The Cockeyed Optimist

Today is the dawn of a new day, a renew of optimism. I can breath a little.

For about ten years, I have headed a marketing and advertising agency. It sounds exciting, but in truth, it can be mundane. It can also be downright disheartening because it is really very little in the profession gives one encouragement. We're an agency where "always...or maybe, today," prevails.

In running an agency, one of the most questionable, or depressing aspects is that old adage of a good client being very hard to find. Sometimes I think he may be walking the streets in the guise of homeless people. You know type? That's a person walks up to you, demands a few dollars to gauge your reaction. It's either Jesus, or an undercover millionaire looking for a marketing company. The inability to tell the difference of in the to, this what creates problems.

Advertising is like any other industry. We want to grow. We want to prosper. We want the guy in the homeless who to bless us with a fat contract. Of course, I'm being facetious. But, this article is entitled “The Cockeyed Optimist,” because it seems I’ve some major serendipity of late.

David Ogilvy advocated that a leader must be willing to delegate, and indeed give up certain aspects of the business to someone a bit more enthusiastic, mercurial, and insightful. In times past these people tend to be frightening because the expectations that they were really gunning for your job. I'm optimistic for good reason.

I started looking for someone to assist me in the day-to-day running of my agency. I discovered a remarkable woman who has exceeded my expectations, a moment of doubt I had the first second. The second ‘Second’ allayed my fears because he spoke so articulately and with insight.

What this simply means is that I can breathe easier. It's good to have someone alongside you that is really an equal. It's not surprising that this gifted young woman has begun the see the agency as her own and helped to take it in the direction that it should be in. If that means that my view is askew, it means that progress has finally visited us.

Now, I need to hire a cute saleswoman to go shakedown a couple of homeless people. I'm willing to bet that the three dudes occupying the tent along San Fernando Road are in fact the former heads of the three largest brokerage firms and have decided to start new companies, incognito.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President


I read recently that advertising agencies are considered by members of the public to be less trustworthy than used car salesmen. But hey! We are still one level above politicians…but that’s another story.

Face it, we hawk products like carnival barkers. We promise to lead you to the woman with a third breast – only to reveal it is only an extra roll of fat hanging from her chin. We are asked to speak the truth, and we should. When I sit down with a new client, I tell them I feel obligated to always tell them the truth. (I may unfold it in segments over a few days, but it will be the truth.)

New clients plead to know your speculative prognostication regarding how their products will perform after they hire you.

Clients want to know whether they have exhausted their capital with a group of consumers, a how impactful it will be on their revenue. They want the truth. The client is saying regardless of the forecast of product performance, they can handle it. We shouldn’t be reluctant to engage in that dialogue. We’re being paid for our expertise and insight. The honest ad agency will tell them if their perceptions are real or imagined. There is an abiding truth – when you think you’ve tapped out, find new markets.

CDM clients have mostly been small and mid-sized businesses. You know – bookstores –insurance agencies — retail stores, car dealerships, restaurants, spas, computer stores and even software companies. In other words, Mom and Pop of all ethnic gradations. Small business – the engine of the American economic machine. Those are the people who built their business from nothing.

Despite their courage in stepping forward to get a hand up, there is a lot of uncertainty among them. It affects business because it causes reluctance to commit to paying an agency to help them to market their company. This isn’t advanced insight into anything. It is the truth.

We continue to go through WTF as 2020 nears, small agencies will continue to deal with customers and use effective strategies to market products. Sometimes, we use a combination of blended marketing tactics with public relations.  It’s advertising because the goal is to grow sales.

Agency life has taught me that no matter what the circumstances may be, there is one truth. The customer needs our ability to navigate their issues. To me, this is the fuel that allows me to breathe and be good at what I do.  

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President