Media planning and buying agency Bigeye’s podcast talks to On Street Media’s team about their unique out-of-home advertising solution: the static street panel.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: The executive team of On Street Media presents their unique out-of-home advertising solution. Bruce O’Donoghue, Brian Miller, and Cynthia Beiler explain the benefits of the company’s static street panel technology, what makes its form factor so distinctive, and the types of campaigns that have outperformed other forms of traditional media. We learn about the origin of the SSP, challenges the company faced, and On Street Media’s growth in markets beyond Florida. 

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. We’ve talked about out of home advertising previously on this podcast. OOH – or simply “outdoor” – encompasses any canvases that exist outside of the home: digital and static billboards, transit advertising, such as posters or screens on a subway on commuter rail, on or in buses and at airports. While in-home advertising media has seen an increase as a result of lockdowns and stay at home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term trends for traditional channels – such as broadcast TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines – point to static or declining revenues from advertisers. In spite of the temporary cessation in most outdoor advertising during April and May, outdoor is set to see market growth in the long-term. As the country has slowly reopened, businesses need to reconnect with existing or lapsed customers. Outdoor ads aren’t skippable, but they’re also not intrusive in the ways that some digital advertising can be. It’s within this dynamic environment that an entirely new concept in out of home advertising has been developed. Called On Street Media, the company is headquartered just down the road from us in Winter Park. To tell us more about this new media option, I’m joined in the studio today by three senior executives from On Street Media: CEO and co-founder Bruce O’Donoghue, VP of Operations and co-founder Brian Miller, and Chief Revenue Officer, Cynthia Beiler. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, everyone.

Cynthia Beiler: Hello.

Bruce O’Donoghue: Thank you.

Brian Miller: Hello.

Adrian Tennant: So let’s start with you, Bruce. First of all, what is On Street Media?

Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, let’s describe it as being a new media opportunity that’s placed on existing electronic utility cabinets that are located on the corners of traffic light or traffic signal intersections. And it’s an opportunity for local and national advertisers, and it’s also a great program for our government partners and it gives them an opportunity to gain some nontraditional revenue or in this case, non-taxable revenue.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Cynthia, how is On Street Media different from other forms of outdoor media?

Cynthia Beiler: Well, it sits right in between traditional outdoor and then outdoor that you see with transit, street furniture, bus shelters. So it’s at the intersections, as Bruce mentioned, but it’s very close to both pedestrian and street traffic. And the visibility is as if it’s a poster right at that intersection. It’s very rare traditional media, traditional outdoor can be right at those intersections. So we fit in this spot that’s been open for quite a while so it’s very exciting for I think the industry, but also for advertisers in this new spot to be more engaged with their community. Advertisers will have a better engagement rate, I think, in these positions than traditional and the transit. So it’s just very exciting.

Adrian Tennant: Bruce, you mentioned a relationship with government, that’s obviously key in this situation. Can you explain why?

Bruce O’Donoghue: I spent my entire professional life in the world of traffic engineering. And so working with the federal government, state and local governments, and I’ve noticed through these years that they really have a need to deal with their traffic and safety issues and they’re always fiscally behind. And so this was a thought that might work for both parties.

Adrian Tennant: What types of businesses are clients of On Street Media – this one’s for you – Brian?

Brian Miller: Well, we’ve got pretty much everybody on the spectrum. Currently our buyers are anyone from restaurants, doctors, lawyers, real estate agents. Pretty much you name it, we have it right now. So we’re tailored to mostly small business, local individuals in the community, but anyone for that matter could be on there.

Adrian Tennant: Bruce, what was the insight that sparked the idea for On Street Media?

Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, as I mentioned, as a traffic engineer, I had a friend come up to me one day and said, “Hey, can we put advertising on your traffic signal control cabinets at the intersections?” And I told him, I didn’t know if we could. And he said, “Well, go find out!” So I met with the state traffic engineer and he says, “I’m not sure if we can do this or not, but if we were to do it, we’d have to have some sort of noninvasive technology.” And at that point, he came back and said, “I think we’ve found the right partners to help us get there.” So we designed it and built it, took it to the department, and their research lab looked at it and said, “Hey, we really like this. This looks like it’ll work really well.”

Adrian Tennant: This is being built on top of existing infrastructure…

Bruce O’Donoghue: Right.

Adrian Tennant:… so is backlighting part of the solution?

Bruce O’Donoghue: It is actually. We designed it to where all of our advertising and sponsorship messages are backlit. And the whole frame goes around the control cabinet assembly and fits very nicely.

Adrian Tennant: And I should say we will include some photographs of some On Street Media in our website pages that accompany this podcast, so listeners will be able to see examples that we’re talking about. In what kinds of ways, if at all, is this different from a traditional billboard that’s typically well above a driver’s eye level?

Bruce O’Donoghue: I think one of the opportunities is at the intersection. You’re not always getting a green light and sometimes you are stopped and it gives the people who are pedestrians and the vehicles who are stopped the opportunity to look upon and gaze at that message and branding that’s being done by the advertiser.

Adrian Tennant: So Brian, how many units does On Street Media have on the streets today?

Brian Miller: Today we have 60 over the course of about two cities. Certainly we have plans for many times that.

Adrian Tennant: How long have you been actively selling the units?

Brian Miller: Our first unit went up 18 months ago and it’s been incremental and we think it’s moving towards exponential growth from this point forward.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. And as I mentioned in the introduction, all the projections for outdoor media are very strong going forwards.

Bruce O’Donoghue: The other thing for us we’ve been speaking to a number of cities and counties and around the state of Florida, we’ve recognized from our conversations with them that they are all fiscally challenged right now. And so folks who might not have been paying a lot of attention to us a year ago, are all of a sudden saying, “We want to talk. We really want to see how this good opportunity can help us.” We’re not going to make or break a city’s budget, but it is going to be an effective source of revenue that will be continued and will increase over the course of time.

Adrian Tennant: I mean, every contribution to the economy right now is helpful for cash-strapped, local councils, et cetera.

Bruce O’Donoghue: That – what you just shared – has been told to us by a number of city officials across the state.

Adrian Tennant: That’s good to hear. So tell us a little bit about how client businesses work with On Street Media – do they work with you directly?

Cynthia Beiler: They do. So, it’s a very small staff, but someone who’s not here today, who’s key, is Gracie in the office. And she is really the core to the business and working with our clients and advertisers. And we work with local businesses. We work with agencies. It’s your typical mix of clients that we have. So between Brian, myself, and Grace, we handle all of the work directly.

Adrian Tennant: Now what’s the percentage split, would you say, between client direct and agency clients?

Cynthia Beiler: It’s almost all client direct right now.

Adrian Tennant: Okay.

Cynthia Beiler: We have a small portion of agencies.

Adrian Tennant: Alright. Well, obviously as an agency, I’m interested in how you do currently work with agencies or plan to work with agencies in the future.

Cynthia Beiler: The best way in my opinion, that media companies work with agencies is truly as a partnership. So first of all, we’re going to be quite busy sharing the story as we open up in market, going out to agencies. So they know about this new media opportunity for their clients. It’s going to be a great way for agencies to help their clients’ media spends be more efficient because I think we’re just going to be a more efficient addition to the overall media buy. Being able to increase impressions in a market and distribution at a really cost effective way, which I know is important for your clients.

Adrian Tennant: Absolutely. And I’m interested, can agencies purchase your outdoor inventory alongside other components of a media buy?

Cynthia Beiler: Sure. I think there’s a fit in any media campaign. Right now, we represent solely the assets that we have on the streets today. But my background in out of home, I see the potential with any agency’s clients, if they’re doing an online campaign, traditional radio, television… out of home is just this beautiful component to add to any campaign, to truly put the power behind a media message.

Adrian Tennant: So the question of return on investment or return on advertising spend comes up increasingly in conversations with clients. How do you currently measure On Street Media’s ROI for clients?

Cynthia Beiler: So that’s always been an interesting question whether I’m on the buying or the selling side, when it comes to a media plan. The approach that we take is really one that I’ve believed in wholeheartedly throughout my career. We first start on the client side, how does a client measure success? If we don’t know how that client is measuring their success, it’s difficult for us to connect the dots back to our medium. A campaign should be designed in a way that’s going to create that return on investment. We don’t necessarily give them the measurements, but we build it in a manner that they’ll be able to measure. So that’s our job as their partner.

Adrian Tennant: So in general, how does an investment in On Street Media compare to say placing media on billboards or transit shelters?

Cynthia Beiler: So I think where On Street Media becomes a bit of a competitive edge in a campaign is our ability to target geographically and demographics because we’re placed very intimately where people are driving and walking where people live and work. We can really understand who that population is. And then because of our proximity to the road, we’re more intimate quite frankly, with advertisers, and that’s gonna create a value statement you can’t get anywhere else.

Adrian Tennant: So what kinds of key performance indicators can advertisers establish to understand how successful an outdoor campaign is?

Cynthia Beiler: Well, I think it follows, in general, what out of home can do for an advertiser. So you look at increased visibility on their website, increased traffic into stores. You can do either branding or a targeted offer that helps measure the success of the campaign as well. Out of home in general is just a way to fuel any advertising campaign, my personal belief. So On Street Media, we’re doing the same thing and quite frankly, even more.

Adrian Tennant: Now, based on results you’ve seen for your clients so far, what types of messages or creative elements consistently outperform in On Street Media’s locations?

Cynthia Beiler: Well, it’s interesting because from my time that I’ve spent with the advertisers, it seems as if offering a particular deal has actually worked really well. In traditional out of home, those offers aren’t always as effective because of the proximity of the campaign, but again, because our medium is interacting and so engaged with the consumer, these offers actually work. Branding works just as well as any out of home campaign, but it seems as if we have an even better opportunity than some traditional out of home for those offers to really drive traffic to stores and websites and grow revenue.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.


Adrian Tennant: Hello! I know you have a lot of options when it comes to podcasts, so I really appreciate you listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. Now we’re planning our fifth season, and I’d like to request your help. We’ve created the first IN CLEAR FOCUS Listener Survey. It’s mobile-friendly and super quick. It would really help us out if you could share your thoughts about the podcast, and what kinds of topics you’d like to hear more of. When you take the survey, you’ll be in with a chance to win a 50 dollar Amazon gift card – woohoo! There’s a link to the survey in this week’s show notes. Just go to slash insights, and click on the button marked podcast. Thank you for your participation, and for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. See you next time.

[Music ends]

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to the leadership team from On Street Media about their static street panels. Are there rules or regulations specifically covering what can or can’t be advertised on your units?

Brian Miller: Well,we are using government space. We’re utilizing their properties, so we have to adhere to certain rules and basically there’s, there’s the list of nos. It’s the sex, drugs and rock and roll list. It’s nothing obscene, whether that’s specifically alcohol-related, sexual nature, gambling, or obscenity judged by the local community.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have an industry body that oversees that kind of regulation also? Or is it more of a local government’s responsibility?

Brian Miller: On the local side we deal with multiple governments, so we have to make sure that it’s appropriate for whatever government, wherever we are. On a national level, we do have the federal government who has certain requirements. Those I just listed. So yes, we have specifics from different bodies. We actually have multiple bodies that are having their laws pushed on us, I suppose you could say.

Adrian Tennant: Cynthia, are there any emerging technologies that you foresee On Street Media integrating with?

Cynthia Beiler: So as an industry, out of home is just on this verge of growth when it comes to technology. So we are absolutely going to explore all our options as a new medium in out of home advertising, but right now, and really for the next 18 months, we’re just focusing on bringing this new medium to market. The “Static Street Panels.” is what we’re calling “SSP,” bringing those to the markets and making sure that that value is extremely high for our advertisers and also for those government partners. So we’ll keep an eye on what’s emerging in this industry and how we might be able to tie to technology someday. But for right now, we’re very focused on just bringing our current inventory live in these markets.

Adrian Tennant: So you’re not only the media vendor, you’re also the manufacturer of the technology, which has to meet Department of Transport specs, right? So tell us how that works in practice.

Bruce O’Donoghue: We knew what the department was going to demand. And so when we got started, we felt like we had to have the quality assurance program in place, knowing what the department would allow. And so in conversation, we had full knowledge of what they were expecting and so we made sure that everything that we built, and everything that we designed was going to comply with in this case, for instance, hurricane Category 5 wind load test. It had to be fully tested by a DOT-approved laboratory. And so that was a key component of other environmental tests that needed to be independently-tested again. And so, having that quality assurance of all the products that we’re putting together gives us the confidence when we’re dealing with a department, as we’re dealing with the cities, as we’re dealing with the counties, their traffic management people know that the product that we install is safe and secure and they don’t have to worry at all. From that point, once we’ve installed everything, then very easily we manage and, and care for it. All of that is a one stop shop. We handle everything, and that’s giving our client base – both our sponsorship ad buyers, as well as our clients from government – they’re assured that all, if there is an issue, they just pick the phone up and it’s resolved instantly.

Adrian Tennant: There’s absolutely an efficiency there in having one point of contact end to end.

Bruce O’Donoghue: It is. Sometimes you’ll get a call in the middle of the night saying a car has lost control. And I’m not saying we’re a guardrail for traffic control cabinets, but we have protected them!

Brian Miller: I don’t think Bruce stressed this point that when he said we built, we’ve actually built it ourselves. We didn’t outsource it to companies, like a billboard company would do – they buy their billboard designs or their digital displays from one vendor. We built the metal in our warehouse, or we cut the metal, we put it together. And then later on, sent it to whomever we were going to do, but it came from our office in our own backyard.

Adrian Tennant: So fast forward from the fabrication of that first static street panel to seeing the first ad in place, what was that like?

Brian Miller: Well, it was vindicating. The first unit we put up probably took about 10 hours. And it was a warm, Fall day and it rained and we had an audience and everything went wrong. We forgot pieces and so we had to go back, drive two hours, collect them. Something didn’t fit right. Rain came down, whatever it may be. It took, I think probably eight to 10 hours. It was exhausting. And there were some very angry people watching, about how long it took… 

Bruce O’Donoghue: Me being one of them!

Brian Miller: Yeah, that’s who I was referring to. But that unit sold in an hour and 20 minutes. But finally it went up, the phone rang and it was totally worth that 10 hours. It was new and attractive and beautiful and we got a lot of attention on it. So, I’m not sure if we got attention while building it, but we got a lot of attention afterwards.

Adrian Tennant: And Bruce, you enjoyed receiving the first check I’m sure from that?

Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, there’s nothing like receiving a payment that tells you that you have a business and it’s viable and it’s going to be successful.

Adrian Tennant: Looking to the future, how do you want to see On Street Media develop over the next two to three years?

Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, that’s a good question. And one that we’ve been thinking on and working on. So, we think the Florida market is emerging, an exciting market. Florida’s well-respected by the Department of Transportation throughout the country. But we are working on other states and outside the Florida market. We do believe that we have an opportunity for every state. And the question is what state’s gonna come first after Florida?

Adrian Tennant: Now, what advice would you give to anyone listening that has a business idea, but doesn’t know whether to take the plunge or not – Bruce?

Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, I can share with you the very first thing you should do is find a handful of people that you would trust as caring advisors so that you can get true and honest responses. I think the second thing is, is to determine what your costs are going to be. And then I think obviously there’s the barrier to entry. You got to determine what that’s going to be. And then you gotta deal with the whole cost of capitalization. And the very last thing is, is that if you don’t have a cast iron stomach, you probably aren’t gonna make it because there are so many hills and valleys, the whole word perseverance is what’s necessary. We’re a great example of that. You know, this idea started over 12 years ago, and it took us up until about 18 months ago to get onto the street.

Adrian Tennant: Right, that’s a classic case of the so-called, “overnight success,” that really has years of sweat equity behind it. 

Bruce O’Donoghue: That’s right. And like I said, having people be completely honest with you who care about you and are gonna tell you that this path is probably a dangerous path or that this is going to be a difficult decision, but it’s going to be the right decision. So you need caring, truthful, honest advisors.

Brian Miller:I mean, as I said, to get going, it took, weeks turned into months and into years, and it’s, it’s been so true here, but in the end it’s paid off. And I think it’s gonna pay off even more as we go forward. So you’ve got to have the patience.

Cynthia Beiler: I think not being afraid. So being real, take the advice of those trusted advisors, but don’t let fear hold you back because you’ve got to focus on what the potential is. And the minute you start being afraid of something, your thinking becomes very blurred. So you have to stay Zen and not be afraid, I think is key.

Adrian Tennant: Finally, if listeners would like to learn more about placing advertising with On Street Media, where can they find you?

Cynthia Beiler: I think the best place to start is our website, And you’ll have all of our contact information out there. You can see this new medium and, and how beautiful it is and what it can do for your advertising message. So I encourage everybody to check us out.

Adrian Tennant: And of course we’ll include a link to that on our website, too. My thanks to our guests this week from On Street Media: Chief Executive Officer, Bruce O’Donoghue.

Bruce O’Donoghue: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting us.

Adrian Tennant: Vice President of Operations, Brian Miller.

Brian Miller: Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: And Chief Revenue Officer, Cynthia Beiler.

Cynthia Beiler: Thank you so much. We had a fun afternoon.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you all. 


You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” That’s also where you’ll find our listener survey. Please take a moment to tell us about what other shows you enjoy and the kinds of content that you’d like to hear more of on this podcast. To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next time. Goodbye.

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Healthcare marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast looks at developing mental resilience in the face of the COVID-19 “infodemic” with Dwight Bain of Life Works Group .

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Replaying one of our most listened-to episodes with Dwight Bain of Life Works Group. Learn how to develop mental resilience in the face of what the World Health Organization calls an “infodemic.” Dwight explains why learning self-care is key to managing stress during the continuing outbreak and avoiding “Pandemic Panic.” His message is as relevant right now as it was when we first recorded the interview in early April. The show notes include links to online resources.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Hello, I’m Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye, and the host of IN CLEAR FOCUS. The coronavirus continues to disrupt our lives and the media provides a 24/7 diet of stories detailing how COVID-19 is impacting education,  healthcare, and politics. Today, we’re re-playing one of our most listened-to episodes. Earlier this year, Dwight Bain of Life Works Group joined us to share practical tips for developing mental resilience in the face of the coronavirus “infodemic.” His message is as relevant right now as it was when we first recorded the interview in April. If you missed it the first time, I hope you enjoy it.


Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Today’s show marks the start of our third season of this podcast. When we launched in October of last year, we did so with the intention of reflecting Bigeye’s audience-first approach to marketing strategy. Our editorial plan incorporated stories that reflected emerging consumer behaviors, evolving attitudes towards brands, and regular updates on media consumption. Clearly, a lot has changed in a very short space of time. This past weekend, Pew Research Center reported that Americans are increasingly alarmed by the rapid spread of COVID-19. A majority of people now believe the outbreak poses a major threat to the health of the US population and the nation’s economy. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed by Pew said they or someone in their household has lost their job, suffered a pay cut, or a reduction in work hours because of the novel coronavirus. Here in Central Florida, we see the impact of the continued closure of the theme parks, resort hotels, restaurants, live entertainment, shopping malls, and all the other businesses that normally would be serving the millions of annual visitors to our area. Even for those who don’t have the virus, nor have been affected economically, stay-in-place orders and enforced social distancing have disrupted personal and professional lives – further blurring the lines between home and work. Domestic internet usage has increased thanks to a huge uptick in Zoom calls and video streaming, and traditional TV viewing is way up, especially among younger generations. While practicing social distancing, people are turning to social media as well as old-fashioned phone calls to stay connected with friends and family. To help us navigate these enforced changes in daily routine and learn how to remain resilient in what may be a sustained period of economic uncertainty, our guest this week is Dwight Bain, founder of The Life Works Group, based in Winter Park, Florida. Dwight has guided thousands of people through challenging times as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Leadership Coach, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and former Family Law Mediator in clinical practice since 1984. Dwight is a best-selling author on the subject of creating change through his books, blogs, “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” stories as well as being quoted in over 20 books. A trusted media source, Dwight has been quoted by and featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Orlando Sentinel and radio and television stations across the major networks. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dwight!

Dwight Bain: Well, thank you Adrian. I’m very happy to be here and as you shared with those numbers, we can tell of course, your listeners can tell, these are very different times. If people are talking about the new normal and I’m calling it a new reality because we’re still in a rapid change cycle and for some people that’s recession. But for other people, I believe it’s not an economic recession as much as an emotional one. There is much to discuss.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us a little bit about the Life Works group?

Dwight Bain: This is a counseling agency. I founded almost 40 years ago. We’re a team of individuals, we’re faith-based, dealing with areas of mental health counseling, addressing issues of change, career repurposing, coaching people with communication skills and abilities, helping people develop creative ideas, and taking them to the marketplace. One of our counselors works extensively with the court system. People going through a change in their relationship sometimes after a divorce or custody issues. My focus in working with the community, working with the media is to bring a positive message about emotions and relationships because I believe there’s a lot of bad news, but if we can, we can change the perspective and change the focus. You can find the opportunity in the middle of the crisis.

Adrian Tennant: Now, before COVID-19, what did a typical “day in the life” look like for you?

Dwight Bain: That’s a great question. I work in the office four days a week and then I’m out either writing or speaking a day a week and it would mean a couple of days of clinical work in the area of mental health helping individuals past anxiety, loneliness. Sometimes, people feel overwhelmed because of traumatic episodes in their life. And the good news, things like PTSD, OCD, ADD, and other things that start with initials are completely curable and correctable. There are a number of new brain patterns that we can utilize so that it’s more about life skills and instead of more pills, speaking with corporations, with groups on the area of change, helping people change if it’s more of a mental focus that might be counseling Bates with clinical hospitals and psychiatric facilities, behavioral treatment centers. But if it’s in the area of change toward growth, those are coaching topics. And right now there’s some phenomenal opportunities for people that are paying attention and then have been able to turn off the fear. If we were a visual, I have a little model of a brain here, Adrian and I would show you the prefrontal cortex is the creative center of the brain. And when we’re in a panic, you know, fight or flight routine, that part shuts off because I don’t need to think creatively. When I’m running from the saber tooth tiger, I’m running for my life. I need to be able to utilize every bit of brain power for running and surviving. So we’ve got to calm people down so they don’t stay in that survival mode. Because if you’re in that fear-flight cycle, what happens is you’ll lose the ability to think creatively. You’ll, you’ll either break off connection with your core customers, vendors, and some people it’ll actually turn self-destructive. Their anxiety and panic will turn towards feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. And we’ve already seen that. And that’s why I think conversations like this are so important to let people know that we’re stronger together. We can get through this, but there are some steps that I want to see people taking for themselves, for their families, their staff, so that we get through it stronger together.

Adrian Tennant: Now with the 24/7 news cycle, COVID-19 coverage is immediately available to us all on our screens, our smart speakers. You know, the statistics we’re being presented with are often scary. How can we keep anxiety and negative emotions from spiraling out of control?

Dwight Bain: Adrian, we control our thoughts, get as much of the news media during a national catastrophe. You know, during the terrorist attacks of 9/11, during the economic recession, if people are old enough, they may remember the HIV AIDS crisis in the 1980s… Get as much news as you need about Y2K or some global event, Hurricane Dorian, and then turn the news off. Most of us, unless you work in the news media, most of us are not watching 24 hours a day of news. And so what that means is, unless you were watching that much news before, don’t watch it now. The more you focus, the more you’ll change your mood, right? Our mindset determines our mood. So there’s something I saw posted on social media today that I thought was really good. I don’t really know who the sources are, but it just simply said that during this episode with coronavirus lockdown, if you have not gained a new skill, if you have not learned something new, something powerful, your problem isn’t time – your problem is discipline. And I thought, “that’s a really good idea.” Because for many Americans, they’re shut down for a month. And if we could go on a time machine, Adrian, back 365 days to good old 2019, the number one thing that Americans have said they wanted in surveys the last several years, American said, I want more time. Okay, well now you’ve got more time. And what I’m starting to hear is that people spend a lot of time on Netflix and they spend a lot of time on video games and they spend a lot of time on Facebook catching up with people from high school. I’m not sure how many people have learned how to play the guitar. I’m not sure how many people have been very disciplined about moving forward and gaining a new skill. And for some people, maybe there’s a certification you can pick up. There are things you can do during this period of time to make you better, stronger, faster. That’s a mindset and when you change your mindset, you’ll change your mood. Here’s the other piece, you’ll also find motivation because if I’m learning a new skill, a side hustle, more knowledge, I’m reading the books that I want to read, I’m positioning my company for the future because this economic shutdown will end. This will not go on in perpetuity, but if you, if you finish this season, mentally strong instead of sheltering at home, you’re strengthening at home, you’re skill-building at home, you’ll be positioned to move forward very quickly. I think for many people when the economic shutdown stops, when individuals are able to kind of go back to work, the theme parks open back up. Adrian, I think they’re going to be some people that have gained five pounds and lost 30 days and that troubles me and that’s why I hope that that even now will spark them toward, “I need to use this time to build me, my staff, our company – so that we’re positioned for rapid growth and these rapidly changing times.”

Adrian Tennant: The World Health Organization has referred to coverage of COVID-19 as an Infodemic – highlighting concerns about the accuracy of information and reliability of sources sharing data about the novel Coronavirus across social media. I thought it was interesting, Facebook issued a statement in response saying that they want everyone to have access to credible information and to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus. Dwight, what sources do you think we should trust at this time?

Dwight Bain: I’m glad you asked me the question because I certainly agree with the idea of information overload. One of the areas that we’re gonna ask people to do is to pay attention to what information do you need right before we even look at a trusted source? And by the way, that would be like – the Centers for Disease Control – or, or Johns Hopkins University. And it’s interesting, some of the spammers, I wish the spammers would work on a vaccine because some of them are quite clever. I almost clicked on a John Hopkins look alike and somebody thankfully was by my screen and said, “that one’s spam!” And I, it was an exact clone look alike. So we’re going to find some trusted news sources, but first Adrian, we’re going to pay attention to what information do you need? You don’t have to continually know what is happening in a part of the world where you don’t do business, don’t have family, have no connections. That information might make you feel very afraid. But it’s not going to make you feel better because you’re going to feel helpless. If there’s one word in the midst of everything that’s occurring that will change your emotional state. It’s the word control. You have to give up control of the things you cannot control. Now that may seem simplistic, but you can’t control the global economy. You can’t control what somebody in the White House says. You can’t control what happens with a disease and a part of the country that you’ve never visited or have no family members, but you can control your mood, your mindset, your attitude. You can control the information that’s coming in. You can control if you didn’t watch television five hours a day before, don’t watch it five hours a day now. Just spend time with your morning rituals and routines. I call those a daily dozen. They’re quite important because a daily dozen is being able to, when you wake up in the morning, first alarm, you get out of bed and you follow some routines, you follow some patterns and those patterns will do something remarkable. It will make you mentally strong and mentally tough. And that means as you go through the day, you go through the day feeling stronger, you go through the day feeling empowered. Instead of feeling weak. I want people to go through their days feeling kind of turbocharged of, “I know we can get through this together. I know what we can do about it.” And that starts with what you’re feeding, not just your body – because we all know we should eat healthy. I want to see people doing that with their mind and their information source. And one of the greatest ways is to simply put a timer on it. If you’re spending five hours a day on Facebook, I would challenge that individual to say, “how is that benefiting you? How is it making you money? How has being on a social media platform for five hours on Pinterest, what does that have to do with your responsibilities?” Because if it’s not helping you Adrian, I believe it’s hurting you.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm – so interesting to hear you talk about the importance of routine. Roughly three out of every four people here in the US are – or soon will be – under instructions to stay indoors as states and localities are trying to curb the spread of the Coronavirus before hospitals are completely overwhelmed. As the pandemic stretches into several weeks, maybe even months, are there any specific coping mechanisms or techniques that you think listeners can use to develop the kind of mental resilience that it’s going to require?

Dwight Bain: Even if you’re completely sheltering in place and you have no opportunity to go outside, I mean I hope that folks could go outside just for sunshine, for the vitamin D content and the vitamin D boost, but you can build routines. Think about Nelson Mandela in a prison cell, being able to just look out of a tiny window, but for 22 years he mentally focused on what his greater purpose was and then when he was released from prison, was able to change apartheid in South Africa. When you look at individuals who have been jailed or blocked or locked into a tiny space, they can come out of it much stronger. It’s a mental game. It’s mental, it’s emotional, psychological, spiritual. To be able to have a quiet time of meditation, a time of prayer to simplify everything in our life. And for me, a lot of that happens through reading, journaling. I’ve been told recently that it is very hard right now to find jigsaw puzzles because mentally it not only passes time, but it mentally keeps you sharp. If you’re doing something passive like watching television or playing a video game that’s passive, it’s not going to make you mentally tough or mentally stronger. People are going to have potentially a month in their homes and some will get weaker and stressed and worried and afraid, and they will create their own problems. Now this gets serious because the more you stay stressed, worried and afraid, the more you weaken your immune system. And the one great thing that you can have short of not being coughed on or sneezed on by someone infected, the greatest thing you can have is a strong immunity. And part of that immunity is mental and psychological. Of course, eat colorful foods and all the things that Dr. Oz talks about, but mentally and psychologically, you can make yourself stronger or weaker based on what you seed your mind. I believe something that Dr. Daniel Amen teaches, if you change your brain, you’ll change your life and people will have an opportunity to do that. And I believe in this type of an environment, we’re going to see some people, they’ll take the challenge, they’re going to read more, they’re going to clean out those closets. They’re going to stay mentally active at home and, and they’re going to help themselves now and likely prevent the onset of early adult dementia and 30 years. Because if you keep your mind strong and focused in this situation, you can stay mentally strong in any situation.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.


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[Music ends]

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Dwight Bain of the Life Works Group about the impact of COVID-19 and coping through the crisis. Well, let’s talk about some of our youngest members of society. With almost all US states closing schools until at least the end of this month, new data from a company called SuperAwesome, which is a kids technology company, shows that many children ages six to 12, spending at least 50% more time in front of screens every day during this pandemic. What can parents do to ensure that their kids’ screen time is beneficial?

Dwight Bain: I like that question because it’s funny, parents who were just screaming six months ago, “get the kids off of screens!” are now in a situation where the schools have said kids have to go back to screens. And so what we can do is to set timers. If a child was at school, there would be science from this timeframe until this timeframe and then we would go on to the next task. It’s going to be important, I believe, for individuals, for parents to be able to not only set timers on some things, but to be able to get up and do stretch exercises. There are ways for us to stay active. Whether you’re six years old or you’re 60 years old, there are things you can do to stay mentally tough, mentally strong, mentally focused. And with parents, the greatest thing that you can do with your children is keep everyone on a schedule. Keep everyone on a routine set, bedtime set. Wake up time for everybody. We have breakfast time, laundry time, folding laundry time. The more we can keep those routines in place, the more we’re gonna prevent, not just cabin fever, but the more that the whole family is working together. And I believe, Adrian, we’re going to see some families come out of this significantly stronger and significantly happier because they learned what families learned during the great depression: they learned how to do life together. They learned how to get through a difficult time together and they learned how to partner together. So it wasn’t just the parents having to be Supermom, Superdad – it was the entire family becoming more resilient in the face of difficulty. And that’s why sometimes after a crisis, we’ll say, “you’ve seen the best in people, you’ve seen the worst in people,” and the worst tends to make the news. But I think we’re going to hear some remarkable stories of stronger families of stronger and new companies doing inventions, things that came out of the 2008 Great Recession changed our new inventions. While people will be doing that as well. If they can get to that creative side of their brain and we get there by calming, deep breathing meditation. The Navy seals teach something called box breathing. It’s very important. You can actually change your pulse. You can change your blood pressure by breathing differently, breathing stronger and breathing in a certain way and your body will actually calm down. You can watch blood pressure go down, resting heart rate go down. It’s very interesting. But the part that I know for, for you and I, and for your listeners, even though we may not ever have a chance to go see the Navy seals, we can learn one of the principles of the Navy seals. And in so doing we can control our next breath with mental focus. And I think as we do that, not only will COVID-19 just be a memory and I don’t know, five years and people say, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” We will get through this. But some people will get through it stronger, focused, resilient and better. And other people, it will just be something that they live through. And, and, and there was no benefit to them other than they survived it. And while survival’s not bad, I think that we can, we can take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for a family coming together for stronger relationships, for organization, for gaining new skills. There are opportunities, but we do have to be disciplined to put them into place. And some of that starts with a daily routine and a daily schedule.

Adrian Tennant: Dwight, your one of the leading national trainers in the field of community crisis management. I know you’ve helped rebuild stability after national disasters like the Columbine and Sandy hook school shootings, hurricane Katrina, and across the pulse nightclub, terrorist attack here in Orlando. And you also worked with a team helping first responders in New York city after the terrorist attacks of nine 11 in 2001 in what kinds of ways are the impacts of covert 19 similar or dissimilar from those situations?

Dwight Bain: Mmm, that’s a great, great question because the, the difference in this situation is we are still spiraling down with the terrorist attacks of nine 11. It was limited to Washington, DC, one area of Pennsylvania and New York city. When we look at Hurricane Dorian, Hurricane Irma, it’s geographically limited. Some of the wildfires we saw in California several years ago that just decimated thousands of homes. It’s geographically limited. And so in this situation, Adrian, we’re also seeing some geographic limitations. Some cities like New York City, New Orleans, Miami, Seattle, I mean, just at a catastrophic level of need for quarantine because the disease is just highly contagious and running rampant. Then you have other parts of the country, North Dakota is not as affected. And so the differences here is those were events over a period of days or even with 9/11, it was a day. And this one has gone on for weeks and is projected to go on for months. And so what we have are some of the similar dynamics of the cycle of pre crisis crisis and the crisis recovery, except right now the crisis is extenuating. We’re on day 20 and some cities day 30 in some cities, some parts of the Pacific Northwest, here in Florida where I live and where we’re recording, you know, we’re on a community lockdown, a statewide lockdown that’s projected for another 30 days. And so what happens is that the crisis exposes things that were there before, but that were either overlooked or people didn’t want to deal with. For instance, an example would be a relationship problem. If people are in a strong relationship, obviously they’ll come through this much better. But people are in a distant relationship, a struggling marriage, maybe there was a lot of tension in their home. This is going to expose those problems. And sadly for some, I’m afraid that it will escalate. And here’s the number one rule in a crisis: Don’t make it worse. There’s enough problems. Don’t make it worse. And I think for many people, a hope is that they’re going to hear this and Adrian, they’re going to say, “you know, those guys made sense. I think that I should take some, some steps, build some routines, build some schedules. I think that it’s important for us as a family.” You know what? We need to spend time working on the things that matter to sit down and talk with your family. And there are a number of resources that our team has put together. They’re community crisis recovery – they’re absolutely free. People can go to our website, I’ll give you the PDFs. Please share them with all of your listeners because I know that going through this together, if we talk to each other, we can get through it. If you talk through it, you can get through it. Nobody wants to be in the middle of this. But the good news is that together learning from each other, sharing ideas, being creative, opening up conversations just like this one, we will come out of it. And for many people, many organizations, many families, they will actually come out of this situation stronger. And it’s because of the choices that they made in the middle of the crisis – choices that they’re making right now toward mental wellness and resilience and strength instead of living in fear.

Adrian Tennant: Dwight, thank you very much for being our guest today and for sharing your advice on staying connected, calm and honestly managing the anxieties of our current moment. Really appreciate it.

Dwight Bain: I’m glad to be part of the conversation to bring healing and strength as we all recover better together. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Dwight Bain. You can find our show notes with links to the resources that Dwight mentioned on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


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Consumer insights company Bigeye’s podcast examines grocery shopping habits during COVID-19 and forecasts which new behaviors might ‘stick’ post-pandemic.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, joins the podcast to examine how grocery shopping has changed during the pandemic. We discuss significant changes in consumer behavior – who is shopping, where, how often, and how much is being spent today compared to before COVID-19. We consider how the rapid adoption of online shopping, curbside pickup, and delivery may influence direct-to-consumer models and the long-term implications for CPG brands and the food service industry.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Preliminary estimates published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that real GDP declined by a historic 33% at an annualized rate in the three months ended June 30th, totally eclipsing the previous negative record set in the first quarter of 1958. The reasons for this decline are of course, attributable to COVID-19. In March of this year, President Trump declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a national emergency. The lockdowns and stay in place orders that followed had an immediate and devastating impact on the economy. In its most recent weekly Pulse report, the US Census Bureau found that over half of American adults live in households which have experienced a loss in employment income. Forty percent had delayed getting medical care in the previous four weeks. And one quarter of respondents reported feeling down more than half the days or nearly every day in the previous week. FMI, the Food Industry Association, recently published a report looking at grocery shopping trends during the pandemic. FMI’s Executive Director, David Fikes wrote that quote – “Never before in the recent past of our nation have we been forced to confront the magnitude of abrupt changes that COVID-19 circumstances foisted upon us all. So the food industry suddenly found itself facing unprecedented disruption” end quote. To discuss the extent to which the arrival of the coronavirus in the United States has really upended Americans’ grocery shopping habits, I’m joined today by Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS. Dana!

Dana Cassell: Thanks, Adrian. I’m glad to be back!

Adrian Tennant: Dana, the report from FMI is one of many published recently that’s tracking changes in consumer behavior and attitudes throughout the course of the pandemic. What are some of the key takeaways for you?

Dana Cassell: Yeah, this report is a great one and I, as a digital marketer, was very enthusiastic to dig in and see how online behavior has changed. And we’re certainly going to talk a lot about that today. But one of the takeaways for me is kind of something that had a little bit more personally, just how the data even acknowledges the pain and suffering and grief that’s going on. Certainly across the world in this report, we’re talking about our country and there’s really no way to make that light. So even as a digital marketer, being excited about what’s happening online and how this pandemic has forced the hand of so many businesses to move quickly with respect to technology. Hunger, specifically childhood hunger, are causes near to my heart. So, there is a lot of disruption in the numbers that are reported in this report from FMI about food availability and income and how that all relates to families and their eating. So all of that is certainly heartbreaking. The report highlights that 20% of shoppers are concerned about having enough money to pay for needed food. And more broadly, 50% of shoppers are somewhat or very concerned about having enough food for their household. And the report also talks about people being worried, just general concern. Seventy-eight percent are choosing a store because of sanitation practices and their efforts to minimize shoppers or offering special hours. So people are worried about getting sick about items being out of stock and rising prices. So certainly, the report talked about some of these things that are more emotional issues. And that was a key takeaway from me outside of those financial and emotional concerns. Of course, the first takeaway from the report is acknowledging how lockdowns and social distancing measures have forced consumers to try new ways of shopping. So that means we’ve seen a rise in eating at home, um, but much less eating out at restaurants, QSRs, and bars. And, in reaction to that, we’ve seen QSRs offering at-home delivery and some even becoming pop-up shops, delivering grocery items, alongside meals. So we’ve seen a lot of innovation and perhaps because I’m trying to find some silver lining in the data, I was also interested in the way the pandemic has forced people to try new things. So the FMI data shows that 20% of Americans have tried online shopping for the first time in the pandemic. Forty-one percent of shoppers are cooking more of their own meals and shoppers are allowing employees to pick out fresh foods for them in ways that they didn’t before. So I was really interested in the ways the report is pointing to how the pandemic is helping us try new things or things for the first time.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we’ll dive into those. But first let’s just remind ourselves of the timeline so far. The CARES Act passed in late March provided economic impact payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under 17 years old or up to $3,400 for a family of four. Data from the US Census Bureau’s weekly household Pulse survey shows the stimulus payments were used to pay for a wide range of things, but 59 percent said they used or plan to use their stimulus payment for food. In fact, the most recent Pulse report shows that US households are spending an average of $211.34 a week to buy food at supermarkets, grocery stores, and online, to prepare and eat meals at home. So as the number of Americans on full or partial lockdown increased in line with infections during March, we saw the restaurant trade was one of the worst hit sectors. Data from online restaurant reservation service OpenTable showed that most establishments in major cities like Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco had lost 100% of their business by March 17th, with many switching to take out or providing delivery services, really in a bid to remain afloat. Dana, how has the crisis changed households’ grocery shopping habits?

Dana Cassell: FMI has been tracking us grocery shopping, perceptions and behaviors via weekly online surveys since March 21st of this year, the report that we’re referencing was published in June, but of course the reopening of the country is at different stages, depending on where you live in the United States. The FMI report shows that as a result of the coronavirus crisis, almost four-fifths – 78% – of shoppers surveyed indicated they have made a change in where they shop for food. Forty percent reported shopping at fewer stores with 28% shopping online more. Fifteen percent say they avoid the stores they typically shopped pre-pandemic, 11% changed the store they shop at most often. Ten percent shop at different types of stores. And another 10% stopped going to stores altogether. It’s worth noting that during the period in which the data for the FMI study was collected, consumers were multi-sourcing. Their focus was on stocking up on essentials. Supply chain issues and shortages also meant trying new products and brands. In addition to changing where they shop, Americans have also changed how they shop. Nearly nine and 10 respondents – that’s 89% – say they now shop differently because of COVID-19. Changes include 44% spending more money each visit, 32% speeding up their shopping trips, and a quarter 25% narrowing the range of items purchased, and 16% spending more money online. This adds up to very functional plan, that shopping behaviors, not at all the exploratory mode of browsing the aisles and then making decisions.

Adrian Tennant: I was interested to see that who makes the grocery shopping trip is different for many households now, too. Among the changes almost one quarter – 24% – said just one person now shops for groceries versus two or more people previously. Eleven percent reported that someone outside the household, such as a relative or friend, makes the shopping trip. And 3% said that a different person entirely in the household now does the food shopping. So what we’re seeing is that even though there are two people in the household who have opinions and shopping preferences, there’s now only one opportunity to go to the store. Do you think this has likely led to list building collaborations in households where it may not have been as routine prior to COVID-19?

Dana Cassell: Sure. We see that more people are planning their meals, which means that they’re shopping on a mission. And also that 11% of shoppers have someone else doing their shopping, so a list would be important in those scenarios. One thing that the report also highlights is the extent to which respondents are preparing or cooking their own meals. Forty-one percent of respondents said that they are cooking more now than prior to the pandemic. Twenty-seven percent report planning more meals in advance. So there is probably better planning because of a more limited budget or wanting to minimize the number of trips to the grocery. Also, we have more people just at home. So there would be more meals happening at home with more people in the house. That means there’s also fewer meals like in cafeterias or in office buildings, fewer drive throughs on the way to do sports practices, things like this. So we’re seeing more at home, more planning in advance, which certainly would lead itself to more list-building. We also see one fifth – 20% – trying new dishes more often. So I love the idea that this might have implications for people trying more exotic foods or flavors in the future. We’ve seen a rise in live classes online and on-demand content from cooking and baking shows. I have actually been super delighted that people have been inspired to branch out. And I hope some of the new dishes people are trying is bringing a little bit of fun and excitement back into our lives through the kitchen. I remember at the beginning of the crisis, there was a lot of talk about people adding quarantine pounds. In the UK, around 48% of people surveyed said they had gained weight during lockdown. So what was really interesting to see that 36% of our US respondents report developing healthier eating habits as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to just 13% who say they’re eating less healthily now. Not in the FMI report, but something we’ve seen – whether as a consequence of supply chain issues resulting in shortages of meat products or this trend towards healthier eating – is an increased interest in plant-based alternatives to meat. Impossible Foods’ beef alternative has just been introduced to Walmart stores. Grocery demand for fresh or frozen plant based meat surged 300% in March, while store sales of Impossible Burger – the ones you can get at Burger King – have more than doubled every month since April. The meat alternative market seems to be experiencing what Impossible’s CFO characterized as “hypergrowth”.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Well, moving away from the FMI report, let’s turn our attention to another area of hypergrowth – e-commerce. To put this in context: since 2009, e-commerce has been growing by around 1.5% each year. Last year, we were looking at around 16% of all retail being conducted via digital channels. But after the point at which COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, e-commerce sales penetration rose 11%, leaping to 27% of all retail. That’s effectively a decade of e-commerce growth achieved in about 10 weeks. Reflecting the shift to purchasing essential goods via digital channels, eMarketer forecasts that food and beverage will be the fastest growing e-commerce category of 2020 with year-over-year growth of 58%. So the number of us consumers purchasing grocery items online in 2020 will surge to 131 million, representing about 53% of all internet users. Dana, does this feel like a real tipping point to you?

Dana Cassell: Yes, absolutely. The data shows that millions of first time grocery e-commerce buyers surmounted the initial adoption hurdle, while many light online grocery purchasers increased the frequency and or value of their orders. And we are seeing that across generations. So there’s not just one specific age group of shoppers that are turning online. And when you see the numbers plotted on a graph, the growth of e-commerce is a classic hockey stick. So I think it’s really exciting. I think it’s definitely a tipping point. And the fact that it’s a decade worth of change in just more than two months is astounding. I looked back at the numbers to see how far we’ve come. A year ago in August of 2019, sales were $1.2 billion in March. That number had grown to $4 billion. That’s a 233% increase and sales grew by an additional 80% from March to June. I think that really underlines how much of the e-commerce growth can be attributed to the fact that consumers have wanted to limit their potential for exposure to the virus, which means that some companies have, you know, really benefited from COVID-19.

Adrian Tennant: For delivery, Amazon and Instacart have been the biggest beneficiaries of the rapid shift to online grocery buying. Quartz estimated a year-over-year increase in Amazon Fresh orders of 323%. The previously troubled meal kit company, Blue Apron, posted much better than they expected earnings for the second quarter, citing increased demand for its meal kits due to the stay at home orders during the coronavirus. Like Amazon, Blue Apron expanded capacity at its fulfillment centers to be able to meet increased demand. For stocking up on supplies, Costco was a key player during the early days of the panic-induced buying period, and could continue to benefit as it sees more of its customers transition to online ordering. For curbside pickups, Walmart was really able to ride the wave because it had focused on growing its capabilities in this area. In fact, the last time you and I spoke about the grocery wars this was one of our topics. Target initially had some catching up to do, but has since made fresh and frozen groceries available for curbside pickup. And as consumers shifted to ordering delivery for dinner, DoorDash’s sales surged: the food delivery service grabbed 45% of third party delivery orders in April, followed by rivals Uber Eats at 28%, Grubhub, at 17%, and Postmates at 7%. Dana, did these stats ring true for how the Cassell household has been operating during the pandemic?

Dana Cassell: Oh, absolutely. We’ve definitely seen some changes in the way we shop in the Cassell household. We’ve been doing curbside pickup of frozen and packaged foods, household supplies, cleaning products for a long time, but this pandemic caused us to start including our fresh foods and those orders. Um, in fact, it also has changed where I did curbside because I’m pickier about where my fresh foods come from than where my paper towels or bag of rice and cereal comes from. So we joined those numbers from the FMI report of consumers who are more willing now to let a store employee pick out fresh fruit, fruits, or veggies or meats than we were six months ago. I’ve also loved experimenting with different stores and their curbside offering. We have, as you mentioned, seen a lot of changes at Target and the way that they’re delivering, they’re also doing a wonderful job at Target using their app to predict when people will come, and being prepared with their orders curbside. So their turnaround time, and a lot of their stores, is very quick from arrival to departure. I’ve also done a little experimenting at Michael’s craft stores to see how their curbside has been operating. I’ve got little girls in my house. So, especially in the early days of pandemic, when we were under stay-at-home orders, we did a lot of crafting. So it’s been really interesting to see how stores across industries have handled curbside. I have a little bit of a casual, lighthearted annoyance at some time slot options, because I was in this habit of doing curbside pick up. And all of a sudden it’s kinda like the gym in January. You know, there’s all these new people in the gym in January, and during the pandemic, there’s all these new folks at curbside! And obviously in the big picture, I’m glad they’re there. I think they’re making a smart choice for themselves and for community health, but it has been interesting to have to have a little bit more competition for some of those time slots. The other thing I’ve really enjoyed watching – and that’s been different for us – I’ve been watching how the DTC brands have changed. So food delivery, kind of like Daily Harvest, even things like skincare subscriptions, we’ve seen similar growth for those DTC subscriptions as we have in the curbside grocery world.

Adrian Tennant: And now, remind me, Dana, do you receive a subscription service for your pets?

Dana Cassell: I do. So I have Tona, who is an almost two-year-old black lab, and Baxter is a 12-year-old Tabby cat, and we get their food by subscription: one through Chewy, one through an Amazon subscribe and save. And then Chewy also delivers like our flea and tick and heartworm medications. You too, right, with the cats?

Adrian Tennant: I’ve just switched to a new service for cats. So I’ll let you know the next time we do a podcast, how that works out. Apparently there’s a money-back guarantee. So if the cats don’t like the food, there’s no problem. We’re going to see how this works out.

Dana Cassell: Okay. Will you survey them on like a Likert scale or how will you get there?

Adrian Tennant: I’ll have to come up with a research methodology to truly capture their cat-titudes! 

Dana Cassell: I look forward to participating in that study with you.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you. So what are some of the most interesting things you’ve seen during the coronavirus?

Dana Cassell: Yeah, so the pop-up provisioners, or  pop-up grocers made significant inroads with consumers at the beginning of the pandemic offering grocery items iIn addition to their regular menu items. Restaurants were leveraging their frictionless platforms to offer curbside pickup, take out, drive-through, and delivery. For example, Jimmy John’s offered just the bread if customers wanted it. So I’ve really enjoyed watching that creativity happen. And also consumers learn to shift to thinking about a restaurant as a grocery provider as well. I’m always having my eye on the way that small business is working. So I was not particularly surprised to see large national food brands shift quickly, but I really enjoyed watching some of the more boutique, artisan level restaurants, sort of farm-to-table places make a shift. And I loved watching that. I saw one community food hub, which is kind of the idea of a food hall, but in a drive-through way really kind of live out the rising tide floats all boats model. So a large restaurant in the area became a grocery provider alongside food kits, meal kits, and takeout. And then they also brought in other smaller businesses, so like a local honey company. There was a distillery that turned to hand sanitizer. Some restaurants that were not able to support their own online platform, created meal kits. There were florists from local farms, there were farm fresh produce offerings. So this large restaurant that could have really just focused on their own products and turning their own store into the restaurant, into a grocery, brought in all these other smaller or less technologically savvy businesses in the area for a hub. And that is really one of my favorite things that I watched happen. I also saw a local wine company shift really, really quickly to online sales doing curbside pickup and also delivery, which, you know, there’s kind of a joke in that with figuring out how to get wine during a pandemic, but I really admired the way they did it. They – instead of trying to take their entire inventory online – pretty quickly built like an “Our Picks” section. So you kind of answered a couple of questions about what your favorite varieties were, and then they gave you like our top eight picks. And they were in a few different price ranges, so they weren’t just pushing people to high end wine and it made their website shoppable very quickly. And then over time, they’ve added volume and I got to speak with the owner, just out of curiosity. And it seems like these months during coronavirus, where they’ve had to shift to curbside and delivery have been some of their best that they’ve been in business yet. So that’s a great small business success story. Also, this is kind of less of a shift and more of a surge in food trucks coming and really promoting more than they have in the past. So I’ve seen a steady flow of food trucks at neighborhood pools or community venues that are offering not just their typical fare, but also like for instance, a local baker – usually just selling scones and loaves of bread – has been offering bacon home pizza. So they’ve prepared it and you go finish it in your oven at home. They had yeast and flour during the huge baking surge of March and April when those were really hard to find at grocery stores. And then they also made some of their typical products that they par-baked that then you finished in your oven at home like scones. So I was really encouraged to see some of those food truck owners being really creative and also meeting the needs of the people they were serving. The last thing that I really have seen that I thought was great innovation, are restaurants offering family style offerings on their menus. So a great example is a Mexican street food company that we really love. We actually pre-pandemic ate there quite often. And they have started doing taco kits for a family. So it’s all prepared and ready, but rather than ordering four different entrees or two entrees and two kids’ meals, they’ve just made these family style offerings. So that has kind of changed Taco Tuesday at our house. And I think what I’m really kind of the summary of what I’m saying, the most interesting things I’ve seen is that these brands are, first of all, they’re being altruistic, the rising tides thing. They’re also adding levity. They’re trying to help us have a little bit more fun they’re finding us yeast, so we can try this sourdough trend, or they’re giving us flowers in a time when we haven’t really thought to buy flowers or some interesting different ways to enjoy food at home. And I’ve loved how businesses have shifted to be able to do that.

Adrian Tennant Now, although people will likely return to supermarkets if online grocery settles at even around 20% in the US, it will still represent one of the largest consumer markets in the world. At three quarters of a trillion dollars, the industry could see $100 to $150 billion transition to tertiary channels, creating extraordinary disruption – but of course, also opportunities. For example, in cold storage, fulfillment and packaging. As we’ve learned over the past few months, some types of packaging are better suited than others when it comes to digital fulfillment. Dana, do you think that could fuel innovation? Not only in grocery, but in CPGs that were previously tentative about adopting a direct-to-consumer strategy?

Dana Cassell: If it doesn’t then I don’t know what their strategy is. There is this idea of asking ourselves when things go back to normal, what from before is worth going back to, and I think brands need to ask themselves that too, right down to how their products best serve consumer preferences now, which are significantly different than what they were six months ago. So I think about the way that some products appear in app. So if you are an Instacart shopper, or if you use your grocery app to do curbside or any form of grocery delivery, you know that not all product images and descriptions are equal. So some brands have just done a bad job of providing the right content and that creates confusion when you’re shopping. So I really do think that we’re going to see grocers and CPGs focusing more on the quality of the work that they put into the direct-to-consumer strategy.

Adrian Tennant: Looking forward to a post-pandemic world, or at least in a world where we have an effective vaccine and have developed herd immunity, the big question of course is how many of these new consumer behaviors will remain habitual?

Dana Cassell: It’s a great question. The FMI report we referred to earlier found that seven out of eight adults – 88% – expect some persistent changes to their food habits once the pandemic becomes less of a concern and almost half – 48% – of Americans expect to prepare meals at home more frequently. And with significant implications for food service, 38% of consumers expect to eat out less while these percentages are averages reflecting all generations FMI reported that habitual changes were especially true for younger adults.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. I think what the FMI report and others show is that the majority of Americans expect some of their COVID-19 shopping habits to continue to some degree, once the pandemic becomes less of a concern. For example, a Harvard Business School report published this week suggests that at least 16% of American workers will switch from office based settings to working home at least two days per week after COVID-19 subsides. This obviously has significant implications. And I know I’m biased, but – as people’s post-pandemic lifestyles emerge along with new online preferences, dietary habits, arising from some broader changes that we’ve been seeing such as an increased focus on health and wellness and an intention to cook at home – more often research that yields consumer insights will be key to stay in close to people’s evolving behaviors and attitudes. Right?

Dana Cassell: Absolutely. And I look forward to really digging into that post-pandemic research phase of life.

Adrian Tennant: Dana, it’s always fun having you on the podcast. Thank you very much for being our guest on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Dana Cassell: Thanks so much for having me. Stay well.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” That’s also where you’ll find our listener survey. Please take a moment to share your thoughts about your podcast preferences and the type of content you’d like to hear more of. To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.


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[Music ends]

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking with Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, about changes to shopping habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Human insights company Further joins Bigeye to explore qualitative marketing research agency tools and techniques for creating engaging online focus groups.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Stephen Cribbett and Terri Sorenson from human insights company Further join Bigeye to explore qualitative marketing research agency tools and techniques. Learn how qualitative research differs from quantitative and the benefits of asynchronous market research online communities, or MROCs, compared to in-person research. We discuss the differences between North American and European approaches to marketing research and the continuing impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ lives.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. In today’s technology-enabled advertising and marketing industry, increasingly focused on big data, artificial intelligence tools, and applications of machine learning, the role of human-based insights is still important. Writing in the Market Research Society’s Yearbook, John Gambles of Quadrangle Research Group describes what he sees as the symbiotic relationship between research and data. Quote: “Data give us the hard numbers to put against a research-derived understanding of people and their behaviors. Data are brilliant in answering the who, what, and how much questions relating to behavior, but only research can get to the why. Research – and particularly qualitative research – enables us to explore and explain the motivations, expectations, attitudes, value sets, and beliefs that sit behind and drive people’s behaviors; and from this, to work out how we can best impact their future behavior.” End quote. To discuss the role of qualitative research in the development of advertising and marketing communications, I’m joined today by Stephen Cribbett, the founder of two research firms: Further, and Versiti. Stephen is also an advisor and investor in Signoi, a data analytics platform. Stephen has pioneered technology-enabled qualitative research and human insight. With over 20 years experience in building consumer brands, working as a brand and design consultant, Stephen has helped build such prestigious retail and consumer brands, including Shell, Harrods, Orange, Emirates, Logitech, Phillips, and KPN Telekom. We’re also joined by Terri Sorenson, Further’s Client Success Manager for North America. Terri provides support, training, guidance, and inspiration to Further’s clients. With over 10 years of marketing experience, including time spent working with research companies like J.D. Power, Escalate, MMR, and Kantar, Terri provides customer service of the highest caliber. She works throughout client projects, finding the most effective ways to use Further’s technology to engage consumers in research Welcome, Stephen and Terri to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Stephen Cribbett: Hello, Adrian!

Terri Sorenson: Adrian, I’m happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Stephen, you’re the founder and CEO of Further. Could you explain what the company does?

Stephen Cribbett: We tend to think that we put ourselves or our clients in the real world. So really that’s giving the agency staff that we work with or the corporate clients that we work with a really in-depth look, and emotion into the lives of consumers and their everyday lives and the complexities and the context, the really shaping the way that they behave. The way that we do that is really combining technology but also research and engagement skills and techniques to understand why people are doing what they’re doing. Obviously what they’re doing first and foremost, and trying to unpack that in terms of the sort of conscious and unconscious thinking and behaviors. So, what is the kind of difference between the emotional response and the rationalized response? And rather than directly asking clients questions, why they do what they do, it’s actually using our social psychology skills of the teams that we’ve got and obviously the technology that we deploy to understand those behaviors. And a lot of that really feeds into the development of new products and services or essentially the new brand propositions.

Adrian Tennant: What led you to found Further?

Stephen Cribbett: So my background was actually in design and branding. so I worked with a number of very well known agencies and consultants here in the UK. and what I sort of felt over the years and, and this I think is a sort of a bygone era really, but a lot of the strategic work that they were doing, wasn’t really informed by consumer insight. It was creative thinking, but creativity in its purest form back in those days. So there was often a Creative Director that headed up the agencies and it was just their ideas. It was almost like commercial art back in those days. and I, and I felt there was kind of a better way to exist as an agency. That consumer insight needed to be something very foundational in all of the work that was being done. So after spending probably about 10 years of my career working in that space, I found myself involved with an innovation consultancy here in the UK. And this was really at the time when social networks were just emerging. I mean, I can really remember the time when this whisper of Twitter was kind of floating around and people were like, “well, what is this thing? What, what, what does this mean for the future?” It was very new, it was fundamentally changing the way people were connecting and communicating. And from that moment on, what we decided to do at that time was to use some of these social networking behaviors and obviously the technologies that were available at the time, which was very limited bearing in mind. So I think there was a platform called Blogger that we kind of hacked together and used to start to have conversations with consumers. And these were often very advanced consumers because the mainstream consumer wasn’t using Twitter and we weren’t using these social networking platforms at the time. So it was a way of reaching out and engaging these early adopters to understand what they were doing in their lives, how they were using the technology. And of course it was a fantastic alternative to jumping on an airplane and traveling all the way around the world, at great cost, and, and with a great carbon footprint, to understand their lives and lifestyles. And so that was really the start of it. And that’s what led me to developing Further as a business harnessing that technology and then making that technology more widely available to lots of other researchers and strategists around the world.

Adrian Tennant: Right. It’s interesting, you characterize that as a technology-driven company, but I know you call Further a human insight company. Why that positioning statement?

Stephen Cribbett: Technology really is just an enabler. It’s a tool. and the same goes for our technology. You can use it in many, many different ways. And so what we found is we spent as much time training researchers on how to use it and training them in this new world of online qualitative research as we did just licensing the technology. And so fundamentally at the heart of this is understanding how to collect the data, how to analyze that data, and how to identify what is real human insight, what is something that is going to change the direction or the decision making that business is on, or that might lead to a new way of thinking. And so for us human insight, it’s very much about people. It’s about the relationships they have with products and services and environments and other people. 

Adrian Tennant: I once had the pleasure of speaking with Wendy Gordon, I think she’s considered the doyenne of quantitative research in the UK. Now she shared with me that throughout her career, she had observed a consistent client bias toward quantitative data and a corresponding distrust of qualitative insights. Has that been your experience?

Stephen Cribbett: Well, I know Wendy. I mean, that’s a great way to frame it. I think the human insight for me, or qualitative insight or consumer insight, is fraught with difficulty. It’s fraught with tension and challenge. I think we have to grapple with clients often. I don’t mean that in a sort of hostile relationship, but I think you need that tension to really unearth the kind of insight that gives clients the ability to move forward and understand what’s next or what the opportunity is. I think qualitative research for me is seeing a real Renaissance in the last five or so years, certainly as a response to big data, which has left clients still wanting and still searching for the answers. It hasn’t got anywhere near telling them why people are doing what they’re doing. It’s given them the ability to see what they’re doing, but in a way that lack of training has meant that they just keep coming back, wanting to know, “Why is that happening?” So for us, definitely it’s a good time to be in qualitative research and online qual in particular. And I think real insight, which on the qualitative spectrum can come from an interaction with one person, there’s never a better time to be doing it. 

Adrian Tennant: Terri, what are the most common misconceptions prospective clients have about qualitative research as opposed to quantitative?

Terri Sorenson: That’s a really good question. So we find, especially in the online space, that there is the misconception that an online qualitative research study is lower in costs and reduced time. The costs, if you’re traveling, of course, there’s no travel costs in an online qualitative research study. However, the costs for recruitment, the cost for time, for your moderators, for analysis, all of that is still applicable. And I would even say sometimes the amount of time a researcher puts into an online qualitative research study is possibly more because you’ll find participants in the studies that share quite a bit of detail and their responses are quite in-depth. So there’s increased time to go through those responses. As well, another myth or misconception I would have to say is that online qualitative, there is reduced effort in their moderation. So from the researcher’s perspective, it’s not a start and hit go and everything just comes in. You need to be engaged in those online qualitative studies, just as much as you would be if you were in-person and to allow – to really get out those insights from the participants that are taking part in this study. So again, being engaged, and being present within the online environment within your online qualitative study allows you to establish rapport with your participants and really get to know them in order to dig deep into those insights.

Adrian Tennant: What types of projects is quantitative research especially well suited for?

Stephen Cribbett: I mean a lot of what we do and, and I think this is where qualitative research in the online version works really, really well is exploratory research. So the ability to spend time immersing oneself within consumers’ lives, over a short period of time, is exceptionally strong. And that means for us that we can often get through two or three different phases of work, starting with some exploration and consumer immersion, then developing some ideas and, and testing and evaluating those ideas with consumers. that works really, really well. I would say as an alternative to doing focus groups where you’ve got a very limited amount of time with the consumer, often highly scripted as well, online qual gives you that space and ability to meander, with consumers and to go off-piste. And so again, the skill of the moderator in that instance is to be prepared for that and to follow the ebbs and flows of the conversations and the dialogues that are happening. so I’d say the exploratory research is really, really good. I know Terri has been working on a couple of different areas recently as well, that I think, the online qual, lends itself to particularly well.

Terri Sorenson: Yeah, so recently we’ve seen an uptick in in-home product testing. So there’s been a lot of focus on getting to see that product in the home environment then immersing with the consumers or the users over that short given period of time, say a week with the product. Getting to know their perceptions of, initial reactions and what the experience is like over that given time. So that’s one area we’ve seen a bit of an uptick in, as well. We do see a bit, customer experience type of research, finding those gaps in the service that companies or brands are offering, are another great usage of online qualitative solutions.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Stephen Cribbett and Terri Sorenson from Further. Now, in addition to market research services, Further has developed an online qualitative platform that you call Together. Can you tell us a bit about what the platform offers researchers?

Terri Sorenson: So Together is an activity-based platform. Researchers are able to engage with the consumers and the participants in a variety of different activity types. They can be activities such as a blog or a markup kind of activity for a concept test. They can track participants with daily habits through diary activities. you can send them on shopping missions, have participants upload photos of their experience in the store or photos or videos as well. So there’s a variety of activities that the researcher can engage with the participants in. There’s open discussion forums, collaboration or co-creation type activities, and participants can come up with their own new ideas for a product. And then, you run with that as the researcher to further develop what it is that the participants or these consumers are looking for. It’s a great way to allow the group as a whole to collaborate together. We also have a small bit of quant in our world of qual, allowing them to dig deeper into some concept testing, using survey-type activities as well. And then, from a researcher’s perspective, we have some analysis tools built in the backend that allow them to – when they’re uncovering those insights – be able to tag and really interact with that data for their future analysis.

Adrian Tennant: How do clients monitor the research as it’s taking place?

Terri Sorenson: Yeah. So the Together platform allows you as the data is coming in, allows you, of course, to see the responses and everything taking place. You can then, as a researcher, you are able to then what we call probe the participants or join in the conversation with the participants. As well, you can at any time of course, download the transcripts and work with it offline if you wanted. And you can also invite your end clients to come in and view the discussions that are taking part within the platform as well. 

Stephen Cribbett: Probably the simplest way of describing the platform – it’s like a professional Facebook platform. So you log on and see these conversations happening in real time. You see all of the data, the videos, the events and the moments that are being shared, and it is quite exciting. Often it can be quite addictive once you start looking into those. And, we get to see all manner of things taking place, and sometimes some really interesting relationships starting to form within these communities as well.

Adrian Tennant: Now, for anyone considering undertaking the very first online qualitative project, do you have some top tips for success that you could share?

Stephen Cribbett: Oh, good question. First and foremost, I think it’s important not to think like this is an alternative to a focus group and just lift a focus group discussion. So, we try to encourage the clients or the researchers that are using the technology, not to over-script all of the interactions and the task and activities with the clients. I think it’s important to allow that space and time for your participants to go off-piste and to share things outside of the realms of the project, because often that will shape their thinking and their approach. So those are really important. I think also when you are incentivizing and rewarding people for their participation, of course, these research respondents, they get paid some money to participate in these activities, but I think you need to go deeper and think about some of the more social and emotional rewards and incentives to participation for these people. You should recruit them on an attitudinal basis rather than just kind of the demographics. So think about how they might be interesting and interested in the project itself. What can they bring to the table that you might not otherwise get. And think about how to encourage them to interact and hang out with each other sometimes because that does lead to the sharing of different thoughts, different attitudes, and perceptions. So I think those are some of the sort of the very top-line tips alongside just being creative. I think a lot of the time that we spend with our clients is helping them think creatively about what’s possible with the tools that they have at their disposal, rather than seeing the technology is a barrier. See it as an enabler and think differently about how you might elicit the types of responses that you want. But Terri, I know you spend a lot of time guiding clients on these things and giving them the kind of, quick start programs that we have. What would you see as the most pertinent advice that you gave on a daily basis?

Terri Sorenson: Yeah. So on a daily basis, I would say, that the best advice is to know your technology and trust in your technology partner. Part of that is because yes, we offer an online qualitative platform, but we are invested in what we do here at Further, and we help our clients to learn the technology, to use it to its best advantage in order to gain their insights. Take time to learn that technology. So, play around with the software before you begin developing your guide, know what tools are available to you. And as Stephen said, one of the most important things is to be creative. Don’t just design a question-answer response type of research study. Because in all honesty, you can do that in an online survey. Get creative with your research design itself.

Adrian Tennant: Further has offices in the UK and of course, North America. Do you see any significant differences between European clients’ approaches to market research and the way North American clients work?

Terri Sorenson: So from my perspective, the research methodologies are quite similar. A large number of our clients do global research. So what’s being done in the UK versus the US are very similar in their approach. I do believe there’s a bit of cultural difference between the actual research design, compared to London and the US. And by that, I mean, I see a lot more fluid or holistic approach to research design from our London clients compared to a more rigid or structured approach to the research design in the US. Meaning there’s a lot more of the direct question, direct response type approach versus allowing research design such as when wanting to uncover their feelings or perceptions about a particular experience or brand. Creating and designing the activity in a way of, “Here’s some things to think about. Then we would like you to share your experience with this” compared to, “Alright. I want to know, when did you last use this? How was that experience with it?” Those direct, question-answer responses. So I feel like there’s a little more of a human element when it comes to the London clients, whereas I find a lot more desire for automation, quick responses from the North American clients. 

Stephen Cribbett: I think what we’re seeing at the moment is there is an appetite, specifically as well for a lot of the North American clients to go through this kind of learn, test, and develop sort of process really that’s sort of three-stage approach. So they seem more willing to be using online methods to cycle through that really quickly with far-reaching audiences. And that’s really exciting for us. I think a little bit more of the work that we do in Europe at the moment is just purely on that kind of initial phase, that learning or insight phase. I’m not sure at the moment whether that’s just a cultural shift or that’s just by happy accident by the type of clients that we work with in the different regions. 

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye is an audience-focused agency and a lot of our engagements start with segmentation studies and the creation of personas, typically based on customer segments. I know you recently worked on a project for a UK-based pet insurance company called Waggle. Did you use Together for that?

Stephen Cribbett: Yeah, we did. And, and pretty much all of the work that we do, we use Together either standalone or combined with other methods. Most of the projects that we do will have some form of online qual. So for that particular project, which was a great piece of work actually, because it was a very disruptive  insurance technology company that came to us, wanting some help, at a very, very early stage of their development. 

Adrian Tennant: How did you recruit the participants for that study?

Stephen Cribbett: I’d say the majority of the projects that we work on, we tend to do what’s called qualitative recruitment or “free findings.” So we don’t use panels. We tend to need to find people with very specific behaviors. So we have to look a little bit harder for them. So we work with specialist fieldwork companies who will go out there and through databases and calls and interviews with people find those customers or those consumers for us. Sometimes we combine that with screening customer data lists that they’ve got. So they might feel confident they already have the people in the database that they want to talk to. But I think for the Waggle project, we wanted to talk to almost non-customers as well as a smattering of customers and bearing in mind, this was a very young business. At the time I think it was a minimum viable product when we started working with them and they only had about 70 different customers. So we had to recruit non-customers who were prospective buyers of their insurance products and services.

Adrian Tennant: What kinds of tasks did you set within Together for the participants?

Stephen Cribbett: Because of the subject matter, it was really to understand the journey through kind of owning pets, and dogs in particular. I think it was a focus for us. So this was looking at Millennials who were making a very conscious decision not to get married sometimes or not to have children, but to retain a little bit more independence in their life, but to have a companion alongside them. So fascinating subject matter and some really interesting psychology behind that. So, like most projects, we tend to do what we call icebreakers or tasks which get the consumer to introduce themselves, talk to us a little bit about their lives, their lifestyles. We might get them to show us around their home using video ethnography. They might introduce us to their pets if they had some pets, obviously some of them weren’t pet owners, but they were at an early stage of doing some research into different types of animals or, or even just looking into whether or not they should have a pet. So we would do those ice breaking tasks. We did some word association tasks that invited participants to write down a series of words that they would associate with being a dog owner. So that’s a really nice way of eliciting kind of uncrossed, unconscious thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes we get them to use diaries and journaling exercises for those who did have pets to detail their journey and experiences of ownership of dogs, including the highs and lows on a regular basis. And sometimes those really simple journaling exercises uncover a huge amount and they get their participants to reflect on things that sometimes they don’t stop and think about. So, those tend to those kinds of direct sizes tend to form a lot of the projects we did. We did some projective techniques. We put the dog owner in the shoes of their dogs and we said, “What would your dog say about, you as the owner? How do you think they would describe you?” And they’re really fun, they get people really enjoying the activities. And again, this is this idea of thinking slightly differently. And then from that we developed some ideas and we developed a proposition, and then we tested that proposition with them through group discussions, getting them to rank and rate what they liked and disliked in both a qualitative and quantitative aspect. And then very much at the end – and this is a really good type of exercise that works very, very well online – we got them to record a message to the CEO of the company, asking them to tell them what they thought of their proposition. So it’s very personal, then it becomes very human. And sometimes the way they articulate that message to them. It’s fascinating and really loaded with insight. So that hopefully gives you a bit of an example of the different ways we go about it. 

Adrian Tennant: How long were participants engaged with the research study?

Stephen Cribbett: In that particular instance, I mean, that was all done in five days. So you can cycle through this quite quickly. Really all you’re asking for is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes of the participants’ time a day. And that, and that’s obviously what they’re recruited for on the basis of and incentivized to take part at that level. And often they go well beyond that. With a subject matter like dogs and pets, you can imagine people love to talk about it and love to talk about their experience, and they’re excited about it. When you get a very sticky subject like that, it’s amazing how long they will talk or what they will share with you. I mean, sometimes, if they’re just writing down their thoughts, people will write essays, they will go to great lengths and really enjoy doing it. It’s often a very cathartic experience for the participants and we get them thanking us at the end for, enabling them to share these things with us and to, to open up their own minds and think in different ways.

Adrian Tennant: In what ways should researchers approach the analysis of data in online qual?

Stephen Cribbett: That’s a good, good question, actually. Don’t wait for all of the data to be collected and then start to do your analysis. We talk and encourage people to think about what we call rolling analysis. So, follow the threads and the discussions and the data that’s being collected on a daily basis, and tag it as it’s coming in. And, you could pre-agree with your team what those tags are as a taxonomy, but actually you could develop a folksonomy as the project is evolving. So you might have your own personal tags that you’re using to organize and cluster the data as it’s being collected and then have a sort of more pre-agreed structure to that, that you can use as well. But I’d say what tends to happen if you’re doing rolling analysis, obviously you’re covering a lot of ground over the course of those five days. It sometimes depends on the nature of the data that’s being shared. So if it’s video intensive – if you’re asking the consumer to share a lot of video with you – and film, that can take a little bit longer to cycle through that. And so we might also be doing transcriptions, we might be doing some automated analysis on the transcriptions as well. That’s something that happens from time to time. But one of the things we find with call researchers is they’re different. Everybody has their own personal way of dealing with this sort of volume of data and analysis. And that I think is really exciting for us. That’s why we’re always learning new things from our clients. And hopefully our clients are learning things from us and we’re able to share all of these learnings, with the sort of the researchers and the strategists and the marketers that we work with.

Adrian Tennant: Terri, what are some of the most common types of research assignments you find yourself handling right now?

Terri Sorenson: A lot of concept testing is going on right now, brand proposition statement testing as well as in-product home placement research, design studies. So, yeah, we have a lot of diary-type studies where, with COVID-19, we’re learning how are people adjusting to this? How is this impacting them? Not only in terms of work, but more of their mental functioning or ability health, their physical health. We have a project that’s launching next week that focuses on what masculinity means in terms of COVID-19, which is going to be a very interesting research study. And I’m looking forward to observing it from my point of view. They’re looking at how does this impacts beyond just being locked down at home, what’s the bigger consequences of COVID-19 and whether it’s shelter in place or lockdown and how it’s impacting culture and society as a whole. And we’re also seeing a lot of food and beverage companies right now conducting online qualitative research. Again, as when you’re thinking of with COVID-19 in mind, we’re staying home or cooking more. So researchers have really kind of jumped in, or brands, on what are they doing? How are they, are they changing their habits? What are those habits that have changed in terms of their home life and their relationship to food and cooking?

Adrian Tennant: Finally, if listeners would like to learn more about Further’s research services or the Together online qualitative platform, where can they find resources?

Stephen Cribbett: So we’ve got a whole series of downloadable resources on our website. Adrian, if you go to www. go-further/resources, there’s lots of downloadable templates that researchers can customize to launch and use on their projects. We also publish a lot of thoughts and findings on our blog as well, which you’ll find on our website.

Adrian Tennant: And of course we’ll include a link to those on our website too. Stephen and Terri, thank you both very much for being our guests on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Stephen Cribbett: Thank you.

Terri Sorenson: Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guests this week from Further: founder and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Cribbett, and Further’s North American Client Success Manager, Terri Sorenson. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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Content marketing agency Bigeye’s team share their favorite podcasts. Learn more about scary folklore, gene editing, CGI software, and World Champion Wrestling.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Content marketing agency Bigeye reflects on growing podcast listenership in the US. As Bigeye team members share some of their favorite podcasts, we hear how shows were first discovered, and why particular episodes were chosen for inclusion in our Spotify playlist. Featured selections reveal the origins of scary folklore, debate why things went wrong when The Warrior joined World Championship Wrestling, and explore the exciting potential of gene editing in medicine.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello! I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. A digital media research report, “The Infinite Dial 2020” shows that 75 percent of people in the US are familiar with the concept of podcasting – that’s up from 70 percent in 2019. And over half of the US population aged 12 and above – 55 percent – have listened to a podcast, with around 37 percent listening in the last month. The last 12 months have witnessed significant growth in podcast listening, with several industry deals signaling the growing importance of the medium to marketers and advertisers.  Spotify, which has made a major push into podcasts, now boasts more than a million podcast titles and has been adding to its catalog by signing exclusive partnerships, including a multi-year deal with Joe Rogan, worth around $100 million. Also joining Spotify in an exclusive deal is reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, who will host a podcast investigating the case of Kevin Keith, convicted of three murders in 1994 and sentenced to execution in Ohio. And just this week, Spotify announced that it’s rolling out a video feature for its podcasts, letting creators bring both audio and video content to the app. Will podcasts become a more TV-like experience? If so, how might that change how we consume podcasts? Spotify certainly seems intent on becoming the Netflix of audio content. Not wishing to be outdone, SiriusXM, a company most well-known for its satellite radio channels, and which also owns Pandora, is buying the podcasting company, Stitcher, from Scripps. That deal is said to be worth $325 million. And almost every week, it seems, we are learning about new podcast-focused advertising and attribution platforms. So what are your favorite podcasts? Let us know by taking a short listener survey on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” Please submit your thoughts about podcasts, where you listen, and the kind of content you’d like to hear more of in future episodes of this show. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming. It’s the time of year when we typically think about vacations, but of course, this year is far from normal. So, whether you’re planning a Summer road trip, a Staycation, or just need a break from your routine, members of the Bigeye team are here to share their favorite podcasts for your listening consideration.


Rhett Withey: I’m Rhett Withey. I’m the senior designer at Bigeye and I’ve been here for seven years now.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Rhett, can you tell us a little bit about what you do here at Bigeye?

Rhett Withey: Ah, let’s see. Well, I work with the Creative Director, Seth, on executing campaigns, logos, pretty much anything design and creative under the sun for our clients – and creative problem solving as well.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. So how long have you been listening to podcasts?

Rhett Withey: Wow. Uh, I’d probably say right around the time that podcasts really started getting popular. I think it was like 2013, 2014, somewhere around there.

Adrian Tennant:     What’s your preferred device for listening to podcasts?

Rhett Withey: I actually always almost exclusively listen to podcasts at my desk on my desktop.

Adrian Tennant: So do you have a particular favorite genre would you say?

Rhett Withey: I would definitely say that it’s pop culture and it’s sports, and it’s nerd stuff.

Adrian Tennant: So, Rhett, you selected an episode of a show called, “83 weeks with Eric Bischoff.” And I must confess that I didn’t know who Eric Bischoff was. So you might need to explain that in a second. But the subtitle of the show is, “Fall Brawl 1998 (Warrior in WCW).” You’ve got to explain – what is this show about?

Rhett Withey: All right, there’s a lot to unpack here and I wouldn’t feel bad that you don’t know who that is because probably 90 percent of the population’s not going to know – it’s very insider. Eric Bischoff is the man that ran World Championship Wrestling in the mid-nineties and brought them to prominence and took over the number one rating spot from World Wrestling Federation at the time for 83 weeks. They had the number one show for 83 weeks, which is the name of the podcast. Fall Brawl is a specific pay-per-view event that they had and the Ultimate Warrior was a wrestler that they brought in. It was completely horrendous for what they were doing at the time and was pretty much the catalyst for them to no longer being number one.

Adrian Tennant: Rhett, what stood out to you about this particular episode?

Rhett Withey: Well the whole series is interesting because it’s kind of putting Eric Bischoff under a microscope and making him confess to his crimes. Right? So this particular one was interesting just because of bringing in and his explanation of bringing in this wrestler, the Ultimate Warrior, who is polarizing, even today. And why he thought that was a good idea and knowing that show and how much of a train wreck that pay-per-view actually was like hearing his explanations for things and why he went certain routes and, and trying to kind of listen to like, “Ah, I think you’re still covering your butt there,” was really fascinating.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Now, what was it about this particular episode that made it worthy of recommendation?

Rhett Withey: It really is just, it’s Eric’s trying to come to grips with especially knowing now how much of a terrible person the Ultimate Warrior was and him trying to rectify his choices by but still trying to come off clean and the in a sense. So it’s really an interesting listen to hear how he is trying to explain himself and trying to make everything seem not as bad as it actually was.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Thank you very much indeed for joining us on IN CLEAR FOCUS today.

Rhett Withey: Thanks, Adrian. It’s been great.


Lauren Fore: Hi, I’m Lauren Fore. I am the executive assistant to our owner and the leadership team, which can be a variety of different things based on the day, the corridor, the need. And also I help with a lot of internal marketing initiatives as well, blogs, things like that.

Adrian Tennant: Lauren, how long have you been listening to podcasts?

Lauren Fore: So the podcast that got me into podcasts, which I would venture to say is probably the one that got a lot of people into podcasts, was called, “Serial,” back in 20- I want to say 2013, 2014. That’s Serial as in serial killer, not Fruit Loops.

Adrian Tennant: Right!

Lauren Fore: Just to clarify! Every episode – it just sucked you in and you had to listen to the next and the next and the next. And it was just incredible. So I had not listened to a podcast before that and I didn’t listen to too many after actually, but that was the one that really got me into it. And I think a lot of people. 

Adrian Tennant: So Lauren, you selected The TED Radio Hour from NPR and the show title is, “What Makes Us … Us.” So what is the show about?

Lauren Fore: So we’re introduced to essentially four speakers and they all have given TED talks in the past. So first we hear from Sam Sternberg who studies gene-editing technology and he talks about the letters of DNA. So A, G, C, T, and each human has 3.2 billion of these letters. And if you were going to fill up a dictionary with all of them, it would be 800 dictionaries per person. And then he talks about this gene-editing tool called CRISPR CAS nine that he has been working on. And he says, “You know, if you wanted to go into said dictionary just as an example and eliminate the few letters that make you a morning person versus not a morning person or the shape of your nose or if you have Parkinson’s disease, you know, it’s like your genes are responsible for everything and everything can really be isolated, but it’s a needle in haystack.” So this CRISPR CAS nine tool is letting scientists basically go in and try to pinpoint where these different things are. Now he does note the caveat that it hasn’t been conducted in an actual human, it’s been conducted in human cells in a Petri dish. So we should, we should make that clear. But he does say that there’s hope that one day we could potentially do this in humans. And then there’s the argument of, well, do you want to do that? Are you messing with natural selection? At that point, you know how, how much do we want to mess with that? So he talks a little bit about that. And then we hear from Steven Pinker, who is a Harvard professor in psychology, and he talks about our circuitry in the brain, but also the nature versus nurture argument. So are we all born as blank slates? And if so, he talks about social engineering. Could we engineer a certain type of humankind, you know, if we’re all born the same? So he kind of talks about the nature versus nurture debate. And then he talks about identical twins in this experiment they did. Identical twins that grew up in different parts of the world. So one was raised Catholic in, I want to say Germany. The other was raised Jewish in – and I want to say Trinidad. So they bring them into this lab in Minneapolis, and again, they’ve never met. They’re wearing the same shirt, same Navy shirt with the same epaulets. Then they start realizing that they’re both wear rubber bands around their wrist. They flush the toilet before and after using it, they dip their toast in coffee. All these little things and it’s like these are two people who have never met grew up in completely different environments, but they have the same genes. So there are arguments for both sides, but he goes into that. So that was really interesting to me. It’s so deep.

Adrian Tennant: Now, what made this particular episode a favorite for you?

Lauren Fore: One of the first ones that I listened to, and this was probably one of the deeper ones that got me really hooked on this series.

Adrian Tennant: So you would give this a strong recommendation for listeners?

Lauren Fore: Very strong – if you want your mind blown!

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. Okay. All right. Lauren, thank you so much for being on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Lauren Fore: Thanks so much for having me. It was fun.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back, after this message.

Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking about some of the Bigeye team’s favorite podcasts.

Nick Hammond: Hi, I’m Nick Hammond. I am a graphic designer here at Bigeye. 

Adrian Tennant: Nick, could you tell us a little bit about your role here at Bigeye?

Nick Hammond: Yes. So my role here at Bigeye, while some of the other designers are more focused on specific tasks, I guess in relation to illustration and motion graphics, mine is more so on the side of branding. So I work on pulling across elements throughout different end uses such as digital and print and social and things of the like.

Adrian Tennant: So Nick, how long have you been listening to podcasts?

Nick Hammond: I think I’ve been listening to podcasts for a while. It has to have been several years at this point. My intro to podcast was through, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” and kind of splintered into other smaller podcasts, just kind of listening one off here and there. So something would pop up in my feed that would be interesting and I would go look for it and then happen to stumble onto a podcast that was in relation to some topic I was interested in.

Adrian Tennant: What app do you typically use?

Nick Hammond: I started with Stitcher, which is funny because when I’ve talked to the other guests that you’ve had on, they had no idea what Stitcher even was. I think for them, they got into it through Apple. I never enjoyed from a design perspective, the user interface of the Apple Podcasts platform. And it felt like it was getting in the way for me of just trying to listen to a simple episode and it was constantly trying to update and change and all this stuff and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

Adrian Tennant: And is that still the case today or have you migrated to something else?

Nick Hammond: I do prefer, there’s something interesting to me about being able to see, uh, how people are interacting. So like a video aspect. So when I’m listening on a desktop, I like to have, if it’s on YouTube, I like to have a YouTube thing kind of playing because it’s interesting when you hear different aspects of a conversation show up to kind of pull up that window on the browser and look at how they’re interacting with each other because there’s something there that you don’t get when you’re just listening to the audio.

Adrian Tennant: Right. You get the audio, but you don’t always get the visual context of facial expressions.

Nick Hammond: Yeah. That kind of stuff.

Adrian Tennant: So Nick, your selection for this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS is an episode of a show called, “Revisionist History.” Could you tell us a little bit about how you came across that podcast?

Nick Hammond: Yeah, so I had been, not necessarily a fan, but a reader of Malcolm Gladwell in the past and there was some stuff in there that I enjoyed. I’ve always enjoyed reading more psychology or biography type stuff. And so I’d been through a couple of his books and had heard his name a while and had kinda gotten to some other authors like him. And I think there was someone that had posted one of his newer episodes from Revisionist History and I had realized that I had never heard it and I didn’t know that he’d come out with podcasts. So yeah, just dove in.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. So this particular episode – what was it about this one that attracted you?

Nick Hammond: Yeah, this episode, in particular, I as a designer and as a Gemini, which is funny, I feel like my life has kind of separated into two buckets all the time. And it’s always this push-pull thing. And so it was interesting to me because they dive into the difference between approaching a task or situation with a tortoise or a hare kind of mentality. And this, how are you thinking through tasks either more quickly or more slowly and then does that end up influencing your direction in life? They talk a lot in the episode about education and kind of higher education reform and that wasn’t what was interesting to me. It was more so the different thought processes of how people go into these situations and approach them from completely different perspectives.

Adrian Tennant: Right. And I think if any of the listeners have friends or family in the legal profession, I think some of the results – without wanting to give too much away – might be surprising.

Nick Hammond: Definitely. And I didn’t want to give it away, but yes, listen to the episode.

Adrian Tennant: So Nick, what made this episode of Revisionist History a favorite?

Nick Hammond: So without giving away the ending, that’s kind of all I’ll say is the ending is not something that I think you would see coming. And that was what was interesting to me is because I’ve always pursued different avenues of work and decisions in life of what is the best decision or the better decision to make. And I think what you end up finding at the end of this episode is different than that approach.

Adrian Tennant: Wow. That is such a cliffhanger, you’ve got to go and listen to this episode, everybody. For now, Nick Hammond, thank you very much indeed.

Nick Hammond: Thank you.


Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager here at Bigeye. A little bit of what I do on my day to day is making sure projects and budgets are on track, making sure our clients are happy, projects are in production, making sure just everyone is happy and we’re treading along.

Adrian Tennant: And do you have a player or an app that you prefer or do you go to websites for your podcasts?

Karen Hidalgo: So Spotify is my primary.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have a favorite genre of podcast?

Karen Hidalgo: Probably nonfiction. Most of the ones that I subscribe to. Definitely I love thrillers, definitely like TED talks.

Adrian Tennant: Today you’ve selected an episode of a show called, “Lore.” How did you find this podcast?

Karen Hidalgo: So Lore was the first podcast I ever started listening to. It was right out of college and podcasts were starting to be very big in the market and people were talking about it. So I went and did some research and I said, okay, well I’ve always liked thrillers. Scary stuff. Um, so I just happened to run into Lore and it turns out it’s also a show. And it’s also a book which I’ve had the opportunity to do both. And that’s kind of where my obsession with Lore started.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’ve selected an episode called, “A Stranger Among Us.” Sounds a little creepy, Karen.

Karen Hidalgo: So again, one of the first episodes I listened to happened to be at Christmas time and this particular episode deals with Santa and what he represents in the folklore of kind of other cultures and other countries. Again, kind of hinting at the scary but history of it. So it’s very intriguing. It kind of gives you a campfire experience. And he’s very great at providing the historical facts. And that’s also a plus for me.

Adrian Tennant: I think I’m right in saying you were born outside of the United States as was I. Do shows like this give you kind of an extra insight into the workings of the American mind?

Karen Hidalgo: Absolutely. And I love, I mean, I’m from South America, but I love everything that has to do with here in America. But learning about other cultures through a podcast has given me definitely that glimpse, something that I have loved the most about listening to a podcast like this.

Adrian Tennant: Karen, why do you think our listeners should give this show a try?

Karen Hidalgo: I guess if you’re looking for something different, thrillers are not for everybody, but if you like history if you’d like to spice it up if you’d like folklore like I do. I think it’s great, it’s a great episode. 

Adrian Tennant: So, Karen, I understand that Aaron Mahnke, who’s the host of this show, also has other podcasts. Have you listened to those as well?

Karen Hidalgo:  Yes, I actually have. One of them. I just started listening to – “Unobscured.” It goes into the history of the witch trial and Salem, again, very history. He puts his very good spin on it, gives you a lot of facts. Great. Great. It’s just a great addition to Lore.

Adrian Tennant: Great! Thank you, Karen. Thanks for those recommendations.

Karen Hidalgo: Hmm, any time! 


Adrian Tennant: I’m joined today by Dominic Wilson.

Dominic Wilson: Yeah. Hi. I’m the senior multimedia designer here at Bigeye. I create motion graphics, 3-D design and animation as well as video editing and photography for our campaigns.

Adrian Tennant: I think your selection for today’s podcast is a little different from some of the other folks at Bigeye.

Dominic Wilson: Yeah, that’s true. I suppose a, I mean it is in the creative field in regards to software and designs. So for me, I just am extraordinarily fascinated by those topics.

Adrian Tennant: You have selected an episode of a show called, “Greyscale Gorilla Podcast,” and I should explain that the description is “A show for creatives who want to learn about motion design, 3-D rendering, Cinema 4D, working with clients and much more.” So how did you find this podcast?

Dominic Wilson: I’ve been a fan of Nick Campbell going back to his Creamy Orange Portfolio days. And then he began creating little tips and tutorials, teaching you how to do things in a software program called After Effects. And then he just started doing libraries of tutorials on a 3-D application called Cinema 4D. And I was just hooked.

Adrian Tennant: Could you just give us an overview of what’s in the particular podcast episode that we’re linking to in the show notes today?

Dominic Wilson: This particular episode spoke with Russ Gaultier who works with a software program called Houdini. And it was interesting to hear the insights whether or not it’s something that you have to learn as a motion designer. It’s kind of nice to hear someone who’s seasoned, kind of break it down for you.

Adrian Tennant: Now this is an audio podcast describing software. How well do you think it translates to an audio format?

Dominic Wilson: Well I think anyone who would probably seek out this particular podcast is probably going to have somewhat of a hands-on working knowledge of the program already. They do provide a lot of very helpful links to see the work that the artists did. They have an abundance of examples and things that you can see what they’re doing and if you’re familiar even in just some of the graphic design applications, they’ll still be a lot of things that probably can kind of connect some dots for you.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. What made this episode a particular favorite for you?

Dominic Wilson: I simply love the artists that in my opinion make the unreal real like Russ Gaultier who was a guest on that Greyscale Gorilla episode as well as some additional Houdini users like Joe Pascal, Eric Ferguson, and the gents over at Entagma to name a few.

Adrian Tennant: So there you go. Dominic’s recommendation is the Greyscale Gorilla podcast which gives you a peek into the world of those amazing visual effects. Dominic, Thank you very much indeed for joining us today.

Dominic Wilson: Yeah, no problem.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to all my colleagues here at Bigeye for contributing to this week’s podcast. You can find a transcript of this episode along with a link to a Spotify playlist featuring Bigeye’s Top Podcast Picks on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” You’ll also find a link to our listener survey. Please take a moment to submit your thoughts about this podcast, and the kind of content you’d like to hear more of in future episodes. And, if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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VP of Client Services, Sandra Marshall, explains how delivering strategic value to clients has positioned Bigeye among the region’s top advertising agencies.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Bigeye’s VP of Client Services, Sandra Marshall, reflects on her nine years with the agency. Sandra shares her secrets for developing and retaining successful client-agency relationships and offers advice for graduates and career-changers seeking their first agency AM position. Looking back at almost a decade with the agency, Sandra discusses the strategic approach to client development that has positioned Bigeye among the top advertising agencies in the Southeast.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. A few weeks ago, we talked with Sarah Ritchie, an internationally renowned author and account management expert. Sarah wrote, “How to Wrestle an Octopus: The Agency Account Manager’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything.” If you heard that episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, you’ll know that Sarah generously shared many of the things she learned from interviewing over a thousand agency professionals around the world. Sarah also posted a link to the podcast from her social media, and as a result, we saw downloads and listens from New Zealand for the first time. So if you’re a new IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, welcome! As we discussed with Sarah, not only do agency account managers have to be the glue that holds the agency and their clients together, they also have to be technically proficient across many different channels. I originally learned about Sarah and her book from Bigeye’s VP of Client Services, Sandra Marshall. This month marks Sandra’s nine year work anniversary at Bigeye, and I’m very pleased that Sandra is also our guest today. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Sandra!

Sandra Marshall: Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: So Sandra, what’s your definition of client services – and is it the same as account management?

Sandra Marshall: It’s funny. I don’t think it’s the same. In fact, when I think of client service, I think much more focused on the relational aspect of the position. It is interesting because account management can mean different things in many different industries and many different, even in many different agencies. Our team specifically, we do strive to meet a certain level of client service through our account management and so the philosophies blend a little bit, but when I think of client service, it’s much more focused on less of the tactical part and the admin part of managing the account and much more on really getting to know and love your client.

Adrian Tennant: So what led you to a career in client services?

Sandra Marshall: Well, since I can remember from my first job, I’ve always been in a customer service field, whether that was in retail or in hospitality, and just found a knack for talking with people, helping to solve their problems, no matter what the scale of that problem might be. Found myself in media sales as my first kind of big girl job coming out of school and realized then, that I really enjoyed developing and helping people in their business.

Adrian Tennant: So Sandra, tell me about that first job right out of school.

Sandra Marshall: My first job out of school was a sales coordinator for the Orlando NBC affiliate, WESH2 News. I was supporting an account executive staff of about 10 to 12 people, all at varying career levels and all working with clients at various levels as well. It was really my first introduction into agencies in Orlando, not only Orlando, but nationally as well, and working with some really big and really interesting clients who were advertising on television.

Adrian Tennant: Is that how you first learned about Bigeye?

Sandra Marshall: In a way. So I first learned about Bigeye through an old coworker. So I wasn’t working with Bigeye as an agency directly in my first role, but an old coworker who had since left the station let me know that there was an opportunity at a place called Bigeye and that’s how I got connected.

Adrian Tennant: What was the first account you worked on when you arrived at Bigeye?

Sandra Marshall: The first account I worked on or one of the first accounts was a very well known entertainment entity in Orlando who was starting to venture into the sports vertical by creating a series of races. And we were charged with building customized websites for the post-race timeframe in which every individual who participated in this event would be able to log on and see all of their customized stats whether that was their runtime or picture that was taken of them during the event. And it was a really unique experience to be able to build this post- event opportunity for every individual.

Adrian Tennant: So that introduced you to everybody in the agency pretty quickly, I’m guessing…

Sandra Marshall: Very quickly. Yup. And having never had experience developing a website or manning a project of this caliber, it was a really quick on-ramp into agency life.

Adrian Tennant: Right. How big was the agency then?

Sandra Marshall: I want to say we were about seven people at that time. I can distinctly remember our staff meetings sitting around a very small table and almost feeling like you were out to lunch with a small group of people and not, you know, having staff meetings and your agency was very, very close knit.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, a little bit different than today.

Sandra Marshall: Well, much different. It’s funny to think back at those times.

Adrian Tennant: So thinking about your first year at Bigeye and your role today, what’s changed the most?

Sandra Marshall: I feel what has changed the most is really understanding who we are as an agency. When I think back to my first year, not just the role that I served with the agency as a whole,it’s incredible how much we’ve grown and the confidence that we have now, the talent that we have collectively. And I think a lot of that really shines through in the sense of collaboration that we’ve fostered that I really feel is the biggest change. Not to say that we were not talented back in the beginning, when I started here but to see how we have realized that talent, fostered that talent, and grown that talent and the confidence that we are now exuding when we’re in front of clients, that is one of the most significant changes I’ve seen since the beginning of my time here.

Adrian Tennant: How many times have you moved office since you started?

Sandra Marshall: Let’s see. Well, we, when I started, we were right on Lake Eola and then we moved right next to where the Performing Arts Center was going up. And then we moved into the building we’re currently in, in Audubon Park. So three moves?

Adrian Tennant: Yeah.

Sandra Marshall: Hmm-hmm.

Adrian Tennant: So Sandra, what’s your personal philosophy for creating really great working relationships with clients?

Sandra Marshall: I think one of the most important things that you can do is from the very onset of acquiring the account is listen to your client, ask as many questions as you can, but make sure when you’re asking those questions, that you’re actually listening to what they’re saying and write it down. Really understanding who they are, not only as a business professional and what their goal is for their company, but understanding who they are as a person. You can learn a lot by listening to the way they speak, how they’re asking their questions of the agency. Really setting the expectation for them of how the project is going to be run, kind of taking all those responses and reading in between the lines of what they’re saying, I think is one of the key parts of listening is hearing what they’re not saying. Being able to translate that and disseminate that to all the departments who will now touch that project, I think is one of the most important things to really make sure that the client feels understood, loved, that the client feels that everybody is working to reach the goal that we’re setting. But also that the agency understands, “Okay, I trust Sandra because she truly knows this client. So whether the client’s coming back with a positive response, a negative response, or a questionable response, I trust that Sandra knows them so well that we’re going to figure it out.” And that is what I have found really helps to keep projects running smoothly in a variety of scenarios.

Adrian Tennant: So it sounds like a really strong setup is important at the beginning of the relationship. So now, like most relationships that develop over time, how do you keep that relationship fresh?

Sandra Marshall: So, we have a phrase that we use, “Watch. Love. Grow.” And the “Love” piece of that is essentially what you’re talking about is how do we continue to think of ways that the client knows that we’re constantly thinking about them, aside from the business relationship. What are the creative things that we can do to show them that we’re grateful for their trust, we’re grateful for their business, and that we genuinely want to know them as people? And it’s funny now in a virtual world, our team is getting very creative with what that means and whether that’s delivering their favorite meal to their doorstep, knowing that they’re working from home or understanding that, you know, they’re working remotely from a different place in the country and being mindful that they’re going to have an eight-hour drive ahead. And just those small conversations and treats, I guess, if you will, to let them know that, “Hey, we appreciate you as a person, not just as a client.”

Adrian Tennant: Today, you lead Bigeye’s account team made up of senior account managers, account managers, and account specialists. You also have interns each semester. That requires a lot of employee management in addition to leading agency accounts and relationships with clients. Based on your experience, what are some personal characteristics that make for a great account manager?

Sandra Marshall: This is a great question. So someone who makes an incredible account manager has to be comfortable in the gray area. I’ve seen many times people who have not been successful in this role because they’re too focused on this industry or this role being a black and white role and simply is not that. Someone who’s going to excel in this role, no matter what level they are in their career, needs to understand that there’s a flexibility and an agility that’s required in order to be successful. I think being an eternal optimist is also very important. One email can spiral a day into a whole mess of a day.

Adrian Tennant: So Sandra, I’m hearing glass half full and being comfortable with ambiguity.

Sandra Marshall: Hmm hmm.

Adrian Tennant: So how do you handle that ambiguity day to day?

Sandra Marshall: Having incredible relationships internally is very helpful. I think just as it is just as important as it is to foster great relationships with your clients. It’s also incredibly important to foster that internally as well. Being able to sit down and discuss and problem solve with your colleagues, um, in a trusting open environment helps to work through all of those ambiguous and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. It’s not easy to go to your designer or your creative director and say, “I don’t like this. I know the client’s not going to like this and I know we’re out of revisions, but we need to make sure that we’re abiding by what we’ve set from a scope of work standpoint. But also that we’re serving the client well. So let’s think through together how we can get to a place that’s a win-win for both.” And sometimes that’s a difficult conversation to have and I think being comfortable being uncomfortable in a lot of those conversations is very helpful to navigate some of that uncertainty and ambiguity in the process.

Adrian Tennant: What kind of background or job experiences do you typically look for in potential agency employees?

Sandra Marshall: Well, depending on the level of position, you know, as we get into some of our higher level positions, I really liked to see roles where leadership and agency or relatable experience has been involved to some capacity. But I also love to see those high-stress multitasking types of roles as well. I mean, being a server in a restaurant, anybody who’s been a server in a restaurant before knows that that’s incredibly high stress, very customer service focused having to problem solve quite a bit on the fly. So I never discount those types of positions either. I was in retail for quite a bit of time through college and even to a management level. And I mean there too to be working retail during the holiday season is no easy task. So all of that experience, I find relatable to what we do.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Bigeye’s VP of Client Services, Sandra Marshall. If anyone listening is thinking of going into account management, either as a recent graduate or perhaps considering a career change, what’s your advice for securing their first position with an agency?

Sandra Marshall: I think networking is key. I think, especially with a platform like LinkedIn, connecting with people who are in the positions that you want to be in and reaching out to them, asking for opportunities to shadow, asking for internships, whether it’s through school or even if it’s unpaid. You know, I think many agencies are thirsty for that help and really enjoy being able to share what they do with people who express an extreme interest. That’s one thing I love about Bigeye is that we have hired really incredible interns in the past. So we’re fostering that growth from school into our agency and from there. But I also think too, you know, really self-educating on the industry, the agencies that you want to be in the people who hold those kinds of decision making roles within those agencies too is very important.

Adrian Tennant: One of the challenges of digital advertising is the speed and regularity with which many platforms, ad formats, and technical specifications change. What do you recommend to your team to help them keep their skills current?

Sandra Marshall: Continued self-education I think is of the most important. Making sure that you are signed up for newsletters from those resources. It’s so easy to have those dumped into your inbox every morning and to allocate some time in the morning, I mean, 15, 30 minutes, you know, just to read through some of these articles can really help you stay up to date. Before we were in a much more virtual world we did a lot of lunch and learns with not only our own team and our own digital marketing department and other departments, but also with some of our fantastic partners and all of those we’ve really helped to create opportunities for learning for our employees additionally to webinars. It’s really fantastic when you’re signed up for these newsletters. A lot of them are offering webinars as well. So it’s really easy to sign up for those and even, you know, close your door or go into a conference room, listen to a webinar while you, you know, kind of multitask. It’s all of that constant exposure I just think really helps to keep people in the know.

Adrian Tennant: Now you consider a lot of candidates for roles and account management at Bigeye. What are some of the basic “do’s” and “don’ts” for anyone who’s shortlisted for an interview here?

Sandra Marshall: Absolutely knowing the agency or company that you are applying for. I think it’s really compelling when someone has clearly done their homework and will potentially even ask about some work that they sell on our site or they’ve done their due diligence to, to see that someone in our agency was a part of some other you know, either spoke at a classroom or attended event in the digital space or something similar. I always think that’s very compelling when someone has clearly done their research. I also think that in the world that we are now, it’s just as important to maintain that level of professionalism in your virtual interview, as it is in your typical in person interview: dressing the part, coming prepared, sending your resume beforehand. All of those small little touches following up with a thank, you know, or email, I think are just as important to solidifying the role and, and keeping your name at the top of the pile as before.

Adrian Tennant: Sandra, how do you juggle being a senior executive at Bigeye with also being mom to a young child?

Sandra Marshall: I think it’s very important to set your boundaries early on and have those solid conversations with your employer about what that looks like. I think it’s really important to understand your priorities too. And, you know, there are going to be points in the day where you have to turn off work and you have to focus on being a mom. And, you know, I think setting that expectation and having that conversation with your team at the onset helps to prevent any misunderstandings maybe later on down the road. You know, it’s important to turn off, it’s important to completely shift your focus to your family, and really make sure that you’re getting the brain break from work and so that you don’t start to have any regrets about being in the office.

Adrian Tennant: Sandra, how has the COVID-19 situation impacted your work and home life?

Sandra Marshall: Like many people to a great degree. I think a challenge even that came unexpected was it wasn’t just having to navigate working with a toddler at home, but also a spouse who is on the phone quite a bit as well. So there was much juggling in the house of who was going to watch the kid or whose call was more important. And probably about two weeks in when we realized this was going to be a longer-term event. And we really had to sit down on Sunday night and map out our weeks of who would take calls when, what calls needed to be video and when we could make sure that we got our daughter down for a nap. I’ve found it funny because my daughter has joined us on multiple calls, internal calls now where sometimes it feels like she’s part of the crew. And sometimes as vocal about her opinions in meetings as well.

Adrian Tennant: Well, I think it’s nice, we get to meet your daughter in a different context. I know also random pets have shown up on Zoom calls.

Sandra Marshall: That’s right!

Adrian Tennant: That’s okay, too, right?

Sandra Marshall: Absolutely.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Sarah Richie said that you don’t go into nursing if you have an issue with night shifts and you shouldn’t go into account management if you can’t handle stress. Do you agree?

Sandra Marshall: I could not agree more. I think that’s incredibly well said. And in fact, it’s, it’s a great metaphor to use. I believe it is a stressful career and if it’s not stress that’s driven by a hard client deadline then it’s stress of maybe something that was not received well by a client or it’s internal stress of, you know, you as the advocate for the client are not seeing what you want out of a certain department and navigating that. There’s a variety of stressors that will bubble up, but a great account manager knows how to handle that stress very well.

Adrian Tennant: So outside of the agency, how do you unwind?

Sandra Marshall: I like to work out quite a bit. Both my husband and I are very much into fitness and going to the gym, which was incredibly difficult for us to help manage our stress when gyms shut down during quarantine. We actually got a Peloton bike and through the quarantine, both of us have gotten really into cycling or state stationary bike. But that’s been a big stress reliever through quarantine and, and has definitely helped to keep our fitness and activity level up through everything.

Adrian Tennant: Now I’m curious, do you think you’ll go back to the gym or is Peloton it now?

Sandra Marshall: I will say for certain that I will go back to the gym. There’s the community aspect of it. We’re both into lifting weights quite a bit. And the cardio aspect I will probably stick with at home with Peloton, but for some of the strength-building exercises, we’ll definitely go back into the gym.

Adrian Tennant: So Sandra, what have been some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had over the past nine years at Bigeye?

Sandra Marshall: Wow. I have a lot of great experiences that I could share – maybe some not appropriate for our podcast. No, the team is an incredible team and here’s definitely a “work hard, play hard” mentality which I love. And it’s so amazing to think back and celebrate the successes of going into one of our largest pitches ever knowing that we nailed it. But then celebrating afterwards together. And this team really enjoys those opportunities to celebrate outside of the walls of this office and genuinely enjoy our time together. So I think back to those experiences, and I think back to some of the incredible work that we’ve been able to produce together and roll out and to see it live in the wild. There’s a number of experiences that I can think back on with positive thoughts.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Sandra, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Sandra Marshall: Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services here at Bigeye. You can find a transcript of this episode along with links on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” You’ll also find a link to our listener survey. Please take a moment to submit your thoughts about the podcast and the kind of content you’d like to hear more of in future episodes. And if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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This week’s podcast from full service marketing agency Bigeye focuses on audiences of color and the ways advertising can better reflect America’s diversity.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Full service marketing agency Bigeye examines advertising for communities of color. Multicultural pioneer George Zwierko offers tips for targeting Hispanic audiences and Reema Elghossain of the 4A’s talks about the benefits of creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive agencies. Darius Lana, Associate Director of Marketing at Pearson, and Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist Maegan Trinidad share their experiences of the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. This November, Americans decide who will become the next president of the United States. Census data indicates that people aged 18 to 45 years old will represent just under 40% of the eligible voters this year and more than 30% of them will be non-white. This reflects an increase in the numbers of voters identifying as African American, Hispanic, and Asian since the 2016 Presidential election. The expansion of the Hispanic population accounts for almost half of America’s population growth since 2000. Today, we’re going to revisit interviews that focus on some of the ways advertising and marketing can reflect America’s ethnic and racial diversity and create more equitable, inclusive workplaces. At the beginning of March, we spoke to a pioneer and expert in multicultural advertising: George Zwierko, the Principal of Rumbo Marketing in Tampa. I asked George what the most common misconceptions about Hispanic audiences are.

George Zwierko: I think that there is a barrier that’s put up by certain advertisers because there’s just a lack of understanding of what the capability of these audiences have regarding spending or regarding usage. There needs to be a level of education when it comes to how we can best communicate and connect with diverse audiences. I think the misconception is that you might have a product, brand or service, and you feel that if “I’m spending money and I’m targeting my general market audience that somehow, someway, I’m going to touch my ethnic audiences,” or that, “My ethnic audiences represent such a small population of the folks that would utilize our service or product, that to give it any weight regarding, let’s say a media spend or any creative execution is just not worth the effort.”

Adrian Tennant: Twenty-six percent of all children in the US up to the age of nine are Hispanic and more than half of the Hispanic population is under the age of 29. How do you think the growing strength of this population will impact popular culture and by extension, the kinds of creative developed for advertisements?

George Zwierko: I think there’s an opportunity to look at our Hispanic audience and see that a good majority of our audience is bicultural, bilingual, because they do skew young. I think there is a greater opportunity for us to create campaigns that are more relevant and are more relatable. The problem that we run into is that in the past a lot of brands and many advertisers would strictly translate their ads, and I think that was because of a lack of understanding of the Hispanic audience as a whole. The problem in translation is that if we create advertisements that are meant to be funny, witty, clever, highly conceptual, and then you translate that, those things don’t always translate correctly. And then what we’re left with is just a very bland advertisement. But what we like to do is really hone in on what we can create, what type of creative can we do and original content could be made that still keeps the essence of the original messaging. 

Adrian Tennant: So brands should think less about translation and think more about transcreation?

George Zwierko: That’s correct. And transcreation is just what that is. It’s taking your message or your content, your visuals, everything that you put into your campaign. And then developing an execution that’s going to be relevant to this new audience.

Adrian Tennant: Now, the amount of total ad spend brands have invested in Hispanic media has been rising in the past few years. But eMarketer has reported on the disparity between the proportion of ad spend allocated to Hispanic media and the number of Hispanics that are actually living in the US. Why doesn’t the Hispanic audience receive its fair share of ad dollars, do you think?

George Zwierko: It’s sad to say, but I think there’s a lack of understanding of the value these audiences bring to the table. I think many people in a variety of different positions just take a stance when it comes to communicating to other audiences, I don’t think they personally recognize the value. So therefore it won’t exist in any strategy moving forward. So I would say it’s narrow thinking or just missed opportunity. I do agree that the spend is going up incrementally. I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it needs to be. And I think there’s a great opportunity for us to just reevaluate what our spend does look like. And to us it’s a very simple formula: we’re doing a local campaign and we’re going to communicate it to our local audience. And we look at the local population as being a certain percentage of non-Hispanic, a certain percentage Hispanic, and so on and so on down the line. And we look at those audiences. And we start to look at our customer profile within that population and we identify that, you know, within the non-Hispanic market, we’re going to be speaking to this demographic. But then a very similar demographic exists within our Hispanic population and in our African American population. So taking those new percentages, let’s reevaluate what our spend will be and then also look at what is going to be the best avenues and the best channels for consumption based on those consumer behaviors, based on what we know non-Hispanics do and, and Hispanics will do and African Americans will do and then target appropriately and spend appropriately. So that might mean that I’m not going to take 100% of my budget and throw it toward one audience and then hope that if I pepper in some folks that look Hispanic in my TV ad or I pepper in some people that look African American and my billboards, that I’m going to be effectively touching those audiences. We’re going to miss something, whether that’s going to be in the message or in the execution of the creative. Somehow, someway, we’re going to miss the mark. And what by missing the mark, we’re just doing an injustice to the brand. We’re not communicating that brand as effectively to other audiences as we did to our general audience.

Adrian Tennant: Almost half a century ago, the American Association of Advertising Agencies – better known as the 4A’s – recognized the lack of diversity in the industry. To encourage more students to consider careers in advertising, the 4As set up an internship program and awarded scholarships to African American, Hispanic, and Asian American young professionals. Back in January, we were joined by Reema Elghossain, Vice President of the 4A’s Foundation. Responsible for talent, equity, and inclusion, Reema leads some of the industry’s most prominent diversity pipeline initiatives, including the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program, or MAIP, for short. I asked Reema to explain what the Foundation does, and the part it plays within the 4A’s.

Reema Elghossain: Sure, absolutely. So the 4A’s Foundation was established in 1997, with a commitment to provide scholarships and awards for young people of color interested in getting involved in the advertising industry. In the last two years, the 4A’s made an intentional decision to move MAIP and our educational programs, which include our high school initiatives over into the 4A’s Foundation. So it really serves the industry, advertising and marketing at large, with all of their talent needs, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. So we really try to support the industry from the 4A’s Foundation with finding diverse talent, with educating diverse talent, on what advertising is and the experience, and then really developing that talent once they’re into the industry.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways does your work with the 4A’s Foundation today help develop young professionals in their careers?

Reema Elghossain: We do it a number of ways within our educational programs. We partner right now with two high schools in New York City that are predominantly students of color that actually have an advertising track within the high school programs. And so what we do for our high school students is we try to immerse them into the advertising industries. We connect to them with speakers and experts in the industry to share insight. We host events and competitions for them so that they can understand what it’s like to get briefed by a client and to do pitches. We train them on what every discipline is in the industry and really try to help slowly build a network for them while they’re in high school and show them opportunities to be able to major in advertising and have internships throughout their career. Through MAIP, we do it a number of ways. We have our fellowship program and that runs annually and we do a 13-week virtual spring training for all of our fellows before they even enter their internship at their agency. And that again trains them on what each discipline is. But then also we train them on some transferable skills and then how to navigate the industry, especially from coming from a diverse place. And then we have over 3,500 alumni that have gone through our programs since 1973. And what we do is we partner with agencies and outside companies to provide any type of personal development, professional development, networking opportunities.

Adrian Tennant: Fantastic. Now can you talk a little bit about the process for students who may be interested in applying for the 4A’s MAIP program?

Reema Elghossain: Around the end of August and into mid-October, we have applications for students to apply to be part of our program. It’s for juniors, seniors, and grad students across the country and it’s a pretty extensive application process. And we ask for essay questions, the video, letters of recommendation and really just want to understand, you know, what they’re interested in the industry. We then give them a screening process. We do coach them on interview tips and prepare them through the process. And then we have our community of volunteers in the industry that really support our initiatives, who will interview them. And once they pass through all of those stages, they then become finalists. At that same time, our agencies are applying to host fellows for the next year. And then we have a huge selection kickoff where agencies will then make offers to their favorite top finalists and they place an offer and that MAIP finalist has the opportunity to accept or decline. If they accept and it can be anywhere in the country, then they now become a fellow. Once they become a fellow, we actually support the agencies by taking care of housing and travel and then again, onboarding them with that spring training and an orientation to get them really immersed into the program before they even enter their internship.

Adrian Tennant: Specifically thinking about job candidates and young professionals, do you see any generational differences in how today’s young professionals maybe just starting out in the industry – or have one or two years experience – how their career decisions contrast or compare to older, more established workers?

Reema Elghossain: Absolutely. They are thinking of things that I never thought of when I was their age. They are thinking about, “What are your mental health and wellness programs that you have established at your agency?” They’re thinking about even things that might not even matter to them early on, but like, “What are your maternity and paternity leave programs? What is your work life balance?” They are thinking of things that are important to them that, I’ll be honest, at 37, I didn’t think of when I was their age and they’re holding agencies a lot more accountable. They’re looking at agencies and saying, “What can you do for me?” Not just, “What can I do for you?” I would say when they first get into the industry, there is that still that same fear and desperation of finding a job in a lot of places, especially for our community – you know, as young people of color, there’s this fear of being able to find a job, but the questions that they’re asking are very much different. They’re not just, “What are the hours and the salary and the insurance benefits?” They’re also just asking about the experience, the environment. “Do you have any diversity inclusion initiatives? Do you even have a DNI lead? What programs do you have that can help support me? Do you have mental health? Do you have employee resource groups and do you have professional development opportunities?” These are questions that they’re asking and they’re also not afraid to be able to leave at a faster rate than, I would say older generations. You know, they find a company and they want to stick with it for a long time. I think the young professionals now are saying, “If you’re not putting into me, I’m okay with getting up and finding a new opportunity.” And so I think it’s definitely forcing agencies to think a little bit differently about what they’re providing to their employees.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising account professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with your audience. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special edition of IN CLEAR FOCUS reflecting on the state of multicultural marketing. In April, IN CLEAR FOCUS caught up with MAIP alumnus, Darius Lana. Currently Associate Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at the online education division of Pearson, based in Orlando, Darius is something of a Renaissance Man: an advertising practitioner, business strategist, and marketing educator. I asked Darius what led him to the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program. 

Darius Lana: I learned about MAIP from my advisor, Joan. Actually, it was very interesting. They had 300 openings for MAIP-ers and I got the one public relations gig out of that and I was already kind of heading in an advertising direction at the time. It was looking like advertising, copywriting, and art direction were kind of the sections here. And they put me in the public relations piece at Golan Harris in Chicago. It’s now just Golan. I was on the British Petroleum, the BP account during the 2010 oil spill. So when I came on, I came to learn quickly about crisis communication and crisis PR. But I think that opportunity really kind of kept me engaged in advertising public relations, and then also helped me to understand how different the opportunities are for those that are maybe people of color versus you know, whites in general. So some of the things that I learned when I was in the program that less than 10 percent of those in the industry are people of color. And I love MAIP because it’s one of the few programs that are focusing on changing that to match the diversity of the audiences. So as we start to see more people of different colors and different backgrounds, more prominent throughout different industries in different areas, we need to understand how to better appeal to them because they spend money as well. So I’m glad to see that we’re really starting to make some progress there.

Adrian Tennant: What barriers do you think multicultural communities commonly face when looking at advertising and marketing as a potential profession?

Darius Lana: Yeah, so, you know, that’s a really great question. Some of the things that I’ve even dealt with early on in my career were I think that people, some of the things that have been barriers, besides being passed over for promotions or, maybe seeing their viewpoints being dismissed. I think there’s also the assumption that you represent your race when you are in a brainstorm. And that happened to me pretty early on where one of our clients was a Visitor Bureau and they wanted to appeal more to Blacks. And I think I had to be like 23 or 24 at the time. And basically the premise was, “Hey, we’re not resonating with Blacks. They don’t come to our area and we really want to change that.” Of thirty people in the room, I’m the only black one. And they look at me and they go, “Darius, what do you think about how to get more Black people to this place?” And so I think there’s tremendous pressure to represent your race. And it’s one of the most frustrating things I think a person of color could deal with. You see it in all different avenues and facets of life. But in the ad industry, I think that’s one of the biggest barriers is people making assumptions that because you look a certain way, you should resonate with that particular audience. Sometimes it does work out, but sometimes it doesn’t. You’re going to have people that are Black and are Caribbean or Black and African or Black and African American. I think every experience is very different. Those are some of the things I’d like to see more industries, all industries to get better at, but especially as those that have the opportunity to create messages that speak to people of color to understand that.

Adrian Tennant: So on the flip side of that, how do you think agencies should attract more people with multicultural backgrounds to consider careers in the profession?

Darius Lana: I think that one of the ways that they can do that is making sure that they are present at functions that the 4A’s or the MAIP team hosts. I think that’s really important. Also I think that there is this false notion that, “Hey, all of our seats are filled, all our C-suites or VP or SVP seats are filled. And as soon as something opens up, we’ll have that for a minority or a person of color or a woman,” or what have you. And I think that that is a false assumption. I think that you should look to create space right away and you should do it at every level. I think that we do this thing in industry that is “Okay, we have somebody that is a person of color in this role at this level and that’s good enough.” But then when you go and you look at the About Us and you scroll through and you’ll look at all the SVPs of the VPs or the C-suite or the people that they say, “Hey, these are the people, the figureheads,” you’re not seeing that representation. So I think it goes back to even if you go back to education, people want to see people that look like them doing it. I can think back, and this is kind off on a tangent, but I can think back throughout my college, throughout my high school and middle school and elementary school, I think I’ve had one African American male teacher and one female African American teacher, my entire K through 12 primary, secondary education. So people want to see before they decide to join what would be 40 hours of their life a week for 40-plus weeks. So I think that’s where we get started is putting people in place that look like the people you want to attract at the highest level, not just at the levels like Diversity and Inclusion VP or something like that. Put them in account service roles, put them in sales roles you know, cause they’re definitely qualified and they’re definitely out there.

Adrian Tennant: Looking back, how do you think MAIP helped you prepare for and navigate your professional career to date?

Darius Lana: So MAIP was my first internship, which is generally not how MAIP goes. MAIP is typically for people who are about to graduate or on their second or third internship and so MAIP was great in a lot of ways. It was my first introduction to a big city. I was in downtown Chicago during the summer, which was great. It’s amazing weather but I had to make a lot of grown up decisions very quickly. I graduated early, so I was even younger, I was 19 when I was in Chicago. But also, I think that there’s a lot of things that you think coming out of a program into quote unquote real life or real scenarios that I learned the hard way. There were a lot of things that I took away that maybe that I wouldn’t have had if I had gone to a different setup. So, I mean, just interning in general helps with that understanding real issues with real clients early, helps with how you can take that away and apply that to one day real job or full-time job. But MAIP in general, just had me thinking about how I can establish opportunities beyond myself for people that look like me in the industry. How can I make it known that what we’re doing is not good enough that we need to do more.

Adrian Tennant: Darius, since graduating from the program, have you stayed in contact with MAIP alumni?

Darius Lana: Yeah, I have. It’s a pretty nice knit group and so those of the 2010, I’m pretty good friends with a couple people. Some of them live out of the country now. I actually, a friend of mine, his name is Alex. I was just talking to him a couple of days ago. So, you know, now this is a relationship that is 10 years old. It’s true when you are involved in MAIP, it gives you an opportunity to make lifelong friendships and it’s cool to kind of see where people have gone. I have another friend who was a pretty high up at Amazon before she left to take her gig overseas, to the UK. I have another friend who is working for Google. So a lot of people have the opportunity to use MAIP as a jumping point for their careers and that specific initiative probably helped them get there, whereas maybe the opportunity wouldn’t be available if not. MAIP is pretty cool.

Adrian Tennant: MAIP has now helped over 3,500 people enter advertising and alumni represent the largest diverse community in the industry. With some personal insights on what it’s like to go through the program, Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Maegan Trinidad, who is an alumna of MAIP, joined us back in January. I asked Maegan how she first learned about MAIP.

Maegan Trinidad: So one of my family members is actually also a MAIP alumna and she’s the one who told me about it before I entered in my sophomore year in college. Because she noticed that I could benefit from the program and seeing what it was like to work at an agency because I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do with my marketing degree. So it was something that was worth a shot – and I ended up really liking working agency-side, which is why I did MAIP two years and ended up at Bigeye.

Adrian Tennant: What was the application process for MAIP like?

Maegan Trinidad: It involved several essays, a video interview, and after those were submitted, there were two further rounds of interviews.

Adrian Tennant:  Wow. I think you said you did the program twice.

Maegan Trinidad: I did.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. What was the female-to-male ratio like? I’m curious.

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like it wasn’t a stark difference, but it was a little more female, I’d say.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. You attended the MAIP events in New York City. What were they like?

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like they’re a really good experience. We got to go to several agencies, like large agencies we went to, Wieden and Kennedy, I believe. And it was interesting to see what different types of agencies looked like in their different organization styles because obviously we could meet the different people who worked there and we got to network with them and we also got to see what their space was like and they were all very different.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Now it sounds like there was some competition amongst agencies for interns on that MAIP program. Where did you intern?

Maegan Trinidad: The first year when I was in New York I was at MEC, which is now Wavemaker. And the second year I was in Chicago at Mindshare.

Adrian Tennant: So what did you personally feel were the most valuable lessons you learned from each of those internships?

Maegan Trinidad: To be adaptable, to be honest, when I went through MAIP, I was selected to be a media planner and media planning wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to be a strategy intern because I mentioned earlier that I have a research background and I wanted to see what that was like to apply in an agency setting. But working in media planning did allow me to see what else was out there and when I got to meet my teams at my agencies, they were very welcoming and they worked with what I felt were my strong suits. So they adapted what they had me do based on my desire to branch out and see how I could bring my skill set to the agencies.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow fellows?

Maegan Trinidad: My fellow fellows? Yeah, actually I’ve made really good friends during MAIP. That’s another thing I really enjoyed. Most of you guys are strangers when you show up to your host city and since you live together, you get to make some really good friends. I made some of my very closest friends during MAIP. Unfortunately, now they live across the country, but…

Adrian Tennant: Well at least you’ve got people you can go visit and possibly crash on their sofa.

Maegan Trinidad: … That’s what I say!

Adrian Tennant: Maegan, would you recommend the program to others looking to enter the advertising industry?

Maegan Trinidad: Oh, absolutely. And even interns here, if I see that they have an interest and they’re qualified to join the program and have an interest in specifically some of the disciplines that they have offered through MAIP, I talk to them about the program and tell them about the application process and what I went through. And if they’re interested, I offer to tell them more about my personal experience. And I was a MAIP Ambassador at UCF before I graduated. So I feel like I want to be a resource for other students and if they want to learn more, they can contact me.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Reema Elghossain at the 4A’s if she had any advice for smaller, independent agencies seeking to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments.

Reema Elghossain: The first thing is how diverse is your agency? Now I don’t expect agencies to share their numbers, but what is your first goal? Is it one, hiring diverse talent so that you can add diversity to your pool? Or is it “We have the diverse talent, we want to add more, but what can we do to be a more inclusive space?” And there’s definitely different needs when it comes to both. I definitely think every agency, whether it’s independent, small, all the way up to the larger holding companies, all need to continue to hire more diverse talent. So that’s I think, a problem across the board. But depending on where they are and what their resources are, there are different ways that they can make a better environment.

Adrian Tennant: Over the past 47 years, MAIP has not only helped to bridge the gap for diverse talent in the industry, but has also ensured that such talent can thrive. Supporting and empowering Black, Brown and diverse populations, MAIP continues to advocate for change across the industry by ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard and that advertising reflects society. If you’d like to hear more, the MAIP Alumni Association recently launched a new podcast called Left Unsaid. You’ll find it on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

My thanks to all our guests featured in this episode:

  • Multicultural marketing expert George Zwierko, Principal of Rumbo Marketing
  • Reema Elghossain, VP of the 4A’s Foundation responsible for talent, equity, and inclusion 
  • Darius Lana, Associate Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at Pearson, and 
  • Maegan Trinidad, Digital Marketing Specialist here at Bigeye.

You can find a transcript of this episode along with links on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” You’ll also find a link to our listener survey. Please take a moment to submit your thoughts about the podcast, and the kind of content you’d like to hear more of in future episodes. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

Please submit your thoughts about this podcast in our Listener Survey

This week’s podcast from full service marketing agency Bigeye focuses on COVID-19’s impact on consumer research, travel, and dining over the past three months.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Full service marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast takes a look at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on consumer research, travel, and dining. Research executive Mike Klotz of Cint, Professor of Marketing Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar of UCF, travel management expert Ben Scott, and culinary PR professional Holly Kapherr reflect on how consumer behaviors have dramatically changed during the crisis – and predict which newly-formed habits might “stick” in a post-COVID world.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. With the aim of providing insights that can help inform advertising and marketing strategy, IN CLEAR FOCUS has been tracking consumers’ constantly shifting sentiments and behaviors during the past three months of the pandemic. So today, we’re going to reflect on some of the things we’ve learned during this season of IN CLEAR FOCUS. In mid-April, I spoke to Mike Klotz of Cint, who joined us to comment on how COVID-19 has been impacting marketing research. I asked Mike what consumer research could most helpfully study during the crisis.

Mike Klotz: So in early March we started looking at what the potential impact of the pandemic could be on research and with three basic hypotheses. The first is that people’s purchasing or consumption behaviors could change. The second was that people’s demographics could change. And the third was that people’s participation levels in research could change. And there’s an underlying unknown that makes each of these really difficult. We don’t know how long this crisis will last and we don’t know what the magnitude of the effect will be.

Adrian Tennant: Okay, well let’s take each of those in turn. First, you mentioned changes to consumer purchasing and consumption. What are Cint’s recommendations here?

Mike Klotz: Our key premise on this is to continue to track behaviors over time and look for changes. First of all, track for incidence at a category level. This is something most brands are already doing, but if you haven’t been doing that you can look at data that’s available from reliable providers who observe trends in the category. For example, I worked for NPD in the past, specifically focused on the video game industry. We published sales trends and player behavior information and we could measure how large events impacted that purchasing and playing behavior. Actually, probably a really interesting area to be looking at right now, because with more people spending more time at home, they’ll likely be playing more games. Secondarily, you can track brand usage and look for changes which could impact the research you’re doing. For example, if you normally track brand affinity for 10 brands in your industry, you may want to ask some unaided awareness questions to ensure you’re tracking the most important brands. With the world in flux, loyalties can shift really quick, especially in, you know, some of the responses that we’re seeing from companies. That’s going to have a big impact on some of these feelings that people have towards the brands that they’re affiliated with. And that leads to another point. If you’re conducting tracking studies, you may want to take some time to reevaluate your tracker design from both a survey perspective and a sample perspective.

Adrian Tennant: How does the fact that people’s demographics might change due to loss of income or work impact research?

Mike Klotz: Right, so there’s a large percentage of the population whose demographics will change due to this crisis. At this point, it’s unavoidable. The most obvious one, as you mentioned, is change of income and net worth. As we’re seeing the unemployment rates spike and in an unprecedented manner. Residences and household structures will likely be changing as well. The challenge here is that for a lot of research, the sample needs to be representative of the known population. As things are moving quickly now, people may not be conscious of how the demographics are changing or even if they are, they may not be able to provide an accurate assessment of the impact that they’ll feel.

Adrian Tennant: It seems logical that people’s typical participation levels in research studies might change during the crisis. What does that mean for researchers and for the reliability of the data collected?

Mike Klotz: So the participation level of respondents is a question that’s popped up through many recent crises. So looking at like 9/11, and Katrina, and the recession of the late 2000s, there was a thought that people will turn away from things like survey participation and really focus on their lives and, you know, what’s important to them. And while it may be true that people are focusing more on their lives, we’ve seen that people continue to take surveys during these periods. We don’t have a real rational explanation for that, but we’ve seen it happen throughout history and similar to how we’ve seen crises impact demographics, it’s just looking at the data and seeing that this is what we’ve seen before. So a key piece of information to keep in mind during these times is to be sensitive to people’s situations and be careful on how you ask them questions. I’ve heard some people say, “you don’t want to ask a respondent a question that you wouldn’t ask mother or your friend’s mother.” So you really need to be respectful of people’s situations right now.

Adrian Tennant: Continuing with the theme of research, Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar, Professor of Marketing at the University of Central Florida, joined us at the beginning of May to discuss consumer psychology during COVID-19. At the time, toilet paper was still very much in the news… Recent research from Kantar, conducted in Canada, examined consumers’ reactions to finding many major CPG products being out of stock at the supermarket. In the study, over a third of shoppers reported being forced to try a different brand of toilet paper than usual, and over half said they will consider purchasing the new one even when the pandemic is over. Diapers are often considered to be a fiercely loyal category, but almost four in ten shoppers had to try another brand and over half claimed they’ll consider switching permanently to the new brand. Pasta saw a similar percentage of forced trialists, but three-quarters said they may consider the new brand they bought. So for brand marketers, this situation represents either an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors or disrupt unfavorable ones. What are some of the psychological principles that we should be considering in the upcoming months?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: This is a really interesting phenomenon in terms of asking ourselves what’s going to stick and what’s not going to stick. So we have to look at the underlying motivation and let’s take a step back. A lot of this switching is happening due to market unavailability. So the first question we want to ask ourself is, “Why is this stuff unavailable?” And it turns out, and I’m sure you’ve read as well, there’s not actually a shortage. There’s enough eggs for everyone. There’s enough meat for everyone. And there’s enough pasta for everyone. But people are hoarding, people are stocking up. And we’ve actually run our own data that we’ve been collecting. We’ve recently applied for an NSF grant as well, where we’re looking at these consumption patterns and how they’re related to control. And what we’re seeing is that people are hoarding as part of the way to exert control. So when you have this uncertain situation, if you feel psychologically uncertain and you don’t feel like the actual health actions are satisfying your needs to feel in control, then you engage in these consumption actions, which further make you feel certainty. Right? So if I have a lot of toilet paper, I feel in some kind of way protected. I feel like I’ve done something. I feel like I’ve taken control of the situation. So it’s control that gets us to this place where we’re all switching brands and buying whatever we can find because there’s these fake shortages because of the hoarding and now it’s control that will determine how we come out of this situation. Because if I switched only because I had to, the first thing I’m going to do is switch back the moment that I can. Because that will be me asserting my freedom of choice. Now if I switched because I had to and I suddenly discover this is much better than what I had before, then there might be some factors that I can compromise on and that will override my need for control. So I will somehow psychologically rationalize that now this is my new choice. But it has to feel like a choice. I mean it has to be a choice for as long as we’re choosing these brands because we have no other options then marketers should be careful before they celebrate their rise in market share.

Adrian Tennant: At the time we recorded this interview, it was starting to become apparent that in the hardest-hit areas of the country, social distancing measures might need to remain in place indefinitely, including the wearing of face masks in public. I asked Yael what she thought the impact would be on consumers.

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So I think this is really interesting. I was reading the other day that JetBlue is the first airline to require passengers to wear masks. And this, after reading some article about a flight to New York where a woman was recounting how 60-70% of the passengers did not wear masks and how she was basically terrified. And I thought to myself, “Some people might think that JetBlue is creating some kind of disadvantage for itself because other airlines don’t require masks and they do require masks and they’re creating some kind of hurdle for consumption.” But I actually think they might be creating a competitive advantage for themselves because if I need to fly somewhere now I’m going to fly JetBlue because I know everyone will be wearing a mask. And so, for certain target segments such as myself, that tends to be more cautious maybe, right? This is a great targeting strategy and it creates a competitive advantage. So we should always remember that there’s different customers, first of all. So some customers may think that wearing a mask in a restaurant is a terrible idea and completely detracts from their enjoyment. But other customers may say, “I’m only going to go to restaurants that require this because this is the only place that I feel safe.” So, first we want to think about segmentation and how people respond to this because different customers will respond differently. And then we want to think about regulation. At the point where market equality is created, for example, there’s an executive order that all restaurant servers must wear masks then now there’s competitive equality. There’s no advantage or disadvantage. This is just the new status quo. Then we’re asking will consumers adjust to the new status quo? Have consumers adjusted to wearing seatbelts? Have they adjusted to using child seats? Have they adjusted to TSA checkpoints when flying? All things that didn’t exist at one point in time that were considered huge inconveniences. But that really didn’t change the industry whatsoever in terms of demand, because what’s easier – to deal with a server with a mask or to never go out to eat again? We have to ask ourselves, “which is more likely?” And it feels like it’s more likely that consumers will just accept this as a new status quo and try to go back to as close as prior consumption as possible. That would be my guess.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back, after this message.

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations.

We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re taking a look at how COVID-19 has affected consumers’ sentiments and behaviors over the last three months. In May, travel management expert Ben Scott joined us on IN CLEAR FOCUS to talk about potential changes to business and leisure travel in the wake of the pandemic. I asked Ben if he thought the “new normal” for many – of working from home and connecting with coworkers via Zoom – would result in a temporary reduction in business-related travel – or prompt many businesses to reevaluate and modify their operations in the longer-term.

Ben Scott: Wow. The million-dollar question, right? In the long run, I’m definitely bullish about the industry for the simple reason that in-person human interaction matters. We are social animals after all and it’s really hard to build a relationship strictly around a Zoom meeting. But having said that, obviously in the short term that’s all anybody’s doing and in the medium term companies will be asking employees who say, “Hey, I need to go travel to X city,” you know, “Hey, Zoom seemed to work well during the shelter in place efforts. Why can’t it still work?” I think they’ll figure out pretty quickly that it’s not a good long term solution because relationships matter. I do think we’ll see a bump of pent-up demand hit us once things hit the all clear button. But that’s really the rub, when are we going to get a clear “all clear?” Just as there was a post-9/11, pre-9/11 dichotomy in how people view the world, that will definitely be there. But again, I would never bet against human-to-human, face-to-face, in-person interactions.

Adrian Tennant: JetBlue announced that it now requires passengers to wear face masks. In what other ways, if any, do you foresee airlines changing key aspects of the traveler experience?

Ben Scott: Absolutely. I mean, just that comment I made earlier about the pre- and post-9/11, there will be a pre- and post-COVID-19 as well. And it doesn’t mean that it will all be bad by any stretch. It will just be a new normal. And frankly, a lot of what we’re going to see is already rolling out. And I think about that first principle of automation: let’s reduce unnecessary human interactions that could pass the virus around. And again, this is all to make people feel safe. I personally haven’t bought a paper ticket to the airport in years. I just use my phone, but even if I do, I’m still the one that’s putting it down on the scanner. We’re going to see, and I saw this in the last year from United Airlines, they’re investing heavily and I’m sure the others are as well to put physical barriers up to replace the gate agents and will all be biometric-based. So it’s not just your phone, but it might just be your fingerprint like you have with the Clear, the way to get through TSA faster through the Clear company you use biometrics. We’re just going to see more and more and more of that. Baggage drop is already largely do-it-yourself. We’re going to see a way that humans aren’t there at all to receive the package. The airline lounge experience is going to be different – say goodbye to buffets in crowded bars and hello to pre-packaged and wrapped sandwiches. Will that be permanent? I don’t know. But for at least the short/medium term, that’s the new reality. The hard part for me in all of that is how do you – how do you get rid of those long TSA lines? I know that Montreal, the way that they tried to deal with it in the past is just to set up appointments for you to go through. So it’s staged and it’s easier to socially distance. I just look at the Minneapolis airport, which is an incredibly busy airport and see these mile-long lines. I really wonder how they’re going to deal with that. But that kind of leads me to my second point. They’ve got to get rid of unnecessary people in the airport. LAX has already done this. You can’t get into the airport unless you have a ticket. I’ve flown to India several times in multiple airports in that country and you’re not allowed inside the terminal without showing your ticket. I think that will certainly last through the medium term and that may be a new normal and it’s exciting in this sense that you could totally rethink the environment of an airport. If you include, say the garages, maybe your car is scanned on the way in, all your luggage there and it was already scanned and you go right into the airport from your car. That’s your TSA scan. So there are changes that we’re gonna see, but if it’s getting rid of unnecessary people, then it’s ensuring healthy people are flying. I know back in ’08 I went to China, in 2010 I went to Russia. In both cases, I had somebody pointing a thermal reader gun at me as we were on the airplane. We weren’t allowed to get off – honestly it felt a little invasive at the time, but I hadn’t been through a pandemic at that point. And this is what I mean by that pre- and post-9/11 thinking. Maybe in the future we’re not going to feel safe unless we’ve had a thermal scanner on the way onto the aircraft. And frankly, some of this stuff is already out there. They’ve got thermal scanners at some airports, but they’re hidden. I did read, and this was pretty interesting, the head of Gatwick airport said, “You shouldn’t even be allowed at the airport unless you’ve had a compulsory virus test 48 hours before departure.” Will something that draconian happen? I don’t know whether the public would be willing to accept that or whether they’re going to demand that, but that’s where we could go. And I guess my final point would just be about keeping it clean. You’ll hear a lot as the industry opens back up about fogging. They’ve been doing it since February on inbound flights from Asia, but those fogging machines, they go in there and after every flight and certainly at night and try to get rid of the virus. 

Adrian Tennant: What are the kinds of changes you foresee in the hotel experience as a traveler?

Ben Scott: Yeah, so you do hear things like, “Oh, they’re going to shut down spas and gyms permanently.” And I don’t believe that at all. There will probably be new protocols. There might be a limited number of people in there. There’ll be wipe-down periods where you just take a break and for the next hour we’re going to do nothing but clean and then we’ll open it back up. What we’re seeing in New York I don’t think is sustainable, where you have only one entrance into the building, you’ve got thermal screenings, you’ve got strict social distancing. Over time, that will be eased. What I do think is that you’ll see a lot of is plexiglass barriers. I mean, you see him at the supermarket right now. More and more of that will go up. They will reconfigure their open areas for six foot social distancing. Everybody hates the resort fee. I do wonder if, to pay for all these additional costs and staff to clean in order to make you feel safe so that you do come, that they’ll start putting a special cleaning fee on there ‘cause they’re gonna recoup their costs some way.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, great point. Now, thinking about how we get to our hotels and resorts, do you think anybody’s going to want to sit in the middle seat of an aircraft ever again?

Ben Scott: Nobody wants to sit in it now. But yeah, that is a problem. You’ve seen the airlines already blocking out those middle seats. Once the airlines start to build their capacity back up, and there is the demand, people are going to have to go there but they’re only going to go there if they’ve got the reassurances that I mentioned earlier. The most inventive thing that I did see that I really – I think that I liked, we’ll see if I have to experience it – but having the middle seat face the other way and then have those plexiglass barriers up between people. And again, that looks weird to me now, but post-COVID-19, that may be my post-9/11, “Oh yeah. That’s just the way things are.”

Adrian Tennant: Staying with airlines, if travelers have a lot of frequent points built up, do you think they should be worried about them?

Ben Scott: No, not at all. I mean everybody in the industry knows that this is the quote, “lost year.”  I know, for example, I’ve gotten from my hotel – and I’m a Delta guy ‘cause I’m based out of Minneapolis – notes saying, “look, we’re going to take your Platinum status and extend it a year.” So no, they’re going out of their way to make this lost year for what it is. Just, “Can we just erase this and move forward kind?” of approach.

Adrian Tennant: From travel, now we turn to dining. In April, culinary Public Relations expert Holly Kapherr talked to IN CLEAR FOCUS about the unexpected opportunities and innovations she was seeing in the restaurant industry in response to COVID-19… A Harvard Business Review article published earlier this month cited a national survey of small business owners. Among restaurant and bar owners, 70% said they expect to go out of business if social distancing orders last into July. Do you have any examples of particularly creative or inspiring things local restaurants or businesses have been doing to stay afloat during this pandemic?

Holly Kapherr: Sure. So I think one of the greatest things that’s come out of this pandemic is the creativity that we’re seeing and especially in the restaurant space. And part of it is due to desperation. Certainly, restaurants operate on the lowest margins of any industry, usually between seven and 9% and so this is a lawless time for restaurants. And I tell my clients that, “If you ever wanted to try something, this is the time to try it.” So yeah, we’re seeing a lot of really cool, creative ideas that may not seem cool or creative now, since we are about a month and a week into this pandemic. But before this was happening these things didn’t exist. For example, family meals. A lot of the restaurants that were, in the past, more of an adult-focused restaurant, a fine dining restaurant, or upscale dining restaurants, they’re really focusing on things that make it easy for people to feed their family. And that could be things that are more one-pot so you don’t have to clean a bunch of dishes like a lasagna or like a fried rice or something like that. And then adding sides and adding drinks, I think that’s really innovative in this space and I think people really are taking advantage of it. There are really big sellers among my clients especially, which are located anywhere from Winter Park, which is a much more adult-focused community, to Lake Nona, which is really a family-focused community. So I think that that’s been really creative. We’ve also seen really cool things like Black Rooster Taqueria is doing Margarita-grams. For $20, you can send your friend a Margarita-gram, which includes the margarita mix, the tequila, some salt, and some cut-up limes with some instructions on proportions, which is really cool. Of course they check IDs upon delivery, but I think that that’s adorable. We’re seeing a lot of really cool things with alcohol delivery truly and I think that’s also because we’ve never had that option before. And I don’t want to make it sound like this is a great thing for the restaurant industry cause certainly isn’t, but I think there is a silver lining here and that silver lining is that restaurateurs and chefs are getting to be more creative than they ever have in the past. And from that, we’re going to see a lot of great developments going forward. We may see new restaurant concepts from somebody who you never would have thought to do. Like for example, if you have an Italian restaurant, but you’ve always wanted to try a ramen popup. You know, we have seen that. We’ve seen people pivoting to delivery when they first concepted their restaurant, they were like, “Our food isn’t going to really travel well and I don’t really believe in the third party delivery system.” But they’ve had to pivot really quickly and so they’ve made it work and the reality is that money is money and people need to eat. I think that we’ve seen a lot of really cool things come out of this. And while it is certainly a tragic blow to the restaurant industry – and I don’t want to underplay that at all – that there will be a lot of cool creativity that comes out of this and I think a lot of learnings that will improve the restaurant industry in the long run.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the things that you’ve seen small businesses doing that have had the most impact either on the business themselves or the broader community at large?

Holly Kapherr: I think alcohol, like I mentioned before, is one of the biggest things that has made a difference. And I think that there’s a real sense of fervor behind supporting your local businesses. And so people are more willing to spend money where they wouldn’t have before. Like for example, on bottles of wine that are now 50% off, or on batch cocktails, or on single-serve cocktails. So I think that’s something that’s really working for restaurants if they can hit the right balance. I think also the family meals are doing very, very well especially if you hit the right price point and offer a family meal for either two people or four people or six people depending on how many people you have in your household and being sensitive to how many people that you know are living at home currently. I think also something that’s been really successful has been GoFundMes for restaurants and GoFundMe has been a really good partner to the restaurant industry so far. So GoFundMe has announced that they are not taking any commission off of any fundraising effort and you can withdraw from your GoFundMe at any time without penalty. And those two things were not in the rule book before all of this. So GoFundMe made those two big changes and the restaurant industry has embraced that. And at least for our clients, we have been working to set up fundraisers and these fundraisers can go to wherever the restaurant wants. So it would be $10 would feed someone at the homeless shelter or $300 would feed the entire shelter for one meal. You know, $15 goes to Thrive, Winter Park, or to feed Winter Park Fire Department. And these GoFundMes, they not only do good for the organization that the restaurant is working with, but they also keep the restaurant employees working. Because the more money that’s coming into the restaurant, no matter if it’s from delivery or from pickup or from GoFundMe, this money is going to make food. And so in order to make food, we need people who are going to work in the kitchen. And, and in order to deliver those things, we need people who are delivery driving. So I think that GoFundMe is a multi-pronged success. I currently have a client that launched a GoFundMe in partnership with a homeless shelter. And within three days, they had raised over $6,000, which fed the homeless shelter the entire month of May for one meal, which is incredible. So we’re seeing a lot of success with that. There are other things that have been really successful for restaurants. For example, one of my clients recently launched a series of virtual wine dinners that was just a rip-roaring success. Last Friday was their first one. They partnered with a local wine market. The chef put together a three-course menu, partnered with another local business, the wine market. The person who owns the wine market, they paired the wines. And then you could come in for $125 per couple. So for two dinners, you got three courses, two full, 750-milliliter bottles of wine, two really great wines, one Bordeaux and one burgundy and then you went home, you had your instructions, put together your plates. They encouraged people to share on social media their plating and tag the restaurant and tag the wine market and tune into Instagram Live where the owner of the wine market and the chef of the restaurant would talk about the food and the wine pairings. And it was a great time. And honestly, Adrian, I don’t know if it’s because I’m just starved for human interaction or if it was just a really fun evening, but we had a great time and it was really successful monetarily and attendance-wise for the restaurant.

Adrian Tennant: It’s clear that the COVID-19 crisis will continue to affect how we work, travel, dine, and shop for some time to come. My thanks again to all the guests featured in this special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: market research senior executive Mike Klotz, Professor of Marketing Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar, travel management expert Ben Scott, and culinary Public Relations professional Holly Kapherr. You can find a transcript of this episode along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights” – just click on the button marked “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And, if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.


Full-service marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features account management guru Sarah Ritchie offering sage advice for nurturing client-agency relationships.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Full-service marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features Sarah Ritchie, an internationally-renowned author and account management expert. Sarah shares what she learned from interviewing over 1,000 agency professionals around the world and identifies the skills that all account managers need to cultivate. Based on her experience, Sarah offers practical advice for developing long-lasting relationships and how to avoid the most common causes of client-agency breakups.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Listen to the following job description and guess which agency role it’s for. “The successful candidate will be experienced in data digital, social search media, creative, public relations, events, shopper marketing, programmatic, mobile, print, and outdoor. The ability to simultaneously and efficiently handle up to dozens of stakeholders often with competing interests is a must. The successful candidate is skilled at managing up, managing down, and balancing a profit and loss.” If you guessed Account Manager, well done! That was a fictitious job description that reflects how complex agency business can be. Since the days depicted in AMC’s Mad Men, when advertising agency account management was solely about client relationships and making sure the creative work was good, the role has really evolved. In our digitally-connected world, agency clients seek guidance across multiple disciplines that may go beyond what’s typically been classified as advertising. Today, account management remains a prerequisite for successful agency-client partnerships. It’s also where you’ll find people with the ability to lead clients’ work as well as direct the agency’s own business. To talk about account management and agency life, our guest this week is Sarah Ritchie, an international speaker trainer and author, who has spent over 25 years in the advertising and design industry. Sarah’s mission is to encourage, equip, and enthuse creative communications professionals and to help them forge strong client-agency relationships. During her career, Sarah has owned a successful design business, taught design to higher education students, and has been a business mentor. Sarah has also had a long tenure in agency account management and is the author of two industry books. The first was the award-winning, “How to Wrestle an Octopus, An Agency Account Manager’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything,” published in 2018. Sarah followed up that success with, “How to Tango with a Tiger, A Marketer’s Guide to Working with Creative Communications Agencies,” published in 2019. Sarah lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, a cat, 4.8 million other Kiwis, and 30 million sheep. Sarah is joining us today from her home, which Google reports is located over 8,000 miles from Bigeye’s offices in Orlando, which makes you the most far-flung guest we’ve ever had, I think – welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Sarah!

Sarah Ritchie: Well, thank you very much, Adrian. And yes, I feel very far away right now when you put it like that – 8,000 miles! My goodness.

Adrian Tennant: Now Sarah, you’re in Auckland’s on New Zealand’s North Island, which is a beautiful part of the world and provided many of the locations used during the filming of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Could you give us an overview of the advertising industry in New Zealand?

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah, absolutely. The advertising landscape here, we’ve got a very strong selection of agencies and it’s really interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually had the most number of agencies per capita in the world when you look at what we have, and I’ve been tracking agencies in New Zealand for about 10 years, and we’re sitting at around about 1,000 creative comms businesses here, and those companies are spread right across the industry. So that’s advertising, design, experiential, PR, media, and then all the sub-agencies underneath that, and of those 1,000 companies, only about 12 of those are networked holding companies. So as you can see, we’re very much a company of independent agencies, very much an entrepreneurial spirit here and New Zealand agencies typically punch above their weight. You know, we’re very well awarded and recognized for their creativity.

Adrian Tennant: What’s your definition of account management?

Sarah Ritchie: I think before I answer what my definition is, it’s really interesting to look at what other people’s definition of account manager. And I think that’s very much displayed by the role title that that person gets within an agency. And you’ll see, in some agencies, the account managers are referred to as the sales team. And so they have, you know, job titles like Sales Manager, Business Partner, and it reflects a very much a sales mindset that they’re encouraged to have. And then you’ll get other job titles, which are like Client Partners or Relationship Managers. And that looks at the relationship side of an account management role. And I like to look at account managers as being more like the connective tissue that holds that client and agency partnership together. And I love the word “partnership.” So to me, a Client Partner is a great title or an Account Manager to me is a more generalistic term. And a client partner is a really lovely role title. And I see them as being the client’s representative within the agency and the agency’s representative to the client. And so that Account Manager actually has a lot of power. And I don’t think often that account managers are given the kudos that they deserve or are trained to have that level of power because really, they have the power to influence a client’s business decisions to a certain degree. And they’ve also got the power to hold the client’s budget, you know, so that’s a lot of responsibility and, you know, they need to use that very wisely.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, I mentioned Mad Men‘s depiction of account management in the introduction. In that period, they were mostly account men, also referred to as “suits.” Yet both in the UK and here in the US I’ve observed a lot more women than men working in account management. Now, is that just me or is it the case around the world?

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah. Yes. I agree with you for the most part. It certainly is in my experience too. I think we have to be very culturally-minded when we answer that question. I certainly have seen in Western countries, such as you’ve mentioned in the UK, the US, Australasia, South Africa, there seem to be more women than men. But if we look in some countries such as around the Middle East and in certain Asian countries, you will see more men than women. That’s a reflection of the culture in which the agency operates. But when you look at the role of an account manager, and if you consider that as being the relationship holder with your clients, then that intrinsically involves a very warm type of words, like nurturing and caring and empathizing which lends itself very nicely to the innate feminine qualities. And I feel that that’s why we often see more women than men in those types of account management roles.

Adrian Tennant: What do you think are some personal characteristics that make for a great account manager?

Sarah Ritchie: Well, my number one characteristic and it’s a characteristic I love, love, love, and I hold very fast to, is curiosity. And I think if you are a naturally curious person, then you will naturally ask great questions. You will naturally want to know all about your clients, all about their business, all about their pain points. And you will naturally want to find out all of the technical aspects that go along with your jobs. So great account managers, in my opinion, ask great questions, which is curiosity, but then alongside all of those, all of that other, just the really essential qualities that all account managers should have, and that’s things like attention to detail, exceptional communication, great listening skills, and then, of course, the ability to juggle the mini projects and deadlines and stay really calm under all of that pressure. I used to say to young ones, I said, “You don’t get into nursing unless you’re prepared to work night shift the same as you do not get into account management unless you can handle stress.” Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Based on your own 25-plus years of experience in 2018, you published your first book, “How to Wrestle an Octopus, An Agency Account Manager’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything.” Now, although it’s an encyclopedic volume of over 600 pages it’s also very accessible. And I think a really great reference for anyone working in an agency at any level. But I’m curious about the title. How did you arrive at the idea of wrestling an octopus?

Sarah Ritchie: That title was kindly donated to me during the research phase of writing the book. And I will read you a quote. This was from a good agency friend of mine in Australia. And he said, “I always explained to agency account managers that controlling clients and other agency people, especially creative, is a bit like wrestling an octopus. You manage to get five tentacles under control, and then the other three start whacking you around the head.” And so when I heard that, I thought, “Bingo, you’re absolutely right. Can I use that as a title?” And he said, “yes.”

Adrian Tennant: So what originally inspired you to write the book?

Sarah Ritchie: Given that I had been doing account management in some form or another, most of my career. All along that career, I was very frustrated at the lack of resources that were available for account managers worldwide. And that, as that became especially noticeable once the internet took off and you could, you know, you could Google for information and there was very little out there. So in 2014, I set up a website called And that’s still going today. It’s been rolled into my own website now, but I wanted the site to contain both templates that account managers could use as well as articles that could just support them in their day-to-day working life. And then in 2016, I was out walking my dog one morning, very early in the morning, and I had what I can only describe as an epiphany. And I said, “I am going to write a book.” What I did is I took all of the articles that I had written for the am inside a website, and I rolled them up into one group. I added in more information for account managers and it ended up being a very, very big book and one that’s very unique in the world. , there are other very good books out there for account managers, but none of them went into the depth and breadth that I wanted to capture in “Octopus.” And what I also wanted to do was I wanted to create a book that was very relevant for agencies all around the world. And the interesting thing Adrian is that I’ve spoken over the last few years. I’ve spoken with, well over gosh, it would be now probably over 1,300 agency folk, mostly account managers from around 30 different countries. So I’m getting a really interesting international perspective there. And I discovered that we are all very, very much the same, which can be quite surprising, but what I dug a little bit deeper and I found that all modern agencies, no matter where they are in the world, and this is in countries as diverse as Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, you know, Australasia where all, all modern agencies are based on that original, mid-20th century American agency model. The structures are the same, the approach to the way that the agencies work is very, very similar both internally and with their clients. And it doesn’t matter which country you go to. You can kind of slot into working in these agencies all around the world. What is different is the culture that that agency is surrounded by – the culture of the teams, the culture of the clients, the society, and the market place in which they’re working. But what that means is that it makes “Octopus” very relatable all over the world.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Now, were you surprised by the level of interest from international readers?

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah, I’ll look, I was happy. I was happy about it, but I wasn’t surprised. I guess that comes back to the fact that I wrote the book with the international audience in mind. So I always hoped that it would be very well received around the world. And, you know, I’m always chuffed when I hear of “Octopus” turning up somewhere new, you know, for example, I’ve recently heard it’s now in Lebanon and Nigeria, which you know, which is fantastic. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Of course, we’ll provide a link to the book, which for listeners here in the US is available on in both print and Kindle editions. So Sarah, do you have any plans for an audio edition of “Octopus”?

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah. Look, Adrian. Believe me. I thought about it many, many times, but I shudder to think how long it would take somebody to actually listen to it. If, if you think that “Octopus” is 672 pages long, it is massive. Now picture that a Harry Potter book takes roughly 12 hours to listen to as an audiobook. Can you imagine the length of time it would take to listen to “Octopus”? So put it this way. I’m not saying no, but in my mind, I haven’t wrapped my tentacles around that just yet.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising account professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with your audience. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Sarah Richie about account management and agency life. Sarah, your follow up to “How to Wrestle an Octopus” is, “How to Tango with a Tiger: A Marketer’s Guide to Working with Creative Communications Agencies,” published last year. What prompted you to shift focus from the agency over to the client-side?

Sarah Ritchie: I was actually asked to write “How to Tango with a Tiger.” My book was given to the CEO of the double-ANA, which is the Australian Association of National Advertisers, which is very much like a marketing association. They loved “Octopus” and asked if I could write a similar book for marketers and for their members. And so we agreed that I would take “Octopus,” flip it 180 degrees. I would take out the bits that didn’t apply to marketers and put new sections in. And so what we effectively ended up with two sides to the same coin. We had “Octopus” for agencies and we had “Tiger” for marketers. And so really that that’s how it, how it came about. , but the whole crux of “Tiger” can be wrapped up in this statement that, “Strong agency-client relationships equals strong agency output equals engaged consumers, which equals growth and growth is what clients ultimately want out of their agencies.” So that became the whole focus of “Tiger” is working with your agency to the point where you’re going to see that growth.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the key differences, if any, between the client’s perspective and that of the advertising or marketing agency when it comes to developing and maintaining a productive working relationship?

Sarah Ritchie: I think there is a world of difference when you look at any agency, project, or campaign, or you’re looking at a problem that you’re trying to address from the marketers and the agencies side, each party has a very, very different perspective. And then they’re going to bring their own set of experiences and knowledge and opinions. I think the fundamental issue that we’re looking at with any agency work is that creativity is not an exact science. It’s not like law or accounting and, you know, one plus one very, very rarely equals two in agency land. And if you think about, if a marketer was to give out the same brief to 10 different agencies, they’re likely to get 10 different creative solutions given back to them. And if an agency is any good at their job, each of those agencies will be able to convince that client that their solution is the right one for them. And so we’re very much in a business of selling an opinion. And so when you’ve got this very fluid kind of environment with no black or white, it can lead to some very tense discussions with clients. And of course, when you add into that, you’ve got deadlines involved. You’ve often got very, very large sums of money and you’ve got a client that’s going to want a return on investment for that money. And so the best advice I can give is to maintain excellent communication with your client. There is no such thing as too much communication and over-communication is better than not enough. So there should be zero surprises for the client and any agency project. And it’s usually the surprises that cause the greatest arguments.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm.

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Well, my next question is going to be, what are some of the most common reasons that clients and agencies discontinue their relationships with each other?

Sarah Ritchie: In “How to Tango with a Tiger,” I actually list out the top 20 frustrations that I see that clients have in working with their agencies. And there are many, many reasons, but the obvious ones are things, the big ones, like the quality of the work, the accuracy of the work, whether the creative met the brief, sometimes it’s whether they see creative ideas getting regurgitated over time, you know, it starts to get stale. But then there are more insidious frustrations that go on and these are the ones that can build up over time and are usually the ones that lead to clients, discontinuing the relationship. And these are things like where the client feels like they’re not being listened to or where they’re perceiving a lack of value in the agency service or whether they’re constantly being overcharged or there’s incorrect invoicing. And it’s often something specific that happens time and time again, but it’s never fixed. The onus is on every member of the agency. We’re all in it as a team to get it right. But the account managers specifically, because most of the time, they’re the ones that are having that direct interaction with the client. And it’s their responsibility to make sure there are zero surprises, zero frustrations. And that the client is as happy as they can be and giving you repeat business.

Adrian Tennant: Right. What are some of the most important ways that agency account managers can nurture existing client relationships?

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah, I’ll look at that as being communication, communication, communication. And if you think about it in terms of like your own personal relationships that you have, your partner, your friends, your family, if you neglect that relationship, say, if you didn’t speak to a friend for a few weeks or a few months, they’re going to start to think that you don’t care about them anymore. Right? So, you know, the onus is then on you to keep in touch, call them, you know, with your clients, keep in contact regularly, see how they’re going. Remember their birthday, you know, be proactive. If you see some interesting articles that relate to their business, send them the web link, show that you genuinely care and that you’re not just there to take their money because that’s certainly one of the frustrations of many marketers as they feel that you’re just there to gain their business and that you don’t really care about them. So if we think about that old adage that “people do business with people that they like,” then, what are you doing to make your clients like you and your agency, and keep giving you more work?

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, you’re also a Certified Lego Serious Play facilitator. Could you tell us more about using Lego in business settings?

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah, absolutely. So Lego Serious Play – and I’m going to call it “LSP” for short because it is quite a mouthful – has actually been around for about 20 years. It started back with the Lego company in Denmark, working with a couple of professors, and they used it as a way to incorporate their product in strategy and company development. And then it just grew from there. Even though it’s been going for 20 years, it’s slowly making its way around the world and it’s certainly in America. And I’m sure that there are quite a few facilitators based across your country there. So LSP is essentially a workshop methodology, which utilizes Lego bricks and many figures and animals, and it explores the inner world rather than the outer world. And the easiest way to describe that is saying when you normally play with Lego, you’re trying to replicate tangible things like boats and castles and cars, but LSP gives you the opportunity to create a three-dimensional rendering, if you like, of the inner things like thoughts and ideas and emotions. And so it actually becomes really exciting to participate in an LSP session. It’s really good for ideating, strategizing, problem-solving. And by utilizing that hand-mind connection and all of the science that goes in behind that, you can often get to a deeper level of results quicker than you can with other types of workshop methodologies. So, you know, from an agency’s point of view, it’s actually a great option for teams to be able to use a Lego Serious Play in their strategy sessions with their clients even. And I’m sure, when as soon as you say LEGO and business, you know, there’s a lot of skepticism kind of going on, but even the skeptics amongst us end up really loving Lego Serious Play.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Now, do you think it’s something that connects to the child in all of us, and perhaps those of us who are nervous about drawing don’t feel as nervous playing with bricks because we’ve always been playing with bricks.

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah…

Adrian Tennant: Or some of us have, anyway.

Sarah Ritchie: Yeah, no, the truth comes out there, Adrian, eh? The truth comes out. No, the way that Lego Serious Play activities are structured is they’re really quick. You know, you might have a little Lego build that you do in a workshop that literally takes three minutes or five minutes to do. So there’s no time to build a masterpiece if you like. So anybody that approaches that saying, “Oh, I’m not creative. I can’t build with Lego.” It actually doesn’t matter because that’s not the point. The bricks become metaphors for your ideas. And so you might just pick up one single brick and say, you know, “This means something specific,” so you don’t have to be a great creative to do it at all in any way. But you’re absolutely right in terms of play, there have been many, many international scientific studies done around that concept of play and the way that play can connect in with the business world. And you’re right. You know, there is that sense of sitting down in front of these Lego bricks and just that inner expression of play comes out. And I think that’s one of the reasons why people find it so much fun.

Adrian Tennant: Well, if you were here, you would see our conference room B, which has Lego to play with.

Sarah Ritchie: Yay! Very good!

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, looking to the future, how do you want to see the thought leadership you’ve communicated with your first two books develop over the next two to three years?

Sarah Ritchie: You know, my mission is to see agencies strengthened, and to see the agency-client relationship strengthened. And, you know, that’s the type of thought leadership that I would love to come out, to be applied as a result of the first two books. I think if we can do that, if we can see that strengthening, then agencies will organically become more profitable. If account managers would take “Octopus” and they would follow the suggestions in that book and be given the mandate from their employers to action the suggestions in their book, but I could guarantee you that the profit of your agency will rise. So ideally I would love people to read the books, action the suggestions, and then build some amazing agencies that clients just love to work with. 

Adrian Tennant: Finally, Sarah, if listeners would like to learn more about you and the training services and materials you provide, where can they find you?

Sarah Ritchie: Well, the best place to start is my website. So that’s For people that are, might be listening to this podcast who are based in New Zealand or Australia, the easiest place to buy my books is actually off my website, but if you’re based anywhere else in the world, then just for cost and expediency, then the best place to go is to Amazon and that’s Amazon and the various stores that they have internationally. But while you’re on my website, you could also check out the Microsoft Word and Excel templates, which are very practical and helpful for agencies. And then I also run training sessions and I can do those in-person or via video link and for teams that are based anywhere in the world.

Adrian Tennant: Of course, we’ll provide links to those on our website too. Sarah, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Sarah Ritchie: Thank you very much for having me, Adrian. It’s an absolute pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Sarah Ritchie, account management expert, author, and trainer. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links and resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time. Goodbye.


Social media marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features Kristen Wiley, CEO of Statusphere, with practical advice for successful influencer marketing campaigns.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Social media marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features Kristen Wiley, CEO of Statusphere. We discuss influencer marketing and the importance of authenticity in our present moment. Kristen shares tips for developing impactful influencer strategies and reflects on what she has learned during her experience as an agency employee, startup founder, and in-demand industry commentator. Kristen also offers great advice for students and graduates on landing agency jobs.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Research company eMarketer recently published a report on US social media usage, which underlines the extent to which consumers flocked to social platforms during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in March and April. This provided a boost to established platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as the newest social entertainment platform, TikTok. As we’ve discussed in recent episodes of this podcast, time spent within home media surge during the lockdowns. And in fact, all of the major social platforms reported strong increases in engagement during the period. eMarketer estimates that this year, US adults will spend, on average, 82 minutes per day on social networks, which is up from 76 minutes in its previous estimates. Social media influencers have had to navigate the lockdowns too of course. In some categories like travel, influencers were presented with significant logistical challenges, but for others, the posts continued. Prior to the pandemic, research published by the Harvard Business Review suggested that influencer marketing had become the best way to reach beauty consumers – proving more effective than celebrity endorsements and traditional brand advertising. In a study of 520 women, 62 percent said they followed beauty influencers on social media and 67% said they sought information about products from influencers before purchasing them. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube topped the list of most visited social media platforms on a daily basis. To discuss the evolution of influencer marketing and the impact of COVID-19, we’re joined in the studio today by Kristen Wiley, an award-winning marketer, startup founder, and speaker. Since graduating with a degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Central Florida in 2014, Kristen has become a leader in the fast-paced world of digital marketing. Today, Kristen is the CEO of Statusphere, an innovative influencer marketing agency. She’s also a regular speaker and expert on topics including digital marketing, influencer marketing, social media, and fundraising. Among her many honors, Kristen is an Orlando Business Journal “40 under 40” honoree, recipient of the Ad Council’s “Champion for Good” award, and has been featured on CNBC as well as in the pages of the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. Having experience as both a chief marketing officer and a blogger herself, Kristen has a unique perspective – since she knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the influencer marketing equation. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Kristen!

Kristen Wiley: Thanks so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Kristen, in that biography, I condensed your experience into just a few seconds. When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in marketing?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah, so it’s kind of funny. Although it’s probably not what most children want to grow up to be when they’re little, I actually always want to be in marketing. I thought advertisements were actually super cool on TV. I would watch TV just for the ads and I would even make ads myself. So I knew I always wanted to go into marketing, but of course, when I was little social media, it wasn’t even a thing. Uh, so that evolved over time. But I knew from when I went into college that I wanted to go into advertising and marketing.

Adrian Tennant: You attended UCF and started your career working in agencies here in Orlando. What were the most valuable lessons you learned about agency life during that period?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah. That’s a great question. When you graduate, I feel like you think you know, everything and you get a job. And I think the things they don’t teach you in school is really just engaging with the clients themselves and understanding where they’re coming from. And sometimes when you’re working, it’s just so much more about people than it is even sometimes the marketing goal or pieces like that. So I worked in sales at the agency and then I also worked in strategy. Uh, so that gave me a lot of time to actually interact with the clients and I think that experience is so important, especially in starting a company, because if you can’t build those relationships with clients, you’re just not going to get anywhere.

Adrian Tennant: Right. So in 2016, you founded Statusphere with a mission of matching consumer brands with influencers. So first, what’s your definition of an influencer?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah, my definition of an influencer is anyone who influences a buying decision. I actually quite often talk about how specifically influencer marketing, everyone views it as online, but it’s really just word of mouth marketing in the new age. So, social networks have allowed real people to build audiences and actually, influence outside their sphere of just who they can talk to. So it’s been very interesting to see how platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, allow you to go outside of just your little sphere of influence, where it used to be big movie stars that could do that before social media was a thing.

Adrian Tennant: Kristen, what insights sparked the idea that ultimately became Statusphere?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So actually when I was in college, I had a professor who told me the best thing that I could do, to actually learn about marketing in general, was to start a blog. He said, “You’d learn way more than anything you’ll learn in my class,” is what he said. His name was Jim Hobart. He’s actually pretty popular in the Orlando community. He’s a photographer, but he was an adjunct professor at the time. He told our whole class that, and that night I went home and I started a blog. And he was so right. I always say that’s like one of the best career advice I’ve ever gotten. So I started this blog, had no idea what I was doing. I had to learn how to build a website. I had to learn SEO. I had to learn, you know, photography, really content. If you look at my first blogs, they were just horrific. But I did learn so much and that was actually what even spurred me to get my agency jobs. All of my jobs where they saw my blog and they were like, “We don’t even care about your GPA. You did that? We’re hiring you.” So I always give him a major, thank you for that, that piece of advice. So I did have that experience. And then when I started working at different agencies, I always got thrown into doing influencer marketing because I was the only one that had experience with it. So they were like, “Oh, you’re young, but no one else on our team has really influenced a marketing experience.” This is 2011, 2012. “But our brands are asking for it. So can you help us?” So I was in this unique position where I was given a budget, I got to test out other influencer marketing platforms. I was on them as an influencer and as a brand. And that’s where I started seeing all these holes where I was like, “There just has to be a better way.” On the influencer side, I was a food blogger and I would get pitched mattress companies and really strange things that had nothing to do with my blog. And I was like, “this is a waste of my time. And why is it this way?” And then on the brand side, I was sifting through hundreds, if not thousands of influencers trying to find the right one. And I was like, “There just has to be a better way where we can match the two.” And that’s where the idea was born.

Adrian Tennant: Prior to founding Statusphere, had you any interest or experience in entrepreneurship?

Kristen Wiley: I had interest in entrepreneurship, but I didn’t think that I would become an entrepreneur. Looking back when I was younger, I was one of those people who did always have a side hustle where I sold like really random things door to door. I’ve sold everything from bows to purses. I used to buy stuff from Marshall’s and resell them on eBay. So I used to always do those types of weird entrepreneurial things to make extra money. But I never thought I was going to start a company. So that being said, I started working at one of the agencies locally, and one of their verticals was startups. So I worked in sales and I started interacting with lots of startup founders and that’s when I started, I think realizing in the back of my head, “this is something I think I could do.” Like I started meeting other female founders, and seeing them do it. And I was like,””well, you know, I’ve had this idea for a while. Maybe I should try it.” So…

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. So from idea, to establishing Statusphere – what did that look like?

Kristen Wiley: Yes. So I had the idea for Statusphere for a while before starting in, I bought the URL actually like two years probably, or a year and a half before ever launching anything. I think that’s a story that a lot of entrepreneurs talk about, ’cause it just takes so much effort to actually make the jump. ‘Cause you know, you’re so nervous, like, “Is this what I should be doing? I have a great job.” I actually loved my current job at the agency. So it made it even harder. Like, “Why would I do this?” But the way that it looked I actually had told my boss at the agency about it and he was very supportive, which I think is also unheard of. And I thank him a lot for being so supportive because that was a big thing that pushed me. Like, “He thinks it’s a good idea. Maybe I should try this.” And I did on the side. And the way I started was I reached out to a bunch of influencers with a simple landing page that was the first subscription box for influencers. It was a really ugly landing page with a form on it where you could apply. And I just messaged it to 10 influencers that I personally followed that didn’t know me personally. And I woke up the next day and had 12 applications and I was like, “Well maybe this is something, this is a good idea.”

Adrian Tennant: Today, what kinds of brands does Statusphere serve?

Kristen Wiley: So Statusphere serves a variety of different industries. We are a network of all-female micro-influencers, so we serve any brands that are looking to reach that audience. So that could be everything from beauty, which is, as you mentioned in the intro, is a big category for us. But we also work with things like publishers, nonprofits, consumer packaged goods companies, ice cream companies, we’ve even worked with restaurants before as well. So it’s very interesting how we can activate our micro-influencers on many levels. So it’s not just always posting on Instagram, it could be attending an event or it could be, you know, writing a review. So the way our platform is positioned can actually activate these micro-influencers that are very valuable and have great voices and insights to do a multitude of things.

Adrian Tennant: So you mentioned the word “micro-influencer.” What other types of influencers are there?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah, so you have your celebrity types. So “macro” per se, there’s like the Kim Kardashians of the world, which are, you know, huge millions and millions of followers. They cost I’ve heard like six figures for one tweet, you know, from some of those people. And then you have your kind of mid-tier that are still pretty macro. So think of your YouTubers that have like a million followers or even 500,000 or your Instagrammers that around that category. The way we define micro-influencer is anyone that’s between like 3,000 to 25,000 followers on Instagram. It does vary from network to network, but you can see that it’s not your ones with a hundred thousand plus followers. And the reason that we target those is because in my experience, I worked with different influencers of different levels and we found that the micros actually have a higher engagement rate than those that are over a hundred thousand followers, which makes sense, because they can have a more one-to-one communication with their audience. They also tend to have more niche audiences. So let’s say you wanted to reach out to a vegan influencer who only has 5,000 followers. Those are very active 5,000 – a lot of them are probably vegan as well. So it just from a targeting perspective also makes more sense. And you can get more content and more bang for your buck in general, by getting a bunch of micro-influencers posting versus maybe just one or two macro-influencers.

Adrian Tennant: Kristen, could you explain how your system connects brands with influencers?

Kristen Wiley: The way it works on the matchmaking side is brands come to us. They tell us the type of influencer they’re looking to target. So they’ll say, “I want an influencer who is between the ages of 24 and 35 has kids and is in the Northwest.” Then they go to the next section of our process and they actually swipe on influencers in our network. I say swipe, it is actually kind of Tinder-esque, so we can get to know what their aesthetic that they’re looking for is. Do they like bright poppy colors? Do they like more muted colors? So we can actually understand more of what the brand’s looking for. And then on the final step, we take all that data and we match them to all the influencers in our network that match that criteria. So those influencers see the opportunity and can opt into it to participate in the campaign. On the influencer side too, they fill out a profile with over a hundred data points, so we can make sure if she is a vegan influencer, we’re not showing her beef jerky, or if you are a food blogger, you’re not seeing a mattress company like I used to see. 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Kristin Wiley, CEO of Statusphere about influencer marketing. In what ways, Kristen, is Statusphere different from other influencer marketing organizations?

Kristen Wiley: When I was at the agency and got to try a lot of the other types of influencer marketing platforms, they typically fall into three categories. You have what I call the databases or the Yellow Pages of influencer marketing. It’s just a giant database where you type in “beauty influencer,” and it pulls up a hundred thousand of them and you have to sift through them. Then you have your CRMs for influencer marketing, which are similar to a CRM for sales, where you put your influencers that you’re dealing with in there, but you still have to source them, but you move them through the funnel. You negotiate with them. All of these platforms have lots of value but then the third type of platform is more of an agency model where sometimes they’ll use those platforms, but they’ll have a person that handles it for you. So they’ll do the whole process. We are different in the fact that we have the full end-to-end process, so we feel like an agency model on the outside, but we are a scalable platform on the inside. So if a brand wants 10 influencers posting per month, it’s the same amount of work for us internally as 500 or a thousand influencers posting.

Adrian Tennant: So what are some of the similarities and between Statusphere and a regular advertising or marketing agency?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah, so we actually work with a lot of advertising and marketing agencies, ’cause all we do and all we focus on is just influencer marketing campaigns. That’s it. We don’t do branding and we don’t do copywriting, uh, we don’t do any of those things. So we actually partner with a ton of agencies that may be focused on just public relations and they want to scale up an influencer campaign for a brand.

Adrian Tennant: Right. So white label?

Kristen Wiley: Essentially. Yes. Some of them white labels, some of them almost view us as an ad buy. They’ll actually tell their clients, “Look, we are going to spend this much of your budget with Statusphere.” Kind of like you say, “We’re going to spend this much with Google.”

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Yeah. Makes sense. Since March we’ve been under various degrees of lockdown due to COVID-19 and with more people at home, social media usage surged. The country is now reopening. But to what extent was Statusphere’s clients – and the influencers you work with – impacted by the pandemic?

Kristen Wiley: Yes. I mean like everybody else, we were just trying to figure out how it was going to affect us because it is so unprecedented and there’s so few people that have gone through anything like this, much less during the age of social media. So our whole team was just kind of sitting back, waiting to see what was going to happen. What we found is actually the engagement rates of our influencers increased ,during the lockdown, which makes sense because more people were inside and looking for things to do that they could do socially distance wise. Now on the influencer side, we worked a lot with them to educate them that they could still post content, but they needed to make sure they weren’t posting old photos of them traveling and trying to pass them off as real or something like that. It all comes back to authenticity. And we saw our influencers that really embraced the fact that they were going through the same thing as so many of their followers and talking about that, which is what micro-influencers are great at doing is just being relatable. That’s why I think the engagement rate went up so much because everyone’s going through the same thing and we could all relate together.

Adrian Tennant: What platforms or tools have you been using to work with your team remotely?

Kristen Wiley: We use Google Hangouts the most, just, it was easy. That’s what we used to use. So we just kept using it. And we do a morning call each morning just to touch base and start the day. And then we know everyone’s online and we use it for chit-chat not necessarily for business purposes all the time. We let everyone kind of just talk about their day. From an organization perspective, we’ve used something called for actually organizing projects. We used that before, but I feel like being remote, you have to be even more organized, ’cause everyone’s moving around and doing different things. And then we have a few on our own internal platform that we have built that has a lot of great tools for us to be able to see what’s going on and build on together.

Adrian Tennant: Now have you, or your clients, or influencers, changed working practices that you think might stick and after we all get back to whatever normal is going to be?

Kristen Wiley: I was expecting productivity to possibly go down. I think actually, because everyone was stuck inside productivity almost stayed the same or went up. And it’s almost like I’m telling team members, “Okay. You probably should check out sometimes, you know?” But I think it’s just making sure and checking on everyone’s mental health and pieces like that has just been really important. Things that I think will stic is allowing people to work from home and be a little bit more flexible more often, which I’ve heard a lot of people talk about. But we actually do have some remote team members. We have a team member in the Philippines and we have a team member in California in L.A. and this remote working has actually brought our whole team closer together because our team didn’t talk to them that much. And now that everything’s remote, it’s very cool to see the relationships being built between those team members that never used to talk before. So I think that that’s something we’d like to continue, even if we come back to the office or when we come back.

Adrian Tennant: The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th has sparked an international wave of protests and demonstrations calling for an end to racism. Companies and brands have been facing the difficult question of how to address this highly sensitive issue. On Tuesday, June 2nd, major broadcasters music streaming services, as well as many celebrities and regular individuals expressed their solidarity with protests against the killing of George Floyd by using the hashtag Blackout Tuesday, which spread rapidly on social media. As of today, more than 970 protests have been held across all 50 States. Kristen, beyond sympathizing, what do you think brands with a strong social media presence should do?

Kristen Wiley: Yes. So that’s a really great question. And I know that these past two weeks have just been hard for everybody and understanding what we can do to support on a personal level, but then what the responsibility is for a company to do on a corporate level. And I think it’s amazing that businesses are being held responsible as if they were people. I think that that lends itself into a lot of other different conversations and issues that arise. But I do think overall it’s kind of time for that to happen. I mean, some brands have an incredible audience. They’re pretty much influencers in themselves. And something that we’ve talked about as a team and with our influencers and learning from our influencers as well, is just the responsibility that influencers and people with a wide reach have on social issues. And I think it has been so interesting to see people, calling brands out that have these huge audiences, if they’re not using it for good in the situation. And I think that we’re going to continue seeing trends heading that direction. And I personally do believe that brands should not stay silent and they do have a right to kind of tell their audience where they stand. Now, that being said, I can’t imagine these large companies putting together these statements ’cause they also don’t want to write a statement that, you know, they assume represents everyone in their company. It just adds all of these layers. And even as a small company ourselves, it allowed us to have a lot of hard conversations that needed to happen, which I think is the goal of the movement overall. So I guess to answer your question, I do think that companies should be held responsible and should speak and use their influence for good in situations like this.

Adrian Tennant: Does this moment feel like a significant turning point in some way?

Kristen Wiley: Yes. I think this has been an incredible turning point and I hope that it continues. And it does seem different than some of the other situations we have gone through, just seeing, I mean, waking up on that Tuesday and opening our Instagram to the feed and it was completely – it was the blackout Tuesday. Now I know there was also controversy around that and how it went around it, but the fact that it did reach so many people and there are so many people having conversations on and offline, I think is what we’re really going to see from this movement and hopefully it continues past it. And it seems like it will. You know, you view a company as if you want to make sure that they’re doing right by not only the products they produce, but the people they work with, and all the way around. So I think it is an interesting time for consumers to have those conversations with the brands and hold them accountable. And I think we’re going to see a resurgence and have a lot of smaller brands that get that and get that those conversations need to happen. And I think the larger brands are the ones that are learning or having to have a crash course in this, because I don’t think they’ve had to do that in the past.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’re part of Generation Y – a Millennial – and an expert speaker and presenter on the topic of marketing to Millennials. Do you think your generation feels more strongly perhaps than any other cohort that companies have an obligation to support movements that focus on social injustices?

Kristen Wiley: I do think that our generation does care a lot about social injustices and just cause-oriented marketing in general. But I will also say the next generation coming up might be even more so. And they’re doing some amazing things and I’m seeing so many talented people and in the Gen Z cohort. And it’s just so impressive and cool to see who’s coming up after us and, and the changes that they’re making as well. I do think as a whole, younger people do love having a cause associated with it. And I think also other generations are coming around to that as well. And, and, and learning as they’re getting more on social media and it’s not just a Millennial thing anymore to be on social media – it’s an everyone thing.

Adrian Tennant: Now looking to the future, how do you want to see Statusphere develop over the next two to three years?

Kristen Wiley: Yeah. I mean, we want to be the go-to place for brands to get the word out. Eventually, I would love to have hundreds of thousands of people talking about your brand at the push of a button. People that actually want to talk about it because the way our platform works is the influencers only opt-in if they actually want the product in exchange for posting, which just makes it a lot more authentic and allows the brands to start building that relationship with those influencers. Almost like making things go viral quickly because enough people are talking about it overnight.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve already achieved a lot before your 30th birthday. What are your personal growth goals for the next decade?

Kristen Wiley: That’s a really good question. I don’t even really know where to start, because if you would have asked me that in my early twenties, I still would have no idea I’d be here right now. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is just embracing things that are outside of your comfort zone always seems to excel me to a whole other place that I never thought I would be. So saying “yes” to things that maybe you’re not great at now, but learning it and moving forward. So that’s just kind of how I try to live right now. “Is this possible? Am I saying no to this just because I’m concerned that I’ll fail? Or should I say yes to this and just try? What’s the worst that happens if I fail?” So I try to switch, swap it a little bit. I really don’t know what’s next. And I’m just going to, I think just consistently working is the way to go right now. But right now I’m very happy with the team that we have and I love working with Statusphere.

Adrian Tennant: What advice would you give to recent graduates seeking to secure their first position in advertising or marketing?

Kristen Wiley: I would tell them, and I do tell them when I meet them, to grow their network as big as they can. Because I think unlike other industries, although your GPA and what you scored in school is important if you’re going to be a doctor or lawyer, marketing and advertising and public relations is all about building relationships, which is kinda what we talked about right at the beginning of this. And I, if anything, I wish I would have just built more relationships in college and right after and not been so scared to reach out. And starting a company has forced me to just reach out and message people. I would have never dreamed of messaging and you’d just be so shocked to see how many actually respond. So I always tell people that are recent grads, “Just meet as many people as you can and use that opportunity of you just graduating as a reason to reach out to your dream people you’d love to talk to.”

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I think it’s great advice. Kristen, if listeners would like to learn more about working with Statusphere, where can they find you?

Kristen Wiley: They can find us at You can find information to become an influencer, or if you’re interested in advertising as a brand through Statusphere, you can find us there. We’re also @statusphere on Instagram, which is probably our most active platform, as well as TikTok @Statusphere. We’ve been trying to put more content out there as well, so we would love to have you follow us.

Adrian Tennant: Of course, we’ll include a link to that on our website too. Kristen, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Kristen Wiley: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Kristin Wiley, founder and CEO of Statusphere. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.