Desperation + Motivation

Traditional wisdom suggests that rabbits outrun foxes because they are running for their lives while the foxes are running for their dinners.

I recently met a woman who had moved here from Miami two years ago who was originally from Cuba. She went to Miami as a refugee. There the Spanish community found her some work  in a high end furniture store in order to help her secure her legal status there. When she started working there she spoke no English although the majority of the clients this company served were Americans who spoke no Spanish. She secured landed immigrant status and did her best to learn a bit of English when she wasn’t working 16 hour days. A few years later she was recognized as the company’s top sales representative in a field of over 250 sales representatives from across America - despite the fact that she still spoke no English and most of her clients did not speak Spanish. 

This woman's story reminds me of a quote from my own Mother, a post-war immigrant from Germany; “Desperation is a very good motivator. Believe me.”

Frankly, I don't think that those who are looking for “work-life-balance” stand a chance against women (and men) who are this desperate + motivated.  




Changing + declining brand values


I grew up in a very religious Christian household. Sunday was a day of rest + worship. I got to wear my best cloths to church and read out of the books that helped parishioners keep the faith; the bible, the hymnals and the catechism.

Compared to other books in our home, the quality of these three spiritual reference books was far superior to the school books and storybooks that we had at home – except maybe our Encyclopedia Britannica – the forerunner of the world wide web.

Religious books were manufactured, distributed, used and cared for differently. Those differences helped make them special. And special = premium priced.

When I saw this box lid in the garbage, it reminded me of how fundamental religion was in my grandparent’s generation (1890 – 1970), how its hold on secular society was challenged and altered in my parent’s generation (1920 – 2010) and how it’s become deconstructed, devalued and commoditized in my generation (1950’s to present).

Along the way the “value” of many religious brands, and many other brands we once held dear, have changed, declined - or died.

Many mass produced products have become ubiquitous and can no longer defend a premium brand or price proposition because cheaper does not equal better.

“Everything Christian For Less” puts a whole new spin on the price + value of your relationship with God.



Lessons on business from Lawrence Levy

I attended an event that featured Lawrence Levy, the gentleman who helped Steve Jobs make Pixar a billion dollar household name. Mr. Levy was there to tell us how he ended up at Pixar (Steve Jobs called him), what he found when he got there (a weird money losing mess with lots of upside potential) and how he turned Pixar into an animation powerhouse (by focusing on their USP and their unfair disadvantage).  

Here are the key points that he made that evening. While I learned most of them years ago (and credited my mentors below each lesson), I’ve recapped them here because these lessons pay dividends throughout your business life – and maybe beyond that one as well.

Passion is not a substitute for knowledge.

  • Roger Gallerini, V.P. BBDO, Detroit.


Don’t hire people who are like you.

  • Judith Elder, V.P. Ogilvy + Mather, Toronto.


Step back and assess things before you act.

  • Howard Breen, CEO, MacLaren McCann (U.S.).       


It’s more import to get to the right answer than to be right.

  • Hugh Dow, V.P. Media Operations, MacLaren Canada.


Giving the create team control is scary.

  • Every single account director that I’ve met in my career. 


Be open-minded and nonjudgmental.

  • Julia Wehrmann, my mother.


Remain open to what comes your way.

  • Julia Wehrmann, my mother + Charlie Convey, my poodle-man + creative muse.


People need to want to change (their own stress levels). You can show them a new way but you can’t force the new way upon them. 

  • Psychology 101 at Ryerson and Dr. Richard Bandler, NLP Founder.



Why Brand Continuity Still Matters

For years I’ve argued that brand continuity is important, and for years franchisees have told me it isn’t. Here are two recent examples that illustrate why brand continuity matters.

Example #1 :: Sobeys

I lived in Winnipeg for two years and shopped at Sobeys because 1. I could walk there, 2. it was a clean bright store,  3. my father-in-law recommended it, and 4. it also had a pharmacy. I came to look forward to my frequent small shopping trips. Better yet they had a number of products that I came to love. I’m not a foodie, but Sobeys did it’s best to make me one. So now I’m back in Toronto – missing my local Sobeys and some of those special treats. I drove to the nearest one, only to find it small, dingy, unfriendly and worst of all – the treats I loves to buy in Winnipeg were nowhere to be found in the Toronto store.  The result: i will not go back to Sobey’s in Toronto and I’ll share my brand disappointment with others.

Example #2 :: Days Inn

Charlie (my dog) and I used to drive to Winnipeg and back a few times a year. When my wife came along we made it a road-vacation. we set a leisurely pace and overnighted 4-5 times enroute. Over the years and miles we’ve found that some hotels and motels had no-dog policies, others charged as much as a 2nd (or 3rd) human occupant, and others put you up in their ‘smoking’ rooms. Then there was Days Inn. So far no matter what route we have taken from Toronto to Winnipeg and back, Days Inn was always happy to put up Michelle, Charlie and me for a $10-$20.00 premium in a non-smoking room. Given the rooms are large, comfortable and equipped with wireless internet and a desk, they’ll continue to get my business and my referrals.

As Holiday Inn used to say in their ads: “The best surprise is no surprise”.



CMDC Digest 2016 / 2017

Long before I became an Account Director and a Creative Director, I was a Media Estimator, Buyer, Planner, Manager and finally a Media Director.

Being a Creative Director is fun because I’m the one responsible for coming up with the “big idea” that the client’s advertising campaign is built around.

Being an Account Director was also a lot of fun because the Account Director is really the one who drives the client conversation and is the one that determines if the client’s campaign is going to be very innovative, repetitive + boring, serious, insightful, wicked, funny, effective or benign.

But being a Media Director was the most challenging role and in hindsight the most interesting line of work. The Media Director determines where the stories will be told. Great media planning, buying + deployment are an amazing process of research driven information orchestrations.

Great media plans put great creative in a position to sell. (A great story at the right time + place presented to the right audience.)

A great media plan + poor creative works, but not as well. (An O.K. story at the right time + place presented to the right audience.)

A bad media plan + great creative is a waste of time + money. (A great story that the right target group never gets to see or hear.)


This, my friends is the 2016 / 2017 edition of the CMDC Digest.

It’s an executive summary of the kind of data today’s Media Directors use to assemble smart, insightful + effective media plans and recommendations.

  • It’s an amazing assembly of facts and figures.
  • It’s all about Canada (not the U.S.)
  • It’s available for free at
  • And a quick search will turn up guides from previous years.