The show must not go on

Treefort? Uprooted.

Cannes? Canned.*

Boise Music Festival? Silenced.

The list goes on and on…

To my friends at the Idaho and Boise Advertising Federations, it’s time to make the call.

It’s time to either postpone or cancel The Rockies as an in-person event this year.

As much as everyone loves a party and an excuse to dress up, get together and celebrate, it seems foolish to hold an event like this a handful of weeks from now, even if social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions are relaxed before then.

I want to be as optimistic about this as anyone else, but it’s also time to face reality. Now is not the time to put a large group of people in close contact to one another, mix in alcohol and questionable decisions, and then hope for the best.

Besides, I suspect there will be a lot of belt-tightening at agencies around the state in the weeks and months to come, and the expense of tickets and tables may be among the first to go.

As hard as it is to say it — because I, for one, look forward to seeing the work and the people every year — right now, the show must not go on.

* All credit for that line goes to Dan Goldgeier, who posted it on Twitter a few days ago.

Back to basics


Friends from both the Boise Advertising Federation and the Idaho Advertising Federation have reached out to provide additional clarification and context around the awards and the event:

The official name is “The Rockies,” which dates back to 1983.

The annual IAF Creative Awards Competition first launched in 1978 as a statewide competition (previously it was a local only competition of the Boise Ad Club), but it was rejuvenated in 1983 as The Rockies after a judging fiasco in the prior year.

IAF as ‘creator’ of its awards competition is sole authority as to ‘naming conventions’ cited below. Hence, The Rockies Award Ceremony is correct, and may be alternatively stated as The Rockies Award Show, despite assertion to the contrary.

BAF, has made herculean efforts for more than 40 years in hosting the success of the statewide competition on behalf of IAF.

While this is not the first time–nor will it likely be the last–that I’ve drawn the ire of BAF, that doesn’t mean my opinions or observations are necessarily correct. I appreciate those who have taken the time to set the record straight, and always welcome comments and discussion – either here on the blog or via email.

I have been, and always will be, a vocal supporter of agencies throughout the state of Idaho as well as the ad clubs and other organizations, and will continue to promote events, recognize good work, highlight job openings and other relevant information as time allows without obligation or expectation of anything in return.

Original post:

It’s awards season all over the place.

Unfortunately, our friends at the Boise Advertising Federation have gotten lax — dare I even say lazy — with their naming conventions for the state’s creative awards show.

So, to help get things back on track, or for those who may be new to the game, here’s a little cheat sheet for reference:

Rockie Award (Singular)
An individual award for creative excellence. Can be Silver or Gold.
Shorthand: Rockie
See also, for reference/comparison: Academy Award/Oscar, Golden Globe Award/Golden Globe

In context: Against won a Gold Rockie Award in Sales Promotion for the Auya Co. Tradeshow Booth
Brad Pitt won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Once upon a Time…In Hollywood.

Rockie Awards (Plural)
Two or more awards for creative excellence.
Shorthand: Rockies
For reference/comparison: Emmy Awards/Emmys, Academy Awards/Oscars

In context: Drake Cooper won 4 Gold and 18 Silver Rockies in 2017.
PARASITE won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, International Film, and Writing (Original Screenplay).

Now, this is where it gets a little tricky. Stay with me here.

Rockie Awards Show (Event)
The annual awards show where multiple Rockie Awards are presented
Shorthand: the Rockies
For reference/comparison: Emmy Awards Show/Emmys, Golden Globe Awards Show/Golden Globes

In context: Drake Cooper’s 18 Summers campaign for the Idaho Travel Council won Best of Show at the 2019 Rockie Awards Show.
2020 marked Ricky Gervais’ 5th time hosting the Golden Globes.

The annual event is NOT the Rockies Award Show (there’s no such thing as a Rockies Award – see singular above), nor is it the Rockies Awards Show (also no such thing as Rockies Awards – see plural above), as it has been referred to in recent years.

You’d never see the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences refer to their event as the Oscars Award Show or Oscars Awards Show, would you?

It may seem minor to some, but details matter. And lack of attention to those details makes the entire organizing body look bad.

Let’s do better Boise Ad Fed.

Jobs and Talent

For the long-time readers of Idaho Ad Agencies, you may remember that there used to be a page inside the Jobs and Talent section of the site that listed a variety of folks who were either looking for jobs, available for freelance work, or in other similar situations.

Unfortunately, that section was neglected for far too long, and much of it was outdated at best.

I’m wondering, however, if there’s enough interest in resurrecting that part of the site again, either in its original format or as something different. I’m still a fan of having an area where those who are looking for work or talent can find each other.

Thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know.

Mobile, social and tall doors: How Idaho business can embrace change

iphone5It isn’t a surprise to anyone that the way people consume and discover content is changing – and along with it the way advertisers reach an audience. But as the landscape shifts and changes rather rapidly, the ways small and medium businesses react and adapt can make or break their future success.

Locally, the sheer volume of businesses who have established a presence on social media is staggering – and for the most part rightfully so. But very few are paying attention to the mobile space, which in my view is far more integral to success.

Let me start by laying out a few numbers. The KTVB News Group does a large annual survey of the Boise market– a big research project that allows us to dissect data and determine trends. Three data points from the survey really stand out on this topic:

  • 52% of the market uses a smart device of some type (smartphone, tablet or Internet-enabled music player like an iPod Touch).
  • 58% of the market says they used Facebook in the past thirty days
  • 11% accessed Twitter over the past month

While each of those metrics has seen growth since the prior survey, the one that stands out is mobile. Facebook grew a small amount from 56% to 58%. Twitter grew from 7% to 11% – a large growth rate but still a small number (just a tenth of the market).

Mobile use grew from 38% to 52%. Fully half of the area is using the Internet on the go – a staggering figure considering these devices, for the most part, did not exist prior to 2008.

Now contrast this with the investment SMBs are putting toward these three platforms. While I’d argue every business should have an active, robust presence on Facebook – many are also dabbling in Twitter. Frankly, that’s probably not the best use of their time and resources for most. I’m a believer in Twitter – I’ve sent more than 26,000 tweets so clearly I use the platform quite a bit. But for the most part I’ve yet to see it deliver a measurable result for a mainstream business. There are exceptions – the Boise Soup Tweetup, social outreach by Treefort Music Festival, Ignite Boise and some others – but for the most part these are focused on social good or just plain socialization. They don’t often drive dollars into pockets. (I’m certain there are a number of other exceptions to this, but in a general sense I believe this to be true).

But I’m somewhat astounded by the lack of mobile optimization among local businesses. If half the market is using the mobile platform, shouldn’t every virtual frontdoor be optimized for that experience?

Let me make an imperfect analogy. Imagine if over the last four years, 52% of the population grew to be 7 feet tall. The average door height is 6’ 8”. If half of all customers had to duck uncomfortably to enter an establishment, most business owners would consider the investment to build a taller door a wise one. Sure, the tall folks could duck through the door – but why not make it as easy as possible to access your business?

The big buzz word in the digital media space is for a company to say they are “mobile first.” Facebook is a big example of this – saying they will build for the phone screen first, then extrapolate to the desktop computer. This strategy is hot for two reasons. First, a practical one: building apps for the somewhat simpler, smaller and more limited phone screen provides focus and elegance. When you “size up” to the desktop, you’ve already proved that your concept works on the simpler platform. Second, creating for mobile as a primary area capitalizes on its popularity and accelerating use.

If in the Boise market mobile use grew 36 percent over 18 months – it is likely to continue to grow at a fast pace (our survey was taken before Christmas, and I think it’s fair to say you could add another 2-3% to that number already). The smartphone for many is the last thing they look at each night, the first thing they look at in the morning – and something they interact with all day long, never more than five feet away from their hand.

The key difference between social media and mobile is a concept as old as the modern Internet itself: push versus pull. Social media allows a business to “push” its information to consumers. The latest specials, a big sale, information on a new location or general branding. This has incredible value – as reaching a targeted, interested audience with a relevant message has incredible power. It has revolutionized the way businesses communicate with a customer. Just a few years ago the only way to have a dialogue with consumers was with traditional media – or a readerboard out front. Now conversations can happen in real-time. However, gathering mass is exceedingly difficult. I saw a recent Craigslist ad for a local business for sale that noted a “successful Facebook page” as a selling point. Some research showed the Facebook page had 208 likes. While those might be highly targeted folks, it’s not enough to make a dent in most businesses – and that level of “success” is far from atypical.

Mobile is a pull medium. Users seek you out on their terms. But the timing of that information seeking is key: it is usually when they are a ways down the purchasing funnel and want to buy. A recent national research project titled “The Mobile Movement” shows when a user searches for a business on mobile, 61% call that business and 59% walk in. Big numbers. They need your address. Your phone number. Your current sales.

But what happens all too often is anticipointment (my favorite made-up word): They have high hopes, but when they interact with you on their small screen they have a poor experience. It’s more than likely that the website is not mobile optimized – which means small text, lots of pinching-to-zoom, navigation elements that may not work – and perhaps even Adobe Flash elements that just plain don’t show up. If you want customers to have a frictionless experience with you, this is not the way to make it happen. And since this is likely their first active engagement with you – having a good experience is key.

A 2012 Google study shows that a mobile-optimized website produces a 75% higher rate of engagement per visit for mobile users – consisting of increased revenue and pageviews. That same study also shows that one in every five mobile website visits lead to an immediate call to the business. And one more stat: searches on mobile have increased more than four-fold since 2010. 400%.

Any discussion of best practices ultimately boils down to money. Setting up a social media account on Facebook or Twitter is largely free. A business owner can at least get the ball rolling themselves without paying a dime: Upload your logo, plop down some content, follow some folks and you’re off and running. While this doesn’t mean a strong social strategy that will drive business is in place, it is at least “free” to do so (not to account for the time spent which certainly has value). Mobile is different, of course. Most businesses do not have in-house resources to build out a mobile-optimized site. Perhaps they have a current web presence that was built out for $1,000 or so a few years ago that is “good enough,” but isn’t ready for mobile. Fair enough. But sites built using “responsive design” will look good on any screen – the giant MacBook all the way down to the tiny Android – all using the same site framework. A good designer will be able to do this affordably – and it should be a requirement for any new web product or project.

There is only so much time in the day and money in the bank – but as mobile grows, rapidly, ignoring this space will become harder and harder. Ultimately the investment of consumers will go to the businesses who have the best customer experience – and the tallest doors.

Editor’s notes: The Google data referenced here came from this repository of awesome. Don Day is the former editor of and current Internet Sales & Product Manager for KTVB (where he’s spent 14 years trying to figure out the answer to the question “what’s next?”).

Update from the IAF/ISBA Summer Conference:

Many professionals in the industry might not be aware that each year the Idaho Ad Federation and the Idaho State Broadcasters Association put together an affordable and quality conference. The conference serves as the Annual Convention for the ISBA, and is packed with professional educational opportunities for members of the advertising community as well.

The IAF Summer Conference is held at the beautiful Sun Valley Lodge. Registration was only $150 this year, and included a hosted reception on Thursday evening as well as dinner on Friday evening. Attendees have the option of playing in a golf tournament at the renown Sun Valley course, and can opt to attend the Best In Broadcasting Reception and Awards Dinner on Saturday night for an additional charge.

Summer Conference is a great way to network with professionals in our area, and enjoy a little R&R in Sun Valley. Jeff Jones of Central Idaho Broadcasting in Orofino and Lisa Collins (IAF Chair) of KMVT in Twin put this year’s conference together. They did an excellent job of finding a slate of speakers that were both entertaining and informative.

Marshall Simmonds
Marshall Simmonds presenting to the Idaho State Broadcasters Association and Idaho Advertising Federation.

The first presentation I attended Friday morning was on Internet Search Strategies, from Marshall Simmonds. An excellent presentation on the basics of SEO planning for news publishers.

Marshall lives in Boise, Idaho and is a Chief Search Strategist for the New York Times Company. He also owns a search engine marketing consulting firm called Define Search Strategies.

His presentation included several great examples of successes and shortfalls in maximizing search traffic to and the New York Times. He also integrated a few Idaho State Broadcasting Association member sites into his presentation.The Top 10 SEO Questions to ask your organization:

  1. Can Engines Get to All Your Content
  2. How is internal/external linking?
  3. Are URLs Search Friendly?
  4. Duplicate Content?
  5. Are the right keyword markets targeted?
  6. Are Editorial & SEO Goals Balanced?
  7. Are your templates optimized?
  8. Am I optimizing all my assets?
  9. Domain Strength?
  10. Is Traffic Converting?

Marshall concluded with saying Simple is making a comeback. He also reconfirmed that SEO is a long term plan. It doesn’t happen overnight therefore it should be measured in months.


Jim Gradl
Jim Gradl presenting to the ISBA/IAF Friday afternoon.

Jim Gradl owner of Uboon2, an advertising agency in Chesterfield, Missouri, is a great story teller and presented on the principles of advertising. Using many recognizable brands, Jim provided examples of how to quickly make a lasting impression on your customers. Given that the average thought lasts about 12 seconds, that’s how long you have to impress a consumer.

Jim shared a philosophy that advertising is democracy in action:

  • The agency gets one vote
  • The client gets two votes
  • The consumer gets five votes

Don’t talk about the factory. Talk about the customer.

Overall this presentation was an entertaining reminder that we have to connect with the consumer meaningfully and quickly to compete.


Bob Taber
Bob Taber, Sr. VP, Account Planning, GyroHSR Denver

Bob Taber, Senior VP of Account Planning at GyroHSR in Denver never disappoints.

Bob used a past agency/client presentation to show his agency pitched a
 restaurant chain. He offered up a view of how they pick clients they would like to work with, and then go after them by developing a new business presentation that includes creative strategy, 
customer segmentation, and recommended positioning. By targeting clients, rather than waiting for RFPs, they are able to present themselves on a playing field free of competition.

After the presentation I asked Bob about his comfort level giving away spec work in the pitch. He said he isn’t comfortable with it in a competitive landscape (i.e. RFP response), because anyone can hit one out of the park for a given presentation. That doesn’t mean they will be consistent over time. GyroHSR feels that by taking a proactive approach and targeting clients they want to work for, investing in spec creative is worth the risk.

This was an insightful presentation that surely had the attendees thinking about their new business strategies. And additionally, we all learned a lot about the restaurant industry.

Even though it’s tough for all of us to tear ourselves away from the piles of work on our desks, Summer Conference is always a well deserved mini vacation. Once again I returned home with more industry insight and having connected with old and new friends from around Idaho. Spotted at the Lodge were Ed Moore and (BAF President) Carolyn Sali of Davies Moore – Boise, Lisa Collins of KMVT – Twin Falls, Rick Magnuson and Mike Sanders of MSVM Group – Pocatello, and countless other familiar faces from the world of advertising and broadcasting in Idaho.

I’d love to hear about other attendees’ experiences and what types of workshops you would be interested in seeing next year.

Mike Kerby

Incoming IAF Chair