Calf, Calf, Calf, Cow

(Or how to prevent an ad from becoming gradually bad)


By Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder The BAM Connection, Brooklyn

Any piece of communication is the sum of all the decisions made against that piece. The typeface chosen, the exact headline wording, the illustration style, the photo, the photographer, the amount of copy, the color palette, the layout of the elements. If it’s a video: the director, the music, the voiceover, the color correct, the sound effects. There is an endless series of choices to be made (many more than I have listed here), and the fact is great creatives make way more right choices along the way, knowing that each one affects the whole.

Equally, they understand a little typeface change here, a slight rewording of a headline there, all those tiny compromises, those subtle little changes over and over against 20 different choices, which feel like nothing at the time, ultimately bring the ad down.

Milo of Croton, a legendary Greek wrestling champion from the Ancient Olympic games in 540 BC is a good parable for this dynamic. As the story goes, every day he picked up a calf, pretty soon he was picking up a cow. The tiny gradual weight change each day was so minimal, he didn’t notice it. For him it was a good thing. For any of us who create for a living, it is a bad thing…a very bad thing.

So, give every decision the attention it deserves. Fight each little battle, within reason. Beware of all the daily changes, too gradual to notice, that suddenly add up to a mess. This way, at the very end of the process, right when your darling piece of creative is going out to the highly judgmental public, you won’t end up asking yourself, how did my cute, little calf become a big, clumsy heifer?

#TheBamThinks #26


Advertising vs Content. What’s the difference?

By Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder The BAM Connection, Brooklyn

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 11.14.01 AM    Ask this question to smart marketing people anywhere and it’s likely you will first get dumbstruck looks, followed by hmms and haws, then some elusive response that tells you they don’t know the answer, and have never really even thought about it. Responses like, “if it goes viral then it’s content.” No, that could just be a good “ad” that many people chose to watch online. Or my personal favorite, “consumers don’t name and separate out like that, they just like what they like.” Yes, but marketers do, and being able to separate out and define “content” vs “advertising” is critically important when laying out your marketing mix.

Let me be very clear: this is our answer at The BAM. Agree, disagree. Love it, hate it. At least we have a definition. Here goes.


Communication that sells the brand by touting all its features, attributes and benefits. The focus and interest are all around the brand. It is designed more for people currently in the market to purchase the product or service to help transact them now.


Communication that sells the brand with engaging, tangentially-related topics, stories and education. The focus and interest go beyond the brand, but connect back to it. It is designed more for people NOT currently in the market to purchase the product or service to help attract them to a brand they otherwise might have ignored, and sell them at some point down the road.

PLEASE NOTICE both say “communication that sells…” that’s because they both should do that. Clearly advertising should sell, but so should Content. No CMO is giving you millions of dollars to entertain people, and not sell anything. If they are, they will not have their job for very long.

It is old-school habit to believe everything must be an ad. It is new-school naïveté to feel that everything should be content. There are two ways to stop consumers. For people actually in the market, provocative ads do it. I am interested in buying. Get to it now. For people not in the market now, show me some engaging content that makes me pay attention so I consider your product at some later date. Both work.

Here is the simple truth: Everything is an ad for something. It can be hard sell, it can be soft sell, but one thing I guarantee you, when it comes to CMOs with their multi-million dollar budgets and board of Directors, it will never be “no sell.”




7 Years Later: The Rebirth of Advertising as Storytelling

Katelyns Sketches of Books[1]A Millennial’s Perspective on Finding Purpose in 2017

Change comes every seven years.  In fact, some believe the human body will completely replace every cell over the span of seven years, giving birth to an entirely “new” person.  If change does come every seven years, the advertising industry is proof.  I’ve been in the delivery room myself to witness the painful yet beautiful rebirth.

Let’s rewind seven years to 2010.  We’ll remember this was the year of “Marketing with Meaning”.  Brands and agencies were searching for the philanthropic angle, the charitable partnership, the “one-for-one” business model.  Jamie Oliver was giving TED talks about the importance of healthy school lunches, P&G had revamped their Dawn dish soap packaging to feature baby wildlife, and Warby Parker had just launched with the promise of donating a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold.   It can be argued the 2009 release of Bob Gilbreath’s book “The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connecting with your Customers by Marketing with Meaning” fueled the rapid-fire growth of brands trying to reconnect with consumers in a more meaningful, valuable way.  It was my first year in the business and I was immediately swept away by this exciting and “meaningful” tide of change.

Seven years later, however, a new and much more complex tide has risen.  And with it comes a new audience, new expectations, and new technology, all of which has redefined what “marketing with meaning” actually means.  In fact, marketing, in many ways, is a moot term.  We are no longer marketers.   We are storytellers.  And our audience demands an experience, a bond, a purposeful journey with our brands.  One that they, and the brand, believe in.

And so, the next evolution is here and it transcends marketing with meaning.  It is instead storytelling with a purpose.  And while understanding how to be an effective storyteller can be challenging, the following ideas help to identify ways to step up your storytelling game and connect with this new audience in an authentic, impactful and evocative way.


  1. Have a Purpose IRL (“in real life”): The rise of Millennials and Gen Z has completely changed the way we speak with our consumers.  In fact, 88% of consumers believe brands have the power to address important issues.  It is no longer enough to have a Brand Purpose that exists only in an internal, confidential deck after a three-day workshop.  Even a baby duck on a bottle of dish soap won’t be enough.  Instead, the Brand Purpose needs to be woven so tightly, so expertly, into our real life narrative, that it becomes more important than air for our brand.  In fact, our brand cannot – and will not – live without it.  We must embrace and bring to life our purpose throughout all storytelling – not just on paper.


  1. Walk the Walk. Even the best brand purpose will not stand a chance, however, if our new audience does not believe us.  Brands must augment their strategy with storytelling they actually believe in.  If we look back to SuperBowl 2017, we’ll remember Audi’s ad that pushed to showcase the German automaker is committed to gender equality in the workplace.  It had the makings of a great ad and yet it failed.  While Audi promoted a story of gender equality, Audi has no women on its six-person executive team. Its supervisory board is only 16% women, significantly lower than BMW’s 30%.  How could consumers believe in Audi’s storytelling if Audi didn’t believe in it themselves?  Whatever story we tell must align to our core brand identity.


  1. The End of “The Beginning, Middle and End”. Once we stake out our authentic positioning, we must remember that storytelling is no longer linear.  Consumers want an experience, and we must reach them across all platforms in a compelling way.  This might be starting backwards and working our way to the answer through multi-channel storytelling.  We have the power to allow consumers to feel as if they are discovering the story themselves.  In Virtual Reality, we can take exploration and discovery a step further.  The audience can choose their own endings, or they can leave the story and come back to it later, uncovering something new each time.  We want our audience to become lost in an immersive experience.  Like being at an art show, we want them to get lost in the story.  Just remember that story might not always have a linear beginning, middle and end.


  1. Make them feel something. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up believing that experiences outweigh material items, and that life is meant for finding what lights your soul on fire, what moves you, what makes you feel.  At the same time, they have been exposed to the most content daily out of any other generation.  They have an intense longing to feel something new, and yet the constant influx of new information desensitizes them.   It is safe to call this new audience our Skeptical Dreamers and we must recognize they are becoming harder to reach.  In order to break through, brands must tell a story that is new, purpose-led, and moving.  We want to create a memory with our audience.  Whether its happy, sad, funny, raw, or simply relatable.  But we need that memory to be tied to our purpose as a brand.  To leave a lasting impact long after they have stopped thumbing through their newsfeed.   


The rebirth of advertising has created a world of opportunity and has made room for a new generation of artful storytellers.  The narratives we tell can allow our brands to tap into and even reshape culture.  However, these stories, if not genuine, can be the kiss of death for brands.  We must engage, learn and listen and then tell our story (and our purpose) in a way that authentically connects with our audience.  We want to be the J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) – and not the Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) – of advertising.


— Katelyn Lurvey is an Innovation Strategist at The BAM Connection.  She is inherently curious about the world and spends her time tapping into culture, human insight and technology to help facilitate big ideas.  She is still unsure if she is considered an older or younger Millennial, but either way, she embraces it and enjoys helping brands find new ways to connect with her own generation.



It’s time colleges got educated on branding



What makes a college get noticed? In most cases, it’s some arbitrary list of “best colleges.” Basically, someone else decides what you are, and what you are not, and if anyone should pay attention or simply skip you and move on. So how else can a prospective student judge a college? More importantly, how else can a college breakout, stand out, and get its message out, especially if it’s not “on the list?” And the majority are not.


Now this may sound like “dirty business” in the hallowed halls of learning. Colleges are not toothpaste or potato chips to be marketed like a product. However, the truth is, it’s a very powerful way for a college to put its best foot forward, and in the process, be forced to articulate what it stands for in a very concise way. Writing 101. I learned that in college. Besides, universities are all about learning. Here’s s a chance to learn something about marketing the very school you work at.

Each college absolutely has something unique to offer.

Yet most colleges do not identify, then clearly and compellingly articulate this difference. Instead, they just regurgitate the same stuff over and over. The student teacher ratio. The library that gets quieter as you go higher. The “Harry Potter” building. The caring professors. The sense of community. Blah, blah, block it all out. I’ve heard each of these so many times. I not only own an ad agency, I also have three children, and I recently spent two years in a row touring 20-30 colleges. When I started, I wrote down everything they said, then I quickly realized they’re all saying the same crap, just listen for the one or two things that were different, if they even had any. Now my next child is a junior in high school, so I’m about to do it yet again. I beg schools across America, if you won’t have a unique point of view for the good of your college, at least do it for the poor parents and students who have to sit through 25 of these very repetitive sessions after schlepping for hours by car or plane to get there.

Having a unique pov is not easy.

Here lies the issue: each college offers so many awesome things, how can they crystalize it all into one single thought? That’s the hard part. That’s the branding, and why you need to tap experts to do it. You’ve got to dig, work, and articulate in a powerful, succinct and simple way what makes your offering different. It does NOT mean forcing each school to pick one of the 37 things that make them awesome, and tossing out the rest. It means aggregating all 37 into a packed and fertile singular thought. Aggregate not eliminate. That’s a difficult job, but not an impossible one, and well worth the effort it takes. Here are two examples from personal experience.

The Juilliard School: We worked on a strategic project and got the singular thought down to one word: Aspire. Students aspire to get accepted, they aspire to create original works of art, parents aspire to have their children go there, the college aspires to put beautiful things into the world, the faculty aspires to give birth to the next generation of artists, the alumni aspires to go forward and create even more, the donors aspire to be part of a great institution that develops the future of music, theater and dance. One word, fertile and packed with so many true and poignant meanings. Yes, people aspire to other colleges, but there is something uniquely Juilliard about that thought….some higher artistic purpose the college stands for.

Le Moyne College: One of 28 Jesuit Colleges in America, Le Moyne’s identity is driven by that distinction. Based on fundamental Jesuit principles, we created the idea: Greatness meets goodness. Greatness because the Jesuits have been some of the greatest educators since 1548. They set the highest bar, reach for heroic leadership; built on the principle of “Magis” which means more and better, and they follow the inspiring words of the founder St Ignatius Loyola who said, “go forth and set the world on fire.” However, it is a greatness always through the eyes of goodness. Never at any cost. That is not the Jesuit way. Goodness is a pov that is uniquely Le Moyne. It’s the mission of the faculty, the students, the entire college community, and the alumni. I know from first-hand experience. I am a proud graduate.

In both cases, these colleges put out to the world the unique message they want people to hear, not the outside perspective of third party critics. Not only does that help a college take their brand into their own hands and self-define, it gives those backward-walking student tour guides a few unique and interesting sound bites to say as they trip over that crack in the sidewalk.

Rob Baiocco

CCO/Co-Founder, The BAM Connection


To make your work more interesting, make yourself more interesting


There is no formula for creating interesting work. If there were, everything would be interesting, which is clearly not the case. So how do you align the stars for interesting to happen? How can you improve the chances that it will come out of you consistently and often?

“Interesting” happens at unexpected intersections, fresh combinations, two disparate things crashing together to create a new thing. Based on that, the more interesting bits you put into yourself, the better the odds they will collide in new ways and result in creative, original output. And the more varied the input, the more unique combinations that become possible. So you must draw from as many different sources as possible. Be an intense student of your particular industry. Digest all there is, soak in all the trades, study all the past greats, read all the current stars. But also reach out well beyond your chosen field, because often times, this is where the most powerful inspirations come from. For example, I’m in advertising. I have studied and read the past greats Ogilvy, Bernbach, Burnett, I have gone to Cannes many years and seen the world’s best work, but my most influential inspirations have come from art, poetry, music, martial arts, not from other “ads”. You get to more interesting, not by copying the way of your industry, but by introducing new influences that take your industry to new places.

When you randomly juxtapose unlike elements it usually generates an interesting result. So in your waking, working hours, push them together, line them up next to each other, the odd, short one with the tall, conservative one, pair the Krav Maga with the Barber for Strings, seat the E*Trade Baby next to Confucius, hang the Goya next to the Successory, mix the Oscar Meyer jingle and the Sex Pistols. See what happens. Do they suddenly and strangely get along? Spark something never seen or heard before? (Which is always the goal.) Now go to sleep and let them dance together in your dreams, then wake to their magical amalgam.

Interesting doesn’t come from sitting next to someone interesting. It doesn’t come from showing someone else’s interesting youtube video, or from telling someone else’s joke. It comes from you, ingesting and combining things in a singular way, a way that creates your “ness.” the special mix that is you and only you. Your Joe-ness, Your Emma-ness, your Rob-ness, your Sofia-ness, your Tariq-ness.

You are a crock pot. Put all sorts of assorted ingredients in there and let them stew and cook together. Create your own unique concoction, Original Recipe You, then serve it up in helpings of interesting work.

Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder, The BAM Connection


#TheBamThinks #22


Making business versus making creative: MBA versus ADD

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.59.46 PMMaking business and making creative are two vastly different affairs that require two completely different sensibilities and modes of operation. This has never been more clear to me than it is now, two and a half years out from opening my own agency. In large agencies and companies, it is much easier to compartmentalize and departmentalize jobs: businesspeople make business, creative people make creative. However, in entrepreneurial companies (aka smaller), you must often do both, and you quickly realize you can’t daydream your way to new business, nor can you “negotiate” ideas into brilliant existence. Also, in this new world of marketing, it becomes abundantly clear the most effective workers are the creatives who understand how business works, and the business people who bring a creative flair.

Here, in my opinion, are several ways the business process and the creative process differ. Hopefully, these can help you better toggle between the two worlds.

  • Overall, making business has a harder edge, while making creative has a softer edge. Making business calls for an aggressive attack mentality, where you “go for it.” Making creative needs a passive, laid back mentality, where you “let it come.”
  • When making business you must close deals, show no feelings or emotions, and reveal nothing. When making creative you must open yourself to all feelings and emotions, expose your heart, turn on every receptor, so you can sense and feel those elusive messages coming from the cosmos, then gently let them in.
  • Making business, requires a lot of talking, speeches, meetings, negotiating, so you can move someone to your point of view, squash their concerns, get them to sign on the dotted line. Making creative requires a good amount of quiet, so you can hear the voices, the angels whispering their creative secrets.
  • Making business involves acquisitions and takeovers, power trips and powerpoints, BHAGs, bottom lines, cold cash and hard knocks. Making creative involves, pretty pictures, daydreams, storyboards, color palettes, subtle turns of phrase, and swaying to the music.
  • Business mostly happens in board rooms, working in offices, on golf courses. Creative mostly happens in showers, walking the dog, on subways.
  • The tools of business are Excel charts, graphs, latest news, stock tickers, MBAs and best practices. The tools of creative are Photoshop, stupid youtube videos, odd factoids, a scene from a Gilligan’s Island episode you watched 30 years ago, a Picasso you saw at the Met yesterday.
  • Making business means being punctual, buttoned up, getting it done. Making creative means being ADD, a procrastinator, getting there eventually.
  • Making business means working the room. Making creative means doing everything in your power to avoid the room.
  • Making business is a friend of constant interaction, questions, emails, phone calls, texts, because you need to make quick, dynamic decisions, and time is of the essence. Making creative is an enemy of constant interruption, questions, emails, phone calls, texts, because you need to get into a flow, go deep, way down past the obvious to where the original ideas lie, and that takes time.
  • Making business is packed with pressure to hit your numbers, constantly grow the revenue, increase the margins. Making creative is loaded with pressure to turn a blank page into a breakthrough idea, catch lightning in a bottle, and do it by Thursday.
  • When making business, you march toward a deal fueled by determination. When making creative, you meander toward an idea led by inspiration. Because making business is driven by competition, it’s about winning and losing, you “win” business. Other than award shows, making creative is not driven by competition, it’s about creating something artistic, funny, beautiful or moving. It’s not a contest with an absolute “winner.” That’s like asking who wins between Michaelangelo and Leonardo Davinci?

By no means do these two endeavors split clearly down the middle, some of each exists in the other, but the business process and the creative process remain decidedly different, and you must be in a very different mode to achieve each. Understand this, and you can more easily shift from one to the other, and be a more versatile thinker who embraces this beautiful yin yang.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, The BAM Connection

TheBamThinks #21

Baiocco And Maldari’s new Stroke campaign hits the airwaves, and hits home.


May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and The Baiocco And Maldari Connection has launched a new multi-media Stroke Awareness campaign

For the agency, stroke is not only a cause we care deeply about, it is an issue with a highly personal connection. Over the next four days, we will post four individual stories of stroke, and how it directly affected employees of our agency.