant agencies to move in.

Mark: When I look at the independents that like us are thriving, they are brand consultant agencies at the core, but then activating through social or an integrated way like we are, or they’re innovation shops. That’s why innovation shops have grown up, because what are we gonna be has become a much more important question than what are we going to say about it.

Brian: So the traditional advertising agency as you see it, the writing’s on the wall?

Mark: Look, I think there are massive global companies that have all the problems of scale and they probably need ways of dealing with those scale problems. I don’t claim to be an expert on that, I believe those worlds are troubled both on the client side and the agency side. It’s really hurting now. I love that Martin Sorrell and I agree for the first time.

Brian: That holding companies are broken? Now that he’s on the other side?

Mark: Right! Now that I’m on the outside, I realize it. No, you were part of the problem, you profited from the problem, you understand the problem really well because you were on the inside and now you know how to compete.

Brian: That’s what George Soros did in a way, too.

Mark: Hell yeah.

Brian: What do you think is going to happen with WPP and the holding model? Pure speculation, obviously.

Mark: I think they compete as public companies, their stories aren’t great, compared to tech companies driven by pure tech stories. They’re holding a lot of what they used to consider cash cow assets, that are actually weighing them down now; they’ve also got a lot of new models. They’re buying independents, they’re trying to integrate them, make them matter for scale. I will not be surprised if we see some divestitures of mature assets. Meanwhile, I hear all the time from folks who would love to get people like me and agencies inside in order to get clients the experience they’ve been leaving for. What they keep telling me is that there are fewer and fewer things to buy.

Brian: Would you sell?

Mark: If the answer was yes, I would already be sold. Wherever I am, the next three years of my life are always too important to me. I’m not going to be the richest guy in the cemetery, but I’ve done well enough that if I love my job, I’ll be OK and that’s my priority to keep growing this place. I’ve given other people this experience in working in a focused, inspiring, less-problematic environment and I’ve seen what it means in their lives, too. We’re not for every client, but we play an important role in the lives of our clients as well.

Brian: Talk about then what you’ve learned at BBDO, JWT, that you saw there that you chose not to replicate. You said you did see a need for that kind of brand building skill set. What did you see that you didn’t want?

Mark: Great question. Without fail, the people at the top of the large agencies I work for, I’m forever grateful I got to work closely with these people. They were really smart, good and the same people that were running small independent agencies before. I won’t name any names but a lot of them at the top are the result of acquisitions, so at that level, there’s similar thinking. But I’ve seen people go into those situations and see problems they have to solve and the genius they go in with thinking about brands, orchestrating teams, really innovating through creative, they get worn down by the problems of how do I keep people out of this meeting. Everybody wants to sell their thing in the meeting. It becomes a how do I keep this all from going south then try to be a little bit better than other people who compete. The other thing I found, and my experience is a little old, but everybody tells me that the beautiful, pure brand planning that I worked with at Kirschenbaum was never really replicated very well at large agencies. As a creative director at J Walter Thompson, I was really a better planner than a creative director. That was true with just about every creative director there. We didn’t have planners. So we had to be right about the brand and therefore, the creative suffered. Whereas in independents, you have strategic thinkers working in lockstep with creatives and media people. But you don’t have to be your own strategists. You can connect your creative mind with somebody who’s really focused on that and it’s in a team where people who aren’t adding to the conversation are not in the conversation. That’s what I mean by the problems of scale. We have to find some way to engage all these people all over the world, even though that’s going to dilute the quality of this conversation. We don’t have that problem. We have it on the client side to some extent as our clients get bigger, but we help create these works that then help and inspire the rest of that team.

Brian: What are your clients’ pain points right now? What are they coming to you looking for help on?

Mark: I’ll say how they define the problem, then the changes that come from that. Without fail, the client needs to both build revenue and do it in a way that builds the brand at the same time. There are all kinds of pressures to sacrifice the long term of the brand for short-term sales. Different kinds of organizations have different pressures, so they own this problem. If they don’t solve this revenue problem in the short run, they’re out. They don’t get to build the brand. If revenue doesn’t actually build the value of the brand, it’s gonna stop working; then they’re gonna be out. With very few exceptions, when they turn to agencies, the agencies all wanna own one side of that problem or the other. So they need someone to step in and say, yes, I will own the integration. They got performance marketing agencies that are all about, let’s personalize, let’s automate. We don’t really care when customers get together if they speak the same language as us. We just need to maximize the amount of sales. Then we got brand people, who often don’t know how to create a brand platform that actually combines all of that stuff in an experience product promotion. The client has to be the orchestrator. When they come to us, they want somebody to sit with them at the table and be an expert in integrating those aspects.

Brian: Talk about your work in partnership with Drug Free Kids, which I think is interesting. Using advertising to fight the opioid epidemic. Why that cause?

Mark: Well, if I go back to the 90’s, when I first got involved with them, the woman who would become my wife and I got involved in the organization at the same time. She took a job there working with all the great agencies developing what has become the largest, single-subject public service campaign ever. She was on the inside working with agencies; I learned a lot how agencies present through that.

Brian: Can you give an example?

Mark: We don’t pitch. We’re one of the fastest-growing private companies in America in the last five years, and we do not do creative pitches. Back then, BBH entered this private market and I got to meet John Haggarty, they would say we don’t pitch. That was a mystery to me; what did that mean? Well at the partnership, I joined the creative review committee, which is now creative development board and I’m the chairman of it as of this year. I saw several times BBH present what they pitched and what I saw was, when you focus on ideas, not execution, you focus the client on the highest leverage you can bring, rather than all these distracting images and pictures. You’re allowing them to imagine whatever they’re going to imagine. You’re going to work with them for months to figure out how to execute. So they didn’t bring in nothing. They brought in strategic thinking and platforms. They said it wasn’t creative. So what I realized is, first off, clients are buying experience and a lot of agency experience is really awful. We’ll basically say you’re just buying one campaign, if this goes, well we’ll work on many things together. So let’s start with a project. We need to commit that much, so you need to commit that much. We’re never going to tie your hands and ask you for a two-year contract because we’ll earn our way; but let’s start with an initial project that assumes it is going to go on. Let’s talk about ideas and how it’ll be to go together, and we find that works. Meeting all these other agencies while working on anti-drug advertising gave me a window into the different cultures. I got to see folks from Crispen present when they were the hottest agency in the country and they set up their work less, they defended their work less, and they were so cool when they got direction. I would see these people come in and talk and talk and defend, and they were like, oh yeah, cool. Later they would decide if they would integrate. They gave you the feeling of confidence. Jill went on to become a client, one of the heads of marketing at Tommy Hilfiger, and I’d say, what do the agencies that work for you really give you? She’d say that as a client, you’re afraid. You can’t do it, you can’t force the agency to do it, and you don’t know how to make it work, even if you’re smart and good. A confident agency, confident enough to listen and support, is so reassuring. How would they be confident? And she’d say well there’s this one guy who will say this is our 7503 commercial, we’ll get this right.

Brian: That’s great that you have somebody on the inside feeding you pro tips.

Mark: Listen to the clients, I care about creative, I care about brand planning.

Brian: What about data?

Mark: We are very teched up and data-oriented because, in the direct-to-consumer world, our mix is 75% digital, including email. How do you integrate what you’re learning from your data with what you’re trying to build for your brand and experience? That’s the challenge your client lives with, and compromise is ultimate failure. Agencies that are either data-or brand-focused tend to sell what they do. They pull in their direction against the other guys and clients are stuck in the middle. It’s super uncomfortable and it makes them feel more responsible and less confident than they want to feel. We’re deeply into the data, and we have to translate it into insight and explain how it fits within what you’re trying to build as a brand. Not all data should immediately trigger a computer to pull a trigger, because that could undermine the brand. There are other ways to sell that will work better.

Brian: Back to fighting opioids.

Mark: Back to fighting opioids. Those guys back in the 80’s it wasn’t about opioids. But those guys who got together from Johnson & Johnson and media companies from the big ad agencies, they had this perfect storm of society is really worried about drugs, the government gets that they’re worried. Industry could really come together because the media landscape meant that advertising could really do something about it. They created the partnership and they did amazing things. They slayed crack, then ecstasy; they went out there and created effective campaigns.

Brian: How do you create an effective campaign to fight drugs? A human behavior that is never going to go away and kids are not receptive to advertising, less so now than ever before.

Mark: Yeah, exactly right. That’s what’s changed. That worked for the media environment of then, but that doesn’t work for today. Before it was media agencies and ad agencies, now its the core digital firms. The Googles, Facebooks, Twitters and the rest of media plus agencies and deep integrated digital agencies. It’s a deeper coalition in the world today. Now, what we’re focused on is the partnership for Drug Free Kids and what that means, is helping parents who are on the front line with their kids. We’re not up there advertising to kids saying stay away from drugs. What we are is providing services in a direct-to-parent way. Leveraging these partnerships with Google and Facebook. It’s working, and the government isn’t spending money on getting help for parents. They’re not spending money right now on prevention; maybe they will. But if you’re in a tech firm, media firm or agency, my message is this is our generation’s problem, and I know you’re working with guns, add that, too. This one of the biggest social behavior problems of our generation and step up, it’s a whole new thing now. If you’re interested, a lot of folks have had personal experiences, reach out to me, I’m not hard to find on social media. We need people to step up and be a part of this, and we have some great people on this creative review board now, amazing thinkers, a top innovation guy from Apple, great CCO’s from agencies. It’s a great thing. I don’t think it’s just me. We found through our research that folks are having trouble with technology addiction.

Brian: We saw that in Apple’s keynote.

Mark: Tim Cook is right again. How many of us are working on attracting people’s attention and distracting people from paying attention, engaging them for as long as possible. Getting them to click for as long as possible. We’re all out there mastering the art of diverting people’s attention and casting a spell over their behavior. There’s an enormous amount of choice and my belief is that values have to come above business. I think values will drive business success, but you have to align. I believe we can help people solve this choice problem. We can help people control themselves a bit more, so they can get more satisfaction out of life. If we do that, the brands that do that are ultimately going to do better. This is why we focus on inspiring action brands and help people form more empowering habits and make more inspiring decision. That’s what we do.

Brian: I’m sure that’s hard to monetize.

Mark: Because people are desperate in situations like this, now because of what’s happened, I really believe that is what’s driving us into a direct-to-consumer marketplace. I think the brands that give you a better experience feel better afterward. This is why Facebook and Apple are doing this. They realize that there’s a limit on just pure behavior if people feel miserable, if they don’t feel empowered, they’re going to go elsewhere and there will be competition. Talking about the benefits of scale, the benefits don’t extend to be able to make people miserable forever. Government will rise up, too. I’m a challenger, but I don’t want to challenge through government. I want to create alternatives that give people incredible experiences. And I also would love to help brands like Apple and Google do that as well. But I think we have to give people better experiences of themselves, feeling empowered.

Brian: That’s an empowering place to leave things. This was excellent. Sounds like you’re doing good work. Thanks, Mark, appreciate you being on the show today.

Mark: Thanks Brian.

Bringing Weight Watchers Back From “The Brink of Irrelevance”

From AdAge:

“When ANA President Bob Liodice introduced Weight Watchers head of marketing today, he didn’t hold back when describing just how poorly Weight Watchers was doing in early 2015 – it was “at the brink of irrelevance.” Quite an introduction for Maurice Herrera.

In fact, January 2015 was one of the company’s worst January periods ever in terms of signups, says Herrera, who had joined the company just three months earlier. Timing was crucial, because the first quarter accounts for more than 40% of the company’s business, he notes. People were looking for other ways to lose weight, including wearable fitness trackers and Paleo dieting, resulting in Weight Watchers subscriptions dropping 25 percent year-over-year that quarter, Herrera recalled. Its stock skidded from $25 to $7 per share, he said, and fell even further that summer. Herrera had to lay off about 25 percent of his team of 30 or so people.

Herrera and his slimmed-down team, with agency DiMassimo Goldstein, came up with a more consumer-centric approach. “Since everyone believes that they have a unique challenge, it’s critical for them to look at Weight Watchers and see a bit of themselves in the brand,” Herrera says. “We needed to create a brand identity that felt accessible and relatable as well as aspirational.””

To read the rest of AdAge’s live blog, click HERE.

Last week, Maurice Herrera, the Head of Marketing for our inspiring action client, Weight Watchers, had the honor of speaking at the 2017 ANA “Masters of Marketing” event down in Orlando, Florida.

The event, which boasted over 2,500 attendees, is one of the biggest and best gatherings for senior marketers in the country.

Herrera was invited to speak about the transformative journey that Weight Watchers has enjoyed these past two years.  Together, with Herrera and his team, we’ve taken one of the country’s most historic brands and brought them back into the national spotlight, leading to seven consecutive seasons of brand growth. We couldn’t be prouder to be their agency.

Now that’s #inspiringaction.

Four Straight Years of Award-Winning Growth

On August 16th, it was announced that for the fourth straight year, DiMassimo Goldstein has made Inc. Magazine’s list of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.

Less than 10% of companies on the list appear more than three times, much less in consecutive years.

Our growth is a direct byproduct of the growth and fulfillment of our clients, so we truly mean it when we say that we share this award with all of them. Our clients are our partners, and they make our mission of inspiring action possible by inspiring each one of us here at DiMassimo Goldstein every day.

This recognition is also a reflection of our team members who work so hard to drive this organization forward every day. The first step toward growth is having a vision, but that vision is only as good as the culture and team that works to bring it to life. At DiMassimo Goldstein, we’re lucky to have all three.

When brands focus on purpose, rather than just profit, their marketing blaze tends to burn hotter and last longer.

We’re just heating up.

Onward!

 

DiMassimo Goldstein Named to Inc.’s List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies For The Third Year In A Row

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We’re very proud to announce that for the third year in a row, DiMassimo Goldstein has made the Inc. 5000 list of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.

That’s three years in a row of award-winning growth. Three years in a row of growing by helping our clients grow. And three years in a row of Inspiring Action.

And in the spirit of the number three, this recognition means three very important things to us:

First, it means that our team members – the action heroes who deliver on our mission everyday —  are growing. They are growing their expertise and their chops. They are growing as employees and human beings. And, they are growing as inspiring action marketers.

Secondly, it means that the Inspiring Action tribe, those who want to help people make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits, is growing.

And most importantly, it means that the world-class marketers and inspiring clients that we have partnered with are growing. As a true and un-conflicted agent of the client, we can only grow if our clients grow. So, congratulations!

And thank you for joining us on this inspiring journey of growth.

We’re building our clients brands and business, simultaneously driving brand value up and cost-per-acquisition down. We’re leading with transparent, accountable media. We’re pioneering new approaches to social-led, mobile-driven brand response marketing. We’re building the world’s leading brand response agency on Inspiring Action principles. And we’re not slowing down.

-The DiMassimo Goldstein Team

 

DiMassimo Goldstein Named to Inc.’s List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies For The Third Year In A Row.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.27.04 PM

We’re very proud to announce that for the third year in a row, DiMassimo Goldstein has made the Inc. 5000 list of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.

That’s three years in a row of award-winning growth. Three years in a row of growing by helping our clients grow. And three years in a row of Inspiring Action.

And in the spirit of the number three, this recognition means three very important things to us:

First, it means that our team members – the action heroes who deliver on our mission everyday —  are growing. They are growing their expertise and their chops. They are growing as employees and human beings. And, they are growing as inspiring action marketers.

Secondly, it means that the Inspiring Action tribe, those who want to help people make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits, is growing.

And most importantly, it means that the world-class marketers and inspiring clients that we have partnered with are growing. As a true and un-conflicted agent of the client, we can only grow if our clients grow. So, congratulations!

And thank you for joining us on this inspiring journey of growth.

We’re building our clients brands and business, simultaneously driving brand value up and cost-per-acquisition down. We’re leading with transparent, accountable media. We’re pioneering new approaches to social-led, mobile-driven brand response marketing. We’re building the world’s leading brand response agency on Inspiring Action principles. And we’re not slowing down.

-The DiMassimo Goldstein Team

 

On a Winning Streak

Internet World

When it comes to staking out Web territory, Mark DiMassimo didn’t exactly have first-mover status.  Up until a year ago, the 37-year-old founder of New York’s DiMassimo Brand Advertising wasn’t particularly interested in the Internet.  A year ago, only 5 percent of his company’s billings came from dot com accounts.

“My attitude then, “ he recalls, “was ‘What’s all the fuss about?’”

Today, much of the fuss is about his 37-person ad agency, which so far this year has landed three Internet accounts- SmartMoney.com, Kozmo.com, and edu.com- worth more than $40 million, and recently added another two whose identities he declined to disclose.  As a result, he expects dot coms to compromise more than 70 percent of 1999 billings, estimated to top $60 million, compared with 1998’s $25 million.

So how did DiMassimo go from Net no-show to hot dot-commodity? According to DiMassimo and his clients, it’s a combination of irreverence, prestigious offline experience- prior to founding DiMassimo in 1996, he worked at several agencies- and more irreverence.

Like many in advertising, DiMassimo has played agency hopscotch.  After majoring in social science in college, he tried the life of a professional musician before staking his creative efforts on copywriting. (Today, he plays the drums to brainstorm.)  After stints at BBDO and J. Walker Thompson, he moved to Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, a firm that appealed to DiMassimo because it took chances.  Kirshenbaum, for instance, had created the campaign for No Excuses jeans, hiring Donna Rice, the Money Business shipmate of former presidential candidate Gary Hart, to be its first spokesperson.

That approach matched DiMassimo’s own penchant for flouting convention, which stems in part from his religious background.  He’s not just an ex-Catholic, he’s a practicing ex-Catholic.  “I find that among ex-Catholics there’s a certain kind of dark, irreverent humor, because if you’re Catholic, and you’re irreverent, that’s sacrilege,” he says. “It’s a pretty serious thing to be irreverent about religious principals, so when you make that move as a Catholic, you commit to it.  It affects you deep down.”

At Kirshenbaum, he eventually became creative director, where that commitment was reflected in the Citibank AAdvantage card campaign, in which one of the ads shows an engagement ring on a finger and reads, “Was it love, or was it the miles?”

In 1996, DiMassimo decided to start his own firm; one that would blend creative with direct marketing.  Having worked in direct marketing during his early agency years, DiMassimo says he sensed a gap in coverage.  Companies launching new brands needed an agency that understood not only how to create brand awareness, but also how to reach consumers one-on-one.

It wasn’t until last year, however, that he realized the interactive Internet was the ultimate way to integrate the two.  From that point, DiMassimo went after Internet firms “with a vengeance,” as he put it, by emphasizing his direct marketing and creative experience, and the irreverence that since has been revealed in campaigns for Kozmo and edu.com.

DiMassimo says that early on in this corporate makeover he learned a lesson in dealing with Internet companies.  In the traditional advertising world, agencies are known by their work. Even if it’s a bad company, the good work will stand out, he contends.  But on the Internet, your dot com clients’ identities also play a role.  It’s not quite, “You are what you eat,” but more, “You are who feeds you.”

Says DiMassimo: “You’re known by your clients, and you’ll be positioned very quickly by whom you work with.”

Taking this advice, DiMassimo now finds himself interviewing potential clients as if he were investigating in the Internet firms.  He spends most of his initial meetings with prospective clients asking questions: What’s your business model? Who are your strategic partners? Who’s your competition? Where did you get your money? What’s your budget?

“I have to interview and it’s not because of arrogance,” DiMassimo explains.  “There’s so much of this kind of work chasing agencies that if people realize you’re in this business, you’ll be inundated with suitors in this area.  My advice is: Be polite, but don’t waste more than 30 seconds on the phone with anybody who doesn’t have money.  You can’t help that person.  Also, learn to say no to people who have money but the wrong business plan.”

DiMassimo’s belief that your current Internet company lineup influences potential clients isn’t universally shared, even by his clients.  During SmartMoney.com’s short agency review- it lasted only three weeks- the company wasn’t hung up on finding an agency with an Internet track record, says Peter Jurew, general manager of SmartMoney.com.  In fact, he adds, some agencies with extensive Internet work have produced lousy campaigns, something he attributes to the current market in which Internet accounts can be plucked like low-hanging fruit.

“There are agencies who are so busy that they’re not going to really change or try and reinvent themselves,” says Jurew.  “They’re sticking with what they’re doing because they’re getting so much work.  So we saw agencies who were good, but nothing that knocked us out.  Their stuff was the stuff you see all over the place.”

SmartMoney narrowed the list to four before choosing DiMassimo; a decision Jurew says was based on the agencies penchant for irreverence, its direct marketing experience, and on DiMassimo’s work at Kirshenbaum.

How Irreverent is DiMassimo? He doesn’t go for the Outpost.com approach, the gratuitously irreverent commercial in which mice are shot out of a cannon against a brick wall and viewers are told to send complaints to Outpost.com.  Instead, he strives for relevant irreverence.  Some of the firm’s work for shopping and delivery site Kozmo.com is brassy bordering on vulgar, but it calls for readers to buy a product, not register complaints.  For instance, DiMassimo placed Kozmo posters in bar restrooms.  The ad in the men’s room reads: “That girl’s a bitch. Why don’t you go home and rent a movie?”

DiMassimo explains, “You’re in a bar, talking to some girl, and you’re getting nowhere, and then you go into the bathroom and see this sign.”

Edu.com radio spots, meanwhile, brazenly make the point that the site is for students only.  The campaign uses respected figures such as a nun or a police officer to rudely explain how they are not welcome at edu.com.  In one, an announcer details the daring exploits of Officer Hanrahan then states, “We couldn’t give a rat’s ass” about Hanrahan because he’s not a student.

Popular with students, the campaign was what edu.com expected from DiMassimo, says Rob Levinson, edu.com’s director of marketing communications. “Mark had an edgy quality,” he says.  “He understood how to approach our market and we’re in the college space, which is even more irreverent that the rest if the Internet space.”

One thing the edu.com spots don’t do, DiMassimo notes, is explain too much- a continual problem among Internet companies.  Many Internet firms are introducing entirely new products or business models and their executives are often frustrated that consumers don’t understand exactly what they do.  So they become fixated on the idea that they should explain it all in their advertising.  This preoccupation, DiMassimo argues, leads to misguided expenditures of time and money.

“It doesn’t matter if people understand what you do, or how you do what you do.  What matters is, are people buying your product or service?” he says.  “I try to get my clients out of the explaining business, which is usually a frustrating, expensive, and fruitless business in advertising, and get them into the attraction business, attracting people to their sites and learning who they are.”

It’s a preoccupation DiMassimo essentially mocks in the non-restroom potion of the Kozmo campaign.  Kozmo promises to deliver orders in less than an hour, which seems an almost ludicrous boast.  Naturally, consumers are keen to know who it intends to achieve this, and DiMassimo built an outdoor radio and TV campaign based on explaining the process.  The catch is, the ads lie.  Rocket skates, turbo go-karts, and a delivery boy shot out of a cannon are all used to describe Kozmo’s impossible mission.

This offbeat, impious approach seems particularly well suited to young Internet firms and their youthful target markets, and the willingness of Net firms to push the envelope make them fun to work with, says DiMassimo. Then again, he notes, they can be also unusually demanding, preoccupied with quick results, and more volatile than offline clients. “They can be,” he says, half-laughing, “a pain in the ass to work with.”

In some quarters, that type of comment might put people off. But on the Internet, it appears to be a rather winning approach.

NYHRC Celebrates 40 Years of Advancing Fitness


Gothamist

New York Health & Racquet Club (NYHRC) put fitness on the map in NYC when it first opened its doors in 1973. Now, of course, New Yorkers have more exercise options than NYC has pizza joints. Yet they keep coming back to NYHRC, the original NYC health club, where they feel part of a tight-knit community of health-conscious people in pursuit of fitness and vitality.

At any of NYHRC’s nine Manhattan locations, virtually any fitness need or interest can be met, whether on your own and taking advantage of the well-equipped gym floor, or with the guidance of seasoned group fitness instructors and certified personal trainers.

NYHRC is truly in a class by itself, with amenities you won’t find at many other health clubs, including saltwater pools, squash and racquetball courts, basketball courts, a beach club and a yacht, perfect for beautiful sunset cruises around Manhattan.* (more…)