Thursday, January 29, 2009

More on the Idaho Department of Commerce Public Relations Contract Saga


There's been a flurry of talk, rumor and speculation around the Idaho Department of Commerce, and the news that they had awarded their Public Relations contract to a firm based out of New York.

First, some housekeeping. For those who are not yet aware, word came out Tuesday afternoon via the Idaho Business Review that the Department had selected Development Counsellors International to handle the PR contract. This (Thursday) morning, however, the Department announced that it had withdrawn that decision, and they would be "negotiating exclusively with Idaho firms using Idaho talent".

Commerce Director Don Dietrich provided this statement:

After thoroughly reviewing the contracting process and its result, I determined that it was inappropriate to hire an out-of-state vendor to help us revitalize and expand Idaho’s economy and produce Idaho jobs. The intent letter sent to DCI is being withdrawn, and we will be negotiating exclusively with Idaho firms using Idaho talent for the Idaho Department of Commerce’s public relations needs.
The news has also been picked up nationally, most recently being reported by PR Week.

Since this story first broke, there's been an uproar throughout the marketing / advertising / public relations community, both online and offline. Much of it is based on a very simple, yet valid argument: With this decision, the Department of Commerce is contradicting it's mission statement in the worst possible way.

From the Department's website:

The mission of the Idaho Department of Commerce is to create jobs, strengthen communities, and market the state by:
  • Fostering economic development by assisting the growth of existing Idaho businesses and attracting new businesses to the state.
  • Assisting Idaho businesses in the exportation of goods and services to nations throughout the world
  • Cultivating the development of new businesses and job opportunities across the industry sector
  • Expanding Idaho's tourism and recreation industries
  • Promoting Idaho as a location for feature film and commercial production
Through this decision, the Department effectively demonstrated that it had no intention of living up to it's own mission statement, specifically that of "assisting the growth of existing Idaho businesses."

Now, let's step into the Department's shoes for a moment.

For this, or any government agency, decisions are a numbers game. Typically, those numbers are preceded by a dollar sign. In this case, it came in the form of scoring on a points system. This type of decision-making allows those involved in the process to take any emotion out of the equation - it's a competition, and the highest score wins.

From an operational point of view, this format is understandable. Without this type of process in place, decisions might never be made. Public agencies, State and Local Governments are under enormous pressure to avoid even the hint of impropriety in their decision-making process. This type of system is in place for that very reason, and it's not likely to change.

Was there preference given to in-state respondents? Yes, in the form of a 50 point bonus in the scoring. Was the intent of the bonus points to discourage out-of-state responses? Doubtful. It did, however, demonstrate that the Department made a good-faith effort to give those respondents based in Idaho a leg up on the competition.

Knowing that this is a number's game, let's look at it from another angle. By selecting an out-of-state agency, the Commerce Department made a huge gamble. The argument can be made that they were gambling on the fact that the revenue that would be generated for the State as a result of future PR efforts would exceed the revenue that the State would receive through employment taxes, sales taxes et. al. as a result of keeping the work in-state. Although the reported $200,000 value is not a large contract when compared to other state agencies, it's still real money. And it pays salaries, keeps people employed, prevents layoffs, allows companies to hire additional staff. The list goes on and on.

And given recent news about budget concerns for the State of Idaho, that's a very real concern in the hallways and offices of State Government. Case in point: the PR Week report suggest that "the decision to rescind the offer was a result of internal discussions", and by "conferring with the Governor's office". I'd be very surprised if that wasn't a topic in those 'internal discussions'.

So, the question now at hand is: what will the Idaho Department of Commerce do next?

The original RFP was issued in late October/early November, and it took until late January to reach a decision. Will the whole process begin again? If that's the case, it is likely that everyone involved would have to start from scratch as well, resubmitting their entire proposals and all related materials. And based on that timeline, It's not unreasonable to think that it could be April before another decision is made.

Or, they could award the contract to the highest-finishing in-state respondent. That would likely prompt others involved to file an appeal, based on the current circumstances alone, which, in turn, would drag out the decision-making process just as long.

Finally, they could piece-meal out the work to a handful of agencies that responded to the RFP. That seems the most likely, and the quickest, solution to the situation. The danger in this course of action, however, is that the Department will likely end up being counseled in several different directions by those involved, and will suffer from a lack of a single, cohesive vision and strategy.

All of the above is pure speculation on my part, of course.

So, who are the winners and losers out of this whole ordeal? Let's examine:

DCI. They played by the rules that were set forth at the very beginning, and according to those rules, they won. They were at a points-disadvantage because they were out-of-state, but they overcame that deficit and still finished on top. There will be those, undoubtedly, that side with DCI in the opinion that they got a raw deal. And perhaps they did. But they've also received a tremendous amount of exposure, seemingly none of it negative, for their involvement.

Idaho Department of Commerce. This is a no-brainer, but worth mentioning nevertheless. The Department of Commerce is going to be sporting a black eye because of this, and the way the news of the selection was handled. Will they recover? Yes, but it'll take time.
Idaho PR Agencies. They're going to be a casualty of this entire event as well. Fairly or not, these agencies are now going to be under enormous pressure to produce spectacular results. That pressure, especially by those watching from within the PR/marketing/advertising world will be unreasonable and unfair at times, but it will still be there. Any misstep will be painfully public, no matter how small. Unfair? Yes. Unreasonable? Yes. The way of the world? Yes.

But then again, I could be wrong about all of the above. It's been known to happen before.

UPDATE: Andrew T. Levine, President of DCI has submitted A Letter to Idaho: DCI Reponds to the Public Relations Award Retraction (via the Idaho Business Review). Andrew makes very reasonable arguments / points on behalf of his firm, and it's worth taking the time to read.

And, for what it's worth, I agree with Andrew and his belief that there are no winners in this whole situation. It would be unfortunate, on several fronts, for the Department of Commerce to have to start from scratch. RFPs are a time- and cost-intensive process for all parties involved, and in any organization those are limited commodoties.

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Drama Surrounding the Idaho Department of Commerce

Yes, we're aware of the drama surrounding the Idaho Department of Commerce's selection of Development Counsellors International to handle PR, and the uproar that has unfolded since the news came out Tuesday afternoon.

Rumors and speculations are flying this morning, but nothing that can be confirmed as of yet. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Hires at Red Sky PR

Red Sky PR in Boise has added two new faces to their staff:

Robin Rausch has joined the agency as a Senior Account Executive. Before joining Red Sky, she worked most recently for DBSI Group of Companies, managing all public relations activities, and for Trus Joist, where she managed internal and external communications.

Alena Shea has also joined the agency as an Assistant Account Executive. She is a graduate of Boise State University, with a Bachelor's degree in communications and an emphasis in public relations.

Congratulations to both Robin and Alena.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Job Opening - Front-End Web Developer

Zeta Interactive has an opening for a Web Developer (front-end) at their office in Boise. From the job listing:

We are hiring a front end web developer with advanced CSS skills to turn our designs into enterprise-scale websites for our stable Fortune 1000 customers including HP, Time Inc, Sony, Mattel, US Airways, Sotheby’s, Century 21 -- just to name a few.

We're looking for candidates who are passionate about web standards, accessibility and creating great web 2.0 sites. The ideal candidate will be confident, proactive, experienced and have an online portfolio of fully accessible sites coded in standards-compliant XHTML/CSS.
Full details about the position can be found here.

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Client-Side Internship Opportunity

Coldwater Creek is accepting applications for a Marketing Intern at their corporate office in Sandpoint.

From the job listing:

The intern program will support our efforts by working on assigned projects with external and internal business partners regarding promotions, sponsorship and public/media relations. This may include new store promotions, networking with mall managers and store managers for fashion shows and promotions, and working with Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation to promote internal and external awareness.
Candidates for the Marketing Intern position must be in pursuit of a degree relating to business, marketing, economics, public relations, or information technology.

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After Appeal, Journal Can Pick Up KNIN

Reversing an earlier decision, the Federal Communications Commission has approved the sale of KNIN Channel 9 from Banks Broadcasting to Journal Broadcast Group, effectively allowing for a merger of KNIN with KIVI Channel 6.

From the story on KTVB's website:

The FCC previously ruled that, while KNIN was losing money – it did not meet a specific accounting standard that involves how a station spends money on capital improvements for items like equipment.

KNIN and Journal argued that the capital expenses were actually for the continuation of “bare bones” operation of Channel 9, and only spent money on items essential to keeping the station on the air.

The FCC said that with the additional clarification, it finds that KNIN’s financial condition is “poor” and decided to issue the failing station waiver to allow the merger.

No word on when the transaction is expected to be complete.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

New Client for Wirestone

Health & Disability Advocates (HDA) has selected Wirestone, including their office in Boise, as their lead agency following a competitive review, according to Adweek and other media outlets.

HDA is national nonprofit organization leading a group of state health and human service agencies to develop a campaign about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Wirestone was selected over seven other agencies in the pitch for the HDA business, which will include branding the new national initiative, as well as developing and executing its entire integrated marketing strategy that is expected to include print and broadcast advertising.

Congratulations Wirestone.

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...have once again gone on a downward spiral. It seems to happen every couple of years.

As such, the ability to leave comments anonymously has been disabled.

Everyone is welcome to share their opinions, and everyone has the right to their own opinion, but let's keep things above the belt, shall we?

New Hire at Rizen Creative

Rizen Creative in Boise has added Katie Meyers to their staff as a Brand Manager / Account Executive. Prior to joining Rizen, Katie was with Drake Cooper.

Congratulations Katie.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Broken Barker Bash - the Day After

To the folks at Wirestone, and everyone else involved in pulling the Broken Barker Bash off: Well Done.

To those who came out last night to bid, drink, dance, mingle, install hangovers, talk, and celebrate: Thanks for the great attendance. It was a packed house.

And finally, thanks to Jeff for being there, and continuing your recovery.

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UPDATE - CLIO Awards Call for Entries

The deadline for entry submissions to the 2009 CLIO Awards has been extended until February 13, 2009.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Job Opening - Graphic Designer

R2 Media Group in Pocatello has an opening for a Graphic Designer. From the job listing on the Eastern Idaho Craigslist:

Pocatello based company looking for up and coming graphic designers and web developers.

Must be able to work on a team, but also have the ability to work through a project independently. We are looking for versatile designers with understanding of the principles and aesthetics of design, who can create compelling branding and advertising through a variety of print and web formats.

Also from the posting, this will begin as a contract position, but could develop into a full time position for the right person.

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Opinions are like...well, you know

Everybody's got one.

And when it comes to the College of Western Idaho these days, there's certainly no shortage.

The Idaho Business Review, and their 60+ comments, leave very little to wonder about where they stand.

TechBoise has an opinion, with more insight and intelligent conversation than what I saw happening on the Idaho Business Review's site.

Even The Idaho Statesman has an opinion.

So let's take a look at how this all got started. Much of what has been written centers around the television spots created for the College. For those who may not have seen them, here are the three spots, courtesy of CWI's YouTube Channel:

So, now that you've seen them, we can begin.

Whether you think the ads are good or bad is almost beside the point. Advertising, and particularly the creative that comes out as a result, is subjective. What one person calls "good" the next calls "bad."

The real question is, have these spots, and other portions of the enrollment campaign, been effective in generating adequate awareness of, interest in, and ultimately enrollment at the College of Western Idaho? Time will tell.

A couple of thoughts to leave with, however:

It escapes me who said it, but in any client/agency relationship, the agency deserves no more than 50% of the praise for the success, or 50% of the blame for the failure. That concept is true in this case as well. CWI is as responsible for these spots as those on the agency side who produced them.

As agencies, and agency folks, it is our responsibility to advise, guide, and direct clients on the best course of action as much as possible. That means proper planning, research and insight into the client's business or industry. Without that, we become nothing more than order takers, reacting at the client's whim.

Success takes time, and will certainly be the case here.

For those who were involved, I'd encourage you to take this opportunity to learn from what went right, and wrong, and come back with something even better next time. For those who are watching from the sidelines, this is another case where there's a lesson to be learned here.

Are you willing to learn it?

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The Clock is Ticking on the Rockies

Well damn.

I was all ready to tee off on the Boise Advertising Federation for not having any information available about the 2009 Rockie Awards, the submission process, deadlines and such.

And then I went to the Rockie Awards website. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails.

So, since there's no ranting to be done now, here's the skinny:

The Idaho Advertising Federation is now accepting entries for the 2009 Rockie Awards. Entries are due by Sunday, February 8th. All the details, including entry requirements, costs, etc. can be found on the Rockie Awards website.

Oh, and keep Saturday, April 18th open. That's the date for the Rockies Award Show at The Knitting Factory in Boise.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Headline Roundup for January 20th

The Sell: First-Person Accounts - via MediaPost

ADS & DISTR-ACT - via New York Post

Execs Hoping for Trouble-Free DTV Switch - via Mediaweek

Cracking the (Social) Code - via Adweek

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REMINDER: Broken Barker Bash

Just a reminder that the Broken Barker Bash is coming up this Friday, January 23rd. Follow the link for full details.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Headline Roundup for January 19th

Clients Unimpressed by Their Agencies — Still Won't Switch - via MarketingVOX

Digital Signs a Potential Driving Hazard; LA Politico Proposes Ban - via MarketingVOX

TV, Newspapers Can't Shortcut Digital, It's All Or Nothing - via MediaPost

Suit Your Shelf - via Adweek

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Jacksons Food Stores Selects New Agency

After a competitive review, Jacksons Food Stores has selected The Agency Creative Network as their Agency of Record, responsible for all marketing, advertising and public relations related activities. The Agency Creative Network was chosen over Stoltz Marketing Group, Oliver Russell, and CLM. The account had previously been held by CLM.

The change of agencies represents a dramatic shift for Jacksons Food Stores, and is a significant win for The Agency Creative Network. The account was a long-time CLM account, and had been with the shop since its days as WRC Advertising. Jacksons is Idaho's 6th largest privately held corporation, and operates in Idaho, Nevada, Washington and Oregon.

The Agency Creative Network, founded and led by Jane Perlaky, describes itself as an “open network model.” It utilizes talent throughout the area, and assembles teams tailored to individual client needs. Said one member of the team involved in the Jacksons business, this “…shows that clients see the value in smart strategy and creativity, no matter how it comes together.”

Congratulations to The Agency Creative Network on a hard-earned win.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009


Just a reminder that the Capital City Communicator's event - Ethical & Legal Issues with Corporate Blogs is coming up this Tuesday, January 20th.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Headline Roundup for January 15th

'Dollars Spent' Is So Biz 1.0 - via Adweek

Target Tries First Price Point Driven TV Ads - via Brandweek

Melding Media Spawns Fragmented Communications Landscape - via MarketingVox

Starbucks pledges free coffee in every volunteer's cup - via Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Social networks threaten advertising growth - via Financial Times

DMA: 'We Are All Direct Marketers Now' - via MediaPost

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New Board of Directors for PRSA Idaho

The Idaho Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America has a new Board of Directors for 2009, including:

President: Joanne Taylor, Director of Public Relations at Drake Cooper
President-Elect: Sydney Sallabanks, Principal at Gallatin Public Affairs
Past President: Georganne Benjamin, Assistant Director of Strategic Communications at Regence
Secretary: Robbie Johnson, Public Information Specialist at Ada County Highway District
Treasurer: Rick Phillips, APR, Public Relations Manager at JR Simplot Company

Members-at-Large will include:
Beth Toal, Public Relations Manager at St. Luke's Health System
David Compton, APR, Owner of Compton Communications
Christine Lynch, Public Affairs Communications Manager at Regence

Congratulations to all involved.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Upcoming CCC Event - Ethical & Legal Issues with Corporate Blogs

For their January event, Capital City Communicators in Boise will focus on Ethical & Legal Issues with Corporate Blogs.

Scheduled for Tuesday January 20th, Gundars (Gundy) Kaupins will be presenting to the organization. Kaupins is is Department Chair, Professor of Management and John Elorriaga Fellow at Boise State University.

Details are as follows:

Date: Tuesday, January 20th
Time: 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Location: Doubletree Riverside, 2900 Chinden Blvd, Boise, ID
- Members: $15
- Non-Members: $18

Attendees can prepay online, or pay via cash or check at the door.

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Just a reminder that AIGA Idaho's Design for Sustainability event is coming up this Thursday, January 15th. Be sure to RSVP if you haven't already.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Job Openings at Rizen Creative

Rizen Creative in Boise is on the hunt for a couple of people to add to their team. They're looking for:

An Account Executive / Brand Manager / fill in your version of the job title here. This person should have experience on the client or agency side -- preferably both. Should be able to see the big picture as well as manage the small details.

A Part Time Design Assistant. This is very much an entry level position, but would be a good opportunity to get your foot in the door.

For more information on either position, contact the folks over at Rizen Creative.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

24 Hours Later

This isn't a post about advertising. Or marketing. Not jobs, layoffs, news or trends either.

This is about life. And about people.

David Armano is one of many that I follow on Twitter. In addition to being active on Twitter he works in the agency business and publishes a blog. On Tuesday evening, he introduced those who are connected to him to a woman named Daniela, who left her husband because she had been abused.

David and his family took in Daniela and her three children, offering them a temporary home, and did what they were able to do to help make this transition as painless as possible.

He also asked his friends for help. He reached out to his 8,000+ followers on Twitter, with a humble plea for assistance. The goal was to raise enough money to Daniela to be able to rent an apartment for her and her children until she could get back on her feet. When he asked, he set a goal of $5,000. By late Tuesday night, that goal had been met, and then some. Today, that number stands at over $14,000.

Over $14,000 in less than 24 hours.

The speed at which this happened, and the generosity that people have shown is just amazing on many levels. There's no way I could recap what/how/why everything unfolded, but Steve Hall sums it up nicely in part of his recap on Adrants:

It worked because was very personal. It worked because Armano has developed deep relationships with many people online he's likely never physically meant. It's that aspect of online social life which fueled this and which fuels social media. It's never really about the technology. It's about the people. Social media (or whatever you want to call it) has simply given us new ways to connect with people and, in doing so, has provided us with new and different means to socialize and make friends.

And come to their aid when needed.

Without Twitter, this would not have happened. More correctly, it would not have happened so quickly. This is far from the first time a "fund" has been set up to help a battered woman. Physical communities and neighborhoods have always banded together when needed. But it's usually very slow moving and when it shifts into old school milk carton and telemarketing pleas, it's devoid of anything personal or meaningful. With Armano's digital neighborhood, it was personal and when things are personal, they are meaningful.

A few other people/places where this has gotten coverage:
-David Griner broke it down into 5 points to explain why things worked out the way they did.
-Helen Walters wrote about it in The Collective Power of Individuals on the BusinessWeek website.
-And of course, David Armano has provided updates on his blog.

To David, for setting the ball in motion, and everyone else who was (and is) involved in one way or another:

Well Done.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Headline Roundup for January 6th

Analysts To Brands: Stick To Your Knitting - via MediaPost

Media Agencies Ready to Rumble for ROI - via Adweek

Generation Y goes to work - via The Economist

Advertisers, Marketers Brace For Obama's Regulatory Impact - via MediaPost

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Upcoming AIGA Event - Design for Sustainability

AIGA Idaho continues to be a very active organization, as evidenced by the fact that their next event is already on the calendar.

On Thursday, January 15th, AIGA Idaho presents Design for Sustainability, an evening with John Turville, Cenveo FSC and Sustainability Expert.

John will discuss the core principles of FSC certification and what it takes to apply the FSC logo to your printed designs. He’ll also discuss considerations for designers who want to have a more sustainable approach.
Details about the event are as follows:

Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Time: 5:30pm
Location: The Linen Building, 1402 W Grove St, Boise ID
- Members: Free
- Non-Members: $10

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Upcoming MVAF Event - The Economic Storm: Ride it Through or Wait it Out?

The Magic Valley Advertising Federation is presenting their second annual MVAF Marketing Expo, a "marketing trade show and workshop targeted at business owners."

The trade show is open to the public from 11am - 2pm, and will be followed by a presentation from Jeff Olsen, Chief Creative Officer at Rare Method in Salt Lake City.

Details are as follows:
Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009
- Trade Show: 11am - 2pm
- Presentation: 2:30pm - 4:30pm
Location: Canyon Crest Events Center, 330 Canyon Crest Drive, Twin Falls, ID
- Trade Show: Free
- Presentation: $35 in advance, $40 at the door

For tickets or more information, contact Debbie Currier, or any MVAF Board Member. Booth spaces are also available for the trade show - Debbie will have all the details on those as well.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

UPDATE: Restore America Poster Design Competition

The deadline for the ACLU's Restore America Poster Design Competition has been extended until Sunday, January 18, 2009.

Thanks Aaron for the tip.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Job Opening: Marketing Information Analyst

Wirestone in Boise has an opening for a Marketing Information Analyst:

As a Wirestone Marketing Information Analyst you’ll have the opportunity to work with cross-functional teams to analyze, restructure and deliver actionable business intelligence that drives marketplace success. You’ll use your broad base of knowledge and experience to test methodologies, influence decisions and change the status quo. And you’ll do it all for an impressive roster of world-class companies.
More information about this position can be found here.
(Courtesy of CareerBuilder)

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Cuts at CLM

Recently, word reached the Idaho Ad Agencies blog that CLM (formerly Closed Loop Marketing & Advertising) went through a round of layoffs, cutting 25 % of their staff.

At first glance, that number seems drastic. Put in context, they've cut 4 from what had been a staff of 16. The agency's People section of their website reflects the reduced headcount as well.

This type of news is never what anyone likes to hear, but is reflective, even at the local level, of larger trends that are taking place in the marketing and advertising industry as a whole.

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Opening Thoughts for 2009

2009, by all accounts, is going to be a difficult year. But you don't have to let it get to you. Here are a few thoughts to get the year started:

You will have to work hard this year. So will everybody else.

The work isn't just going to come to you. You're going to have to get creative to get it. The work is out there, if you're willing to go find it.

Every once in a while you're going to get kicked in the teeth. Kick back.

You have options. You always have options.

It's not as bad as the media makes it out to be.

And above all else, remember this: Every once in a while you just need to stop, take a deep breath, and relax.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Well, the book is closed on 2008, and the first pages of 2009 are already being written.

To the readers of the Idaho Ad Agencies blog, whether you're a frequent or casual visitor, thank you for your contributions throughout the past year.

No matter how you look at it, 2009 looks to be a wild one. Let's have a little fun along the way.