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To Understand Coastal Elites, Start By Looking At Middle America

Posted By Emily Hope, Thursday, September 7, 2017

Commentary by David Measer, Senior Vice President, Group Strategic Planning Director at RPA

Ever notice that farm-to-table restaurants are all the rage in big metropolitan cities? Or that guys in your office love dressing in work boots, denim, and flannel? They may seem unrelated, but they add up to a larger question — where do trends originate these days? And how can we capture and stay ahead of them to better connect with our audiences?

Most marketers tend to focus on the coasts when trying to forecast what’s next for customers. But the answers may lie more in the Heartland than in the urban centers of cool. Earlier this year, we teamed up with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications to undertake a major research project studying the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the small cities between the coasts. After the derisively called “flyover states” jolted the political climate in the 2016 election, we wanted to better understand the culture behind the shockwave. We conducted ethnographic research in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, focusing on cities with between 100,000 and 750,000 people.

Midwest Farm

The insights were illuminating, and came with a big, unexpected twist. First, social media isn’t replacing face-to-face interactions in the heartland. “Social media feels like a gateway drug, but it doesn’t replace real connection,” one Nebraskan put it. Genuine, human conversations remain the most effective way to build relationships.

Secondly, heritage really does matter. Origins are valued and a deep respect for both ancestry and current geography are prized. This point has been frequently interpreted as prejudice or racism. We found the opposite to be true. The great majority of people we talked to reacted with consternation to the Trump administration’s proposed “travel ban,” citing both their local church’s activity with refugees, as well as their connection to their own immigrant forebears. Instead of being an excuse for exclusion, heritage can act as an invitation toward more inclusion.

Finally, gone are the days when trends appeared in Omaha and Kansas City only after they’d run their course in New York and L.A. Today, places like Fargo and Sioux Falls are moving at the speed of the Internet, aware of what’s happening not only in Brooklyn and Silver Lake, but also Tokyo and Buenos Aires. And they’re eager to put their own spin on it.

Midwesterners feel less like they live in a flyover city and more like they reside in a new kind of epicenter. But an even more profound insight occurred when we used these observations to better understand our big-city bubbles. Up and down both coasts, from San Diego to Seattle and Miami to Boston, we noticed downtown revitalizations, and a real population movement from the suburbs to urban centers. Was it possible that people in the big cities are seeking more face-to-face interaction, as we learned from our friends in the Heartland?

We also saw the huge movement toward local products and artisan goods all around us. Locally made crafts (Pickling! Butchery!) bore the distinctive influence of Midwest authenticity, challenging the assumption that coastal coolness gave birth to these trends. And we saw around us a real desire to get closer to the land. Whether it’s in our culinary trends (farm-to-table restaurants), our new hobbies (backyard vegetable gardening), or our spins on traditions (farm destination weddings), big cities are looking for Heartland realness.

Is it possible that the Coasts are looking toward the Middle for inspiration? Is the Heartland now America’s trendsetter? It’s time to consider whether our small cities are more influential on our overall attitudes and behaviors than we might think.

Perhaps influence is emanating from the inside out, and marketers should take a much closer look at the Heartland.

This article originally appeared on MediaPost. 

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5 Questions for Pete Imwalle, EVP, COO at RPA, ThinkLA Board Member

Posted By Emily Hope, Thursday, September 7, 2017


Pete Imwalle
EVP, COO
RPA Advertising

What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the ad industry right now?
The challenge: Margins are the biggest challenge facing the industry right now. There is simply more competition in almost every industry. Our clients have slimmer margins, our vendors have slimmer margins, and we have slimmer margins. Obsession with efficiency and cost cutting have us all chasing incrementally cheaper solutions. That combined with the multi-agency model has caused an erosion of the relationships between clients, agencies and their partners. The hunt for revenue has led to price cutting and fee slashing. In the end, that hurts margins even more.
The opportunity: Continue to evolve the agency business to maintain the highest-quality work while reducing the cost and effort to get there. The solutions are out there. We are excited about some we’re already pursuing.

What is the single most significant change you need to make in your agency in the next 12 months?
We need to reduce the effort required to make great work. Our clients have never been happier with our work, but today everybody needs things cheaper and faster. Improved workflow and technology will greatly aid efficiency.

What products/services/unique skills do ad agencies offer that guarantee the industry’s survival for another 100 years? I’m not sure there are products and services that agencies will still be providing in 100 years, but a truly objective perspective and cross-client experiences are agencies’ greatest assets. It’s hard for in-house teams to maintain objectivity, and creativity is greatly aided by a variety of experiences that come from working with other clients in other industries.

What attributes do you look for in your next generation of leaders/managers?
Curiosity and a collaborative spirit. The industry will continue to evolve. The people most able to evolve are those who embrace change instead of resisting it. The curious. Collaboration is critical in the agency business today. There is no place for “rock stars” who go away and work in isolation. The solutions and executions are so interrelated and complicated that we need people who welcome subject-matter experts to make their ideas better. Award-show credit sheets are getting longer and longer. It takes a village to make a great holistically integrated campaign. I want a village where people complement each other instead of competing.

If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing as a career?
I’d be a sports talk radio host. I love sports, and my opinions are just as valid as the people I spend way too many hours listening to on my L.A. commute.

This content was originally posted on 4A's '5 Questions' series.

About RPA
RPA is an independent, full-service advertising agency located in Santa Monica, California. They believe in a 'people-first' approach.

Tags:  collaboration  Curiosity  Future of Advertising  Future of Leadership  Pete Imwalle  RPA  ThinkLA Board 

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30 Seconds with Eric Jorgensen

Posted By Sara H. Smith, Thursday, August 31, 2017

Eric Jorgensen!



How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road-map?

I was a journalist to start my career until I landed a creative role at a social media start up in San Francisco. That turned into a traditional agency creative.

What excites you most about this industry?

I appreciate that nothing is off the table, at least in the first round of creative. You can invent wild concepts, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll move on. Innovation and creativity is fun, and we’re fortunate we get to play with them.

Why are you involved with ThinkLA?

BarkLA was my first foray into ThinkLA, and I haven’t looked back since. I like working with people from other agencies and companies to help out furry kiddos like my own.

What’s the best advice you’d give to someone interested in a career in advertising? Are there any written materials you suggest to read?

Don’t take advertising personally.

In the times of horse warfare, some soldiers didn’t name their horses, because one day they would ride it into battle and the horse might die right under them. They thought if they named it they would become attached to it, and then lose their focus and mourn their friend when they should be looking out for the next spear or arrow. This is terrifyingly apt for advertising. Don’t become emotionally attached to your ideas or projects, because they could die under you for any number of reasons. Work hard, push your idea to be incredible and be proud when it’s built, but don’t beat yourself up if its scrapped.

The one book I recommend for anyone moving into advertising is Ogilvy on Advertising. A book I recommend to writers is Save the Cat! It’s a movie screenwriting book that’s notorious in the industry, but it has insights on organizing your concepts and scripts that are refreshing and very helpful.

Tags:  Eric Jorgensen  ThinkLA Board  Young Professionals  YPC2017 

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I'm Conflicted About Virtual Reality; You Should Be, Too

Posted By Emily Hope, Wednesday, August 30, 2017

 
Aaron Dubois 
VP, Digital
Phelps

The more I play and work with VR, the more I’m awed by its potential. But my awe cuts both ways. I’m excited by what we can do with VR but worried about the unintended impact it could have on society and marketing.

VR redefines what an immersive experience can be, reshaping how we interact with people online. VR is inspiring a new generation of games, operating systems, and interactive tools, to the point of defining a completely new vernacular of digital interaction. And VR is driving the creation of virtual marketplaces for niche audiences (Facebook will undoubtedly be a huge player here) that represent treasure chests for brand connection. This will only spread as the cost differential — a Google Cardboard costs about $10 while an Oculus Rift setup costs over $2,500 all in — comes down. 

Here’s the rub: The more we feed technologies that encapsulate people and allow us to hyper-profile them, the more we risk isolation and regulation.  

VR represents a quantum leap in withdrawal from the physical world. We already divide our attention with smartphones and count checking up on the activity postings of our Facebook friends (who we haven’t seen or talked to in over 10 years) as maintaining relationships. And we compulsively maintain virtual connections while doing other things. I mean, who doesn’t watch TV with a phone or tablet handy these days? 

Now we can retreat into a bubble that replaces our reality altogether. You can’t multitask when you’re doing VR. You cut off all contact with your immediate surroundings and sensory perception attached to them, not realizing that time in corporeal reality is critical to honing your skills at interacting with other people (read: being in the world). 

Meanwhile, marketers can record every granular micro-touchpoint from your stay in a branded virtual world, and build predictive personas that will make today’s targeting look like foggy glasses. That’s an invitation to regulation which could close off the marketing opportunity altogether. 

Now is the time for marketers to put guardrails on VR — to protect the vehicle before we lose the keys. We need to pause and consider the potential ramifications of the plunge into VR marketing, including the risk of cannibalizing attention. Marketing depends on people being available and emotionally receptive — neither of which extended VR engagement promotes. The dystopian future that science fiction writers paint of entire societies hooked into virtual worlds is starting to look eerily accurate. 

Technology moves exponentially faster than our ability to know how best to use it responsibly. And every new platform hits the boundary harder. As marketers, we share a responsibility for the impact of our work, so we need to think through how we use the wondrous technology taking shape before our eyes. Before we get around to some sort of industry standard, we can all do the world a favor by asking ourselves why we’re using VR and whether we’re prepared for the tradeoff. Not every occasion will pass that test.

The original version of this article appeared on MediaPost.

About Phelps
Phelps creates and delivers integrated messaging and media campaigns for category leaders such as Bosley, City of Hope, Dunn-Edwards Paints, Learn4Life schools, Natrol vitamins, Panasonic, Public Storage and SunPower Corp. Founded in 1981 and 100% employee-owned, Phelps ranks as one of the largest independent agencies on the West Coast, and is regularly listed among the Best Places to Work in Los Angeles. Phelps is a member of the ICOM global network of agencies.
www.phelpsagency.com

Tags:  #ThinkMembers  Commentary  Member News  Members  Phelps 

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30 Seconds with Brook Hauge

Posted By Emily Hope, Monday, August 7, 2017

Dogs, black coffee, strategy at Canvas Worldwide. Get to know ThinkLA's Young Professionals Council Co-President, Brook Hauge!




How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road-map?

I always wanted to be in advertising – I’ve loved commercials, billboards, digital and content integrations/partnerships for as long as I can remember. I started in advertising at a small Minneapolis based agency, where I worked for a dear family friend. I wanted to do strategy work, and started in the Account Mgmt department because they really were the ones that executed strategy for our respective accounts (and they had the opening). Small agency, so we had to wear a lot of hats. I did PM work, account management, media strategy, email marketing, web dev projects, app based launches, loyalty programs, DM focused work, event marketing and on an off day copy writing. I loved it! I came out to Southern California 5 years ago without a plan, but full of dreams; I ended up working briefly as a head hunter in the creative space and then up to San Francisco to work for a digital platform that focused on programmatic buying and retargeting. My deep love for data, segmenting audiences and messaging strategies was born here. I then came back to SoCal to work for a small agency in Orange County where my focus was mostly digital, but got to dig my hands into true content partnerships and into the world of print. I then was recruited to work up in LA – I ran hard at the chance to create digital strategies that were data and audience driven for a global communications agency, working on auto accounts. My time there moved me to a strategy role that focused on a client dynamic that had very distinct B2B and B2C strategies and we were tasked with finding ways to tell that story to the right people in a noisy and high-pressure based industry. I got to spend my days mulling over the research and asking all the questions, comparing the category nuances for truths. For me it was a great! As those projects wrapped up I found my way back to the world of autos and started straddling the offline and online worlds where we hope to create efficiencies in our communications and deeper understanding of our customers unique journey.

My path has covered a lot of ground, but what remains true is the desire to better the world of adverting so that I can find a way to talk to brand consumers in the way they want, at the times they are open to it and in a way that will be received. This helps my clients money go further, the user ad experience to be curated and the whole ecosystem to work together.


What excites you most about this industry?

That it is never the same. There are tried and true strategies and human truths that do work, but the ability to now measure/communicate with consumers about their purchase path or brand sentiment is really incredible to me.

Why are you involved with ThinkLA?

I moved to LA in 2013 - I knew NO ONE. I wanted to meet and network with my LA industry, which at the time seemed HUGE (I now know it’s incredibly small). ThinkLA was supposed to simply be a network connection, it quickly became a trusted resource for me. A place where I have met some of my now closest friends, provided me with an incredible mentor and has helped guide and shape some of my career moves. At record speed, I joined a committee and then another… and next thing you know I have the great honor of serving on the Young Professionals ThinkLA Board along with some of the greatest up and coming leaders I have ever met. This organization has helped inspire me and keeps me on my game – I feel like I am among giants sometimes.

What’s the best advice you’d give to someone interested in a career in advertising? Are there any written materials you suggest to read?

Never stop asking questions – NEVER. Part of this game is just showing up and being interested in what is going on. Be curious about everything. This business rewards those who tend to put in the hard work and who show grit in being able to apply knowledge that is learned from various places – it’s not for wallflowers. The hours are long, the clients are tough, the expectations are high… but the rewards of a campaign or strategy well done are priceless. What to read? EVERYTHING.

Read Wired, the trades (AdWeek, Ad Age, eMarketer, etc), The Atlantic, the News, Forbes, AdExchanger, Blogs, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Gizmoto, Inc., think with google, any and all syndicated research you can get your hands on (Mintel, Simmons, etc), blogs and listen to Podcasts/Ted Talks. Reading and talking about topics that matter is a big deal.

Tags:  Brook Hauge  ThinkLA Board  Young Professionals  YPC2017 

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"When you embrace your truth, you realize your purpose.” David Angelo, Soul Purpose 2017

Posted By Emily Hope, Friday, June 30, 2017

Ever since I was a kid, I've always believed in a voice that's been with us long before we were born. It's a voice that gives us permission to believe that we are bigger than any challenge. Call it what you will: God, source, energy or gut - point is, this voice, whether we know it or not, is who we really are. It's our authentic self beyond all of life's conditioning. It took me a while to make sense of the voice, but as I look back and connect the dots, I can see what happened when I listened to the voice and when I didn't. In doing so, it helped me realize my own infinite power. It has helped me achieve some pretty amazing things, from starting my own company to launching a non-profit, to inspiring my two daughters to fearlessly take on their own challenges. It all centers around a very simple philosophy called Brave.

Brave is not about charging blindly into the fray or jumping out of an airplane. It's about having the courage to be who you are and living that truth in business and life. When you embrace your truth, you realize your purpose.

My purpose is to help as many people and brands awaken their authentic voice and in doing so realize what they've known all along: that we are all Brave and are capable of overcoming any obstacle and achieving greatness. When we realize this, our inner and outer growth become one in the same.

- David Angelo, Founder, Chairman, David&Goliath, to speak at Soul Purpose 2017

Tags:  authenticity  Brave  D&G  David & Goliath  David Angelo  David&Goliath  Soul Purpose 2017 

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Interns, Advertising, and the Future

Posted By Emily Hope, Friday, October 14, 2016

When the challenges are obvious to the interns, it's time to realize the platform we're standing on is burning, writes Tim Leake, RPA's SVP of creative, marketing and innovation

A couple of times a year, I do a presentation for our current crop of interns. I begin by asking them to think about "the future of advertising" and what it looks like. Inevitably, they surprise me with their remarkably clear vision of what's coming. And then I explain that it was actually a trick question, because the future of advertising is, of course, them.

If you just rolled your eyes, that's cool. I probably would, too. But the gag is effective. Suddenly, the interns aren't at the bottom of the totem pole, hoping for a glance inside the Wonka-esque magical idea factory. They realize they're important. They realize the factory is going to be theirs someday.

Any agency is fundamentally only as good as the people that make it up. People are everything to us. Internships aren't just an opportunity for them—it’s an opportunity for us to show them why we love advertising and why it’s worth keeping their smart brains in our industry. And perhaps even more importantly, interns are an opportunity for senior folks to learn as well.

So, at RPA, we commissioned a survey of recent interns from agencies in the Los Angeles area (not just our own) to see what else we could learn about the future of our industry. Here’s what we learned:

They really do want to do this. One thing we learned is that they didn't stumble into this field by chance. Ninety-five percent of them were already interested in pursuing a career in advertising before their internship. And only 4 percent were less interested in the industry after their internship.

Also interesting is what they aren't interested in. For all we hear about the freelance economy, startup culture and the millennials' passion for doing good, the vast majority of our interns want to work for either a well-known brand (84 percent) or an advertising agency (81 percent). Less than half of them have any interest at all in working for a start-up (44 percent) and 26 percent expressed an interest in working for a nonprofit. They did intern for an ad agency, after all, not for Heal the Bay—so maybe this shouldn’t be surprising.

But this is surprising: only 21 percent have an interest in working freelance in the future. Considering how mainstream the idea is today, it’s interesting that our future leaders have a much stronger bias towards full-time work.

Creativity is (still) our secret weapon. Whether they plan to work in the department with the word "creative" in its name, or not, people are attracted to our creativity. Seventy percent of respondents listed "Creative Work and Environment" as one of the top-three most appealing aspects of the industry.

This is vital, as the industry continues to evolve. In this big data, programmatic, digital-everything world, it’s easy to let creativity take a back seat. But creativity is the one job artificial intelligence will have a hard time replacing. It requires people.

And the silo-ing of creativity into a dedicated department has a similar effect. Too often, both young and seasoned people disclaim an idea with "I'm not creative, but...." This needs to stop. Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, and we need to foster it across every discipline if we want to thrive in the future.

They see our challenges without bias. Interns aren't part of the advertising system already, so they have no interest in perpetuating legacy thinking. This helps them see industry challenges with clarity. In one respondent’s words, they "worry about the ethics of the industry and how the continued use of digital media may turn off more and more consumers to advertising in general."

They don’t resist change, they adapt to it—even when it comes to where they see themselves. They recognize that "the trend of doing more in-house will continue," and as such, can potentially see themselves as being client-side in the not so distant future, or even understanding why their friends are "more interested in working at Facebook and Twitter than advertising." When these challenges are obvious to people who've been working for only a few weeks, it's time to wake up and realize the platform we're standing on is burning.

They can remind us how to thrive. For even the best of us, it's easy to get bogged down by our day-to-day tasks and forget the attitudes and actions that help make superstars.

We asked the interns what traits they believe are most important for achieving success. Their answers are valuable advice to anyone who wants to make an impact, at any level:

  • Adaptability – Being able to go with the flow was key for them, and given the industry’s unpredictability, that’ll be good trait to have moving forward.
  • Open Communication – Simply talking to people outside of your own team was something they valued. Finding mentors is key these days, and so is finding new ideas.
  • Initiative – Being told what to do isn’t in this generation’s DNA, so it’s no shock that standing up and creating their own projects that can benefit the larger team is something that they gravitate towards. 

In general, internships exist to help the interns learn. But in an industry that's all about people, there's a lot to be said for taking the time to learn from the interns as well. They are often more sophisticated than we give them credit for, and it’s up to us to help them grow into tomorrow’s industry leaders.

--Tim Leake is SVP of creative, marketing and innovation at RPA in Los Angeles

This article was originally written for Campaign Live and can be found HERE.

Tags:  #InternSummit  Career  Future of Advertising  Infographic  Interns  RPA  Survey  Survey Results 

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7 Questions for the Green Hot Chili Peppers

Posted By Emily Hope, Wednesday, September 21, 2016

For years, AdJam, ThinkLA's Annual Battle of the Agency Bands, has unleashed the raw, savage – if unheralded – musical talent upon an unsuspecting planet. The top agency bands compete, and the winner receives the coveted AdJam Axe, plus bragging rights in the industry for the whole year.

This year's AdJam is at The Novo DTLA, and we are ready for the battle. We've profiled each of the bands to help decide whom you should root for come decision day. Check out what we asked Green Hot Chili Peppers (GreenLight Marketing and Media), and make sure you're registered for AdJam on Sept. 22. #ThinkAdJam


GREEN HOT CHILI PEPPERS - GREENLIGHT MARKETING AND MEDIA

 

Why do think so many ad people seem to be musicians? They gave up to their dream of being a rock-star, and to stay in touch with their "creative" side, they follow a path into the ad world.  
   
What's the hardest kind of ad-musician to find? The kind that is not a "self-indulged, auto-proclaimed God."

Who in your band is your "secret weapon"? Jenn AKA "Tambourine Girl"… Combined with her dance moves, will give everyone a reason to envy our performance.

Are you involved in a band beyond the adjam? Can we get tickets? Yes! check it out…

Is there a genre or band that is your agency's soundtrack? Boyz-N-The-Hood 

Which is easier for you, pitching or performing on stage? Performing on stage 1000% duh...

Jay Z or Kanye? Dr. Dre…


Green Hot Chili Peppers AdJam submission video  

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4 Questions for Shy Dogs

Posted By Emily Hope, Tuesday, September 20, 2016
For years, AdJam, ThinkLA's Annual Battle of the Agency Bands, has unleashed the raw, savage – if unheralded – musical talent upon an unsuspecting planet. The top agency bands compete, and the winner receives the coveted AdJam Axe, plus bragging rights in the industry for the whole year. 

This year's AdJam is at The Novo DTLA, and we are ready for the battle. We've profiled each of the bands to help decide whom you should root for come decision day. Check out what we asked Shy Dogs (TBWA\Chiat\Day), and make sure you're registered for AdJam on Sept. 22. #ThinkAdJam

SHY DOGS - TBWA\CHIAT\DAY 

Why do think so many ad people seem to be musicians? Because advertising is an industry that attracts creative individuals with varying artistic skills. So it only makes sense, with music as a form of artistic expression, that at least a handful of people would have musical talents. 
 
Is there a battle for the music played in your office? What kind of music wins? We're musically democratic. Every Friday employees are given the option to create a playlist of their favorite songs to play throughout the agency. It's just a bit of a battle deciding who.
 
What famous musician would have made a good advertising pro? David Bowie and Prince would have been amazing. Their unique styles disrupted and evolved pop culture and they branded themselves in a way that resonated the masses. 

Which is easier for you, pitching or performing on stage? Both are equally nerve-racking. Because you can be as prepared as you possibly can but you never know how your audience is going to react.

Shy Dogs AdJam submission video 

Tags:  #ThinkAdJam  Advertising  LA Advertising  Music  Shy Dogs  The Novo DTLA  ThinkLA's 10 Year Anniversary 

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3 Questions for JunkShot

Posted By Emily Hope, Tuesday, September 20, 2016

For years, AdJam, ThinkLA's Annual Battle of the Agency Bands, has unleashed the raw, savage – if unheralded – musical talent upon an unsuspecting planet. The top agency bands compete, and the winner receives the coveted AdJam Axe, plus bragging rights in the industry for the whole year. 

This year's AdJam is at The Novo DTLA, and we are ready for the battle. We've profiled each of the bands to help decide whom you should root for come decision day. Check out what we asked JunkShot (Red, Tettemer, O'Connell and Partners), and make sure you're registered for AdJam on Sept. 22. #ThinkAdJam 

 

JUNKSHOT - RED TETTEMER, O'CONNELL AND PARTNERS

 

What’s the hardest kind of ad-musician to find? A good one.

What famous musician would have made a good advertising pro? Paul McCartney, because he’s so fucking cheesy with all his jingles and shit.

John or Paul? John, because Paul is so fucking cheesy with all his jingles and shit.

 

Junkshot's AdJam submission video

Tags:  #AdJam  #ThinkAdJam  AdJam  Advertising  Agency Bands  Battle of the Bands  LA Advertising  Red Tettemer O'Connell and Partners 

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