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The Super Bowl is the battle of titans – not the teams, mind you, but the advertisers. Tens of millions of dollars go into every commercial minute as the marketers go head-to-head to win new sales. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz gives you his take on the “players” and who really comes out ahead. And just as important, what it has to do with making your own brand more successful in whatever arena you play in.  Watch now or read the full text below.

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Forget about the game, the winner of this year’s Super Bowl had to be Tide.  Admittedly, the commercial line up was a bit lackluster compared with previous years.  But Tide even took that on, with dead-on parodies of other Super Bowl spots, from Anheuser Busch’s Clydesdales to Old Spice’s hunky “Man your Man Could Smell Like” series.

But for me, the takeaway of any commercial isn’t about how funny it is, or even how memorable and talked about it is.

It’s about whether or not the value proposition is clear, and the commercial effectively sells the product.

That’s important, whether you’re selling detergent, deodorant, beer, or funeral services.

In 2016, we talked about Kia’s brilliant Walken Closet commercial, featuring a riveting performance by Christopher Walken.  He may have been the attention-getter, but the selling message was still front-and-center: Don’t get a boring “beige” mid-sized sedan when you can get a Kia Optima and have fun.

In this new series of Tide commercials, there’s little doubt what the message is:  Tide means clean, stain-free clothes.  In fact, right after watching, you’d be hard pressed to name another laundry detergent, so effective is the Tide branding.

With that in mind, here are the three key aspects that the best Super Bowl commercials have in common and should also have in common with your marketing, no matter what it is:

One:  The ads are imminently watchable.  They grab your attention because they’re fresh – no pun intended. They’ve got a way of communicating that the audience hasn’t seen before. If your ads aren’t surprising, if they’re not engaging, nobody will pay attention. How much wasted money does that cost!  This is the reason we say again and again, “Dare to be Different,” because only different gets noticed.  Same doesn’t.

Two: They’re built around a clear, simple message that speaks to what the buyer wants or needs.  I found it interesting during the game just how many spots tried to make the audience feel all warm and fuzzy, but how few really took on their own product’s competitive selling story.  Drilling down to a single, strong competitive story is the make-or-break difference between mere exposure and generating new sales.  Do you have a strong, competitive story for your brand?  If you can’t quickly articulate it, your audience isn’t going to do the work for you!  And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking million-dollar commercials or small space ads on the obituary pages.  Your ads and your marketing have to tell the story.

And Three: They somehow or other demonstrate or at least show the promise.  In the Tide commercial, the grease-stained mechanic under the car was wearing a spotless white shirt, as was everybody else in the Tide commercial series. Yes, demonstration is a lot harder to do when you’re only running print ads. But then, let your ads point to your website or social media or other marketing as the place to adequately demonstrate your unique selling proposition.

If you haven’t seen the Tide commercials from this year’s Super Bowl, you can click the link below the video. I’ll also post a link to the brilliant Kia Walken Closet spot from 2016.  Both are exceptional examples of creative freshness, clear selling message and product demonstration.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. It’s an occupational hazard. Now I’ll have to go back and watch the game again to see who won.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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Sure, money isn’t burning a hole in your pocket, but you still have to market your business to get ahead. What’s the most effective way to do that? LA ads president Dan Katz presents an interesting solution for making small marketing budgets produce big results. Click to view or read the full transcript below.

I want to talk about the Big Bang.  No, not the TV show.  And no, not the origin of the Universe. But about how to leverage a small budget to yield big results.

I don’t care if you’re General Motors or General Mills, nobody has an unlimited marketing budget.  And that’s certainly true if you’re the neighborhood funeral home, or the local cemetery or the independent hearse dealer.  Money isn’t burning a hole in your pocket, but you still have to market your business to get ahead.

What’s the most effective way to do that?  Well, what most marketers think they need to do is to spread their limited dollars around as much as possible to reach as many potential buyers as they possibly can… which in theory sounds good but is a wasted application of resources.  Essentially, you’re shot-gunning your marketing budget with the result that the reach is a mile wide but only an inch deep.  And in the end, there’s little to show for it from any given market or marketing initiative.

If your dollars are truly limited, consider this approach instead: concentrate your efforts against just one or two markets or the one or two touch points that you KNOW you can have some impact, even to the exclusion of other opportunities.  The idea is to win BIG somewhere by focusing enough resources to have a certain and significant impact.  And only then, once the magic happens against one narrow marketing front, should you consider either expanding your efforts against the same target in a bigger way, or adding one additional narrow objective that – once again – you know you can win.

Say, for example, you’re a funeral home that serves many segments of your community, but advertising in the newspaper or on radio to reach everybody is just too expensive.  Why not focus ALL your attention against only one segment, such as the local churches.  Take the same money you might have spent against all the markets and all the media and commit to an inescapable program to reach the key churches whose congregations you serve.  Run the largest ads possible in the church bulletins. Be a prominent sponsor of church events. Invite all the clergy and lay leaders to a fully catered presentation. Create a special incentive sales program for participating churches… if allowed.  In other words, Go Big.  Make a Bang.

Or, if you’re an urn company and have over 50 different models but a really tight budget, ask yourself: what’s the single best urn to promote… the one with a strongest competitive advantage?  Push just that one urn over and over again with a dramatic, professionally-produced full page color ad in just one or two publications, maybe even narrowing the media down to state publications instead of national – as long as you run the ad BIG, and in Color, and frequently.  In other words, Go Big.  Make a Bang.

Once you see success on a limited front, you can now afford to expand the front, or select another limited front to launch another Big Bang program.

Here’s the bottom line: Instead of marketing a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s much more effective to go a mile deep, even if it’s only an inch wide.

Bang!!!

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.


Just about every time you turn on the news, some Washington politician or Hollywood celebrity is being accused of bad behavior. But cemeteries, crematories and funeral homes aren’t immune from the tabloid headlines.  They do get their fair share of bad press…from misidentified bodies to full-out scandals. What’s a business-owner to do? LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz offers up the right way to prepare for such uncomfortable eventualities.  Click to view or read the transcript below.

It seems every time you turn on the news, some Washington politician or Hollywood celebrity is being accused of bad behavior.  As a matter of fact, it might seem that’s the only way to get yourself publicity in these confusing times.

But politicians and celebs aren’t the only ones who show up in the news.  Cemeteries, crematories and funeral homes do get their fair share of bad press.  Sadly, one needn’t look too hard to find some story about a body being cremated that was intended for burial, a grave marker being misplaced, a funeral director accused of some criminal action.  After all, they’re run and operated by human beings.  And human beings are… well, human…prone to making mistakes no matter what safeguards are put in place.  Even with the most stringent safeguards and best practices, once in a while, something goes wrong.  Then the media gets hold of it and all hell breaks loose.

It would be short-sighted to say this will NEVER happen to us.  After all, that’s why you carry insurance, right?  On the other hand, insurance doesn’t protect you from the press when an unfortunate story makes its way onto the ten-o’clock news.  More than that, the media loves a good funeral story!  The more gruesome or frightening they can spin it, the better.

So what do you do when the receptionist buzzes to say that Eyewitness News is holding for you on line two?  The answer is to be very glad that you had that contingency already in place months or even years in advance.  It’s called a Crisis Communication Plan.

A Crisis Communication Plan is a carefully thought-out blueprint, individualized to your company, that deals with handling the media when BLEEP happens.

For example, it is extremely common that when the media comes knocking, they’ll happily talk to anyone they can, from the secretary to the maintenance guys, hoping for the perfect inflammatory sound bite.  One of the first components of a Crisis Communications Plan is to decide who – and who alone – will be the company spokesperson.  Should it be the company president?  The corporate attorney?  The PR manager?  How much should be discussed in front of a microphone immediately, before all the facts are in?  What kind of media training should that person have well in advance of need?  How will “no comment” or a flat-out denial be interpreted by the readers?  And what should your other staff do when the microphone is thrust in front of their faces?

Also, what is the chain-of-command with regard to fixing the problem both before and after it’s made public?  What is your company’s social media policy when the news is really bad?  How will the company’s media responses relate to the corporate brand messaging? How will your response change if it’s a criminal action versus simple human error?

There’s a lot that can happen that can make a bad situation worse – –  or or better if it’s planned for.  But you already know that from selling pre-need planning to families!  Having a Crisis Communications Plan is your own corporate pre-need package.

A Crisis Communications Plan enumerates and details each of the steps each staff member must take when a problem goes public.  And it’s not enough just to have it, but practice it, review and rehearse it with your staff at least once a year, even “table-topping” possible scenarios.

A little web browsing will help you find some Crisis Plan templates as a starting point. But do-it-yourself is not really the best answer:  Seek out professionals who can help you with this now.

Unlike death, bad publicity isn’t inevitable.  But without the proper planning in advance to deal with it should it occur, then the chaos, heartburn and loss of business from communications mismanagement may well be.

Just like you tell your families: Plan to plan now.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz offers his perspective on the recent NFDA Convention in Boston and the important message funeral professionals should take away from it: the greatest risk is not taking one.

Watch now or read the transcript below:

One thing you can say about the recent NFDA Convention in Boston was there’s no shortage of stuff being offered to funeral homes, from unusual urns and keepsakes to affordable caskets, innovative digital marketing tools to dirt from Ireland so your Irish loved one can rest beneath homeland soil even in Poughkeepsie.

There’s no shortage of interesting products and services if one is open to exploring new options.

But here’s where the movement towards Change comes to a grinding halt: so many funeral directors are almost genetically change-adverse. Especially if they’ve been doing this for a long time, especially if they’re from a lineage of funeral directors.

We experienced this ourselves when we tried to help one of our clients promote its product to funeral homes to give away to their families as gifts of healing.  When the funeral home owners saw the product, they thought it was great and they wanted it.  Our client even gave them free samples to give to the families as a thoughtful keepsake.  But the product never left the funeral homes.  Why?

Because the funeral directors didn’t want to change the way they always supported their families. Anything new was foreign and upset the process they’ve always used.  Even if it could help a family.

Is it any wonder that most funeral homes are still struggling just to adapt to the growth of cremation and find new and profitable ways to serve their families?  They’re still stuck in the 1980s.

The leaders of the funeral and cemetery associations are sounding the alarm: Change is happening, Change is inevitable!

Which is why it’s so important to attend the major national and state conventions and be open to all the new ideas, new products and services that are being presented there.

Our friends at Connecting Directors and others are saying what we’ve been saying for a long time: The funeral profession is at risk of dying if it doesn’t evolve.

Your funeral business, whether you’re a provider or a supplier, is at greater risk by not taking risks, whether it be with your product offerings, your services or your marketing.

At this past NFDA Convention, our client, Sich Casket, continued to make a mark with their innovative shipping container booth and a fife-and-drum corps performance that got everybody’s attention along with lots of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts as an added bonus. Their message: the new Casket Revolution has begun!  Sure, daring to be different cost them a few dollars more than if they did what everybody else does, but taking the risk continues to keep them top-of-mind.

The poet Robert Frost said it best when he wrote of two roads diverging in the wood:  “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

So it’s time to ask yourself, which road will you take?

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

We’re often asked why we wear red shoes at conventions, and what does that have to do with helping our clients develop more successful marketing? Here’s the answer from agency president and creative director Dan Katz.

Watch now or read the text here:

There’s a traditional Japanese proverb that says “The nail that stands out is quickly hammered down.” For generations, conformity has been a societal standard in Japan.

The funny thing is, it’s not that different in American funeral service. More funeral homes and cemeteries are comfortable looking like all the others and doing things the way they’ve always been done. Breaking away from tradition is something one dare not do for risk of offending someone, or making the folks in the back offices uncomfortable.

To that, I say, Poppycock, balderdash, bull-pucky!

I make it a habit to scan the web to see what other funeral and cemetery providers are doing, and every once in a great while, I’ll see some marketing effort that is truly exceptional, even edgy – and I’ll contact the marketer and ask about the results. Almost all tell me that the effort was successful and helped them stand out in their marketplace.

Do they get complaints? Yes, some…but mostly they get new business, so it’s worth the risk. And this has also been our experience. When an advertiser Dares to be Different, they get noticed, and sales commonly start to follow. Which is why our own motto, Dare to be Different, has been on our lips since we began in the 1990s.

And the funny thing is, it doesn’t take much to be different and get noticed. Take our Red Shoes, which we always wear to conventions. You might say it’s our walking trademark, but really, it’s just our putting our own philosophy where our feet are.

People we’ve never met, never spoken with, stop us as we walk down the aisles wanting to know about our red shoes. When we walk along the booths, we’re always noticing how people’s eyes suddenly dart downward to our shoes and they smile. Friends will see us all the way across the hall because our red shoes stand out, even in a crowd. We even had one guy tell us, “I’ve now seen you walking down this aisle four times – but I never noticed anyone else!”

All this from just wearing a pair of red shoes. What does that tell you?

Different is visible.  Different is memorable. Different is interesting.

So, the question is… will you Dare to be Different to capture attention and get new business? Or is your own comfort zone holding you back? As I always like to say, if you don’t know the answer to this, your audience certainly does.

Oh, and if you’re going to the NFDA Convention in Boston and you happen to see us walking around in our red shoes, I hope you’ll say hello and let us know what you think of these blogs.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.


One of our favorite mediums is Billboards. They can be powerful and cost-effective, but only if they’re done correctly. Unfortunately, a great many aren’t which is a painful waste of money, as prospective customers drive right by and never notice them. Agency president and creative director Dan Katz offers four simple tips to help assure the effectiveness and value of outdoor advertising.  Watch now.

Or you can read the story here:

Living in Los Angeles, you can’t avoid lengthy commutes, and with lengthy commutes comes lots of opportunities to see billboards.  Oh, we’ve got lots of ‘em…of all sizes…pitching everything from auto lube centers to Hollywood blockbusters.  Yes, even a few funeral homes and cemeteries use this tried-and-true medium, which as it turns out, is a great vehicle (no pun intended) for local advertising.  After all, done right, billboards can stand out.  If you’re stuck in traffic, you’re a captive audience.  They’re a great “reminder” medium supporting other marketing efforts.  And they can be located strategically, even across the street from a competitor!

Outdoor advertising, which includes billboards, bus benches, bus sides, bus shelters, subway panels and even entire sides of buildings, can be hugely effective if the creative is done correctly.  That’s the rub, because there’s a whole lot of outdoor that just sucks and the marketers don’t even know it.  Their messages are practically invisible, even if positioned at the best intersections of the city.

Yet doing it right isn’t all that difficult as long as one follows some basic guidelines.  Here are a few pointers that can lead to much more effective outdoor advertising.

Interestingly, the same pointers also apply to just about any medium that is either small or a quick read, such as online banners, yellow page ads or tee-shirts.

To start with, respect the medium.  It’s only big when you’re standing right next to it.  But in your car, it’s barely the size of your own thumb when you hold your hand at arm’s length.  And at 45 – 65 miles per hour, it’s only in view for about 5 seconds!

So a good way to test your billboard is to print it out on a sheet of paper and stand far enough back so your thumb can block it out.  Then look at it for 5 seconds.  If you can’t read the message for that tiny amount of time, redesign the artwork so you can.  That’s your litmus test.

Focus on one single, simple message. Don’t make the viewer have to work for it.  Have one thing you want to say, say it well, say it quickly and say it simply. And the same goes with any photo or artwork.  If someone has to figure out the picture in the few seconds they have, it will be a lost cause.

At the same time, don’t bury your product or brand. When all’s said and done, people must know who or what is being advertised. I see plenty of boards that only after I’ve driven past them a number of times do I know who’s the sponsor.  If your brand isn’t Coke or Target or MacDonald’s, make the logo or product a major element.

And finally, billboards are a great reminder medium.  They’re a great branding medium.  But unless you have a really simple vanity phone number or super-simple and memorable URL, don’t rely on your billboards to generate immediate action if someone has to write down a number or website while driving.

In the end, the old K I S S rule applies – keep it simple.  But also, don’t forget to make it powerful too.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

When bad things happen to your competitor, especially bad press, what is the best course of action? Slam them in ads? Post banners across the street from them? Call up the reporters and share your side?

LA ads president Dan Katz shares his point of view. It may not be what you think. Watch now.

Or you can read the text here:

There’s a German word that doesn’t have an English equivalent.  The word is Schadenfreude.

Literally translated, it meansmalicious joy in the misfortunes of others.”  Let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced that feeling when something unfortunate happens to someone we don’t like.

The other day, I got an email from a funeral home who was delighted that one of their competitors wound up in the news having to do with the mis-identification of a body and the wrong person was cremated.  Our funeral home wanted to know how to jump on the competitor’s bad press and show how they were the superior choice. It would seem like the obvious strategy, right?

But not so fast.

While it may seem that the competitor has a huge PR problem, it’s been our experience over the years that the public is really fast to forget or forgive the most egregious sins with funeral providers.  We can point to numerous funeral homes and cemeteries that got slammed in the media, often for very good reasons.  But, look again and you’ll see that they’re still in business, doing just fine!

Why? Well, truthfully,  the public seems to quickly turn a blind eye to such stories.  Funeral care for most people is like sausage making: the less the public thinks about the icky stuff, the better they like it.

So the bigger challenge still rests on continuing to communicate and demonstrate why selecting you is the better value and smarter solution.  Again, from experience, the brands that maintain positive top-of-mind awareness build credibility and higher perceived value.  Case in point: More people will gladly pay nearly twice for Green Giant peas than the next runner up because Green Giant is the trusted brand.

There’s no way to cheap out in marketing if you really want the kind of results that will push you ahead of your competition and justify your prices, AND will also inoculate you from bad publicity should %$#@ happen to you instead of to them.

So my suggestion is to start building up your own marketing strategy now instead of worrying too much about beating down the competition when they get bad press.

The higher road is always the better road.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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