RH’s Legacy and Future Mirrored

A conversation between the generations at Russell Herder​

As consumer protections increase, which is great for the general public, it means that more and more businesses have to be out there actively collecting customer data in order to reach them and to contact them.

Between the two of them, Russell Herder firm partners Carol Russell and Brian Herder have a vast amount of advertising experience. Through nine presidential administrations and many instances of cultural tumult, they led the firm to success and gained a wealth of knowledge while doing so. Recently, they sat down with some of their employees who are at a much earlier stage of their careers. The following conversation is the result. It covered topics ranging from shaving one’s legs to the secrets of digital marketing.

RH: What inspired you to go into advertising?

Kelsey Christiansen, Social Media Stategist: I think there’s a wonderful power that comes with communication, especially with how you use your narrative and your platform.

Robin Melville, Director of Brand Planning: I like art and psychology … advertising is like the child of those two. That’s kind of the direction I took it: ‘Where can I be where I can analyze human behavior… and also impact it?’

People don’t realize that ad campaigns and brands actually form societal mindsets. When I was in college I was thinking about that a lot, and I was like ‘I want to be a part of that, and hopefully on campaigns that have a positive shift on society.’

Katelyn Conroy, Director of Digital Marketing: I think that’s a great point, especially when you think about the critiques of some of the older campaigns, like the initial razor campaigns that kicked off … that expectation that women have to shave their legs. That was an advertising campaign that really shifted a societal norm for us. How do we take that level of power, but use it for social good?

Brian Herder, Creative Director: It was the best way to make a living doing creative work, but then over the years it became an opportunity to promote equity and improve lives.

RH: What is an ad that you remember from when you were young, and why does it stick in your head?

Robin: I always had a love for the Guinness brand. Even as a kid, I would go to restaurants and see the toucans and ‘It’s a lovely day for a Guinness.’ It stuck out to me. They had kind of a plain background, simple graphics, cartoon characters. I don’t even think I knew what Guinness was as a kid.

Katelyn: I didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up. The way I consumed media was mostly online, and I had older siblings who were like ‘don’t click on any of the ads, don’t give us a virus.’ I ignored all ads, they were all evil.

Kelsey: I was surrounded by United [Airlines]; their whole brand persona on top of transitioning in the post 9/11 era. My dad is a United Airlines pilot, but I was fascinated by how they could perpetuate a narrative that, the world is so much bigger than the U.S.

Carol Russell, CEO: Nike, for me – probably for all of us. I remember back when [the rebranding] first started, because it was the first time I saw them really understand the consumer.

Brian: And of course, the iconic Apple ‘1984.’ It is so rare that an ad actually lives up to its hype. When you saw that, you had the sense – because the last line is ‘You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’ – that everything was about to be different. And they were right, it was. [The Macintosh personal computer] revolutionized everything. It changed our business, it changed the number of people we had, it changed the work we could do.

RH: How has the internet affected advertising over the years?

Carol: It’s accelerated. You can find anything you want. Imagine you’re trying to make dinner. When’s the last time you used a cookbook?

Brian: You can access anything, anywhere, any time, but it will always, always be served up with a commercial. The fact is, we are now basted in advertising 24/7. It really didn’t used to be that way.

RH: What do you see as the future of advertising?

Katelyn: We’re definitely moving more towards a first-party advertising world online. Before, we were relying on all this third-party data, where other organizations like Facebook and Google are collecting data, and we’re able to leverage that. As consumer protections increase, which is great for the general public, it means that more and more businesses have to be out there actively collecting customer data in order to reach them and to contact them.

Carol: Our industry is shifting very rapidly towards a values-based, versus an hours-based, delivery of services. So, delivering solutions versus delivering the number of hours. And that’s a good thing – it’s a great time to be a client, and it’s a great time for us to be changing that model.

Robin: Advertising used to drive action. Like we were saying, Gillette did the campaign where now we have to shave our legs – thanks, Gillette! But now, action drives advertising, where ads respond to what action people take.

RH: What makes a good ad?

Brian: Messages people are actually interested in. I will, until the day I die, hate the media buying policy where they’ll take one ad, a Liberty [Mutual] ad for example, and run it into the ground. They will sear it into your brain. But not every company does that – Geico does a really nice job of having a wealth of interesting and varied messages. Old Spice used to do the same thing too, on their budget. Changing it up enough, so that the brand was always interesting, as opposed to obnoxious where you’re scrambling for the remote to mute that thing, because you’re going to hurt someone if you hear it again. That’s one school of advertising – repetition, repetition, repetition – but that’s a really inferior approach if you’ve actually got something beautiful and important to say.

Kelsey: Something that inspires action – not necessarily a call to action, but more specifically inspires you to think more about certain topics you haven’t considered before.

Carol: It changes behavior. It makes you do something. If it’s relevant, you will react.

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