How To Make An Ad That Actually Works

This is not the striptease approach to making an ad.

You won’t be drooling and howling. Developing a proper advertisement has to have a template-a map-to bring your quality up to snuff. Failure is likely if you skip these steps. Lets briefly define the sections of the job:

Target Audience
Who are you actually speaking to? The early adapter, or the meat of the market? The low-hanging fruit or the skeptics? What is their age, gender, income and self-image? Shotgun a highly-targeted ad can deliver more bang for your buck.

Are you trying to sell a particular product or promote a whole brand? Should the reader go to your store, visit your website or call NOW? At the very least, create an association between your business and something your audience values. An example would be a tired person working late and an energy drink. 

Primary Message
There is a rule that if you tell a person three things, they will remember none of them. What’s the takeaway for the listener? State your message as one plain, complete sentence, such as “PF Flyers will make you run faster.” You are allowed to have other messages in your ad, but they will be a supporting cast. You should only have one main character. It creates a picture that is easy to understand quickly.

Supporting details
Back up the primary message with facts or claims, such as “PF Flyers are twice as light as the regular brand which are proven to help the long term health of your feet.” Be honest and don’t fib.

Creative approach
This is the fun part. It is also the most difficult. What visuals and headlines will work together to grab your audience by the lapels, knock them out of their chair and send a message that’s surprising, amusing, touching or stimulating? Showing PF Flyers make you better, you might show someone experiencing the opposite side of the coin—a sorry kid left behind by his inferior knockoff shoes that demonstrates what he has on will never compare. Or you might exaggerate the benefit with a kid that runs like the Flash when racing another kid. Embellishing the point with something unrealistic visually makes the concept easy to understand and sticks in the head of the viewer.

Decision Time
Make a decision on the dimensions and colors of your ad placement. Keep in mind that any ad smaller than a full-page will compete with everything else on the page.  Establish a visual hierarchy of information. And remember, space is your friend. Whatever the size, don’t cram too much in. It helps everything else do its job.

There are a lot of things to create here: brief, concept, headline, body copy, layout, initial proofs and the final file. Create a schedule by working backward from your deadline, allowing ample time at each step for review and feedback. A missed deadline can throw everything off. No matter what, have a smart person or two proofread it before it goes out the door. ONE typo or misspelling will haunt you til you die and no one will ever forget it.

Guide to Finding a Gig in LA

It is odd that you have this skill set that people in your native area don’t really have a use for, but the rest of the world does. As a native Northern Californian you would think from the outside that since I live in the same state it would be ok, but truthfully the entire culture is different from top to bottom. A round peg in a square hole. I was always out of place where I am from. Sure, I had family and friends. I trail of good jobs and solid network. However, none of them matched my vision. My goals were different. My skill-sets were different. My plans were different.

Then I took a trip to LA for a conference and I experienced the loud, traffic jammed, hustle, no sleep, will to be weird, laid back and trendy cultural landscape of Los Angeles. I could never go back to how things were before. My eyes were opened as a young person and professional. The crowd had the same mindset and goals. The lines blurred between friends and networking. Everything seemed like a mixer, but less cheesy and way more exciting. It good to be around the same people. This was home. I was an Angeleno all along.

Now the goal was to find a gig. I had plenty of work experience and the education to get me at least looked at. I wanted to be in either Entertainment, or the Agency side of advertising. Up north nothing like these pillars of American industry existed. It wasn’t even a thought for most of the people there. It was something they watched on TV, with little desire to participate in its creation. Which is what I always wanted. It is what my skill-set and interests demanded.

This is what I have figured out so far.

1. Be Genuine, People Can Smell A Fake

fakepeopleKnow who you are. Everyone here has come here to make it. Most people have heard some outlandish, or bragging rant that everyone in the room knows they are full of it. I have to say, after being here my BS indicator has become much more sophisticated. I get sometimes you hear, “You Gotta Fake It Til You Make It.” But there are repercussions for that, namely trust. When that’s lost your character, not just your reputation is at stake. Barbie isn’t real and Ken has no balls. Be careful when associating with them. Be even more aware so you don’t become them. 

2. One Third of LA’s Population Is Completely Full Of It

bsmeterRelating to the above post I think any typical resident knows it. My first go round in SoCal ended badly after believing someone was what they weren’t. Time and money lost on scale that almost didn’t allow me to recuperate. Pain is an equal opportunity teacher. If you aren’t long time friends – get it in writing.

3. It Really is About ‘Who You Know’ and That Isn’t Necessarily Bad


For all you wallflowers out there let this headline terrify you. For me, this wasn’t a bad thing. It could be the best part. About a week ago I was at a beach party in Santa Monica. I was drinking a beer that was delivered to me on the beach by this start-up called Saucy, talking to people in a side of LA which you couldn’t get past gatekeepers unless you knew someone. They were great people. Doing things with their careers which I moved here for. I looked out at the ocean with the pier faded in the background, there were beautiful happy people everywhere, the weather was perfect and I had made some great new acquaintances. Life was good. Networking is serendipitous when you are being real and not trying to get something from everyone.

4. Treat It Like A Courtship Not A One Night Stand


Be willing to put in work. In the beginning you are the new kid in town. Even with social media and the ability to look up your life at a moments notice, this is a huge opportunity both personally and professional to be that person you are with out any other preconceptions about you. For this reason also, take it slow when meeting new people. Don’t hussle them. It feels sleezy. You always want to work with person and not a sales person. Don’t rush it. Make it a process. Some of the connections I have made a conferences and events have become some of my closest friends. That is because I took a genuine approach to peoples needs and where my skill set fit in with their goals. LA has it all, you’ll find your crew.

5. Don’t Get Caught Up In The Scene


Like I said, LA has it all. Every food type 24 hours, clubs, bars, beaches, and plenty of amazing people to meet that are here to make life awesome. I had alcohol delivered to me and my friends while in a chair on the beach…they didn’t offer that anywhere in Sacramento. For this reason you must exude self-restraint and keep your priorities in order. You came here to make those dreams happen right? How is that going to get done when you go out for the third night in a row? Not exactly the formula for peak performance. I always like to refer to Tim Ferris in this matter. A man with many circles and abilities his message from the 4-Hour series was clear.  Make a system that you can’t break to complete your goals.

6. This Is The Jungle…Things Will Eat You


Meet new people. Get to know them. Beware. This is one of the most competitive environments in the country. Keep your wits about you. People talk about things and make things up. There are hustlers. It is a rough town if you don’t watch yourself. By all means enjoy. Always remember there is always a possible predator…and it may eat you if you aren’t aware of what they look like. Sure, it’s tough now. You’re just starting out. Your goal is to become the lion. Because with a city as amazing as LA working to be king is worth the struggle. 


Understanding Google Analytics: Not As Hard As You Think

For anyone involved in online marketing —and whether you realize it or not, if you are in business, you are involved in online marketing —it is very important to be familiar with Google Analytics. This free service provides a wealth of information, from how many visitors your site has to where they come from, how they find you, and at what point on your site they leave.

However, it is important to understand some of the terms used on the site and in the field of search engine optimization (SEO). Some of these terms are very easy to understand, while others are a bit more complicated. The following are some of the key terms you will need to know in order to understand what Google Analytics is trying to tell you about performance of your website.

Total visits. This is the big picture. This measures the total number of visits to your website on, for instance, your home page. If you are analyzing this metric, be sure to look at data for at least several months or even up to a year. Look for the “monthly trend”: You want to see this number increasing.

Sessions. This is a very broad term. It can tell you how many of your site’s visitors are new (unique visitors) and how many are back for another visit (recurring visitors). However, you can expand this metric to also tell you how many visitors found your site through organic traffic (for instance, using a search engine to find you) or via a social media site, and how many were directed to your site from a paid referral service. It also tells you how long visitors stay on your site.

Bounce rate. This term is a bit confusing, but very important. Say a visitor finds your site, takes a look at your home page, and then moves on without examining your site any further. This visitor has “bounced,” likely moving on to some other location on the web. It is important to keep your bounce rate as low as possible. You want your visitors to hang around and see what you have to offer. If you have a high bounce rate, Google Analytics can also tell you where visitors were on your site when they left, which can help you make changes to bring your bounce rate down.

Conversions. This is another very important term. For e-commerce businesses, this is a dollars and cents term. If someone visits your site and makes a purchase, bingo: Your website has converted this visitor into a customer. But even signing up for a newsletter, clicking to watch a product video, or filling out a contact form are examples of conversions. You want this number to continue to grow.

Geography. As you might expect, this tells you where most of your site visitors are located. This metric always offers a surprise or two.

Social media. Are visitors finding your site on LinkedIn? Facebook? Google+? Knowing this information can help you determine where you should put most of your marketing efforts—or where more efforts are needed. This has larger implications of what type of content you should be creating because this is directly related to qualifying. Factors like attention span, sophistication, age and the time of day you are posting all matters here. This is where you SEM and SEO campaigns begin to merge into a integrated strategy. Which we will explore later on.

While there are many other metrics to explore (including “customer value,” “cost per lead,” “lead to close,” “customer retention rate,” and others that are more specific to e-commerce sites), the bottom line is that Google Analytics can tell you how well your site is performing and, even more important, what the trends are causing success or failure. It is important to become familiar with the system and these different terms to make better decisions to improve your site’s performance for a greater return on your investment.

 If you have any questions, or a project you would like to work with me on. I have a wide range of expertise and skill in this field. Please contact me at


Thank You!

Branding Big Companies For The First Time

I have worked with smaller growing companies in the past. Their structure is flexible, their identity isn’t as established. It is in a way creatively limitless to the inexperienced. There are some cons with the little guys. You may have a grandiose idea that would do amazing things for them. After creating the story board, faux prints, data, a clean spreadsheet and a nice presentation – it is out of the budget, they have limited knowledge of business terms, or advanced techniques for brand awareness. Simply, they aren’t apart of that market which has a want, or need for that level of services. Then one day you get a chance to use those ideas in your head. Those notebooks can get used for the right company. The right brand. The right target audience. One of the big guys likes your style and wants to use your mind to help his company do better.



I am lucky enough to have a good rolodex of contacts in various industries and this one in particular (entertainment, professional sports and national NPOs) worked completely in my favor. I learned the ins-and-outs of how to take this campaign from a proposal – to presentation – to reality. It takes time to build report with any industry professional especially when there are other brands involved. Finding how one company’s artist works with a franchise’s image. What are the long term benefits from the partnership? Where will the income increase by implementing this strategy?

Creating everything from guerrilla video tactics, timed-PR releases, authentic presence on social media by find a campaign where users generate their own content – so much of it was excitingly overwhelming. It was all the things I had been working towards independently when I was sub-contracting. So much of it was trying to mimic tactics used by larger companies in an effort to replicate those kinds of results for start-ups and small to midsize companies I worked with. It was like there were no rules as long as the rules made you win. All the resources available to you.

I worked with a small team and together with our combined expertise we pull off something amazing. It was gratifying in a way I can’t fully describe when I was able to see the work myself and my colleagues did appear and be appreciated. I learned something. I was so used to working solo on helping companies make themselves better – I was able to be better because of a team that was just as motivated as me. With our range of experience of expertise, skills and contacts we did something none of us would’ve been able to do on our own. That is something I wish to do again. 

Pissed Your Content Isn’t Working?

You did everything right. You studied your target audience. Late nights of red-bull til sunrise working on concepts. You produced a full campaign. You called the radio station. You were on TV. The sponsors were there. The graphic content was beautiful and focused.

AND there is basically no traction. 

Obviously I have been there. It sucks. It’s like playing against someone that is way better at a game than you and they are laughing as they kick your ass.

…slightly dramatic, but I am a type A. I hate to lose.


Lets work this one out with some advice from Pulp Fiction. 


1.) Be Cool Like Fonzie.

 DON’T PANIC. Focus. Check your metrics. Lay the full board on the table. Note any instinctual weaknesses. If they don’t make sense, pull someone aside and have them look at it with you. Two heads are better than one and likely another idea will come up. If your client wants to pull out. Sit them down and see if there is a way everyone can get what they want with a few changes to the initial plan.

2.)  Engage Your Audience.

NOW.  Why are you reading this still? Do it. Direct message people. Ask questions. Comment back. Tweet back. Search hashtags and post. People will be brutally honest so put on your big boy/girl pants, suck it up and get ready for news you don’t like to hear. It is medicine. You don’t take medicine unless you need to…AND you do. I have had people say something was overpriced and 15 people like it. I adjusted slightly. Explained it’s cost and got a positive response for engaging. Do it. It is a good thing and people outside of the conversation will notice.

3.) Re-Engage.

It was pricing. It was the look. It was placement. It wasn’t funny. It didn’t tell them enough. Probe. Brainstorm. Adjust quickly once something is being found ineffective and get it taken care of ASAP.  And remove the garbage like it like a cyst. Sow it up. Re-engage those customers after. Update them.

4.) Taking A Risk To Bring It Back To Life.

You have no idea if it will work. You are all watching attentively. A moment of silence. Two, or three hours. My God. It worked. You kept your cool, took a risk on the seat of your pants. BOOM! A miracle. Great job. You just saved the day. A man, or woman of legend. 

It is going to be stressful. You are going to feel unsure. It’s more than likely going to be something radical that grabs peoples attention. Why are you doing anything at all if that’s not your plan? Trust Thyself, or Bust Thyself. 

5.) Attack.

Post it. Share it. Blog it. Interview. Call people to share if you’re just starting. Go to the place your target audience would hang out and ask them if they know about you. It is ballsy, but I did it. Not only did they tell me yes, they told me why and why they wouldn’t be interested. Don’t stop once the adjustment is made. Keep the pace til the frenzy happens. One of the main reasons things don’t work after adjustment is because people stop doing what gave them the result once they have the result. 

6.) Get Over It. Move Forward. night animated GIF

Marketing is sometimes this obscure beast. Especially for personal brands, creatives and start-ups. You have this idea in your head of who you are talking to. Kind of like taking a girl out for the first time. You know you’re attracted to her. She’s has all these qualities you’re looking for. The truth is most of the time you have no idea who it is you’re talking to. That’s why brands speak to us on a deep level when we use them for so long. The dynamics change and shift as the relationship moves along. In order for you to get your needs both parties need to be satisfied. That happens by listening to what your audience has to say attentively. It is always about the details. You don’t get those the first time.

So your hard work didn’t pay off the first time. So what? If you came up with that idea, there are 5 more to follow up on which are probably written in a notebook, a cloud file, or a napkin. Pull it out and take it to the puzzle factory. If you say you’re sorry, show you’ve changed and put yourself out there…I am sure they will give you a second chance.

What You Need To Finish Your Marketing Plan

It’s sometimes a challenge. Anyone who has started a company (or worked for one) and actually cares knows the sometimes grueling process of taking something creative and making it into a comprehensible business format. It’s like catching flies. There are so many and they buzz everywhere. Your job is to catch them like Mr Miyagi. Your keyboard is the chopstick. All hail the Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy & Protein Shake Cocktail. Play the ambient mix on Spotify and bring on the challenge. 

What You Will Need:

1. One Five Hour Energy, Two Red Bulls & A Protein Shake


If you want to feel the boom like a presenter at a network marketing event then chug down and buckle in. Sometimes you are making this happen the night before (after working on it diligently all week of course) and crunch time is here. Luckily college trained you for this and you’re no pansy. Caffeine is your sword to conquer the mighty forces of destruction, client satisfaction and seemingly impossible deadlines. 

Warning: You might die by drinking all these at once. 


 2. A Good Spotify Playlist


Don’t Worry About Changing The Song. It Distracts You From Whats Important. If You Don’t Have Spotify, Use Mine. Tried & True. Also Majestic Mixes on YouTube is great as well.


Bands: Tycho, Washed Out, Boards of Canada and some classic DeadMau5. You’re drinking massive homepage_large.5c66ed4damounts of caffeine after all. 

This is just my opinion. Electronic and Folk seem to do the trick. Whatever floats your boat.




3. Scratch Paper


Einstein, Hemingway, Curie, Newton…Don Draper. All intellectuals of stature use scratch paper. It may seem primitive, but it works. Take your hipster ass off the screen and onto paper. Sometimes it flows easier.  

Hint: If it doesn’t write initially write on the paper push down on the back end of the utensil. You should hear a *CLICK* at which point an ink tip will pop out. This is called a pen. You will be fine.

Que the Space Odyssey 2001 theme song. 


4. Facebook Turned Off 


Be Real With Yourself. You Want Just A Little Hit…Just One…It’ll Only Take 5 Minutes…

This includes any other distracting Social Media that isn’t business related. Don’t dick around. Get in the zone and stay there. The internet has too many entertaining Vine, Instagram & YouTube videos to be trusted. Despite what you have told yourself while texting, driving, drinking  your coffee and watching a YouTube video simultaneously. The human brain is much better when mono-tasking. Don’t do it. I believe in you.

5. Ready…Set…


Walk through the steps in your head. Keep it simple. The summary and slogan dictate the brand…stay on track. Make sure everything is in key with that. Remember your training. Dive in and let the part of marketing that is work flow from you. 



E-Cigarettes: Regulations, Opportunity & #Vooping. Yes, It’s A Real Thing.

It wasn’t going to be an easy road for the “smoking alternative” companies, or the E-Cigarette to compete against the well embedded nicotine giants. After all, they have lobbied for years using billions of dollars with no avail to change the minds of government officials to let them do as they please. If the new kids on the block thought they were going to just come in and grab that market share unregulated…today is a day of reckoning.

VAPPENAs a non-smoker, curiosity gripped me. It is futuristic array of flavorful choices and with a healthier alternative to traditional smoking; it had a cool factor with the glow that memorized me like a bug. I’ve tried E-Cigarettes of all types. To the standard Blu to a customized piece worth $200 that uses flavored “juice” that is heated and turned to vapor by a battery pack with a digital interface for optimal smoking comfort. It is a smoking product for Gen-Y.

As someone who enjoys picking people’s brains on why they chose the product, use the product and have loyalty – every E-Smoker is a brand ambassador for their product. Religious about how it works, its benefits to the consumer and how it “helped them quit smoking.” They are involved with the product the same way Apple and Android advocates are.


It is an advertisers wet dream. Extreme loyalty means there is a culture in the system and consumers are picking sides. Although the regulations are looming on advertising, the getting is still good. Think of how many commercial opportunities there are for social media advertising.

On Instagram right now there is a trend called #VOOPING and use your imagination to put the pieces together. Yes. It is people vaporizing while doing their business. It’s a real thing and you’re looking it up right now. You’re welcome. Seriously, go look. 

Like most digital products the design isn’t confined by it’s function. It’s not an analog product as far as cigarettes go. It will also be interesting to see where their looks evolve as they become more efficient, sophisticated and mainstream in the smoking community.

VAPCUSTOMThe package it comes in won’t be the only thing that makes it recognizable. Vaporizers have an intimate level of ownership that great products usually have. There is plenty of room for new competitors to enter the market to improve what’s there for the demand that is consistently growing. It is going to be interesting to watch and to be involved in.

Christopher Pickerel is experienced and educated in the area of digital branding and marketing. Follow him on twitter to get updated on his latest blog posts, content and videos at @CAPICK, or email him at

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