Corrections or additions?
These articles by were prepared for the April 6, 2005
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
In Japan a corporate CEO draws a salary approximately 13 times that of
the average worker. His United States counterpart pockets a wad 58
times that of the average worker. Perhaps in some cases the American
CEO is worth all that to the business. Yet very seldom are spectacular
profit leaps one individual’s responsibility. More often it is a corps
of top performers throughout all corners of the corporation that bring
about such success. If the profits are to keep on coming, the company
must identify and reward these outstanding achievers.
Exactly how to slice and serve a company’s total payment package is
fully explained in the two-day seminar, "Incentive Compensation: Plans
and Designs," taking place on Thursday and Friday, April 7 and 8,
beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Fairleigh Dickinson’s Hartman Lounge in
Madison. Cost: $1,295. Call 973-377-2424. Sponsored by the
University’s Rothman Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, this
seminar features Paul Dorf, founder of Compensation Resources Inc. The
seminar is designed for company owners and human resource executives.
America is a nation of workers very much perched to move. A recent
Monster.com survey shows that 93 percent of respondents plan to job
hop in the near future and 75 percent are at least browsing for a
different job right now. Benefits packages and various investment
options may attract a recruit initially, but to keep him on staff,
companies must work out a pay scale that realistically reflects his
efforts and achievements.
Dorf has more than 40 years of experience in the executive
compensation field. Growing up first in Washington, D.C., and then on
Long Island, Dorf earned his business administration degree with a
specialty in labor relations from Hofstra University in l961. He has
worked for a number of firms, including Fort Lee’s Kwasha Lipton,
which is credited with promoting corporate America’s switch from
traditional pensions to cash balance pensions, precursors to 401(k)s,
which it promoted as a device whereby companies could save 40 to 60
percent of pension costs. He also worked for Deloitte Touche and for
Dorf earned a MBA from the University of Bridgeport and a Ph.D. in
management analysis from Cambridge International University. Never far
from academe, Dorf has been on the faculties of Temple, Seton Hall,
Rider, and Boston University. Since l972 he has also served as an
expert witness on compensation cases in state and federal court. He
acts as managing director of Incentive Compensations, while his wife,
Pamela, serves as the president of the company, which is located in
Upper Saddle River.
Dorf points out that "fewer than one in a hundred" companies has a
mission statement that "says anything about giving their employees a
better environment, better rewards, or compensation." But, in his
opinion, all of these things should be there. Corporate silence on
these issues sends a loud message to employees.
The wretched year-end review. "Most companies do an incredibly poor
job of identifying their top performers, let alone rewarding them,"
says Dorf. "Sales forces get held under the microscope weekly, while
the rest of the staff are relegated to the agonizing annual review
which is akin to extracting teeth without novocaine."
A better way to evaluate. Provide no feedback all year long, and odds
are that an employee will wander off the desired track. Rather than
wait until a worker goes distressingly wrong and then pouncing, Dorf
suggests the same weekly assessment meetings afforded the sales force.
Assessment entails more than tallying a ledger of good and bad acts.
"Sixty-one percent of employees surveyed after a job evaluation say
they received no improvement guidance," says Dorf. The good manager
will tell the employee that "we" not "you" have a problem and then
work out a path to a solution. Such frequent mini-evaluations uncover
top performers – and give those very achievers, the company’s most
valuable assets, extra encouragement.
Compensatory reality. In a number of cases, top achievers are
identified, but end up with rewards curtailed by the firm’s fiscal
limitations. "Too often, a tight, totally justified finance budget
hands down just enough funds for a scant three-and-a-half-percent
increase across the board," says Dorf. "The employer or HR person just
doesn’t have the funding to make the compensation design he wants."
Dorf says the best solution comes from sending a very clear, pay-
reflective message to the employees. "If your child has been acting up
all day, gotten failing grades, and insulted his mother, you don’t
then take him to the circus. It sends the wrong message," says Dorf.
"But this is what companies invariably do when they give everybody a
Instead, he advises calling in the bottom performers and explaining
that they are not getting a raise until such time as they improve to
specific levels. This savings should free up some funds to reward the
Fast tracking woes. Companies recently have shied away from the old
practice of fast tracking their prodigies. Placing that favored halo
around some golden boy is naturally bound to create ill will among his
fellows. Further, many companies have found themselves bitten in this
litigious society by fast trackers who have stumbled, and then sued
for false promises.
It presents a true managerial challenge: bring each one of the
employees along at his own pace, and motivate them all to reach
"Ideally, this is every manager’s prime goal," says Dorf. Ask any CEO
to name his company’s best asset. He will invariably parrot the well
rehearsed response, "our people are our best assets." And then he will
smile. Unfortunately, despite this lip service, Dorf sees managers
increasingly trained to perform line tasks, and left totally untrained
in managing people. Perhaps for the sake of profit, if nothing else,
it is time to turn that training emphasis around.
– Bart Jackson
Fifty is the new 40; maybe even the new 35, especially for women.
Boomer women have shifted in and out of the workforce. Many have
changed careers multiple times. Hundreds of thousands have started
businesses. This activity, in many cases, did not start at 21, as it
did for most of their male counterparts. Rather, many boomer women
didn’t even start to get serious about their careers until they were
30, or 40, or more.
For these women, 50 or 55 is not a checkered flag, as it is for many
of man, but rather is something closer to adolescence. That is the
theory Suzanne Braun Levine, a founder of MS. magazine, puts forth in
her new book, "How to Reinvent Yourself After 50: Women in Second
Levine talks about just that when she speaks at a Friend’s Health
Connection event on Friday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the Robert Wood
Johnson Center for Health and Wellness on Quakerbridge Road. Call
732-418-1811 for reservations. Cost: $15.
Here is an excerpt by Suzanne Braun Levine:
My first step into Second Adulthood was backward off a 90-foot cliff.
On impulse, I had signed up for an Outward Bound program and found
myself poised in full rappelling gear-harness, helmet, and guide
rope-to walk down the face of what could just as well have been my
twelve-story apartment building. The terror was pure. I was only
mildly distracted by the reassuring words of our leader: "Fear is the
appropriate response here. After all, evolution doesn’t take much
interest in creatures that step backward off ninety-foot cliffs."
I made it down, of course. I had learned the lesson the exercise was
surely designed to teach, that fear is not an unacceptable response,
but it can be confronted. And I fulfilled a personal mission: to find
out if I was still a Tomboy. (The very word, I realize as I use it, is
a throwback to a bygone era, not just my own past.) My tomboy self,
long lost in a marriage to a nonathletic, non-nature-lover and a busy
urban life, played a big part in my personal mythology.
Ever since I crossed the fiftieth birthday barrier a couple of years
earlier I had wanted to reconnect with that rugged, adventurous
outdoorswoman, if indeed she was still an authentic component of who I
am. If my tomboy was still there, I wanted to share that part of me
with my daughter, who was growing up in a time more accepting of the
"big-boned" body type we share and as a young woman with an
unequivocal appreciation of her body’s strength. But first I had to
make sure I wasn’t perpetuating a myth about myself. Having grown up
feeling I was often playing a part written by others, I wanted, as
best I could, to get to the truth about my life.
As my feet hit the ground and I looked back up the craggy cliff toward
the blue sky and my cheering companions, I was overcome with emotion –
emotions really, more than I can identify even now – and I began to
sob and laugh uncontrollably. But it was after I calmed down and had
gone kind of limp that a totally unexpected breakthrough of really
cosmic proportions hit. The descent down the cliff came on the fifth
day of a seven-day program. I had done everything asked of me –
jumping into icy water at dawn, sleeping on oars lined across an open
boat, climbing a telephone pole, swinging on a rope into a spider-web
net – so I was primed to obediently take on the next assignment. It
was to keep our harnesses and ropes in place and climb back up the
wall. Maybe it was because I was so totally wasted by the emotional
and physical exertion, but I would like to think it was overcoming
fear on the way down that gave me the courage to say no to going back
The only others in the group who declined to climb were two women in
their fifties. We realized with some astonishment that, for us, saying
no was as monumental an achievement as stepping backward off the
cliff. Both challenges were more meaningful to the three of us because
we were women of a certain age. Each of us had a different reason for
coming to the wilderness, yet we shared an awakening drive to sort out
our thinking about the next stage of our lives. In our dealings with
that cliff we had encountered two essential themes of Second
Adulthood: Letting Go and Saying No.
In my lexicon, Second Adulthood is the unprecedented and productive
time that our generation is encountering as we pass that dreaded
landmark of a fiftieth birthday. If you think of your first adulthood
as, roughly, the 25 years in which you built your life and set your
style, the next 25 years can be a second chance – to do it better, to
do it differently, to do it wiser. I say can be because a lot depends
on luck-good health, good fortune, good friends. But a lot also
depends on determination – taking risks, making change, weighing new
To seize that second chance requires recalibrating many of the primary
forces in our lives and shifting gears. As anyone in our age group
knows, to shift gears you first have to disengage the clutch and
literally give up control for a moment. In the context of the Second
Adulthood transition, letting go-of worn-out demands, of old news, of
empty promises is like stepping backward off a cliff. It is
terrifying, especially for women who have spent a lifetime holding on,
keeping things together, planning, coordinating, and prioritizing.
It is hard to surrender to serendipity and to risk and change. It is
distressing to find oneself having to renegotiate the most intimate
relationships. But whether we see it as an adventure or not, we are at
an age when circumstances force us to let go – of our children, of our
looks, of some of our life goals – and feel ourselves fall apart, to
ease off doing what we know how to do, to look into the abyss. For
those who take the leap, letting go is also an opportunity to
consolidate, to cherish, and to soar out over new terrain.
Saying no is the assertive form of letting go. If letting go focuses
on acceptance and release, saying no focuses on actively shedding
baggage that is getting in the way of moving on. Eliminating what
doesn’t work for us anymore, talking back to people who have
intimidated us in the past, renouncing behavior that doesn’t feel
authentic – all those no’s are an important way of taking charge of
our lives. They enable us to travel light toward clarity of purpose.
Those first defiant no’s are the prelude to many a triumphant yes!
There’s a catch, though – those triumphs can’t be anticipated from the
safety of solid ground. We have to take the plunge into Second
Adulthood without knowing who we will be when we come up for air.
In many respects, we have been here before. Thirty years ago, at the
beginning of our first adulthood, we were also on the verge of big
changes; we were struggling to address what Betty Friedan had
identified as The Problem That Has No Name – the dismissive and
restrictive assumptions about women and their role in society. At that
time, many women felt isolated and confused and guilty for not being
satisfied with what they had been given, but fearful of talking about
Time and again, they found that the simple, yet risky, act of telling
the truth about their doubts, failures, and fears to someone who
appeared confident and accomplished resulted in a reassuring – and
amazed – "me too!" response. In sharing frustration over household
demands, impatience with children, anger at husbands, concerns about
sexuality, and doubts about measuring up to media images, women found
validation for their own perceptions, support, and the emotional high
of not feeling like the only crazy woman on the block. One by one,
those intimate revelations changed the conversation about women’s
roles as they changed each woman’s own life.
The discovery that the personal is political – that our most private
efforts have meaning in the community of women and impact beyond – led
to the revolution that got us to this place. Today, motivated by that
energy and those achievements, we are confronting a new unknown – The
Problem That Has No Name has been replaced by The Question That Has
Many Answers: What am I going to do with the rest of my life?
Knees and joints only last so long. Few men have had this point
pounded home more forcefully than NFL offensive lineman Brian
Baldinger. After a lifetime of playing football and basketball,
including 10 grinding years since l982 as first string for the Dallas
Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, then the Philadelphia Eagles, it was
time. Sports announcing would make a graceful retirement, he thought.
But to be one of those rare ex-jocks who make it in this competitive
field, Baldinger realized he needed more than an encyclopedic
knowledge of the gridiron.
Seeking a new coach, he turned to Nadine Fischer, founder of Nadia
Communications Inc. of Westhampton. This pro player had been used to
only the best mentors and Fischer held a top reputation for
transforming the communication skills of Fortune 500 CEOs. The story
of this coaching success is revealed in a talk, "Mapping Clear
Messages," sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on
Thursday, April 7, at 11:30 a.m. at the Doral Forrestal. Cost: $40.
Call 609-921-1776. Fischer and Baldinger had just co-authored a book
of the same title.
Baldinger, with coaching from Fischer, has succeeded at making the
leap from the playing field to the announcer’s booth. He announces for
NFL Europe for FOX, is a game analyst for the NFL, hosts Sports Talk
NJ for CN8, and co-hosts the new One-On-One-Sports radio show.
Fisher herself is the equivalent of an NFL-level player in the
communications coaching field. A native of Morristown, she earned her
B.A. in speech and dramatics from Montclair University in l969,
followed by a masters in speech and language pathology from the
College of New Jersey. She has gained a host of professional study
certifications including psycholinguistics and the neurology of human
behavior from Harvard.
Following some time in which she taught speech and language pathology,
Fischer founded her coaching company in 1986 and won business from
broadcasters and from senior executives from AT&T, Burger King, Blue
Cross, Bank One, and scores of others.
Fischer draws a sharp line between talking and communicating your
point. Just because you talk a lot, doesn’t mean you’re very good at
it. An active executive may speak 25,000 words during the work day.
The question is: How many of these words are actually communicating a
message? And how many of those messages are the ones you intended? As
with anything, sheer dint of repetition will only carry your speaking
skills so far.
Message mapping. "We live in a data smogged society," says Fischer.
"Amidst all the stuff thrown at us, you have to thoughtfully encode
your message and make it memorable." The biggest blunder Fisher sees
with speakers, however brilliant, is the tendency to gush. They add to
the data avalanche, rather than editing their speech concisely.
Message mapping primarily entails setting priorities. First determine
your message. This is not so much what the speaker says, but what
concept he wants the audience to carry away. What understanding do you
want your communication to create? From there, work out a process
leading your audience to the conclusion of your message. Too often
speakers get fixed on a medium before even discerning their own
All too familiar is the thought pattern of "I’m going to make a
PowerPoint presentation; now what should I say?" PowerPoint is merely
fascinating wallpaper. Let the main theme serve as the foundation, and
choose your wallpaper to enhance it, suggests Fischer.
The precious pause. Ours is a society that urges us to fill every
moment with sound. Since we can’t keep our minds racing as fast as our
speech, we often stop and still try to keep control of the
conversation with verbal pauses: "Ahs" and "Uumms." Unfortunately,
such paralanguage only distracts from the speaker and his words. It
takes practice, but it is worth working at eradicating these words.
"Most people need to slow their speech to the pace of their thought,
and effectively employ poignant pauses for emphasis," says
Fischer.When actor John Wayne was first given one-line parts, he
deliberately made pauses to give his face more on-camera time. Later,
after learning how powerful these pauses made his speech, he kept them
Examine the instrument. "Your voice is a powerful instrument, "says
Baldinger. "You have to look inside yourself and find those qualities
you naturally have that appeal to an audience. It’s almost a spiritual
For the visually oriented, speakers must create colorful images; for
the auditory learners, speakers must offer a rich resonance. And for
those who react most strongly to emotional speech, speakers must imbue
their voice with sentiment.
Visualize the audience’s response. Coach Fischer is a great believer
in recording her pupils’ voice and letting them hear themselves as
they truly sound to others. She also shows students their voice
patterns on a spectrograph. During our interview, Fischer noted that
this writer’s voice has a tendency to trail off at the end of
sentences. By watching my speech pattern on screen, I could practice
delivering a stronger finish.
For students requiring an entire change of tone, Fischer employs a
visualization technique. One speaker complained that his recorded
voice always sounded preachy and pompous, as if his every word
required a podium. Her solution: "When you speak, envision yourself
out from behind that podium, sitting in a chair, shirtsleeves rolled
up, conversing with your audience."
Brand your speech. "James Earl Jones is probably the best example of
voice branding," says Fischer. "All of us recognize his voice
instantly – and we pay attention." Such distinctive voice branding
should not involve taking it beyond its normal pitch or forcing it
into something unnatural. But it is possible to study and exaggerate
Tony Curtis began as a striving actor with a "dese, dem, dose" accent
straight out of Brooklyn. To give his speech more leading-man
erudition, he emulated the wildly successful, British-born Cary Grant
and ended up with a Brooklo-Yorkshire tone that invariably marked him
as cultured, suave, yet American.
Both Baldinger and Fischer advocate a more self-developmental
approach. Study, but don’t wholly imitate the best. Rather, try for a
distinctively individualize style based on natural speech.
An example could be Charlie Walbridge, a barrel chested paddler with a
deep voice, who founded an Ambler, Pennsylvania-based outdoor supply
firm called Wildwater Designs. Since most of his orders came by phone,
he developed a signature greeting. By lengthening a few vowels and
modulating his pitch, he answered callers with a lyrical voice that
undulated like the waters they paddled. The key, then, is to be
individual but also natural.
"It’s all in the training – hard training," says Baldinger. "You would
laugh if you saw me in the car when I’m driving. I’m always doing
vocal strengthening exercises."
In addition to the sound, this athlete trains equally hard on his
content. He has a mental list of 1,500 players complete with personal
anecdotes, and is ready to add them into his speeches and game
commentary. He studies yoga for breath control and avoids "hard
partying" to keep his voice pure. "I said that when I went into this
business, I was going to be better than I was as a player on the
field," he says. His growing list of network contracts suggests that
he has met his goal.
– Bart Jackson
Eventually our minds begin to betray us. Somewhere around the fifth or
sixth decade some old friend’s name seems to dance teasingly beyond
our instant recall. We may even join the Hereafter Club – folks who
walk into a room and then wonder: "What am I here after?" Quite
naturally as we all age we store more and more information – and tend
to lose some of it. However, the point at which such lapses are cause
for concern has generally proved hard to determine.
Loss of memory and other cognitive functions may be linked to anything
from incipient Alzheimers to multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia.
Frequently diagnoses have been made subjectively, based on a
physician’s experience or personal standards. Four years ago, Dr. Ely
Simon formed NeuroTrax to market what he terms "an objective method
for gathering data on an individual’s cognitive functions." NeuroTrax,
along with three other presenters, are displaying their breakthrough
technologies as part of the New Jersey Technology Council’s Technology
on Aging event on Friday, April 8, at 8 a.m. at Pharmaceutical
Technologies Service’s Cardinal Health Center in Somerset. Cost: $75.
Visit www.NJTC.org or call 856-787-9700.
Simon was raised in Queens, New York, and attended Columbia
University, graduating with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He then
took his medical degree at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University
along with a masters in biomedical engineering. For his residency, he
specialized in neurology, continuing this research with a fellowship
at the National Institute of Health. "I had been in clinical research
for years," says Simon, "and the need for some really objective,
overall testing became more and more apparent."
In 2000 Simon shed his white lab coat and donned the entrepreneur’s
pin stripes, forming NeuroTrax, which has an offices in New Brunswick,
in York City, and in Israel. The company, which designs tests of adult
cognitive function, received its first patent on December 8, but even
before that date its tests had been widely adopted. In fewer than five
years over 50,000 tests have been administered by psychologists,
neurologists, university researchers, and hospitals.
"Our method carries the old flash card tests into the next generation
– the computer age," says Simon. The patient can sit in his
physician’s office and take an online test, which typically lasts
about 30 minutes. Tests measure verbal and nonverbal memory, attention
span, information processing ability, visual spatial orientation, and
Patient Linda Zentron has faced a bout with multiple sclerosis for the
last 14 years. Recently she felt what she termed "a little memory
slippage" and wanted to determine the severity. "To me the tests were
kind of like, you know, fun things; not so much difficult or scary at
all. They were to me like brain teasers," she says. An example: A
picture flashes on screen of five match sticks in a row, two have
fallen over. A little later a similar picture comes on. Do you recall
if the same match sticks are lying down in this picture as the last
Within seconds of Zentron’s completing these interactive exercises,
the physician or tester receives a scoring report. This chart gives
actual scores on each aspect of the test. Graphs and a verbal summary
indicate the extent of impairment and even basic remedies are
suggested. To avoid a totally impersonal computerized response, the
tester can also discuss the patient’s performance with a NeuroTrax
It may seem deceptively simple to test memory, motor skills, and
information processing, but to provide accurate assessment on a global
scale, free of all cultural bias, requires more than a fistful of
Online advantages. "It is important to note that this testing is not a
diagnosis, but it provides data from which determinations can be
made," says Simon. With this database goal in mind, NeuroTrax eschewed
the questionnaire style of test, favoring performance assessment
exercises – or as Zentron put it, brain teasers. By presenting these
online, one gains an objectivity and standardization impossible to
achieve any other way.
First, each task is timed. The patient gets a set number of seconds to
view the match sticks, then an exact time before the second picture
comes up for recall. If the test were to be administered by a
physician, timing would probably not be as accurate, and the personal
interplay between tester and test taker could affect objectivity. By
interacting onscreen, patients no longer feel the anxiety of trying to
prove themselves to a judgmental physician sitting before them.
Secondly, NeuroTrax’s tests provide a standardized base. Patients
often need to be retested every six months. The comprehensive results
can be precisely compared for an overall progress picture. Also,
results can be measured against a broad base of others of the same age
The human touch. "In most cases our tests are administered to the
elderly," says Simon. "It’s very important to remember your audience."
Since hearing loss is prevalent among most seniors, no sound is
involved in any of the exercises. The screen displays extra large
print. Memory performance is divided into verbal and nonverbal
categories. "Cultural differences or reading difficulties will skew a
strictly verbal test and may give a false result," he points out.
Smart test. But probably the most practical and human consideration is
the smart test function built into the program. Each segment – for
example verbal memory or spatial orientation – entails a base of about
10 exercises. If the computer sees that the patient is succeeding
easily, it may advance into more difficult levels, up to about 30
tasks. But if the person is failing at the basic level, the test
simply moves onto the next section. "There is no need to frustrate
people," says Simon.
National report card. So, using this unbiased tool, who is more likely
to slip into Alzheimers? Is it highly stressed city dwellers,
unstimulated rural folk, men, women, or some cultural group? Simon
shakes his head. "It is too early yet to have established enough of a
base to make any real biological or environmental determinations," he
says. "But up until now, we have not discerned any ethnic, gender, or
cultural indicators." It remains NeuroTrax’s goal to provide the data
for such answers in the future.
If you feel your memory is not what it might be, NeuroTrax invites you
to visit its website www.Mindstreamshealth.com, click on "Our Clinical
Services," and tease your brain. If you can’t remember this website,
just write it down.
– Bart Jackson
Entrepreneurs sometimes feel as if, with every decision, they are
reinventing the wheel. Unless you have started a business before, you
have questions at every turn.
This month technology entrepreneurs have two chances to tap the wisdom
of those who have gone before. The New Jersey Technology Council
offers an "Inside Track" mentoring program to provide its members with
a team of experienced pros in such fields as finance, legal,
marketing, entrepreneurship, and funding.
The deadline to apply is Friday, April 8. Call Judy Storck at
856-787-9700. You must have paid your membership dues, and there is a
$50 administrative fee for the first session.
If your start-up or mid-level company is selected to participate, you
will have a private meeting with a team to get feedback on your plans
and strategies. The team will comment on your "elevator speech" (your
marketing pitch), and share their resources and contacts. Depending on
whether the mentoring team thinks you can profit from their
suggestions, you could be scheduled for additional sessions.
Any technology entrepreneur may register for a workshop on Tuesday,
April 19, at 8:30 a.m. at the Headquarters Plaza Hotel in Morristown
to learn about the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR).
Sponsored by the Venture Association of New Jersey and several other
organizations, it features Randy Harmon (formerly a full-time SBDC
employee, now a consultant with his own firm), Roger S. Cohen of Cohen
International and a consultant for NJSBDC, and Tim Ryan, who works at
the U.S. Army’s Picatinny Arsenal as a technology transfer program
The SBIR program is the federal government’s largest R&D grants
program to the small business community, and it is funded at the rate
of $2 billion a yaer. Many Princeton businesses have used the SBIR
grants to fund new technologies and gain credibility with angels and
venture capitalists. The workshop will tell how to craft a winning
proposal. Cost of the three-hour workshop: $25. Call 973-267-4200,
Call the same number to make a full day of it. Immediately following
the workshop, Caren Franzini, director of the New Jersey Economic
Development Authority will speak at the noon luncheon on tools that
the NJEDA offers to help businesses grow.
The creative process is what ad agencies do – they develop a cohesive
brand message that appears on billboards, on TV, in magazines, across
computer banners, and on websites. This often massive effort demands
technical and media-specific expertise that sends most agencies to
specialty shops for different pieces of the puzzle. They farm out
interactive projects to one shop and television advertising to
another, using specialists to create the best possible product in each
But DZP Marketing Communications has a different approach. A
full-service ad agency whose clients are broadcast and cable networks,
DZP handles every piece of the creative process in-house, including
all the technology. "We brought it all in-house – animators, editors,
even a studio suite for music – so that we can keep our fingerprint on
it every day," says Brian Diecks, the company’s executive creative
Diecks speaks Tuesday, April 12, at a luncheon meeting of the New
Jersey Communications Advertising and Marketing Association (NJ CAMA)
at the Doral Forrestal. His subject: "Merging Media: On-Air and
Off-Air Marketing Campaigns."
To convey the advantages of having an entire campaign run in-house,
Diecks talks about his agency’s up-front trade campaign for Comedy
Central. All cable and broadcast networks throw a giant party to
entice advertisers for up-front sales. Comedy Central hired DZP for
its up-front advertising, which included a 20-minute sales tape and
accompanying booklet, trade ads, a PowerPoint presentation, and web
banner ads. His talk covers "how we branded Comedy Central and took
the same look, attitude, and style, and put it across different
In 2004 Comedy Central had its highest ratings ever, and its
advertising concern was how the channel would sustain that in 2005.
The message it selected was "on the roll," with the cohesive central
image being a streamroller and the theme of steamrolling the
competition. It conveys its message through animations for TV, 3D
illustrations for print, and visuals for TV and print. Because
everything comes out of the same shop, says Diecks, "it all looks
cohesive and the message is stronger."
But having everything in-house, including sophisticated technology,
creates both issues and opportunities:
Maintaining the same message in all print materials. It is not always
easy to keep the same message across all versions of the print copy.
Consider a poster or billboard, items usually taken in quickly by a
consumer, with a minimal number of words. It can be a challenge to
then craft words, more words this time, to convey the same message on
a 30-second TV spot. And yet, warns Diecks, "because of today’s short
attention span, commercials have to fly real quickly. Sometimes less
Staying on top of image quality, technologically. Based on deadline,
budget, and requirements to use particular source material, an agency
has limits on how many photo shoots it can do. To make the best use of
all available materials, planners must be aware, early on, of
technical issues. For example, because print requires images of 300
dpi (dots per inch), and television is only 75 dpi, you can’t take a
TV image and blow it up for billboard and print.
Or sometimes the images you need are simply not available and must be
manufactured one way or another. In new work DZP is doing for major
league soccer, for example, they needed as-yet-untaken photos of team
members who had been traded to the team during off-season. Their
solution: They used silhouettes of the players and had to paint on
their uniforms. Bottom line, he says, is that you have to "learn how
to embrace technology today and use it as another tool."
Tracking changes to and from a big client. Comedy Central is a huge
organization, with hundreds of employees, divided into on-air and
off-air (print) departments. If "on-air" makes a change, it has to be
communicated to "off-air" and vice versa, and the interactive segments
must also be in synch. One account person coordinates all this
communication, says Diecks, adding that "E-mails are not our friend."
They get 100 E-mails a day from Comedy Central, have to decipher what
they want and don’t want, and whether a particular change will happen
in print, on TV, or in interactive media. And lack of clarity is not
the only problem – E-mails also enable people to avoid making clear
decisions by forwarding things on.
Keeping up with all the pieces. It can be daunting to keep up with 10
people working on different aspects of a big project. On the Comedy
Central campaign, the agency met every morning for 20-minutes,
investigating "whether anyone had a red flag to wave," then two to
three times during the day for progress reports.
Diecks went to the University of Houston for baseball, he says, "until
I blew my knee out." After reconstructive surgery and to relieve the
boredom during a year and a half of rehab, he took courses in graphic
design, with the thought that he would eventually go to architecture
school. He found he was intrigued: "What enticed me was that you take
photography, typography, and motion – all these pieces of the art –
and put it in one message." He also liked the fact that he could
dabble in a little of everything.
After graduating in 1988 with a degree in graphic communications,
Diecks was a "print guy" for two to three years when someone asked
him: "How would you like to make that move?" His first project in
motion was working with a firm to launch E Entertainment Television,
and then for four years he did nothing but launch cable networks. At
that point, he looked for a more wide-ranging position, where he could
have his fingers in a variety of creative areas.
As an individual operator he was awarded the launch of an independent
film channel, which required him to set up his own company to get the
job done, so he founded the Diecks Group in 1993. But eventually, he
started "getting the itch again" and in September 2003 joined DZP.
What’s different about his new company, he says, is that "we’re higher
up the food chain," helping people to make more strategic decisions.
"We’re brought in by networks, TV shows, and others who are asking who
they are and where they should go next. What will be their new tag
lines and new brand promises?"
Diecks is satisfied with DZP’s approach to a full-service in-house
creative process, claiming that "it is more rewarding creatively, but
also financially." The downside is that "it takes a lot of expensive
equipment and takes time to find the right people." But he feels the
advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and sees that a fully
"in-house" agency is a new trend that many others are beginning to
– Michele Alperin
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