Top 10 attributes of the best clients

I love what I do for a living. Although it was not always called graphic design, I’ve been doing it all my life. I am truly grateful to have found a way of earning a living that keeps me motivated and spirited. Cotter Visual Communications is in its 22nd year of doing business and it is about time we share, partly, why we do what we do.

Recently, we have had a flurry of business activity. The results? Good business but less blog posting. I apologize for the less posts.

Occasionally, I hear/read about designers and their client relationships. It seems as if only disgruntled designers post blogs or discuss their clients who frustrate them. I need to be the one who writes about the good clients. Our clients make me really appreciate who they are and what they are doing.

What constitutes a ”good client“?

Here are some of the attributes I admire in ours.
They are:

collaboratorsseeking the greater good for their company

focusedwith a clear goal for the company and the task at hand

motivatedwanting to take their product/service to the next level

innovatorsnot afraid to try something new

supportive – encouraging their sales and other internal support teams

organizersconveying information and feedback with cohesiveness and understanding

producersspeaking with their customers is a priority

leaders – enhancing the strengths in their people, product(s) and/or service(s)

partnersknowing the value in the strength of partnering

respectfulappreciative of others time and expertise

Thank you for being who you are (and you know who you are!) and for choosing to work with us. We couldn’t do it without you!

10 tips for better banner ads

Studies have proven that most banner ads start losing effectiveness after the third time a person has seen it. If visitors haven’t clicked on it by then, they probably never will. If you are spending a lot of money on advertising and purchasing hundreds of thousands of banner impressions, you will need to come up with a lot of different banners.

10 tips that can increase banner ad effectiveness:

  1. Highlight the visual brand prominently throughout the ad.
  2. Make each second count. Support the core message throughout the ad. The ad will probably only get one second with the user, so be sure it counts.
  3. Get right to the point. We shouldn’t expect the user to wait around and watch the ad in its entirety.
  4. Keep it simple. Try to use no more than two messages per execution.
  5. Use people imagery. Making the human emotional connection results in better ad recall.
  6. Use a strong call to action. What is the desired response? Give people a reason to go further. Lead them – tell them what to do next.
  7. Create intrigue with a desirable download or a special promotional offer.
  8. Use an experienced designer with an eye for what will attract attention in your chosen publication. What works visually for one, may not work for another. Sometimes the ad should look like part of the page content and sometimes the ad is clearly not part of the content and needs to present itself that way.
  9. Remember, we just want people to click on the ad. Communicate quickly and generate leads. Ads should go to a landing page supporting the offer to continue a dialog.
  10. Carefully study ads in your targeted publication. Ask which ones work and which ones don’t and find out why.

Online advertising is unchartered territory. We are breaking new ground and learning more about this everyday as we look at what works and what doesn’t in the technical scientific business to business arena. Unlike a tried and true science, it is evolving all the time as more and more online advertising opportunities present themselves.

Let us know your banner ad successes and failures.

Advertising at its best

Key stats on the 2010 SuperBowl Ads*:

• $3 million for a one 30-second spot

• Seven 15-second spots in the game, the most since 2002

• Dot-coms were the biggest category in this year’s game with 5 minutes and 45 seconds of time, followed by autos and beer, each with 5:30

• 106.5 million viewers this year – the highest ever according to the Nielson Company

• 41 paid advertisers in the game

• A total of 66 different messages were aired

• Top four advertisers in terms of total ad time were Anheuser-Busch InBev, Hyundai, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, accounting for 25 percent of the total paid ad time

• Two commercials from Doritos, both created by consumers, were among the top-watched spots in households with TiVo, with one ad entitled “House Rules” ranking number one and another called “Underdog” finishing fourth. Joelle De Jesus of Hollywood won $25,000 for “House Rules.”

• USA Today’s ranking named Snickers the big winner with its spot featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing football.

See and vote for the 2010 Ads.

My favorites were too many to mention with Audi A3 TDI – Green Police and Snickers – Betty White at the top of my list.

Worth seeing for entertainment value: Etrade Baby – girlfriend, Bud Light Castaways, Bridgestone – Your Tires or Your Life, Doritos ads, Bud Light Asteroid, Motorola – Megan Fox, Boost Mobile – Super Bowl Shuffle, Budweiser – Bridge Out and TruTV – Troy Polamalu. Uninspiring were Dockers, Godaddy.

*Courtesy of Adweek and Brandweek

Emotionally-engaging commercials

Last week, I listened to Dan Hill, expert on facial coding, speak on engaging radio commercials. The concept is fascinating.

Hill refers to a study which shows that emotionally-engaging commercials deliver 8 times the ROI than non-engaging commercials. Hill’s firm, Sensory Logic, utilizes facial coding research to prove that successful advertising (engaging) is driven by emotion. And being on-emotion is more important than being on-message. What a powerful concept.

Human beings are sensory emotional decision makers. The emotional response comes in 1/5th of the time the rational response does. Our job is to engage our target audience with positive emotion. We have the power to evoke emotion by triggering something in the brain that allows our audience to say “yes” or “no”.

The power of the visual to quickly communicate and create a mental picture is key. Hill reminds us that an emotional response is elicited within 3 seconds or less. This is no surprise since 1/2 of our brain is devoted to creating visuals for us.

Most of what Hill talks about is geared to radio advertising but I think the leap can easily be made to print, online communications and tv. Communication is the same, the media just differs. Color, visuals, photography, and copy all work in tandem to connect with that part of the brain that says, “Yes! This is about me. They understand me. I like it!” And a key point Hill makes is, our message should convey and build value. We should never lead with price.

This is timely as I will be watching Super Bowl commercials today. If you like them too, as you watch keep the following in mind:

Is the message geared to your target audiences level?

Is the message in its simplest form?

Is a branded solution used? Is the corporate and/or product name mentioned repeatedly?

Is it memorable?

Save your logo

What do we have to look forward to in this new decade?

Brands are now moving on from being ‘green’ to being ‘do-gooders’.

lacosteSportswear maker Lacoste will spend $500,0000 over the next three years to help preserve the endangered Gange gharial crocodile – the same crocodile branded on its shirts. They are the first company to support ‘Save Your Logo’,  which is an initiative that helps brands protect the species represented in their logos by facilitating conservation efforts. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), together with the World Bank and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced this new partnership to protect globally threatened species at the World Conservation Congress of IUCN in Barcelona, in cooperation with the Belgian NGO Noe Institute.

The “Save Your Logo Initiative,” proclaims that more than 300 large global brands including Puma, Peugeot, Jaguar, Maaf, and Esso, incorporate plants or animals threatened by extinction in company emblems.

Also, The Coca-Cola Company is doing good by saving the polar bear.

Does this look like the beginning of the “Doing Good” Decade?

Source: brandchannel

Color the new year

Pantone, the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, proclaims the color of the year for 2010.

Drumroll please….

PANTONE® 15-5519 Turquoise


The company says that Pantone 15-5519, which is turquoise, conjures thoughts of a tropical paradise “while offering a sense of protection and healing.”

Happy New Year!

Looking Back

As we near the end of the year and look back, here is the longer view.

I admit, I have a fascination with vintage advertising and find it very entertaining. A friend of mine stumbled upon this website while whittling away at the web. (I am convinced, she is single-handedly going to see everything there is to see on the internet before she passes on.)

It appears someone has researched old magazines and created a database of ads and taglines.  …And the best part is, you can look at all the old ads!


Since we did a post on the Hertz rebranding recently, shown above is a picture of the Life Magazine, March 11, 1966 Hertz ad. What a difference 43 years makes.

The list of taglines from Life magazine ads lends insight into the mindset of the past eras.

Find a sampling of taglines such as these….

Mum Deodorant: “I sense you played tennis today”


Western Electric: “She must have good telephone apparatus to give you good service”

Is it any wonder these businesses no longer exist?

Read their blog, The Retro Press, All the Retro That’s Fit to Post

Here is where you will find their Gallery of Graphic Design

Enjoy looking back!

Aol. revisited….


The “new” Aol. has shared their brand strategy with Fast Company in an article that includes an interview with the Wolff Olins creative team as well as new iterations of the logo.

Read the Fast Company article here.

Today’s press release states, the new brand is “deliberately disruptive and deliberately unlike what is being done by other online media businesses, it is designed for an environment where media is no longer broadcast, but rather is discovered through fragmented, non-linear conversations.”

I now understand more on the brand strategy. Mind you, this does require a brain shift for me. And I am not sure I am totally convinced that it “works”.

The use of the logotype in the videos explains alot. We should not have taken these logotypes and showcased them as static images, as we did in our November 24th post. They are meant to be viewed “in motion”. This means that at some point during its time in motion, you will see the logotype in its entirety. A very playful way to showcase the logo.

Here’s where you can view the full suite of motion clips.


As stated in the press release, “Wolff Olins threw out traditional ideas of identity as Aol. moves from an access provider to a standalone content company.”

Wolff Olins creative director, Jordan Crane, says in the Fast Company article, “The handbooks that have been written in the past are changing. With this direction, it suited the whole experience to have something very contemporary.” He goes on to say, “Maybe in the future all logos will be in motion.”

“It’s not about it being 1000 logos, it’s that it’s a consistent wordmark that’s consistent and clean,” says Maureen Sullivan, Aol.’s chief-of-staff. Apparently, Aol. has no signage in their own office. As they say, “It’s all video screens.”

Sam Wilson, Wolff Olins managing director, says “Brand identity is changing. It’s not a sign outside the door, or the corner of a business card, our idea of brand is a deeper vision than that.”

I find it hard to believe that the “wordmark” will not be used as a static image anywhere. No business cards? No signs? A first… an Annual Report in video?

I believe we still need to pay attention to traditional media, no matter what it is we do as a business. No ads, no print? I fear not. There must be one signature brand image for motionless content. I, for one, am not ready for an entire world in motion.

I am intrigued by this idea and can’t wait to see if it stands the test of time. Is this literally, an “evolving brand”?

It’s easy being green…for some

Owning the color green today means environmentally-friendly.

And the latest to hop on the green bandwagon is McDonald’s. In Europe only, they are changing their traditional red backdrop for a deep hunter green — a more eco-friendly image.

About 100 German McDonald’s restaurants will use the green backdrop by the end of 2009. Some franchises in Great Britain and France have already started using the new color scheme behind their Golden Arches.

Red is a strong color – an attention getter that pops out when used in visual icons almost anywhere. When used outdoors, vibrant red lends so much contrast to the blues, greens, and browns of nature, it easily grabs visual attention.

globalbestofgreenEffective marketing tools are being used to help drive the perception of being environmentally “unfriendly”. The company states on their website how they now use “greener” practices, such as lower levels of energy and water consumption, environmentally friendly refrigeration and converting used oil into biodiesel fuel. Their public image efforts can be seen on the corporate responsibility area which showcases the McDonald’s 2009 Global Best of Green theme.

We will see if the iconic red backdrop is slowly replaced globally by green. Today, it’s good to be green but can McDonald’s take on green successfully?

Surprise! A new logo for AOL… ahh, Aol.

AOL is breaking away from Time Warner next month, and leaving their old look behind as well. They are replacing AOL with Aol. and making an undistinguishable statement with this period after the Aol. The new brand identity print, video and online versions launch Dec. 10.

The Aol. logotype sits on different backgrounds of any kind ranging from moving objects, photos, funky drawings, people and whatever is desired or the flavor of the moment.


This rings a bit of googleness to me. Google uses different images to “play with” its logotype letterforms. They have been very successful with it. The reason? We still see the Google logotype in its iconic colors across all media the same way wherever it appears. The letterforms are “played with” on their search website. Somehow you always know it is Google.

Allen P. Adamson, Landor Associates (brand and corporate identity consultancy), states in the N.Y. Times, AOL “signals your father’s Internet”. This explains the switch to the Aol. “playful” look and feel – it’s an attempt to shed the old perception of AOL.

Let’s see if they can pull it off.

The constantly changing images behind the logotype are intended to elicit surprise, says Sam Wilson and Jordan Crane, of Wolff Olins New York, the creators of the new brand identity. The period in the logo was added to suggest “confidence, completeness,” Ms. Wilson said, by declaring that “AOL is the place to go for the best content online, period.” I guess branding is all about surprises!

I might warm up to this premise, if the Aol. logotype was not “strategically placed” on objects where parts of it blend into and disappear on its setting. Call me a purist. This changes the positive-negative space relationship of the Aol. visual icon. So whenever you see Aol., it visually never looks the same. I can see changing the backgrounds, although this is a stretch for me, but changing the icon as well? There needs to be some constant repetition of consistency across all media to build a visual brand.

In this example, the period is not even there!


And in this one, the look is entirely different than any of the others. It actually looks like the logotype is set in a gray morphic bar. Historically, under normal circumstances this would be considered a breach of the logotype.


So here is where I draw the line. Times change. Logos evolve. But change and surprises everywhere a logotype appears? Are we in a new paradigm and I am just not there? I just do not believe a company can be successful in building a strong brand this way.

Help me out with this one. What do you think?

Happy Thanksgiving!