September 15th, 2016

Interactive Producer/Project Manager

Hi. We’re Mortar, a San Francisco advertising and branding agency dedicated to helping companies make strategic marketing decisions and developing A-ha Moments that connect brands with their community. We need a ruthless Interactive Producer/Project Manager who can help us tackle the piles of new work knocking down our door. Details are your name, and maintaining project momentum is your game. This ain’t your first rodeo—you’ve got chops and have managed all size and manner or web projects and digital campaigns.  At Mortar, you’ll promote collaboration and communication, working regularly with our internal creative, account, strategy, and new business teams as well as external media and development partners. We aren’t fans of egos, or department walls. We believe in working hard together, and being on time (especially when it’s Friday-4pm-drink-cart time).

What you’ll do:

  • Manage (and in some cases, help execute) a variety of interactive projects (mainly websites and banner campaigns, but sometimes apps and other cool stuff).
  • Collaborate with the Creative team during the interactive process (discovery, sitemap, information architecture, UI design, development) – collaboration means actively reviewing, offering insight/critiques on the work and ensuring it considers clients’ requests and business needs. Also researching technological solutions and advising on feasibility of executing groundbreaking creative ideas.
  • Facilitate client presentations and be the point-of-contact for client communications for day-to-day project details.
  • Keep projects within scope and timeline, and create estimates for out-of-scope work. Work with Finance to ensure accurate/timely invoices and payments.
  • Create functionality docs & development notes for our external development partners. Ensuring deliverables (e.g. layered PSDs) are complete and intended functionality is properly documented for project kickoffs.
  • Manage content population & QA process between client & developers.
  • Edit HTML/CSS/JS ad hoc, create HTML email templates, edit Flash banners, etc.
  • Create timelines and cost estimates and/or full proposals for new business projects.
  • For digital media campaigns: verify creative meets spec, generate tracking pixels, and upload creative units to ad servers.
  • Research new technologies and vendor solutions.

What we’re looking for:

  • You have 3-5 years of experience in a similar role (agency experience preferred).
  • You are resourceful. If you don’t know something, you can Google it, learn it, and do it, or regurgitate it out to others.
  • You are organized and detail-oriented. You’ll need to document everything, especially things related to development scope.
  • You are comfortable communicating with anyone, from clients to creatives to developers.
  • You can multitask like a mofo. You’ll likely be working on multiple projects at a time, so you need to know how to prioritize.
  • You have firsthand experience with:
    • Popular CMS platforms, such as Expression Engine, WordPress, and Drupal
    • Banner campaign trafficking – checking specs and clicktags, liaising with publishers; experience with using ad serving platforms (e.g. Mediamind, FlashTalking) is a plus
    • Email HTMLs – their design limitations and the coding approach to take; experience with using online mail campaign services (e.g. Mailchimp, Vertical Response, Constant Contact) is a plus
  • You are familiar with modern web technologies and trends, e.g. responsive design, jQuery, HTML5, mobile, etc.
  • You can type fast and perform tasks on the computer quickly (keyboard shortcuts, etc.). Familiarizing yourself with different computers, devices and technologies comes second-nature to you.
  • You are proficient with:
    • Desktop publishing programs (MS Office and iWork Suite)
    • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash)
    • Hand-coding (or editing existing) HTML/CSS/JS/PHP
  • These are all pluses:
    • You come from a design or programming background.
    • You can do sitemaps and/or wireframes.
    • You can do video editing.
    • You’re familiar with Google Analytics and its tracking/reporting capabilities.

To be considered, send your resume and a little bit about yourself to: iwanttowork@mortaragency.com

 

September 10th, 2016

What does it mean to market in the Cross-Cloud era?

Cross-Cloud era: official first whiteboard.

First whiteboard: the Cross-Cloud era lives. Palo Alto April 22, 2016.

Strategic Marketing Decisions (SMDs) don’t come any bigger than last week’s announcement of VMware’s new cross-cloud architecture (which we helped create). With cross-cloud VMware is betting there is more money to made in catering to business’ need to consume different clouds than there is in building and marketing its own cloud.Here’s just some of what this, the single biggest decision about cloud since, well, the beginning of cloud (*celestial trumpets blare*), could mean for marketers like us:

Cross-cloud is a massive new playground for innovation and delight.

There are already a lot of clouds. Microsoft, Amazon and Google are the public clouds we know. But others also offer clouds: Joyent, Ninefold, Rackspace. Thousands more flavors are sure to follow. We must now shift from thinking of cloud as something offered by a small number of massive vendors to how we will surf across multiple environments custom-built for us by smaller, nimbler, more specialized providers. And VMware is the first of many trusted guides.

Existing notions of hybrid cloud (public/private cloud) too will need to expand to allow for workloads that span the data center and multiple public clouds.  With these new options, business gets the ability to draw on the power of infinitely dedicated resources when the need arises, without being limited by the capability and practices of one vendor. Which in turn means we can shift from marketing cloud as a good thing for service delivery and lower costs, to waking up to the possibilities that the cloud is an infinite canvas for innovation and progress.

Cross-cloud is another reminder the future will be open.

That cross-cloud is happening was not hard to predict. Technology is an irresistible disruptor and innovation abhors limit. AWS, for all its glory–and make no doubt about it, the rise of Amazon’s cloud is an epic success–is still a closed environment. AWS does not have an incentive to encourage other clouds. VMware’s cross-cloud move is one more indicator that the long-term future of technology will be open. And that whenever we are tempted to throw up walls around progress–all we do is tempt others to knock them down.

Cross-cloud means we can drop the from “cloud”.

For a decade now we have been figuring out how to talk about “cloud”. Now the singular is forever “clouds” plural we can drop the “the” and talk about the move to cloud without upsetting our grammar coaches.  But we had better get a move on as ubiquity will soon give rise to irrelevance. After all, besides technologists talking to technologists do consumers really care how we get them services?  They care more about what we get to them–and what they can do with their new powers.

Cross-cloud means faster, cheaper, better marketing experiences.

With diversity comes choice, competition, and the need for portability. Technically there is no such thing as a cross-cloud application just yet. Yet. The pundits say it is too tough. Mind you, several other Mortar clients have already made cross-cloud moves: With Habitat Chef have figured out how configuration can travel with apps across metal, on and off premises. Netskope offer protection against bad elements hidden in the cloud. And Cycle Computing has baked a model around making sense of out-of-control cloud pricing. His company, Cycle’s Rick Friedman says, enables organizations “to be cross-cloud by managing the mess behind the curtain“. 

And now one of the largest software companies in the world, VMware, have focused their entire strategy on the cross-cloud promise. As VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said after VMworld: “VMware in the past has been about hardware freedom. VMware of the future will be about cloud freedom.” (Parent Dell followed suite by filing for multiple cross-cloud trademarks).

For marketers, this is a reminder of our expanded ability to deliver richer digitaexperiences. Too much digital marketing remains focused on rudely interrupting people versus, say, giving them the opportunity to download an experience to their device. (For an example watch how Instagram now offers users the opportunity to download an app right from their feed). A wider range of specialized clouds opens the door to faster, more engaging, more personal delivery of digital brand extensions. In the cross-cloud era, choice and competition ride long with lower prices and improved delivery options.

In the cross-cloud era imagination will increasingly take point.

The big A-ha here is that cross-cloud is where the puck is going to be. The cloud is only ten years old, and already we are talking about more cloud, bigger apps, greater velocity, ever grander innovation and scale. It is no surprise technology is headed to the cloud. What is surprising is that the world is only just now waking up to the promise of engineering across multiple clouds. For a long time now advances in marketing have been wedded to developments in engineering (think cookies, CRM, Facebook, the conversation about agile). Where engineering goes, we tend to follow. Only maybe this time we can take point?

The cross-cloud era has arrived folks. We’re thrilled to have played some role in the birth of the world’s foremost cross-cloud pioneer. Perhaps we can help you make sense of it too?

August 27th, 2016

Bring your personas back from the walking dead. How connective tissue can revive marketing.

shaun--edd--liz-and-blood-shaun-of-the-dead-61225_500_333

As most of Mortar’s work is in activities defined by group decision making (tourism, technology, education and healthcare) a call to develop individual target personas can leave us scratching our heads. Understanding the fabric that connects teams can be more useful.

Consider the rise of the DevOps movement in IT. DevOps teams boost productivity by eliminating the gap between creator and executor. To ignore the conversation between these two as they move through their day is to fail to grasp what they agree—and what they need to succeed. (Hence Slack “the messaging app for teams” and Atlassian’s Jira “the software development tool for agile teams” positioning as group-based collaboration tools).

And it’s not just tech that is rediscovering the importance of targeting teams. As the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. James Young sees it, “health care’s no longer a gladiatorial sport with one person — no matter how smart — going up against the challenges. Instead, it’s a team effort, and today’s medical education has begun to reflect that trend”.

In some categories, persona development can be too blunt a tool for exploiting motivation. If you need to target team decisions, look hard at riding the wave of group dynamics. Here are five ways understanding connective tissue can bring your marketing back from the dead:

1. Teams are groups of individuals united by a common purpose.Bring your target back from the dead

Even if the reason people work together is the same, how they see their work will vary substantially. Simple one-on-one interviews (by phone) with team members is a good way to map the contours of a committee. For another perspective, see Deloitte’s Kim Christfort on their (fresh) approach to personality profiling here.

2. Groups talk. So connect to what they say to one another. 

What is the nature of the conversation on the team? Who talks to who and about what? Ask them. Gather them together in groups of two and three and listen to what they say to one another. Pay special attention to the words they use. The roles they assume. And be especially conscious to of the topics they avoid.

3. Groups decide. So figure out how they make a call.

Miller & Heiman write convincingly about the buying roles of complex teams, counseling Sales to pay attention to “buying influences” and identify a coach who can help pluck signals from the noise. Despite apparent similarities, different groups will draw radically alternative conclusions from the same data. Charting the path they might follow is a useful marketing strategy especially in big ticket sales.

4. Groups analyze. Winning is as much a team sport as an individual mark of accomplishment. Goals are the primary connective tissue.


target teams not individualsGive some time to considering shared goals. Goals always have three dimensions: quantity (amount, numbers, clicks), quality (feelings, perceptions, vision) and time (you want it when?).  How many digital marketing teams are so focused on the clickstream that they ignore the other two dimensions? Addressing goals can be an effective way to cement disparate people and bring them closer to buying your product. Make sure you address all three categories.

5. Groups feel: how does the group change when they use your product or service? Every group can be unified by insight about their customer. 

What happens to their customers—and how does that impact the team?  Teams that succeed feel different than those that don’t. Pride and accomplishment are attractive and viral because success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. Demonstrating how your product can help everyone on the team win, can work to motivate individuals and groups.

We chose the name Mortar because we are obsessed with the importance of connective tissue. Our business is differentiation–yours and ours. Applying the same tools to the same problems rarely yields fresh answers. If you are having trouble convincing the world what you are doing is indeed special, take time to dig under the cushions for the connections that spur action.

August 17th, 2016

Account Supervisor Wanted

We’re looking for an account supervisor with 4-5 years of advertising agency experience to manage the crap out of a wide variety of clients and projects. Working on your own with mid-sized accounts and as part of a larger account team on bigger ones, we’ll be counting on you to develop scopes of work (including timelines and pricing) and then wrangle agency resources across our media, planning, and creative teams to deliver what you promised – on time and on budget, natch. We’re looking for someone who wants to partner directly with clients and learn their business as if it were your own.

Stuff You’ll Do All Day (Besides Stalking Thomson’s Gazelles):

  • Manage client relationships and projects from start to finish.
  • Maintain and manage clients’ expectations, budgets, and timelines. (Clients don’t always know what they want. It’s your job to help them figure it out.)
  • Clearly communicate the clients’ needs and expectations to the creative, planning, and media teams.
  • Defend the agency’s work with a brand of passion that could make Oprah shudder in her sleep.
  • Keep your manager involved and informed on all the important day-to-day aspects of each account.
  • Accurately scope for and manage resource utilization.
  • Write project briefs, proposals, and presentations.
  • Exemplify outstanding customer service, while also following company processes for project workflow.
    Realize that these two things cannot always coexist without some negotiation. Your job is making the client happy, while also keeping your internal teams successful and sane (because in the end, that’ll make your clients happy).

The Requisites:

  • At least 4-5 years of direct experience working in an ad agency.
  • Strong (and we mean strong like Žydrūnas Savickas) project management skills across on and offline deliverables.
  • Experience with digital marketing, website design, and social media projects.
  • Excellent communication skills: writing, presenting, conversing, networking.
  • Ability to juggle projects and multitask like whoa.
  • Ability to work independently and exercise good judgment.
  • Strong customer service skills.
  • A sense of humah.
  • Mac-friendliness is a plus.
  • Experience with healthcare/life sciences and B2B technology is a plus-plus.

So to sum up – you’re fast, you’re smart, you’re a nice person, and most of all, you don’t need to be told stuff. You figure out what needs doing and you do it. In return, we’ll give you intensive experience in every aspect of this business we call integrated-branding-and-communications, plus a paycheck. There will also be cocktails.

Account Executive positions are also available.

To be considered, send your resume and a little bit about yourself to: iwanttowork@mortaragency.com

July 30th, 2016

Decisions, decisions. What Marketers can learn from Pokemon Go, Katie Couric, and the bacon-cheese log of vacations.

mortar_ahamoment

Since 2002 Mortar has been a big idea agency. But no more. We have decided to change.

Read on for why you might want to join us.

Until this year we believed the essential elements of a project should be condensed onto a single page. Each of the briefs we developed were organized around a bold and inspiring big idea.

The big idea was Mortar’s launching pad for iteration and creative thinking.  (Read more here).

In 2016, we replaced the big idea with two steps: a strategic marketing decision (SMD) and an A-ha moment. This article deals with the SMD, I’ll publish on the A-ha soon.

Instead of arguing to a big idea we make a big decision about how to market. To decide what we will do differently this time. To articulate how the message should change because the way we see the world—and the client’s customer community—has also shifted.

Introducing Strategic Marketing Decisions

We call them strategic marketing decisions (SMD). Making one can be a lot harder than it sounds.

For example, let’s take the problem that plagues Yahoo: is the massive internet property a media or a software company?

If it is a media company, then content production and delivery should be its priority. Hiring Katie Couric, buying Tumblr, paying big money to stream the NFL, these are all moves in the right direction. And they contribute to Yahoo’s unique value.

But what about engineering new forms of engagement?

Take say, Pokemon Go’s innovative use of augmented reality (AR). Pokemon Go is a game. It is an app. But it is also an engineering marvel. By smart use of AR, geolocation, and a sprinkling of inspired game theory, Go’s engineering team created a new form of participatory entertainment.

You just don’t get that type of engineering from a media company, you have to be all in on being a software company.

To walk through one door is to decide not to walk through another. In marketing it is never wise to be all things to all people. Effective marketing requires focus. Focus requires choices and decisions. Many argue that Yahoo failed to prosper because it failed to decide one way or another: and the lack of clarity sapped the company of vital energy, spurring multiple failed investments and inexplicable changes in direction.

What makes a decision a Strategic Marketing Decision?

The BBC defines strategic decisions as “long term, complex decisions made by senior management. These decisions will affect the entire direction of the firm”.

At Mortar, Strategic Marketing Decisions, are decisions that impact the direction of, well, marketing.  But they need not be long-term. Just clear and wide-ranging. Like deciding to act like a leader. Or to line up behind a new vision. Or to take a position quite unlike a rival. SMDs are decisions, about marketing, that have important implications.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review Phil Rosenzweig in “What makes strategic decisions different?” describes the basic types of decision. Here’s how they apply to the SMD:

strategic marekting decision

1. Choice

Making a choice can be a strategic move. Many an organization is plagued by its inability to choose—and thus find its focus. Just by clarifying the need for a decision we can often find a new way forward.

Take Vancouver-based Westport Innovations as a example. When Westport came to Mortar they described themselves as “a Canadian IP company”. We very nearly hung up. But after visiting them we realized Westport was, more than anything else, a natural gas engine company. Oh sure they did a host of other things—like make small engine parts and work with other forms of fuel like Hydrogen—but the heart of engine maker thumped at Westport’s core. By making the strategic marketing choice to focus messaging around natural gas engines they could turbocharge the way they talked about themselves and their mission.

2. Inspirational Vision.

“In so much of life, we use our energy and talents to make things happen. Imagine that the task at hand is to determine how long we will need to complete a project. That’s a judgment we can control; indeed, it’s up to us to get the project done. Here, positive thinking matters. By believing we can do well, perhaps even holding a level of confidence that is by some definitions a bit excessive, we can often improve performance.” (Rosenzweig).

In marketing, a decision to make something happen can also be strategic.

By suggesting that a trip to the city of Reno is actually a visit to the Reno/Tahoe area, we remind travelers to the big blue lake that the joys of the bacon-wrapped cheese log of vacations is just minutes away. An example of positive thinking influencing outcomes if ever there was one.

Planting a flag on the hill as a symbol for all to follow can be an inspiring move, and work to spur creativity.

3. Betting.

“The best decisions must anticipate the moves of rivals. That’s the essence of strategic thinking, which [we can] define as “the art of outdoing an adversary, knowing that the adversary is trying to do the same to you.” (Rosenzweig).

Deciding which way the game will go can also be a candidate for a strategic decision about marketing.

A lot of what we decide is based on what we think a rival will do. Strategic decisions based on reading a rival’s tea leaves are wonderful raw material for marketing.

In marketing, deciding to decide can make the difference between success and failure. Watch for my next post: the A-ha moment that follows from the SMD.