Get rid of the “Diddle in the Middle.” The new, streamlined agency model.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 1.18.06 PMSomewhere between the people who actually do the work, and the ones with the authority to make the decision, lies the Diddle in the Middle. The crush of agency middle management who don’t do, and can’t decide. These are the acronym-loving, job inflators who waste the majority of everyone’s time. They make endless strings of meetings to occupy their days, cook up pointless research projects that lead nowhere, dig holes only to fill them back up again. They are the reason for all the pushed back timelines, the late fees, and why jobs take six months when they could take six weeks, or six days.

It’s a fact, in the middle of large agencies everywhere there’s a big, flabby spare tire of people you pay for who don’t make things happen. But even worse than not making things happen, they actually get in the way of making things happen by blocking and delaying progress. You’d be better off if they were kind enough to just remain neutral.

When you’ve worked and lived this complexity on a daily basis, you know exactly what’s adding value, what’s not, what’s gumming up the works, and what could and should be cut out. The people who don’t do and can’t decide get eliminated immediately because there’s no longer time or money for them, and honestly, never should have been.

The new agency model simplifies and streamlines
It consists of three parts. That’s it. Thank God.

1. Smart people who do
These are workers who actually do work. They have ideas. They create real output. They’re hungry, of the moment, of the time, up on technology and current events. Front-liners who make things happen.

2. Experienced people who decide
Smart, seasoned, decisive managers who’ve honed a razor-sharp instinct for getting to the answer. They know when it’s going right, and when it’s going south because they’ve seen it before. With lots of knowledge to draw on, they take advantage of opportunities, and avoid land mines, all while clearly directing others to success. They, too, have ideas because they’re engaged workers, not “bosses” walking around puffing on a cigar while everyone else does all the work.

3. Strategic partners who complement
Whatever your particular core competencies as an agency, web design, branding, promotion, these partners complement what you do. And they have ideas.

The lead agency team, which can come from any discipline, moves these partners in and out on an as-needed basis, depending on the specs of a particular job. So in this model, you only pay for what you need, no more. You only pay for people who actively work on your business. This creates massive cost efficiency, because there’s nobody sitting around waiting to work; and it eliminates those jokers who just show up for the $200-a-head holiday party at Le Bernadin. It also creates massive time efficiency because you have one centralized meeting, and the people who need to come, come.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s one prerequisite for all members: they have ideas. This industry is based on idea generation. No ideas, no job. Go work in a different field.

In fairness to this “Diddle in the Middle,” they didn’t necessarily choose their lot, although some seem to really enjoy it. Sadly, it’s a curse in corporate America that many have the ability to say “no,” and deter progress, but few have the authority to say “yes,” and advance progress. As a result, many get trapped in an inert, lackadaisical limbo, and there’s nothing left for them to do but prolong, postpone, revise, rework, and in the process, shackle any creative ideas in the chains of “make-work.” The new, streamlined agency model liberates the creativity by eliminating the Diddle in the Middle.

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The BAM Connection
rob@thebam.com

#TheBamThinks #11

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Simplicity Liberates Creativity. Complexity strangles it.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 11.40.10 AMNothing creative in advertising has ever been born out of complexity. Extensive experience has taught me this, and not just once, but over and over again. I’d risk saying complexity rarely yields brilliance in any creative field. Maybe it works for intricate art pieces or elaborate symphonies, but when you’re trying to grab people’s attention with something that will be one of 10,000 messages they see in a day, it better be simple.

But complexity is a disease in the industry. Every step of the way, the project gets more complicated, with unnecessary meetings, additional opinions (that usually don’t add anything), inordinate amounts of processes and semantics and acronyms, last-minute comments from higher-ups, and political agendas being played out in the work.

By far, complexity slays more good ideas than any other issue. Why? It’s incredibly difficult to be creative when you’re bound in chains of endless boxes to be ticked, in a straightjacket of contradictory points of view. It becomes impossible for creative greatness to make a Houdini-like escape from these shackles.

I think down deep, we all know complexity gets in the way of greatness. So why can’t we stop it? The simple answer: it’s hard. We all want to add something to the project to feel we’ve contributed. And if we cut something out, inevitably someone will be angry that his or her stuff isn’t included. We also don’t want to eliminate things we deem important to the consumer. But when everything is important, that means basically nothing is important because it all becomes of equal importance. Complexity often hides the fact that we really don’t have a clear idea. We shroud the work in convolutedness, and hope no one will notice. Also, when it’s our money on the line, suddenly all rational thinking goes out the window. If we’re paying for it, then of course people want to hear it, and not only it, but ALL of it, every last benefit there is. We have a hard time thinking how we behave when viewing other brands’ work. We give it zero attention unless it demands it.

So what’s the result? Rampant complexity in a world where simplicity should reign.

When we start from a place of simplicity, creativity thrives. Great brands understand this…the Apples and Nikes and Starbucks of the world. They keep the basic idea clean, simple and compelling, then let the interpretations of that idea explode out in new and stimulating directions. That’s because while simple, the idea is still fertile and provocative. Simplicity does not mean simpleton. It’s not about dumbing it down, but about smarting it up, about being more concentratedly clever, more artfully and powerfully succinct. Once there, simplicity frees ideas up to go where they never would have gone previously when shackled.

Another great thing about simplicity: it doesn’t care what media it’s on. Pretty much every great execution on any media is smart, captivating and simple. That’s because when anyone working on the project, regardless of their particular expertise, can readily interpret the idea, that increases the odds of stellar output.

If you buy none of my logic about why simplicity is beneficial to the “creative process” then perhaps you’ll buy this basic consumer-driven reason: people like simple. Simplicity makes it easy for them. Of the thousands of ideas flying past each day, of which they are paying very little attention mind you, simplicity gives it handles, so they can grab onto it. And let’s be honest, complexity just pisses them off. I’ve seen this dynamic hundreds of times in focus groups. When an idea is too complicated, people don’t give it the effort. Worse yet, they get angry and defensive because it makes them feel stupid, like they don’t “get it.” And then they hate you immediately…because no one wants to feel like they don’t get it. A simple rule I live by: They have to get it before they can like it.

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy platitude, the most beautiful things in the world are simple. And for certain, all the best things I’ve worked on in advertising have been simple. So strive for a monk-like simplicity. And the next time you’re sitting in a meeting, and thinking why is this so hard? So complicated? Remember this simple thought: rarely does anything complex yield anything creative. Then let simplicity liberate your creativity.

Rob Baiocco, CCO The BAM Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks #10

It’s official! The BAM Connection launches in Dumbo Today.

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For immediate release:

The BAM Connection opens in Dumbo with a singular vision:
Simplicity Liberates Creativity

New York, NY – June 25, 2014. – After years working in the big, complex, multi-layered agency world, Rob Baiocco and Maureen Maldari officially launch The BAM Connection today in Brooklyn with a single mission: the tenacious pursuit of creativity through simplicity.

Baiocco and Maldari, two former Grey executives, have spent years driving billions of dollars in value for national and international brands like Captain Morgan, Pringles, Aquafresh, DIRECTV, Botox and E*Trade. They now vow to use that vast experience to take a necessary and unwavering streamlined approach to branding and content creation.

“The world of marketing is way overcomplicated,” said Baiocco. “And all that complexity sucks the life out of ideas, gets in the way of speed, and strangles creativity. Simplicity liberates creativity. And from there, the ideas just explode outward.”

“When you’ve lived, and fought that complexity everyday, you know how to eliminate it,” added Maldari. And I’ve gotta believe clients will rejoice because they must be exhausted by it.”

The Bam Connection opens at 20 Jay Street in the hotbed of the digital tech triangle of Dumbo. “It was time big branding crossed the East River,” said Maldari, a born-and-raised Brooklyn lifer. “This is exactly what businesses need today, the seamless marriage of the two disciplines that matter most: branding and digital. Everyone talks about merging. We physically brought our big branding experience and dropped it right in the middle of the Dumbo digital surround sound.”

“Dumbo is just cool,” said Baiocco, who grew up in Buffalo. “It has a gritty edge, an upstart attitude. Just walk into Brooklyn Roasting Company, it’s full of fringe thinkers, you can feel the energy.”

The BAM Connection opens with a list of clients that includes Terlato Wines, The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and Wrangler Western Jeans. “Rob and Maureen are hands-on and passionate about unlocking true breakthrough answers for your business, says Iain Douglas, VP Global Strategy and Brand Management for VF. “I think the meaning of creative partnership is back and alive again.”

The BAM will also be an active member of the Ad Council. “I’ve been on the Creative Review Committee since 2003, and nothing will make me happier than putting The BAM Connection’s creative energy toward doing the noble work of the Ad Council,” said Baiocco.

Baiocco and Maldari hinge their “creativity through simplicity” approach on a tool they call The One-Shot Answer: one short, compelling phrase that nails your brand meaning, then directs and connects all your communications.

“It’s not about dumbing it down,” said Baiocco, it’s about smarting it up, about being more clever, more artfully and powerfully succinct.”

“We are a unique combination, a creative boutique with global powerhouse experience, so we know how to operate with a tenacious efficiency,” added Maldari. “We achieve the absolute most with less words, less layers, less meetings.”

The name “The BAM Connection,” besides being an acronym for Baiocco And Maldari, points to this powerful simplicity. “If you’ve ever sat in a meeting asking yourself what are these people talking about with these endless semantics, then call us,” said Maldari. “We cut through it all, and get to the answer… BAM!”

And if that’s not enough explanation, Baiocco, a 4th-degree black belt, points to his 30 years in martial arts, and its inherent yin yang of efficacy and artistry. “I like to approach the work like this: be effective (martial) and be creative (art), like breaking four boards with a beautiful punch. BAM!”

About The BAM Connection

Baiocco and Maldari have partnered for nearly a decade managing global businesses for blue-chip marketers like GSK and Procter and Gamble. They have run nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in billing, and achieved enormous business growth, nearly doubling revenues. They have created many award-winning campaigns along the way, including winners or finalists in major shows like Cannes, NY Festivals, One Show, the ADDYS, Clios, and London International. Their work has been featured in major media including The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Ad Week, Ad Age, Good Morning America, The Today Show, ABC, NBC and CBS Nightly News, and dozens of websites like Gawker, BBC, CNN, The Cool Hunter, Digg and The Guardian.