September 30th, 2015

The Sucker for Punishment Dilemma…

What if your creative agency is working with(out) you?

If your agency works for you, why do you feel anxious in a creative presentation?

When you’re excluded from the development of your agency’s big creative presentation, there’s little wonder they’ll miss the mark 80% of the time (by our estimates). And often spectacularly.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason the industry not only accepts this, but glorifies the process too (obligatory Mad Men references here, here and here).

The agency business is addicted to this big reveal—the final, much anticipated unveiling of a creative solution after weeks of frenzied hibernation. A presentation that leaves you, the client, in awe and the agency bursting with pride—one in five times.

We think that a business practice that keeps you at arm’s length and delivers less than satisfactory results, is broken. Here’s why:


Remember six weeks ago, when you sat down with your creative agency and poured your heart out. You spoke of dreams and hopes. You spoke of where you are and where you’re going; the very essence of your brand and business.

Then you left, feeling confident that your briefing would translate into work that would knock your socks off. After all, an advertising agency takes the reins of your business in a very significant way—they help determine how the world will see you. Socks had better damned well be knocked off.

Today, after several nights of lost sleep and with a very expectant boss breathing down your neck, you’re back in the conference room about to see the fruits of your agency’s labor—the big reveal so to speak.

Boom. The curtains rise and your heart sinks.

It’s not that they have missed the point. Far worse. It’s that they’ve done a spectacular job at missing the point. Amazing, but not what you need…


Herein lies the fundamental flaw in our beloved big reveal—the process ensures that instead of collaboration, we instead go our separate ways, and attempt to reconcile the outcomes in the end.

The client-agency relationship is almost uniquely separated. In what other areas do you associate creativity and innovation with notions of isolation and separation over collaboration and teamwork? Yet agencies adhering to flawed processes still insist on a closed-curtain approach when working with(out) their clients.

We all love a good ta-da moment, but we have yet to meet someone who wants to be surprised when the bottom line, is on the line.

So what is the true cost of a failed creative (anti)climax?


A failed big reveal often costs money, but always costs time.

The human cost of the big reveal is collateral damage that is seldom considered, and it occurs on both sides of the equation. On the agency side, significant energy is spent creating impactful work in short periods of time. Each time your agency falls short, enthusiasm and passion die little deaths. And you, on the other hand, become increasingly anxious as the luxury of time begins to dwindle. Deadlines draw nearer, and the opportunity costs of delay start to pile up.

Agencies work with you, often at some of the most critical times in business, and you know this better than anyone. The irony of using a flawed and non-collaborative process in such circumstances should not be lost on anyone.


Business is a process in constant flux, yet the big reveal demands the business problem remains “static” while the agency is away developing their ideas.

Several weeks of small changes—none of which on their own are significant, but taken together represent a significant alteration in course—may put you and your agency in very different places on the big day. On top of this, nobody knows your business as well as you do. So why would you allow yourself to sit on the sidelines waiting to be dazzled by a dog and pony show?

Your voice is most important during the process. The big reveal fails because it puts you in a passive position rather than a partnering one.

Who’d like to gamble their career on a one in five shot, especially when there’s a better way?


My high-school English teacher once told me the best way to improve your essay is to find your best sentence and remove it. The same holds true of creative agencies. We have grown to revere this exercise in agency chest thumping, and all its excitement, drama and intrigue as essential in an agency-client relationship.

It’s not.

But you come to agencies precisely because we are not you. We see the world in a different way, and we do surprise and delight. So how do we make sure that magic isn’t lost?

At Mortar we like to ask what if. A lot. It’s going to be a worthwhile journey. You’re invited. Have a beer, stay a while, you like bacon right?


Mortar’s What If is an exploration into the alternative. We know the traditional agency-client model is broken, but what if it were different? Contribute to the conversation #whatifmortar

September 29th, 2015

So, it has come to this! How to send an agency an RFP.

As an agency we’re always excited to see a request for proposal darken our inboxes.

Some of them are even well written, informative, and give you an idea of how well-suited your services might be to the sender’s needs.

So imagine the honor we felt to receive 102 pages of fun today from the City of San Francisco. All for us? #Blessed

Oh, what’s that? You’ve CC’d 20 other of the city’s finest agencies as well… #MixedFeelings


September 25th, 2015

A couple of kegs, a few dozen legs, and a guy with a camera. What could go wrong?

It was our turn to host the local agency mixer, Kegs with Legs, last night. So we rolled in a food truck, swapped out our front desk for a bouncer with a thingy in his ear, and told HR to act as blind as humanly possible.

The bass dropped and the rest is history.

It was back to business as usual this morning. Except with that vague fragrance of a fraternity floor on a Sunday morning, and a slightly less vague memory of monkeys getting intimate in the photo booth (there’s evidence, unfortunately).


Big thanks to Ad 2 SF and the Egotist for facilitating inter-agency co-operation through the mass consumption of beer!

Also, thanks to Sean Cope Photography for taking one for the team and documenting the monkey business.

September 22nd, 2015

All the awkwardness of a first date, three times as much booze.

Some geniuses at Ad 2 Denver and Denver Egotist thought it would be funny to put a handful of agencies in a room together, give them beer, and see what happens.

Apparently it’s become something of a hit.

Since comfort zones are places we frequently depart, come get awkward with us as we mill about chatting politely about the weather…. until the third keg.



Kegs With Legs @ Mortar
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: Mortar – 2 Bryant St #210 San Francisco, CA 94105
Register here

September 17th, 2015

We don’t care about your Facebook friends, oh wait… yes we do.

As great ideas go, our friends over at Dynamic Signal are pioneering some pretty darn hot ones.

Heard of employee advocacy, social selling, brand alignment? You know, using smart technology to gather and distribute your branded content via your employee’s social channels. Gone are the days of alt + tab every time your boss walks past.

Think of it this way:

You have 100 employees. They each have 500 social connections. Now, while math generally makes us queasy, a free and targeted media channel of over 50,000 people certainly does not. And most of them already know you, your company or are prospects.

Best of all, Dynamic Signal not only allows you to push material to this audience—it tracks how their connections engage with it, to what extent your employees participate, and who in your organization has the greatest influence.

Now not everyone public shames poor performing executives. But it’s nice to know you have the information should you choose to.

Our joint release is here. Dynamic Signal is here. There is a great Zuckerberg joke here.


Pictured: Majid Karimi, Tom Carr, Lauren Campbell, Mark Williams, Pavey Purewal, Scott Burke