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December 2013 - Posts

  • Why You Shouldn't Be a Resolutionist

    Dec 27 2013

    It's that time of the year when we start thinking, "I really want to be more _________. Or, starting January 1, I'm going to do ________ every day for two hours." And exactly how many times has that stuck?

    What works better for me is to slowly ramp up the new habits or behaviors.

    One of the thought leaders I follow, Gretchen Rubin, agrees. She asks if she's starting small enough. "Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. Start small! Little accomplishments provide energy for bigger challenges. Push yourself too hard and you may screech to a halt."

    We can apply the same philosophy to building a brand. A startup - or an existing company with a new product - can't expect to jump from being unknown to a household name overnight. A solid brand strategy that aligns with your values must be established, then the work begins with many smaller steps that lead toward a larger goal of creating a solution or keeping a resolution.

    Keep the intent true to your values, the promises small, the actions consistent and before you know it, you'll reach that big goal. And without the resolution that feels insurmountable and overwhelming. You can do it!

    Harvey Scott Kaner - Copywriter
  • Jarring them with Jargon

    Dec 26 2013

    Every industry has its buzzwords, jargon, lingo. Marketers are no exception.

    If the point of marketing communications is to draw people in, connect with them emotionally, then get them to take action, using jargon might be working against us. Ever heard someone say something like this?

    "The key takeaway was that, with the proper ideation and enough bandwidth, we can pivot, achieving synergy and a results-oriented strategy."

    What? You get the idea, but not the meaning. So, as a New Year's resolution.

    Speak plainly - don't make people work hard to understand you. In this day of instant gratification and distilling things down to 5 easy steps, the chances of anyone wading through jargon-filled sentences are slim to none. What are some buzzwords that really bug you? Ping us below ; )

    Harvey Scott Kaner - Copywriter
  • Getting Enthused About Niche Networks

    Dec 19 2013

    Far from being fringe, niche social networks with special interests at the core are growing rapidly. Fan clubs and forums have been an integral part of the internet ecosystem since its outset, but fatigue of massive social networks is fueling the popularity of these smaller places. Several brands have already tapped into specialized audiences, with efforts ranging from proprietary platforms like American Express’s OPEN Forum to events in partnership with enthusiast groups.

    Users of niche social networks tend to be extremely active and can be highly influential. However, they seek genuine community or real life solutions and are wary of being targeted. PR and marketing professionals must understand the enthusiast psyche and know how to interact within their network to make the time and resource investment worthwhile.

    Enthusiast networkers seek:
    •    Stories that reinforce being part of their community
    •    Solutions to common problems they face
    •    First-looks and access to new products before they hit the mainstream
    •    Other enthusiasts
    •    “Insider” information
    •    Demonstrations
    •    A place to give feedback

    Tips for successfully engaging with enthusiast networks
    •    Employ someone from the network you are targeting as community manager or to advise on  outreach to the specific audience.
    •    Walk the talk. Even if you’ve been hired to bring marketing expertise, research accordingly to ensure a thorough understanding of your consumer..
    •    Don’t assume mass marketing tactics will work. Often, enthusiasts are savvier than typical consumers and will ignore (or worse, scorn) your brand if you’re not genuine.
    •    Be transparent and feed members with behind the scenes anecdotes s and sneak previews.


    Erna Adelson - Social Media Specialist

  • Do the Best Places to Work Produce the Best Work? Howie Cohen Weighs In

    Dec 18 2013

    For many people in our industry, doing their "best work" has nothing to do with working at a "best place to work."

    A telling anecdote: One of my colleagues used to work at a highly decorated international agency known for edgy creative. One day, one of the senior staff was reviewing his company's "Best Places" survey results and noted that they were ranked rather low. Just then, a creative director came in and yelled, "I don't want to be on that list…it means employees are coddled and get to do whatever they want. We're all about the work!"

    This is not an uncommon point-of-view: one must suffer for the craft. There must be conflict, fighting, Sturm und Drang. "This ad is crap." "Get the hell out of my office before I burn your script." Or, on a more personal note, "This ad (and therefore you) sucks!"

    Can this kind of behavior produce the best work? At some creative agencies, it can and often does. But at what cost? I've been thinking about this because Phelps was recently listed as a "Best Place to Work" (by the Los Angeles Business Journal) for the 7th year in a row, and I wonder what effect this has had on our work.

    First, to define terms, the annual list of "Best Places to Work" is developed by an independent third party research organization that administers a standard employee questionnaire across a variety of industries, with about 15-20% of them hailing from the advertising, PR, digital, creative and production sectors.

    Most surveys are conducted online, and there are two major components: the employer completes a benefits and policies survey and employees complete an engagement and satisfaction survey which focuses on areas such as leadership, communications, work environment and supervisor relationships. So, from an employee perspective, it's this level of engagement and satisfaction that more closely defines a "best place."

    And what constitutes the "best work?" One place to look is the myriad of awards contests held throughout the year…from the international Cannes Lions to the local Addy Awards. In fact, if anyone has the inclination, it would be possible to count the awards and somehow correlate to a "Best Place" ranking. But this is often impossible as many big shops don't even participate in the list survey and it would be just as difficult to assign a value to both the quantity and quality of awards.

    Here's what the survey revealed about Phelps: our 85 associates say they like our flat structure, organized in client-based teams with no departments to divide us and no bosses to boss us. They embrace the responsibility that comes with these self-directed teams – as well as the freedom that gives wing to their creativity. According to our people, they actually like coming to work every day, have respect for one another and like the culture of open, honest feedback and collaboration. They don't shy away from criticizing the work, but they're mindful of doing it constructively and respectfully.

    Of course, if you're us, this is all great to hear. But does it produce the "best work? At our agency, we define great work as big creative ideas that deliver immediate sales results while building our clients' brands for the future.

    Let's look at the record. We're fortunate to have a lot of great clients and they stay with us for a long time--more than half of them have been with us for over a decade. Since these are quality clients that could choose any agency they want, we assume they stay with Phelps because they're convinced we're doing the best work for them.

    As an added bonus, we've won more than our share of advertising industry creative awards, all of which leads me to one conclusion: being a "best place to work" definitely produces better quality work. And just as importantly, a better quality of life. Many of our associates have been with us for a long time, (10, 15 and 20+ years) while we've had the usual steady stream of new blood turnover, it's the combination that seems to work.

    For the record, I've now served at both types of companies. Early on in my career, I worked at such groundbreaking creative shops as Doyle Dane Bernbach and Wells Rich Greene where a "best place to work" was exclusively a function of the creative output. Employee satisfaction wasn't even secondary.

    I built my career there and enjoyed this way of life for a long time…until I didn't. Maybe it's a personal life-stage issue. When you're starting out, you're willing to tolerate, and even embrace, harsh working conditions in the pursuit of killer creative. But with time and experience, the pain of long hours and unmitigated stress can become a killer in itself. That's when we begin to seek more balance in our lives and quality long-term relationships.

    So, do the "best places to work" produce the "best work?" The answer may be as elusive and subjective as the nature of creativity itself, and it depends on how one defines "best work." Awards are great, but this is a business. If clients aren't happy, who cares?

    It's often said that "conflict is an essential part of the creative process," and that resistance and a critical orientation are key to pushing the envelope to breakthrough work. But I also know "we can disagree without being disagreeable." Civility and honesty can coexist. While this business is about the quality of work, it shouldn't be at the expense of quality of life.

    Howie Cohen - Chief Creative Officer


    This article was originally published by MediaPost on Dec. 17, 2013

  • Why Phelps Remains Independent After 33 Years

    Dec 17 2013

    Our founder, Joe Phelps, shares why Phelps has thrived as an independent agency for over three decades, why top talent is more likely to succeed given the freedom that an independent agency can provide, and ultimately, what he’s doing to live longer than the average marketing executive. This point of view originally appeared as commentary in the Los Angeles Business Journal on Nov 25.  

    Imagine an industry where many decisions are minute to minute, and where 80 percent of most companies' revenue is concentrated in fewer than 10 clients. Now imagine the pressure of having your important decisions approved in a timely fashion by someone who doesn't know these clients, is in a different time zone and might be more focused on pleasing stockholders in the short term than your clients in the long term.

    Those are just a few of the reasons why our company, Phelps, has remained independent for 33 years. Over the decades, as one of California's largest independent integrated advertising and PR agencies, we've received inquiries from multinational marketing conglomerates. But it has never made sense to me to sell our company to one of them. Right now, the world's two largest agency holding companies, Omnicom and Publicis Groupe (each of which own a few agencies in Los Angeles), are undergoing a merger that could have an effect on many in the business community.

    Mergers and acquisitions are very common ways to grow in our industry. We've acquired five small agencies over the past 15 years. And we've been on the receiving end of many tempting offers to sell. So why not? When the subject comes up, some of my first thoughts are: "Life's too short." "Too much stress." "It's not all about the money."

    Click to read the article in its entirety at the Los Angeles Business Journal

  • 5 ways to boost your online video impact

    Dec 17 2013

    Video will account for almost 90% of internet traffic by 2017. But if online video is so powerful, why isn't it boosting your bottom line? Here's how to supercharge your online video for better results:

    1. SLIM BOOST: Consumers give up on video after 2 seconds of loading. Shed file weight: compress your video more or trim it into skinnier segments.

    2. OPTIMUM BOOST: If people can't find your video, they're not going to watch it. A healthy video is always optimized AND promoted.

    3. QUICK BOOST: 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. To survive, your video must be interesting AND brief. Revive it by shortening and replacing boring segments with more dynamic content.

    4. EXERCISE BOOST: Make sure your video is viewable on the go. 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others.

    5. PRO BOOST: 2 out of 3 consumers prefer professionally produced product videos, and sound quality is a key factor in perceived quality. Employ external microphones, sound effects and custom music to give your video the biggest boost.

    The most successful videos involve a healthy dose of all five, but even one boost can make a big difference.


    Maria Brenner - Writer/Producer

  • Impact is King

    Dec 17 2013

    Today, brand equity and affinity are tied to a company’s level of transparency and global impact more than ever before. According to Nielsen’s Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, "50% of global consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services from socially responsible businesses." The 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study further confirms this, reporting that "89% of Americans are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality." Today, it’s not traditional advertising or social media, public relations or social impact—these are all essential parts of the new, integrated marketing mix.

    Ubiquitous technology and our unprecedented level of engagement with brands means it’s no longer viable for companies to turn a blind eye to irresponsible business practices that adversely affect people and planet in exchange for profit. Brands that live in a self-consumed, "profit is king" vacuum will feel its reverberations throughout their business operations—from the kind of talent they attract to their customer loyalty.

    "Do well, do good, and do no harm in the process," is baseline now. Consumers are demanding more and they can smell inauthentic cause campaigns, benevolent window-dressing or "green washing" from miles away. The new consumer mandate demands that corporations reassess how they will create shared value. It requires them to meaningfully inculcate social impact into who they are and what they do—at every level.

    Sara Nazarian - PR Specialist

  • Phelps Friday Roundup 12/13

    Dec 14 2013

    Some very contagious content, how to create it, and other things we enjoyed this week...

    This small-business owner responded to a rant on his company's Facebook Page that reminded us all what is really important during this hectic time of year. It was posted to Reddit and spread like wildfire.

    A graceful and compelling explanation of the business of responsive design. #Longread

    Jonah Berger on how to create contagious content.

    Google + paid ads: You may soon see your G+ stream repeated back to you in ads.

    Chris Bosh's ode to code.

  • Phelps takes home Gold and Silver Bulldog Digital Awards for work with Tetra Pak and Monrovia

    Dec 13 2013

    Bulldog reporter

    The 2013 Bulldog Digital/Social PR Awards for Excellence in Online Communications were announced today by Bulldog Reporter. Phelps received a Gold award in the Best Use of Digital and Social for a Food/Beverages/Restaurant Campaign for "Milk Unleashed," an educational campaign created for Tetra Pak to help moms get their kids to drink more milk.

    The agency received a Silver award in the Best Organizational E-Newsletter External Category on behalf of client Monrovia and its "Plant Savvy" Gardening E-Newsletter, produced each month by Phelps.  

    Winners were chosen exclusively by working journalists from hundreds of entries representing the very best strategic and tactical prowess that PR and corporate communications has to offer. Campaigns were judged by a team of working journalists, who assessed them on the basis of their ability to achieve extraordinary visibility and influence opinion, creativity, command of media and technology, and tenacity.

    Bulldog Reporter publishes the Daily 'Dog online trade journal, the PR/communication industry's largest circulation publication, and is the industry's premier provider of professional development events and materials.

    Click to read the official announcement from the Bulldog Reporter.

  • Phelps Friday Roundup 12/6

    Dec 06 2013

    New technology for cyclists, the big responsibilities that come with big data, and some other great marketing stories and tools we enjoyed this week...

    The Copenhagen Wheel. technology that improves the bike commute.

    This story about data and flu season reminds us why big data and storytelling must go hand in hand. Also, it's a great PR plug for hand sanitizer.

    Ron Burgundy's transmedia blitz continues with a promotional liquor.

    Uber stays top of mind during a very busy holiday season with another partnership that we have officially deemed brilliant. After delivering kittens to NYC to raise awareness for the ASPCA, they collaborated with Home Depot to deliver Chrismas Trees on Dec 5.

    British retailer Harvey Nichols made us LOL with this ad. They know their customer.

  • Facebook announces a new algorithm and media relations is more important than ever

    Dec 05 2013

    With the launch of Facebook's new algorithm yesterday, users will see more news and story links in their newsfeeds. What does that mean for brands? Good old fashioned media relations, or pitching journalists to garner coverage "in the news" is as important as ever.

    "Earned" media often refers to content sharing via social channels – but it's important to remember one of the most powerful aspects of true earned media is third party endorsement (aka securing a real live working journalist) to write about our clients. And, interesting stories from credible news sources will likely get more engagement, which makes a strong case for brands to further integrate their earned strategies.

    Kristen Bergevin - Vice President, Public Relations

  • Well, well, wellness

    Dec 04 2013

    Following on the heels of "Black Friday," "Cyber Monday" and "Giving Tuesday," we're thinking "Wellness Wednesday." We're grateful for the Thanksgiving feasts we enjoyed, but the overindulgence and madness of holiday shopping haven't made for the best week health-wise. So today, we're pledging to eat more fruits and veggies, fewer sugary treats, drink more water, exercise and go to sleep earlier. And, in the spirit of the season, treat ourselves and others with some natural, healthy ways to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. Here are a few of our favorite healthier-for-all gift items:

    • A subscription to a local produce provider (in LA,, but you can find local produce providers in your area by searching on
    • Natural skin care products from Whole Foods Market, like their organic lip balm trio
    • A classic goodie: A yoga mat 
    • Durable running socks
    • Organic; fair trade coffee beans that support the Rainforest Alliance. We found some we like at Brooklyn Roasting Co.
    • Wearable technology that tracks personal fitness
    • A succulent. These plants are water-wise, and can remove pollutants from the air and renew oxygen. We recommend Monrovia's extensive selection.


  • On Tuesday, Selfless is the new Selfie

    Dec 02 2013

    Had enough of #selfies? Well now's the time to get in on the backlash and show the world how selfless you and others really are. Use the hashtags #UNselfie and #GivingTuesday (especially on Giving Tuesday, 12/3), to tweet about compassionate acts of kindness.

    How about taking it beyond a tweet? Consider donating to our very deserving client, City of Hope, to help support life-saving cancer research and treatment. Or, if you have more time than money, what about donating blood to City of Hope cancer patients in need? Either way, the holiday season is a good time to get involved in #GivingTuesday.

    This Tuesday, spread the good!

    Harvey Kaner - Copywriter