Earning Perspective

Advertising is an industry that can famously get all wrapped around itself. We create things that look like ad campaigns, then we evaluate the quality of those campaigns versus other campaigns. We see a great campaign and challenge ourselves to make our next campaign even better. And sure, that’s useful to a point.

But from regular people’s perspective, the competition isn’t other ads. It’s everything. The entirety of life is competing for their attention. So you’ve got to find inspiration from places that aren’t just other kinds of advertising.

© 2017 Cusp Conference. Photography by Joe Rommel.

© 2017 Cusp Conference. Photography by Joe Rommel.

That’s why when Kickdrum heads out for inspiration, we look outside of marketing courses and ad festivals. Our social feeds are already chock full of stuff other agencies are doing and “industry-relevant” articles. We want to be inspired by how people outside of marketing are getting people to listen to what they have to say, bring them together to tackle their cause, and get them to take action.

At the Cusp Conference in Chicago we heard from, among others, street poets connecting with young men in need of direction, environmental activists transforming the clothing industry, the woman who wrote Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls, and a guy who plays the clarinet with whales.

We want the work we make on behalf of our clients to be effective when stacked up against real-world competition. When we hear people outside of marketing talking about how they communicate, we always learn something new.

It’s comfortable to pontificate on Twitter about marketing as an academic concern, but our job is to reach people in the real-world. To get that perspective you have to make yourself step outside of the marketing sphere. You’ve got to earn it.

© 2017 Cusp Conference. Photography by Joe Rommel.

© 2017 Cusp Conference. Photography by Joe Rommel.

Welcome, Kate

We are very excited to announce that Kate McGuire has joined Kickdrum. An exceptionally talented creative, Kate joins us with more than a decade of art direction and design experience, including work with brands like P&G, Smuckers, Formica and the Ohio Lottery.  


At Kickdrum, we believe the success of a brand depends upon the ability to translate the vision into compelling communication. To that end, Kate brings an unmatched eye for detail and strong visual perspective to every assignment. Is she a font nerd? Yes. Is she obsessed with Pantone chips? Obviously. Does she somehow make everything she touches look amazing? Ohmigod, you guys...

Kate believes that the best design has a story to go with it. It’s what makes her the best art director in Ohio. At Kickdrum, Kate will be tasked with telling those stories in beautiful, dramatic ways. Expect big things.

Welcome, Kate.

(She just reminded us again that she lives in Kentucky. So….best art director in Ohio and Kentucky.)

Welcome, Andrea

Kickdrum is pleased to introduce Andrea Hickman as our new Managing Director. Andrea joins us from Wendy’s where she spent six years working in a variety of roles, including broadcast production, innovation, strategy and brand management. 

She began her career on the agency side at Publicis and McCann New York before moving back to Ohio. At Kickdrum, her role is to lead key client relationships and guide the next phase of our growth.

It takes a special kind of ambition to join a startup. What motivated Andrea to make the leap is the same thing that brought Kickdrum to life. A vision of what advertising can become, and the drive to turn that into a reality.

Andrea - Managing Director, Kickdrum

Andrea - Managing Director, Kickdrum

We think you’ll enjoy working with her as much as we do.

A Change Of Address

We're excited to announce that Kickdrum HQ has moved to a new location: 652 Main Street, on the 6th floor. 


The office is cool as hell, with high ceilings, exposed brick and tons of light. Best of all, it's right in the middle of downtown Cincinnati – right on the streetcar line (almost hit it twice already).

The view from Kickdrum HQ

The view from Kickdrum HQ

After working in the suburbs for a year, it’s a little too easy to dismiss the importance of being around the hustle and energy of the city. Seeing art going up in public spaces; hearing strains of live music drift over from Fountain Square; discovering the best gyro you’ve ever had is right next door (props to Uncle Mo’s); and just watching the random storylines of other people’s lives happening all around us — It’s the kind of input that feeds the soul and inspires our work.

Sure we’re still a little light on furniture and some of the current paint choices are way off-brand, but man it feels good to be down on Main Street.

(Mandatory Bob Seger link)


What it means to be a drummer

Photo Credit: Howard Thompson/CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credit: Howard Thompson/CC BY-SA 2.0

Rolling Stone recently put out a list of the top 100 drummers of all time.

We have a lot of thoughts on the list, but there is one drummer, ranked #5, deserving of a full-on blog post: Hal Blaine. 

When we saw his name, we were happy to see him so high on the list.

Way above flashier names with questionable talent. (Ahem...Steven Adler.)

Because Hal Blaine knew what it meant to be a drummer.

He did whatever the situation called for.

If a simple, steady backbeat was the order, Hal could do it.

If a show-stopping solo was needed, he could do that, too.

He didn’t need to be the center of attention.

But he had all the talent to be that, and more.

Instead, he did most of his best work as a session drummer.

Defining the sound for dozens of different bands on hundreds of albums.

And then often teaching the touring drummer how to play their own songs.

He says it best in the article: “I’m not a flashy drummer. I want to be a great accompanist”

So if you were wondering why we named ourselves Kickdrum.

One of the answers is Hal Blaine.

Increasing sales is not your marketing objective


At some of the talks we give to business groups, we like to ask the audience a question: “What’s your marketing objective this year?” The only answer ever given is “increase sales.”

Sure. Yes. Of course.

When the CEO asks the marketing team what their objectives are, it’s easy to say “driving sales through the stratosphere,” and send a now-smiling CEO on her way. No one is going to argue with making “increased sales” a goal. (Except, apparently, one start-up ad agency in Ohio.)

But increasing sales isn't a marketing objective. It’s an outcome.

In fact, it’s the outcome. When marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, customer service, and logistics all meet their objectives, sales go up. Every business is built to grow, and every part of that business is working towards that goal. 

Marketing’s contribution is vital. It’s the part that can create, change or reinforce a consumer behavior. A good marketing objective should explain what behavior will be influenced and how that change connects to sales. 

And to do that, you’re gonna need to do some math.

Think about it. The CEO is allocating her budget based on the overall business objective of increasing sales. The head of manufacturing has numbers that justify an ROI for that big-ass machine he wants. The head of logistics has numbers that explain why more warehouse space will increase efficiency. And then the marketing director shows up and asks for more money to get more Facebook likes.


Increasing Facebook likes might be worth investing in but a business case has to be made. And it can be. A marketing objective is connected to the business objectives the same way that a new machine is. It requires a little due diligence when it comes to understanding conversion rates and data, but the only way to get a respectable marketing budget is to use concrete language backed by numbers that the CEO respects.

Then there’s always the ace in the hole. 

When the head of manufacturing projects the ROI of the new machine and the head of logistics projects the ROI of added warehouse space they are both counting on getting more customers. 

And that is going to take some marketing.

Our first project is also the best project ever.

Kickdrum has its first client, and while that in and of itself is an amazing, giddy feeling, simply having work to do isn’t reason enough for this post. The real revelation has been what it feels like to be tackling the kind of project that requires us to use everything we’ve learned over the course of our lives in marketing to make an impact on a business.

It’s good, hard, honest work. And weirdly, that feels almost foreign.

Maybe it’s because we’re used to the agency world where it’s second nature to spend as much time worrying about selling the work, as actually doing the work. This isn’t meant to say that you shouldn’t do a good job presenting a well-organized deck, or that some element of sales isn’t part of any business relationship, it’s just that it feels pretty darn amazing to spend an appropriate amount of time doing what we’ve been asked to do.

In that context, Kickdrum is very pleased to announce that we are on assignment for Pilgrim’s and Kroger. We have a client partner who’s appreciative and collaborative, and we have been sternly instructed to avoid the “typical agency bs” and focus on coming up with smart ideas backed by insights and data.

Thank you, Pilgrim's.

Image Credit:  “Chicken 12” by AivisV (Creative Commons), downloaded from deviantart.

Introducing the ad agency that’s changing what it means to be an ad agency.

First of all, we love advertising. Can’t imagine doing anything else. But we have been in this business for awhile, and lately it just seems like ad agencies could be working a little better.

Understanding business objectives, connecting them to a marketing strategy that inspires thought-provoking creative and getting that work in front of the people that need to see it. That’s how we get people to feel something about a product or service; that’s how behavior changes; and it’s how we make an impact on a business. That’s what the whole ad industry is supposed to be about, right?

So we’re building that agency. The kind of ad agency that made us want to work in this industry in the first place. Where talented people with different ideas, information and opinions collaborate on, wrestle with, fight about, get frustrated by, mull over, get inspired by, and then actually solve, marketing problems.

To be clear, this isn’t anything new. At least it shouldn’t be. It’s the mission the ad agency business was built on. It’s just doesn’t seem to be what most agencies are actually doing.

As we make our better version of an ad agency, we’re re-examining some of the fundamental principles of how an agency creates value for its clients, and where time and money get wasted. (Spoiler alert: Lots of places!)

For starters, we’re changing up the default idea-generating team in an agency. When making print ads was the challenge du jour, art and copy made sense. But not any more. So instead of copywriters and art directors, we’re pairing up strategy and creative. The goal is to have a team that brings two complementary perspectives to every step of the process.


From the strategy side, this means understanding how to translate a business plan to a marketing strategy that isn’t simply “increase sales.” Assigning objectives to marketing that (1) can actually be achieved and (2) make sense to a CEO who’s allocating capital based on ROI, not “likes.”

Involving the creative point of view from the outset means that we’re not just making powerpoint presentations. Instead, we always have our eye on the deliverable that matters most: The things actual people see, hear and experience. Will it be something they’ll actually look at? Do we think it will change their minds? Can it change their behavior?

The strategy and creative disciplines weren’t meant to exist as a tag team, where one skillset hands off to the other in a perfunctory briefing that may or may not influence the final product. They’re meant to work together.

And now they do.

We call it Kickdrum Strategy & Creative, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.