Payback Time

Reinventing Yourself After 50

Executive Elocution

If We’re Losing It How Do We Know?

Tap The Experts: Starting a Business

Combining Creative Work Under One Roof

Corrections or additions?

These articles by were prepared for the April 6, 2005

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide

Top Of Page
Payback Time

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 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

top performers.

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

Top Of Page
Reinventing Yourself After 50

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?

Top Of Page
Executive Elocution

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

various aspects.

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

Top Of Page
If We’re Losing It How Do We Know?

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 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

motor skills.

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

flash cards.

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

and situation.

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, click on "Our Clinical

Services," and tease your brain. If you can’t remember this website,

just write it down.

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Tap The Experts: Starting a Business

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,

extension 193.

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.

Top Of Page
Combining Creative Work Under One Roof

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

is more."

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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