Category: San Francisco Ad Agencies
February 26th, 2018

Marketers who take a stand: what’s the downside of declaring a clear point of view?

Days after another school shooting, the Daily Caller attacks U.C. Hastings for raising universal questions of justice and the need for strengthened gun control laws.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law’s “For Justice” advertising campaign took center stage last week in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The conservative Daily Caller claimed Hastings is violating its charter by asking “political” questions in its advertising. 

Looking for a moment beyond the incredibly insensitive timing of the article—published within days of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we question the Daily Caller’s central premise – that questions about “justice” are an unacceptable topic to raise…at a law school.

Amber Athey’s article “California Law School Promotes Pro-Abortion Messages” offers this critique:

The University of California, Hastings College of the Law is promoting left-wing political messages in a year-long campaign that may violate its own policies as a state institution… The law school’s campaign, which began in July of 2017 and is titled “This Is Why We Work For Justice… address[es] that core principle of ‘doing justice’ with questions generated through conversations with our students, faculty, staff & alumni.”

For one portion of the campaign, UC Hastings posted blatantly political statements about abortion, gun rights, immigration and taxes on street poles throughout the city of San Francisco. One such banner claims, “A uterus is more heavily regulated than an assault rifle”

Athey goes on to quote Joseph Shashaty, the student president of Hastings Republicans as:

“Advertising clearly partisan views tells conservatives that Hastings only welcomes those views,” Shashaty explained. “Why else would they commit to paying for those advertisements if counter viewpoints were embraced?” “The so-called ‘For Justice’ campaign sent a clear message: UC Hastings is more interested in controlling the narrative than encouraging dialogue on campus,” he said. “These advertisements are 100% political. They are not based in fact, but they were produced to induce a political reaction.”

From a communications perspective, the Daily Caller’s article does raise an interesting question: When are the merits of a controversial point of view worth a potential backlash?

At Mortar we never stop urging marketers to make smart decisions about their product, and to focus their communications on the “A-ha Moment” their decision provokes.

So, we thought you might be interested in our decision-making process in this particular case.

 

Hastings is in a tough neighborhood when it comes to competition. U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall to the east, Stanford Law to the south. We weren’t going to coast on our reputation, or outspend either of those Goliaths. So, we studied our client. We worked to understand what, specifically, was different about a Hastings degree. What it was about Hastings that set them apart. What we found was this: Hastings is the oldest law school in the University of California system, with a history of working for justice that goes back 140 years. Most recently it was Hastings lawyers who rushed to SFO to help immigrants navigate the White House’s 2017 travel ban. Hastings grads have always been first on the scene – literally standing up for justice.

If ever there were an A-ha Moment, that’s one.

A program that is forthright in its mission of educating others so they can go on to tackle the most contentious issues of our time attracts a special kind of student. Students who are more likely to be motivated by a social conscience and perhaps just a little less interested in a huge paycheck. Such students will lean towards public practice and the bench—an area of strength for Hastings graduates.

Now that’s not to say Hastings does not graduate attorneys with interests elsewhere. Or indeed, that Hastings is not interested in alternative views or those with challenging opinions. On the contrary, Hastings would be one of the first to declare its interest in students of all viewpoints.

Neither does it imply that students’ views might not change after graduation.

But it does carve out a strong point of view for Hastings the educator: because Hastings is more than just a place to get a law degree. Hastings is bold about its educational mission. And Hastings is not shy about inviting controversy and passion into the classroom.

And that’s an idea worth raising a little hell about. That kind of shoe-leather-on-the-streets approach to justice is an idea worth talking about—in bold, possibly controversial terms.

Did we think it would please everyone? Of course not. Is it proving to be worth it? Absolutely.

Hastings’ tiny, no-budget campaign — executed on their website and supported by a relatively small number of street banners with limited distribution in the city of San Francisco — has generated a massive amount of attention. Posts about the campaign on various social media outlets have generated engagement from nearly 40,000 individuals.

Now, we could easily stop there. We could say “We got our client attention, our work is done,” and pat ourselves on the back. After all, we’re marketers, not policy-makers. But we think the Daily Caller misses the mark philosophically as well as factually.

The campaign does not violate the University’s charter.

It does not misrepresent the truth.

And it is in no way inappropriate for a law school to advertise the fact that it fights for justice – particularly when that law school’s 100+ year-old motto is “Fiat Justitia”  – “Let Justice Be Done.”

Some students see “For Justice” and feel connected to an institution that is sympathetic to their desire to change society. Others will be passionate about a particular issue (we heard a lot about women rights from the Hastings’ students we interviewed).

Some are drawn to the possibility of active, passionate debate and a classroom experience that is invigorating and insightful—mimicking the experience of pleading your case in court.

And yes, some are turned off by a tone that might be seen to imply there is a lot wrong about how we sell guns, treat the unborn, what we do with immigrants, or care for our environment. The campaign forces viewers to face uncomfortable truths, and implies that Hastings may force them to defend their views in front of uncomfortable people.

Isn’t that what law school is for?

Our point is this: A-Ha Moments are not without risk.

This one made us all take a deep breath. But in the end, we knew we’d brought the right kind of attention to a client with zero budget and massive competition. We did it honestly. And we did it by bringing our client’s true strengths to the fore. Did the work please everyone? Obviously not. Is that scary? Definitely. Was it worth it? Absolutely. We’re grateful for a client willing to take risks. For an opportunity to stand up for the idea of justice. And for the chance to prove that great ideas don’t need a huge budget to have a huge impact. That’s what A-Ha Moments can do.

See the entire campaign here.

The views expressed here are my own (Mark Williams, the CEO and Founder of Mortar). They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.C. Hastings or the Mortar team.

January 17th, 2017

A-ha Moments: What They Are and Why They Matter Now. Our New Website is Here.

Advertising Agency offers A-ha

Careful Mortar watchers (that’d be both of you, so listen up) will have caught the stealthy launch of the new Mortar website on the very last day of 2016.

Now I realize this will come as a shock to the rest of you, but THERE IS A NEW MORTAR WEBSITE! THE BACON IS GONE.

We’ve replaced the pile of pork with a simple insight: most of the time small ideas beat big. And marketers still don’t spend enough time aiming at the emotional impact they want to have on their customers.

Now why would this be?

  1. We forget our job is to amaze and delight. There’s a lot to say about our companies, our products, our vision, and our contribution to the planet. So much that we forget we actually want people to buy our thing. And for that to happen we must first get their attention. The simple pressure of communicating what’s important to us overwhelms our need to prick the needle of delight.
  2. People don’t actually buy ideas until late in the funnel. At first they buy delight. Joy. Fun. Awesome. A client of ours spent hundreds of thousands and months researching why people came to her organization only to find that her customers were looking for fun. Fun? Not an educational experience? Or a new perspective? Or to be a better citizen. Just a plain old great way to kill a few hours and giggle. You see, great marketing promises a result. If you haven’t defined how you want people to react when they hear of you then you are not ready to go to market. (Doubt me? Dig out a recent agency brief and scour it for something resembling the A-ha Moment you want your customers to experience).
  3. Small is easier and simpler than Big. Big is bold. Big is dramatic. Big costs money and time. Big requires hard thinking, consensus, commitment and a willingness to change. Big is thus hard. For most, Big is simply too hard. Small? Small is easy to find. Easy to execute. Easy to change. Easy to replicate. Easy to test and adjust. And Small is not hard on a CEO who changes his mind, like, well, every week. (Which BTW is most of us now.) Nevertheless the right small idea can have immense power (hello Uber, who spun a small app into a revolution in global transportation).

For many of us, the future is about finding and exploiting A-ha Moments. We’ve gathered some of our best A-ha Moments on our new site. Take a look and see if you might benefit from thinking smaller in 2017.

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.

UP NEXT:

kwl

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

November 3rd, 2014

Mortar + Tyra Banks: What Happens When Two Badasses Collide.

Tyra Banks is a whole lot more than just the creator of the Smize. She’s the world’s most influential supermodel and super-businesswoman. And when it comes to social media, Tyra is the boss. From fierce-faced selfies to clever quips, Tyra shares with her fans nonstop, and they love every second of it. If you need proof, just scan the daily comments from her 31 million plus followers.

Mortar recently partnered with the superwoman to bring her new cosmetics brand, TYRA beauty, to life. Because one of her core messages is to give people the power to be the CEO of their lives, Tyra developed her business as a direct selling model where the products are sold by independent contractors that she calls ‘Beautytainers.’ And when it came to brand personality, ordinary wouldn’t cut it: she wanted to zag where the beauty industry would zig. If there’s one thing to know about Mortar, it’s that we love to turn ideas on their heads—which made us and Tyra the perfect partners in crime.

Our task was to turn this layered narrative into a cohesive strategy that would captivate the world. Challenge accepted. Turning complex messages into a compelling story is, like, totes our thing. We began by developing a brand mantra that would serve as the TYRA beauty rallying cry:

Beauty. Business. Badassery.

We knew the TYRA beauty brand needed to be as loud and fierce as Tyra herself. And “badassery” was a word that Tyra could truly own—it gave her the power to carve out and own a space in the crowded world of cosmetics. From there, we crafted a crisp positioning statement and a smart, confident tone of voice that would inform every facet of the TYRA beauty brand.

Our work for Tyra sparked a social media shockwave: 292,165 likes, 15,040 comments, and 3,831 shares, for total engagement of 843,164. It even got the attention of major celebs: Alicia Keys, Russell Simmons, Ivanka Trump, and Karlie Kloss, just to name a few. (Yo, Russ, let us know where we should send our hip hop demo tape. We’re basically the next Jay-Z.)

And not surprisingly, we got plenty o’ love from TyTy herself.

Tyra came to us looking for badass, and we brought it. Though we’re still looking to her to help us finesse our booty tooch.

May 13th, 2013

A Whiff of Something Strong.

Have you seen those giant baby fists towering over Highway 101? Who did those billboards, you ask? And where did they find a baby the size of Bigfoot?

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