Monthly Archives: November 2013

True Life: Cristina Gomes

Inside the Office:

Cristina Gomes is Vanguard Direct’s newest employee. She started only five weeks ago and has made a great impression. Cristina works in the digital and technology group as a business analyst and project manager. As a PM, it’s her responsibility to oversee a project from beginning to end. And as a BA, she focuses specifically on the project and/or product requirements.

What does this mean? It means she’s both detail-oriented and friendly; it means she’s computer-nerdy and also strategically savvy; it means she’s book and street smart; and it means she’s exactly the type of well-rounded individual Vanguard prides itself on hiring.

Outside the Office:

With a background in finance—she worked for companies including Barclays and Citibank—Cristina is no stranger to high pressure and stress. In 2009, she discovered yoga and found it was the perfect cross-training tool to complement her cardio and weight-training regimen. “I really only started working out in 2008, but I loved the way I felt after. Not only physically, but mentally, too.”

She loved exercise so much that she decided to get group fitness–certified in 2011. Soon after, she expanded her repertoire to include yoga (certified in April Martucci’s FireDragonYoga method), group fitness (certified by the AFAA, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), and TRX suspension training. These days, she subs for a few classes, runs a couple of body-conditioning classes during the week, and does some personal training.

Favorite Vanguard Moment:

While it’s hard to imagine having a favorite Vanguard moment after just one month, Cristina seems to already have many. Her favorite, however, is when her neighbor down the row offered up his keyboard. Our pal Mark Gadson, it seemed, wanted to swap keyboards in order to give the new hire a more ergonomically friendly device. Or so we thought…

It turns out that what Mark really wanted was for Cristina to have a keyboard that dampened the effects of her apparent finger strength. “I guess I’m used to trade floors and loud environments. I had no idea I typed so loudly!” she said. “I’ve never had anyone offer me their keyboard just to keep me quiet.”

Cristina Gomes’s strengths come in many shapes and sizes: project management, business analysis, yoga and fitness training, and it seems, a hard-ass keystroke.

Author: Eric Swenson


Co-Creation Utopia Debunked

In his recent Adweek article, “Co-creation Is Key to a Successful Agency-Client Relationship,” Matt Eastwood, chief creative officer of DDB New York, argues that partnering more intimately––or “co-creating”––with clients is a more effective way of working than the traditional model. By bringing clients into the idea-generating process, we allow them to feel a sense of ownership and confidence in the campaign idea. Furthermore, he argues, our clients know their brands better than anyone else, and this can be incredibly useful to the creative team.

The roots of the divided agency/client relationship are often attributed to its genesis. In a bid/spec situation, an agency is typically asked up front, “What can you do for our brand?” Starting with “You’re the agency, now wow me” sets precedent for future behavior and communications.

I find it hard to reconcile this beginning with Eastwood’s concept of co-creation. Clients often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new campaigns, so I wonder how seamless the transition from hired contractor to co-collaborator is. How does the agency go from, “We’re brilliant and different” to “We’re brilliant, sure, but if you have any ideas for a new campaign we’d love to hear them”?

A savvy client is usually quick to become part of the team, and that’s great, but ad agencies define themselves by their ability to generate unique ideas—it’s how they build their reputations. How do agencies justify their cost or leverage their value simply by being good teammates?

I love the thought of new clients understanding the process of coming up with concepts. (Justifying four weeks of idea-generation is always hard to explain to a client who doesn’t fully understand the process.) Do we really want our clients to see behind Oz’s curtain, though? We all know that a great idea can come anytime, anywhere. So how will this affect our own process? Will it add unnecessary structure to it?

To paraphrase Eastwood, having the client be a part of the process of idea-generating allows the team to get a truer sense of the brand and its audience. While I agree that no one knows the brand better than the brand itself, I can’t imagine a world where we’d want the client in the room while we are coming up with creative concepts. History has taught us to never ignore a “bad” idea. We allow creatives to throw as many ideas on the wall as possible and not veto them right off the bat because of brand standards. Finding the big idea is most important at this stage––the filtering can happen later.

As an account person, I find the notion of giving the client more ownership of the idea––and thus ensuring that responsibility for its success or failure is equally shared––comforting. But as a creative purist and realist, I think this co-creation process brings with it too many new challenges to be feasible.

Author: Eric Swenson

Successful Social Media Crisis Management

Every social media manager should remember that he or she plays a role in customer service. Sometimes, however, it seems like this is forgotten, resulting in a social media gaffe, embarrassment, and on occasion, a full-blown meltdown (I’m looking at you, Amy’s Baking Company). It’s always easy to criticize and point out what a company did wrong. We do it so often that we usually overlook corporate role models: companies that have handled social media snafus with skill and dignity. Here are three of their stories and what you can learn from them.

Burger King

The award for fastest resolution may very well go to Burger King over a photo posted to the Internet earlier this year of an employee standing on top of two open containers of lettuce. Though not Burger King’s fault, it immediately reflected poorly on the judgment of its employee, the quality of its ingredients, and likely diminished interest in further patronage by Burger King customers.

But almost as quickly as the Internet got a hold of this incriminating image, Burger King responded. Through tracking the online trail of the post, users of the site where it was first posted were able to locate the store with the offender and publicize the act to local media outlets as well as to Burger King. Three days later, Burger King fired the offending employee as well as two others and issued a public apology assuring customers that this sort of behavior was not tolerated and that food safety was a top priority.


It happens a couple of times a year. Social media managers aren’t managing only their business accounts––they’re also managing their personal accounts. And sometimes they mess up. (This social media manager may have posted some of his personal VanScavenger Hunt pictures under the corporate account.)

KitchenAid ran into that problem when an insensitive comment about President Barack Obama’s grandmother that was clearly supposed to be on a personal account was tweeted on the company’s account. This immediately alarmed Cynthia Soledad, KitchenAid’s senior director. Immediately, she sent out apologies via Twitter. Having an upper manager issue the apology and take action, not by skirting the subject but by addressing it head-on, was the perfect strategy against the possible catastrophe.


Sometimes, a well-meant tweet can be misconstrued. Starbucks learned this in 2012, when it fired out a tweet apologizing to its Argentinean customers for running low on supplies and having to temporarily use Argentinean-made, non-branded cups and sleeves. Rather than being taken as a courteous update for customers, it was instead interpreted as an insult, the implication being that Starbucks was apologizing for using what it perceived to be inferior local products until its own arrived to replace them.

Starbucks reacted swiftly and appropriately with its response, issuing an apology with full transparency and legitimate remorse. Fighting back would have made the company seem like it had something to hide. Admitting it made a mistake, whatever the intent of the original tweet, humbled the brand and allowed it to save face.

So how can you learn from these brands and not become the inspiration for another article on what not to do? Listen to what your customers are saying. Both in person and online, have the proper tools in place to detect anything that may be damaging to the reputation of your business. Next, have a crisis plan, complete with a chain of command, worst-case scenarios, and multiple solutions to the possible issue. If a crisis surfaces, follow the plan, taking appropriate action to get to the source of the problem, while also addressing all those who may have been affected. Make sure to solve the problem, not fight, using a lighthearted tone that is also sincere and apologetic. Finally, review the entire incident and evaluate what could be done differently should anything like that ever happen again. This way, you’ll end up a social media champion instead of a target for critics and customers alike.

Author: Zack Smith